Flip-flopping or honesty/humility
It is so good to hear George W. Bush and Tony Blair owning up to some of the shortcomings of policy and execution in the Iraq war.
The other day one of my students wore a T-shirt with the Heinz trademark on the front and something about John Kerry flip-flopping. We struck up a bit of a conversation in the last minute of class about the need for politicians to be able to change their position when the information available changes (such as WMDs not being found, etc.).
It takes a lot of courage and humility to be able to own up to mistakes in life. Whether it is in politics or any other profession, or in personal matters self-justification and pride are much easier options than honest acknowledgement of shortcomings and bad judgments.
I for one, am thankful that the president has come to this point. I would never think of accusing Bush of flip-flopping. I believe we need to allow for the possibility that as time goes by and as we think critically about what is happening in the world as a result of decisions that were made…we may come to the conclusion that some decisions did not produce the results hoped for. Leadership and commitment to certain values does not mean that we are beyond making errors in judgment. To be human is to be fallible. It is a sign of moral strength and character, not weakness, to acknowledge this.
This is not about flip-flopping, but about choosing HONESTY over DENIAL…HUMILITY over PRIDE. It is too bad that we see so little of these qualities in the political arena, where self-preservation and political capital lead to pragmatism and spin. Congressman Murtha (his plan for withdrawing troops) has been one shining example of speaking Truth to power regarding Iraq no matter what the political fall-out. He is one who did not allow his hawkish ideology to subvert an honest reading of what has happened as a result of the American policy in Iraq.
If the United States is going to regain the respect of the nations, it will be for the ability to express words and actions that come from character and decency—including the ability to say that we have made mistakes. It is not enough to just continue to blindly insist that we are right—and to plow ahead with our agenda through violent means. The moderated tone of Bush and Blair are just a small step in the direction of recapturing this respect and standing in the world.