Each of these acts is eminently predictable. Why? They are consistent with the essential character of the Bush regime (the term 'regime' on this blog here used precisely in the way Nick Xenos at MIT correctly points out the Neocons intend its use). Yet people still seem surprised by it all. Even when declaiming over a house chardonnay how 'radical' or 'reckless' the Administration is.
Cheney, of course, is not an employee. He was co-elected with the Warlord. So the idea of simply asking for his resignation is not particularly applicable. Moreover, he is even more valuable now to the Movement core of the regime. He has already fought the imagined heroic last stand against Democrats in 1974-76. He has seen 'the enemy' (not 'terrorists' but secular progressive Democrats) once before undermine Amerikuh and the presidency. Who better to know what to look for, what to avoid, for those in a bunker mentality.
Is there tension between POTUS staff and the EOVP apparat? Undoubtedly. Does he help himself going public? Even among the Kool Aid set? No. But to remove Cheney is not to remove one man — it is to remove the intellectual soul and raison d'etre of this regime. Consider the Times item about political appointees now vetting regulation. It's not really about policy, even. The Bush regime never let cabinet-level departments develop policy. Cabinet secretaries are and were largely martinets. Instructions and decisions came from the White House — DoD being the exception because of the Rumsfeld-Cheney nexus.
The White House is pushing forward and down its historic 2001-2006 contempt for the cabinet departments past the cabinet level to supervise regulatory policy. To mark a new line of trench warfare with the Democrats on the Hill. The equivalent of 'not one step back.' It is all about control. Per Balkinization:
Interestingly, the Bush Administration has built on the Clinton model more than the Reagan model. Instead of trying to halt regulation, it has sought greater political control over advisory documents and required a greater showing that regulation addresses a genuine market failure. It seeks to use political appointees to act as gatekeepers for the content of advisory documents before they are published.
The reasons why Bush has followed Clinton more than Reagan flow from the rise of Bush's big government conservatism, a conservatism that happily uses all the levers of federal power to benefit his political allies, including most particularly business interests, who remain central to the Republican political coalition. The Bush Administration does not so much seek to stop regulation as to mold it in a decidedly business-friendly way.
Expect more of this. Both new and old being uncovered. Don't be surprised. Which again raises the question we've put before. Besides food fights about who voted for Iraq in 2002, are the Dems capable themselves of fully understanding what has been done to our constitutional republic? Not just in rhetoric but in the granular details, in the Federal Register and the U.S. Code? To put the mosaic together and thus begin to unwind it in 2008? What other obscure lines in U.S. Code have been deliberately crafted for vagueness to allow the FBI to do “full pipe” Internet surveillance? To authorize Gonzales to purge federal prosecutors?
This provision of the Patriot Act was inserted by the House in conference committee. If you've been involved in conference negotiations before, this is where real mischief occurs because almost no one bothers to read a bill emerging from conference, let alone conference reports. Those who have stacked the decks by arranging for or helping to place friendly Senators or House members on the Committee can literally go to town. Here is what was tucked in:
of SEC. 502. INTERIM APPOINTMENT OF UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS.
Section 546 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by striking subsections (c) and (d) and inserting the following new subsection:
''(c) A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the qualification of a United States Attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of this title.''
Until this proivision, if a United States Attorney resigned before the end of his term, the judicial branch would nominate an interim US attorney until the Senate acted on a Presidential nomination. An interim US Attorney by law could only be in place 120 days. As Gonzales made clear, the new law allows the President to makes the appointment. Moreover, no time limit exists for the appointment and there is no Senate oversight function at all. Diane Feinsein, for example, who has denounced all this recently on the Senate floor, of course, voted for the Patriot Act Re-Authorization in March 2006 with this language in it. Apparently, she too is “surprised” — six plus years into the Bush regime.
And so on. It's all of a piece. Staring Democrats and the rest of us in the face. For six years Cheney and the regime have been surgically altering the constitutional fabric of our society. Who knows what else has been churned through the Congress of Peoples' Deputies through the years? What TAP doesn't get is for the Administration to jettison Cheney is to disavow the architect and spiritual source of this enormous undertaking. This, even more than Iraq, is the Bush Administration's legacy.
Unfortunately, to understand the totality of what has been done, one must have a coherent philosophy or ideology of one's own. If the Democrats unveil one or discover one, that would indeed be a most pleasant surprise. If they then acted on it, even more so. Here's to hope.
Tonight, the World's Richest Man will be sitting down with Jon Stewart to promote his latest mediocre product, Microsoft Vista. One hopes Stewart will overcome awe of wealth and summon his writers' best skepticism. A gratuitous Blue Screen of Death or two would be a nice touch. If we had to bet, we'd guess instead an on air air-kiss.
A truism is that capitalism offers seemingly infinite capacity to absorb, commercialize and thereby render harmless almost all forms of social revolution.
A second rule is that most social revolutionaries are easily bought off. Beneath alot of posing is a burning desire for recognition, legitimation and status. Happily, that recipe works out for everybody involved most of the time. There are always exceptions — those who actually do hold to principle. They are the rare exception. Just try to explain to a 14 year old in 2007 that Mick Jagger et al. were once considered a social threat. Even a more topical reference to Snoop Dogg won't help you out.
Same with bloggers. The story is known. Ana Marie Cox leaves her bedroom for the pink-slip-littered-halls of Time. Pajamas Media hilariously stalks C-SPAN-rejected morning breakfast policy fora and presents the D-Lists as “hot gets”. The new force in journalism seeks affirmation by sharing stale donuts with an ex congressman. And some bloggers flock to Davos, shamelessly name dropping while re-treading the same worn carpets Tom Friedman stained over a decade ago.
The titans of globalization and the status quo that are Davos must be amused. How easy it is to tame these unruly and strange creatures called bloggers; invite them, praise them as the future, give them camera/interview time — voila, another housebroken puppy gushing how cool it is to be in Davos. (The taming process still leaves our titans time for cocktails with their old Oxford roommates, now central bankers from SomewhereIsItStan). How some of the Davos bloggers rationalize that they are more than pale knock off versions of Friedman would make entertaining reading.
Smart players ignore the bling — whether at Davos or elsewhere. They always do. They want more than status and publicity. They want all the way in.
China's successful anti-satellite missile test has sparked a political firestorm, as analysts have tried to ascertain who in China knew what when and to what end. Were China's diplomats in the dark about the missile strike? Was it all a gambit to force a reluctant United States to the negotiating table for a ban on space-based weapons? While interesting to China watchers and nonproliferation experts, this discussion risks obscuring the real message of the test: Chinese rhetoric notwithstanding, China's rise will be as disruptive and difficult as that of any other global power . . .
If this is the reality of China's rise, then the United States has work to do, the most important being to change the way it does business. If we want China to be a responsible world power on issues such as energy security, climate change, human rights and even space-based weapons, we need to step up and lead. We can and should condemn China for not respecting the international rules governing these issues or negatively affecting other countries' well-being, but we must be prepared to play by the same rules. While other powers may have granted American exceptionalism in the past, China is not inclined to do so. Indeed, China is more likely to seek its own “exceptional” status.
Fine and good. We've heard similar analysis. We even share some of it.
Self Indulgent Weakness
No one explains exaclty how a more confrontational U.S. policy towards Beijing will work in practice. (Confrontational herein including divergent approaches such as outright containment/encirclement to mixed strategic coopetition to Economy's more balanced rhetorical flourishes.) No one wants to state the obvious — the U.S. is already subject to the growing power imbalances in favor of China. We are hard pressed to find one example in history when an alleged preponderant hegemon (now in a global economy, no less) was (i) a massive financial debtor to its rising rival with the viability of its currency in the hands of its rival; and (ii) increasingly dependent on its rising rival for the basic goods of its economy and increasingly high technology as well.
Flee the frumious Bandersnatch and prepare the vorpal sword . . .
Video on the web is now a commonplace in the YouTube world. Yet this performance by Cheney (via StiftungTV) with Wolf is a fascinating glimpse of the defiant bunker mentality, determined to go down to the last cartridge. If you've not seen it, it really is worth glimpsing.
Cheney appears stung but unbowed by three simultaneous blows. First came McCain's desperate effort to reverse his nosedive in polls over his “surge” enthusiasm. His solution? Blame Cheney. Second came Scooter's defense pitting EOVP versus the Big Man's EOP. Can you say awkward? And finally today came Hagel's bravura performance before the cameras in the Senate.
