Needed Curious Leaders

What this country needs is more curiosity in the top political echelons. 1. America can bring about democracy in other countries by force of will and arms wherever and whenever we choose. 2. Political accommodation in Iraq will follow the military successes of the Surge--or vice-versa, that we need the establishment of viable political institutions before we can quell the insurgency. 3.

We can have large government programs and keep everybody honest. 4. Success in the "war on terror" can be achieved without a national commitment, a degree of "shared sacrifice." Our leaders of the future must be curious about seeking causes for current events such as: 1.

The current meltdown in the housing market and related banking institutions . 2. Earth's warming. 3. The high rate of high school drop-outs in large cities. 4.

So many millions of Americans who do not have medical insurance. New leaders for tomorrow must be able to ask, "What if. . ?" 1.

Current trends continue up to 2060 when we will have over 100 million more illegal and legal immigrants. 2. We continue to borrow so many billions from China. 3. The number of divorces continues to keep two parent families at about 51%.

4. Political partisanship proceeds unabated. We need to heed Brigadier General Scott Wallace's call for leaders, not only in the army, but in politics as well who "relentlessly question everything we do." In the US Army one such way is to conduct After Action Reviews, a post operation reflection composed of these three questions: "What was our goal? What actually happened? How do we account for the differences between the vision or goal and the perceived reality?" Would that we had leaders who continuously asked those kinds of questions about our pre-emptive strike against Iraq; about the attempt to alter Social Security; the attempts at Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation; or why it will take another 12-18 months for the Iraqi Army to "stand up." Leaders are those who make decisions, but too often those decisions seem to have resulted from a rigidity of thinking that failed to consider all options.

Recently (9/10/07), Admiral Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, noted that he had successfully instituted a process known as "red teaming," a form of playing Devil's Advocate that former CIA Directors had contemplated but prior to 9/11 had not brought to pass. With such Red Cells in place policy makers must consider alternative and dissent points of view to avoid the "assumption trains" that the US Senate Intelligence Committee said got us into such trouble prior to our invasion of Iraq. The 9/11 Commission recognized a failure of imagination in our pre-9/11 thinking. Administration officials said, "No one could have imagined. .

.There were, however, those like Tom Clancy. We need leaders in all walks of life who work toward the Commission's recommendation to "routinize the practice of imagination." This means having a deep sense of inquisitiveness about personal and professional experiences, about living in the world and about our foreign and domestic policies. It means "relentlessly questioning everything we do" and not accepting the common wisdoms whatever they may be. And which of our common wisdoms should we challenge today?.

John Barell has spent his professional life in education working with adults and students who wish to pose good questions, think critically and find reasonable answers. He is author most recently of Quest for Antarctica--A Journey of Wonder and Discovery (2007) http://www.morecuriousminds.com

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