The “great bureaucrat” theory of history

Richard Clarke, aptly described by John as “a bitter, discredited bureaucrat who was an integral part of the Clinton administration’s failed approach to terrorism,” wrote a piece for yesterday’s Washington Post called “While You Were at War.” Clarke’s thesis is that the war in Iraq has diverted the administration’s attention from other foreign policy matters, thus leading to deterioration on a number of fronts — Russia, Latin America, and Africa, to name a few.
Only a partisan hack and/or a fool would attribute, say, Putin’s power grab or the rise of Hugo Chavez to alleged insufficient attention from the administration’s “national security barons” (Clarke’s fatuous but revealing phrase). Nations have their own distinct interests and psyches. Our power to persuade them to act contrary to these forces is practically nil, and our power to coerce them is nearly always quite limited.
As an ex-bureaucrat, Clarke seems to attribute super-powers to the foreign policy bureaucracy, if only it can be freed from its war-time responsibilities. Perhaps he has forgotten that while he served President Clinton, mass genocide occurred in Rwanda, North Korea agreed not to develop nukes but kept on developing them, Iran also made major progress in its quest for nukes, and Afghanistan became a haven for al Qaeda, which in turn developed into a force capable of attacking our homeland. And the Clinton administration didn’t even have the excuse that it was at war.
UPDATE: I should also have commented on the title of the article “While You Were at War.” (emphasis added) The nation is at war (we), not the administration (“you”). I don’t know whether the title is Clarke’s or some editor’s, but it’s rather unfortunate.
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