Monday, August 14, 2006

Leaders and Diplomats

This morning Instapundit led me to this article by Michael Gerson, and this reply by Bill Quick. Both are commentaries on President Bush's foreign policy.

Both articles made me think about the seventeenth chapter of the Tao Te Ching. I'll post my translation and commentary here, ahead of schedule:
Optimally, people do not even know they are under authority.
Next best is to love and praise the rulers.
Next best is to fear them.
Worst is to despise them.
If those in authority do not trust the people to act correctly, then the people will not believe that those in authority are acting correctly.
Thus wise rulers think more than they speak, and value their words. And the work went smoothly, was completed, and the people all thought: "We have done it ourselves!"

When in a position of authority, when possible act as Adonai does.
He rules all, but may be ignored.
He is worthy of love and praise,
but willing to let people take credit for his work.

He gives people too much freedom,
knowing the only other option is being a tyrant.

Make few rules, and let people decide how to do the work you want done.
Allow me to paraphrase one point: A leader cannot be a diplomat, and vice versa.

A good leader, especially in a democracy, is open and honest with the people about his or her goals and plans, strengths and weaknesses, resources and needs. A diplomat is often successful precisely for hiding this information.

A lot of what both of the above articles are saying is that President Bush has been trying to be both a leader and a diplomat, and thus he is doing neither with integrity.

By keeping too much information secret he has made it impossible for the American people to know or trust his plans. By revealing too much he has shown neutral and enemy nations why he has not lived up to his bold proclamations from his State of the Union addresses. Thus his middle-ground approach has made his allies more confused and his enemies more confident.

How did past presidents handle this tension between leadership and diplomacy?

UPDATE: Okay, I agree that our president is not the only one confusing his allies and making his enemies more confident.