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Archive for December, 2004

Friday, December 31st, 2004

THE CALLOUS HUMANITARIANISM OF THE UN

The UN’s transnationalist hubris and moral degeneracy gets more disgusting with each passing crisis. I’d blog on this myself but The Diplomad has already said it better:

“Only really the UN can do the job?” We have US C-130s flying in and out of here dropping off heaps of supplies; US choppers arrive today; USAID is doing a knock-out job of marshalling and coordinating US and local resources to deliver real assistance to real people. The Aussies have planes and troops delivering stuff; even the Indians have goods on the way. The UN? Nowhere to be seen. OK, I’m not being fair. Last night they played host to a big “coordination” meeting of donors to announce that the UNDP has another large “assessment and coordination team” team arriving. Our USAID guys, who’ve been working 18-20 hrs/day, came back furious from this meeting saying everybody would be dead if the delivery of aid waited for the UN to set up shop and begin “coordinating.” The UN types are upset with the US, Ms. Short, dear, not because we’re undermining them but because we’re showing them up as totally inept.So much stupidity .



. . . Ms. Short and her ilk would rather have people die than have the US go it “alone” with its partners.”

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

STATESMANSHIP AND TIME

Richard Reeves, in his excellent political biography, Nixon: Alone in the White House, noted Nixon’s propensity to withdraw from human contact and squirrel himself away in a nondescript EOB office, writing on yellow legal pads, extensive notes to himself…

“Compassionate, Bold, New, Courageous…Zest for the job (not lonely but awesome). Goals — reorganized govt…Each day a chance to do something memorable for someone. Need to be good to do good…Need for joy, serenity, confidence, inspiration.”

…that would later morph into terse instructions to H.R. Haldeman and Henry Kissinger for new policy proposals for the administration, political themes for Nixon’s campaign or strategic goals for the United States. Nixon constantly pushed Haldeman to schedule more and more time for isolated reflection, setting aside whole afternoons or even weekend retreats at Camp David. Haldeman, it was presumed at the time, was in cahoots with Ehrlichman and Kissinger to isolate the president when in fact, the opposite was usually true with Haldeman trying to cajole his reluctant boss to actually speak to his own cabinet members or members of Congress.

Nixon was an extreme case with his neurotic personality driving his need to separate himself from others but I cannot help but comment that Nixon benefited tremendously from this practice of quiet reflection when it was kept within moderation. Charismatically challenged and widely despised by the press and the Eastern Establishment since the Hiss case, Nixon nevertheless, by keeping a strong focus on strategic thinking and following through into action, managed to dominate the American political agenda until the apogee of Watergate.

Deeply unpopular, Nixon pulled off several successful summits with the Soviets, signed major arms control agreements, engineered the China Opening, concluded peace accords with North Vietnam and was reelected by a margin only matched by one of the most beloved men to hold the Oval Office and ran for national office seriously more times than any man except FDR.

Modern American presidents are overscheduled. Not only presidents but most of the 5 tiers of policy making political appointees are in my view, so overly driven by an institutional policy process run amok with a flurry of meetings, phone calls, memorandum, testimony and email that scant time is left for thinking about where policy should be going. Worse, interagency groups exist less to solve strategic foreign policy problems facing the United States than to defend institutional turf and prerogatives. For an up to date example, The Atlantic Monthly has in their print edition, an excerpt of the very serious charges leveled by ex-CIA al Qaida expert Michael ” Anonymous” Scheuer at senior IC officials in his written Congressional testimony.

A new approach is needed.

First is a reform of the daily schedule of top tier policy-makers so that it no longer resembles an endless treadmill that drives good people out of government service in 18-24 months. A ridiculous average tenure that hardly leaves enough time to become familiar with more than the basics of their bureaucracy much less develop a global perspective. Coordination and exchange of views are important but certainly some of these meetings can be reduced in time and frequency and raised in terms of productivity.

Secondly, a reform of Executive Branch institutional cultures needs to take place in which interagency groups are task oriented problem solvers instead of ambassadors of their various departments sent to negotiate levels of cooperation and pass the buck of responsibility for policy. Both of these reforms can only happen when a President and his highest officials are determined to make them happen by demonstrating leadership by prioritizing systemic follow-through to check backsliding.

Strategy before process. Thought before action. Action not reaction.

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

DELAYED BUT NOT DENIED

Sorry for the slow going on postings. I’m finishing up a piece for one of my editors that needed cuts and I’m in the process of polishing my prose so I can get it out sometime this evening. I’m also about to start my Firstborn on practicing her writing in a few minutes ( the Son of Zenpundit, having been confined to his room for throwing a plastic truck, is napping) after which I should be able to get something new up on the ol’ blog.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Front man for a number of bizarre, tiny, Communist sects, former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, has joined the legal defense team of Saddam Hussein. Clark, as usual, managed to get both his basic facts and the legal principles involved completely wrong in his press statement.

Was Clark this screwed up when LBJ nominated him or did he wander into the crackpot zone only after leaving office ?

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

RECOMMENDED READING

A few things that I’d like to push your way. First, Collounsbury on Terror Networks;Secondly, Dave Schuyler’s bit on some anti-American propaganda by our Leftist German ” friends“; Third, an interesting but very inside baseball theoretical discussion onPNM theory matrix possibilities with Critt Jarvis and Brice Timmons; Lastly, because a blog is inherently a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, my book review of The Pentagon’s New Map over at HNN.

UPDATE: A lengthy article on Daniel Pipes in Harvard Magazine - Col is sure to love this one. (Hat tip to Ralph Luker of Cliopatria).

UPDATE II: An intelligent post and discussion about Dr. Barnett’s brief at the Chicago Boyz.

UPDATE III: A counterintuitive look at the prospects for Arab Democracy in Foreign Policy

magazine.

UPDATE IV: Master diplomatic historian, John Lewis Gaddis on the grand strategy of the second term of the Bush II administration in Foreign Affairs.


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