Jump to navigation
Archive for February of 2007
February 25, 2007
February 14, 2007
y Hersh's latest on Iran and Iraq has some fresh reporting of interest
. It also confirms a number of things that readers here have noted recently.
Our readers should take a bow. Hersh quotes Armitage of all people saying what readers said here last summer — Nasrallah “is the smartest man in the Middle East”. Bob Baer also notes the “dog that didn't bark” after the 2006 air war in Lebanon — Nasrallah opted not to initiate Hezbollah terror attacks in revenge in and out of the region. Immediately after the 2006 Israeli offensive, readers noted Nasrallah's adept political skills.
Readers also followed the Executive Office of the Vice President (EOVP) closely. Not only in the typical blogosphere meme warfare (“Cheney sucks, man!” ) superficialities but in the technical analysis as well. Parsing the meaning of Addington's legal footprints, readers noted that Cheney et al. were indeed “ideological” — contra Larry Wilkerson's quaint diagnosis. The importance of Iran Contra to understanding today's situation is also a reader favorite. Hersh notes that Abrams even chaired a “lessons learned” symposium of sorts. Understandably, the current plan avoids operationalizing the NSC — this crowd is even more inept than the mid 1980s. All of this does remind one of amateur hour with cakes, etc. It's a shame we don't have the slides — one bullet point should have been “Make sure you have a presidential pardon !”
aving said that, we told a well-known liberal journalist who follows all this several years ago: the rise of private sector para-militaries and unbelievable (and unaccounted) cash flows made Casey's old 'Enterprise' concept a concrete reality. If one wanted to do so.
Assuming a “lessons learned” gathering did happen, concluding that the Agency and military need to be cut out is not unfeasible today. Moreover, the engorged private sector parallel to the Community truly can't be called amateurs across the board. They are stocked with some of the best former operators and analysts in or outside the government. As an aside we note in passing Iran claims the U.S. is fomenting attacks from Pakistan into Iran
With reference to the incidents in Zahedan, Stratfor, a think-tank with close connections to the US military and security establishment, commented that the Jundallah militants are receiving a “boost” from Western intelligence agencies. Stratfor said, “The US-Iranian standoff has reached a high level of intensity ... a covert war [is] being played out ... the United States has likely ramped up support for Iran's oppressed minorities in an attempt to push the Iranian regime toward a negotiated settlement over Iraq.”
e give less credence to Hersh's source's claim that Negroponte resigned from DNI over an Elliott Abrams scheme. That contradicts everything we have heard and believe. There are 1,001 and one ways to shut something like that down in this town. Negroponte knows at least 999 of them. A skilled player like Negroponte could keep his finger prints clean as well. Oppositionists must be careful not to be seduced by the symmetry of a compelling narrative. Although we have no doubt Hersh was told this.
Two other Hersh factoids stand out: (a) U.S. forces are already entering Iran in “hot pursuit”/for other operational purposes; (b) the Israelis are peddling an Iranian ICBM threat. The remainder of the piece? Well we know DoD planning for Iranian strikes continues. Bandar is up to his neck playing games to create the hard line against the Shia. What Hersh doesn't report on is the schism within Neocon ranks between those who want strikes and those who want to topple the regime in a velvet revolution approach. Those advocating the less militaristic view happen to be those on the outside.
lsewhere, some generals and admirals threaten to resign over Iranian strikes. A good story for a news cycle. But in the end, not even a speed bump. Congress is ultimately where the end game plays out. Do they clarify a priori
the limits of AUMF re Iran? Or do they take a dive, especially before the combined lobbying efforts of the Saudis and Israelis?
February 13, 2007
he first few steps into the 'Reality Zone' ?
The estimable Graham Allison notes:
This represents a significant departure from the Bush administration's previously failed policy. And in that respect, I agree entirely with the statement John Bolton made yesterday [Tuesday] in criticizing this agreement, which, he said, “contradicts fundamental premises of the president's policy”. So I agree with Bolton, that this contradicts the fundamental premises of the failed policy followed by the administration and supported by people like Mr Bolton and Vice President [Dick] Cheney.
