Reorganizing America's Security Establishment
Gregory D. Foster
In his immensely insightful book Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan characterizes organizations as "psychic prisons" that may trap their members in favored-frequently illusionary--ways of thinking. The metaphor of the psychic prison is rooted in Plato's famous allegory of the cave, where Socrates addresses the relations among appearance, reality, and knowledge. Organizations, suggests Morgan, are psychic phenomena that ultimately are created and sustained by conscious and unconscious processes. People, both those within the organization and those who simply must deal with it, actually can become imprisoned or confined by the images, ideas, thoughts, and actions to which these thought processes give rise. 1
The United States is trapped in the psychic prison of the Cold War. Change--bewildering in its scope, intensity, and rapidity--is going on all about us. Yet we are stuck in neutral, seemingly mired in a past that is no more, waiting for the invisible hand of evolutionary drift to guide us to some sort of social, political, and economic equilibrium whose contours will be defined for us naturally rather than by us intentionally. A major culprit for such rearview-mirror thinking is the organizational framework--generally known as the "national security establishment"--set in place in 1947 and maintained essentially unchanged since.
Harvard historian Ernest May has made the telling observation that policymakers often are influenced by erroneous beliefs about what history teaches or portends. The key members of the Truman Administration, who brought us the notion of the Cold War as well as the policies and organizational arrangements that went with it, appear to have thought about the issues before them, suggests May, in a frame of reference made up in large part of narrowly selected and poorly analyzed historical analogies, parallels, and presumed trends. 2