Skip to comments.Ambushed on the Potomac
Posted on 01/18/2009 3:32:17 AM PST by billorites
FOR EIGHT years George W. Bush pulled the levers of governmentsometimes franticallynever realizing that they were disconnected from the machinery and the exertion was largely futile. As a result, the foreign and security policies declared by the president in speeches, in public and private meetings, in backgrounders and memoranda often had little or no effect on the activities of the sprawling bureaucracies charged with carrying out the presidents policies. They didnt need his directives: they had their own.
Again and again the president declared unacceptable activities that his administration went on to accept: North Korean nuclear weapons; North Korean missile tests; Irans nuclear-weapons program; the Russian invasion of Georgia; genocide in Sudan; Syrian and Iranian support for jihadists in Iraq and elsewherethe list is long. Throughout his presidency, Bush demanded that these states change their ways. When they declined to do so, policy shifted to an unanchored, foundering diplomacy engineered by a diplomatic establishment, unencumbered, especially in the second term, by even the weak, largely useless scrutiny it had come to expect from the National Security Council. When Condoleezza Rice moved to the Department of State, the gamekeeper (however ineffective) turned poacher, and the Bush presidencyits credibility gravely diminishedbecame indistinguishable from the institutional worldview of the State Department. There it remains today.
Those who expect an Obama foreign policy to differ significantly from the most recent policy of the outgoing administration will be surprised by what is likely to be a seamless transition: not from White House to White House, but from State Department to State Department. On all the main issuesIraq, Iran, Russia, China, Islamist terrorism, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, relations with alliesObamas first term is likely to look like Bushs second.
It will not be easy to assess objectively the foreign and security policy of the Bush administration anytime soon. Its central feature, the war in Iraq, has generated emotions that all but preclude rational discourse. And it will be nearly impossible to persuade those whose minds are made upoften on the basis of tendentious reporting and reckless blogsto reconsider what they firmly believe they know. Too much has been written and said that is wildly inaccurate and too many of those who have expressed judgments have done so, not as disinterested observers, but as partisan participants in a rancorous debate. Nevertheless, I have tried in what follows to offer a view of what the Bush policy was in the beginning and what it became in the end.
I SHOULD say at once that while I believe Bush mostly failed to implement an effective foreign and defense policy, I also believe he got some very large issues right, especially the immediate response to 9/11 and a still-developing strategy for countering terrorism. And, right or wrong, he acted honestly and courageously, doing what he thought necessary to protect the country that elected him and the Constitution to which he swore fidelity. The charge that he lied about Iraq is itself a lie, and an unrelenting effort to show he was untruthful has not produced a shred of evidence. Guileless to a fault, George W. Bush has been among the most straightforward American presidents in my lifetime. And, contrary to his critics, he was far less inclined to play politics with national security than either his predecessors or his opponents in Congress. Becoming president at a moment of unprecedented American primacy, he could not have anticipated that he would lead a White House at war, a fractious, dysfunctional executive branch and a deeply divided nation.
Since it has been so widely and inaccurately reported, readers are entitled to a word about my own relationship to the Bush administration. During the 2000 campaign I was one of several people who worked, mostly at a distance, on foreign- and defense-policy issues. I would have been delighted to claim great influence but the truth is I cannot. During the campaign, the only issues I discussed at any length with the candidate were arms control and whether and how to enlarge the NATO alliance. The only time I saw President Bush after he took office was from my seat in the audience when he addressed the American Enterprise Institute on February 26, 2003.
At Donald Rumsfelds request, I served as chairman of the Defense Policy Board (DPB) from 2001 to 2003, having been a member of that advisory group since 1987. A bipartisan group that meets quarterly, the DPBs twenty-two members review current issues in defense policy for a day and a half, then meet with the secretary of defense to share their independent views. Many of those members participate, and during the sixty or ninety minutes with the secretary, a broad variety of individual views are expressed. The board has no agreed-upon or collective view, and the frequent disagreements among the members are shared openly with the secretary. The board makes no findings and has neither the authority nor inclination to act as a decision-making body.
