Some headlines this week have me reflecting on the hazards of immaturity. One of the common impulses American parents must overrule in dealing with immature children is this: “I want it and I don’t care how much it costs.” Maybe, the dividing line between childishness and maturity is the point where desires are carefully measured against consequences. We all know people who reach adulthood and never get past the “I-want-it-now-and-I’ll-consider-the-consequences-later,” stage of development. Usually, people like this make a shambles of their own lives and complicate the lives of everyone around them.
If the nation was saddled with a presidential administration that operated at this level of immaturity, what types of behavior might be expected from such an administration?
On the legislative level, such an administration might succumb to self-delusion about some grand scheme, like universal healthcare. That administration might allow itself to believe the objective is so beautiful we must achieve it — right this instant. Any effort to suggest that prudence requires a mature assessment of costs and consequences might be met with an impatient stamp of the foot and the assertion that, “We can’t wait. Let’s just pass it. We’ll see what’s in it later.”
Millions of “innocents” might yield to the enchantment of this dazzling idea and follow happily like children skipping after the Pied Piper without stopping to ask themselves the difficult question: “Exactly where is this pleasant music leading us?”
On the campaign trail, such an administration might be warned that statements like, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor — period,” are untrue and the embarrassing facts are bound to come out. But truth might change the election equation. So the distortion is more apt to achieve the desired result. An immature administration would promulgate a known deceit and deal with the consequences later.
This week, our president decided to exchange five high level Taliban prisoners for a single American servicemen. Let’s credit his stated motivation. America never leaves its own behind. The timing was critical. The deal was necessary. Even so, we have no idea whether the president arrived at his decision after a mature disciplined assessment of the costs.
If we accept the president’s statement at face value, we’re lucky the Taliban didn’t demand a deed to California as part of the deal. Obviously, there’s a point where the price is too high.
The American public has been told that release of these Taliban prisoners was inevitable because the “war” was drawing to a close. Ordinarily, when hostilities end, the warring parties negotiate terms and sign a document outlining the conditions of peace. Here, there is no assurance that hostilities are doing anything but “taking a pause.” This exchange was not the result, the cause or the cost of peace.
In evaluating the wisdom of this deal, we hope the president made a mature assessment of the likelihood his decision might contribute to the deaths of Americans down the road. Would we negotiate for one serviceman if we knew the trade would cost the lives of 20 others? Of course not.
The public has no idea how much American blood was shed in the efforts to capture these prisoners. We don’t know how much American blood was on their hands at the time of their capture. We don’t know whether any or all of these known terrorists are so consumed with hatred that their thirst for American blood can never be quenched. We must pray that American service personnel of the future will not pay, with their lives, if it turns out this decision was poorly considered.
The most regrettable thing about this entire scenario is this: The default position of the American people is to trust their president. They want to know the commander-in-chief has a firm hand on the controls. They want to know that he’s making wise choices with the good of the country foremost in his mind. They want to know when the commander-in-chief addresses them he’s telling the truth. In this instance, we just don’t know.
Our confidence in the president’s competence has been shaken. Our ability to trust what he tells us has been compromised. His capacity to make mature well-reasoned decisions is questionable. We are beginning to suspect his commitment to the needs of the moment are superior to his commitment to the needs of the country. More than 2,000 years ago, Socrates made this comment about the cynical pragmatist: “In every sort of danger there are various ways of winning through if one is ready to do or say anything whatsoever.” Let’s hope things haven’t gone that far. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.