Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Leadership Lessons from 9/11

Last night I watched a Canadian news special about the events leading up to 9/11, preferring an outsiders view to anything I might find within our boarders. The show did a marvelous job detailing much of the history surrounding various terror networks, Osama, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and much more. What I found most interesting was the highlighting of different leadership styles between Bill Clinton and George Bush. It appears that several times the Clinton administration had the chance to either arrest or eliminate both Osama and other high level known terrorist leaders, but each time, at the last second, the operation would be cancelled. Either there was a fear of collateral damage, or a fear of failure. Clinton appeared to be that type of leader who would forever gather more information without ever committing to a course of action, fearful as he was of making the wrong decision.

On the other hand, George Bush, it appeared (and continues to appear), had gathered around him a host of counselors who, in the wake of 9/11 articulated a plan to dismantle Saddam’s dictatorship in Iraq. Richard Clarke, Colin Powell, and a host of other high ranking military and defense officials all made it clear that such pursuit was irrelevant to the terrorist effort. But Bush, unlike Clinton, would not be dissuaded from his course of action with more information. The results, at least in the moment, speak for themselves.

Don’t miss the point for the story. I’m not really pondering the validity of the war effort this morning, though it’s certainly a point worth considering. I’m pondering the two different leadership styles of our most recent presidents: The former, generally speaking, lacked capacity to pull the trigger and make a decision when one was needed – and the result is that we’re all paying a price. The latter seems to dismiss all counselors who don’t agree with his view of the world, and forge ahead, sometimes in denial of harsh realities. Is there a third option?

Richard Clarke, a high level intelligence official in both the Clinton and Bush era’s, was frustrated by Clinton’s lack of decisive leadership. When Bush took office, Clarke sent him a memo saying that the two of them needed to talk about terrorism and Al-Qaeda. The meeting didn’t take place until after 9/11. Clarke, not in Bush’s inner circle, was ignored. And it was Clarke, who was involved on the watch of both leaders, who had the guts to say to the American people, “Our intelligence systems have failed you. Our government has failed. I have failed you.”

Knowing when to listen and ponder and when to act, it seems, are critical components of healthy leadership. Every leader I know tends towards one side or the other of this critical balancing act. The events of 9/11 and beyond show us that failure to hold these qualities in proper balance can be fatal.


At 12/9/06 00:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each of these leaders you mention here have a narcissist approach to their leadership. And both only succeded in causing great division among the people they were to lead. It seems to me, a lesson to be learned from such a tragedy comes from the lives of the survivors of Hiroshima. They decided it was best to put an end to all nuclear weapons because of the horror they inflict on people. A movement towards peace with political baggage was their heart's desire.

You know, another leadership style that was almost lost today was that of Mahatma Gandhi. On this day 100 years ago, was birthed Satyagraha. And for me, I need to be reminded of such boldness to live out my responsibility to my fellow man even in the face of non-violent civil disobedience so that change for the common good of all may be realized.

At 14/9/06 05:41, Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Interesting to see the Hiroshima comment. In the town where the other atom bomb fell, Nagasaki, there is a museum devoted to the atomic bombing. Virtually every exhibit was donated by a country from the Soviet bloc. The whole museum seemed to me as a non-American European to be virulently anti-American, even to a bald statement that Harry S Truman was the instigator of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, too often the International Peace movement was tool of communist propaganda.

St Paul clearly justifies the use of the sword by the magistrate. Jesus commends soldiers. The idea that Ghandi was an exemplar of Christian leadership is a travesty of scripture.

At 14/9/06 08:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Are you saying Bush's leadership style is endorsed by Christian scripture? Further, this administration's military approach is more Lennon-istic than Jesus like.

For me and my house, I'll take Gandhi's style. I suppose we each have our own hermeneutic to be honored

At 14/9/06 12:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I'd have to disagree vehemently with you Terry. I think that Jesus was clearly a proponent of peace, of turning the other cheek, of loving our enemy. I think Ghandi is indeed an appropriate reminder of our responsiblity to live out a life of humility and peace, as called for in the new testament.

At 14/9/06 12:49, Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Not at all. There is a time to stand up for what is right and there is a time to talk. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war; but the man who said that fought a fierce war against the Nazis and arguably saved Western civilization.

When to commit armed forces is a difficult judgement. Until Rwanda we all tended to be bound by the treaty of Westphalia which forbade interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries. After Srebrenica this stance became untenable. Even Clinton felt compelled to help save Muslims in Yugoslavia.

The invasion of Afghanistan had universal approval after 9/11. Indeed who could object to the overthrow of a regime that harbored Bin Laden, demolished the Bhuddist statues and prevented girls from having an education?

I am contemptuous of the Bush regime's claim to link Iraq with Al Qaida, but I believed (as almost everybody else did including Saddam himself) that there were chemical and biological weapons stashed away. And even if these were no immediate threat to anyone except an invading army, it was clear that Saddam had used them in the genocide of Kurds and Marsh Arabs. A very good argument can be assembled that Saddam deserved to be taken down (the only counter argument is so do the rulers of half the states in the United Nations).