People familiar with zoning boards, draft boards, boards of directors and the like have wrongly thought that the DPB either makes or significantly influences Defense Department or even national policies. This is simply not the case. Outside the eight meetings of the DPB I attended between 2001 and 2003, I could count on one hand the times I saw Secretary Rumsfeld to discuss policy matters.
I have digressed to describe my relationship to the Bush administration because I have been widely but wrongly depicted as deeply involved in the making of administration policy, especially with respect to Iraq. Facts notwithstanding, there are some fifty thousand entries on Google in which I am described as an architect, and often as the architect, of the Iraq War. I certainly supported and argued publicly for the decision to remove Saddam, as I do in what follows. But had I been the architect of that war, our policy would have been very different.
UNDERSTANDING BUSHS foreign and defense policy requires clarity about its origins and the thinking behind the administrations key decisions. That means rejecting the false claim that the decision to remove Saddam, and Bush policies generally, were made or significantly influenced by a few neoconservative ideologues who are most often described as having hidden their agenda of imperial ambition or the imposition of democracy by force or the promotion of Israeli interests at the expense of American ones or the reshaping of the Middle East for oilor all of the above. Despite its seemingly endless repetition by politicians, academics, journalists and bloggers, that is not a serious argument.
I may have missed something, but I know of no statement, public or private, by any neoconservative in or near government, advocating the invasion of Iraq primarily for the purpose of promoting democracy or advancing some grand neoconservative vision. As for oil, most neoconservatives believe in markets and think the best way to obtain oil is to buy it. And as for Israeli interests, well, the Israelis, who believed that Iran posed the greater threat, were strongly and often vociferously against the United States going into Iraq.
There are, however, a great many wrenched-from-context or even fabricated quotations in circulation. They are easy to spot since they are never sourced.1 Sometimes the attempt to defend these insupportable claims is laughable, as when Vice President Dick Cheney is first misrepresented and then described as a neoconservative, or when two subcabinet Defense Department officials, the vice presidents national-security adviser, one or two members of the NSC staff and a handful of commentators are said to have bamboozled the president, the vice president, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On the Left, George Packers Assassins Gate and Jacob Heilbrunns They Knew They Were Right share an obsession with neoconservative influence, but they fail utterly to describe or document that influence. The same is true of much of what has appeared in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Guardian and the New Yorker, among others. Pat Buchanan and his acolytes on the Right mirror the Lefts obsession, along with Lyndon LaRouche, David Duke, Paul Craig Roberts and any number of conspiracy theorists. This neoconservative conspiracy is nonsense, of course, and no serious observer of the Bush administration would argue such a thing, not least because there is not, and cannot be, any evidence to substantiate it.
So if it was not a neocon master plan, how did we end up invading Iraq? What were the considerations that led Bush to bring down Saddam Husseins regime by force? What was the role of neoconservatives in his decision to go to war in Iraq? Many people believe they know the answer to these questions because so much has been written, with seeming authority, by so many commentators. Could 50 million blogs be wrong?
I BELIEVE that Bush went to war for the reasonsand only the reasonshe gave at the time: because he believed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States that was far greater than the likely cost of removing him from power. To recall his thinking we must go back to 9/11which was, for Bushs foreign and security policy, the beginning of time.
The shock of 9/11 was followed by the chilling realization that the people who killed three thousand Americans that day would inflict even more damage if they had the means and opportunity. Within the government it was widely believed that 9/11 had been incubating for twelve to eighteen months and that at any given time al-Qaeda was working on multiple schemes to kill Americans. Were there other plots in preparation? What were the most serious immediate threats? And what could we do to protect against them?
