eme warfare is as much art as science. Finding the right hook for a meme is only the first step. Where and how to start the meme often is an alchemy all its own, critical to its propogation. Lining up secondary and tertiary piling on to a meme so as to present a sense of ubiquitous uproar can help launch a meme campaign. Finally, good meme-ball players monitor who attacks the meme to use as further ammunition.
simple declaration of facts rarely works. Now in 2007 a DoD Inspector General report declares Doug Feith's OSP engaged
in “inappropriate” but not “illegal or unauthorized” activities circumventing the Community during the run up. Let not forget that laughable classified OSP letter to SSCI that ended up as a feverish Weekly Standard Hayes special, “Cased Closed.”
Central to the clean bill of health re criminal activity is the IG's determination that Feith et al. did policy work. If he found that their activities were intelligence, then they would have broken the law by not reporting to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI” ). Former Cheney advisor and now Feith successor Eric Edelman agrees with the IG unsurprisingly.
A Feith-based-meme is irretrievably crippled by its staleness. Much of the activity is now 4 or 5 years old. Widely accepted to be true by all but the most fanatical Kool Aiders. Feith is in obscurity. Staleness robs a meme of frission and impact unless it has a current hook — Kerry and his medals came alive with his nomination. It doesn't help floating memes when Levin bestows a flat, “I can't think of a more devastating commentary.”
Chambliss and Inhoffe at today's hearing know the political truth. The DoD IG report by itself is essentially an airball. No criminal activity. Nothing unauthorized. Feith is well positioned to say as he did that he has been “exonerated” — and then dismiss the other criticisms as “quibble”. Chambliss wisely knows the IG report allows him to say, tamping down any possible meme, “I'm trying to figure out why we are here,” adding that Feith et al. were doing their job scrutinizing intelligence that had been gathered by the Community. The IG report allows both (all?) sides to claim vindication.
ovement meme warfare is effective because usually the memes propel politics towards an ultimate policy or political goal. The energy and direction not only attracts interest. Meme-ball when played well also allows many voices to participate. The bogus Pelosi travel meme makes clear that familiarity with the actual facts at issue don't matter. Propelling the meme forward supporting the wider goal or policy is all that matters.
Let's concede Levin is old school. He doesn't think in meme-ball. That's actually a compliment. Others however can right ask, aren't there Democrats who are more skilled at contemporary meme-ball? This report could have been a highly visible platform to prepare conversations about larger or other timely issues. This is a perfect foundation to explore Edelman's activities (whether policy or “intelligence” ) regarding Iran. And outside of OUSDP Edelman's purview, what else is being done in Administration? Craig Unger's item on Iran and the Neocons reminds us all these are real and immediate questions for many.
, Doug Feith
awn. One supposes we are compelled to at least acknowledge the lastest NIE on Iraq
. Frankly, we're not interested very much. Not that there hasn't been some entertainment. Doubtlessly you saw Hadley's Leave-It-To-Beaver-Aw-Shucks effort to bob and weave away from this unhelpful bureaucratic stiletto:
The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.
ppositionists naturally view this and other language in the public Executive Summary as a “victory”. A triumph in the domestic hyper-real meme war with the Adminsitration. 'There, you see? Uncle DNI calls it civil war too!' We've written before how both the Administration and its opponents often misunderstand intelligence, the intelligence product cycle and the relationship between policy makers and the intelligence community
You, Dear Reader, the Stiftung (and most sentient, non-Kool Aid-drinking bipeds plus Barney, now) agree with the NIE. A NIE remains what it is, and our agreement does not embue it (or any other, or even SNIE, (Special NIE)) with anything more. NIEs quite rightly seek to mimic judicial trappings, offering “findings” and “judgments”. And like a court, on matters of fact (assuming a Neocon/Chalabi contamination effort is not involved), the intelligence community deserves the most deference: the SS-18 has been tested deploying x number of MIRVs in conjunction with ZAPAD exercises; z regional population migrations are growing at a factor of w percent; Chinese military exercises conform with y doctine, Saddam has been importing x amount of aluminum tubes, etc.
Judgments and interpretation of those facts are due weight but are by definition less compelling. No matter how impressive it may seem to have the XYZ organizations sign off (even then, make sure to read footnotes — something so seemingly innocent looking are often bureaucratic Stalingrads, and a tool for DCIs and now DNIs to paper over dissent). Fingar's effort apparently was more accomodating.
