Group Think Cause and Effect

The Wall Street Journal article concentrated on the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2002.  Specifically in the summer of 2004 when it was discovered that some of the intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq may not have been up to the highest standards.  In the descriptions of the lead up to war congressmen who have reviewed the CIA, and particularly Director George Tenet’s actions, say that the agency suffered from an occurrence of “group think”.  They say that analysts were not encouraged to question assumptions and that the Director purposely skewed results so they would coincide with what people outside of the CIA wanted to hear.

If one recalls the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they will remember that it seemed clear the Bush Administration wanted to invade Iraq.  They not only justified the invasion based on the idea that Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), but also that they were somehow connected to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The Director of the CIA is appointed by the President, if he knew that this is what someone who was his “boss” wanted, it makes sense that he might try please him.  Along that same line of thought, it makes sense that the CIA analysts would want to please Tenet, who was their boss.  It seems that the group think in this situation was the result of a managerial mandate.  Here the CIA should have been working towards a conclusion that was the result of the evidence they compiled.  Instead, they worked towards finding evidence that would lead to the result that they had already decided on.  This can be a very dangerous practice for companies.  Had this been a real company and they only used specific market data that led them to justify the release of a manager’s pet product instead of the product the market actually wanted, the results would have been disastrous.  Not only would the company probably have lost a lot of money on the development of an unwarranted product, but the management probably would have been sacked and the R&D regulations re-written to have more checks and balances.

Having checks and balances is extremely important to any kind of decision making process.  If the factors that lead up to a decision are subject to checks and re-checks, they are more likely to be confirmed as viable or not.  Also, the fact that the only reports taken into consideration were from Iraqi exiles who had been exiled by the government should have been a huge red flag.  A company would never dream of getting their primary information from a potentially biased source.  And usually, I don’t believe that the CIA would either.  However, because analysts were basically told what to think and find, what choice did they have?  Group think may have been the symptom, but it was not the cause.  The cause was something that could lead to other problems besides group think.  The problem was managerial mandate.


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