That's Rumsfeld's function -- to take the polite fictions and drag them back to the real world. During the Afghan campaign, CNN's Larry King asked him, "Is it very important that the coalition hold?" The correct answer -- the Powell-Blair-Gore-Annan answer -- is, of course, "Yes." But Rummy decided to give the truthful answer: "No." He went on to explain why: "The worst thing you can do is allow a coalition to determine what your mission is." Such a man cannot be happy at the sight of the Guinean tail wagging the French rectum of the British hind quarters of the American dog.
I think tendency in diplomacy to not speak the truth is quite often counter-productive. The public all over the world frequently will benefit from having explained to them the truths that so many officials will take offense over. Often the roots of some problem are simple if boiled down to basics. Stating the basics will help people's understanding and will signal to the listeners that you have a grasp of reality.
The effect of truth-telling is also to increase the respect that people feel toward a government. After all, if a high muckety-muck lies to an interviewer in order to send a signal to leaders in another country or to avoid giving offense to those other leaders he's not jusy having an impact on what those leaders think of him. He's being heard by his own country's populace and the populaces of other countries who have busy lives and lack of time to parse and interpret government statements. If members of a populace figure out that they are being lied they may not understand that they are not the real target of the lie and many will feel disrespected because they wrongly think some government is trying to deceive them. Or if the populace is the target of the lie the populace will feel insulted and disrespected because the government really is trying to fool them.
I fully share Mark Steyn's enthusiasm for Donald Rumsfeld. If more political figures spoke so bluntly and honestly our political discourse would be much improved.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 March 19 12:03 AM Human Nature|