Mark Around the World — September 17, 2012
By Mark Jurkevich
Desmond Tutu recently withdrew from a major leadership conference to protest the presence of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who was scheduled as a key note speaker. The retired Archbishop explained his protest in a Sept. 2 Op-Ed piece published in The Guardian, a leading UK newspaper. It’s worth reading.
Tutu writes “On what grounds do we decide . . . Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr. Bush’s chief supporter, Mr. Blair confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?” He also declares “The immorality of the United States and Great Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.”
The ever-eloquent Nobel laureate conveyed the lesson that “Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality.” Tutu’s thesis is diametrically opposed to that of American neocons. They believe leadership is all about having and using a dominating military force and being the most feared. Neocons often argue that being liked is irrelevant at best, and in reality breeds weakness and disrespect. The neocons started gaining traction in the 1970s under the leadership of Irving Kristol, gained a foothold in the formulation of President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy, and have dominated America’s foreign policy since 2000.
Unilateralism in foreign policy is a fundamental neocon principle. It’s based on the premise that American politicians know what’s best for the world, by virtue of the fact that its military is unchallenged. Therefore, the U.S. shall be the world’s policeman, judge and prison warden.
As symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, America historically led first and foremost because it was the undisputed moral leader of the world. Its reputation was that of a reluctant giant who was begged and prodded to intervene in far-away conflicts such as the two World Wars. In the last 20 years, the neocons have changed all that.
Clearly the neocon foreign policy experiment of the last 20 years has been a tragic failure for the U.S. in terms of national treasure and its ability to lead the world. Its moral authority is shredded. The Statue of Liberty has been replaced by the symbolism of Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the barbaric lynching of Saddam Hussein, etc. The world just does not want to be lead by neocon America.
It’s a basic truth that if the followers do not want to follow the leader, the leader will fail.
A note about Desmond Tutu: Along with Nelson Mandela, former Archbishop Tutu was a key architect of the non-violent dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. They orchestrated that unique event in human history based on their Christian moral values of turning-the-other-cheek and forgiveness. Once victorious, Tutu and Mandela stood their ground when some key followers wanted to exact revenge against their defeated former white oppressors. It was Tutu who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when other powerful voices demanded trials and executions similar to the ones the U.S. later orchestrated against the defeated members of Saddam Hussein’s government. Today, South Africa is a nuclear power and a powerhouse member of the advanced-emerging BRICS countries. And, Mandela and Tutu are revered by all South Africans – the victorious blacks and the defeated whites.
Tutu is a Noble Peace Prize Laureate and 2009 Recipient of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. The entire list of his awards and recognitions are too long to list in this essay. Please read his wise Op-Ed thoroughly (linked above) and discuss it with your peers. Debate it. Wrestle with it.