How Bush and his cronies went about it, and how they have managed post-war Iraq shows the poverty of their capabilities, but it does not demonstrate that the idea of taking out Saddam was wrong.

Clearly the incarceration of Muslims outside the reach of the Geneva convention, and the use of extreme means to gain information - extreme means that are difficult not to characterize as torture - may yet make it as hazardous for President Bush to travel abroad as it is for President Pinochet. He is in danger of being arrested for war crimes.

However, none of these items supports the pacifist position. Ghandi remains a hero of pacifists. At times I wonder how it would have been if the Third Reich had ruled India.

At 14/9/06 13:59, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok Terry. Your arguments you have presented here to justify a need for military war are flawed at best and propaganda at worst.

I'll be brief in my comments and those of you interested can do your own research on what I am about to say.

September the 11th 1906 Gandhi led a large cross section of Indian people (read that various religous views) on a 220+ mile walk to the ocean shore as a means of bring each citizen to solidarity on the issue of how to deal with the oppressive British empire. It was about salt laws. Salt tax imposed on the Indian people, effecting each person, young, old, male, female, rich and especially the poor was the rallying point to bring these people together. There, under Gandhi's leadership, took place the beginning of a peaceful revolution that effectively drove out the Brits. No war.

Now a brief look at US military policy that has been brewing for the past 5 decades, under each president who held the office, Republican and Democrat. Americans have been deceived by the cold war and the belief that it is the reponsibility of the US to define history and 'spread freedom throughout the globe'. The notion that a powerful military will bring peace, will ensure peace is a fatal ideology. And I believe all Americans are complicit here. We are only interested in our own freedom, the way we design it. US Militarism in the Persian Gulf is in place because we what cheap gas.

We the people are responsible in how we treat our fellow man. The reality is most people do not have the freedom to live a fulfilled life as they desire. And I am talking about American citizens here. It is really a sad situation.

But thank God for mid-term elections! As they provide us with cheaper gas by the day!

Party on

At 15/9/06 05:04, Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Well, we won't agree on this. Watch the movie "Dogville" for an illustration of the consequences of passive acceptance of bad behavior.

Gandhi's methods worked because of the fact that the British regime, for all its faults, was succeptible to the power of public opinion and the press. As we have seen in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, China, and many other totalitarian regimes such oiligarchies are not affected by what the public think and they control the press. Gandhi would have been shot as an example in Germany, disappeared into the Gulag Archipelago in Russia, 'disappeared' in the Argentina of Galtieri and been imprisoned for many years in China, or had he remained in South Africa.

It is also a fact that America, for all its faults, has a free press and can be influenced by public opinion. You may denigrate the value of freedom, but to be free from fear, free from want, free to choose what you believe and say what you want are very precious. It is very arrogant for those who possess such freedoms to deny them to the rest of mankind.

As this is a Christian site and not a political one, it would be discourteous to allow this debate to descend into party politics. Anyway, as a non-American I hold no brief for either administration. Allow me to say that one of the great advantages of Christianity is its insistence that faith is personal, dependent on individual free choice. (I shan't go down the pro- or anti-Calvanist by-way. Sure, Faith is the gift of God, but God uses means - remember Cyrus).
There are many people throughout the world who are denied that free choice.

As a teenager, I was a pacifist until I was confronted with the challenge to stand by while my sister was raped. (I am talking theoretically). It was clear to me that force is sometimes justified. Once it is justified sometimes then the question is where to draw the line.

At 15/9/06 10:34, Anonymous BC said...

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are the meek
For theirs shall be the kingdom
That the power mongers seek
Blessed are the dead for love
And those who cry or love
And those who cry for peace
And those who love the gift of earth
May their gene pool increase

At 15/9/06 15:22, Anonymous John James said...

I think Ellie Wiesel said something like in order to defeat your enemy, you have to understand him. Maybe the 2 (or 3) of you are not too far apart. Gandhi was a lawyer and always had a strategy in every 'pacifist' move he made. And he was hardly passive. He didn't put himself in a place where a particular regime would do him violence.

And we can't leave out the guidance of the Divine. Jesus was taken to Egypt to escape sure death as a 3 year old. Somehow Hitler escaped 3 bombings meant to kill him. There seems to be more here than meets the simple eye. (or is there?)

Big military and warfare has it's place too. But prior to WWII, even the USA was reluctant to build a big army and had adopted a relatively isolationist foreign policy as the founding fathers were wary of a big army's influence with this republic (see James Madison).

There seems to be a balance. A balance that sets up wisdom as key to navigation through the mess. I am not sure darkness ever defeats darkness. But in reality the world remains a dangerous place to live , not because of evil people, but because people refuse to do anything about it.

How does that go, blessed are the one's with answers, they will rule over you?


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