Daily War Watch
September 27, 2001
This article was changed somewhat after a long talk with
a good friend about leadership and self-confidence and what
they mean. I know I can out-wonk the wonks. Is that enough?
No. Leadership must be held directly accountable. You'll see
what I mean at the end of the article.
I feel like I'm reading a novel. The characters are engaged
in tunnel vision, as written characters often are. The characters
are not reading the novel as they are living it: they are
simply playing their part. They are not taking an appreciation
of the picture as a whole, nor are they acting with a broad
enough perspective to realize that decisions that they are
making because those decisions are personally or professionally
convenient may have far-ranging consequences. They just plain
aren't looking at the problem from the perspective of the
reader. They just aren't seeing the whole.
Unlike in Tom Clancy novels (novels I gave up years ago),
there is no character to mouthpiece, no pet to put in a situation
where he can talk sense and start pulling the situation towards
resolution. There are no strings to be pulled. There are only
the characters, and they are on their own.
The cast is set.
There is President Bush, a very known quantity. There is
Colin Powell, the much maligned "Human Face. There is Dick
Cheney, powerful VP, hardened from time as a CEO.
There is Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, selected
as a defense reformer who completely blew his chance to reform
and caused the entire defense establishment to rise up as
one to defeat him, who was also selected because he was an
NMD hawk, reassuring the grassroots of Bush's seriousness
about missile defense. There is Paul O'Neill, Treasury Secretary,
"Mr. Golden Age" as I call him, the super-optimist ex-CEO
who is sure, very, very sure, that a Golden Age is around
There is Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary, a man
who is in his job primarily because in 1992 he wrote a paper
that was a blueprint for eternal American hegemony over the
entire earth, a project to destroy even the hope of
any American adversary from becoming a Great Power by perpetually
keeping such rising nations down...
There is Karl Rove, all-powerful political string-puller,
now thrown violently into the background. There is Karen Hughes,
communications guru and spin-doctor coordinator. There is
Andrew Card, chief of staff, a guy who doesn't get much press
and likes it that way, because he's not firm with the grassroots.
There is Condolezza Rice, a black woman picked for her white
male political philosophy and ball-crushing attitude as a
Soviet expert, the National Security Advisor with Bush's ear
who not only looks good because she's a black woman, but is
not ideologically suspect and can fight Powell if needed,
and most certainly is on the side of the hawks. Which begs
the question of what she actually knows, because Soviet experts
were spectacularly misinformed, and she has no expertise outside
of that area, plus a chip on her shoulder which could lead
We come to The Pentagon's Defence Policy Board. This board
is chaired by the notorious hawk Richard Perle, a man who
is an intellectual giant among hawks, providing, as I said
last time, so-called intellectual cover for being a fanatic
and a nut as far as using military action goes, proposing
things that no sane President could do without setting off
chain reactions of diplomatic bombs destroying several of
America's allies and breaking our relations with others in
the chase for the greater good. Every Republican who doesn't
agree with the deeply embedded establishment bias towards
war (for ANY reason, and for EVERY reason), war that was demanded,
cajoled for, begged for, provoked, propagandized, and craved
BEFORE the World Trade Center attacks, knows who Richard Perle
is and fears and loathes him. Every Republican who believes
in "Bomb the Bastards" knows and loves and respects him.
Also on this board, whispering around Washington what Real
Men think should be done, are Henry Kissinger, who needs no
introduction as America's master of Reapolitik; James Schlesinger,
Secretary of Defense for Nixon and Ford from 1973-75; former
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich; and
former Vice President Dan Quayle.
At this point the reader stops and pauses. The reader looks
at the preceeding paragraph and likely has this reaction.
"WHO THE HELL PUT DAN QUAYLE AND NEWT GINGRICH IN THIS NOVEL!?!?
ARE THEY NUTS!?!? WHO ARE THEY TO BE ADVISING ON NATIONAL
This novel is real life, but the question is a rather curious
one, yes. Their role is simple. Both are right-wing politicians
who have excellent right-wing grassroots credentials and who
are skilled at posturing and propagandizing for military action.
This is enough.
One of the final characters is William Farish, the American
ambassador to Britain "and a close personal friend of President
George W. Bush," who has spilled the beans that the US is
considering completely reversing any pretense of considering
withdrawal from the Balkans, instead desiring to reinforce
the Balkans to protect oil and gas supplies, just like the
conspiracy theorists always said was the REAL reason for being
in that region of the world.
The Albanians play a bit part, since they are American allies
as well as allies of Osama Bin Laden, with no one knowing
quite what to do with them now. Whose side are they really
on? Will they turn on Americans at some point in the future,
as Americans try to reinforce the Balkans against... what?
Whom? Where? With what forces? This subplot serves to confuse
and muddle the reader.
Finally, although not a speaking character, a major character
Like the Trojans and Greeks, in this conflict, both sides
believe that "God is not neutral", i.e. is not partial to
the other side, but favors theirs. The leaders of both forces,
Osama Bin Laden on the one hand, and George W. Bush on the
other, believe that they have been personally chosen by God
to take this war to the other, and that will history will
judge them both on their performance and their ability to
rise up to the great task before them.
While God does not take sides in the story, he is referred
to frequently; he is both a reason and a justification for
action against the other side; and since God is not neutral,
those who pray to God, but wish to avoid choosing between
Bush and Bin Laden find that both sides will treat them in
a merciless manner, for Man cannot be neutral where God is
not neutral. God, therefore, while a passive character, bears
witness to the consequences of Man acting in his name. He
is, thus, a catalyst for action.
