Dereliction of Duty - Book Review

Published April 7, 2021 9 Views

Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster, Lt. Gen USA (RET)

In Dereliction of Duty, McMaster focuses primarily on the senior civilian and military leaders who steered the United States towards its increased involvement in the Vietnam conflict and the numerous factors that had led them to do so. He showcases the flaws of the men that were ultimately in charge of shaping a nation’s course of action, and how the dynamic relationships that they had with each other impacted foreign policy decisions. With the release of The Pentagon Papers, and their memoirs, McMaster was able to derive the motives and opinions of these men. It provides a cautionary tale for the deciding bodies of business organizations, as much as it does for the United States and other nations.

While reading or listening to Dereliction of Duty you will see common patterns that McMaster was able to identify from the declassified documents and memorandums found within The Pentagon Papers. There is a body of civilian leaders, focused on domestic matters, and convinced of their superiority over their military advisors, in spite of military realities. There is a body of military leaders unable to communicate these realities effectively as a result of their service rivalries, competing loyalties, and the game of politics found in Washington.

What I propose that business leaders, executives, owners, managers, etc. can glean from this book is how dangerous a body of decision-makers and their advisors can be if not unified in their efforts. Imagine what would occur if the chief executive of operations disregarded advice on the distribution of a new product from their primary logistics officer. The problems that might arise if the head of product research and development thought that they knew better about what customers want than the heads of marketing and customer relations. The issues that would occur if key department managers, seeing critical problems and failures that could arise in their areas, were too afraid to voice their opinion or only told the boss what they wanted to hear. In a sense, you get a Vietnam-scenario, in which a deciding body undertakes a course of action that is misdirected and dangerous to the company.

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