The power in welcoming alternative views

Adapted from an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, January 22, 2017.

Perhaps no other part of US government has had to learn the value of encouraging differing points of views—and then listening to them—as much as the Central Intelligence Agency.

A core strength of democratic government lies in its humility to welcome alternative ideas, even to pursue them. This can help prevent self-reinforcing group-think. In its spy work, the CIA often sets up two or more teams to analyze a tough foreign situation. The teams are charged with challenging each other’s assumptions and facts. The process helps to work against inherent biases and allows a deeper understanding of reality.

In a speech last year, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained that the world today is too unpredictable to rely on one person’s views. Two-thirds of the world’s nations are at some risk of instability. Specifics are difficult to pin down. Yet a commander-in-chief needs specifics with a great degree of certainty.

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