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Guide to Decision-Making: Getting it more right than wrong by Helga Drummond

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8 The march of folly: the escalation trap

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

W.C. Fields

IN 1961 SOMETHING REMARKABLE HAPPENED in the Libyan desert. Eight years earlier in 1953 an American entrepreneur named Bunker Hunt applied for a drilling licence. The prospects were exciting as geologists advised Hunt that an oilfield recently discovered in Algeria would almost certainly extend into Libya. Unfortunately for Hunt, the so-called “Seven Sisters” (multinational oil companies) were already drilling in the best sites. The only concession available was so far from the Algerian border and offered such miserable prospects that even the customary bribe to local officials was waived:1

The story ...

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