The term administrative policy has different meanings as it applies to the field of public administration depending on the person using the term. Conventionally, administrative responsibility involves both the behavior of public servant, and certain expectations people have with respect to that behavior. If the behavior closely matches the expectations, public servant is to be responsible. On the other hand, if the said the behavior of the public servant does not conform to set standards, the public servant is to be irresponsible. Additionally, an individual, legal entity, or group can strive towards achieving greater responsibility from others by using certain tools to bring behavior more closely in line with expectations.
Friedrich's and Finer's central ideas center on the issue of public administration and the legitimacy of administrative actions. Finer takes the position that administrative officials must always comply by working in line with the demands of individuals holding elective positions, which serves as a representation of democracy and voice of the citizens. This implies that public servants should serve the interest of the public. Friedrich, on the other hand, takes the position that a modern democracy demands that administrators dispense their responsibilities by basing their actions on moral responsibility based on professional standards, knowledge and sense of duty to the citizens. The central ideas of Friedrich and Finer may lead to a conclusion that many attempts to keep in check the actions of public servants do not influence the minds and hearts or mentality of public servants. Today, people understand corruption as a legal perspective as an unlawful action, which amounts to abuse of private or public office for personal gain. However, it is important to understand unethical conduct may indicate behavior that contradicts ethical norms. The position of Finer of external controls is most compatible with the perspective of officials as a neutral responsibility that administers policy decisions in the political sphere.
Distinguishing between policymaking and policy implementation has long been discussed and debated. Following the terrorists attacks on Twin Towers, the U.S. government saw that it saw it imperative to use torture in retreiving intelligence from the suspected terrorists. This resulted into subjecting many detainees to inhumane techniques of interrogation that at times amounted to torture. In this case study, the author authoritatively examines the operational decisions, policy directives, and leadership endeavors of the U.S. government that disregarded long-held American policy on how to deal with enemy prisoners. The author points out how political appointees if the Bush Administration overcomes the policies of career military lawyers. The case study then analyzes the legal and philosophical underpinnings of the practices and policies that have led to the denunciation of the U.S. policies by its adversaries and allies throughout the world. Looking into the future, the author anticipates Obama administration policy changes to restore credibility of the United States. Throughout the case study, it is evident that the use of torture as a public policy highlights how administration of public policy goes beyond in-house bureaucracy.
The arguments presented by Finer and Friedrich about ensuring responsibility in administration applies to torture. Administration and politics played a significant role in the application of torture policy after the infamous September 11 attack. The policy aimed at protecting the citizens against terrorist attacks and ending terrorism in the world by acquiring information from terrorists. President Bush and his administration influenced the formation of the torture policy. They identified the conditions under which prisons would undergo torture. Previously, the United States did not allow torture nor had any policy that encouraged torture of prisoners. The U.S. government supported the elimination of torture and abuse in the world before September 11 attack according to President Bush. However, the Bush administration violated the UN laws prohibiting torture by encouraging torture of terrorist prisoners (Stillman, 2009).
A major concern to students of public administration has centered on the relationship between “accountability” and “ethics.” The central issue in the debate between Friedrich and Finer were on the relationship between accountability and ethics. Finer contend that there is a need for external checks to assist minimizing corruption and ensuring responsibility. Friedrich argues that internal mechanisms such as ethical training and professionalism could ensure accountability and responsibility. The torture case calls for ethics and morality in the military leadership. Professional accountability at the upper level military managers is clearly sufficient since these individuals are usually career military, with years of increasingly responsible service behind them, who have the experience to military ideals and military life. In line with Finer’s argument, professionals can be trusted to deliver their professional responsibility to carry out policy that is in the interest of the nation. Consequently, part of the job description of the military command required military executives in Iraq to obey the laws according to the understanding of the legal environment surrounding them. The responsibility of top officials at Abu Ghraib was to ensure that lower level soldiers understood and obeyed the rules and conventions that operated. Senior officials neglected their duty to ensure that the tenets of the Geneva Convention were communicated to the troops. As such, the military leadership failed with respect to legal accountability.
A myriad of factors led to torture and abuse like policy, memoranda, and command changes. The memoranda stipulated the necessary conditions for torture as Bush administration relaxed the limits that had been set on treatment of prisoners. Additionally, the Geneva Convention never applied to the members of the Al-Qaeda group. The U.S. government claimed that no public law in the country or international agreement the Bush administration on how to treat prisoners. Bush administration suspended the Geneva conventions and claimed that the treaty did not apply to Al-Qaeda as they were not state parties. Many people objected did not welcome the decision of the government to suspend the Geneva Convention as it would affect U.S. military during the war. President Bush signed the memoranda despite the lack of support of many citizens, including Powel. This permitted law enforcers to use violence and torture as methods of interrogation. This led to abuse of inmates as special interrogation methods were used as Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib. The policy changes had negative impacts because they promoted inhumane treatment of prisoners (Stillman, 2009).
Additionally, law enforcement officers were required to apply harsh interrogation methods though they were harmful to inmates. These officers were responsible to the government and had to carry their duty. The torture policy developed by the government was irresponsible as they failed to consider the interest of the majority. The government decided to focus on changing the existing torture policy to facilitate war on terrorism without seeking approval from the public. The solution to the dilemma presented above requires the development of policies that auger well with the interest of the majority and human knowledge.
The U.S. government could have considered the interest of the public before formulating the policy. Additionally, the government should have considered the consequences of changing suspending Geneva Convention and changing the torture policy. The inmates could not have experienced abuse and torture if the government could not have changed torture policy and suspended Geneva Convention. Additionally, the dilemma could have been resolved by ensuring the public office holders and administrators are accountable to the public. Another means of resolving the dilemma is by educating the Congress and parliament about technical problems that are in law and administration.
In my personal observation, in the future, public interest should be secured by ensuring that the parliament, administrative officers, and the Congress are accountable to the public. This will enable to public to wield the power to make appropriate policy changes and protect the rights of citizens in the future. It will also ensure that leaders do not undermine current policies and develop policies that meet their personal interest. Additionally, public interest will be when administrators consider the consequences of their actions before implementing policy changes. Lastly, leaders should acquire education on technical problems touching on administration and policy. This will ensure that implementation of policies does not affect the citizens negatively (Stillman, 2009).
Stillman, R. (2009). Public Administration: Concepts and Cases. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.