Ian Welsh has a very interesting analysis of the US policy of assassinations targeting leaders of organizations hostile to American interests.
Specifically, he notes that it doesn’t work, think about how many Taliban #2s have been drones, but we continue.
His conclusion, one I wholeheartedly agree with, is that assassination of leaders does not work to stop properly functioning organizations, and that the reason that we continue to use this strategy is because US institutions are fundamentally dysfunctional, where the loss of a leader can put the whole organization at risk:
The assassination strategy the US pursues is interesting, not in what it says about the US’s foes, but what it says about the American leaders. Al-Qaeda’s “No. 2 Man” has been “killed” so often that it’s a running joke, and Taliban leadership is regularly killed by assassination. Bush did this, Obama really, really did this. Probably a lot of these stories are BS, but it’s also probably safe to assume that a lot of leadership has been killed.
The Taliban is still kicking the coalition’s ass.
Leadership isn’t as big a deal as people make it out to be–IF you have a vibrant organization in which people believe. New people step up, and they’re competent enough. Genius leadership is very rare, and a good organization doesn’t need it, though it’s welcome when it exists. As long as the organization knows what it’s supposed to do (kick Americans out of Afghanistan), and everyone’s motivated to do that, leadership doesn’t need to be especially great, but it will be generally competent, because the people in the organization will make it so.
American leaders are obsessed with leadership because they lead organizations in whose goals no one believes. Or rather, they lead organizations for whom everyone knows the leadership doesn’t believe in its ostensible goals. Schools are led by people who hate teachers and want to privatize schools to make profit. The US is led by men who don’t believe in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Police are led by men who think their jobs are to protect the few and beat down the many, not to protect and serve. Corporations make fancy mission statements and talk about valuing employees and customers, but they just want to make a buck and will fuck anyone, employee or customer, below the C-suite. They don’t have a “mission” (making money is not a mission, it’s a hunger if it’s all you want to do); they are parasites and they know it. [I would add that our military works toward getting retired generals comfortable sinecures at Lockheed Martin]
Making organizations work if they’re filled with people who don’t believe in the organization, or who believe that the “leadership” is only out for themselves and has no mission beyond helping themselves, not even enriching the employees or shareholders, is actually hard. People don’t get inspired by making the C-suite rich. Bureaucrats, knowing they are despised and distrusted by their political counterparts, and knowing that they aren’t allowed to do their ostensible jobs, as with the EPA generally not being allowed to protect the environment, the DOJ not being allowed to prosecute powerful monied crooks, and the FDA being the slave of drug companies and the whims of politically-connected appointees, are hard to move, hard to motivate, making it hard to get to anyone to do anything but the minimum.
So American leaders, and indeed the leaders of most developed nations, think they’re something special. in fact, getting people to do anything is difficult, and convincing people to do the wrong thing, when they joined to actually teach, protect the environment, make citizens healthier, or actually prosecute crooks, even more so. Being a leader in the West, even though it comes with virtually complete immunity for committing crimes against humanity, violating civil rights, or stealing billions from ordinary citizens, is, in many respects, a drag. A very, very well-paying drag, but a drag. Very few people have the necessary flexible morals and ability to motivate employees through the coercion required.
So American leaders, in specific, and Westerners, in general, think that organizations will fall apart if the very small number of people who can actually lead, stop leading. But that’s because they think that leading the Taliban, say, is like leading an American company or the American government. They think it requires a soulless prevaricator who takes advantage of and abuses virtually everyone and is still able to get people to, reluctantly, do their jobs.
Functioning organizations aren’t like that. They suck leadership upwards. Virtually everyone is being groomed for leadership and is ready for leadership. They believe in the cause, they know what to do, they’re involved. And they aren’t scared of dying, if they really believe. Oh sure, they’d rather not, but it won’t stop them from stepping up.
This not only explains the failure of our assassination policy, it explains the failure of our business, politics, and military.
What we are seeing (taken from the comments to Mr. Welsh’s post) is that our managers are Ayn Rands John Galt made flesh.