Measured and firm response to the Warlord. Who knew, but the Democrats showed some political smarts in the right tone during the droning address and the SOTU response.
Interestng how Tweety still gushes over his man crush on the Warlord. It comes out in so many ways — via his simmering misogyny expressed both by dwelling on how “gracious” the little boy was to Pelosi and his brittle interaction with HRC. Tweety loves HRC as the hot “get” but despises the “get” at the same time — a conundrum refelcted in his wildly uneven tone and contradictory commentary. We also noticed Tweety clearly uncomfortable sharing the co-anchoring duties with the undeniably more intelligent and wittier Olbermann (divergent political viewpoints aside).
Politically, the spin was also interesting. Timmy, NBC's Man in the Imperial City, kept repeating White House talking points that the Warlord was “surprised” by the reaction to his Iraq speech. According to Timmy, the Warlord's dwelling on Iran, the sending of Patriots, a carrier battle group, a new CENTCOM commander with expertise in airstrikes and the raids on Iranian consulates were all unrelated to any conscious policy about Iran. Timmy then underscored that by asserting that the Warlord never intended those signals to be perceived as directed against Iran. Moreover, he tells that to his staff, Timmy bleats.
Ponder that a moment, Dear Reader. If what Timmy said is true, then Nation is in even greater danger than ever before; a truly and utterly incompetent Warlord is at the helm causing international crises and alarms without even realizing it. And tells his staff that he is not causing crises because he says so. Potentially worse blundering about than the Agadir Crisis — there, the parties were at least talking to each other. And if the Warlord is making threats he has no intention of keeping, then he is beyond reckless.
How funny Timmy omits any of this obvious follow-up analysis to his “reporting”. Perhaps because he himself knows what he says to be untrue but feels professionally bound to say it on air. His “unnamed” White House sources allow him to still look connected and relevant in this age of Politico.com.
But we think he also wants to believe. Because that allows him to gloss over and ignore the explicit language in the SOTU about linking Hezbollah with both Al Qaeda and the Iranian Shia complex (long a Likud drum beat). How an NBC Bureau Chief can wave away explicit threats to a sovereign nation in two separate major presidential addresses in conformity with the EOVP/Likudite/Wursmer theology is astounding. Tweety seemed eager to agree with his fellow brother-in-Christ. NBC — for the night at least — officially decided that presidential words and actions do not mean what they say and are, to be safely ignored.
Williams we suspect weeped inwardly on behalf of the entire NASCAR Nation for the Warlord's misfortune. We waited for but did not hear Williams mention the Warlord's omission of New Orleans in the speech. Odd, given Williams' year long commitment to the city in his broadcast. (We turned MSNBC off around 11:00 PM).
Overall? We give the Webb response 4 1/2 stars out of 5. The Warlord gets a 2 1/2 out of 5. NBC/MSNBC coverage a 2 1/2. The Russert and Tweety show is so 2004. They need some fresh “brands” to represent 'hard talk' that have not been compromised as Vichy Collaborators during the 2001-2006 Dark Years. And what exactly was MSNBC doing using NFL football-style music scores in selected promos of the SOTU coverage? How soon before NBC/MSNBC SOTU events have overt and official corporate sponsors? At least Buchanan didn't make any more jokes quoting convicted Nazi war criminals tonight (that we heard).
When the hopelessly prodigal son mounts the podium to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, seated behind him will be the parents he never had: the good mother, caring yet demanding responsibility, and the bad father, granting license for misadventure. As he evades and rebuffs Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, President Bush clings to Vice President Dick Cheney as his permissive authority figure.
To Wotan, a 28% approval rating for the regime's handling of the war means nothing. Democrat fulminations merely summon synaptic echoes of Frank Church. More disappointing but a sideshow? To see previously reliable minions speak out against his use of Siegfried. Warner, Collins and Coleman's defections ultimately mean nothing. More hurtful to Wotan is to see his old friend St. McCain now hold Siegfried essentially blameless for it all, saying Wotan was the bad Iago. St. McCain states “The president listened too much to the Vice President . . . Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense.”
All noise. Wotan will sit back and smile and watch Siegfried perform. The Ring may be lost. But let Siegfried prattle on tonight about health care, the environment and all the other little issues mortals worry about. Let them be distracted. Who cares if the U.S. image around the world is at all time lows? Wotan knows the Norns' thread of destiny has been severed. The boats have been burned; all the non-binding resolutions or establishment figure study groups can not restore the status quo ante. Ragnarok will come. All roads to Tehran start in Baghdad. Eventually.
The debilitating American addiction to the hyper-real continues. The other day we watched a nationally famous pundit assert without blinking that our difficulties in the world are caused by the Warlord's language. Moreover, had the Warlord only used different words in AgitProp since 2005, both the Republican disaster of November 2006 and collapse of support for Operation Excellent Iraqi Adventure eminently avoidable. (Presumably he meant beyond Cher Condi's infelicitous “augmentation” effort).
The ad generator is a generative artwork that explores how advertising uses and manipulates language. Words and semantic structures from real corporate slogans are remixed and randomized to generate invented slogans. These slogans are then paired with related images from Flickr, thereby generating fake advertisements on the fly. By remixing corporate slogans, I intend to show how the language of advertising is both deeply meaningful, in that it represents real cultural values and desires, and yet utterly meaningless in that these ideas have no relationship to the products being sold. In using the Flickr images, the piece explores the relationship between language and image, and how meaning is constructed by the juxtaposition of the two.
We accept dis-associative AgitProp memes into our lives hundreds of times every day. Can anyone really deny the above experiment also applies to our politics? To our “serious media”, too? De-sensitation to synthetic manipuation is now so widespread that 11 year olds can look at an image and dismiss it with a shrug and “that's been [photo]shopped”. CGI now so common that the special long gone from “special effects”. We accept the fake and the dis-associated in our lives all the time. So why should a pundit or a politician or a national policy be any different?
What will release America from the hyper-real nightmare and permit her to descend back to the concrete here and now? Some suggest a further international crisis might jolt perceptions. Our friends at Global Paradigms, for example, have long warned of a coming U.S. shock when its brittle and artifical global standing is exposed in another Suez. Others looking back in anger like both Buchanan and VDH get an almost pornographic thrill reciting catastrophes to come just because the Democrats do not bow before Executive Authority (Pat's papal devotion to the President, if he had a sense of aesthetics and more refinement, would almost be Mikado-esque). But we think even their warnings of genocide and bloodshed and rising gas prices won't do it.
Our sense is we lose the addiction to the dis-association and posturing over the abstract only when we are all subject undeniably to the consequences of life. In this case, to a national draft (with no cheating dodgers ala Cheney, the Warlord, etc.). As long as America wields a small professional armed forces (now perhaps increasingly sustained by the foreign brown and other peoples the Republicans despise so much seeking to earn citizenship the hard way), we are destined to stay in the worlds of hyper-reality, the ad generator, VDH and the pundit who advises that the Warlord's words are responsible for our reality.
A good piece demonstrating this is by Laura Rozen in Washington Monthly. She surveys the remnants of the Cheney governing apparatus. (Ignatius offers his guess on Cheney's influence here). We've always liked Laura's reporting and persistence over the years. Her ideology is not ours on all things. And we've not always agreed with some of her conclusions. But as a journalist and blogger, we definitely admire the commitment and professionalism.
A Straw-eyed View Of The World
Laura's good piece relies in part on Larry Wilkerson as a source to lay out the individuals and institutions in the EOVP/Neocon network. (Wilkerson is Powell's former Chief of Staff). Wilkerson's role perhaps explains why the excellent piece still misses the larger point about EOVP. Almost entirely. Here's why.
Consider General Atomics' Predator. Despite the hype, it is a fairly crude thing even now (contra gold plated UAVs like Global Hawk, etc.) One of the greatest disappointments of those who first glimpse live Predator video feed is how different it is from Jack Ryan and or Jack Bauer's world. The video feed, particularly the first generations, is intensely narrow in scope. It remembles trying to look at the Grand Canyon through a straw. And that is what Wilkerson and those who continue to listen to him do.
The EOVP governing apparatus and its radicalism is and was not limited to foreign affairs and national security matters. To someone like Wilkerson, looking at the world through the narrow straw of his own former perch, the institutions Laura names and the people he notes *are* the EOVP network. So it makes sense perhaps for Wilkerson to use the code-word “cabal” in describing this network (all the while denying he is trying to be cute in deliberately choosing that epithet). But the Grand Canyon that Wilkerson's tiny straw can not see would reveal how much more vast and encompassing the EOVP radical agenda was and perhaps might be far and away beyond foreign policy.
