10/21/2005: A MUST READ...
Via Dan Froomkin this is a MUST READ from The Washington Note’s blogger, Steve Clemons, writing about the speech and Q&A from Colin Powell’s under secretary; Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.
A few GEMs:
“…Almost everyone since the ’47 act, with the exception, I think, of Eisenhower, has in some way or another perturbated, flummoxed, twisted, drew evolutionary trends with, whatever, the national security decision-making process.
Now, I could go on and say what Sandy Berger did to Madeline Albright in the realm of foreign policy, and I could make other provocative statements too, but no one, in my study of the act’s implementation, has so flummoxed the process as the present administration. What do I mean by that? Remember what I said about the bureaucracy, if it’s going to implement your decisions, having to participate in those decisions. And let me add one other dimension to that. If you accept the fact – and I do today, and if you’ll look around you at some of these magazine covers – I don’t need any more testimony than that I don’t think – the complexity of crises that confront governments today is just unprecedented. Let me say that again: The complexity of the crises that confront governments today are just unprecedented.
At the same time, especially in America – but I submit to you in Japan, in China, and in a number of other countries soon to be probably the European Union, it’s just as bad, if not in some ways worse -- the complexity of governing is unprecedented. You simply cannot deal with all the challenges that government has to deal with, meet all the demands that government has to meet in the modern age, in the 21st century, without admitting that it is hugely complex. That doesn’t mean you have to add a Department of Homeland Security with 70,000 disparate entities thrown under somebody in order to handle them, but it does mean that your bureaucracy has got to be staffed with good people, and they’ve got to work together, and they’ve got to work under leadership they trust and leadership that on basic issues they agree with, and that if they don’t agree, they can dissent and dissent and dissent. And if their dissent is such that they feel so passionate about it, they can resign and know why they’re resigning.
That is not the case today. And when I say that is not the case today, I stop on 26 January 2005. I don’t know what the case is today; I wish I did. But the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.
Read George Packer’s book, “The Assassin’s Gate,” if you haven’t already. George Packer, a New Yorker – reporter for the New Yorker, has got it right. I just finished it, and I usually put marginalia in a book, but let me tell you, I had to get extra pages to write on. (Laughter.) And I wish I had been able to help George Packer write that book. In some places I could have given him a hell of a lot more specifics than he’s got. (Laughter.) But if you want to read how the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal flummoxed the process, read that book. And of course there are other names in there: Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, whom most of you probably know Tommy Franks said was the stupidest blankety, blank man in the world. He was. (Laughter.) Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. (Laughter.) And yet – and yet – and yet, after the secretary of State agrees to a $40 billion department rather than a $30 billion department having control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw itself in a closet somewhere. Now, that’s not making excuses for the State Department; that’s telling you how decisions were made and telling you how things got accomplished. Read George’s book.
But I don’t think that’s the fundamental problem of implementation. I think the fundamental problem is a broken bureaucracy and an inability to do the kinds of things that you need to do in the 21st century to succeed.
The other thing that no one ever likes to talk about is SUVs and oil and consumption and, as one little girl said yesterday at the Yoshiyama Awards, do you know that we consume 60 percent of the world’s resources? We do; we consume 60 percent of the world’s resources. Well, we have an economy and we have a society that is built on the consumption of those resources. We better get fast at work changing the foundation – and I don’t see us fast at work on that, by the way, another failure of this administration, in my mind – or we better be ready to take those assets. We had a discussion in policy planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields in the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of U.N. trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly. That’s how serious we thought about it.
Again, I recommend to you “The Assassins’ Gate.” George Packer gets this right. There was simply no plan, other than humanitarian assistance and a few other things like protection of oil and so forth, with regard to post-war Iraq. There was no plan.
Karen on 10.21.05 @ 04:46 PM CST