A NIE's impact in an infotainment world increasingly often is in inverse proportion to how many people know anything it discusses. Why so non-plussed?
If the Community speaks with the most authority when it has unique facts and combines those facts with is alleged expertise, where does that leave Iraq? Isn't there something just a little bit comically pretentious about a government memo “judging” Iraq's more-than-civil-war war when the death spiral is shoved into our collective faces fricking 24 hours a day in real time? True, video and image can be misleading. But after 4 years, the world and American people have picked up the plot.
Nothing we see in this NIE's Executive Summary was not blindingly obvious to a non-Kool Aider public observer of the Iraqi scene anytime since Summer 2006. We are not being contrarian for it's own sake. It is useful to see the glaringly obvious confirmed. But we are long past 1967-1968. In 1967-68, fighting over a NIE regarding trends in the Southeast Asia unpleasantness was pivotal to define the issue for the National Command Authoriy and then via Scotty Reston, the NY Times, CBS News, etc. eventually Congress and the American people. Not so today.
The Iraq car wreck is globally transparent — we do not need to rely on the government to filter superior information flows for us. After all, even the Japanese are speaking out against the Administration's war
, which is fascinating in its own right. (The always provactive Adbusters calls them “Japan's Neocons” — which, while not accurate is still fun and worth checking out)
With blogs, cable satellites and video phones, the public, Congress and news organizations more often than not have equal or better overall information available than the Community. True, the instinctive reverance for anything marked “secret” or above still commands American deference. Especially after 6 years of AgitProp by this regime. And it is also true that on any given day or month, micro-factual information, usually of a tactical nature, remains almost exclusively a Community province. On the major strategic issues in the NIE, however, the cat is already out of the bag. This raises the whole “open source” paradigm but we'll save that for another day.
o where does that leave us? This NIE is essentially another meme arrow to deploy against the Bush regime. That's no small thing. And certainly Fingar did a better analytical job than the crapfest Tenet shopped around in October 2002. The NIE's conceptual organization may help Democrats by coaching them how to think through the issue and frame communications beyond sentiment (well founded) and instinct (right on target). Other than Webb, Reed and a few others, some Democrats may need to hide behind the NIE's authority to give them a gravitas that they instinctively know themselves is not felt by the American people — Kennedy is not alone here.
ppositionists embracing the Community and this NIE now (ncluding the Stiftung, btw) so uncritically because of the shared rejection of the regime's AgitProp should also check to make sure they are not quaffing their own Kool Aid. Intelligence does not set policy (with exception of Casey's tenure in some respects). The beauty of the American political system and the intelligence product cycle (when it works) is that elected officials are the ultimate arbiters, not GS-15s and supergrades.
For example, some blogging today many not remember that the Community at one time was sure (but not unanimous) that the worldwide communist effort was a unified bloc. A view shared outside by most informed people at CFR (when being there meant something), etc.
An isolated President and ego-centric national security advisor ignored the bureacuratic and Establishment paralysis and quasi-consensus. They set up secret meetings, flew to Beijing and played the Chinese off the Sovs. Thankfully. More latterly, a former DCI and NSC member, now lately in the news, and others in the Community insisted almost until December 25, 1991, that Gorbachev and Schevarnadze were secret hard liners and should be held at arm's length, etc. (And have been assiduously clouding the historical record ever since).
We take a back seat to no one over disdain for the Warlord, Cheney et al. Or their unrelenting assault on liberal democracy at home and the international order abroad. Their cynical and disasterous abuse of the Community for their own AgitProp purposes is undeniable
. They are, however, entitled to reject this or any other NIE. Or even send a draft NIE back to the Community on Iran.
Exercising this perogative results in disaster when the Nation is hostage to a unicameral Christian Socialist Authoritarian regime like 2001-2006. During that time the Community often felt it had no recourse other than to leak. Now, however, we have a functioning Congress again determined to be a co-equal branch of government. A Congress which we hope rejects the notion that oversight is itself a special access program subject to Executive whim. Perhaps what is left of the old Community — before the recent purges and new levee en masse dilutions — has learned a hard lesson compared to 1975-1983. The only thing worse than congressional oversight is no functional congressional oversight at all. When the Administration rejects this or other NIE the issue of the moment should be resolved in politcal fora, where it belongs — albeit likely in closed session. We happily agree with this NIE. But no Community should determine national policy.
Not now, not then, and not in the future.
, National Intelligence Estimate