That approach had several key elements. First it demanded CVID - complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement - as a precondition for anything else. Disarm first. Effectively, they decided there would be no carrots for good behavior and actually - though it didn't say so - it demonstrated no sticks for bad behavior. Thirdly, it insisted that there would be no bilateral negotiations. I think that what we should learn from this is that it is a plausible but actually failed approach to problems. And I think maybe there are some lessons that could be learned that are relevant for the Iranian case.
im Lobe goes into more details here
. We agree with Lobe that public gloating by Oppositionists will only galvanize those elements opposed to dialogue in Korea or Iran. Far more effective to press the matter by proxy. Hence, the usefulness of the ongoing Flynt Leverett offensive
. While Rice is receiving shrapnel wounds, the main axis of advance remains Cheney's office and NSC elements such as Elliott Abrams. Meanwhile on another front, a counter offensive underway pushes back against the over hyped 'sloppy' briefings re the Iranian government's involvement arming insurgents in Iraq.
The good news? Now fairly evident the Warlord has not made a decision to attack Iran. The bad news? American policy (and strategy) remains a jump ball.
, North Korea
February 08, 2007
erhaps this kind of thinking helps explains in part the LA Times' recent death spiral:
THOSE of us who get a kick out of watching Tim Russert every Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press” are feeling a little hangdog these days. We always thought Big Russ Jr. was tough on the powerful. Now we learn that to some Washington media types on both the right and the left, he's just a tool for the powerful . . . A former Cheney press aide testified last month that she pushed to get the vice president on Russert's show to bat down negative news because it was “our best format,” a program where political handlers can “control the message.”
Wow. Really? With his Buick-like physique, piercing stare and rumbling baritone — plus his interrogatory style of brandishing incriminating documents and video in front of his guests — Russert sure doesn't look like any flack's patsy . . .
Big Russ“ may not stack up as great literature, but it became a surprise bestseller and humanized Russert to millions who'd known him simply as a guy who liked to play ”gotcha“ with elected officials.
But writing a heartwarming book that merchants might file alongside ”Tuesdays With Morrie“ doesn't help demonstrate journalistic toughness. And watching ”Meet the Press“ over the last few weeks, I think I can understand why both Cheney's office and critics such as Huffington believe Russert can be readily controlled . . .
Russert can seem overly dispassionate, particularly during a time when opinion has increasingly bled into the news. And it's the lack of emotion that can make his approach look, after a while, less like real toughness than a facsimile of it.
e's ”dispassionate.“ That's what the LA Times calls programming for years where only Republicans would appear on MTP, or why a ”roundtable“ of 4 commentators would feature at best 3 pro-war and 1 skeptic. ”Dispassionate“ must explain the routine under the table gropes with Matalin and Carville. Who knew that rather than taking a dive for the Administation like Tweety did, Timmy's just an emotionally repressed blue color kinda guy, like Big Russ. ”Dispassionate“ must explain why the D.C. bureau chief says he assumes everything he is told is off the record. Naturaly, MTP was the EOVP's preferred vehicle to get the message out because Cheney and Timmy are dispassionate bookends.
ne thing that stands out to us watching the Scooter drama is how it underscores a critical truth in this town: policy wonks make poor political media operatives. Cheney was ill-advised to deploy Scooter to swat away Wilson, even if it was to protect both of them. The trial testimony only confirms our view. It is true that Scooter was no naif and knew specific reporters such as Miller, etc. But his mindet and personality came from the national security policy arena, and before that, a Dechert litigator.
