Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just more proof that they can't govern

A great article in the Financial Times, Cheney Cabal Hijacked US Foreign Policy.

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

Colonel Wilkerson goes on to say something I've always, always known:

The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was “a concrete example” of the decision-making problem, with the president and other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. “You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it.”

You just don't get those kind of behaviours unless leaders have allowed it, even if it's just with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. And even if they didn't condone it expressly, they created the environment where that kind of thing can flourish.

I know this may seem like a series of non-sequiturs, but all this crony appointing and the serious failures of FEMA (we can't blame state and local failures on Bush, much as I'd like to) post-Katrina, the quagmirish mismanagement of the occupation of Iraq (even if you thought it was the right thing to do), the deficit, the handing-out of contracts to greedy, non-delivering contractors - all of this, every bit of this is down to failures of governance. This governance is the responsibility of our elected leaders and they have failed.*

The Audit Commission, the public sector watchdog in England, published a report two years ago called Corporate Governance: Improvement and Trust in Local Public Services (link to a large pdf file) that looked at public sector failures in England. It identified several factors leading to major service failures in the public sector (and I would argue in the private sector, too). These were:
  1. Leaders creating a culture of self-delusion and deliberate misreprentation of information
  2. Poor decisons based on inadequate information and a failure to challenge, often because a climate was a created where people were afraid to challenge authority.
  3. Lack of clarity of roles, responsibilities and accountabilities within and between organisations
  4. Organisations failed to address known problems in working relationships; and
  5. Insular organisational culture with poor customer focus or community engagement

Any one of these factors were enough to cause governance failures, and I see evidence of at least 1 and 2 in the FT article alone. Outrageous.

Props to: Brittney at Nashville is Talking for linking it and ChristianLibrul for spotting it

*it's our responsibility to watch them, and maybe we've failed there, too.

Tags: Politics Abu Ghraib

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