Sometimes It’s Best Too Stay Silent
In a normal and rational world, people who perform their jobs poorly or stake their personal integrity on false information usually stay out of the limelight when exposed. You never see a former CEO make a press conference and recommend sound business practices after he (or she) is indicted and eventually convicted of bribery or extortion. The same can be said in the world of technology as well; for instance, I bet that Bill Gates wouldn’t stick by Windows Vista if thousands of computers crashed as a result of the same faulty program.
So why on earth do disgraced politicians and government officials insist on digging themselves into a deeper grave? Remember former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, the man who was caught in a covert prostitution ring run by the FBI? Yea…well…now he’s back on the radar, appearing on television and giving interviews about the country’s financial crisis.
Presidents try to bolster their image as well. Typically, presidents who were deeply unpopular during their tenure, or those who leave the post with a low approval rating (due to either personal glitches or tumultuous policies) attempt to improve their standing through a highly coordinated P.R. campaign (see Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush). After his cataclysmic fall from grace, President Richard Nixon spent the last twenty years of his life trying to rebuild his tarnished image.
So I guess it should come as no surprise that Douglas Feith, one of the men responsible for leading President George W. Bush into a full-scale invasion of Iraq, is doing the same thing. But here’s the kicker….he’s using the same tools and credentials that originally tarnished his credibility five years earlier.
You would think that after a terrible foreign-policy record- both with respect to post war planning in Iraq, dismal resources in Afghanistan and a poor policy with respect to Iran- former Bush officials like Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz would shut their mouths when a contentious issue comes up.
It’s not inaccurate or unfair to recognize that both Feith and Wolfowitz have lost considerable standing in Washington, not to mention in the entire IR community generally. Feith in particular has come under a tremendous amount of political heat, so much so that he was forced to resign his post at the Office of Special Plans after allegations surfaced that he fudged the facts about Saddam Hussein’s WMD program.
So after all that, why on earth is he speaking to the press about the supposed weaknesses of U.S. foreign policy?
Yes, he does possess the right to speak up and make his voice heard, regardless of how skewed his views are or how questionable his assertions can be (Lord knows that Karl Rove has done so over the past few months). After all, one of the most important (if not the most important) value in American society is the First Amendment freedom of speech clause. So perhaps I shouldn’t be blatantly attacking Feith’s credentials. Maybe I shouldn’t even care what Feith has to say.
But c’mon, are we really supposed to take what he says seriously? This man was one of the architects of a war that went so badly during his time as a top Pentagon employee; U.S. credibility in the Arab world went on a downward spiral as a result, and Al’Qaeda was able to expand its influence into the very heart of the Middle East. And of course, thousands of American lives were lost and tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed in the process as well.
In many respects, we are still trying to get out of this hole. And now, this same official is trying to discredit the Obama administration’s policy towards the elimination of nuclear weapons…as if the dream of a “global zero” was a bad thing for international peace and stability!
But don’t take my word for it. Check out this quick profile of Doug Feith’s time as a government servant and see for yourself. Nothing to really boast about, unless you consider sabotaging the Oslo Peace Accords and solidifying the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as great policy.
Feith should take the advice of President George W. Bush and his former boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: disappear for a while until people forget why they’re mad at you.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of Tom Ricks at FP.com**