Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Machiavelli's Revenge

I find this item particularly insightful in that it clarifies the history of the management failure of the Iraq occupation.
Bandar’s advice was available to any student of simple history let alone the talent available.

And you put a boy in charge because he will blindly follow orders. Hitler had that trick down pat.

Why do we put boys in charge who lack a deep understanding of human nature? If I have a criticism of the modern polity, it is this visible lack of, for lack of a better term, street smarts. If you have them, you know it. If you do not, you betray your lack by the simple act of opening your mouth.

A great leader needs to have understood Machiavelli, have internalized his teachings and to then never admit any of it. Obama has yet to show me that he understands. Bush and Clinton both failed horribly in this respect on the international front. And before someone leaps to Bill’s defense, his error was one of active avoidance. This is subtle but nonetheless as damaging. Rwanda needed desperate immediate action. And Osama did everything except send a Western Union wire declaring war while we pussy footed around.

The only good reason for attacking Iraq was a belief in the intelligence assessment. Had that actually been correct, it would have been almost unique in the annals of war.

Today we have enthusiastic intelligence assessments on Iran’s developing nuclear capability. These are just as useful. George Bush had learned a bit of sense and thwarted any Israeli efforts this past fall. Can Obama keep from been roped into such folly?

The next logical step in forcing Iran to come to terms with the fact that its possession of nuclear weapons will not be tolerated is to interdict all shipments of oil. That includes bombing any pipelines going out of the country. After all we need to now reduce production anyway.

And while you are at it, ask the Russians to do the bombing as mandated by the UN. They need to showcase their air force.

If that debate does not start some serious negotiation then they are really nuts.

Machiavelli's Revenge

Jeremy Lott on 1.20.09 @ 6:06AM

George W. Bush's relationship with Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar was a close one. They were sometimes spotted holding hands in public in observance of Saudi custom. So when Bandar came calling at the White House shortly after Baghdad had fallen to American forces, we might expect that what he said carried serious weight.

Bandar was worried about the stability of the country. He urged Bush not to disband Iraq's military or intelligence services. The prince advised that Bush should remove the Iraqi leadership "because of their bloody hands" but not do away with Iraqi institutions. Rather, he should fire everyone down to the rank of colonel in the military and a similar rank in the intelligence services, and use those underlings to find Saddam Hussein, who was still on the lam, and to root out Baathist loyalists and other troublemakers.

Bandar encountered resistance so he pressed the point. The underlings might not be the greatest people, but they could help to stabilize Iraq, and it wasn't as if the U.S. government would be obliged to hand the country over to them. "Look, bad people find bad people and then after that you get rid of them." Bandar said. "Double cross them. I mean, for God's sake, who said that we owe them anything?"

"That's too Machiavellian," said someone who took part in that White House meeting. According to Bob Woodward, the speaker was either President Bush or national security adviser and future secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. The Bush administration went ahead and disbanded the military -- with predictable results. Iraq devolved into chaos and sectionalism, and far too much blood was shed.

"Too Machiavellian..." It would be harder to come up with a more pithy summary of why Bush's foreign policy fell apart. He never understood that his soaring rhetoric of human freedom needed to be tempered by guile and the particular interests of his own nation.

It's one thing to say that "freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God" or that "liberty and justice light the path to peace," as Bush did in his final televised address from the White House. Those are fairly standard staples of presidential rhetoric. It's quite another to decide that the world should conform to your ideals and go mucking about the globe assuming that everyone -- from heads of state to angry mullahs to rock throwing, mortar-launching mobs -- will suddenly slap their foreheads and wonder, "Why didn't we think of that?"

Many critics claim that Bush lied us into war in Iraq but that gives him more credit than he merits. Bush is a decent but extremely naive man who could never see the wisdom in Machiavelli's advice that, say, a ruler should preach virtue but practice it sparingly; encourage the oppressed but not with the force of your own armies, unless you're in the market for new territory; regard reports of spies with skepticism; and be wary of the advice of flatterers and men with axes to grind.

Bush talked often of good and evil, but couldn't recognize evil when he observed it in its more banal permutations. He said publicly that Vladimir Putin had a good soul and then appeared shocked when Putin went on to behave like just about every other Russian autocrat save Czar Alexander II. He never could understand why many countries resisted going into Iraq to spread freedom.

In fact, Bush got so caught up in his notion of democracy promotion that his State Department insisted Hamas be allowed to stand for election in Palestine. The geniuses at Foggy Bottom looked at polls that predicted the terror-sponsoring organization probably wouldn't win, took a cue from their starry-eyed commander-in-chief, and figured, what could it hurt?

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