"Putting on the Game Face"
|I get a little irritated being told that the President is being briefed on his "Options."
OPTIONS TO WHAT? screams out in my mind.
There are two parts to the problem solving process that leap out before any discussion of options should be undertaken.
The first is defining the problem and the second has two parts... facts and assumptions bearing on the problem.
Without knowing what these are, a consideration of options is putting the cart before the horse.
For example consider the latest crisis on the Cruise Missile/Drone attack on the Saudi Oil fields. The problem could be defined in three ways depending on who the decision-maker is and what his point of view is regarding the scope being considered.
Say the decision maker is the Saudi King. His first thought would, no doubt, be a knee jerk inclination to launch a retaliatory strike. As emotions cool he might consider, Against Who? It helps to know that prior to launching a tactical level response. Maybe an airstrike right now against some arbitrary target in Iran is not such a good idea.
If the Decision-maker was another leader in the region his point of view would be more Operational (Regional) in nature and his thinking on options might focus on the best way to keep the Iranians from launching a similar attack on his country.
For the United States, the President should be looking from a Strategic perspective, on how to keep the oil flowing and preserve the economic world order. Twenty years ago such a disruption would have been a threat to our vital interests but these days, with the US being energy independent, this is no longer the case.
So before any meaningful exploration of options, the decision maker needs to consider the scope of their National Interests, be they tactical, operational or strategic.
So the Saudi King might reason, the problem is to determine the best way to keep our oil fields safe from drones and cruise missiles.
Other Arab Leaders might see the problem as determining the best way to keep the Iranians from attacking them in a similar manner.
And the US President should reason, what is the best way to preserve stability in the Middle East?
Note: One of the biggest problems with the problem solving process lies in defining the problem. It is often glossed over yet it has a huge influence on what the solution turns out to be.
The next step to consider, before skipping over to options, is the one that deals with facts and assumptions.
A fact bearing on the problem is exactly that. At a certain time and place, cruise missiles and drones were launched against two Saudi Oil refineries. Fifty percent of the production capacity was impacted. The Saudis were surprised and lacked the defensive means to prevent the attack. Saudi oil is a mainstay of the European economy. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional competitors for control of the Middle East.
An Assumption can be thought of as a fact that hasn't happened or one that has yet to be verified. Sometimes the facts are deliberately concealed or they have an element of futurity... i.e. they haven't happened yet. For example, "Iran launched the attack." While this appears extremely likely, it could be that another country launched the attack hoping Iran would get blamed. Iran claims to have no involvement despite the fact they have a record of abusing the truth... but what if they aren't lying? Anyway, these worrisome assumptions need to be put to rest before serious retribution takes place... One has only to recall the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" assumption, widely believed to exist when the Bush Administration was in power while deciding how to deal with Iraq...to understand how dangerous assumptions can be.
Only after the first two steps are clearly in mind should the decision maker allow anybody to start a discussion of options.