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Aug 17, 2004

On Speed

(I run, therefore I am)


In the lead story in this weekend's NYTimes Week in Review ("Intelligence: Why a Fix Is So Elusive"), David Sanger discusses why our intelligence apparatus is so difficult to reshape. Besides the political obstacles, Sanger believes the problem also has to do with the expectation for instant answers. He writes:

"In an age when voters are accustomed to near-instant action - quick tax cuts to spur a lagging economy or the quick toppling of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein - retooling the early warning system is an entirely different matter. Even if the problem weren't so complex, what Washington calls the "intelligence community" is so big, and so turf-conscious that this is a project condemned to move at the speed of landing an astronaut on Mars."

To his credit, Sanger doesn't attribute "instant action" to any specific person or cause. He doesn't even say there is an outcry for it. All he states is that speed has become the rule of the day.

It's interesting, in his attacks on Kerry, how adamantly Bush ridicules "complexity" and "nuance." Of the many ways Bush has reshaped the terms of society, one is to value action at the expense (even the absence) of deliberation. If Bush's reputation with the electorate is starting to show cracks, I suggest it might have less to do with ideology than with stamina. (Not his, ours.)

I'm not a big fan of time management theories. However, they do describe an interesting phenomena in lightweight, impulsive, "Type A" folks like Bush. Often, for such a person, everything is so urgent, no time is left for what's important.



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