Strategic Implications of 12 Unasked Questions in Response to Disaster
Produced on the occasion of publication of an analysis of What Went Wrong in Afghanistan (Foreign Policy, March/April 2013)
and of investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings (April 2013)
Checklist of questions
1. What questions have not been asked?
2. Is any checklist of questions, asked and unasked, maintained as a source of collective learning?
3. Who ensured that the unasked questions were designed off the table?
4. What agenda is served by not asking particular questions?
5. What pressures are applied to those endeavouring to ask those questions, and what penalties result from asking them?
6. What is not addressed through the framing provided by the questions which are asked?
7. Will providing a satisfactory answer to the questions asked resolve the issue — or will the issue re-emerge, perhaps reinforced, in a new form on a subsequent occasion?
8. Does allocation of resources to the question asked ensure that nor resources are allocated to those that are not?
9. Do previous strategic challenges offer examples of ignoring uncomfortable questions — and failing to learn from them?
10. Does the strategic focus on isolating (and eliminating) a primary cause serve primarily to assuage public opinion by enabling “Mission Accomplished” to be declared?
11. By addressing symptoms, does the quest for symbols of rapid closure through conventional strategies serve to avoid any need for rethinking on how to address more deep-seated systemic ills?
12. How vulnerable is a society rendered through failure to ask such questions and through the lack of higher orders of thinking it indicates?
A “13th question”, might well be: what are the questions to which no one in authority wants an answer?
As suggested by Vali Nasr with respect to Afghanistan, there is a case for exploring the matter otherwise — as is most notably evident in the work of Josh Kerbel for the US intelligence community as a consequence of 9/11. Nasr cites Richard Holbrooke with respect to strategic formulation by the latter's team on Afghanistan:
I want you to learn nothing from government…This place is dead intellectually. It does not produce any ideas; it is all about turf battles and checking the box. Your job is to break through all this.
Other possibilities can be variously argued:
- Gruesome but Necessary: Global Governance in the 21st Century? Extreme normality as indicator of systemic negligence, 2011
- Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem — the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009
- 10 Unanswered Questions on Iran and Israel, 2012
- Global Strategic Implications of the “Unsaid”, 2003
- Map of Systemic Interdependencies None Dares Name: 12-fold challenge of global life and death, 2011
- Enabling Collective Intelligence in Response to Emergencies, 2010
- Transforming the Unsustainable Cost of General Education: strategic insights from Afghanistan, 2009
- Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009
- Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect: implications for authoritative response to future surprises, 2009
- Anticipating Future Strategic Triple Whammies — in the light of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear misconceptions, 2011
- Cui Bono: Groupthink vs Thinking the Unthinkable? Reframing the suffocating consensus in response to 7/7, 2005
- Groupthink: the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale — missing the link between “freedom fighters” and “terrorists”, 2002
- Critical thinking vs. Specious arguments: web resources, 2001
- Checklist of Nasty Methodological Questions — regarding development analyses and initiatives, 1981
- Remedial Capacity Indicators versus Performance Indicators, 1981
Read full exposition with many links – a brilliant integrative work.