Associated Press file photo

The first step in avoiding future quagmires is to acknowledge the hazards of high-level decision-making. Fiercely ambitious and self-confident people, Presidents and their advisors like to think of themselves as in control—of events, of outcomes, of consequences. But what, really, is in their control and what is not? More than they know—or care to admit—they are like mountaineers on the upper reaches of Mount Everest whose fixation on the summit can dull them to the dangers of their surroundings. In both instances, the vistas are breathtaking. But the air is thin, the winds are strong, the hidden crevasses are deep, and if one slips and falls, the slopes are steep. Both environments are notoriously unforgiving of mistakes and misjudgments.

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