Unsteady Leaders in Uncertain Times; Losses of Composure Reflect Inner Doubts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

Unsteady Leaders in Uncertain Times; Losses of Composure Reflect Inner Doubts


Byline: Tony Blankley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When those planes knocked down the World Trade Center Towers, they created world-political reverberations of which we are only beginning to take the measure. Inevitably, the United States was going to act. And, given our military, economic, diplomatic and cultural strength, inevitably, the rest of the world could not help but to react to our action. Now, 17 months on, we are still at the early stages of that action/reaction process.

But it is not too early to judge that the September 11th event has created an historic discontinuity in the international order that may well turn out to be of the magnitude of the French and Russian Revolutions or the First and Second World Wars. The long-term strategies and relationships of the world's greatest nations, which only recently seemed timeless, suddenly have become dysfunctional. Smaller countries are scrambling to avoid danger, or grabbing at quick opportunities.

It is not surprising that even the senior statesmen of the major nations are performing unevenly - even unsteadily. In the last few weeks, for example, German Foreign Minister Fischer lost his temper in a public meeting with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. In the U.N. Security Council a week and a half ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell became overheated in his extemporaneous comments. French President Chirac lost all control last week in an EU meeting, striking out wildly at closely allied nations (and experienced commentators got swept up in their comments on such events). These are all vastly experienced, world-class statesmen who, however they may act in private, are too professional to let down the mask in public. And yet they did. Apparently, they couldn't help themselves. They appeared to be unnerved by the fast-shifting events and newly unfamiliar national relationships in which they found themselves. I don't mean to denigrate their behavior. Even Winston Churchill admitted in December 1940 , when he was speaking to his old school, Harrow, that during the height of the Battle of Britain that past summer, he woke up in dread of his day's responsibilities.

The fact is that these waters are uncharted - and are likely to remain uncharted for several years to come in this journey in which the world finds itself. It is an oddity of history that in such moments as these - when world history is shifting under our feet - that even the most experienced statesmen are, effectively - inexperienced. Consider Dwight Eisenhower in 1942. He had been a peacetime army colonel in Washington who had never seen combat, a speechwriter for Gen. …

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