I was having a light conversation with a coworker this afternoon about the ideal form of government for emergent democracies. I’ll bet you have this kind of discussion about as often as I do… not very.
So imagine my surprise when I opened up The New Republic this evening and saw an article about George Tenet. Well alright, I wasn’t surprised at all. He does have a new book out, after all. No, the real surprise is that I read the article at all. I’ve had my fill of George Tenet stories, three or four times over. The point of the article was to discuss the reason he might have sat on the truth about pre-invasion intelligence, leading up to our debacle in Iraq. Here’s an excerpt:
In a parliamentary system, high officials often have an elected seat in the legislature. If they leave the government, they still have a bully pulpit, maintain a public role, and may even try to supplant the leader they once served. In America, the choices are stark: Return to the Podunk from which you came, join a think tank, or find an office on K Street.
No wonder that they linger in their appointed posts, swallow their pride, and behave like good soldiers. Nearly everyone wants to be invited back to play another day.
There’s a tie in to my water cooler conversation at work lurking in there somewhere. I recalled an article (or now that I think about it, it might have been an episode of The West Wing) which suggested the U.S. system of government was not ideal for fragile or new democracies. The suggested problem was the power we placed in our executive branch of government (re: one person). I thought it was pretty timely to bring up that point… and it made for an interesting discussion.
Then WHAM! I get whacked with another point in favor of someone else’s form of government. My conversation and this article didn’t cover the same ground, but they complimented each other, leading me to a few new conclusions.
I don’t mean to sound un-american, our form of government has served us pretty well for 200 plus years. I just think it’s healthy to remember nobody/nothing is perfect, and our current mess is a prime example. It seems the right (or wrong) combination of imperfect person with imperfect system can occasionally produce a perfect storm – especially when a balance of power is upset…
Six odd years ago we essentially gave one man a little too much power, hoping he would save us from the evil that lurked in our world. I think it’s vital that we recognize this as a mistake. We can’t sit on our high horse (which wasn’t that high to begin with folks) and pretend we are immune to the kind of fervor that casts dark shadows in other parts of the world, and in other times.