Friday, January 21, 2005

Regrets

Via Kevin Drum , who in turn is quoting Tim Dunlop, about Richard Armitage looking back over his time in Dubya's State department:

Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

I have always been sympathetic to Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, as the moderates in a hard-right administration. In particular I was grateful for Powell going in front of the U.N. in the run-up to the war in Iraq, even knowing that the outcome was foregone. After a while I started to question their sanity, though; and their continual losses in the bureaucratic tussles with Defense have now left State on the brink of irrelevance. (I seriously doubt Condoleeza Rice will be able to reverse this. )

But Armitage's valedictory regret has real poignance for me. We, as a nation, have let a couple of hate-filled terrorists push us off of our biggest asset in the world-- our Will Rogers friendliness, optimism, and yes, hope. The tumult of the last few years has resulted in U.S. foreign policy decisions which Europe would never agree to-- and no one should pretend otherwise. But the tone-deafness of this administration, and its open disdain for the opposition from other liberal democracies, has exacerbated this policy gap, made its own efforts that much harder, and, yes, needlessly put U.S. military lives at risk. National prestige comes from self confident presentation, not from hectoring and displays of anger.

Mr. Bush was re-elected with a mandate that includes keeping our nation secure. Let's hope together for a decent result in Iraq, and an decision by Mr. Bush to project his famed personal warmth and optimism out onto the international stage.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.
St. Francis de Sales

UPDATE: Greg at Belgravia Dispatch is very impressed with Condoleeza Rice, both her testimony and personnel decisions. Not to put words in his mouth, but maybe she could rescue State AND change the international tone. I'd be glad of that. Also see Greg on Barak Obama.

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