Destroying the sanctuary that al-Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan was essential and so became the first order of business. With it, al-Qaeda could plan, recruit, train, communicate, and manage the intelligence, logistics, and organization that 9/11 and its possible successors required. Without a sanctuary, al-Qaedas capacity to carry out another 9/11 would be greatly diminished. Moreover, the destruction of the Taliban regime would send a signal to other governments that allowed terrorists to operate from their territory: we would no longer regard terrorist acts of mass murder as crimes to be dealt with by the institutions of law enforcement alone. A state found to be complicit in, or even hospitable to, acts of terror would be treated harshly. As the president put it: From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. With a sustained effort to discourage the granting of sanctuary or other forms of assistance to terrorists, a threat that could not be wiped out could at least be diminished.
The presidents approach, later elaborated, took shape on 9/11 itself, when he advanced a new policy just hours after the attack. He said, We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.2
I believe these will turn out to have been the most important words of the Bush presidency. No longer would we respond to acts of terror solely by chasing the individuals who pulled the triggers. They could move; they could hideand there was a generous supply of would-be martyrs waiting for their turn to kill and die. No longer would we watch as our troops, our citizens, our embassies, our ships and now our homeland came under attack. We would strike back at those who harbored terroristsat governments that could neither run nor hide, but that could certainly be replaced.
I believe the decision to respond to 9/11 by removing the Taliban regime was right. Predictions about the Arab street rising up against us proved to be wrong. Al-Qaeda was driven into hiding and the people of Afghanistan, especially Afghan women, were liberated from a brutal, repressive Taliban regime. I also believe the subsequent decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right. In neither case were the considerations ideological, not for the president or vice president, not for the secretaries of state and defense, not for the national-security advisernot for neoconservatives and certainly not for me. Let me explain.
OUR PRE-9/11 concept of security assumed that terrorists wished to survive their attacks. Al-Qaedas recruitment and training of suicidal terrorists eager for martyrdom meant that would have to change. The main concern was understood immediately: if men with box cutters could kill three thousand people, what could they do with weapons of mass destruction? What if nuclear weapons or radioactive material or chemical or biological agents wound up in the hands of terrorists eager to die as they committed mass murder? The possibility of a future attack with tens or hundreds of thousands of victims had to be taken seriously.
So the administration did the obvious: it made up a list of hostile states thought to possess WMD and set about developing plans to protect against their use either directly or, more ominously, if made available to terrorists. Heading the list was Saddam Husseins Iraq. Alone among heads of state, Saddam had cheered the attacks of 9/11. He had a long history of building WMD, actually using nerve gas in attacks against Kurdish civilians and Iranian troops. He had successfully concealed a nuclear-weapons program found, after the Gulf War in 1991, to be far more advanced than had been suspectedeven though Iraq was then under IAEA international inspections. After defecting in 1995, Saddams son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, revealed a well-concealed chemical-and-biological-weapons program, directing us to a stash of documents hidden on a chicken farm.
Those following Iraq, both UN inspectors and American and allied intelligence organizations, reported a history of Saddams deceit and deception. Components of WMD that were known to have been produced or imported could not be accounted for. On one occasion we were able to photograph boxes being loaded onto trucks at the back entrance to a military installation while UN inspectors were prevented from entering at the front. The presumption that what could not be audited had been hidden, though later proved incorrect, was logical and widely accepted.
The formerUN arms inspector David Kay told me he was never able to surprise the Iraqisthey always learned inspectors were en route well before the UN could hope to arrive in time to catch them red-handed. During the time Bush was thinking about whether to remove Saddam, the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies were certain that he possessed WMD. I have often been critical of the CIA. But in this case everything seemed to point toward a concealed Iraqi program.
In any case, the salient issue was not whether Saddam had stockpiles of WMD but whether he could produce them and place them in the hands of terrorists. The administrations appalling inability to explain that this is what it was thinking and doing allowed the unearthing of stockpiles to become the test of whether it had correctly assessed the risk that Saddam might provide WMD to terrorists. When none were found, the administration appeared to have failed the test even though considerable evidence of Saddams capability to produce WMD was found in postwar inspections by the Iraq Survey Group chaired by Charles Duelfer.
