Wolfowitz Throws Tantrum At France

Wolfowitz throws Tantrum at France, Germany, Russia and Canada:

The Failure of Emotional Intelligence

It transpires that the Pentagon order denying Iraq reconstruction contracts to France, Germany, Russia and Canada was issued by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. It created enormous anger in the US allies of NATO. They feel that they have been putting themselves out there for the US, and are now being screwed over. Germany has been spending extra money and military resources on guarding the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa from al-Qaeda incursions. Germany, France and Canada all have troops in Afghanistan risking their lives for the US (al-Qaeda has not blown up any tall buildings in Toronto). Even outside NATO, Russia acquiesced in letting the US move into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, traditional Russian/Soviet spheres of influence, for its war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Wolfowitz’s timing could not be worse. He issued the order just as Bush envoy James Baker was about to make the rounds of Iraq’s creditors, asking for extensive debt forgiveness. Iraq owes $9 bn. to Russia, for instance, and in international law the debt must be repaid by Iraq regardless of regime changes. And, Russia’s foreign minister promptly announced that the US could kiss the prospect of any debt forgiveness goodbye.

Since Iraq owes on the order of $40 bn. to Russia, France and other European countries, and since the reconstruction budget so far is under $20 bn., it is obvious that vastly more was to be gained by letting the NATO countries and Europe have a few contracts and then getting them to forgive or refinance the loans.

Instead, Wolfowitz was intent on scoring petty points. He had promised to “punish” France for defying him. The move was so gratuitous and immature that one can only guess something else lay behind it. There are lots of reasons for which the Likudniks would like to make bad blood between the US and France and Russia in particular. France is no longer a knee-jerk supporter of Israeli militarism and expansionism. In part this is because of the growth of the Muslim electorate in France. About 7% of French residents are Muslim, nearly 5 million persons, whereas French Jews amount to only 600,000 or perhaps a bit more. France has been alarmed at Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s combination Iron Fist and Land Rustling, since it makes French Muslims upset. Likewise, Russia has a more balanced view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. So, it may be that the powerful Likudniks inside the US government are deliberately engineering a diplomatic rift in NATO, so as to ensure that Paris and Moscow cannot position themselves to influence Washington’s position (usually supine) toward Sharon’s excesses.

I have concluded that the Bush team lacks Emotional Intelligence as defined by psychologists such as Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence consists of the following:

Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.

Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.

Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

Empathy: Sensitivity to others’ feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.”

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are completely blind to those things that give rise to their anxieties, and are not good at handling their anger. They want to lash out and bomb people as the response to every challenge. After September 11 Wolfowitz first wanted to attack Iraq, and then when he was informed he couldn’t do that (yet) he wanted to bomb Kabul. But Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and the cosmopolitan city of Kabul is mainly populated by Persian-speaking Tajiks who hated the guts of the Taliban.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are not good at emotional self control or stifling impulses. They shout and pound desks and poke people in the chest, and then they invade countries. They have already invaded two, and have a list of at least 5 more they would like to go after. They have no patience with the diplomacy that can often yield better results, but which requires a willingness to wait.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have no sensitivity to others’ feelings or ability to see things from the perspective of their rivals, even within the Bush administration. Is it really so hard to understand why the French were skeptical of the need for an Iraq War? First the US persuaded them to vote to send the Weapons Inspectors back in. They did that, and Iraq let them back in, and then only a month later, before the inspectors could possibly have accomplished anything, the US invaded. Why bother with the inspection rigamarole at all? The French saw themselves as having been suckered. They said they didn’t see good evidence of WMD in Iraq (it didn’t exist). They felt the US was rushing to war. So, instead of saying, well, allies sometimes disagree on policy and we understand that you choose to sit this one out, Wolfowitz tried to demonize France. And he is still slapping Paris in the face 8 months later.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are not good at managing emotions in others, social competence, and social skills. The basic goal of a manager (and a superpower has to manage diplomacy) is to create a win-win situation for everyone on a team as far as possible. The last thing you want is for some colleagues to be sulking and feeling unfairly treated. Yet Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have attempted to divide NATO into the countries willing to acquiesce in US adventurism and those who decline to go along with just any old war that Washington decides to fight. And they want to punish the independent-minded, which is bound to create further bad blood down the road (and further expense as the US taxpayers have to take up the tasks the French and Germans disdain as a result of Washington’s pique).

If these guys were managing a company and I were deciding whether to hire them, I’d take one look at the track record of deficiencies in emotional intelligence and dump them immediately in favor of adults.

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