In Today‚Äôs Language: ‚ÄúDudes, WTF? STFU and let me do my job!‚ÄĚ

Historically accurate depiction of the Duke of Wellington


Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by His Majesty’s ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters. We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence:

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remain unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain.

This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1.) To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or, perchance…
2.) To see to it the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,


‚ÄĒAttributed to the Duke of Wellington, during the
Peninsular Campaign, in a message to the British
Foreign Office in London, 11 August 1812.

Reader Duncan gets a virtual high-five for pointing this letter out to me. It‚Äôs taken from the introduction of the CGD Essay by Andrew Nastios, the USAID Administrator, entitled The Clash of the Counter-Bureaucracy and Development. The central thrusts of his argument (and I confess here to having given it only a skim) are that bureaucratic regulation of aid agencies is extremely cumbersome and is the focus of far too much ‚Äėdevelopment‚Äô work, and that this is counterintuitive, since the most easily measurable development programmes are the least transformational, and the most transformational are the least easily measurable.

Continue reading