Friday, October 06, 2006

Bill Clinton and fighting terror Bill Clinton and fighting terror

Bill Clinton went on Fox a week ago to fight the perception that he had done nothing about fighting terror or catching OBL while in office. He made a big thing about the fact that they had a plan and the Bush Administration had not in their first eight months in office before 9/11.

But Mr. Clinton misses the point that it wasn't his intentions that were questioned, but rather what he accomplished. And in the end, his administration fostered an environment where Moslem terrorism was helped and encouraged, and not fought. Of course, one of the biggest achievement of his administration was the imposition of the Goerlich "wall" built by the DoJ, and Jamie Goerlich in particular (yes, the same one on the 9/11 Commission) between the criminal side of the FBI and everyone else. And, of course, we also shouldn't forget all those lost opportunities to kill or capture OBL.

Clinton counters with his plan. He and Richard Clarke had a plan. And it was in writing. And it looked very persuasive in writing.

But that isn't management, and that isn't governing. That is only the first step, and Clinton never took the second step of really implementing much of anything while in office. Mostly, he just didn't know how. I remember at the time marveling that he thought that he could just make plans and give orders, and they would somehow magically be carried out.

But of course, the government doesn't operate that way. Maybe at one time, 200 years ago it did. But now it has millions of entrenched bureacrats who cumulatively have far more experience doing whatever they want to do than Clinton ever had getting them to do what he wanted them to do.

Clinton may have given orders to the military, CIA, etc. for them to capture or kill OBL. But it never got very far down in the hierarchy. They would then report back on all the reasons that they were unable to do what he wanted done. And then he would be stymied. They were risk adverse, and had staffs who could think up excuses for not doing something far faster than Clinton and his aides could overcome them. So, no one went out on a limb and made the decision to take out the target when presented. Rather, they dithered, and missed the opportunity, and that was part of why they dithered - it was the low risk strategy.

Contrast this with how Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld runs the DoD now. He gives orders, and expects them to be carried out. He doesn't want excuses for failure to do so, but rather in that case, reasons not to fire those in charge of failing to do so. But he also tracks these things closely, and expects to be made aware early of anything that might interfere. It is a bigger sin with him to fail to keep him appraised when things interfere, than to actually try and fail, while keeping him in the loop.

The other part of Clinton's mismanagement was in his appointments. With a few exceptions (notably Treasury), most of those he picked for high office were picked for political reasons. He populated his cabinet by the numbers. For example, the AG was going to be a woman. Period. Never mind that he picked an incompetent prosecutor from Florida with little experience running a large department.

Just as bad as the incompetent politicos he put in his cabinet, the next rung down was populated by liberal activists like Jamie Goerlich. That case was symbolic of Clinton's problems. A very effective liberal activist is put (most likely by Hillary) below the weak department head appointed for political reasons, and she and the other liberal activists run that and the other departments. Clinton might give his cabinet orders, but they were incapable of carrying them out, being totally outclassed by the layer of management right below them who had their own agendae. And the career bureaucrats under them had their own agendae too, which were often even more at odds with the directions from the top.

So, I say to Bill Clinton and his plans to combat terrorism: BFD. That and a couple of dollars will buy you coffee at Starbucks. He fails to this day to realize that the "plan" is only one step in the process. Just as importantly is installing competent managers below him and holding them accountable for failing to follow his orders. He did neither.

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