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August 5, 2007

Is There Good Judment in Politics?

Good judgment in politics, it turns out, depends on being a critical judge of yourself. It was not merely that the president did not take the care to understand Iraq. He also did not take the care to understand himself. The sense of reality that might have saved him from catastrophe would have taken the form of some warning bell sounding inside, alerting him that he did not know what he was doing. But then, it is doubtful that warning bells had ever sounded in him before. He had led a charmed life, and in charmed lives warning bells do not sound.

People with good judgment listen to warning bells within. Prudent leaders force themselves to listen equally to advocates and opponents of the course of action they are thinking of pursuing. They do not suppose that their own good intentions will guarantee good results. They do not suppose they know all they need to know. If power corrupts, it corrupts this sixth sense of personal limitation on which prudence relies.

A prudent leader will save democracies from the worst, but prudent leaders will not inspire a democracy to give its best. Democratic peoples should always be looking for something more than prudence in a leader: daring, vision and — what goes with both — a willingness to risk failure. Daring leaders can be trusted as long as they give some inkling of knowing what it is to fail. They must be men of sorrow acquainted with grief, as the prophet Isaiah says, men and women who have not led charmed lives, who understand us as we really are, who have never given up hope and who know they are in politics to make their country better. These are the leaders whose judgment, even if sometimes wrong, will still prove worthy of trust.
—Michael Ignatieff

Source: Getting Iraq Wrong [requires paid subscription] by Michael Ignatieff published August 5, 2007 in the New York Times Magazine.

Posted by niganit at August 5, 2007 10:11 AM
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