This is not an absract theory but based on personal direct experience. The EOVP governing apparatus had its fingers in almost every single sector of public policy that came before the American government. When Wilkerson can't account for what 88 staff plus those detailed (and probably viewed by EOVP with suspicion for good reason) do, that says it all. OMB? Cheney's son-in-law was general counsel at OMB for years and EOVP-friendly personnel were placed at all levels. And on and on elsewhere. (Those intimately involved with government understand how important OMB infiltration is).
On DoD/homeland security/national security issues, on antitrust “reform” issues, taxes, budget matters, on energy issues (obviously), on legal reform/tort reform, acquisition and contracting, labor/training issues, environmental issues, telecom and other regulatory issues, EOVP's influence was pervasive and as radicalizing as anything Wilkerson experienced.
Time and time again whether we were on the Hill with House leadership, in the Senate, or even sitting Old Executive Office Building, we saw ideas, proposals or legislation either die, get hijacked or dramatically radicalized. Sometimes it took months to learn where it came from. Sometimes we never did. The personnel and political forces involved in this expansive effort to impart “The Movement's” priorities into action were far vaster and more complex than any mere “cabal.” What EOVP understood long before even some of the most powerful members of the Republican leadership on the Hill is that radicalization, once started in one silo, builds precedents for the next and so on until the proverbial frog was cooked. The interlocking nature of this activity eventually began to be self-reinforcing.
Getting Beat Senseless With Baseball Bats
What did this mean to those out of the Movement loop who opposed extremism popping up on subject x in silo y? Say, out of the blue . . . someone sitting at the THE STATE DEPARTMENT? It meant that they often entered a policy landscape already saturated by radicalization on topics a, b and c. And thus they are akin to the proverbial man walking in a dark room from the bright outdoors surrounded by others wearing night vision goggles holding baseball bats. (And left to bitch that the policy process appeared “broken” ).
We've tried to explain this directly to Wilkerson — that the radical foreign policy of this regime could not be divorced from its innate ideological fundamentals. And that the extremism that he, that bowl of jello Powell, and Armitage all experienced was replicated across almost all sectors and silos of public policy expertise and knowledge.
Thinking that EOVP's radicalism was limited to just their corner of the world, Wilkerson still looks through a straw and misses the profoundly larger point: the Neocons and their Middle East fantasies were and are merely one strand in a larger and equally (if not more so) virulent Schmittean ideology — one hostile to essential Enlightenment rationalism, hostile to the basic tenets of small “d” liberal democracy. Rolling the dice once more in “the hope” of success is not just a Neocon conceit.
As mentioned, we tried to engage Wilkerson on this in 2005 when he was making his first pirouette going public against the Administration. He didn't see it and still doesn't. In fact, he told the Stiftung to our face that Dick Cheney in his opinion is not ideological. It was all this “cabal.”
If one were Dick Cheney, we would close by saying “Some may ask why Wilkerson gets any attention at all, but I do not.” No need to be coy. We understand Wilkerson's value as a meme. His connection with General Jello ensures attention, draws crowds, helps institutional fund raising, and the media mentions are helpful for reports to board of directors or grant supervisors. The “imperatives” to genuflect before him are standard Imperial City stuff.
Against those larger institutional forces, we just offer once again our judgment: Wilkerson kept silent until *after* the 2004 election. And only *after* he and his jello-esque Boss got unceremoniously tossed into the dumpster. De Gaulle already answered his retort that staying on inside was “essential” to stop the extremists. But more damningly, Wilkerson fails his own logic. If the “cabal” were so truly extreme and dangerous and alarming, then alerting the American people about what he knew before an election was especially critical to allow meaningful choice. Cy Vance could put principle before the job title. But not this crowd.
The truth about Powell, Armitage and Wilkerson is the transcendent imperative to protect their own reputations, brand and professional viability. Over country. Over conscience. In this respect, one has to hand it to the Neocons. They took Powell et al.'s measure early on. And knew they had an easy mark.
A closing thought. Please do read Laura's piece. Our pique with Wilkerson should in no way detract from its value as a much needed survey of the landscape.
One pleasant fiction that Oppositionists tell and told ourselves during the Dark Years was that the Administration and its governing apparat were “unique” and an “aberration” in the American political experience. We've used that analytical frame here alot. But this always assumed a submerged America still loyal to the Enlightenment, held hostage, waiting for “liberation” or “restoration.”
The regime remains true to the last cartridge. Even now, cornered, the Administration snarls with contempt at essential liberal democracy. Both the Warlord and Cheneydismiss congressional opposition to escalation in Iraq and preparation for Iranian strikes. Administration figures gloat in congressional weakness before a fait accompli.
Are they right to be so disdainful? After all, isn't the real political penalty imposed on the Administration that they didn't succeed? As opposed to rejection of what it is they are and tried to do?
We Still Believe Democrats Don't Understand How Radical This Regime Is
When these Young Pioneers in 2002 embarked upon their Operation Iraqi Excellent Adventure, they brimmed with confidence in the Administration's fundamental premise: politics and ideology can indeed shape culture. Contemporary Democrats largely lack any meaningful ideology of their own (beyond coalition management mechanics). For six years they therefore could not lay a glove on the regime. Helpless to respond because they didn't understand the philosophy behind its purposes, goals, techniques and raison d'etre. We remember the excitement in Democrat ranks circa 2004 by a powerpoint presentation. (Yes, sadly true). The presentation did a decent job explaining the Republican and Movement's keiretsu (but did not understand the difference), and how much it cost to build, etc. “Aha! That's why we lose!” was not an uncommon reaction.
It was a good first step. But did it explain the ideology that assembled the construct and gave that mechanism purpose? Not so much. Sadly still true today.
Unfortunately for the Administration in Iraq, the regime's ideological impulses actually precluded building their New Iraqi Man. Hitch describes it at a “jinx” (as anyone intoxicated still with Paris in '68 would). Not a single book out of many excellent ones about the CPA and afterwards examines the regime in D.C. and its bastard offspring in Baghdad from the prism of political science and ideological frames and their impact on decision-making or lack thereof. We highlight Chandrasekaran's book because he was the first to note some of the ideological litmus test for CPA employment. But he is a journalist and lacks the analytical training to take it to the next level. What is missing is really the Iraq anti-Graham Allison's Essence of Decision if you will.
From Hitch's pov how easy to lament after emptying the third middle priced bottle of bordeaux that the Warlord simply lacked the iron will and personal organizational competence of Stalin, Kaganovich, Felix and his heirs to sweat the details. Or send in the Peshmurga in 2004 to finish off Sadr. But the ideological impulses which set the disaster in motion ensured its failure. That is something that has lessons at home, too.
The Bush Cheney New American Man/Woman
Incompetence at Katrina was a watershed and set in motion Nov. 7th, 2006. But we believe the regime has been far more successful in creating the New American Man/Woman than many recognize. And we submit that until Democrats understand that and confront it directly and without flinching, they offer little more than a mild palliative or caretaking interregnum before this regime's successors return (powered by JP-5 level self righteous dolchstosslegende fury). The essential Social Darwinism of this regime we believe has sunk very deep into the fertile American conscience.
The American social contempt for weakness, losers and misery of others is one key barometer of the larger implications. Indeed, it is reaching such levels even the American Idol fanbase is shocked at the cruelty and mockery that that they themselves have demanded. Yet, the tolerance for social inequality and massive misappropriation of wealth is accepted in a way that stuns anyone interested in the essential equilibrium of a functioning liberal democratic republic, let alone traditional partisan framing issues of fairness and other social implications. The very viability of a democratic republic is at stake. Yet how is that this issue must remain in the clutches one cable TV anchorman (and mocked by the wealthy and successful). The list goes on — Congress last year authorized execution of American prisoners based on hearsay and information obtained by duress. And so on.
Ian Kershaw and host of others have written unflatteringly about the poor planning and inept execution of those who plotted against the Corporal. Whole racks of books at Barnes & Noble are devoted to how these few bungled the effort. And a movie about Sophie Scholl of the White Rose student group reminds us of a few others. They tried and risked their lives doing so against a legitimate and full fleshed out dictatorship. Yet how many today think of those people in those circumstances and demand “Why didn't you do more?” Reading the historical material is shocking after 2001-2006 because the comfortable judgment of soft contempt for the Becks and others in the military or quaint admiration for the White Rose screams out. One wonders how many reading those locked in concrete narratives would want at least a re-write?
