I think ^(link) therefore I err

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Great Interview

With Paul Wolfowitz. I don't have time to read it this morning, but this struck me well!

**MB: "But how certain do you feel that you are right?"

PW: "I think someone once said that decision-making is usually trying to choose the least crappy of the various alternatives. It does seem to me that so many things we have to decide are fifty-five—forty-five decisions, or sixty—forty decisions. Arrogance is one of the worst failings in a senior decision-maker. I really admire people like President Bush and Harry Truman, who were good at it. Dean Acheson said about Truman that he was free of that most crippling of emotions, regret. Once he made a decision, he moved on. And I think that’s what characterizes really good decision-makers. I think this president is one. He accepts the fact that if he’s batting six hundred, he’s doing pretty well. I was in the Oval Office the day he signed the executive order to invade Iraq, and I know how painful that was. He actually went out in the Rose Garden just to be alone for a little while. It’s hard to imagine how hard that was. And of course you can’t be sure, maybe ten years from now or five years from now, how it will look. We still don’t know how it will turn out, so you can’t possibly be sure you were right.

PW: "I still think it was right. I’d advise it all over again if I had to. There is this sort of intellectual notion that there is such a thing as perfect knowledge, and you wait to get perfect knowledge before you make a decision. In the first place, even if there were perfect knowledge, it would be too late by the time you got it. And secondly, there is no such thing. Accepting the imperfection of knowledge is a very important part of being a great decision-maker. I’m not. I understand the process intellectually, less so emotionally. I feel a lot more comfortable about any decision I make if I feel like I have thought through all the arguments—even if at the end of the day there is not a mathematical formula that tells you which one is right. But at least you won’t discover a factor you hadn’t even considered.