Why Nerds Should Not Be in Charge of War

Why Nerds Should Not Be in Charge of War

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's PBS series on the Vietnam War offers a timely lesson about what might happen when people impressed by their own smarts—the “best and the brightest,”as David Halberstam's called them—run a war. Despite their smarts experts can make unwise decisions that spell disastrous consequences when your nation is engaged in military conflict.

Just think of the Pentagon's so-called Whiz Kids flocking around then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara: In their quest for clean data driven solutions to the war, heavily influenced by systems thinking, they embraced deeply flawed metrics (e.g., body count) to gauge success on the battlefield, which made them recommend ever more escalatory policies ultimately causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

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