We are not facing anywhere the same type regime. Yet this current Administration's reckless ideology is trampling on the Constitution at home and resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths abroad. And 2001-2006 shows a clear evisceration of liberal small “d” democratic government here at home.
Given that, who is taking a stand to rollback the damage done to the Constitution? A new Democrat Congress must do more than oppose Iraq/Iran. That's a given. More importantly, do they understand what has been done to shape American political and social identities over the last six years? Who today in Congress is calling for a rollback of the Authoritarian State built up 2001-2006 component by component? Or would even understand it as a unified assault on liberal democratic government? Not just demanding the 4th Amendment's restoration. Not just rejection of McCain's bogus compromise re detainees. Who is asking the macro political questions of whether a liberal democratic republic can survive the unprecedented consolidation of wealth in a juvenile effort to restore the Gilded Age-esque fraction of a fraction (probably because Rove cried watching Titanic, but for the Billy Zane character). Who will do more than mouth pieties about the destruction of the middle class?
Yes, Chuck Hagel deserves credit for opposing the regime on Iraq. And God bless Olympia Snowe for joining him. But this is a non-binding resolution abd Congress' options are limited. The New Iraqi Man is already dead and buried. Stopping further carnage is a noble goal. But so much more remains to be done. Who will stand for putting forth a positive political agenda to overthrow this regime's program for the New American Man and Woman?
What America comes home from this disasterous war?
America of the 21st Century long ago abandoned Hester Prynne. So too with the pundits. All of these poor souls are in the end commodities. Products to be packaged and peddled by their media platforms to us for profit. They succeeded because they know (implicitly or explicitly) their ultimate societal function.
Their job or their purpose is not 'to be right.' That would be nice, to be sure. Makes things easier on management. But the key is: do they sell? Sell books. Sell advertising in print (helping with circulation is a nice double good). Sell webpage click throughs. Or sell demographics and TV ratings. And of course sell access — do whomever is in power like what they read? And will this help the organization's other reporters get interviews, etc.
Once we understand their commodity status and purpose, alot begins to make sense. Useful media commodities have a couple of characteristics (I refer here to the general sense of a good, thing or res, not the specific definition of interchangeable fungibility).
One, they should have a strong brand. Inattentive readers or viewers will know in an instant what memes are being downloaded/viewed/imparted. Two, they simplify complex things or deny they are complex for inattentive viewers/readers. And three, usually they will sell a course of action which will be emotionally and psychologically satisfying but will not impose pain, remorse or negative feelings which might bleed over onto enthusiasm for surrounding furniture ads or commercials.
Savvy media outlets break some of these rules and also mix and match. For Hitch to write in Slate and make light of the hundreds of thousand dead in Iraq by a flippant comment to the effect “we was jinxed, man” is astoundingly narcissistic even for him. As well as self-serving and exculpatory (Bush failed the Cause, but the dream shall never die!). It also likely pissed off alot of Slate readers. But that intensity is essential and not a bad thing. Does Slate really care if Hitch is “right”? Or consistent? Or even “honest”? Slate one imagines looks to more measurable things than objective reality-- how many clickthroughs does Hitch get? Heck we read it, and are linking to it.
Radar's piece mentions William Lind as one voice (among many) who warned against this regime before the madness started. The Stiftung actually believes that Lind in particular was handicapped by his respect for substance and ideas. His writings are informative, dense with insight and wholly inapposite to the USA Today-i-fication of Amercian media and the facile superficiality of the Neocon pundit class. He is also swimming against the tide explaining complexity to a media and audience that yearn for (demand?) its opposite.
For Lind and others, we must not forget the true fear from 2001-2005 most media outlets had of crossing this regime. Such a punitive, vicious and overtly aggressive political apparat was and is unique. Alternative media outlets that stood tall such as the progressive blogosphere and other new media ventures that formed for a while were all that stood in the regime's way. So building a brand persona in such an evironment was particularly difficult and tricky.
The Pundits, National Greatness and Iran
Our sense is that the Neocon/Neoliberal Punditry Noontide already is slipping away. They perfected their external media commercial public role well. Escalation in Iraq is so profoundly unpopular, however. Squaring their function of offering emotionally satisfying scripts at no cost to the American reader or viewer and helping sell furniture and Japanese automobiles is almost exhausted in that context. In addition, their access is limited to an ever diminishing circle around EOVP, the NSC and Oval Office.
A new Congress already is overturning the suffocating conformity of the 2001-2006 unified Christian Socialist Authoritarian regime. And the '08 cycle is already here. The Neocon/Neoliberals, like the Bush regime itself, must stake everything on two final rolls of the dice: a McCain or Giuliani presidency and war with Iran. There is a compelling logic to their radicalized world that the best way to make Americans forget this failed war (and who rah rah'd it) is simply start a new one. (Tomorrow we may write why the non-Likudnik Israelis want a different future and their covert talks with Syria).
After Bush, together you and us Dear Reader can determine the media fate of these creatures. We begin by just stop clicking on Slate when they have Hitchens. Now it is still necessary to keep an eye on them because of their Warlord patron. But after him? Stop reading whatever new flatulence Friedman comes up with. Ignore Boot, etc. Don't cross link video of more Beinhart immature historical mangling. Cross ownership and subordination of news to pure market forces is a done deal by now and can not be unwound. The Neocons manipulated market forces to peddle their Kool Aid. It is time the market responded in kind.
Last season's '24' likely was an impossible act to follow, let alone top. The acting? Inspired. Jean Smart and Gregory Itzen were superb as a totally dysfunctional First Family. William Devane chewed scenery as SecDef and Peter Weller did a terrific villain turn. The nefarious plot was at once elegant yet simple. A Neocon-ish plan to use “Sentox Nerve Gas” to force a president to act after provoking an international incident was in fact masterminded by the POTUS himself. Just expertly crafted manipulative television.
So far it looks like Jack's sixth day is bordering on the self parody. The producers are in a jam, of course. '24' can never become a Sorkin-esque dialogue or character driven show. One imagines the show's bible probably with “There is no more time!” as a header on every page. Plot contrivance as adrenline stimulant has been perfected by the '24' team.
Such a plot driven mechanism is on rails. A monotone “I don't know if I can do this anymore” is about all Sutherland's Bauer can do to even suggest a three dimensional character without destroying the formula. But what can the producers do to up the stimulant if it has already dosed the audience, then again on repeats and yet again on DVDs?
Unfortunately so far, the manipulative choices forced on Jack in the first 4 hours are even more mechanistic and predictable than before. The dispatch of a long time colleague was foreshadowed more heavily than a return of Halley's Comet. The by-now predictable coerced Middle American family confronting a gun toting character reprising essentially Dennis Hopper's “What do you do?” plot device from Speed is now worn thin. At a certain point the audience can be forgiven for simply asking the hyper stereotyped villian to pull the trigger and just end everyone's agony.
Even worse, this White House is bland. For a show like 24, bland is death. In the face of the plot elements laid before them, they are all acting like qualude-chugging participants in an encounter group with a president as soft spoken therapist. Fortunately, word has leaked out that Itzen will re-appear as his wonderfully weasely and manipulative president somehow.
The “shocker” — a small yield nuclear bomb going off in LA — was extremely predictable. The show had no where else to go. Should a Season 7 materialize, an asteroid strike or a plot to foil voting on the Americon Idol finale is about all that is left to top events. We're not prepared to write off the show yet given the early stage and the show's demonstrated expertise at adrenline manipulation. But at least so far, we do have visions of Sutherland putting on water skis . . .
One need not be a 'structuralist' to be familiar with Freud's famous delineation of the divisions of the psyche, into Ego, Id and SuperEgo. The Id in his formulation contains those things repressed or ignored by the waking and conscious Ego.
The American National Security State represented by the coital embrace of permanent government and quasi-socialized, semi-private enterprise is a dark part of the American Id. Yet even under the Warlord's reign of error, fear and incompetence it rarely gets much sustained scrutiny.
Under a normally functioning constitutional government with working checks and balances and separation of powers (those are two fundementally different concepts, although related), the National Security Id is held somewhat in check. Under the unified Christian Socialist Authoritarian government from 2001-2006, the American National Security State Id was unshackled and encouraged to follow its darkest impulses.
