Memo To: Foreign Affairs editors
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: An "A" for Garry Wills
Having flunked Marty Feldstein and C. Fred Bergsten for their respective contributions to your March/April issue, I was afraid it might be three-strikes-and-out as I settled down to read the Garry Wills contribution, "Bully of the Free World," which begins on page 50. Thank goodness no. This is a marvelous piece, from first to last, worthy of an "A" by my grading scale. It is so good I immediately e-mailed Dan Quayle and urged him to read it a.s.a.p., as it is exactly the nature of the conversations we have been having about the requirements demanded of a U.S. American President in these unusual times. I had not even heard about Garry Wills's book, Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership, but I just might have to go to Amazon.com and order it up.
The idea that the United States has become the world bully has been my running theme for several years, as I have pondered the end of the Cold War and observed the need to be nice to our allies in order to keep them on our side disappearing into a disgraceful exhibition of bullying. I don't know who first came up with the term triumphalism to capture this ugly spirit that pervades our political establishment (Do you know?) But it certainly has the essence of a Mighty King Kong, standing atop the Empire State Building, savagely trying to swipe a dinky little airplane out of the sky. I've also used the image of a Goliath, who is so determined to be secure against any dinky little threat, and having David in mind, orders all the slingshots in the realm confiscated, and a UNSCOM commission set up to make sure nobody makes a new one.
There of course is a leadership vacuum in the world because there is no American leader to fill the vacuum. We have not had a leader of the kind Garry describes since Ronald Reagan, which is how the Gipper happened to wind up the Cold War with no muss, no fuss and no nuclear exchange. George Bush came close, but as the article makes clear, the Bush administration did not want to hear arguments from Admiral Crowe about the wisdom of the Gulf War. In retrospect, it was the Bush administration sleeping at the switch that invited Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait. At least Bush did go to the trouble of getting the appropriate approvals from Congress, and coaxed enough countries of the Middle East into what looked like a respectable coalition. The triumphalists at the time -- including my old pals at The Wall Street Journal -- to this day fume that we did not ignore the coalition, the United Nations, and the original mission to kick Saddam out after our State Department had invited him in. They would have preferred to mow down the Republican Guard in a turkey shoot and march into Baghdad, with flags flying, rooting out Saddam and hanging him by his toes.
Reagan was a true leader, who knew the Soviets knew they were defeated, and that he had to find a way to let them surrender without a last fight. I do quibble with Garry only in the sense that he insists leadership is persuading people to follow. Leaders persuade followers, is how he puts it. Well, there are carrots and there are sticks, and both are methods of persuasion. A leader knows how to assess a problem and concoct exactly the right brew of diplomacy and force. My father was a great leader in our family. In all my years growing up, he only had to use force on me two or three times, and then the spanking was not meant to cause pain, but to show me that he meant business. As long as I followed the rules, I had plenty of freedom to develop my talents and interests in my own way.
I wish you guys would put the whole of Garry's article on your website, because I think it would impress enough people who I would send to it that you would pick up a new subscription or two. There are so many good lines in it, but I truly appreciated his bringing to my attention the comments of James Madison in The Federalist, No. 63.
An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons. The one is that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy... The second is that, in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed.
Wow! What a smart fellow, Madison. If he were around today, wouldn't he be encouraging us to ask the Islamic world what it thinks should be done with Iraq, Iran, Libya, the other Islamic states that we have been bombing or plan to bomb. Maybe he would call up Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and suggest that before we start laying down the law in China, because we have missiles that can incinerate their navy from 1500 miles away with the push of a button, we at least should get our facts straight. On this website two weeks ago, I suggested to Steve Forbes that if he really wants to be President, he can't be seen by the American people as a guy who will pull the trigger on China based on a story he read in The New York Times. I of course was not surprised that Pat Buchanan would pull the trigger, as would John McCain. My old friend Gary Bauer is running for President on a promise to drop weapons of mass destruction on all the Chinese unless they stop having abortions! I of course was pleased to see that Dan Quayle was not so trigger happy, but spoke of our overall objective of a China that would live in freedom and prosperity. That sounds nicer, doesn't it?
"In short," says Garry Wills, "if we listen, we may learn something, discover our own error, or at least learn what objections it would be wise to consider. Now that is leadership talk." Hey, that also reminds me of my father. He never, ever, told me or my brother to shut up. He was always willing to listen to our grievances, and if we were afraid to approach him for fear of being turned down, we first would get my mom's advice on how to soften him up.
How incredible it is that our Ambassador to the United Nations is not permitted to speak to the Iraqi ambassador, or the Cuban ambassador, or others on a blacklist. When Bill Richardson first arrived at the UN as its new ambassador two years ago, he was shocked to learn he was not permitted to speak to the elevator operators or the waiters in the dining room if their name tags said they were from a rogue nation. Can you believe that? It makes me nauseous, but we do it because our political leaders -- including President Clinton and most of the top brass in both parties -- are hollow men, robots who do as they are told, driven by the need to remain in power at all costs, and by a national press corps that goes along with the game. I really don't think the people of the United States, as a whole, want our country to be a global bully, but when they go looking for men and women who are of a more generous spirit, they can't find any. At least so far.