From Daniel Ellsberg's 2002 Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers:
It was easy to reassure ourselves -- I suspect this is true for every administration -- that whatever our limitations and errors, we were doing our very best and that no other team in the running to replace us was likely to deal with all these challenges much better than we could.
The image that often came to my mind as I watched John [McNaughton] or (occasionally) a master operator like McGeorge Bundy move from one caller to another on the phone, one crisis to another, was that of the juggler in a circus who keeps a dozen plates spinning in the air at once on the ends of long, flexible poles, moving from one to another deftly as a plate begins to wobble and threatens to fall, giving another spin to the pole, just enough to set the plate whirling while he moves down the line to another that is going out of control. It was an art form, it was amazing, it took unusual talent and energy and discipline to do as well as they did, with as few mistakes (often managing to catch the plate, when it fell, before it shattered), but . . . I asked myself more than once: Can they really get away with the decision making like this? With all these simultaneous problems (whose range reflected America's postwar sense of it's "responsibilities," its power, its entitlements), or even for any one of them, can they this way devise or choose adequate policies without setting up disastrous failures? Can men even as brilliant and adroit as these- and for sheer brainpower and energy, the Kennedy crew that Johnson inherited could not easily be bettered- manage safely and wisely so many challenges at once, with so little time to acquire more than a shallow understanding of any one? Can you really run the world this way?
Within a few years Vietnam would provide the answer.
Tags: Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers