|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Apologies are more important in Chinese and other Asian cultures, than in American culture, where apologies are casually given and received, and often considered simply symbolic.
In China, offering an apology means admitting you are wrong, and it is very serious. In many cases, the moral victory of receiving an apology takes the place of lawsuits or trials.
For example, when the U.S. Navy submarine Greeneville hit and sank a Japanese fishing boat earlier this year, killing nine people, the main thing that the Japanese demanded was an apology -- not just from President Bush, but from the captain of the sub, live and in person.
After several days of hesitation, Captain Scott Waddle, went to Japan against his lawyers' advice and met face to face with the families of the victims to offer what participants reported was a tearful apology. That gesture went a long way in easing the tensions between the two countries.
or President Obama, last week's confrontation with Somali pirates posed similar political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public.
But the result -- a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces -- left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.
Throughout the past four days, White House officials played down Obama's role in the hostage drama. Until yesterday, he made no public statements about the pirates.
In fact, aides said yesterday, Obama had been briefed 17 times since he returned from his trip abroad, including several times from the White House Situation Room. And without giving too many details, senior White House officials made it clear that Obama had provided the authority for the rescue.
"The president's focus was on saving and protecting the life of the captain," one adviser said. Friday evening, after a National Security Council telephone update, Obama granted U.S. forces what aides called "the authority to use appropriate force to save the life of the captain." On Saturday at 9:20 a.m., Obama went further, giving authority to an "additional set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions."
A top military official, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the Fifth Fleet, explained that Obama issued a standing order that the military was to act if the captain's life was in immediate danger.
"Our authorities came directly from the president," he said. "And the number one authority for incidents if we were going to respond was if the captain's life was in immediate danger. And that is the situation in which our sailors acted."
Would have been nice to hear those words directly from the commander-in-chief.