I am not alone in having been asked, If you knew that Saddam did not have WMD, would you still have supported invading Iraq? But what appears to some to be a gotcha question actually misses the point. The decision to remove Saddam stands or falls on ones judgment at the time the decision was made, and with the information then available, about how to manage the risk that he would facilitate a catastrophic attack on the United States. To say the decision to remove him was mistaken because stockpiles of WMD were never found is akin to saying that it was a mistake to buy fire insurance last year because your house didnt burn down or health insurance because you didnt become ill. No one would take seriously the question, Would you have bought Enron stock if you had known it would go down? and no one should take seriously the facile conclusion that invading Iraq was mistaken because we now know Saddam did not possess stockpiles of WMD.
Bush might have decided differently: that the safer course was to leave Saddam in place and hope he would not cause or enable the use of WMD against the United States. How would we now assess his presidency if, say, Iraqi anthrax had later been used to kill thousands of Americans? He would have been accusedrightly in my viewof having taken a foolish risk by not acting against a regime we had good reason to consider extremely dangerous. (And no one would be so stupid as to ask: Would you have left Saddam in place if you had known he was going to supply anthrax to terrorists?)
THE REASON for dwelling on the question of risk management is because it explains why the administration decided as it did, and why many of us who supported and even urged that decision agreed with it. I, for one, was taught long ago to weigh the risks in these matters as objectively as possible and always to consider the consequences of a wrong choice. Between going to war to end Saddams regime and leaving him in place, I believed that war was, unhappily, the prudent choice for managing the risks we faced.3
The administrations view, which I shared, was that few Iraqis would fight for Saddam while most would consider themselves liberated from the long nightmare of his reign of terror. I expected a quick victory and thought the cost was justified compared to the risk of another terrorist attack, this time with chemical or biological weapons.
When war came, Baghdad fell in twenty-one days with few casualties on either side. For several months thereafter there was relative calm. Sadly, the sense of liberation was squandered as the quick victory was followed by shockingly inept post-Saddam policies. The seminal error was, in my view, the failure to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis immediately after Saddams regime collapsed. History does not allow instant replays so we will never know whether that policy could have averted the disastrous insurgencycarried out by Saddam loyalists and foreign jihadistssustained by terror, the incitement of confessional and ethnic divisions, and outside assistance. Had Iraq been enabled to stand up an interim government pending free elections to be held in, say, eighteen months, we might well have escaped the invidious role of an occupier. In blundering from liberation to occupation, we opened the way to nearly five years of suffering that only now, with the progress of the surge, is finally subsiding.
The administrations failure to trust Iraqis with their own future was well-meaningand yet arrogant. We sent thousands of Americans to Baghdads green zone, volunteers eager to help build a new Iraqoften in our image. Many had to secure passports because they had never been abroad; when they got there, most never left the protected area. Few knew anything of Iraq, its history or its culture.
Believing that we knew how to do things better than the Iraqis, we sidelined them, refused their counsel and frequently vetoed their ideas. A perfect example: when L. Paul Bremer III arrived in Baghdad to head the Coalition Provisional Authority he told Iraqi leaders, most of whom had long opposed Saddam from outside (or from the Kurdish north which was not under Saddams control), that he was in charge and the most he expected from them was advice, which he might or might not accept.
I believe the decision to attempt a comprehensive occupation of Iraq was the worst and most fateful of many mistakes. That decision followed a bureaucratic victory by the State Department, the CIA and the NSC that defeated proposals by Defense Department officials for a quick handover. (In fact, the Defense Department had actually supported training, preparing and equipping Iraqi exiles even before the invasion.) But thenSecretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage and thenCIA Director George Tenet strongly opposed working with the Iraqi opposition both before and after the invasion. They distrusted long-time opponents of Saddams regime (many of whom have now emerged as Iraqs political leadership). They waged a malicious campaign against the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a broad coalition umbrella group of Saddams opponents, in part because they intensely disliked the INC chairman, Ahmad Chalabi. A group of lesser officials, including State Department and CIA officers seconded to the NSC, joined them in sinking policy initiatives that might have enabled us to return Iraq quickly to the Iraqis. Condi Rice, then national-security adviser, was passive and indecisive. The result was an occupation that proved tragic for Americans and Iraqis alike.
