Skip to comments.Reflections of a Straight Shooter
Posted on 01/19/2005 8:55:50 PM PST by MurryMom
ONE of the reasons so many people admire Richard Armitage, the outgoing Deputy Secretary of State, is his well-earned reputation for fierce honesty. He is George Orwell-like in his ability to face hard facts straight up, and deal with them. Although he always manages to do this with a smile, he'll tell you the things you don't like to hear as well as the things you do.
With his best friend and boss Colin Powell, Armitage, according to Bob Woodward's account of the period leading up to the war in Iraq, was the member of the Bush administration who urged the greatest caution in going in to Iraq, though he certainly wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
In a long discussion with Armitage last week in his 7th floor office at the State Department, I asked him about the first four years of George W. Bush's foreign policy. Even I, accustomed to Armitage's straight shooting, was surprised at the frankness with which he enumerated the disappointments. But first it's worth paying attention to at least one achievement.
It's a long time ago now, but remember at the start of the Bush administration when the Chinese forced down a US EP3 plane and held the crew hostage for several days. That could have been an explosive confrontation in US-China relations. And if the Bush administration bore any relation to its caricature in the popular media, it would have been. Instead, the crisis was managed calmly and intelligently. The crew came home and no lasting damage was done to the Sino-American relationship.
Instead, Armitage says, both Chinese and US officials consider that the relationship is the best it's ever been. Considering how enormously worried everybody was about US-China relations in the early months of Bush, Armitage is right to claim that as a substantial achievement.
And Armitage's disappointments? Not a lugubrious person, Armitage doesn't nominate disappointments spontaneously. But he'll answer a question honestly: "I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."
Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."
Earlier in our discussion Armitage had refused to claim any political dividend out of the generous US response to the Asian tsunami, saying it was a question of responding to a human tragedy and the US would have responded the same wherever the tragedy occurred, and that to talk about it in political terms cheapens the effort.
Still, he acknowledges that the response to the tsunami presents the US in its traditional and authentic guise of offering hope. That is true, he says, both of the Government response "and in terms of private donations, which are quite high here. That's a source of satisfaction because that's the country that I know and that I want to serve, not the one that presents an angry face to the world. I don't look on the world as a dark place to be feared. I look at it as a place that can be warm, that can be embracing, and that can raise the level of all. I think that's our job in the world."
While Australia has never had a better friend than Armitage at his level, he is happy, for the sake of the alliance, that his replacement is Bob Zoellick, who negotiated the free trade agreement with Australia and who knows Australia intimately. He believes the US-Australia relationship has intensified over the past four years: "I think we've come together through two great wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and two great sacrifices, the Australian sacrifice on Bali and our own on 9/11. So there was a lot of force pushing us together."
This greater intimacy was not an accident. Armitage says the Bush administration consciously wanted the relationship to intensify over the past four years. He points out that in the 13 years of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue (an annual private meeting), he has never missed a meeting, in government or out: "The reason is not just to get out and drink beer but you've got to believe in these relationships, believe that they matter. And if they matter you've got to work at them, just like a relationship in a family.
"There are no strangers in a Howard Government, just as there would be no strangers in a Labor government."
Armitage visited Australia first in 1967, on the way home from Vietnam on board the USS Buck. It was only the second US ship to visit Brisbane since World War II. He was disappointed that as athletic officer on the ship he had to play softball and then football during the first two days and the pubs shut at 6pm, so "I only got one good shout out of it".
There was a compensation, though. The first game of softball was against a women's team and Armitage, then unmarried, ended up "dating the second baseman". The second "baseman" has long moved out of Armitage's life. But you get the feeling the spark of romance first kindled in Brisbane has never died out.
Gee, could it be because he didn't accuse President Bush of "war for oil"; nor did he accuse Cheney of creating the war so that he could profit via Haliburton? He didn't even accuse Bush of lying to the people or playing on our fears.
I have yet to see demoncrats criticize Bush's policies "so honestly". It is always on a partisan basis, it is usually of the underhanded Monday-morning quarterbacking variety, and they often center criticisms around issues of their own making, i.e., lack of intellingence agents on the ground....
I'm glad that Armitage is leaving. He's no saint, by any stretch, and in his past has worked against America's interests when they differed with his own personal ones. He also sided with Kerry about leaving MIAs in 'Nam, regardless of actual sightings.
Armitage is one of the main ones at Foggy Bottom that has made it the dysfunctional agency it is. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
When have the democrats ever criticized the Bush administration's policies honestly? I'm not being partisan--even the least volatile of them smears Bush as some lunatic, idiot or Nazi. Armitage simply lays out what anyone can see are open, honest disagreements.
I recall reading that he was Rumsfelds first choice for his deputy.
Oh, look. FR's official Troll with another post and run after leaving her Trollish comment.
Your post was unresponsive to my question. Why should I bother responding in kind to your mindless ad hominem attack?
I'm sorry. We're you talkin' to me?
I'm watching Dubya's Inauguration speech.
The well known MurryMom, resident leftist and Troll here at FR, has just today replied to MeekOneGOP!
Famous for her Post and Run tactics, she has actually returned to reply making this an Historical Day here at FR.
You see folks! Wonders never cease!
(BTW, MurryMoM, If you never post at FR again, you will not be missed.)
(Oh! Yes! Please have a miserable day J )
Maybe you could reply to those here that did.
That "straight shooter" headline is reminscent of Robert Novak's "No partisan gunslinger" comment.