Sunday, August 20, 2006
We're Following the Leader, the Leader, the Leader / We're Following the Leader / Wherever He May Go
In previous posts, I've assumed that much of the Middle East is just like us (even as many Americans seem to assume otherwise) in that, when attacked, they will rally around their leaders (at least to the extent that they prejudge their leaders to be "good people"). But is the world in general like us in that way? To what extent does the rest of the world follow the "rally around the leader in a time of trouble" principle? To what extent even do we? We certainly do not follow it in realms outside of national governance (especially in sport where the sacking of managers and coaches, even if the manager or coach is doing the best with what she's got, when a team is having a loosing streak is commonplace) or even when those prone to following the leader are faced with a leader whom they judge to be the kind of person who likes to do icky things (e.g. Clinton).
In particular, one notable exception to the "rally around the leader" phenomenon is in the ME: Israel. A liberal academic somewhat to the right of me on Israel (as if that's so hard -- although I suspect he's still pretty liberal about such things) was stating that one thing Israel has going for it is it's democracy: they are busy debating the mistakes of the recent war and demanding accountability, which demands will ultimately serve to improve Israel's response to terror and hence make Israel a better and stronger nation. I wondered to him when we would have such a democracy here (which far from undercutting our national security as some claim -- and why do those who claim a competitive marketplace results in better products and services when opposing regulations then claim that a competitive marketplace of ideas would undercut our nation rather than result in a better nation?) would actually make our country stronger) and whether the difference was cultural (although, Americans who might accuse other nations of cowardice for not rallying around their leader and staying the course -- and assume those judged to be cowardly will not rally around their leaders, both the judgment and the prediction being possibly dangerously mistaken when it comes to schemes to attack Arab countries -- certainly cannot accuse Israelis of such cowardice -- unless said Americans really do live in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land ... although some Americans are rallying around the leadership in Israel on behalf of those Israelis who are not doing so). He agreed it might be a cultural difference, but he suggested the difference between Israel and the US wherein Americans rallied around GW Bush for years even as many in Israel have pretty quickly soured on Olmert is primarily geographical (and possibly related to matters of class): in the US soldiers have been trickling home and then spreading across the country so that whatever doubts they have from seeing the war from the front lines are diluted in their homecoming (moreover, the soldiers and the decision makers are from such different classes, whatever doubts the soldiers have will not effect changes in policy for some time). On the other hand, in Israel, there is a mass of returning soldiers, of all socio-economic strata, returning to what is a very geographically small country -- so you have a concentration of people who have questions about the war. And it is that concentration that defeats any attempts to rally people around the leader.