A second mistake of immense importance was the policy of dealing with Iraq in isolation. It was clear from the beginning that the problem of Saddams Iraq was in fact a broader, regional problem: only with well-integrated strategies for Iran and Syria (and beyond) could we hope to deal effectively with post-Saddam Iraq. But no such integrated strategy was forthcoming; while the president asked repeatedly for one to be developed, it never was.
Of course, responsibility for an ill-advised occupation and an inadequate regional strategy ultimately lies with President Bush himself. He failed to oversee the post-Saddam strategy, intervening only sporadically when things had deteriorated to the point where confidence in cabinet-level management could no longer be sustained. He did finally assert presidential authority when he rejected the defeatist advice of the Baker-Hamilton commission and Condi Rices State Department, ordering instead the surge, a decision that he surely hopes will eclipse the dismal period from 2004 to January 2007. But that is but one victory for the White House among many failures at Langley, at the Pentagon and in Foggy Bottom.
I BELIEVE the cost of removing Saddam and achieving a stable future for Iraq has turned out to be very much higher than it should have been, and certainly higher than it was reasonable to expect.
But about the many mistakes made in Iraq, one thing is certain: they had nothing to do with ideology. They did not draw inspiration from or reflect neoconservative ideas and they were not the product of philosophical or ideological influences outside the government.
Some of the confusion on this point undoubtedly stems from the presidents rhetoric in 2002 and 2003, especially as it related to democracy in Iraq (claimed by critics a cornerstone of the neoconservative agenda). As Douglas Feith, described (wrongly) by his detractors as another architect of the war, has observed, Bushs rhetoric on our mission in Iraq shifted dramatically after we concluded that WMD would not be found. The presidents emphasis on the benefits of bringing democracy to Iraqfor Iraqis and the regionbegan in the fall of 2003, six months after the invasion. In his excellent War and Decision, which stands out for its rich documentation and attention to context, Feith demonstrates that shift convincingly. The statistics are striking: from September 2002 until July 1, 2003, the number of paragraphs in Bushs speeches and events that referred to the threat from Saddam averaged 13.7 while the number referring to Iraqi democracy averaged 3.4. From September 7, 2003, until September 2004 the threat was referred to an average of 1.1 times while references to democracy averaged 10.6 times per speech or event. Embarrassed and defensive about the absence of WMD stockpiles, the White House simply decided to change the subject.
The decision to go to war, judgments about prewar intelligence, decisions on the conduct of the war and its aftermath, the assessment of personalities in Iraq, the choice of the military and civilian leadership in and responsible for Iraqnone of these reflected anything that could properly be called an ideology. They were, rather, prudential judgments, pragmatic decisionsthough sometimes ill-advisedmade by the president, the secretaries of state and defense, the national-security adviser and the senior military and intelligence leadership.
THE SENIOR officials responsible for policy formation were advised by a small army of civil servants, some of whom had strong opinions and deep prejudices. These opinions and prejudicesof which the hostility to working with the Iraqi opposition is an important examplehad a far greater influence on administration policies than any philosophy, ideology or doctrine.
Early in 2003 one senior foreign-service officer answered my question, How many of your colleagues at the State Department share the presidents views on foreign policy? with a quick and confident, About 15 percent. The number may well have been even smaller at the CIA, which made egregious intelligence errors and then applied its skill at tweaking and leaking to undermine the president who acted on its advice.4
Sometime early in the second term a wise and experienced journalist, himself critical of the administration, returned from visits to London, Paris, Berlin and Rome and told me that he was astonished at how blatantly our senior embassy officialssent abroad to implement the governments foreign policyopenly denounced it, frequently to, or in the presence of, foreign officials, opinion leaders and the press.5 Never in my experiencemaybe never, periodhas the resulting disconnect between a presidents policies and beliefs and the actions of his administration been so profound, so prolonged and so consequential.