The full scale of what this rough beast has done may never be known. Not just because of congressional timidity. Or even White House belligerance. But simply that the delegation of permissiveness went so far into the darkest and furthest reaches of the American Id. Plumbing that depth and dredging up to sordid details may be in fact impossible.
We do not to our knowledge have any contact with CIFA, but we are not strangers to the American National Security Id. We will say this. The sprawl is huge — far harder to comprehend from mere words on a blog page. From federal labs, to Fortune 500 companies, Think Tanks to private consultancies, to the actual overt covert institutions within the Community and the entire Pentagon apparat — the American National Security Id is a fearsome assemblage of personnel, technology, money and authority.
From Eisenhower's warnings up through 2000, the Id has struggled to break free of its shackles but was largely held in place by constitutional government. And a functioning Id, processing and dreaming of threats, is not a bad thing — the Id did in fact think up airplanes crashing into skyscrapers contra Cher Condi, for example. As the saying goes, however, it should be on tap but never on top.
In such a vast apparat, generalizations are hard to make and should be advanced with great trepidation. So we will emphasize the following caveat: in our experience.
Time Magazine shows us the same foresight, insight and journalisic chops that brought you, um, “you” as Person of the Year. Now in 2007 they let us in a deep secret. We are in “The China Century.” “Blink for a moment and you can imagine that--as many Chinese would tell the tale--after nearly 200 years of foreign humiliation, invasion, civil war, revolution and unspeakable horrors, China is preparing for a date with destiny. ”The Chinese wouldn't put it this way themselves,“ says Lieberthal. ”But in their hearts I think they believe that the 21st century is China's century.“
OK, we can get down the that, as the kids say. So it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Miniser Olmert is wrapping up a visit to Beijing now, where he received full military honors. His trip to the capitals of the permanent members of the UN Security Council continues while Kadima continues to plummet in Israeli polls due to scandal and lingering resentment over Israeli defeats in 2006. The Israelis are asking for greater Chinese support for holding Iranian nuclear ambitions in check. Naturally, what the Chinese say and what they do, of course, remain two different things. But there are reasons to suspect that China might well support a containment of Iran — although not an American/Likudnik provoked regional war.
There is little doubt that Beijing has much if any confidence in the Administration's strategic judgment. Nor are Chinese interests advanced by Likudnik/Administration plans to bootstrap a wider regional war with Iran and Syria.
But, having said that, we do happen to agree with this piece in Asia Times noting that China might well be prepared to support an active containment of Iran. As noted, China recently rebuffed Iran in Beijing which asked China to reject recent UN resolutions as ”scraps of paper“. Iran misplayed its hand with both Russia and China recently. A current Latin American visit by Ahmadinejad does little to convince Beijing of Iranian political judgment or stability. The Chinese calculations balance Iranian interests with Western/American relations and other regionl players — and the importance of the Saudi point of view is underscored thusly:
But the most important factor in Chinese thinking will be the strategic considerations of its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The exchange of visits by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Hu to each other's capitals within a four-month period early last year greatly cemented Saudi-Chinese political equations.
The crucial Saudi role in the proposed buildup of China's strategic oil reserves should not be underestimated. China is planning to build four strategic reserve bases at Zhenhai, Daishan, Xingang and Huangdao, which when completed next year will be able to hold the equivalent of one month's national oil imports. Beijing plans to expand the reserves to the equivalent of three months' net oil imports by 2015.
Saudi Arabia's credentials for helping China fulfill its target are far more credible than Iran's. Apart from supplying 17% of China's total oil imports currently and making multi-billion-dollar investments in China's petrochemical sector, Saudi Arabia, as a ”swing producer", has unique capability to produce oil significantly above its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quota. The expert estimation is that if Saudi Arabia chose to produce for the next three-year period an extra half-million barrels of oil a day for Beijing, that alone would bring China's strategic oil reserve to three months' supply. That is why China has offered extraordinary privileges to Saudi Arabia in the collaboration over the setting-up of the strategic oil reserve.
If there is to be a brake on the Administration/Likudnik drive for a wider regional conflagration, one major source could be the Middle Kingdom. Despite Time's breathless restatement of the obvious, it is too soon in the Chinese Century and the evolution of its geopolitical position to deploy its financial power overtly viz-a-viz Dubya/the Likudniks and force a back down ala a Suez moment.
A more focused Chinese policy aligning with Saudi Arabia and the U.S., however could well offer something effective and less catastrophically ill-conceived as regional war: hard headed and robust containment of Tehran. Of course, such a policy by China would have to balance Iranian adventurism and the determined efforts by portions of the Administration to create provocations (such as sending troops to invade Iranian consolates (considered foreign sovereign territory — if you recall 1979, etc. ). A key concern on the minds of many in Beijing and elsewhere must remain: how determined are the Administration and its Likudniks here and abroad to fabricate a casus belli.
The Warlord's speech re-affirms the fundamental radicalism of this regime. It remains a political creature outside the experience of traditional American pluralistic politics. Perhaps now, with his frightened mien and revelation that his escalation concept is really a preparation for wider regional conflict targeted at Iran and Syria (with Iraq as already a past pre-text), all Oppositionists to this ideological aberration — Democrats, conservatives, libertarians and progressives — can unite. Ending this regime's undisciplined extremism is the most urgent task before us all.
The firm denial by Israel of a report in the London Sunday Times that its Air Force was training for a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities was as predictable as it is hollow. There is no doubt that Israel's fighter-bombers have been training for a long-distance mission; NATO sources say they have for weeks been watching Israeli warplanes running flights the length of the Mediterranean to Gibraltar — and nobody expects an Israeli strike on Gibraltar.
The reckless Administration and its partners in Likud-esque circles here and over there have far broader ambitions. The true scale, implications and catastrophic nature of a wider regional war have not sunk in or even permeated surface discussions of the immediate address aftermath. The troop escalation for Iraq is a token — it will have marginal or even no moderate term military impact. A 15% troop increase in Baghdad is merely symbolic with extremely limited tactical objectives. Those hoping this modest bump in troop levels will enable a Fallujah-style show down with the Mahdi Army are drinking spiked Kool Aid.
The wider escalation implications for the Administration are threats the Warlord made to Iran and Syria (and repeated by Cher Condi this morning). That is the real news. The minimal Iraqi escalation is ill-advised and deserves opposition. But the regime's wider regional ambitions are so much more alarming. It is urgent that Congress assert its widest possible constitutional authority and perogatives to curtail this regime before it sets the region alight and drags the Nation into a deserved abyss.
The question of the hour: can Democrats wake up and understand that they are dealing with a White House divorced from traditional American pluralistic partisan politics and an unprecedented ideological aberration?
UPDATE This morning's Soviet-style briefing with Cher Condi, Gates and Keitel Pace confirms the essential emptiness of the regime's Iraq escalation. Cher Condi's robotic twitter that State would also “surge” in Iraq was comical. In almost Commissar like patois she demonstrated her AgitProp fealty by statistical recounting of how many State personnel would leave the Green Zone to localities around Iraq to build “bottoms up” civil society. Farcical on so many levels - (i) it was tried before the elections and largely failed; (ii) Iraq in 2007 is chaotically violent and without major military protection such excursions are of dubious survivability, particularly in Anbar but everywhere else; and (iii) Rice knows it is all bullshit for the Washington press corps anyway, and has no real importance changing events on the ground.
We noticed yet again how Condi emphatically denounced Iran and Syria and the prospects of engagement. Even if her apologists still want to believe that Zelikow's speech last Fall represents “the real Condi', the brittle Neocon Princess on display today is beyond apologia. The ”real Condi“ was and is a staffer. And later an enabler to her Warlord 'husband'. Nothing more and possibly far far less.
Republicans in Congress, who do not want to be quoted, tell me the State Department under Secretary Condoleezza Rice is a mess. That comes at a time when the U.S. global position is precarious. While attention focuses on Iraq, American diplomacy is being tested worldwide — in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Korea and Sudan. The judgment by thoughtful Republicans is that Rice has failed to manage that endeavor.
Rice's previous government duties had been as an analyst and staffer rather than as manager . . .
Gates performed at the presser today with the cautious bureaucratese he is (in)famous for, but together with Cher Condi dispelled the notion that the two were in any way a realist brake on this regime. Significantly Gates could not define success of this escalation and deferred to the sound bite prattle of Cher Condi.
Pace too was at the press conference. But he was not there even while standing in full view.
