In leadership development programs I run, I am often asked how I rate President George W. Bush. An article by John J. McSheffrey in this weekend’s International Herald Tribune, describing his response to being on a plane carrying a military coffin, provides an example of why his style is not one I would want to emulate: he fails to take responsibility for his actions and inactions.
He shirks the responsibility he carries for all those under his command every time he fails to attend any military he possibly could. Furthermore, by invoking an old Pentagon policy that bans the photographing of military coffins on their return to the USA, he ensures that his “fellow Americans” don’t pay their respects either. Both these actions also prolong and complicate the relatives’ grieving process.
McSheffrey’s article set me thinking. The Democrats in Congress are pushing to enact laws that would force the president to withdraw US forces from Iraq. He, in turn, is pushing back with a veto. His argument is that such a law would demoralise the troops. An old Taoist principle suggests using an opponent’s force against him. How about Congress passes a law that would permit media coverage of returning military, healthy, wounded or dead. Not an easy law to veto.
This would allow civilians to pay their respects and express their support for the service men and women. At the same time, I would expect them to send unmistakable signals to the body politic about what shape the Iraq policy needs to take.