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Friendly Fire: The Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Black Hawks over Northern Iraq Paperback – January 27, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the George Terry Award

"The reader will be fascinated. . . . The conclusion is eye-opening and the 'lessons learned' are insightful. . . . A lucid and well-argued book that is a must-read for anyone seeking to comprehend the complexity of fratricide."--John Davis, Air Power History

"Friendly Fire is a deeply intriguing analysis of a highly complex incident that resulted in needless deaths. . . . Drawing on an extensive knowledge of systems theory and organizational behavior, [Snook] weaves an account of an organization on the edge of chaos, a nearly deterministic system ultimately responsible for the resultant loss of life. His conclusions are as disturbing as they are fascinating. . . . Snook paints a disconcerting picture of the potential pitfalls of organizational complacency that every military professional should take to heart. . . . A concise, well-written account of human tragedies. . . . Snook presents a thoroughly analytical, yet exceptionally unambiguous, narrative of the events that ultimately led to the deaths of 26 peacekeepers. Any research into this incident would be incomplete without the information [this] author provide[s]."--Steven Leonard, Military History

From the Inside Flap

"An exceptionally clear outline and theoretical analysis.... The writing is very clear and unusually elegant."--Charles Perrow, Yale University, author of Normal Accidents

"Scott Snook has built a clear case from highly-detailed information. Putting all the data in one place, with numerous 'inside' examples and quotes, will stimulate many organizational theorists. The book is a model of organizational analysis and application of theory at multiple levels, including an ability to reveal the gaps in theory without undermining the theoretical analysis."--John S. Carroll, MIT Sloan School of Management

"A provocative book that can teach all of us about much more than friendly fire. It is an ideal teaching text with great subject, a fascinating thesis, lots of details and much to ponder and discuss."--Brig. Gen Creighton W. Abrams, U.S. Army Ret., Army

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691095183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691095189
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Scott A. Snook, Ph.D. provides a thoughtful and readable account of how things can go tragically wrong in normal, healthy organizations. The author creatively applies several key theories in organizational structure and change to develop an understanding of (1) the tragic shootdown of two Army helicopters by U.S. Air Force jet fighters, which occurred in northern Iraq in 1994, and (2) "friendly-fire" events in general and broadly-defined --- or how it is that bad things can happen to good organizations, and there really is no one to blame. The book begins with an impressive, detailed examination of the data surrounding the 1994 Blackhawk shootdown. This includes thousands of hours of transcribed testimony gathered in hearings and court martial proceedings. In addition to official reports, Snook personally interviewed many of the key players in the Blackhawk friendly-fire incident. Using a "grounded-theory" approach, the author allows the data to shape and guide his reconstruction of the event itself, and his subsequent theoretical formulations to explain what happened. His resultant theory of "practical drift" spans multiple levels-of-analysis, from the individual to the cultural, providing dramatic insight into how such seemingly impossible events can be expected to occur in complex organizations. This book sheds the kind of light which both clarifies and disturbs. It should prove of real value not only to military leaders interested in reducing friendly-fire incidents, but also to leaders in non-military organizations who wish to understand, and perhaps avoid, normal disasters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Leonard on December 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Friendly Fire is a insightful, intriguing analysis of the 1994 incident that resulted in the needless deaths of 26 peacekeepers in the Iraqi Norther No Fly Zone. Snook presents a compelling tale of a complex system gone awry, an organization operating on the edge of chaos, and the ultimate result of a deterministic system spinning out of control. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of systems theory and organizational behavior, LTC Snook presents his thesis with exceptional clarity and depth of understanding; his conclusions are as disturbing as they are fascinating: a series of rational decisions made by equally rational human beings still failed to prevent the very incident the organization was designed to forestall. A concise, well-written account of and incident with lessons that we should all take to heart.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Friendly Fire is a marvelous analysis of one of the most horrific accidents in recent military history. Snook is unfaltering in his tenacity to get to the root causes of this tragedy. The reader is given a broad perspective of how events, even those occuring years previous, led to the fateful day when 26 peacekeepers lost their lives. His ability to put the reader into the mind of each participant is riveting. More than just a recitation of facts or an outpouring of emotion, this book blends all the elements into a comprehensive understanding of a most complicated event. Friendly Fire should be required reading for all military personnel and anyone whose actions hold the lives of others in their hands.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Andrew Evans on May 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
Good case study which introduces the powerful concept of organisational drift. When operations start too often rules are too complex and too restrictive. So operators find work-arounds an informal alternatives. These work until one day circumstances mean that the gaps created allow an accident to occur. Then guess what? - the rules are tightened and the cyle resumes. This is vital reading for any quality and/or safety manager.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lynette logue on November 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many useful insights into the dynamic processes that will inevitably lead to catastrophic failure. Scholarly, well researched and well presented. At times repetitive but the "ah hah" moments are worth the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DownTime on January 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A superb book, well written and filled with valuable lessons.

As a safety professional I am routinely disappointed by the immediate leap to blaming individuals following an incident, particularly those incidents with serious consequences. Armed with the lessons from Reason, Weick and Hopkins, I have long pushed and driven organisations to take a more holistic view during the investigation process, however this book had me questioning and challenging my own methodologies and preconceptions.

A must read for anyone who has the desire to truly understand accidents and the conditions that might increase their likelihood.
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