Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Authority Without Leadership

Wrote this in March so it is somewhat postdated, I think its a decent analysis of Terrorism and Iraq.

The world did not change on September 11th in one way, it did not get more dangerous to live in the United States. Despite the color of the threat status we have been under the same amount of threat since before September 11th. People learned right away that small groups of people could kill large amounts of people, modern technology can give individuals great power. This is a Type III situation the solution and the problem are blurry. First of all the federal government has never come up with a cohesive definition for what “Terrorism” actually is, every agency has a different definition. A solution to try to stop terrorism is impossible, technology being inert will be used for good or evil, nothing can stop this, because the genie is out of the bottle. The way to fight Terrorism in my opinion is eradicate the perpetuation by helping countries develop so young people can work for food instead of joining barracks and being manipulated by older authority figures to do violent acts.
George W. Bush’s presidency has been the most divisive of presidencies recently. His “compassionate conservative” PR flood stated he would unite the country. Instead the president has done many things wrong in handling this threat to the United States. The first mistake was the “Phoenix Memo” to Robert Mueller which was not read or at least not paid attention to by the leaders of the FBI. The memo claims Moussaoui has been training in flight school practicing flying, but never landing or taking off. The memo was ignored and the previous strategy for preventing airplanes from becoming hijacked failed on September 11th.
The president then framed the problem a lanky cave dweller on dialysis had orchestrated an offensive on United States soil. The answer was of course, war. The war on terrorism began in a mindset that Bush created, that this was a type I problem. The terrorists are easy to spot in Bush’s mind they dislike freedom and they hate liberty with a passion. In fact there is very little to “terrorists” except that they are the “bad guys” they’re just plain evil. The idea of “terrorists” is now used to justify any policy. For instance the United States is currently occupying a country that we invaded, because Bush insinuated links between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, even though this link is completely fictional and Bush as well as Rumsfeld have admitted that there is no link in press conferences.
This is important, because we as followers are not being asked to learn. Instead we are being inundated with false news reports and false war reports, all with one thing in mind to make us afraid. We are never asked by our leaders to remember the early 80s visit to Saddam Hussein where Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand and the US presented him with technology to test chemical weapons. To learn that we may share responsibility for the only viable reason in ousting this dictator, that he gassed his own citizens, this may cause learning our president does not want this. We are not asked to remember the Mujahedin or that Bin Laden was trained by the CIA, and that the United States abandoned Afghanistan after it served its purpose fighting off communists. In my opinion many of our modern threats can be traced to horrible foreign policy during the Cold War, this is because everyone was scared of Communism so they allied with Fascist leaders in other countries. I fear the same thing will happen with our treatment of “terrorists” we have not actually investigated our position. We do not truly know why someone would be motivated to give his life to destroy our country. I do know for a fact it is not because that person “hates liberty” or “our lifestyle” like the president says.
This is a type III problem but it is being framed by our leaders as a type I problem. Also the public is not being asked to learn, instead the public is asked by the media to duct tape the windows of their house in case of chemical weapons attack. The only learning our leaders want the public to do is learning where the closest Wal-Mart is and consuming. There is no outcome to this path, the only outcome is an endless “war on terrorism” or as Rumsfeld would call it “A long hard slog.” We need to understand that essentially this problem will never be fully stopped, this is a type III Problem. The answer does not lie in more bombing and ground troops, but through a period of learning and understanding the true motivations for terrorism. This is the most important facet of our war on terrorism, just like the war on drugs, this war is endless and pointless, because it will never stop terrorism.
A few key events since 9/11 have been the deployment of ground troops to Afghanistan, formation of Homeland Security department, invasion/occupation of Iraq, Guantanimo bay prison/internment camp, resisting the 9/11 commission, and the steady encroachment upon civil liberties beginning with the Patriot act.
The deployment of ground troops to Afghanistan was seen as an obvious response, basically a catch Osama task force. While we were deploying troops to catch a Bin Laden in Afghanistan the only flights to take off on 9/12 were those that flew Bin Laden relatives living in the United States to Washington, DC and then to Paris, France by the FBI, before they could be questioned. This story was not latched on to by the media, instead the media focused on our first kneejerk reaction which was the deployment to Afghanistan. These ground forces have been dying since they were deployed and Osama Bin Laden has still not been found. In this specific areas Bush failed to form any semblance of leadership. He framed the problem as finding the culprit, he regulated distress by assuring us that he would catch the criminal responsible, and focused our attention on the fact that we are under threat. The fact that simultaneously at this very moment and every moment since this paper was written, thousands of nuclear weapons have been pointed at you, your friends, and family. Although this threat is far more dangerous and real, our leaders have decided what they are focusing on. Bush has shifted responsibility, maybe not to stakeholders but to followers in the military. Bush has started a new PR blitz that claims the U.S. will find Osama Bin Laden soon. This is another example of regulating stress, people were starting to get tired of waiting for the person responsible for 9/11 so our leader held a press conference.
