Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bill Clinton and the burdens of leadership

The higher up the food chain you go, the more people who will second guess every move you make. Everyone will Monday morning quarterback every decision you make. Unlike the leader, the ankle biters (you know, like bloggers) will have the benefit of hindsight.

A leader holds the lives of others in his direct and indirect control. The second and third order effects of every decision he makes, right or wrong, will effect hundreds to millions of lives and can steer the course of history.

In the end of the day, that burden in on one head; the leader.

I thought this little aspect of leadership was rolled up quite well in Alliser Thorne's speech on the Wall in Game of Thrones:

In that light, everyone should hold themselves when acknowledging something that I cannot believe is only now coming to light, but here is it. 

Allah puts it well;
A time capsule from Australia via MSNBC, captured for posterity at what would have been around 11 p.m. New York time. The hijackers may have been ritually shaving themselves as he said it. Previewing the audio, the host says Clinton “almost brags” about his decision. Of course he does; at the time, it would have been a no-brainer for a politician to congratulate himself for sparing a terrorist in the name of also sparing dozens (or, if you believe Clinton, hundreds) of civilians, even if that terrorist was responsible for the U.S.S. Cole attack. Twenty-four hours later, I guarantee you he wasn’t bragging anymore. In fact, you can draw a straight line from this audio to America’s drone policy today. These 20 seconds or so are precisely why Obama ended up pulling the trigger on Anwar al-Awlaki and why he continues to pull the trigger on Al Qaeda’s bigger fish even if it means incinerating civilians in Waziristan or Yemen in the process. He’s never going to let a statement like this come back to haunt him. Post-9/11, when you’ve got a big fish on the hook, you reel him in come what may. A presidency can survive anger from doves and civil libertarians that the White House was overly aggressive in targeting jihadis. It can’t survive having skyscrapers knocked over by someone who, you’re sheepishly forced to admit, you had a clear shot at killing years before. By the same token, if the FBI had announced on the morning of 9/11 that they’d busted a spectacular Al Qaeda plot to fly planes into the Twin Towers, plenty of people would have chortled that that’s the most ludicrous, Michael Bay-ish nonsense yet cooked up by a government eager to find pretexts to roll back civil liberties. There’s a reason why the term “September 10th mentality” exists, and Bill Clinton’s not the only one who was guilty of it.
Listen to the video here. Go to the 5:30 mark for the audio in question.

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