Friday, June 29, 2007


We've seen it before in business, government, and the professions. The inept and incompetent moving from one disaster of their own making, to the next - promoted all the way as a result of powerful and influential friends. Not because of competence or success in the last position held. But because of the tender loving care from people in high places, who may value loyalty to the exclusion of all other traits, or who put a premium on pedigree or social status to the exclusion of ability, record of success, or even intelligence.

The name of Robert S. McNamara comes to mind. The wunderkind Eagle Scout, Harvard MBA, and Ford Motor Company CEO who trashed the Edsel - so far so good - together with his boss LBJ, embraced the Domino Theory of third world countries going communist. The result was the build up of American forces in Vietnam, the subsequent 9 years American participation in a civil war, the millions of casualties among innocent Vietnamese, Cambodians and young Americans. Finally, there was the admission of failure. There was defeat and abandonment of the cause. His reward: President of the World Bank.

Similarly there is the career of Henry Kissinger. Harvard Scholar and Professor, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, Kissinger bears the dubious distinction of being behind the bombing of Cambodia during the Viet Nam War. The direct result was the Cambodian civil war, from which the Khmer Rouge emerged victorious. The aftermath was a genocide of several million innocent Cambodians. He was behind CIA support in bringing to power General Pinochet in Chile. He actively supported the Argentina's dirty war carried out by the Military Junta. His travel is so restricted, for fear of arrest for war crimes, that for years he has traveled outside the United States only with the utmost caution. The result: a lengthy list of Corporate Directorships, including the infamous Hollinger International (where he too paid little attention to the financial statements), and an advisory capacity with George W. Bush, rendering advice on how to deal with Iraq!

More recently, we have the case of Paul Wolfowitz, the notoriously infamous neocon Deputy Secretary of Defence, who was one of the architects of the disasterous invasion of Iraq and its consequences, the greatest military misadventure in the history of the United States. His reward: like McNamara, President of the World Bank. He has since had to resign because he was caught using his influence getting his banker girlfriend a sweetheart job deal. What's next for him? A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Canada is somewhat less forgiving of real or perceived ineptitude. When John Turner failed to inspire the masses as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, he returned to a modest private law practice, and significant corporate directorships eluded him. Equally with ex-Alberta Premier Don Getty, when he left office after a less than stellar performance as Premier. However there is the exceptional case of Premier Ed Stelmach of Alberta. Although it may sound incongruous mentioning his name in such lofty company, by Canadian standards his career should have been torpedoed as a result of his dismal performance as Infrastructure Minister, Transportation Minister and member of the Agenda and Priorities Committee in the Alberta government. Instead, the Tory rank and file rewarded him with the Party Leadership and Premiership. It will take his forthcoming fall in the next provincial election to put Ed in his rightful place of Canadian politicians who screwed up.

And in recent days we have the strange case of Tony Blair. Charming, charismatic, and bright, Blair was in the early part of his career as Prime Minister, highly popular in the country. Although his record at this early point in history appears to be somewhat pedestrian, his policies included a greater reliance on market forces, and more spending on health and education. He admirably played a significant role in the Northern Ireland Peace process.
Blair's downfall was his slavish support of the policies of George W. Bush in respect to the unwinnable Iraq war. In his country, he appeared to be a patsy or handmaiden to the widely disliked President. He embellished existing intelligence on Sadam's WMD capability, the basis of which proved to be false. He indulged in identical Bushite rhetoric in support of Britain and the United States' role in the conflict, all of which further diminished his standing in the eyes of his people, who increasingly opposed the war. In most of the Arab world he became as much of an anathema as his ally Bush. He was ultimately hounded from office by the British people and his party.
Blair's reward: an appointment as Middle East Envoy for the United Nations, approved by the European Union and Russia (one wonders how and why), and, of course, by the United States (which is quite understandable). He botched Iraq. Instead of letting him mercifully pass into history, his pals give him another chance. This time he may botch the rest of the Middle East.


Anonymous said...

Stelmach was picked becuase he was not Dinning or Morton.

Stelmach has neither shown experience nor an agenda, despite being a Klein hack for 13 years and despite being newly selected.

Blair has competence and charisma eventhough he made a poor choice joining Bush the Lesser in Iraq.

Stelmach on the other hand will likely find himself on the board of a big insurance company as a reward for maintaining profligate profit and screwing injured Albertans.

Darryl Raymaker said...

I not that Klein is a recent appointment to the advisory Board of Marsh, which is consistent with your prediction about Ed.

However, if he really goes down the tube, there won't be much for Ed - the Getty and Turner examples are consistent with this.

Anyways, we'll see. because Special Ed is on the way out.

Lily said...

Hey Darryl,
Do you do book reviews? I just read the most thrilling foreign policy book of the summer and I'd love to see what you think of it!


Darryl Raymaker said...

Sure Lily
What's the book?

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