(We revised Mnemosyne after the Warlord's speech - it may take a few minutes/ a short while for YouTube to process the upload so please check back if it says 'not available').
Negroponte's decision to flee the empty position of DNI should surprise no one. There are two major reasons for what strikes the Stiftung as a smart move: (a) structural, within the inherent limits of the Community itself; and (b) personal preferences.
The degradation of American discourse on these matters continues to amaze — from the empty gabfests on the cable wastelands to what passes now for professional journals (let alone the Entertainment Weeklies masquerading as news magazines). We truly as a people in some ways deserve our current predicament and the catastrophes the Stiftung fears lurk on the horizon.
When George Tenet essentially destroyed the CIA — the final act in a long trail of disastrous mismanagement being his feckless need to please and have approval from this radicalized White House — the subsequent 9/11 Commission pulled intelligence reform into the pop-political-culture Quisinart.
Suddenly, people who had never given much thought to any of the long term issues in play spent three days on Google and vomited their shallow opinions all over TV and the blogosphere. There was one comical moment when one self-described (and acknowledged as such in our American Idolized media culture) expert on intelligence in 2004 breathlessly reported a Church Committee! And then “broke” news that there was even a Rockefeller Report and something exotic called a Pike Committee. And so forth. Suddenly people 'discovered' FISA, the legislative history from the 1970s, etc. Given the American pop-political culture Quisinart, GIGO.
If we sound a bit contemptuous, we mean to be a bit today. Nothing changes.
So now to Negroponte. We see much the same in baroque reprise. The normal Washington parlor game is on the personalities. Rummy is out. Gates is in. Important, true.
But also true is what exactly the role of the DNI (or formerly DCI under a professional and less disastrous tenure than Tenet's)? A quick traipse through the intelligence cycle (here primarily about collection — HUMINT, SIGINT, ELINT and Geospatial/NTM — note special activity off to the side) will also perhaps explain Negroponte's decision.
The Cycle And Chinese Wall
As you can see from this chart, ordinarily, the process begins with (1) planning and tasking. Support for policy makers and support for military operations (SMO) vie for intellectual bandwidth and resources. Threat-based formulations rank issues according to tiers, sub tiers, etc. The next stage (2) is the collection effort - from HUMINT cadres at the now “National Clandestine Service” at Langley (btw, under Dubya, the bureaucratic fetish was to win the title “national” to your work. Presumably there is a “national sewage analysis center” in place or being proposed), interecepts, overhead, etc. That raw data then in (3) must be processed. This is not really analysis per se but simply finding out what the wheat is from potential chaff. A massive and time consuming effort.
Then in (4), actual intelligence product is created. This can be an analytical paper, a matrix re-load with new data linkages, etc. Interestingly, often product in 4) gets chewed up or re-written or “red teamed” (not as much in the past unfortunately - better now) within the division or branch within a given organization. Product in 4) can also spark intense internecine bureaucratic struggles across the Community — and the intensity can be as “hot” whether it is limited to what a particular new protuberance on an air frame at Zhukovski airfield means or whether the Soviet doctrine meant they were prepared to fight an win a nuclear war. Or what aluminum tubes are really for. Many times, as we saw in the 9/11 Commission political Quisinart period, much of this internal debate does not make it out of the Community silos — or was deliberately shut down.
Ultimately, a refined product is presented/distributed to policy makers. (Product in this case is not the now infamous Presidential Daily Brief or the equally infamous but misunderstood NIE/SNIEs). The Community as a rule usually resists efforts to provide raw data and intercepts to policy makers not only for perogative reasons but for operational security and professional reasons — political operatives are not trained analytical professionals.
Cheney and Scooter were not the first to demand raw data and perhaps intercepts from Feith/Shulsky/Wurmser et al. Kissinger demanded it back in the day and Zbig also fancied himself at least Kissinger's equal in that regard. (Kissinger had peers across the divide — he is likely embarrassed that Brezhnev liked to read KGB intercepts of Kissinger's phone sex. So what goes around . . .)
Presenting a product to a policy maker so that it will even be read/looked at is a constant challenge. Some presidents want material widely circulated. Others, less so. Some presidents enjoy reading nuanced reports. Others want post card sized summations. And some ignore it all and assume cable TV has more accurate information anyway.
Rebuilding The Chinese Wall
But once the product is presented, the primary role of the intelligence community is largely done. As Richard Helms tried to observe scrupulously during Vietnam, a DCI's role providing intelligence ends when policy makers then debate and decide what to do. It is a very important line that few in the media and even fewer in the public understand.
Few realize that NO DCI until Casey ever held Cabinet status. (Casey was unique in moving off the Chinese Wall separating intelligence and policy and thought himself a shadow secretary of state.) Of course, nothing is totally black and white in practice, as many CIA DO officials over the years because of their time in region and contacts assumed essentially parallel roles to the equivalent State Department country desks. And in the case of 'special activity' (covert action) the CIA did assume a policy role for the president. But as a general rule, intelligence product and policy debates were marked by a Chinese Wall. (This has nothing to do with the “Wall” between grand jury investigations and FRE 6 but I am confident some wingnut will go nuts about that word anyway).
The current degraded Washington policy environment has obliterated that wise and important tradition. The ideological nature of this regime almost mandates that intelligence become politicized because ideology demands comformity and interprets disagreement as political subversion. Even so, the Community also did pursue a fairly active campaign of leaking — in some cases almost of necessity because of the Christian Socialist Authoritarian unified government which shut down oversight.
But without that 2001-2006 baggage, presenting intelligence product today or tomorrow to senior policy makers is just one voice out of possibly hundreds. (Even assuming the Community can agree on any given subject). There are now dozens if not more essentially shadow intelligence operations run out of AEI, Hudson, and even by large scale public commercial companies that are self-generating income-wise (the ultimate objective of Casey's effort to by-pass the CIA with the “Enterprise” ). The Internet and global communications compound the problem for a DNI because it is entirely plausible as not that the best information and experts are not within the Community or US government.
One Voice Among Many
So Negroponte's intelligence voice was now merely one competing with ideologically charged alternatives. His major raison d'etre was shaky from the get go. Internally, his task in setting up ODNI was thankless from the beginning. Even aside from the Rumsfeld and NRO turf issues.
He had some good ideas such as the long over due community-wide Human Capital plans. His staff bulk-up made sense from purely Washington power politics geometry and the CIA has only itself to blame for the guts being torn out of the DI. Is Lehman's criticism valid? Perhaps — but only on a personality basis. A Lehman or Guiliani could get away with a lean staff kicking ass. But the wiser long term Washington play was the hand Negroponte dealt.
But even if all Negroponte's ideas take hold, assuming he did whatever else it was the hollow men and women purporting to oversee the Community wanted — the DNI essentially is a paper shuffler and presenter of just one version of intelligence product. But policy is the true battlefield. And the DNI (like a professional DCI before Tenet) is not designed to be a participant in that scrum.
True, budgetary issues are some real power inside the D.C.fish bowl and if the ODNI succeeds in securing more control there, it will have some indirect role policy setting. A blunt instrument. The truncated CIA still runs the NCS and HUMINT operations. A post-Rummy world suggests OSD para-military hypertropism will degrade gracefully and the Agency's knuckledraggers be back in business. (Which in our view is not a bad thing). So the operational control will be there. And so on across the rest of community. Negroponte really controls only some of the analysts in his shop and the face time he has with the Warlord for the Daily Brief.
Notice who was not invited down to Crawford with the Warlord? These are meetings where policy is made and set. Ill-informed or people reared on the cable tv gabfest wasteland will scream 'well don't you want your DNI there?'
He might well have been useful there — but his role would have to be handled very carefully. Addressing the Chinese Wall that must and should exist between providing intelligence product by a DNI or formerly a DCI and absenting oneself from the policy debates — to the extent practical — is essential to understanding much of what went wrong 2001-2006 in America (from a variety of perspectives).
The Opposiitonist blogosphere assume the intelligence community is opposed to Bush and therefore want the DNI or someone to pound the table and dictate policy because of his or her information. But that naive sentment should be dismissed out of hand. It is just another version of Feith and Shulsky in different guise. The Chinese Wall of intelligence and policy is essential to the Republic. And a conversation largely lacking in the blogosphere, cable, professional journals or the like that we have seen.
