July 18, 2013

Obama White House somehow keeps avoiding its own Battle of Karánsebes

The Story:  September 17, 1788. The Austrian army accidentally fought a battle with itself which resulted in 10,000 dead and wounded - a few days prior to the real enemy showing up. Needless to say, when the Ottomans arrived, they were able to defeat the remaining Austrians without much difficulty.  But there is a lot of questions about the authenticity of the story.  

Regardless of whether or not the story is true, there are lessons in it - both militarily and in most other regards as well, when it comes to leadership.

The lesson:  The Battle Karánsebes serves as a what can happen when there is poor communication at the leadership level.  A series of unfortunate occurrences can lead to a disaster.  It's an example of action by reaction as opposed to planning.  The White House seems to have completely missed the boat on this particular lesson from history (or mythology).  Consider all of the areas where the Obama administration is at odds with itself.

Some of the misses:

(1) The Snowden leak. Obama downplays the leak as Secretary of State John Kerry talks about how people could die as a result of Snowden's actions.

(2) Obamacare employer mandate being 'delayed'.  It turns out it is hurting unions and no less than one time vitriolic proponent and Teamster leader James Hoffa has turned on the law. Quite dramatically.  Obamacare has been one long list of backtracking on cost, obfuscation on what the law will do, and changing indicators on what the law means for everyone.

(3) Sandy Hook fallout. Obama order the CDC to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.  The results contradicted his preferred narrative and were promptly ignored.

(4) Climate Change / Energy  policy.
...On page 11 of the 21-page plan, there is a section called “Pursuing a Collaborative Approach to Reducing Emissions.” That section sticks out, given President Obama’s policy proclivities. It reads:
In addition, when it comes to the oil and gas sector, investments to build and upgrade gas pipelines will not only put more Americans to work, but also reduce emissions and enhance economic productivity. For example, as part of the Administration’s effort to improve federal permitting for infrastructure projects, the interagency Bakken Federal Executive Group is working with industry, as well as state and tribal agencies, to advance the production of oil and gas in the Bakken while helping to reduce venting and flaring. Moving forward, as part of the effort to develop an interagency methane strategy, the Obama Administration will work collaboratively with state governments, as well as the private sector, to reduce emissions across multiple sectors, improve air quality, and achieve public health and economic benefits. (emphasis added)
President Obama has infamously dithered on the largest US pipeline project in years, the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Texas coast. Despite the soundness of the pipeline plan and even Big Labor support, Obama sided with environmental groups and tabled the pipeline decision until after the 2012 election. Safely re-elected, Obama went against popular opinion, which runs heavily in favor of building the pipeline, and once again delayed the project. A final decision is expected in the fall.
None of these latest examples off the administration at odds with itself rise to the level of Karánsebes yet.  But these or any other internal discontinuity can easily become exactly that. It would seem it is just a matter of time before some inconsistency leads to the administration having a circular firing squad and ultimately mortally wounding itself.  The biggest surprise for me is that it hasn't happened yet.

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