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Why Red Teaming Sometimes Doesn’t Matter

RTJ readers have been pretty quiet lately. I’d like to spur some discussion by intentionally posing a controversial argument:

  • On a tactical level–where choices have direct consequences, and real learning sometimes does occur–red teaming can make a difference.
  • On a strategic level–where policy is charted and events are saturated in political opportunism–red teaming is worthless.

      I’m certain you can find exceptions to both assertions. I’ll also grant that red teams have improved their methods in the last decade. Still, I’m skeptical that good (even great) red teaming can turn the average policy maker from a preferred course of action. Human nature and political impulse will trump red teaming nine times out of ten.
      Policy makers are tempted to aim the red team at a preferred outcome. When this happens, the team becomes a shill–a role that tends to reinforce poor decisions and taint red teaming as a practice.
      Please persuade me this argument is faulty; alternatively, if you think it’s accurate, tell us how we fix it.