By going to State, Negroponte not only returns to the foreign service environment he is used to. He can actually make policy recommendations, participate in deputies' committees and argue for positions, and in some cases make decisions. The difference between his essentially policy-eunuch role as DNI and the policy freedom he gains from a chastened, weakened and ultimately shallow Cher Condi is vast. And as we and others have noted, should Cher Condi move on before the final bunker scene, Negroponte will sit in the big chair. For the remainder of his shelf life in the cable wasteland, the chyrons will call him 'Secretary' like Eagleburger.
P.S. We shake our heads in anticipation at the bizarre counter-historical confection Tenet has come up with in his book. Perhaps instead of a CD in he back he should give us all his Presidential Medal of Freedom. . .
Make no mistake, it is far better than a Blackberry for mobile email and document generation (although the newer Blackberries are getting better), has a decent keyboard, Wi-Fi so it can speed surf the web, etc. From all across the Imperial City, the device works. But in the end, it is a frustrating, annoying, kludgy . . . Microsoft thing. We've had to exchange it 3 times under warranty. Usually, the rule of thumb with Microsoft is avoid any product 1.0 or even 2.0. By 3.0 they usually get things more or less close to what should have been released at 1.0. But we remain underwhelmed even now.
Two short items before we return to Imperial Court doings.
The first proves the value of 5,000 years of Chinese culture and its related insights. Chinese Journalists Tire of Thomas Friedman. Does anyone doubt this obvious insight? And marvel at its utter lack here in the States among people who should know better?
When he interviews people, he opens us [sic] his big Dell notebook computer and type in the other party's response, nodding occasionally. No other big-name reporter in the world will conduct interviews this way, because it clearly does not leave time to listen to others and think about the answers. But Friedman does not need to record the entire interview accurately. What he needs is an interesting quotation from the government official or CEO in front of him, so that he can suitably cite it in the column that he has already thought out . . .
Citing various other Chinese blogs, the piece concludes with this zen-like epiphany from The Flying Pig:
Is Mr Friedman a really good thinker? Maybe yes. Maybe not. This is something that can not be showed sufficiently within one day. How do you think if after one year you can still hear that he repeatedly and invariably cites his representative phrase:”Oh My God! The world is flattened! The world is flat!”? ...
... Whether from his book “The World is Flat” or his speech during the two days, it is not an easy job for negligent people like me to find some hints. What I learned at that day is the numerous way to express “Oh My God!”
The second item speaks more broadly to the potential erosion of American soft power and cultural impact across the globe, in this case our number 2 market, Japan. “According to the motion picture association, 28 Japanese films earned more than one billion yen (8.42 million dollars) in box-office revenue in 2006 while only 21 non-Japanese films — all from Hollywood — cleared the level. ”In addition, the way Hollywood movies attract audiences, such as noisily destroying things from cars to the earth, is getting old and no longer entertains people." The item notes that American films still do well. But Japan itself has become an exporter of soft power across Asia and to the U.S. — from movies, video game aesthetics, etc. It is a remarkable sign of confidence and change in racial attitudes that Korean pop and movie stars can be embraced by mass audiences in Japan so openly now.
The rise of a more nationalistic and even militaristic Japan is underway. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution looks headed for repeal in 2007. The Japanese also have upgraded the Self Defense Forces from an agency to a full Ministry --symbolism not lost on Greater Asia. They are budgeting for first strike weapons for the first tme since 1945. And the new government is also openly resurrecting some of the more nationalistic pedagogical materials for school children from the 1930s. We have misgivings about alot of this, not only from geopolitical analytical points of view but from more personal perspectives as well. But there is no denying what is unfolding.
Appropos of this particular post, however, it will be curious to see how the spread and impact of Japanese soft power fares under these circumstances. A more confident and assertive Japan need not follow the American militaristic trap. The Sovietization of American Power under Dubya may take a generation to undo. And nature abhors a vacuum. Japanese social and political integrative history suggests rather a melding of this newer, in many ways more Bushian attitude with the layers and strata of culture and affinities of the 1955 System and before. Were we betting, we would add some chips on Japanese softpower and let it ride. At least for the next few years.
Musical chairs among the Warlord's Court mesmerize much of the Imperial City. A salacious counterpoint to the transfer of power on the Hill.
Negropotentate fleeing his empty sinecure and eagerly embracing demotion is noteworthy enough. (Although his eyes are also on Cher Condi's chair, thinking Eagleburger gets to use the title even if he was a short timer caretaker, too). More meaningfully, CENTCOM reverberates with the Warlord's withdrawing and bestowing of favor. And the Navy even finally gets GWOT playing time albeit late in the 4th Quarter with the score already run up. (They are looking at the next game anyway). We also saw Miers dumped to the curb to do the walk of shame. All while AEI pulls out the stops for “Surge Fever” with Joementum as opening act for Saint McCain — the real Iraq Study Group as Salon rightly calls it. Who knows? Perhaps AEI even spiked the drinks with Placidyl 101. Paranoia about the CIA is not restricted to Rehnquist.
We'll get around to it all shortly . Particularly about Negropotentate. There are some substantive issues about the Community and the intelligence cycle worth touching on there. Look for something on that later next week.
But note Dear Reader with deserved bemusement how Arianna suddenly realizes on January 5, 2007 McCain is in the Neocon tank. Too rich.
Today we instead skip a beat and note the Mansfieldian fury foaming from Movement (as opposed to just Republican) and socially reactionary circles. The transfer of power on the Hill is not a mere cyclical ebbing of partisan fortune. Estrogen, that baleful pollutant, has been unleashed. Code words for Nancy Pelosi were on full display — “coronation”, “Queen Bee”, “Cheerleader in Chief”, etc. All that was missing? Quotes about drinking only pure grain alcohol, rain water and denying women to avoid loss of essence. It's not just the usual suspects across the radio dial, although we heard a fair sampling during some commuting today. Chris Matthews and other liberal faux blue collar posers also indulge in the estrogen fear mongering but they mask it better. Unless Matthews talks about HRC. Then he crosses his legs and becomes simply unbalanced.
I believe I have discovered the sacred text that inspires and animates ferocious, fur-bearing authors such as David Brooks, John Tierney, NRO's Stanley Kurtz, and Harvey Mansfield--author of Manliness (which gets a rough going-over in next weeks NY Times Book Review by Walter Kirn)--to assert male prerogative and keep women in their proper place, i.e., gazing up adoringly at Daddy. It provides their vision of a future patriarchal society in which the warrior within every man is restored to his lounge-recliner throne . . . I speak of John Boorman's 1974 sci-fi low-budget beefcake extravaganza Zardoz, starring Sean Connery, who, in Pauline Kael's classic review, “traipses around in a loincloth...playing the only potent man at the discotheque.”
Set in the year 2293, which'll be here before you know it, Zardoz posits a “stately yet cranky vision of a future society dominated by immortal, hyperintelligent women--soulless, heartless, sexless.” And this was before Hillary Clinton appeared on the scene to shrink all those chipmunk testicles out there! “The men are immortal, too, but, being impotent, they are passive and effete.”
Doesn't this sound like the Worst Possible Scenario for the World as dreamt by Brooks, Tierney, et al? (Not to mention antifeminist female pundits such as Kate O'Beirne and Ann Coulter.) Read Kael's description of Boorman's mindset in making Zardoz and tell me it doesn't sound like John Tierney or Harvey Mansfield beating their chests after eating a bowl of Wheaties, or the sort of Chris Matthews Beltway insider hoisting a major woody for John McCain.
Without the benefit of Wolcott's acidic wit, here on the blog and in comments we have talked about Amrchair's 'HRC-Pelosi Pincer Movement' and the freudian-political implications of 'withdrawal' forced on blue-painted braveheart pundits - their martial ardor denied by women with political power.
Consider the Pelosi as 'Queen Bee' meme all over talk radio. Rush for example cited a study from somewhere claiming that women are unable to abide other women in positions of power because other women provoked female subconscious competititon for powerful male attention. And then Rush segued into a hilarious but still effective Agitprop denunciation of European petitions allegedly requiring that all people must by law sit when using bathroom facilities for urination. A Western decline into The View and the end of Sergio Leone-era laconic Eastwoodisms.
One memorable caller said he was just back from 10 years in Berlin (yet sounded suspiciously like a 30 year old NASCAR fanboy) and blamed the 20th Century European civil wars for eliminating millions of males from households. This loss of male genetic leadership explained France in 1940 (but not Algeria apparently), Western European opposition to Dubya, and the political rise of women such as Merkel (who is a Neocon's Neocon anyway but that's beside the point) and the striking Segolene Royal, a socialist candidate for president in France. Rush's show as we listened did not address how Verdun, the Somme and 1939-45 begat Pelosi and Rosie O'Donnell on this side of the Lake.
