Leo Tolstoy envied the “holy fool.” The wisest of them all, King Solomon, lamented: “With wisdom comes much pain.”
Men and women of “understanding hearts” generally favor simplicity, clarity and humility.
So what’s to be said for those self-satisfied Harvard students who, several weeks ago, posed so proudly at the gravesite of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah? What were they smoking? These are, we keep being told, the “Best and the Brightest.” So say the headlines and the hundreds of outraged letters to the editor in a misreading of the catch phrase.
Be not amazed when “The Best and the Brightest” act Dumb and Dumber. In a few years these kids will share secret handshakes and run the world.
From this generation to the next, graduates from our finest schools enter government service and make decisions that sometimes help us and sometimes ruin us – and this is what David Halberstam had in mind when in 1972 he published his definitive 832 page recap of our folly in Vietnam.
He titled his book, yes, "The Best and the Brightest", which he meant to be ironic and derisive. This was no compliment. This was ridicule. These men, he proved, people with the highest marks from the most prestigious schools, plunged us into Vietnam and committed blunder after blunder eyes wide open.
Every move they made was measured and calculated for success. Men like Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, with swagger and utmost academic certainty, kept assuring us that they knew exactly what they were doing. In the end, 58,220 of our bravest came home in body bags and coffins…and the American diplomats and civilians left behind scrambled on rooftops to catch the last chopper out of town.
Brainy leaders are all over the place. They make the mistakes. We pay the consequences.
Seeing how easy it was for Ariel Sharon to move 10,000 Israelis out of Gaza, Ehud Olmert, the “Best and the Brightest” Israeli prime minister between 2006 and 2009, offered the Arabs virtually everything besides Gaza, including the kitchen sink. The radical Left had their man with a plan. He was their secret weapon and if Israel had been brought to her knees, wiped off the map, it would have been an inside job.
In response to the Arab world’s traditional three “no’s,” Olmert said “yes” three times…yes to a “two-state solution,” yes to swamping Israel with thousands of “Palestinian refugees,” and yes to a divided Jerusalem. He publicly declared, “I can be very generous.” The three “no’s” since 1967 were no peace, no recognition, no negotiation. Still valid.
Those of us not so bright but seasoned by pessimism, knew that Olmert’s ruinous schemes would only lead to incessant greed from the Arab side. They feast on Jewish sell-outs and turn gluttonous on Jewish morons. To this very moment, Mahmoud Abbas wants it all, and then some. Israel’s enemies view Olmert’s generosities as a pledge to be honored by future prime ministers.
So John Kerry has once again rushed to Jerusalem to collect on that pledge. Can’t push Putin around? Push Bibi around.
A few days ago a Tel Aviv court found Olmert guilty of corruption and bribe taking. All along (when he was mayor of Jerusalem) he was doing business on the side, until finally, down goes another leader once so full of himself. He got caught. But not in time to stop him from doing so much damage through his cynical manipulations of power.
Eric Hoffer, the self-taught longshoreman philosopher (1902-1983) comes to mind as a man who shunned wisdom for clarity and was therefore wise: “My writing is done in the railroad yards while waiting for a freight.” In 1968 he published his brilliant “Israel’s Peculiar Position” in the LA Times, which should be read here in its entirety – but this is the last harrowing conclusion from a non-Jewish observer:
“I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the Holocaust will be upon us.”
We could use more “fools” like this.