Wes Clark’s World and Bush’s
I had a small epiphany a few years back when Ryutaro Hashimoto, Prime Minister of Japan, was forced out of office in a political scandal and he used these words on television. “I take complete responsibility. I resign.”
Wow. I gathered my children in front of the TV. We have heard that phrase many times before and since, but only the first part of it: “I take full responsibility.”
When we hear it now it means nothing. The last two Presidents have used it and many before. Usually today it means that none of the accomplices in the dastardly deed are going to get fired or go to jail. Even cowardly acts like those of the current President’s Men who publicly revealed the name and cover of a covert American agent and endangered the lives of others – a treasonous act for which they would have been taken out and shot a shot in the Korean War - have virtually no consequences.
Listen to this I told my kids. The Japanese Prime Minister takes full responsibility for his failure. He resigns.
Of course, a hundred years earlier, Hashimoto would have been given the option to throw himself on his sword, to save himself form the disgrace of living in the society he had betrayed. But the code of honor was stronger then and even
Today corruption is an everyday part of life. Sin happens. But in an honorable society a leader takes responsibility for his actions. He acknowledges his failure to himself, to his family, to deity and country. He relinquishes the reins of power.
We are no longer a society which honor’s honor. Recently, I had a conversation with a very decent, intelligent and thoughtful young man who said he didn’t have any idea what I meant by honor. We live in a nation of laws, he pointed out. Honor has nothing to do with it. I think he explains it precisely. It is an American dilemma. Can a country live by laws alone? Our country does, but in each segment of our history laws have ultimately failed us and we have had to call upon men of honor at the hour of desperation: Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower, George Marshall. Very often they were military men.
The high Victorians lived by a code of honor, well expressed in its prelude by Lord Nelson, who said, “
The President tells us, “Americans are addicted to oil.” I think we have been telling him that for the last five years, since he hired oil men and car guys from
"In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline," he said.
How did we become so isolated? As I recall, six years ago we had more friends than we desired, sneaking into our country in tunnels and crashing ashore at Far Rockaway in leaky boats. Now we have new anti-American states again to our South and
Most confusing was the phrase about
The tenor and tone of the entire speech was to turn away. He seems one foot in Crawford, cutting brush, waiting for the next three years to end. As do so many others.
I turned by contrast to Wesley Clark. Two days before President Bush was to give his annual State of the Union speech, Wesley Clark was invited to deliver a speech at The New America Foundation in
General Clark is old school. He lives by the rules, but he also lives by a code of honor. It pervades every utterance and every act. I heard him speak a number of times in the
This is some of what Wes Clark said in his State of the World:
“Today, billions of people abroad believe that
“Because four years after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden remains on the loose in the fastness of western
“Because the threat of terrorism has actually increased, partly as a result of the unnecessary invasion of
“Because, despite our tough talk,
“Because, in the process of this struggle against insurgents and terrorists and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are in danger of losing the very principles we are fighting for as revelations of torture and degrading treatment of those detained confound our long standing commitment to human rights and undercut our moral strength and leadership.
“Because America's long-standing commitment to assisting democracy abroad was recklessly transformed into hot rhetoric and direct action in Iraq— and it has not only offended cultural and national sensitivities in the Middle East, but it is also contributing to the anger and violence in the region.
“Because while we are distracted by the war on terror,
“Because the United States has stood silently while the historic opportunity of a democratic Russia is systematically crushed and other new democracies threatened by the same power ministries and entrenched authorities that enslaved hundreds of millions during Communism's long reign.
“Because our oldest friends and Allies, in Europe and Asia, are questioning America's commitment to the dialogue, institutions, and principles that kept us safe throughout the Cold War and even helped end ethnic cleansing in Europe during the 1990's.
“The plain truth is, in
As our nation opened,