The hijacking of foreign policy simply did not stop at Iraqs borders. And I believe this disconnect between the president and his appointees explains the glaring inconsistencies of much of the Bush administrations policy stance: tough talk on Iran, Syria and North Korea, followed by debilitating inaction. The soaring rhetoric about encouraging democracy, implemented with winks and nods by bureaucracies content to take favored dictatorships as we find them. Perhaps in one of the most egregious examples, consider Bushs radically new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. His speech of June 24, 2002, put forward a new American policy, pledging for the first time to support a Palestinian state provided the Palestinians elected new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror and built a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty. In only ten months this was neatly transformed by the State Department into yet another version of its preferred, well-worn land for peace policy. It is not clear whether the president understood that the road map substituted for, and effectively killed, his push for a new policy. This is why Obamas promise of change at least on the foreign-policy front may be greatly exaggerated.
If ever there were a security policy that lacked philosophical underpinnings, it was that of the Bush administration. Whenever the president attempted to lay out a philosophy, as in his argument for encouraging the freedom of expression and dissent that might advance democratic institutions abroad, it was throttled in its infancy by opponents within and outside the administration.
I BELIEVE Bush ultimately failed to grasp the demands of the American presidency. He saw himself (MBA that he was) as a chief executive whose job was to give broad direction that would then be automatically translated into specific policies and faithfully implemented by the departments of the executive branch. I doubt that such an approach could be made to work. But without a team that shared his ideas and a determination to see them realized, there was no chance he could succeed. His carefully drafted, often eloquent speeches, intended as marching orders, were seldom developed into concrete policies. And when his ideas ran counter to the conventional wisdom of the executive departments, as they often did, debilitating compromise was the result: the president spoke the words and the departments pronounced the policies.
Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Reagan administration, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
1 For example, John Pilger quoted me on December 16, 2002, in the New Statesman (John Pilger reveals the American plan) as saying: If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we dont try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war . . . our children will sing great songs about us years from now. Despite the fact that I never said this or anything like it, and Pilger offers no source, it has appeared in quotation marks in hundreds of publications. Even a serious scholar like Francis Fukuyama has managed to write a book about neoconservatives, foreign policy and Iraq largely devoid of quotations establishing what they have said on the subject. See America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006).
2 If historians identify a Bush Doctrine, this will be it, not the idea of preemption (which has been around since the time of the caveman) or the encouragement of democracy (which has been a constant theme of American foreign policy).
3 I had advocated removing Saddams regime long before 9/11not by invading Iraq but by political means. The failure to develop a political strategy before 9/11 left force as the only plausible option in 2003.
4 The undermining of the president by the CIA went well beyond Iraq to include, most blatantly, policy toward Iran, as the leak of a National Intelligence Estimate on December 3, 2007, shows. The authors of this estimate must have known its misleading headline that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program would cripple Bushs effort to rally opposition to it.
5 This is not, of course, unusual. During the Reagan administration the diplomatic establishment worked hard to blunt the presidents message to and about the Soviet Union. After failing to delete such inflammatory phrases as the aggressive impulses of an evil empire or the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history from Reagans speeches, our ambassadors abroad were instructed to play down the presidents rhetoric to assure their interlocutors (wrongly) that American policy was unchanged from that of previous administrations who wished to improve relations with the Soviet Union, not make it disappear. What is unusual is the extent to which President Bush was undermined by his own administration.
great post. Richard Perle in defense of GWB, Iraqi War and NeoConservatives.
What a self important wind bag.
Short version: we are rotting from within.
The disease has so infused the US that I don't see how a sufficient amount of it be purged to allow the patient to survive. And by that I mean the state department, the media, politicians...the framework is rotten to the core. Building upon this structure is foolhardy and dangerous.
If all of you get the chance to read Trevor Loudon’s essay, “Obama and the Keeping of Power” at the internet site below, we better hope they do the same to PEBHO.
