When in the course of human events....
Anyone remember where the words in the headline come from? Read on.
In my travels today, I'd heard that Colin Powell's deputy, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, really unloaded on the malAdministration, so I went and read the transcript. Turns out Wilkerson is an old-school cold warrior, present at the creation, and the blogosphere has been cherry-picking his quotes all day. But Wilkerson's message is far more serious and sobering than epater Le Bush—good, clean fun though that is.
Wilkerson is deeply concerned with process. He goes all the way back to the National Security Act of 1947, and posits that one of the reasons for that law was to avoid "another FDR"—that is, to avoid the secrecy, and the consolidation of power, that marked FDR's conduct of World War II, instancing the fact that Truman, FDR's Vice President, knew nothing of the atomic bomb until twelve days after he acceded to the Presidency. Fair enough; at least it's a considered, albeit a conservative, opinion. It's like reading Edmund Burke, as opposed to that Platonic twister, Leo Strauss.
If there were such meta-institutions as the Wise Men in Bush's DC, as there was in LBJ's day, and even in Nixon's, Wilkerson sounds like he'd be one of them. And what particularly outrages him is this administration's secrecy: It's neither ethical nor workable:
[WILKERSON:] Decisions that send men and women to die, decisions that have the potential to send men and women to die, decisions that confront situations like natural disasters and cause needless death or cause people to suffer misery that they shouldnâ€™t have to suffer, domestic and international decisions, should not be made in a secret way.
Not only ethically, but pragmatically:
[WILKERSON:] Let me tell you the practical reason: Youâ€™ve probably all read books on leadership, 7 Habits of Successful People, or whatever. If you, as a member of bureaucracy, do not participate in a decision, you are not going to carry that decision out with the alacrity, the efficiency and the effectiveness you would if you had participated.
Seems obvious, doesn't it?
But here is the paragraph that leaped out at me; interestingly, nobody that I've read today has cherrypicked it. Remember: This is a "Wise Man," a deep conservative, a man in suit, a man who is accustomed to taking the long view, an insider's insider who is as close to the heart of the Establishment as anyone you could hope to meet:
[WILKERSON: W]e have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina... we havenâ€™t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city ["Reckless Indifference to the Nightmare Scenario"] , or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence. Read it some time again. ... Read in there what they say about the necessity of people to [inaudible - background voice] tyranny or to throw off ineptitude or to throw off that which is not doing what the people want it to do.
And youâ€™re talking about the potential for, I think, real dangerous times if we donâ€™t get our act together.
Indeed. The fire next time.
It'll be a cold day in hell before you find me criticizing the Second Amendment. And if that makes me one of the rabble, so be it.
UPDATE Froomkin on Wilkerson today.