Tuesday, March 22, 2011


As many of my readers are no doubt aware, I'm currently preparing to go back to school this fall in order to get my MBA.  The latest step in the process has been choosing a school, and it's been a hard decision.  Each of my options had a lot to recommend it, which, as my future father-in-law very helpfully pointed out, meant that there was no wrong choice to make.  That didn't make the decision any easier, but it did take most of the stress out of it.

Faced with a decision between three good options, I did what any military intelligence veteran and prospective MBA would do: I made a spreadsheet.  I compiled a list of competing criteria, including everything from program rankings and student body attitudes to proximity of family and friends and survivability in a civilizational-collapse scenario.  I rated each school on these criteria as impartially as possible, then ranked the criteria by subjective importance to me, had my fiancée do the same*, and multiplied the average of our rankings by the schools' ratings to come up with a value-weighted score for each school.  And of course, my approach failed completely, leaving two of the three schools perfectly tied.

What next?  Time to cook the books.  I went back through the theoretically impartial ratings columns and adjusted them until one school started to pull ahead.  Was I intentionally tipping the balance toward one school?  Probably, but even in that case, my spreadsheet still did its job by revealing to me which school I truly most wanted to attend.  And what was the result?  Well, I'm happy to announce that I am now officially a member of the Wisconsin School of Business Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management Class of 2013.

It is a bit ironic, since I had initially considered it my third-place school, and I nearly didn't bother to finish the application after I was admitted to the school I had considered my number two.  I only went to the interview and class visit out of a grudging sense of obligation to finishing what you start, but was so impressed during that visit that it suddenly became the school to beat.  In the end, it was the only program I felt like I would regret missing if I went somewhere else, and that's what ultimately tipped the scales.  I guess it's a good lesson in not closing doors or burning bridges.

So Madison-area friends, see you soon! And Chicago and Twin Cities friends, we'll only be a few hours away, and we're planning to have a guest room.

*My fiancée's independent prioritization of school selection criteria was nearly identical to mine.  I'd say that's a good sign, no?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Against Intervention

Opinions regarding the proper response to the situation in Libya cut across partisan lines, with the full spectrum from not-our-problem isolationism to something-must-be-done interventionism represented on both sides.  The Right is convinced President Obama's handling it poorly, of course, but there's nothing approaching a consensus about what ought to be done.  The confusion is clear at the conservative flagship National Review, whose editorial now supports a no-fly zone (though they initially opposed it) opposite a column from Victor Davis Hanson (one of the preeminent cheerleaders of the Iraq invasion) who opposes intervention.

It's appropriate that opinions are all over, I suppose.  It's a fraught question.  As VDH sums up the humanitarian argument,

Libyans have been living an ungodly nightmare since Qaddafi’s coup in 1969, and it would be a fine and noble thing to lend them a hand to end their four-decade-long misery. The world would be a better and safer place without Qaddafi and his odious clan in power.
 Yes.  But Qaddafi will have to be replaced.  There is simply no indication that there is any significant core of individuals among the rebels who would be any better, and it is a deeply dangerous folly to suggest that things could not get any worse.  Libya's modern history -- a lawless span of coast that nobody else wanted, so the Italians got it -- uncomfortably parallels Somalia's.  And the probably-doomed rebels?  Well, they're the enemy of our enemy, but it's not at all clear that they're our friends:

On a per capita basis, though, twice as many foreign fighters came to Iraq from Libya -- and specifically eastern Libya -- than from any other country in the Arabic-speaking world. Libyans were apparently more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Middle East.
It would be whistling in the dark to suppose that whatever demographic cohort sent so many to fight and die in Iraq is not also front-and-center in the ranks of the rebels we are currently debating whether to support.  The most cynical part of me might support a no-fly zone simply to even things up, to prevent this struggle from ending before it has worn down both sides.  Like the Iran-Iraq war, it's a war you wish both sides could lose.  Sadly, the real losers, as always, are the Libyan people, the majority of whom are by all accounts friendly, hospitable, and desirous of rational government.  

I wish there were an easy answer, but there just isn't.  This is the world we live in.  Foreign policy is really hard.  As I've mentioned before, my biggest concern about President Obama at his inauguration was that he seemed convinced that foreign policy is easy and everyone else had just been doing it wrong.  He does seem at least to have been disabused of that notion.