Yes, the take-away from this is that the Imperial Bureaucracy does what it likes, damn the President’s policy directives.
It is past time for the People to stop funding this nonsense in the name of “a professional Civil Service”. I’d rather have the President’s hand-picked people, even if they change every 4-8 years.
From what I have myself seen, this disease seems to affect every agency.
After all, Presidents and even legislators come and go, but civil servants have jobs as long as they want.
They have become a shadow government running from behind the scenes. What goes on at the top is often little more than kabuki theater.
It is my view, and I so posted here at the time, and that Bush lost control of his foreign policy and any hope of implementing the so-called Bush Doctrine when the weapons of mass destruction were not found as advertised. Later, in a postmortem of his incumbency in the Bush administration, Karl Rove astonished me in a press conference in which he confided that he had gone to George Bush and implored him to conduct a defense of his administration which was being impaled with the slogan, "George Bush lied and people died." Astonishingly, Bush declined to do so and even forbade Rove from conducting such a defense of the administration. The rest is history, we all know that everything sloughed down hill both domestically and in foreign affairs thereafter.
I also posted immediately after the debacle of the 2006 election that part of the reason for the catastrophe at the polls was Bush's inability or unwillingness to exploit the bully pulpit and articulate conservative policies which the party and the people could understand and rally behind. We now see the two strands coming together, the Bush administration died a victim of its own rope -a -dope habit both at home and abroad.
Both Bill Gertz and Richard Perle have contributed greatly to our understanding of the events which make up the outworking of this process. I have always been fascinated by this undeniable reluctance on the part of George Bush to fight his corner. I have never thought that he was motivated by mean considerations. Rather, I believe that it comes from his upbringing and his Christian character which finds politicking and self congratulation, or even exculpatory explanation, to be somehow unseemly or ungentlemanly. He regards himself as a statesman not as a politician as a Christian and not a party man.
Whatever Bush's motivations, he nevertheless bears a very heavy responsibility for failure to pick up the verbal cudgels because his obligation to do so is not exclusive to his own legacy but it is to his party, to his conservative friends, and to his nation. His inexplicable and certainly unjustifiable silence has gravely injured them all.
I wish I still had the link (and, for the record, I’m not about to try to find it before my first cuppa coffee at 5:30 on a Sunday morning...;~))
But, I learned all I ever needed to know about the US Dept of State a couple of years ago, when I saw a quote from the US Ambassador to the OAS —
After casting an ‘Abstain’ vote on a blatantly Anti-American resolution (put forth by Hugo Chavez, if memory serves) at an OAS meeting, he said that he really wanted to vote ‘AYE’ on the measure, but that probably wouldn’t look good......... (Gist is accurate, if the words aren’t exact)
George Bush spent enough time in his father's White House to see all this close up. He had no excuse for not knowing that the obstinate and entrenched bureaucrats would do what they wanted, including betraying the country, unless he put the hammer down. Yet he acted like they were all just regular folks ready and eager to do his will. Pathetic.
“... he said that he really wanted to vote AYE on the measure, but that probably wouldnt look good......”
Career gubmint guy, at that level who says something like that should be shot, not fired. There should be a heavy price for treason but it has come to pass that any gubmint job above dog-catcher does not come with the intestinal fortitude to demand justice. IMHO it explains why many civil “servants” want us regular Joes unarmed.
Bush never fired anybody. Reagan fired an entire union.
If I was Bush I would of had fired/retired thousands.
There's no way that wouldn't of been a net positive
” Career gubmint guy, at that level who says something like that should be shot, not fired. “
As far as I was able to find out at the time, they guy suffered no negative repercussions from his statement...
You can go back even farther: Ronald Reagan’s people were told by contemptuous bureaucrats that in a few years they would be gone but the bureaucrats would still be there.
To my way of thinking, if I were POTUS, I would be sure that my cabinet was on the same page as me, then if they got any resistance from these feather merchants, reassign them. No, you can’t be fired. Yes, your new assignment is in Antarctica.
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