Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quote of the Day: Bush's Support vs. Blindness

Today on The Corner, John Podhoretz of the New York Post makes an important observation about President Bush's management style -- namely, that he's so intent on supporting the people who work for him that he sometimes takes that too far and blindly allows them to run their particular show.

This is showing itself in the Iraq War, where Bush continually says he's following the leadership of the military leaders. Recently, the State Department and Pentagon (among others) have been promoting troop increases in Iraq; but Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, are arguing against such increases.

Podhoretz observes (emphasis mine):
As a student of management — and Bush is a student of management — he believes in setting goals and then providing unquestioning support for the organizations who are responsible for reaching those goals. The problem is that too often he has confused supporting the titular heads of those organizations with support for the organizations themselves.

Thus, in an effort to demonstrate how central he believed the CIA was to the war on terror, he stood behind George Tenet long after Tenet should have been cashiered. I think the same might have been true about Norm Mineta when he was secretary of transportation. And, most notoriously, we saw this at work in the days after Katrina, when he told FEMA incompetent Michael Brown that he was doing "a helluva job." Hundreds -- thousands -- of government workers from the Coast Guard to the lower echelons at FEMA were indeed doing an amazing job. But Brown was doing a horrible job, and the praise Bush offered seemed not only out of touch, but also demeaning to those who were working 24 hours a day without sleep pulling people off roofs.

And then, of course, there are his generals. It seems clear that the titular leaders of our military have long subscribed to a doctrine that says victory in Iraq has little to do with American action against armed Iraqis. Victory will only come with political progress, they believe, and we're there to give the Iraqis room to achieve the political progress that will save the day. In other words, they don't quite believe this is a war that can be won.

Bush has listened to them. But there are other voices from Iraq — voices of the day-to-day military, thousands of them too, who believe what they are doing is noble, that they are fighting for the right cause and that they can achieve victory over the bad guys if they are permitted to do so.

Supporting the military doesn't necessarily mean supporting the generals. It can also mean supporting the troops in the field by letting them win this war. If the president can separate his correct belief that the military needs his unconditional support from a belief that this means he needs to accept the recommendations of generals who are living examples of the triumph of hope over experience, we can win this thing.
I think Podhoretz is right. The Iraq plan has, for a while, displayed the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, hoping for different results. It's time to do something differently, and since I believe a troop withdrawal would be disastrous for both the Iraqis and our country, something else has to change

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