Autonomous Source

January 24, 2004

Bureaucracy over leadership.

PM Paul made a revealing statement over in Switzerland concerning his invite to Kofi Annan:

We reject the argument that state sovereignty confers absolute immunity. But we are also sensitive to the fears of some that the concept of intervention can be misused. What is required is an open discussion.... We need clear agreement on principles to help determine when it is appropriate to use force in support of humanitarian objectives.
Let's deconstruct this. We reject the argument that state sovereignty confers absolute immunity. This is good. The standard UN response of turning a blind eye to whatever horrors go on in a country so long as they remain within its borders is monstrous. This indicates that PM Paul's foreign policy is at least partially rooted in reality. But we are also sensitive to the fears of some that the concept of intervention can be misused. Of course it can. But then anything can be misused. The "humanitarian" UN oil-for-food program in Iraq was misused to prop up a vile dictator and help him oppress his people. The UN is misused as legitimizing tool for the thug regimes that infest too much of the world. By suggesting that humanitarian intervention might be misused (whatever is he referring to?) PM Paul grandstands for the anti-American home crowd. What is required is an open discussion.... We need clear agreement on principles to help determine when it is appropriate to use force in support of humanitarian objectives. Here PM Paul reveals he is a cowardly moron and has learned nothing from his years as a captain of industry and government big shot.

I have worked in many organizations, and the very worst mistakes they make are in deciding which actions should be done with procedure and which are to be done with leadership. Procedure is important. If something is done many times by different people, it is vital that an organization do it in more-or-less the same way each time. For that to happen, the organization has to agree on what is the best way to do it, work out some of the "what if?" issues, and make sure everyone understands and agrees to follow through. But procedure has its limits. Some situations are so rare or so complex that any protocol manual or policy paper will be useless. These situations require leadership -- someone in charge that can acquire the relevant information, process it, and make the decisions necessary. This kind of leadership is not found just in the military or in a corporate office. It can be a talented concierge in a hotel helping an eccentric guest or an engineer working out a kludge to fix a system's problem that its designers had never anticipated. It requires the ability to think on the spot without a guidebook.

But leadership is rare and unpredictable and can even be faulty. The people who should be leaders sometimes don't trust themselves or each other and see more procedure as the solution. I have been in companies where the "leaders" would distance themselves from their day-to-day responsibilities and immerse themselves in policy studies, re-organizations, and flow charts. Some of this is necessary to be sure, but much of it is bureaucratic camouflage for inaction.

If there is anything in this world that requires leadership, it's international diplomacy. PM Paul's idea for a "clear agreement on principles" to determine when and where to help the suffering people of the world is a clear abdication of his responsibilities. If in twenty years there is a crisis that threatens to cause a horrific human catastrophe, I hope that the leaders of the world will behave as leaders, and not attempt to solve the problem with some dated and inadequate "principals".

Posted by Bruce Gottfred at January 24, 2004 11:12 AM | TrackBack
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