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17 October 2010


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Wasn't it a business mentality that led to undermanning the Iraq effort?

R Whitman

There are efficient, effective government agencies and there are government bereaucracies that are disasters.

An example of the former is the Social Security Administration which handles about a third of the federal budget with low overhead and few errors. They probably could use some more fraud investigators, however.

An example of the latter is the disfunctional mess that we have in the "intelligence community". Turf wars are more important than intelligence and analysts findings are massaged to conform with political positions regardless of the data. Perhaps some business acumen could be applied here. Nothing else is working.

Maureen Lang

Pat, you should see the ads Fiorina is running here in the L.A. area- every one of them all about how her superb business acumen is just the thing for California.


Fiorina was an unmitigated disaster at HP. The fact that she's using that 'experience' to justify being elected is laughable.

She's just one of the crowd of half-wit egomaniacs running for office.


Col. Lang,

What I find so disappointing is how many Americans cannot grasp this simple concept.

If they want to use the business rules and declare that all things the government pays for are "socialist" then they had better realize that police officers and law enforcement are all "socialists" who are on the government teat, same for firefighters, EMT's, the highway departments who salt and sand roads in the winter and of course the military with their enlistment to grave government assistance programs.

I think we can learn from the likes of Joe Miller in Alaska who took government subsidies for farming and who's wife went on unemployment after losing her government clerking job and who took advantage of discounted hunting licenses for low income Alaskans.

The lesson is: it is only sucking off the government teat when others do it.

Matt Taibbi point this out in a recent Rolling Stone piece when he notes how many of the outraged tea-partiers are on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

It's socialism when others do it.

Roy G

Well said. The irony is that, outside of her circle of loyalists and flacks, Ms. Fiorina's tenure at HP was widely considered to be a disaster. She almost destroyed HP with her buzzword-laden mission to swallow Compaq. That HP is healthier now is a tribute to her successors, who cleaned up her mess.

Although Ms. Whitman had a more successful tenure at eBay (or 'the world's biggest fencing operation, according to some), she holds the same illusion, which is tantamount to a Republican dog whistle.

Don't forget that 'running the govt. like a business' was the mantra of the Republican revolution, circa 1996. We all know how well that has turned out.

Finally, in re 'profit centers,' while Col. Lang is technically true, the Republican dream is to create those profit centers – for their corporate co-conspirators, via privatization. Of course, the govt. doesn't profit, but that doesn't matter to those who hate govt.


Did they ask her on FNS if she is going to do for California what she did for HP?


"Shares of HP (Research) jumped 6.9 percent in heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday on the news [Fiorina is out]. But at one point, the stock was up as much as 10.5 percent.

"The stock is up a bit on the fact that nobody liked Carly's leadership all that much," said Robert Cihra, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners. "The Street had lost all faith in her and the market's hope is that anyone will be better.

Fiorina, the only female CEO at a company in the Dow Jones industrial average, had been with HP since 1999. But the company's controversial deal to buy Compaq in the spring of 2002 -- after a bruising proxy fight led by one of the Hewlett family heirs -- has not produced the shareholder returns or profits she had promised."



Col. Lang, with respect, I take violent issue with your suggestion that Fiorina is a "successful business person". She is a successful self promoting narcissist, and a perfect example of what is wrong with todays Western business models.

While you dismiss Fiorina as a species of "Ladder climber", of which I'm sure you have seen many varieties in the upper reaches of the military, this does not do justice to the narcissist. The Generals follow a well travelled path and leave the ladder intact for the next man. The Narcissist destroys the lower rungs as they ascend. No one may follow.

The duty of management is to maximise the value of shareholder wealth in the long term. At Lucent, Fiorina enriched herself by questionable business practices, then jumped ship Six months before Lucents share price crashed.

"In the giant PathNet deal that Fiorina oversaw, Lucent agreed to fund more than 100% of the company's equipment purchases, meaning the small company would get both Lucent gear at no money down and extra cash to boot. Yet how could such a loan to PathNet make sense for Lucent, even based on the world as it appeared in the heady days of 1999? "


"On January 6, 2000, Lucent made the first of a string of announcements that it had missed its quarterly estimates, and when it was later revealed that it had used dubious accounting and sales practices to generate some of its earlier quarterly numbers, Lucent fell from grace."