Both law and national security require a substantial commitment in terms of training, comportment, and frankly personality. Knowledge, rational analysis and formal techniques of argumentation — or bureaucratic sabotage — are rarely personality dependent and intensively transactional. Accordingly, policy specialists, however gifted, almost always lack initially the instincts, comportment and understanding that human relationships are the mother's milk for effective political media operators. (Some of course do learn fast. But even some well known policy wonk bloggers who tangentially get involved in legislative dynamics took about a year to get the instincts and ”radar“ to not stumble around). We've watched some of this up close and seen PhDs in arcane areas of specialities with world class reputations asume that media ”coordination“ and legislative affairs are purely process-related and thus something a child could do. They assumed that they could slide into politically operational roles through dint of pure rational analysis and calling on colleagues for support. Same with corporations who underestimate all the above and start a D.C. office with an executive suite favorite. Almost invariably, the results are either comical or disasterous.
Of course, Cheney had no choice in his mind but to use Scooter — both of them were mostly responsible for the false hype in the runup. Cheney, however, would have been better served to rely on Christine Martin or someone else work the issue. Her instincts and personality as revealed by testimony and notes indicates she understood intuitively the human relationship dynamics needed to be successful. Personalities best attuned to operational political and media-related roles tend usually to be human relationship oriented. Substance always gets a superficial nod, of course. Yet those that work in that sphere over time professionally understand that issues (and candidates) come and go. (In fact, it is not unsual for the issues themselves to be largely immaterial but a ticket to get 'in the game' — although this is always denied).
Relationship truths — ”Tim hates Chris Matthews“, etc. almost always are simply not discoverable through objective rational analysis. Working human relationships requires ultimately some kind of engagement, some ”ground truth." Nor can their true meaning be gleaned fully by pure rational (even if malign, as in Scooter's case) perspective. This is especially so in the hyper-paced frission of Imperial City media and politics. Relationship truths and transactional understandings are the alpha and omega of success. One wonders what would have happened if Cheney had access to Matalin's skill-set full time then — how woud events have played out? Perhaps it would have made no difference in the end.
Read more »
February 01, 2007
ife is so much easier when one could furrow one's brow and chirp out declarative, empty phrases such as “transformational diplomacy”. Right Condi? Today the NYT underscores what we heard over the weekend:
Many federal employees have outright refused repeated requests that they go to Iraq, while others have demanded that they be assigned only to Baghdad and not be sent outside the more secure Green Zone, which includes the American Embassy and Iraqi government ministries. And while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice maintained Wednesday that State Department employees were “volunteering in large numbers” for difficult posts, including Iraq, several department employees said that those who had signed up tended to be younger, more entry-level types, and not experienced, seasoned diplomats . . .
“There’s some outrage that the collective capacity of American reconstruction capability was ignored prior to the war,” said one State Department employee who is learning Arabic before deploying to the Middle East. “And now we are expected to clean up the mess.”
s we've noted here, to even get a FS level 3 rating in Arabic — which is needed to “pass” the language proficiency test — is several years of intensive immersive work. (And a “3” is very rudimentary and would not be sufficient to navigate successfully outside the Green Zone; this poor student will be even more green linguistically than the pilots that were sent to Midway Island and slaughtered by Nagumo's Zeros in their context). Of course, it is all for AgitProp anyway. We already sent out State personnel to the field when it was relatively safer before the elections. Their goal was to promote a unity, non-sectarian approach to democracy — and Allawi's ticket, btw. They had little or no impact. The results came down along sectarian lines.
Sending them out now (even with full military security) is just blowing the whistle at the bottom of the trench ladder in Galipoli. Just one more price tag we're all paying for this incompetent Administration and their half-assed war. Seeing Max Boot discover “security” now in 2007 as essential to a successful surge is both laughable and mendacious
(hat tip to a good friend).
ack during the Victory Disease euphoria in 2003 and early 2004, Tom Barnett used to run around talking about DoD's need to build two parallel militaries. Both would be needed to “drain the swamp” and conduct a “20 years war” that the United States would underwrite as a the world's “systems administrator” (I am not kidding). All promoted with weird pop culture references usually dropped in from Star Trek to Law & Order. The first military would be their transformational warfighter fantasy. You know the drill. Cool robots, instant kinetic force via stand off platforms and no American risk. The second military would the Ringling Brothers' parade sweepers, the civil affairs types, the “soft military”. After the first blows a place apart and kills alot of people, the second would go in and make nice and turn everything into a larval Japan or West Germany. And then both would move on to the next part of the swamp, etc.
