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Self governance

Who gets to govern the group?

For the past few days along the Gulf Coast, citizens have observed major fault lines in self-governance at the various levels of responsibility – local, state and federal. It is such a lesson on how democracy functions, or not, in the midst of catastrophe. Many of us do not feel safer as a result. Senator Kennedy has some wise thoughts on how our leaders should proceed, with thanks to Steve Clemons at TWN.
As I step back a bit, I have been observing the leadership styles of various group leaders in the news these past few weeks. Their decisions have had profound impact on the day to day lives of countless numbers of ordinary people around the world. Regarding their leadership, I have noticed that:

  • At Camp Casey, Cindy Sheehan led through her words, her behavior and her credibility. And I believe she showed leadership in stepping out of the spotlight when she did. Only time will tell what will happen to the current peace movement.
  • In the BRAC commission-Pentagon military reorganization planning process, Chairman Princippi and his fellow commission members and staff had the very formidable challenge of going head to head with “The Secretary” (Donald Rumsfeld). The commission has been leading through trying to use the practices of objectivity and fairness, fact verification, questioning DOD logic, members’ personal experience or knowledge, and their independent authority as Presidential appointees. They stumbled a bit the last day by not communicating their actions with clarity. But overall they did well, in my opinion.
  • With Iraq’s newly elected government, leaders did not do too well because of many factors. The leaders attempting to govern who are either former expatriates or inexperienced locals (except for the Kurds). They have decades of painful history under Saddam, after starting as a country cobbled together from disparate ethnic and religious groups. With countless old and new scores to settle and the mixed blessing of the very large U.S. occupation, people fighting to be the nation’s leaders exercise power counterproductively. They employ the dominance of sheer majority of numbers, the dominance of the raw power of violence, and what may become an Iranian style of dominance by Righteous Religious Authorities. It is not turning out as the U.S. Neocons have planned.
  • Within the Intelligence Community, the fallout from the terrorist attack of 9/11/01, prompted a major governmental reorganization. Now we see the negative result on domestic security of putting FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security. Too few leaders acted at first after the hurricane; the system quickly became overwhelmed. Then it seems that the extra layers of bureaucracy resulting from the reorganization (too many ineffective leaders) added to the chaos. Terrorists are not the only threat to the homeland. Now we know that our own leadership system became a threat. Read Reed Hundt @ TPM Cafe. He put his finger on the dynamic of the current administration.
  • The United Nations reports that inequality is growing. Much of the most recent discussion following the hurricane occurred as a result of the unheard pleas for help from New Orleans’ poorest and most vulnerable citizens (many of whom happened to be Black.) Even though it might be a cliche, a nation is judged by how its leaders govern and how they care for our most vulnerable people.

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