DSD Summer Reading #2


Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment, Vintage, London, 2017.

Varoufakis’ tale of political failure, moral victory and individual weakness is a modern day tale of strategic thought and planning that speaks to the very core of many of the themes raised in various courses here at the Joint Services Command and Staff College. Varoufakis is a strategist. His plan for dealing with Greece’s financially crippling economic and fiscal condition, in order to save it from a future of indebtedness, humiliation and subservience to a European oppressor demonstrates the same uses and constellation of powers, bar the use of military power, that constitute any serious analysis of strategic thinking. Thus, the establishment of the centre of gravity to effect change, debt restructuring, and the need to move the opponents, a combination of EU and International monetary committees, as well as governments, presents as plethora of critical points and nexus that must be brought into alignment just as any successful campaign plan is the result of sound fundamental strategic thinking. Furthermore, the relationship between the need for political authority and coherence is ably demonstrated here, as the failure to be able to secure political support for the economic strategy ends in the same catastrophic failure in terms of securing a valuable end state as one sees in a military power context. Therefore, Varoufakis’ story of the human weakness and cowardice of the Greek government, as well as the duplicity and hubris of the various European actors, is a lesson in higher command, higher politics, and higher management that any aspiring officer should read with some trepidation. Finally, the idea of systems, change management, toxic leadership, toxic systems, wicked problems, are all to be found in abundance here and serve a valuable role as a case study in the darkside, and triumph, of most of those traits and characteristics we hope can always be overcome. And for anyone that might like to shrug and smugly think that “of course, that is the Greeks. It couldn’t happen here.” I would advise that such strategic cultural arrogance is on of the root of this cautionary tale. Well written, fast paced and refreshingly honest, the book is easy to read and follow. Most disturbing, however, is the undeniable example it gives of modern democracy and its broken nature, where those who combine specific knowledge and expertise, true subject matter experts, when granted full and free access to political legitimacy, prove to be the most feared and mistrusted of the professional political class. For all of us who believe in democracy’s ability to survive into the century and deliver good order and government for all, it is a most depressing Greek tragedy.

Image via flickr.

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