To his credit, Rush refused the bait and kept focus on pushing his “Queen Bee-ism” biological determinism. To Rush, the “science” is in — inevitably and biologically a bitter feud between Pelosi and HRC is mandated. Adding insult to injury, he also linked the European (read decadent) sitting down law thing to the start of insidious subversion of gay rights here. So the Code is clear — some unelected Godless court somewhere will take away standing and trough urinals at sports arenas. Switching channels stuck in traffic, we heard another, less talented host try and link Pelosi's rise to power to some high school cheerleaders behaving badly in Texas. Female authority begets chaos, dysfunction and cries out for corrective male power apparently.
And so on. All so laughable. Except one suspects these are the true thoughts of more than just the NASCAR nation.
On the other hand, here is an acceptable display of Movement/conservative female archetypes. The WaPo reports that Laura Bush, Cher Condi, Mary Matalin, Margaret Spellings and legal titan Harriet Miers just celebrated Karen Hughes' 50th birthday at Cactus Cantina. (The CC is a decent TexMex restaurant. The Stiftung used to frequent it for the drinks and is a good place for an unpretentious get together). Consider what these women represent. All of these women are enablers, guardians, nurturers of the fragile Warlord ego. They orbit, reflect and support their man. These women are safe. Proximity to decisive male power is never a temptation to usurp it or use it. Those anorexic harpies such as Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Malkin, etc. are separate — attack dogs and mere cannon fodder.
The Zardoz/Mansfield -HRC/Pelosi divide will play out with the backdrop of a failed war and failed presidency. But the divide speaks to wedges in the anti-Dubya sentiment. We'll be watching some of our anti-war, anti-Bush defense analysts, government apparatchiks and other acquaintances closely — will their fears of loss of essence trump their objective disdain for Christian Socialist Authoritarianism? It is not an idle question. One can almost hear more than a couple of them saying “Franco may have had some problems, but at least he would not brook Buffy the Vampire Slayer . . .” And a stab in the back meme in history has never been mixed with such vitriolic reptilian-brain misogyny.
Oh, by the way here is Arianna (whom we have always liked since her embrace of Newt's whacked Wellington's Penninsular Campaign against Napoleon/Clinton imaginings back in 1995 — with Newt as Arthur Wellesley and all the other polyester pomp and Toffler-esque circumstance of that time and place. . . ) (more at the jump).
This is a spoken dream. It is a literal reading from a long email sent by a friend of ours yesterday describing a vivid dream. Our friend wanted to share this reaction to the Saddam execution. We have taken no real liberties with the dream. And present it as written and conveyed to us.
We offer it here as a multimedia exercise because the content comes alive over a mere written post. The dream's themes also resonate with much of what we here have been discussing on this blog and in the comments section. It is a long piece but we think worth the investment.
This is our effort to give voice to our friend. A nationally prominent personality, the pain and unease expressed make clear the conviction that we are all stained.
YESTERDAY, the man directly responsible for conducting the war in Iraq received semi-official notice that he'll soon be relieved of his post. It's ironic that the semi-official notice came in a front-page New York Times story, considering how hostile the paper has been to the war effort and the Bush administration generally - and how profoundly angry senior Bush officials are at the Times.
Welcome to 2007. Democrats rule Capitol Hill, and the Bush White House is using The Times to deliver a message. Who says things never change in Washington?
The message: The president has lost confidence in the strategy and tactics designed and implemented by the generals running the war. They have, as the Times put it, “become more fixated on withdrawal than victory.”
And so the Warlord's (nee the Decider) decision to escalate now permeates the global infosphere. One sentence in JPod's piece resonates because it is what Neocons have been saying off camera — when referring to when Iraqis will govern their country and the U.S. withdraws, he notes “. . . not yet, and maybe not ever, the way things are going” (emphasis added). Those pundits who fail to understand the radical impulse of this White House continue to assume the Warlord will “surge” for a month or three and then make a face-saving withdrawal.
President George W. Bush is about to launch a final push in Iraq with a large reinforcement of American troops in the hope of crushing the insurgency before America embarks on a large-scale withdrawal of force from the country.The size of the force is commonly set at about 40,000-50,000 troops. The aim of this surge will be to inflict severe damage and loss on the problem-making elements within Iraq, including both Shia and Sunni militias, and to increase training of the Iraqi security forces under American supervision . . .
In any case, the sending of such force will be a necessary preliminary to any reduction in strength, since it would be necessary to cover the withdrawal. Retreat is a complicated operation of war which paradoxically always involves far more troops if it is to be brought off successfully. The reason for that is that the spectacle of withdrawal tempts the enemy to interpret the time of withdrawal as an indication of weakness, and so risks infliction of passing shots and the launching of farewell attacks. It is vastly important to have additional troops on hand at such a time.
The surge reinforcements may therefore have a dual purpose to cover the reduction and also to deal final blows at the source of the disorder prior to departure. American commanders certainly will not wish to leave Iraq, tail between legs. We may therefore confidently expect to see the number of American troops in the theatre increase suddenly from 150,000 to 200,000, if only for a short time.
As a historian of European warfare, Keegan has few peers. As an interpreter of events from 2001-2006 he is woefully out of his depth. Keegan would do well to read Henry the K's 'salted peanuts' memo, Woodward's belated reporting and The Weekly Standard. From the perspective of traditional military operational art, Keegan's observations are conventional wisdom, applicable to opposing conventional armies, whether Napoleonic or in WW II.
His 'gentlemanly' observations however are divorced from today's post-modern Neocon Agitprop, from contemporary insurgent situations or the related 4th Generational gestation in the Middle East. As Jack Keane and Kagan declare, “[o]f all the ”surge“ options out there, short ones are the most dangerous. Increasing troop levels in Baghdad for three or six months would virtually ensure defeat. It takes that long for newly arrived soldiers to begin to understand the areas where they operate. Short surges would redeploy them just as they began to be effective.”
Keegan's quaint, old school analysis is a bookend for the ISG. His operational interpretation is irrelevant; the replacement of Abizaid and Casey and the escalation theories of Kagan, Keane and the Neocons assume a darker and more disasterous aspect. The Warlord is shuffling the deck chairs for a sustained escalation to last through 2008 and beyond in a Guiliani/McCain (even HRC?) Administration. The false AgitProp manipulation of “freedom” and “democracy” has been discarded like a failed scripted prime time drama. The stage is being set for the more visceral, brutal and emotionally manipulative 'war of civilizations' against Islamofascists. The long simmering but distant Manichaen meme will by necessity become the foreground.
Any pretense of a liberal deliberative democracy is tossed aside now with savage smirks and dull belligerance. The table being set for a dark repaste of violence, death and 'existential' memes. Until and unless the Democrats understand the game afoot — which has no bearing on traditional political calculations of 'legacy' or short term face saving sleight of hands — It is hard to see how a week of hearings from concision-challenged Biden or anything else will amount to much.
President Bush and McCain, the front-runner for the next presidential nomination, in pressing for a surge of 30,000 more troops, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 out of 49 Republican senators. “It's Alice in Wonderland,” Sen. Chuck Hagel, second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told me in describing the proposed surge. “I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly.”
The White House couldn't be less impressed. Personnel movements in CENTCOM speak louder than even 12 members in the Congress of Peoples' Deputies. Abizaid and Casey are both being cashiered - even though Casey thought he was playing political football for the the White House. It reminds one of when Manstein was retired, and the Corporal said to him (in paraphrase here) “the time of grand operational maneuver is over. I need generals who have the fanatical will to defend until victory.” (His favorite Field Marshal at that time was Model). Gates is surrounded by the Old Team. We suspect his lauded “independence” and “moderation” and all the other panegyrics will whither when he is in the chair overseeing escalation. General Jack Keane from the sidelines, like Kristol, is dismissing a six month gesture.
We've said all along that this radical regime is incapable of altering its fundemental impulses. And that from the benighted ISG, whose lonely tomes now gather dust forlornly on the shelves next to diet books and sex advice from porn stars, to the estimable Richard Clarke, none of them get it even at this late date. Facts, management, orderly policy deliberations are antithetical to the ideological impulse. (And Neoconism is but one now tarnished strand in that Movement still ensconsed in the White House — although many around the world noted that Dubya bestowed a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Sharansky the other day).