Friday, May 25, 2007

Rudy Giuliani: Unfit For Command

This piece was originally published at Free Market News Network. This version has a slightly different title and includes some minor edits.

Rudy Giuliani's pointed exchange with US Representative Ron Paul at the May 15th Republican presidential debate has been quite the hot topic, and while Giuliani scored some cheap points that night, over time both public and punditry seem to be rightly concluding that Giuliani came out of the exchange looking worse than when he went in.

While it's encouraging that that exchange has contributed to a better understanding (on the part of everyone except, apparently, Giuliani himself) of the implications of US foreign policy, the incident puts the spotlight on a practical, rather than ideological, matter: Giuliani's essential incompetence and obvious unfitness to serve as Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States.

The Paul-Giuliani brouhaha clued us in to Giuliani's fundamental unwisdom on issues of foreign policy, military policy, war and terrorism. As "America's Mayor," he's been allowed -- nay, encouraged -- to conceal his poor mastery of those issues for the last six years under a halo of faux moral clarity. Rudy's halo is now showing its tarnish; while the moral high ground is a great place to pitch one's tent, at some point we also expect those who want to run things to demonstrate that they understand what the hell is going on and why.

The President of the United States is both Commander in Chief of the armed forces and the interface between those armed forces and a Congress awaiting information. The President must understand the threats America faces in order to evaluate the readiness of the armed forces to respond to those threats; to pass that information to Congress with applicable budget recommendations; and to sign or veto the appropriations and other legislation applicable to military readiness which Congress places on his desk. And, finally, as Commander in Chief, he must competently dispose the troops at his command to meet those threats. Having proven his unwillingness or inability to grasp the former, Giuliani has likewise proven his incompetence to act on any of the latter.

While the Paul-Giuliani exchange was informative in this respect, it was by no means the first clue. Giuliani's record of executive incompetence in comparable positions goes back at least 14 years, to his campaign and first days as mayor of New York City.

Giuliani's election as mayor -- like his exit from that office -- took place in the shadow of a terror attack on the World Trade Center. Coming into office less than a year after the 1993 WTC bombing, one of Giuliani's obvious priorities was (or at least should have been) to turn the "lessons learned" from that attack into concrete preparedness measures against future such attacks.

How did Giuliani handle his duties?

He located the city's "crisis management center" in the World Trade Center complex ... the site of the first attack and the likely target of future attacks ... Ground Zero. On 9/11, that command post (in WTC 7) had to be abandoned due to fire. Yes, New York City survived the collapse of its government's primary command and control center ... but how many New Yorkers didn't? How many died because Giuliani's crisis managers were busy relocating during a crisis which deserved and demanded their full attention?

It's unclear whether Giuliani simply failed to follow through on another recommendation, or declined to do so due to patronage contract concerns, or allowed himself to be ignored by his underlings in New York's "first responder" services ... an equivalent relationship, for practical purposes, to the relationship between the Commander in Chief and the armed forces. In any case, the recommendation -- that police, fire and other "first responder" units be equipped with compatible radios and use a common communications channel when responding to large-scale emergencies -- was not implemented. As a direct result of this failure, more than 100 firefighters in the north tower of the World Trade Center did not ... could not ... receive the police department's warning to evacuate that tower before it collapsed.

Adaptive preparedness is obviously not one of Giuliani's strengths, even when things don't have to be figured out from scratch. As mayor of New York, he didn't just fail to anticipate the unknowable -- he failed to respond appropriately to the known, and the cost of that failure was an unknown number of human lives -- the lives of men and women under his command, and the lives of the civilians whom those men and women were dedicated to serving and protecting.

Is there any reason -- apart from his claims of moral superiority to the enemy of the moment -- to believe that Rudy Giuliani would prove more competent as Commander in Chief of the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, US Marine Corps and US Coast Guard than he was as the executive who disposed of the efforts of the NYPD and FDNY?

Another important factor in determining whether or not a candidate is qualified to fulfill the duties of Commander in Chief goes to character rather than to competence. We expect that the Commander in Chief will forge a strong bond of trust and loyalty with the troops he ultimately commands. Even if some of the troops don't find wisdom in the decision to go to war (a decision which, of course, is supposed to be made by Congress), it's important for those troops to believe that the President will keep good faith with them.

Example: For more than 30 years, the US has resolutely sought the return of US military personnel lost in Vietnam. Investigations and expeditions have been mounted to determine whether or not POWs remain alive and in captivity, and to recover the remains of the dead. The American promise to its troops is that "none shall be left behind," and the President of the United States is expected to be the personification of that promise. The troops are assured that if they are wounded in battle, a grateful nation will provide them with the best care available and honor them rather than turn its face from them upon their return. Once again, the President is the face of that promise.

Compare and contrast those promises with Rudy Giuliani's comportment as mayor of New York City after 9/11.

According to Wikipedia, citing the New York Daily News, "[b]y April of 2007 it was reported that Giuliani had been forced to limit his appearances in New York City due to the increasing protests by family members of 9/11 victims, particularly police, fire and other emergency workers."

Why? Some of the reasons are listed above: Giuliani's "troops" learned on 9/11 that their leader had failed them. The aftermath was no prettier.

Once the recovery of valuable property from Ground Zero was complete, Giuliani issued orders to put a rush on remaining cleanup operations, leaving the bodies of many -- including New York City emergency workers -- unrecovered.

While America's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines accept that their bodies may never be found if they are killed in the line of duty, they believe ... and they need to believe ... that no effort will be spared when it comes to finding them, dead or alive. They assure their families ... and they need to be able to do so ... that whether they return with their shields or on those shields, they will return and that their commanders will see to that.

Rudy Giuliani robbed his "troops" of that kind of assurance. He robbed the families of the fallen of a closure which it was his duty, as the executive, to guarantee. He broke that faith as mayor. Would he keep it as Commander in Chief?

Giuliani's post-9/11 haste also precluded enforcing, authorizing and funding appropriate health and safety measures in the toxin-laced atmosphere of the atmosphere around Ground Zero. Declaring the air in the area "safe" in blatant contradiction to the known facts, he placed the health and lives of his troops (the Ground Zero cleanup crews) at unnecessary risk ... and left his successors to deal with the (literal and figurative) fallout.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Giuliani showed one face -- the face of the superior moralizer who commands support -- to the American public. He showed quite another -- the face of the corrupt power-seeker with no compunctions against sacrificing the lives, welfare and honor of his "troops" to his personal political interests -- to those whom he presumed to "lead."

It is seldom possible to establish a prospective Commander in Chief's good character and high level of competence beyond reasonable doubt; but to accept the application of a candidate whose record reflects equal measures of bad faith and gross incompetence, would be sheer insanity. Rudy Giuliani is unfit for command.

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