Not to say Barnett represented anyone's views beyond his own. But his thinking in scale and scope was widely shared within Rumsfeld's OSD re the duration and scope, if not the methodology. The disconnect between OSD's delusions and what Iraq is today is far greater than (a) flowers; (b) self-paying; (c) Syria and Iran. The recent announcement of an African Command earlier this week is long overdue from the “20 year war” perspective
. We know OSD has long discussed Africa as both a current and long term “swamp” for systemic problems beyond the Middle East. But is pure kinetic force going to be any more succesful? Of course not.
We do agree with Barnett that the American military is in doctrinal thinking and organizational structure ill-suited to pursue a victorious war. Far too much focus on force-on-force engagements. This is now a truism and even the Brits have openly criticized U.S. over emphasis on “war fighting”. There is little or no sign that the U.S. ethos will change.
On one level it is tempting to say so what? Iraq in most peoples' eyes has put an end to the game of Risk that Barnett and others had in mind. Perhaps. Certainly for now that seems to be true. More significantly, we simply can't afford to do it. A second, “soft military” needed for occupation duties would essentially add anywhere to 25-40% more to the current astronomic DoD budget. Even more problematic, the concept of two forces has major inherent flaws — not the least being the ridiculous assumption that there are clean and distinct phases to war and that progression of one phase to the next is unidirectional and permanent.
n our conversation this weekend with a senior foreign service officer recently retired, he suggested morale and support for Cher Condi is even thinner than suggested by the Times. Negroponte will have his hands full just getting the place back from disarray. This story Rice's attempt to deny knowledge of a 2003 Iranian offer for a “grand bargain” won't help matters much. This fax and how it was handled is actually far more important and far reaching
than Scooter and Timmy's pas de deux.
“First of all, I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about, quite frankly,” she said. “Maybe I should ask him when he came to me and said, 'We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it.' ”
Leverett said yesterday that he became aware of the two-page offer, which came over a fax machine at the State Department, in his waning days in the U.S. government as a senior director at the National Security Council, but that it was not his responsibility to put it on Rice's desk because Rice had placed Elliott Abrams in charge of Middle East policy. “If he did not put it on her desk, that says volumes about how she handled the issue,” he said yesterday.
Abrams is currently the deputy national security adviser in charge of the Middle East and democracy promotion. An NSC spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of Abrams, said yesterday that Abrams “has no memory of any such fax and never saw or heard of any such thing.”
her Condi is the gift that keeps on giving.
, Condi Rice
hat a pathetic spectacle. Boston brought low by a cartoon. A prime window on how the iron triangle of the American national security id, shameless politicos and their media accomplices will lash out in rage. And Americans simply nod, blandly accepting what they are spoon fed. A sad reminder of what we have all become in just 6 years.
We speak, of course, about over reaction to the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”
guerrilla media campaign. The vampiric American media circus continues to parade a cavalcade of vapid “news anchors”, breathless security “experts” and the predictable menagerie of unhinged former prosecutors across our screens. All echo shamelessly “9/11 changed everything”, “authorities say”, and ridicule the two young men contracted to place the marketing devices for smiling — especially the one with the [smirking encouraged] dreadlocks!. (Tellingly, the affair is labelled a “hoax” — as if the effort wanted to pretend they were bombs
. It's a “hoax” because Gov. Duvall Patrick says it is? American media truly is beyond salvage).
rom TV screens the tone is even harsher. The two young contractors, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, were charged today for “creating panic.” The cable networks covered it all wall-to-wall, condemning the youngsters paraded for the camerasfor refusing their script — don''t they know they are supposed to look guilty and radiate shame for embarrassing the Authorities? (Ignore the self righteous posturing by Boston officials, law enforcement and Massachussets politicians frantically covering up their hysterical over reaction). With gale force strength, the meme hurricane is unwaivering — non-conformity will not be tolerated, incompetence in the name of “security” is no vice, and most importantly, LIVE IN FEAR.
