The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Take Responsibility, Politicians

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 9, 2009 @ 09:56

I wonder whether Dubya will be mocked for many generations to come...

Something I’ve moaned about before, and again yesterday, is the likelihood of politicians these days farming decisions out to an external body so they don’t have to take the flak when something goes wrong.

There are many examples in modern political debate, from quangos in regional development agencies, to NICE – which now effectively decides which drugs should be available on the NHS. All decisions which, in the past, were made by democratically accountable ministers, or even councillors.

And the Tories will be no different. Witness George Osborne’s creation of an Office for Budget Responsibility to “hold a Conservative government to account”.  What’s the betting these independent people will give him cover for his budget agenda?

There are two sides to this tale, however. First is that some of these bodies are useful. NICE, for instance, focus on the evidence. Which, in an area of science, is very useful indeed. But the very fact that their final decisions have no political involvement at all can be argued both ways. On the one hand, it is good that delicate issues are dealt with on their own merits, rather than seen through a prism of politicking. But on the other, it almost negates the point of democracy if our elected representatives have their hands tied from day one.

It’s a debate that will run and run because of its complexity. My instinct is to say that the more decisions politicians make, the better our quality of democracy will be. And then I end up arguing against myself, because the natural consequence of that is populist decision-making in search of good headlines. See the farce over the classification of cannabis.

But really my worry on this topic today is one that emerges from the wars we have become embroiled in. As the years go by, it is becoming increasingly apparent that politicians, having got us into this mess, are looking for someone else to carry the can.

Step forward General McChrystal.

Politicians are wimps at the best of times, but when the issue of war comes along now, the first instinct is to ask the generals for their advice. And for that, read buck-passing.

Once it became obvious that Obama’s main man in Afghanistan was recommending lots more troops, it was a sure fire winner that that was what Obama was going to do. Why swim against the flow?

What worries me is when did we start having our strategy decided by the people on the ground? Military generals should be implementing the policy decided by our accountable politicians. Not the other way around. If this plan all goes belly-up, are we supposed to sack McChrystal? You bet Obama would, but it wouldn’t matter, since Obama would get the blame, even though all he did was follow the recommendations of the guy we all previously thought was an expert.

This is why people tire of politics and politicians. There is no leadership any more. There is no bravery. It is all an exercise in trying to make it look like your ideas are backed by an independent authority, and just say you’re merely following orders.

And now we have McChrystal telling us that what we really need to do is take down bin Laden.

Well, thanks.

It’s time for military figures to disappear into the background once more. No more interviews. No more briefings. No more rent-a-quotes.

Let’s make the politicians more responsible for the mess they’ve got us into.

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