George Packer wrote in the New Yorker (quoted in Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire) on the books that Obama and his generals are reading. He wrote this about making public policy, about the difficulty of basing decisions on the past.
Making policy is about making choices, and they are never the same twice. Over the past few years, I’ve come to believe that doing it well is hard—almost impossible. It takes imagination, a knowledge of history, a certain analytical coldness, an ability to hold contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time, intellectual courage, and prolonged immersion in staggering depths of facts. Few leaders are capable of more than one or two of these, let alone all. And given the complexities, there’s only so much policymakers can learn from their predecessors.
There’s only so much that decision makers can learn from the data.