Let's be clear about this:
The 38 electronic devices have been in place in Boston for approximately 2 weeks and other major American cities. Unremarked upon. So by their own metrics, Boston security and law enforcement personnel and their counterparts in each and every city should be sacked now. Because we are told “this could have been a mushroom cloud”, yada yada yada. Will they pay for overlooking things then or overreacting now? Of course not.
The devices are said to be “suspicious” because they had “wires” and “batteries”. Lots of things do. That is why metropolitan police and security personnel have experts. Even modest exploration by a layman would have revealed these to be battery powered signs. Boston has explosive experts, let alone experts with bomb detection equipment, explosive detecting dogs and x-ray equipment. After discovering more than two of the devices, they were in fact then examined and determined to be harmless. There simply is no excuse for unleashing massive panic without following through on these rudimentary examinations — which already indicated their harmless nature. (We shook at our heads this morning watching on a video monitor some hack prosecutor tell a judge that the mere presence of batteries and wires was “intended” to be threatening).
Boston officials, without even acknowledging those cursory investigations, shut down portions of a major metropolitan city and created an international media circus. It is THEY, far more than the youngsters or the company, who should be brought up on charges for criminal negligence and incompetence.
Of course, someone else must pay for the embarrassment. The cable networks and local officials were tripping over themselves hyping this story yesterday afternoon. Coming after British domestic arrests, we had something happening here in the U.S. of A! Politicians could look forward to a media vamp. Hey, we, too, can act decisively. Lots of camera time for them. And videotape from ambitious local reporters anxious to audition for the “Big Time”. Cheap for the networks and ratings gold. All the B roll video of s-e-r-i-o-u-s men in security bomb suits trotted out again. New graphics! Maybe even a new theme song coming.
But to be caught hyping a marketing campaign? For a cartoon? For a cartoon called “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”? For a cartoon called “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” that stars a milkshake? Someone truly must pay. So now they want to cover their shame and embarrassment and incompetence (a powerful trifecta) by squashing two youngsters, Turner Broadcasting and anyone else who looks “funny” or “smiles” at it all. How dare they mock us? We unleashed our national security self righteousness! We can not be mocked! Or questioned.
This is the new America. Fear and authority will not be triffled with. And it will be likely the same no matter who wins in 2008. Perhaps worse. As Duvall Patrick proves, Dems likely will prove twice as hawkish to overcompensate for their insecurities that an airhead like Sean Hannity doubts they have sipped enough Kool Aid.
We are not unmindful that threat merchants have lobotomized critical thinking since 9/11. And a marketing campaign in an urban environment should take that into account. Don't get us wrong. Investigating the devices as suspicious makes perfect sense. It's not a media campaign we would have done. Nor executed in the manner we would do it. But the initial blunder in no way excuses the staggering overreaction.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino, law enforcement, security and political officials have an even larger public duty — to think before panic. Yes, one must take threats seriously. But one must act responsibly before creating an international media storm. Menino, state and local law enforcement failed the public. They did not do their jobs. They should have ascertained what they were confronting before punching the panic button. To hide that incompetence and shame by vengeful court theatrics today against two contract employees is beyond the pale.
That's the real story here. How “national security” should not be a shield for faulty decision making. And how such faulty decision making is promoted by the self serving needs of the infotainment complex. How sad to see the stain of the Bush Administration's campaign of fear mongering spread so pervasively. Americans have been told time and time again to live in fear of “authority”, don't question the competence or actions of “authority”, don't stick out, don't rock the boat. Above all, don't smile when you are paraded in for a media circus that has already deemed you anti-social deviationists.
The infotainment complex and state and local officials react now on auto-pilot. Gonzales did not need to say anything for it to unfold.
Read more »