Winnie the Pooh for Secretary of State? (Update: No Blood for Hunny!)

| June 17, 2008 | 3 Replies

We should not let this guy get within 50 miles of our national security policy.

Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.

Mr Danzig told the Centre for New American Security: “Winnie the Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security.”

His reasoning is that Winnie the Pooh teaches us that if something hurts too much, we’re probably doing it wrong. Well, as a kid’s story, that’s a passable sentiment. As a foreign policy (or any other real-life application), it’s an insipid piece of twaddle that’s not only incorrect but dangerous. I’m not even going to begin to explain to this mooncalf how Luke Skywalker was not a superhero. This Pooh thing is more than enough.

The bit to which Mr. Danzig refers is this:

Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he thinks that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

The reason that Winnie the Pooh found himself being dragged down the stairs feet-first is (as you all who have actually read the books already know) because he was a stuffed bear. He wasn’t much of a thinker not because his head was hurting but because his head was stuffed with fluff. His thoughts floated around in his head like puffballs and he never really could grab a good one and hold onto it.

Pooh was mostly immobile when Christopher Robin was around, like Calvin and Hobbes in reverse, because Christopher Robin was the real point of the stories. He’s the one who gave Pooh and the other denizens of the Thousand Acre Wood vitality. Without him, Winnie was just a stuffed bear who couldn’t even shoo a fly from his nose without blowing it away (which is where he got the name “Pooh”, by the way). All he could do was to hope for change.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much all Mr. Danzig’s would-be boss is doing, too.

Winnie has been portrayed most recently as a profound thinker, mostly because his thoughts are simple and immediate. In the stories, though, Pooh’s thoughts didn’t turn into useful action because he had a very hard time holding onto them. When he could grab a thought, they often led to plans that made things worse. Did Mr. Danzig not read the bit about how Pooh got himself stuck in Rabbit’s door because he was greedy? Did he miss the part where Pooh thought to disguise himself as a cloud so he could sneak up on the bees in their hive? Pooh’s plans often went awry because, well, he was a stuffed bear. The thinkers in the Pooh stories were the real creatures: Rabbit, and Owl, and Christopher Robin.

Winnie the Pooh is not the character to emulate if you want a foreign policy that’s more stable than a stuffed bear tied to a helium balloon. It seems to me that Mr. Danzig and his boss, Barack Obama, should do today is borrow advice from another line in the Winnie the Pooh stories. Perhaps if they took this advice, then they wouldn’t say so many foolish Things.

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

(via memeorandum)

UPDATE: Slublog has the post of the day on this. The commenters there are bringing all sort of funny. To that I can only say (to borrow from the very fist comment), NO BLOOD FOR HUNNY!


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