The public, who are, in some small part, the readers of this
novel, barely rate as extras. They are what some would term
as "Godzilla Food," the screaming masses that bombs destroy,
monsters eat, and that airplanes fall on top of. They, like
God, are a passive lot; much is done to them or for them in
their name without their actually being very important in
the how, the what, and the why.
The main cast sincerely believes, as a group, that they have
a better perspective on this war than anyone else does, but
I look at this, and ask myself: Are they seeing how they are
portrayed in this novel? Do they understand that they are
characters? Do they comprehend the roles that they have been
placed in through their own actions and the actions of others?
Do they really see "outside the box?" Or are they just like
characters usually are, seeing only what they are meant to
see? For, certainly, they are going through a great deal of
trouble to insure that the public sees only what they want
the public to see. It's not unreasonable to think that they
themselves will see the world as they wish to see it, be that
as a complex place, or black and white with good guys (themselves)
and the bad guys ("them").
I know that many people believe that God is the writer of
this story, as well as a major character. I don't know why
God is so bored that he requires writing himself into his
own stories, however. Besides, humans do a good enough job
of dragging him into tales on their own. They don't really
need the help.
So, assuming that this is a novel that is being written by
the characters, there is no writer. There is no one to make
it all better at the end, or to provide a conclusion. There
is no Jack Ryan to use as a mouthpiece, to complain about
Clinton's defense policies without naming him (Clancy has
to do that personally in real life), or the cravenness of
politicians, or the lack of vision by this and that group
or the selfishness and only grudging acceptance of their role
as good Americans that the media, as a group, possesses. There
is no fly on the wall; there is no master plan, no sense that
this is taking a firm direction. There is no solution that
can be solved at the end of the novel, at the most dramatic
point, by Boys With Toys. Not in the usual way. Not in the
way that validates us, that restores our faith in ourselves
as human beings, that fuels our belief in our own righteousness.
No, we are on our own.
But that begs the question: Who is reading this novel? Who
is seeing these things from objective perspectives, looking
through the petty power plays, the controversies, the political
maneuvering, the constant drive for budgets and manpower?
Who is acting as if he understands the big picture? Who has
the perspective to be a good judge of what to do, what decisions
should be made, and why?
Maybe there is no good answer.
At this point, I'm reading this novel, and I don't really
see the good guys coming out very well. I'm seeing all these
separate threads, bringing them together under one roof, into
my own mind, and even putting them on paper for you to read,
as you are doing right now. But of the characters I have listed,
and God doesn't count because he never gives advice to anyone
except in their own fantasies, who's actually doing the same?
Who's able to recognize the shape this is taking, and actually
look at it in totality? Who's able to understand the implications
for the United States, one year, two years, five years, ten
years, fifty years, a hundred years down the road? Or even
next week? Who's in charge of the big picture? Who's taking
responsibility for making it their problem?
Maybe there isn't one. Maybe characters in a novel just aren't
meant to share the perspective of the reader. Maybe that's
just impossible, and is asking something of human beings that's
not meant to be asked. Maybe the answers would be so terrible
that they are beyond human capacity to contemplate while being
in a position to influence events. I don't know this; I'm
just guessing. I won't get fired for guessing it. I won't
be called in front of Congress for guessing it. I won't have
the FBI quietly knocking on my door for guessing it. I won't
have to justify it to Karl Rove, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Katie
Couric, or Paula Zahn. I won't have Christiane Amanpour asking
me my opinion. I won't have Crossfire second-guessing me with
Bob Novak and Bill Press yelling at each other. Maybe the
pressure from those things is too much, so none of the "players"
can really look at it from an outside perspective, from a
point of view that would provide objectivity in a crisis.
But the question that lingers with me is this.
If no-one's doing it, maybe someone should?
But, there's only two options here.
The first is for Bush to get his head out of the Bible and
to read another book: the novel of real life that is unfolding
before us. He's the leader. It's his responsibility to stop
the inmates from taking over the assylum. If he accepts bad
advice, it's his fault. He can't shove it on Cheney because
Cheney can't be expected to take responsibility. Cheney may
have put the cabinet together, but the President is the President,
and Bush is where the buck stops. Doesn't matter who sends
the buck to him, Perle, Quayle, Wolfowitz... bad ideas need
to stop at him.
The second, since I don't really have any confidence the
first will happen, is for the only other faction in this with
a chance of doing something useful to hold Bush accountable
for lack of leadership, for not having managed to do anything
of use since the WTC and Pentagon attacks and for considering
stupid plans that do not solve the problem, and that is us,
the People. Doesn't matter that people are trying to keep
us in the dark: They'll always do that. We can see what's
going on, and we are quite capable of learning for ourselves
how we don't like what's unfolding. Bush is our representative.
We elected him (in a manner of speaking) President, but the
big thing is that he leads with our consent.
It's time to make that "consent and advice" like the Senate
pays lip service to. Consent is not undermining his attempts
to lead. Advice is giving him one hell of an earful when he
fails to. If he refuses to read his assigned material, we
must NOT allow that to be the end of the story. We have our
own duty, and it's not to him. It's to us. America belongs
to the People, and besides, it seems that the bit characters
need to be taught a little perspective.
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