To bring this to literary relevance, this same
attitude was displayed in Kevin Costner's recent movie
on the Cuban missile crisis which I believe was called
In one scene, McGeorge Bundy has been assigned by the
White House to supervise the operation of the
operations room at the Pentagon. An admiral, in change
of the blockade, was ordering a naval vessel to fire
flares over a Soviet merchant ship to encourage it to
stop. Bundy hearing this immediately ordered that his
not be done and started to seriously upbraid the
admiral in front of the entire room. Costner had Bundy
tell the admiral that the blockade was not a blockade
but a form of diplomatic bargaining. Kennedy was
talking to Kruschev in an entirely new way according
to Bundy. Costner had the admiral remain silent and
perhaps he did as well in real life. However the
admiral was undoubtedly thinking that he understood
the idea of military actions as diplomatic statements
and that he did not need lectures from Harvard
intellectuals to inform him of this.
It is very common now in political discussions to
entirely discount an opponent’s position. A political
figure may be doing something that one disagrees with.
However they cannot be doing this as a result of an
informed analysis. They are doing this because they
are stupid, immature, ignorant, arrogant etc.
Costner’s ludicrous depiction of an omniscient Bundy
revealing the truth to a stupid admiral is only one
cinematic example of this.
Indeed if the truth be known, the real Bundy was one
of the prime architects of the American Viet Nam
policy which utterly failed. It was Bundy’s idea that
the US could communicate with the North Vietnamese by
a policy of gradually increasing pressure. Bundy’s
view was that the US could by this means tell the
North Vietnamese that they could not possibly hope to
prevail in the war. One, with the wisdom of hindsight,
can now wonder who was stupid, immature, ignorant and
arrogant. Was it the professional military, who as
ordered strove for victory? Or was it a collection of
Ivy League intellectuals, of unquestioned brilliance,
who created and applied theories that were entirely
out of their realm of expertise? What exactly were
they telling the North Vietnamese?
Now a days the same sorts of intellectuals are still
convinced that because of their academic records that
they have a special insight into the way the world
works that is denied to the ordinary. According the
David Halberstam’s book ‘The Best and the Brightest’,
one of Bundy’s undergraduate papers was published in a
major foreign policy journal. Bundy was academically
brilliant. According to Costner, Bundy felt free to
berate a senior military officer about the obvious
intent of the Cuban blockade (of course this might
reflect more on Costner than Bundy). However Bundy was
the chief architect and ideologue of a Viet Nam policy
that was not only ill-conceived in theory but an
abject and tragic failure in practice.
We can all learn from Forrest Gump’s observation that
‘Stupid is as stupid does.’ in that we can learn to
respect the people we disagree with.
--- "Bob S." <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The following is written by a psychiatrist comparing
> the administration with
> immature teenagers. His analysis and definition of
> immature behavior will
> be of interest to some list members.
> Bob Summers
> Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune |
> An administration that thinks and acts as a child
> John A. McKinnon IHT
> Wednesday, September 17, 2003
> Analyze this
> MARION, Montana Troubled teenagers fail at the tasks
> of a modern adolescence
> because they try to solve sophisticated problems
> with an unsophisticated
> approach whose elements routinely include a childish
> sense of time, lack of
> empathy, florid narcissism, selfish ethics and
> concrete logic.
> They are usually not stupid, nor ill - not the kids
> I'm talking about. But
> they fail across the board - at school, at home and
> among their peers -
> because their approach is childish.
> I point this out because I want to talk about
> adults, and specifically about
> the Bush administration and its "approach."
> Temporarily (under stress) or chronically (for those
> who never grew up),
> adults can think like immature teen-agers. To
> persuade you, I'll describe
> this flawed approach:
> Present and Future: Immature teen-agers think the
> future a destination to be
> reached by magical thinking. They want to "be"
> astronauts, but see no reason
> to do tonight's algebra assignment.
> Present and Past: Immature teen-agers think the past
> a fairy tale not
> usefully connected to the present. You can't teach
> them history.
> Lack of Empathy: Immature teen-agers treat "friends"
> with consideration, but
> only if they dress the same way and can be imagined
> to think and feel "just
> like me."
> Narcissism: Immature teen-agers are selfish,
> self-preoccupied, self-oriented
> and self-important. If they want it, they think
> they're entitled to have it.
> And so they don't need to ask, and if they ask they
> don't think the answer
> has any business being no, and if it's no they are
> entitled to badger,
> bully, blackmail, bribe or or attack to compel
> compliance. For there is only
> one person in the relationship - "me."
> Selfish Ethics: Troubled teen-agers often think they
> ought to be allowed to
> do as they like and take what they like, and that
> it's all right to do so if
> they can get away with it. In pursuit of
> self-interest, they are shameless.
> Concrete Logic: Immature teen-agers are so impressed
> that they no longer
> believe in the Tooth Fairy that they congratulate
> themselves for "realism"
> when they ignore (because they don't yet understand)
> mature ethical
> abstractions such as honor, tolerance, integrity,
> the environment, or the
> good of our community. Mistaking metaphor for
> literal fact, they have little
> sense of humor, but insist upon concrete
> interpretation of rules and other
> texts, even when such concreteness betrays the
> spirit of those rules.
> I have no wish to be rude, and I recognize that
> neither political party has
> a monopoly on childishness. But I can't help seeing
> in this description a
> synopsis of the Bush administration's approach.
> Whether the administration is talking about medical
> care or tax cuts,
> homeland security or social welfare, energy or the
> environment, democracy
> (in Florida, California, Iraq or the West Bank) or
> the separation of church
> and state, or the liberty of citizens and the rights
> of prisoners under the
> Constitution, the approach has been arrogant,
> self-important, unempathic,
> careless of the future and ethically primitive.
> In this election season, the maturity of our
> approach to national and
> international affairs ought to take priority over
> party, class, race,
> region, creed or personality. Inasmuch as the
> maturity of our leadership is
> an American issue, it should unite us.
> We might even agree that we need an approach that
> includes clear, plausible
> goals embedded in coherent, fully debated plans
> before actions are taken
> that affect our children's lives, our resources and
> our honor; a firm grasp
> of history's haunting of the present, its
> constraints upon future options;
> true empathy, not patronizing sentimentality, for
> those not like us; respect
> for others and other nations; a social ethic that
> soars above greedy
> immediate self-interest; a quiet respect for
> integrity, separateness,
> privacy and liberty, and a sense of humor, irony and
> Why does this matter so much?
> First, because a childish approach fails. It doesn't
> even work for high
> school sophomores. There is no reason to think it
> will work for our nation.
> Second, because even in high school others despise
> strutting narcissism,
> personal obtuseness, bullying relationships and
> selfish ethics. Faced with
> arrogance and selfishness, others refuse to help us,
> passively resist,
> applaud our humiliation and disdain all those
> associated with that
> As we come up to elections for legislative seats and
> for the office of
> president, let's put aside partisanship so as to
> rise above party labels and
> disgraceful sound bites. Let's see if, together, we
> can elect and re-elect
> those who think and behave like adults.
> The writer, a psychiatrist, is co-founder and
> chairman of Montana Academy, a
> residential school for troubled adolescents in
> Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune
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