Can Anybody Tell Me Why Ross Douthat Rather than Megan of Jezebel Writes an Op-Ed Column for the New York Times?
links for 2009-06-11

Demagoguery and the Responsibility of a Bureaucrat

Todd Gitlin asks a question of Council on Foreign Relations head Richard Haass:

Demagoguery of Choice | TPMCafe: I was present at a conference in Maryland sponsored by the NewsHour in November 2002 when Mr. Haass, then head of policy planning at the State Department, issued a ringing defense of the impending war, which evidently he now maintains that he already opposed as a war of choice, not necessity. At the time, he stirred together, in Cheneyesque fashion, claims about Saddam and al-Qaeda, about Iraqi WMD, and the rest. I arose to argue with him and called his presentation "demagogic," but my protest did not attract his interest or sympathy. I'm curious to know if Mr. Haass believed what he was saying to this audience of foreign policy influentials at the time; if his presentation was a presentation of necessity or of choice; if he agrees that he was demagogic; and if he has any regrets.

There are hard questions as to how one should act when one works for an administration that is making a mistake on matters of policy. One could resign--and see one's place taken by somebody who will make the mistakes even better. One can be a good soldier and argue publicly for the mistaken policies while arguing privately for the right thing, in the belief that:

But it has always seemed to me that the minimal requirement imposed on the "good soldiers" is this: you don't tell lies in public.

From what Todd Gitlin reports, it looks as though Richard Haass--a man whom I have never heard praised in his role at the head at CFR--told things that he knew to be lies or that he could easily have determined to be lies in public.