Kevin Drum ain’t none too impressed by General Wesley Clark even after reading this Esquire profile. He does like this excerpt, though, because it shows Clark can think beyond partisan slogans:
Once, the U. S. Army tested a thousand of its officers to see how well they extrapolated future trends from current patterns. The general, long before he was a general, finished first, and now, when he articulates the principles that would inform the creation of his political platform, he does so in terms of “outcomes” five, thirty, and a hundred years in the future. For your five-year outcome, you concentrate on rebuilding the economy. For your optimum thirty-year outcome, education. And for your optimum hundred-year outcome, the entire institutional environment. And you start now.
Actually, I’m not all that impressed with that passage, either. Now, it does seem to indicate Clark is fairly smart, but most generals are. But a couple questions come to mind:
1. How the hell do you test someone’s ability to extrapolate future trends in a comparative sense? Do you have them make guesses, come back 20 years later, and see who was right? Or do you compare them to what the test designer extrapolates? Or based on some pre-ordained rule of logic? If any but the first, isn’t this a test to see who thinks “inside the box”?
2. How does one rebuild the economy? Unless you’re talking about a failed state, this seems to rely on a rather silly premise. I don’t think anyone could “rebuild” the US economy, for example, given its massive size and the butterfly effect and all that.
3. Thirty years is a lot of damned education. Even a PhD only requires 12+4+give or take 7.
4. What kind of nimrod is planning 100 years out? The Soviets couldn’t see five years into the future and they controlled the entire apparatus of the state, society, and economy.
I guess that’s more than a couple.