Once at Hewlett Packard she proceeded to destroy HP's unique business culture, making a series of obvious business decisions that destroyed shareholder value until she was forced out in 2005.

Her so called "Business success" was virtually destroying shareholder value at HP for Four years.

From 2005:

"the board's concerns about its chief had been mounting for nearly a year. Sure, she had dazzled directors and many investors with her passionate work in pushing through the controversial merger with Compaq Computer Corp. in 2002. And the immediate integration of the two companies bested expectations, silencing even her fiercest critics. But by late 2003, investors began shifting their focus from the Compaq deal to HP's ebbing position against key competitors IBM (IBM ) and Dell (DELL ). They bored in on the ragged financial performance that led to the swooning stock price......"

"The tide really began turning against Fiorina following HP's massive profit shortfall in the third quarter of last year. That marked HP's second miss in five quarters and further damaged the company's credibility on Wall Street -- a major issue, since HP's stock has long traded at multiples well below those of its competitors. Although Fiorina fired three top sales executives for the miss, the board's doubts about its CEO grew. At the same time, the board's proddings of Fiorina to bolster HP's operations talent went largely unheeded."


Fiorina is nothing special. She has ridden the "Old Girls Network" throughout her career. She is excellent at self promotion, nothing more.

Her successor Mark Hurd (resigned August 2010 when sexual impropriety was discovered), was another bit of the same corporate trash like Tony "I want my life back" Hayward of BP.

Carly Fiorina in Congress will be for Carly Fiorina and no one else. She will predictably defend the rich against the poor and the strong against the week. No compassion. No empathy.

I have an MBA from a good university and have held many senior management positions culminating in my own time as a CEO. I have also chronicled my own time working for a Foirina - like Prima Donna elsewhere on this excellent website.

I apologise for being long winded, but Fiorina and her ilk are what is wrong with America.


All I know is that come election night I will be reclined with a nice glass of merlot watching the evenings comedy act... The election results....

It will be those total results that come in that will help me to decide whether or I not I finish the entire bottle or cork it and save the rest for another day......


It is well to remember that if voting really made a difference, it would be illegal; as it is, it is only rationed.


...And furthermore Fiorina is a consummate liar.

From her Stanford talk in 2006. This is like drowning in maple syrup.:

" Carly Fiorina Didn't Want To Be Just a Female Boss

October 2006

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS—Carly Fiorina says she never wanted to be singled out as a woman in senior management..........

If Fiorina does seem to be in touch with a softer side of business, it is not so much due to her sensitivity to women's issues as to a deep appreciation for human nature in general. She said her own love of business had always been rooted in a love of working with different kinds of people, and added that any successful business person had to be a people person first and foremost.

"I think the story of business is the story of people," said Fiorina..................

"In my experience, it is the people who produce both the products and the profits, and if you don't understand them, you cannot influence them or your company's products and profits."..........

"It was an iconic company with founders who were larger than life, but it was falling further and further behind," Fiorina said.

Along with cutting some 36,000 jobs and revamping the compensation structure to align it more closely with the company's financial performance, Fiorina spearheaded a massive merger with Compaq Computer Corp. That 2001 deal remains controversial to this day, and the deep divisions it created are often cited as a key reason behind Fiorina's ouster in 2004...........

"There is no substitute for judgment and personal ethics," she said. "Abusive, dishonest people get results in business, and if you tolerate it then you are sending a message that it is okay, as long as you make the numbers.""

Per my previous post, Carly Fiorina fired three senior managers when they didn't make their numbers. Some people person.

She also makes Portfolios list of the worst CEO's of all time.


During Carly's tenure, the HP share price went from around $52 to $21. The people person fired 30,000 American workers and shipped their jobs to China and India.

Nobody but Carly thinks she is a success, and even in this 2005 article, we can see what the narcissist was thinking:

"Some people fault Fiorina for having rapidly moved out of jobs at two previous employers, AT&T and Lucent, without having really "finished" her work. Those critics think she might speed from HP also, perhaps by riding the rumors into some kind of Republican post. But her HP job seems unlike the others in that her managerial reputation is thoroughly and publicly on the line--in a company that hasn't succeeded--and would be badly tarred if she walked out."


