International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

rate or inadequate reporting from the British ships of the situation they saw, and, second, by the fact that poor climatic conditions and the smoke of battle made it difficult for all concerned to make out friend from foe. Enemy forces and their activities could not be seen properly, nor, all too often, could the signals of friendly ships. "I wish," remarked Jellicoe in exasperation at one stage of the battle, "someone would tell me who is firing, and what they are firing at" ( Marder, 1966 p. 85). With hindsight, the result seems inevitable: The German fleet escaped from the trap with far fewer losses than they might objectively have expected and, indeed, with rather fewer losses than the significantly more powerful British. It seemed that on that day, largely because of the fog of war, things had simply not gone the Royal Navy's way.

Clausewitz would not have been surprised by this. In his view, reality rarely conformed to expectation. War in practice was nearly always fundamentally different from war in theory. Nor could this be ascribed simply to the deficiencies of the commanders on both sides; instead, it was a consequence of the perilous and confusing nature of war itself.

Of course, military personnel have evolved ways of dealing with, or at least managing, this unavoidable aspect of their profession. Moreover, both their experiences in the fog and the manner in which they have sought to cope with uncertainty have relevance to the general field of public administration, just as do the concepts of "tactics" and "strategy." Most obviously, they have sought to improve the extent to which information is properly collected, processed, transmitted, and exploited in order that the best use can be made of the information that is available. This method requires investment in information technology, and in the training required to exploit its potential to the full.

The availability of satellite systems, microprocessors, and data links have transformed command and control for the modem military, increasing the quality and quantity of data available for the decisionmaker, making it far easier for commanders to see the overall picture and for those at home to supervise and control their activities.

But modern communications bring new vulnerabilities, too. They may create dangerous dependencies, which may be revealed all too clearly if the system crashes, is subject to attack, is penetrated by espionage, or has not been properly adapted to the particular scenario. Moreover, such communications are also available to adversaries, allowing them to make better-informed decisions, to respond faster, and very possibly to seek to uncover the enemy's secrets.

In a competitive situation of inherent uncertainty, significant effort and resources need to be expended to capture, exploit, and defend information. In Clausewitz's view, few things have higher priority. The deliberate attempt by one side to deceive and mislead the adversary in order to increase the opaqueness of the fog in which their enemies are enveloped has been an aspect of strategy long before the term "disinformation" was invented. In 1944, it applied to activities as various as the camouflaging of ships so that they looked like something else, the mechanical simulation of invasion convoys in the Pas de Calais (Strait of Dover) and the staging of elaborate ruses, involving dead bodies and false maps, in order to conceal the true landing sites for the invasion of Normandy. In many circumstances, such disinformation strategies have clear analogies in the field of public administration.

Finally, Clausewitz was particularly interested in the implications of the fog of war for leadership, especially in view of the fact that uncertainty bred fear and a tendency to exaggerate surrounding dangers. Commanders must be calm and resolute: "The rock against which the sea breaks its fury in vain" ( Clausewitz 1962, p. 76). Leaders will be sustained in their role by some knowledge of the laws of probability, of what usually happens in such uncertain unknowable situations. They may well evolve and disseminate standard operating procedures (such as automatically marching toward the sound of gunfire) that usually work in situations of confusion. Again, there are obvious analogies in the more general field of public administration, in which in particular situations, stress, confusion, and uncertainty may dominate events unless key leaders prevent it.

GEOFFREY TILL


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clausewitz, Carl von, 1962. On War. Translated by J. J. Graham. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

-----, 1989. On War. Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Marder, Arthur J., 1966. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Vol. 3. London: Oxford University Press.

FOLLETT, MARY PARKER ( 1868-1933). The early social psychologist who anticipated, in the 1920s, many of the conclusions of the Hawthorne experiments of the 1930s and the post -- World War II behavioral movement. During the course of her career, she consistently wrote about individuals and groups in society, and how democratic governance helps the individual and the group develop full potential. The themes of groups, leadership, authority, power, conflict, and integration are as instructive today as when she wrote at the turn of the century. Much of the management discourse of the 1990s surrounding the titles of excellence, quality, reinvention, reengineering, culture, and chaos theory were introduced by Follett in The New State ( 1923), The Creative Experience ( 1924), and in a series of four lectures given in 1925. A similar observation could be made of the invasion of behavioral science into management thought in the 1960s

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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