Insider Quote: Holbrooke’s Democratic Centralism

Detail from Government. Mural by Elihu Vedder....Image via Wikipedia

“The smartest man in the room is not always right.” That was one of the lessons of Vietnam. Holbrooke described his method to me as “a form of democratic centralism, where you want an open airing of views and opinions and suggestions upward, but once the policy’s decided you want rigorous, disciplined implementation of it. And very often in the government the exact opposite happens. People sit in a room, they don’t air their real differences, a false and sloppy consensus papers over those underlying differences, and they go back to their offices and continue to work at cross-purposes, even actively undermining each other.”

Richard Holbrooke, quoted in
The Last Mission: Richard Holbrooke’s plan to avoid the mistakes of Vietnam in Afghanistan | George Packer | New Yorker | September 28, 2009 (p.47)
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