I saw an interesting statement reportedly by Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus (229 BC-160 BC). This two-time consul of the Roman Republic and noted general during the Third Macedonian War (171 BC – 168 BC) offered guidance prior to his involvement in the war, which may have contributed to his ability to achieve victory in what had previously been a messy stalemated theater.
His guidance on advice and the credible sources of advice follows:
In every circle, and truly, at every table, there are people who lead armies into Macedonia; who know where the camp ought to be placed; what posts ought to be occupied by troops; when and through what pass that territory should be entered; where magazines should be formed; how provisions should be conveyed by land and sea; and when it is proper to engage the enemy, when to lie quiet and they not only determine what is best to be done, but if any thing is done in any other manner than what they have pointed out, they arraign the consul, as if he were on trial before them. These are great impediments to those who have the management of affairs; for every one cannot encounter injurious reports with the same constancy and firmness of mind as Fabius did, who chose to let his own ability be questioned through the folly of the people, rather than to mismanage the public business with a high reputation.
I am not one of those who think that commanders ought at no time to receive advice; on the contrary, I should deem that man more proud than wise, who regulated every proceeding by the standard of his own single judgment. What then is my opinion? That commanders should be counseled chiefly by persons of known talent, by those who have made the art of war their particular study, and whose knowledge is derived from experience, by those who are present at the scene of action, who see the enemy, who see the advantages that occasions offer, and who, like people embarked in the same ship, are sharers of the danger.
If, therefore, anyone thinks himself qualified to give advice respecting the war which I am to conduct, let him not refuse the assistance to the State, but let him come with me into Macedonia.
He shall be furnished with a ship, a tent, even his traveling charges will be defrayed, but if he thinks this is too much trouble, and prefers the repose of a city life to the toils of war, let him not on land assume the office of a pilot. The city in itself furnishes abundance of topics for conversation. Let it confine its passion for talking to its own precincts and rest assured that we shall pay no attention to any councils but such as shall be framed within our camp. (See LIVY, book 44, chapter 22, Trans. Alfred C. Schlesinger, vol 13, p. 161).
What did you think of when you read that? Did you think of strange technical guidance given by a person with no experience in IT that impacted your architecture? I guess we have all seen that.
I’m also thinking now about the huge amount of kibitzing and complaining and advice from outsiders now being thrust on government IT leaders, especially those in the intelligence community. It is true there are things that need to change there, but the fact is, it takes someone in the fight to have a real understanding of the complexities of the issues that face the community.
I would certainly like to see more/better mechanisms to get advice and thoughts and help from outsiders to the IT leadership of the intelligence community. That type of information exchange can always be improved, and lord knows government IT leaders need more help. But what I would most like to see is a greater number of thought leaders and professionals from industry and academia offering advice founded in a deep understanding of the mission needs and complexities of the IT environment in the intelligence community.
There are many ways to gain that knowledge. For example, for many the way to learn will be to apply for positions in government and serve directly inside. Another very close way will be to serve in the defense industrial establishment in a position that gives you exposure to government challenges. I’ve seen others from the outside, like Tim O’Reilly and Craig Newmark, seek to learn by dedicating time meeting broad swaths of people from all echelons of government. Others seek to learn by attending government conferences, industry days and related events. I assume some can also learn a great deal by reading, especially if that reading includes thoughts from a government thought leaders.
Anyway, I thought the Lucius Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus quote was interesting and worth a read.
For more on these topics:
- More Proof DSB Cloud Computing Conclusions Are On Track
- The American Way of War Is Based On Tech: Don’t Let It Be Our Downfall!
- Want a new information superiority idea? Read an old book
- The Need for A Strategic Pivot in DoD R&D
- Cyberpower and National Security
- We Have A Cyber Czar, and He Has Spoken
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