Patrick Lang

Walrus et al

I never said she was really good at business, merely that she has the typical attitudes. pl

William R. Cumming

Let no man or woman be their own judge?


By the way... I refuse to vote this year. I am so sick and tired of voting for the lesser of evils. I might do the same in 2012 unless someone with honor actually runs....

Until then I will keep my wine cellar stocked....


Oh, I think government is hugely profitable as an enterprise, but that people are rarely accustomed to thinking of it that way. Largely because its returns are second-hand. Somebody mentioned already the defense industry, whose profits are almost entirely derived from government. But really, any kid who comes out of public school and finds a job will turn a 'profit' one day through the taxes they pay.

A larger problem with the 'run it like a business' story is, to my mind, that the 'CEO' in government can't really hire or fire the 'staff' they have to work with. They can't appoint people to Congress, or to State legislatures, and neither can they turf those who do not do what they wish. And of course nobody - but nobody - who works in government, or is elected to government, thinks of it as being a business.


Aah - hit 'Post', not 'Edit'.

Meant to add my opinion that former CEO's are probably the least equipped to run a government. Former senior-ranking Military, too, now that I think about it. Anyone used to the power of 'Command' will have trouble adjusting to a world that does not obey.



Old farts, especially ones who were drafted to go to Vietnam, cannot forget the overwhelming power of the State. In reality, in reaction to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union killing 100 million people, plus the security of nuclear weapons; the wealthy have pushed the counter ideology that the State is Evil and have effectively shrunk the power of government. “History is dead.”

The best politicians that money can buy have bought into the belief that there is no fix for America’s problems . The simple fact there is a solution. Put the unemployed back to work doing something, anything, so they can buy goods and increase demand.

The only way to win World Wars is with a people’s army and taxes to pay for it. Instead America is fighting an unwinnable Holy War with too few volunteers and borrowed money. The only ideology pushed in America today and echoed by its politicians is “Tax Cuts” which does nothing except fatten oligarch’s portfolios.

Barrack Obama, Carly Fiorina and all of today’s wealthy politicians are reincarnations of Grey Davis, the former democratic governor of California. He was so bought by corporate money and its ideology that he could not stop Enron from cutting electrical power to his state and screwing Grandmother Millie and all of his constituents.

Patrick Lang


That is sophism. Your political point is irrelevant. the Defense program is evaluated on th basis of JCS strategy input and the location of contractors. pl

Patrick Lang


History is not dead. pl


Sarah Palin or this woman, USA awaits.

William R. Cumming

Jake! Sorry but not voting is not a vote.

Sometimes the margins are quite slim including Hitler's victory in 1932!

Stuart R. Wood

Col. Lang,
Always like your articles and opinions on our strategic interests. Would your care to comment on the following article by David Kaiser?

Bacevich rides again
By David Kaiser
(Kaiser is a historian at the Naval War College)srw

Andrew Bacevich and I have had oddly parallel lives. He came from the heartland and I from the Washington establishment, but we are just about exactly the same age. Both of us joined the Army late in the Vietnam era, but I was merely an enlisted man in the non-combatant reserves while he began a long career as an officer, reaching the rank of colonel. After retiring in the early 1990s he went into academia, just when I was joining the faculty of the Naval War College. I believe he is nominally still a Republican while I am a Democrat, but we are equally disgusted with both parties, especially as regards foreign policy. And we are two of the very few members of our generation still daring to question the basis of American foreign policy since the Second World War--the theme of his new book, Washington Rules. I should also add that we count one another as friends.

