TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

Daniel Drezner is a bit concerned about the White House management style demonstrated with regard to Iraq. He points to a WaPo story that reveals how Bush let Powell and Rumsfeld duke it out for a while before they reached a consensus position on their own.

What bothers me about this story is that the White House — on the most important foreign policy issue of the day, and potentially the biggest campaign issue for 2004 — was essentially a passive actor in this story. The President seemed perfectly comfortable to let Powell and Rumsfeld play bureaucratic politics with each other ad infinitum. Only when Powell and the Joint Chiefs were able to break the logjam did the policy shift — for more on this see this Marshall post as well. <...>

Micro-managing an issue is one way for a President to screw up policy, but too much of a hands-off approach can be just as debilitating. This summer, the White House has veered too much in that direction.

President Bush: hope you had a nice vacation at the ranch. Now get off your butt, take charge, manage the problem, and see your vision of the Mideast transformed.

Maybe this is just letting things on the ground sort themselves out? It takes a while to evaluate the present course of action. Maybe letting DoD and DoS fight until they could reach a consensus makes sense in that context? That doesn’t strike me as inherently flawed.

As to the vacation jibe, I presume Dan is being facetious. Vacationing presidents likely spend only eight hours a day working rather than the normal twelve. I suspect that’s adequate to managing the big picture.

Marshall’s post about the bureaucratic battling between Rumsfeld and the Chiefs is interesting. I don’t have the inside knowledge to have an opinion one way or another, but it sounds plausible. It’s certainly not unprecedented.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Daniel Drezner and “Outside the Belway” have a couple of interesting posts Bush’s foreign policy
    Daniel W. Drezner and MOutside the Beltway have two interesting posts about Bush’s decision to seek help from the U.N. and the politicking that went on behind the scenes. For even more info one might want some background by visiting USS Clueless….