Tuesday, October 25, 2005

FRED KAPLAN AT SLATE takes Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson to task for waiting so long to go public with their criticisms of the war in Iraq and with the Bush administration's disastrous foreign policy in general.

Both of these men are Washington insiders with decades of experience in government. They are both extremely knowledgeable about military and intelligence issues. They are politically savvy. They are well-connected and have the Rolodexes to prove it. One of them (Scowcroft) is the senior Bush's closest friend and served as his national security adviser. Wilkerson used to be Colin Powell's Chief of Staff, and is also in Bush Sr.'s circle of friends and admirers.

And both of them have recently come out with devastating critiques of George W. Bush's handling of the war on terror: Scowcroft in a profile by Jeffrey Goldberg that appears in the current issue of The New Yorker, and Wilkerson in an October 19 speech at the New America Foundation.

Scowcroft, besides voicing dismay over the invasion of Baghdad, slashes the administration -- especially his old friend Dick Cheney and his own former underling Condoleezza Rice -- for their "evangelical" notion that they can export democracy at the point of a gun.

Wilkerson goes further, charging Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with running foreign policy like a "cabal" -- worse still, an "incompetent" cabal that has "courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran." He says they've gotten away with it because the president is "not versed in international relations and not much interested in them either."

As to why these two didn't say these things a year ago, when it could have made a difference in the election results, Kaplan really answers his own question. Scowcroft actually did publicly oppose the impending invasion of Iraq, in an August 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he urged Pres. Bush not to invade Iraq or overthrow Saddam -- and look what happened.

[In the WSJ piece Scowcroft] argued that Iraq posed no immediate threat and that an invasion would detract from the more urgent war on terrorism. Given his relationship with the Bush family, it was a brave piece to write -- and it had consequences. As The New Yorker piece points out, Bush did not renew Scowcroft's appointment as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board when his term expired in 2004; and his old friends in high office -- Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and so forth -- stopped speaking to him.

If this is the way GWB and his cronies treat the best friend of and former national security adviser to someone GWB presumably loves -- his father -- what could Wilkerson expect, given that he was chief of staff to someone Bush hated and didn't trust?

Kaplan tongue-lashes Wilkerson for not giving that New America Foundation speech before the election.

During the question-and-answer period at the New America Foundation, he was asked where someone in his position should draw the line between loyalty and disclosure. He replied, "I feel like, as a citizen and as a person very concerned with the military ... I need to speak out. ... I think when you feel like what you might say has even a remote opportunity to affect some change for the good."

Sorry, colonel. You had far more than a merely "remote opportunity" to "affect some change" last November. As Bush put it shortly before his second-term inauguration, "We have an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election." That was Wilkerson's "accountability moment," too, and he skipped it.

Which leads to a larger question: Why do so few U.S. government officials do what Wilkerson might now wish he had done -- resign in protest and announce their reasons publicly? Dozens of officials and probably hundreds of military officers will speak privately, to their families and friends, about their fundamental disagreements with this administration's foreign and military policy. But none has spoken publicly.

But in the very next paragraph, Kaplan reminds us what happened to Gen. Eric Shinseki. Just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, Shinseki, who was the Army chief of staff, told Donald Rumsfeld he thought too few troops were being sent to Iraq for the postwar occupation. He recommended that the number be increased to 300,000 or so. Rumsfeld ignored Shinseki's suggestion, but by no means were he or Pres. Bush content to leave it at that. Shinseki was publicly humiliated and kicked out of his job a year before his term was up.

Well, gee, stuff like that might help to explain why more government officials don't resign in protest against Bush's policies!

There is probably only one person who can criticize George W. Bush's policies in public and not be ostracized, humiliated, fired, or never hired again -- and even he has to parse his words very carefully:

There is another critic lurking in the background of The New Yorker article, and if he were ever to step into the light, it would be one of the most sensational protests in history. That third man is the sitting president's father, George H.W. Bush himself.

Bush [senior] answered Goldberg's queries via e-mail. Read carefully what he says about the ostensible subject of the profile, Scowcroft:

He has a great propensity for friendship. By that, I mean someone I can depend on to tell me what I need to know and not just what I want to hear. ... [He] was very good about making sure that we did not solely consider the "best case," but instead considered what it would mean if things went our way, and also if they did not.

Isn't the patriarch talking, implicitly, about the son? Isn't he saying that W. is in deep trouble because he's surrounded himself with people who tell him only what he wants to hear and paint only rosy pictures of best-case scenarios? Isn't he telling his boy to get some real friends?

It sure sounds like he is. But if so, the advice misses the essential point about Bush the son. You are only going to surround yourself with people who tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear if you actually are willing to be confronted with unpleasant truths. It sounds like Bush the father, whatever his other presidential shortcomings, was. Bush the son is not.

1 comment:

Sangroncito said...

God forbid Americans hear the truth.....