A former State Department bigwig unloads. - Quite a read!

Not a debate but more in tune with the sensibilities of this forum than any others. Mods move if you must.

SLATE- A former State Department bigwig unloads.

Direct link to speech (pdf file)

Doesn’t surprise me. My dad just retired from the State Department after 23 years (including two years of Intel). He was there through every administation since Reagan and says that W, by far has been the least competent and the most disliked by the Department. I recently asked him how Secretary Rice was being perceived within the Department (my dad had respect for Powell but thought he was really more of a Defense guy than a State guy. The UN speech really cost him some respect points in State, though). He said that since Rice had taken over, her job became all about superficial PR and scripted appearances. “All they care about is how she looks on camera,” he told me. Similar to other things I’ve read about the Bush White House, actual policy now takes a backseat to politics and staging.

My dad is so disgusted by the Bush White House that he chose to remain in Brazil after he retired rather than return to the States. Ironically, he thought Bush Sr. (whom he spent a few days driving around Brasilia when Poppy was Veep) was extremely intelligent and had a very natural grasp of foreign policy.

The bigwig in question was former Sec. of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson. If we want to make a debate out of this, we might consider this part of his remarks:

We know that the current Administration is not much for transparency or dissent, but encourages close-knit high-level teamwork and strong loyalty in the ranks. Is this, as Wilkerson suggests, having a bad effect on the executive branch’s ability to make good decisions? Are they being so streamlined and close-mouthed and all-on-the-same-page that they’re just not getting the diverse information they need to know?

Dio’s comments about Rice are interesting in light of this other part of Wilkerson’s remarks:

Again, the claim seems to be that the Administration is so focused on being a cooperative team that they’re not able to debate what they’re actually doing and why. Is this true?

Just out of curiosity, why is that ironic? There are many people who dislike the son, but like the father. Their approaches to foreign policy aren’t very similar. Having been ambassador to China and the head of the CIA, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bush Sr knew a thing or two about that subject.

Maybe “ironic” was the wrong word. I wanted to make note of that contrast in order to make a point that my father’s negative opinion of Bush’ foreign policy abilities is not partisan in nature. He’s had positive things to say about former Republican SOS’s and not so great things to say about some Democratic ones (Albright, for instance he described as “hell to work with on a vist”- his coded way of saying she was a bitch).

With Bush II, some of the autonomy and purpose of the State Department has been impeded by an attitude in the White House that the Department is there to be a political servant to the White House and that any disagreement, dissent or even basic attempt to provide or correct factual information which the WH doesn’t like is seen as disruptive and “disloyal.”

Don’t worry. I heard Rush say that the problems in the State Department means that Bush is doing a great job of cleaning house and getting everyone up to speed. He said that the article was proof that Bush is doing a fantastic job, and the liberal media is just blowing hot air.

Rush would never lie. Would he? Would he???.

It’d be easier just to list the instances when Rush has told the truth. :slight_smile:

I don’t see the problem here. The bureaucracy are not the decision-makers; the executive is and the bureaucrats are there to implement the decisions. Sounds like Sir Humphrey is having sour grapes.

Here’s a HTML transcript, for easier cutting and pasting.

Wilkerson was not only Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 until early 2005 when Powell resigned, but also former State Department associate director of policy planning, and director of the US Marine Corps War College. He’s got quite a combination of military, academic, and governmental background.

And despite being Colin Powell’s chief of staff as we were getting ready to go into Iraq, he doesn’t know why we invaded either:

It’s been clear since May 11, 2003 that we didn’t go to war over WMDs, but it’s never been publicly clear why Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or whoever really decided to take us to war there. Perhaps, as Wolfowitz suggested back in 2003, there was no one single reason, and WMDs were the public reason that the principals could all agree on. But it’s pretty damned scary when someone as high up as Wilkerson says he doesn’t know the answer to this question.

I don’t think there’s a debate about this. But any remaining Bush defenders here who are NOT prepared to debate this must note that Bush violated this rule, in spades, in taking us into Iraq. Because if Wilkinson admits he doesn’t know why we went to war there, then neither do you.

Wilkerson answers that question like this:

And a little further down:


The Bush bunker is going to be getting shell shocked. Brent Scowcroft is going to launch his own attack in Monday’s New Yorker magazine.

I don’t quite buy that line, this White House does not take criticism seriously. But if the article is correct in what Scowcroft will have to say, it sure doesn’t look good for the Bush team.

These after-the-fact criticisms are all very well, but where in hell were these guys when it mattered? Where were they when the UN inspectors were not finding anything that the US administrations claimed to be present and a justification for war? Where were they when Colin Powell gave the UN a bunch of bullshit? Where were they when the Congress was being rushed into a hasty and paniced approval of the resolution authorizing GW to do as he saw fit?

Nowhere, that’s where. The only people trying to get us to take a deep breath and think things over a little were those of us with no voice in the matter.

Those of us whose entire career didn’t depend on keeping the Bush White House happy.

Too true. Closer to home, where were the voices on this message board that knew for a fact the game the administration was up to?

Was there even one that said “Well yeah, I’ve got the straight dope and them bunch of liberals are right on the money”?

Even one?

If not, why not? Have we even had that explained to us?

It’s called getting your money’s worth people.

Wilkerson is simply verifying what Powell had said earlier, which just verified what Kwiatkowski and Wilson said way earlier. People were rasing the flag. The problem was, it didn’t follow the party line. There were plenty of libruls on the Dope saying it too. But, not one of the listed people makes the decisions.

To be fair, there was John Brady Kiesling. The rest of them may have thought they could still do more good inside the system, and maybe could help nudge the ship away from the rocks, but speaking up in public would result in their removal from the system. The critics, who all turned out to be essentially right, were getting blasted as anti-American, defeatist, pessimist, “You simply hate Bush, admit it” - and that includes a number of people on this board who have since shut up and slunk away.

Sorry, but that’s Civil Service rubbish. That’s almost striaght out of Yes, Minister

What is your expertise in this matter? Have you ever worked in an organization? Even though the bureaucracy should support the leadership, the leadership should also listen to the bureaucracy. By this I mean in the sense that the bureaucracy is the on-the-ground, close to the problems mechanism. So they know when they have issues, what holds things up, what practically works and what doesn’t. It’s not just that the orders be carried out efficiently, although that is a huge issue. It’s that information needs to flow in both directions. Just because it’s played for laughs in a television show doesn’t mean that it’s not reality.

Care to justify / explain the basis for your dismissal of expert opinion?

Well, Pat, there you go again! Always on about “facts”, as if they mattered!

Facts are relevent when they support policy. Otherwise, they are but niggling detritus, to be swept up and discreetly plopped down the memory hole.