North Potomac, MD (August 25, 2010) – We found no WMD in Iraq, and I’m not surprised. We were searching in the wrong place, and we were looking for the wrong WMD.
Weapons of Mass Destruction can, as the name suggests, cause mass destruction, but the WMD we need to find and root out is far more subtle, has the potential for devastating long-term impact, and is far more pervasive. I refer to the Washington Myopic Disorder (WMD) that seems to infect people who reside for longer than a few weeks in an area bordered by Woodbridge and Hay Market, Virginia on the south and southwest, and Bowie and Germantown, Maryland on the north and northwest.
This disease is difficult to spot; most people who are infected are blissfully unaware of their condition, and it is a bear to treat. If, however, you know what to look for, you can see it. WMD is a condition that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp that the world outside the Washington Beltway, and that outside the borders of the USA, operates on a rational basis, and that it is perhaps Washington that is irrational and illogical; and sometimes, just plain wrong. People with WMD have the most amazing ability to fail to see anything that contradicts their view of the world; one might be tempted to call them psychotic or delusional.
Following are some WMD episodes that I have encountered over the past several years. The issue of democracy and elections is one that people in foreign affairs have to deal with globally. It is an unfortunate fact that very little of the world operates like the 50 US states and associated territories. In fact, a lot of the world doesn’t want to operate like us. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to promote human rights and rule of law, but we need to acknowledge that sometimes we goof up – remember the 2000 elections and the ‘hanging chads?’ We also need to accept that sometimes the way other people do it is logical and practical and, after all, it’s their lives, so they should be allowed to make decisions for themselves.
I was once told by a senior official, whose identity I will not disclose to avoid embarrassing him, that the country to which I was being posted had already had three elections in its history, so it should be perfectly capable of conducting an error-free election. Pointing out that after over 200 years we in the U.S. were still struggling with how to run flawless elections brought only a blank stare.
In another instance, I was importuned by a politician to relent on my refusal to issue a visa to an individual who was clearly ineligible under the law. “Can’t you make an exception in this one instance,” the legislator asked. My response was polite, but firm, “We push this country to operate by rule of law and not fiat or favor,” I said. “What kind of signal would an act like this send?” Again, I get the blank stare.
Funny how people with WMD all react in a similar way when confronted with the contradictions of their view. The blank stare must be a physical reaction of the disease. The biggest problem with Washington Myopic Disorder as compared with Weapons of Mass Destruction is, when you find the second you can destroy them and make them harmless. Science has yet to find a cure for the first.
Walt Kelley’s Pogo had it right when he said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”