bureaucracybusters

FEAR–AND ITS POLITICAL LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009. During the last four years, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012. And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney. “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the administration altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney. “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, his primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere. But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together…. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil. “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for Auschwitz.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliations of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

Of the ultimate legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote in his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush:

“…arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed, above all, in the brutal use of force–whether applied by prison torturers or legions of soldiers unrestrained by the Geneva Convention.

Once, when told that a certain policy he wanted to pursue would be heavily criticized by the Pope, he famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

Stalin died in 1953. Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

When the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message: He would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

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