The formation of the Homeland Security department goes with the framing of the problem as a type I. The problem was lack of horizontal communication and in group/out group dynamics, so the simple answer is to combine all the agencies involved. This has now become the largest reorganization of the federal government in history. This action has given us a color coded threat level that is the mascot for the PR stupidity of our administration. Although the threat level was created to give comedians fodder during stand-up routines, it actually serves a purpose. It is very expensive to raise the threat level and puts things like the coast guard on a little higher alert. This is probably the closest to leadership George W. Bush gets. The homeland security department seems to increase communication and reduce the rivalry between group like the CIA and FBI. So it will help catch some attacks before they happen, like 9/11 should have been stopped because of the “Phoenix memo”.
The invasion of Iraq has also been a cornerstone of the Bush neo-conservative foreign policy. Since Bush’s election Paul Wolfowitz has been searching for a way to steer us in to war with Iraq. The opportunity presented itself in the form of thousands of Americans dying in the WTC and pentagon attacks. The problem was framed in a way that will seem so simply in hindsight in a few years idiotic. We brought up the usual suspects Saddam, Kim Jong Il, and Iran. This is where Bush’s foreign policy changes from not very smart, to catastrophically bad. The problem was framed that Iraq had chemical weapons that could not be found by the UN. Also the fact that Iraq had violated a UN code (in the opinion of the US) justified a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, which itself violated two UN policies. The United States foreign policy has been led astray, the problem has been framed that “If you don’t get them first, they’ll get you.” If we follow Bush’s framing of the problem we can only win by destroying everything and everyone that isn’t American! The war’s justification changed as time has passed, we know there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction, we know that Saddam used technology from the US to build his chemical weapons in the first place, and now the only justification left is that Saddam is generally an evil person. Saddam is George W. Bush’s scapegoat, he is the proverbial deer strapped to the hood of the car, a trophy to show the public that he has done something.
The jailing of “enemy combatants” at Guantanimo bay Cuba is also another example of authority without leadership. Essentially Bush used a technicality in the Geneva convention and abused it on such a level to fill Gitmo detention center. As civil rights groups asked that the American citizens at least be able to contact a family member or attorney. Their families were not even allowed to know they were being held without trial by the United States government. To regulate distress the Bush administration assured America that these people were all terrorists, even though the only definition of terrorists Bush has given us is that they are people who “hate liberty”. This catch-22 worked out nicely and is even comical to read, because if terrorists hate liberty, we’re playing right in to their hands jailing them without trial. Recently the courts decided that Jose Padilla can see a lawyer and talk to his family, which opened the doors for other U.S. citizens being held at Gitmo to finally receive some sort of justice. The Bush administration focuses attention away from Guantanimo bay, because logically everyone makes mistakes many people in Gitmo are innocent and deserve a trial to determine their innocence.
Another example of the poor leadership being displayed is the encroachment on constitutional rights and resistance to the 9/11 commission. The Patriot act made it easier for law enforcement to do a lot of things, but the most important was invade privacy. There is a easier brightline to establish the need for a warrant to tap phones, although these rights have seen a slow encroachment as technology has advanced the mass fear has catalyzed this process.
The leadership President Bush is displaying is very weak. He refuses to deal with Terrorism as a type III problem. He instead will be fighting the symptoms of Terrorism for ever, because he does not frame the problem in the right way.
Terrorism will be here after Bush’s presidency no matter what. The things we will remember are the two wars we are simultaneously fighting overseas, while installing a non-elected leadership council in Iraq, and suspending habeas corpus for American prisoners. Framing the problem as a type I and using fear to build political capital is horrible leadership.
I hope that the United States comes to its senses and the wild rage that has taken hold after 9/11 turns in to a spirit of inquisition. Killing terrorists as we catch them or locking them up and throwing away the key in Cuba are not viable strategies. Only through investigation and understanding of how terrorists are created can we hope to reduce the threat of terrorist attack in the future. Until then I will be ever cognizant of the thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at my head and remember that terrorism is really nothing new.


Rowley, Colleen. “Coleen Rowley’s memo to FBI director Robert Mueller” http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020603/memo.html May 21, 2002

Associated Press. “Pelosi pushes for new 9/11 deadline” New York Times Feb 26, 2004

Heifetz, Ronald. “Leadership without easy answers”

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