And also half-baked. As I understand it, the senior Obama Administration officials who pushed US intervention in Libya were Hillary and Powers – both Clinton-era people. The gestalt judgment about the Clinton Administration’s military involvement in Africa (shared, at least publicly, by Bill) is: Black Hawk down therefore gun shy about involvement in Rwanda therefore genocide. The most prominent official opposed to US intervention in Libya – Gates – was summoned to DOD in large part as a reaction to the gestalt judgment: brutal Arab terrorist attack therefore Iraq overreaction therefore egregious spillage of American blood and treasure. Powers and the Empress of Messpot were both out of office during the height of the Iraq fallout; Gates was not in office for Rwanda.
To me this is weak evidence that the pro and anti-intervention factions within the White House were each motivated by the gestalt judgments that loomed largest in their public consciousnesses. If true, this calls into question the efficacy of the elaborate bureaucracies – DOD being one of the most elaborate – that are supposed to ensure that evidence, not gestalt (and vague gestalt, at that), drives vital decisions.
Whether or not it’s good that we aren’t as technocratic as we like to think, it seems a shame to expend money and man-hours pushing paper primarily to cover the President’s ass. (The optimist’s take: even if high-level policymaking is impressionistic it may be – probably is – more disciplined for occurring in the shadow of a public record. And aren’t disciplined gestalt judgments what we expect from the Executive? Optimal.)