Washington Rules is a troubling book for anyone who happens to believe that rationality drives the policy-making process in Washington--or even that it could. It surveys the whole period from 1947 or so to the present rather impressionistically, focusing on some key personalities like Curtis LeMay, Allen Dulles, Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, and going into detail with respect to only a few crises. I do not agree with all its historical judgments, particularly with respect to the 1960s, but I freely concede that I learned a lot about recent history from this book, and that in any case, its overall point is far more important than any disagreements over specific facts. Bacevich argues that a Washington consensus has dominated our thinking and our policy for the last 63 years (if not the last 70), that is, the span of our lifetimes. It is built, he says, around a trinity of ideas: that the United States is uniquely ordained to defend, and extend, the realm of freedom around the world; that that mission requires a network of far-flung bases; and that we must be willing to engage in combat, as necessary, to secure our aims. That consensus, he argues, has survived eleven changes of Administration (Presidents, actually, play relatively minor roles in his narrative, and with good reason), and cataclysmic events ranging from the Vietnam War to the collapse of Communism. Only briefly in the 1970s has it ever been challenged and it has repeatedly come back stronger than ever--and it shows no signs of abating now.

According to Bacevich, his awakening began with the end of the Cold War, when he got to see behind Communist lines in Eastern Europe and discovered that the enemy was far more less formidable than he had been led to believe. My parallel awakening began much earlier, in 1968, after the Tet Offensive made clear that we were not winning the Vietnam War. (It is an interesting fact, one that Bacevich does not mention, that a whole industry subsequently sprung to try to argue, wrongly, that the Tet Offensive did not prove that at all.) Given that we could not win it, I began to ask myself whether it had been necessary to fight it at all, and I had soon decided that it had not. The United States, I concluded--and this was a big change from what I had previously believed--did not have to be desperately interested in the fate of every spot on the globe, even if Communism was involved. Certain areas were far more important than others, and the world was also full of self-regulating mechanisms that would help keep the United States and its allies safe without our active involvement.

Young and innocent, I flattered myself that many of my fellow countrymen had drawn similar conclusions. Some had. Bacevich points out that General David Shoup (of whom I was well aware at the time) and J. William Fulbright, among others, gave the Washington consensus its most serious challenge of the whole postwar period during that time. But by 1974, I was shocked to discover, things were back on track in DC. I was amazed to learn that Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger had decided that the CIA had to support one Marxist faction against another in newly independent Angola, even though the pro-Soviet Marxists had already come to terms with Gulf Oil there, just to show that the United States was not a paper tiger in Vietnam. That was only the first of many pieces of evidence that Vietnam was going to be regarded merely as a blip on the curve, albeit one that had made the Army gunshy and ended the draft. Some years later, in the late 1970s, Theodore Draper pointed out that no one who had had the sense to oppose the Vietnam War from the beginning seemed to have gained additional power and influence as a result, while no one who had advocated it seemed to have suffered any great loss of reputation or clout.

In fact, I noticed during the 1980s that since the time of my birth, the focus of American attention around the world had shifted progressively from the most advanced and important areas, such as Western Europe and Japan, to ever poorer and remote ones, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central America, and even the Horn of Africa. The reductio ad absurdum of this process seemed to have arrived in 1979 when we became frightened about Soviet control of Afghanistan. Little did I know that that was only the beginning.

The end of the Cold War did lead to meaningful reductions in military spending during the 1990s--but as Bacevich points out, it did not lead to any major changes in the way Washington approached the world. During that decade, our armed forces--with whom I was now working--were configured to fight one of two wars, a new Korean war or another war in the Gulf. But meanwhile, Bacevich shows effectively, Madeleine Albright, Clinton's second Secretary of State, kept the prevailing view alive in the midst of a new world. Specifically, Albright tried (unsuccessfully) to bring about earlier American military intervention in the Balkans and supported sanctions against Saddam Hussein even while admitting that they might have caused the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. More generally, she bluntly stated that the United States was sticking to its principles in the midst of a new era.

Neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz had, of course, been arguing since Communism collapsed that American power should now overawe or defeat anyone who stood in its way. Documents released in the last few weeks by the National Security archive show that putting this philosophy into practice by taking down Saddam Hussein (a goal which, to be fair, Bill Clinton had already endorsed as well) was an immediate priority for the Bush Administration, one which 9/11, if anything, delayed. To Bacevich--and I am afraid that he is right--both tyrannies like Saddam's and terrorist attacks are simply excuses from "semiwarriors," as he calls them, like Robert McNamara, Wolfowitz, and Fred and Kimberly Kagan to keep American power moving forward, ever forward, without seriously asking what we are likely to accomplish or how it is going to make America safer. Meanwhile, in some of his most scathing passages, Bacevich shows how successive generations of military officers have stepped forward to meet the needs of particular civilian decisions. When Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz planned painlessly to topple one dictatorship after another (and Tony Blair has now confirmed, by the way, that invasions of Iran and North Korea were supposed to follow the move against Iraq), military thinkers like Admiral Arthur Cebrowski stepped forward with "networkcentric warfare." When the application of such techniques created chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, David Petraeus--who had actually been waiting for this moment since the 1980s--stepped forward with a revised counterinsurgency doctrine. I am ashamed to admit that I did not realize that Petraeus's new handbook for counterinsurgency, FM 3-24, defined Al Queda as a global strategic threat, requiring "a global strategic response, one that addresses the array of linked resources and conflicts that sustain these movements while tactically addressing the local grievances that feed them." We have essentially embarked upon a world-wide crusade against ignorance, poverty and anarchy, with the Army and Marines in the lead--even though all the evidence, in my opinion, suggests that the presence of US forces if the single thing most likely to encourage Islamic extremism, as well as terrorist attacks committed by Muslims living in the West.

Even more painful are the pages devoted to the Obama Administration. The Democratic Party, Bacevich points out, rode back into power in Congress in 2006 on the back of the Iraq War, but made no attempt to bring it to a conclusion through the power of the purse, instead sitting back while Bush expanded it. Two years later Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in large measure because he had opposed the Iraq war (unlike John Kerry or Hillary Rodham Clinton), and promised in the campaign, to bring it to a conclusion. He also promised, however, to expand the effort in Afghanistan. He showed in many ways from the beginning that he had no intention of challenging the Washington consensus. He presided over a strategy review that never even addressed the question of whether staying in Afghanistan was doing any good at all, but focused on the issue of how many more troops to send. And now he is firmly established as yet another consensus President in foreign affairs, with the situation in Iraq deteriorating once again and things going worse and worse, it would seem, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clearly, I find my self more in agreement with my friend Andy than not, and equally bemused as to whether anything can cause us to reverse course. Things have changed since he and I were young. Because we no longer have a draft, we must fight our wars on a much smaller scale, and because we now have precision-guided weapons we do not have to wreak the kind of havoc that we did in Vietnam--even though the secondary consequences of the invasion of Iraq were horrific, and Afghans are suffering much as well. Meanwhile, after its rough patch in the 1970s and 1980s, the national security establishment seems to have freed itself from any serious oversight, much less punishment for misdeeds, up to and including torture. And the defense budget, which actually fell in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, is now at an all-time high and its share of GDP is once again increasing. Our obsession with overwhelming military power is one of the biggest reasons, I suspect, that Europe has done so much better at maintaining its infrastructure and its industrial plant than we have--we have given them and the Japanese the chance to focus on more important matters, and they have done so. Bacevich must know that his book, by its very nature, cries out to be dismissed with a shrug and a rolling of the eyes by his targets in Washington, but he is a great comfort to concerned citizens who have watched us frantically seek out new worlds to conquer for decades on end.


Everything you say about Fiorina is true (and I know some more that confirms all of this), BUT
Boxer's resume?
Come on.
18 years of self-centered dopeyness.
People who have dealt with her (and I heard this first hand) say that she is truly a dim bulb.
ANYONE else is preferable.


Off subject here.... but this kind of pisses me off in the way its reported...

"the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war."


I am glad to see George Vujnovich finally get what is due him. Of course I am pissed it took so long, but he finally got his just deserves.

But some one should tell the IDIOT reporters that while the Halyard Mission was a triumphant success it does not compare with the Raid at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. That raid was the most successful of any rescue attempt in military history. It far surpasses Halyard....

Of course this raid is STILL unknown to many in the public ...

Gosh what the foxtrot do we have to do with the press of today? Reeducate them?

Do any of these idiots ever do any research?


By the way Colonel Lang....

"history is not dead"... This is a true statement only to those who study and note and learn from history.... You Colonel are an exception to the rule while many of your military peers just ain't not getting it....

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