Politicians Who Can’t Speak the Language of Leadership

In response to Sakharov’s first major official effort to caution the Kremlin about the dangers of the monstrous bombs he was responsible for inventing before he gained sufficient moral stature to become a dissident, Khrushchev responded with the following public humiliation (words that only a few years earlier would have been a death sentence):

Leave politics to us–we’re the specialists. You make your bombs and test them, and we won’t interfere with you; we’ll help you. But remember, we have to conduct our policies from a position of strength. We don’t advertise it, but that’s how it is! There can’t be any other policy. Our opponents don’t understand any other language. [Andrei Sakharov, Memoirs (Tr. Richard Lourie), N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1992, 217.]

It should really come as no surprise when politicians are short-sighted bullies who speak only the language of force: whether or not that language is the most effective way to conduct foreign policy, it is indeed the only language that seems effective in a bureaucracy, and politicians either rise through bureaucracies or have to work with them once they have risen.

Is there any on-the-job training for being a leader that could possibly be worse than being a politician?


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