GRE Issue Essay 31

“Unlike great thinkers and great artists, the most effective political leaders must often yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise.”

Leaders at all levels are confronted with the question that when should they hold on to a particular issue and when should they let it go and yield to public opinion? Great artists and thinkers may have decided to stick to their principles as they could have easily afforded to do so. The decisions taken by political leaders affect the entire nation and hence they have to think a lot before choosing between compromises and sticking to their principles. There are many times in the life of a leader when he has to decide between going in for a compromise and standing firm on principles. Successful leaders are those who make more number of correct decisions than the wrong ones, irrespective of whether these decisions were an outcome of a compromise or persuasion of their principles. Therefore, the decision making strategy for political leaders is a blend of yielding to public opinion and sticking to their principles in varying proportions.

There are unwritten rules that suggest when a political leader should ideally stand firm and when he should be willing to compromise on an issue. A political leader can opt for a compromise when the issue being addressed is not very critical or when the results of the compromise could lead to major benefits for the country. At times, being unnecessarily rigid may lead to damage that cannot be undone. The situation that arises out of this rigid attitude of political leaders may lead to further worsening of the situation and the leaders may be forced to compromise in the end but the administration would have already borne the damages incurred because of the rigidity of the leaders. There might be countrywide protests and violent movements as a result of the decisions being taken by the leadership. The dilemma increases manifold for political leaders as a wrong decision may permanently damage their image among the masses. The decision making process is further complicated by the correlation between popular or politically correct decisions and the apparently harsh decisions that can bear rich dividends in the longer run. There is no simple way of making correct decisions. It is a matter of making the correct judgment from amongst the options available.

History provides enough examples where there were cases in which opting for a compromise would have been a better option, while in others, a little more persuasion would have been better so that the principles were adhered to. During World War II, Adolf Hitler refused to let his soldiers abandon positions as he believed that soldiers should never retreat. However, later it was realized that if he had allowed withdrawing at critical times, and then counterattacking, he could have been more successful. We all are aware of the accusations being made against President George W. Bush that he is making an error by pursuing his policies on Iraq. However, Winston Churchill’s uncompromising resolve during World War II was eventually justified.

Therefore, certain cases require that the political leaders step back and accept a dilution of their principles so that the issues can be resolved in a way that is the best in the interest of the nation. However, there may be cases where the political leaders have to stick to the principles no matter how strong the opposition is, especially when the principle is such that abandoning it will affect the nation drastically.