What Forest?

I always liked George Schultz when he served as Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff Secretary of State. He always came across as level headed and honest. The Opinion Journal has a nice piece about him. In it he discusses the leaky CIA and the revolting generals with a proper degree of revulsion.

"I always had a good experience dealing with the career people in government," Mr. Shultz said. "But I have to say it's almost as if there is an insurrection taking place. Particularly what is going on in the military is astonishing and fundamentally intolerable. There has to be a sense of discipline. This is something new, and for everybody's good it has to be dealt with."

Which is pretty well exactly what my take on this whole thing has been, right from the start. Somewhere along the line parts of our government lost sight of who they serve. They are not supposed to serve political parties, they are supposed to serve the US regardless of politics.

I asked about the place of dissent in government. "Look," the former secretary said, "in our system some people get elected and what you get out of that is the right to call the shots, and the full-time career people are entitled to have their views listened to. But it is very important to see that what is going on now is a problem that goes beyond whether someone likes Don Rumsfeld or not."

If we go down this path that the left seems bound to follow, we are leading to a system where the politicians can govern not with the consent of the people, but with the consent of the bureaucrats. That is a path to ruin. Having generals dictating who can control them is downright horrifying. At a time when we need to stay focused as a nation on what is happening in the world, we are letting partisan politics paralyze us.

Was a no-brainer. President Bush's approval rating is in the dumpster, and much of the public is discomfited by the violent reports out of Iraq, which ironically are the product of the same mentality that killed the Marines in 1983. The Iraq war may or may not turn out well, but clearly now it is in a dark moment. When I put this to the former secretary of state, his response, characteristically, is optimism: "I think this is the most promising moment, almost, in the history of the world–a time when the information age has made it clear to people what it takes for them to get ahead in their lives and succeed, to have prosperity, to have growth, and it's a critical matter not to have that great opportunity aborted by a wave of radically inspired terrorists. So we have to confront this, and we have to do it on a sustainable basis because it's going to take a long time."

I suspect that much of Bush's low poll numbers come directly from his stance on immigration. That's the point he's really lost ground on with the base. The media continues to try to paint Iraq as a failure despite the many good things that are happening there. We, as a nation, have become distracted by the trees and cannot see the forest any longer.

"I'm in favor of vision," he replies. "Ronald Reagan had vision. But gardening is something you have to do if you're going to be effective in foreign affairs . . . come around reasonably frequently and get rid of the weeds before they get too big." In any event, Mr. Shultz reminds me, the most useful lessons for dealing with a hostile world didn't emerge from his long years in diplomacy, but in labor, in the experience of collective bargaining: "You show me a union that will never strike, and I'll show you a union that isn't going to get anywhere. You show me a management that will never take a strike, and I'll show you a management that's going to get pushed around." Or nations: "Our basic problem is that the Iranians are convinced that they can do anything and there are no consequences."

Mr. Shultz returns to his core preoccupation, the reality of global terror: "The law-enforcement mentality is not going to do the job for us. You have to have a war mentality. You have to have an offense and defense; you have to be active about it." This diplomatic gardener is no shrinking violet.

I think the press and the left have completely lost the big picture now. It is one bit of manufactured outrage after another, after another. The distraction from what is happening in the world will hurt us all in the long run.

UPDATE: Fixed Shultz's title, thank you Bradley. I have no idea why I got that wrong, I obvously knew what position he held. Thought outracing typing ability most likely….

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One Response to What Forest?

  1. Uh, Shultz was Secretary of State. But I also admire him.

    In the early 90s, I bought Shultz’s autobiography, “Turmoil and Triumph,” which makes fascinating reading. Schultz talks about his boyhood and career path that led him to the Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan administrations. He discusses the people and issues he had to deal with as Secretary of State. You should read it.

    I just wish Shultz had written the piece instead of Henninger, whom I don’t think much of. Henninger’s recent article on the dangers of the Internet (which I discussed on my blog) was truly clueless.

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