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Archive for November of 2006
November 30, 2006
November 27, 2006
ncompetence, even in faux pas
uch has been made about Kendall Myers' comments on the U.S.-U.K. 'special relationship' at SAIS recently. Of the Brits, he said “We (the U.S.) typically ignore them and take no notice - it's a sad business.”
The London papers naturally are having a field day.
For those of us who have known him (caveat, the Stiftung directly and indirectly has been familiar with him for 30 + years), the immediate reaction was “Well, it had to be Myers
.” Myers truly is not a 'senior State Department official' and would not portray himself as such to the press.
He's a long standing area study specialist with an expertise in Western Europe and the U.K. He, like many mid level area study types, carved out a decent living combining gigs in the Imperial City, supplementing his State Department salary with the modest bump SAIS provides to career functionaries who moonlight as adjunct faculty. Most of the “faculty” at SAIS are adjunct types and paid accordingly - the inherently salaried Johns Hopkins faculty are fairly few, the tenured ones even fewer.
Myers has been at SAIS as an adjunct for decades. He began when he was an area studies lecturer at the State Department Foreign Service Institute and now continues (for the moment) from a niche at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).
In Myers' defence, alot of things get said at various SAIS functions that could easily be turned into media firecrackers. Sometimes over drinks when policy wonks are surrounded by young students and bask in the feeble glow akin to a Holiday Inn lounge rock star, sometimes in more formal settings where scores are settled in front of peers, etc. Internal politics at SAIS (and other similar programs at Georgetown, etc.) can be exceedingly vicious, following Kissinger's famous dictum that academic politics are so savage because the stakes are so low. But here, it seems Myers took the question from the Times' reporter and shot himself in the foot on his own.
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November 20, 2006
a plus ca change . . .
ashington foreign policy pundits and wonks even this late in the Age of Bush still play two different games — baseball and Arena football. Two different objectives, two different audiences and two different sets of rules. As you might guess, much of the Imperial City is now in full throated baseball-boosterism mode.
Our friends at New America Foundation offer some of the more finely crafted gameplay. Their memes articulating the parameters of post-Bush realism may well become standard bromides for the chattering classes over reception cocktails and finger food. New America institutionally has positioned itself quite well substantively and as a brand. It eschews the searing edge of topical meme polarization and cultivates both relevancy and an iPod-esque sensibility — not too stridently muscular, and no tofu-thank-you-very-much. Common sense with some designer flair. Many other think tanks and 501(c)(3) or (c)(6) entities would do well to study their institutional positioning.
An item from Steve Clemons today sums up their various strands of realist memes
. We happen to support and applaud the nuanced work of Anatol Lieven and his meme of 'Ethical Realism'. It is a pleasure to see both him and his organizational platform thrive. Michael Lind, also at New America, has made perhaps the most intriguing intellectual metamorphosis, beginning with his Neocon L'enfant Terrible
days in the 1980s and 1990s and moving towards his current Oppositionist posture. The reviews of his latest book suggest that he still is working through and internalizing that journey. (We haven't read it yet but plan to over the holidays).
All in all, thoughtful and earnest efforts to integrate the world as it is with the inherently conflicting impulses in the American character of idealism and self-interest. Very much in the tradition of Robert Osgood, perhaps. New America is well positioned to play an important role in the new Democractic Congress.
In contrast, we see two items from the Neocon highlights reel. Messrs. Kristol and Kaplan blitz nuance or even pretenses of deliberation and simply declare realism is defeatism.
Foreign policy realism is ascendant these days, we are told. This would be encouraging if true, because our foreign policy must indeed be realistic. But what passes for “realism” today has very little to do with reality. Indeed, if you look at some of the “realist” proposals on the table, “realism” has come to be a kind of code word for surrendering American interests and American allies, as well as American principles, in the Middle East . . .
So let's add up the “realist” proposals: We must retreat from Iraq, and thus abandon all those Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, and others--who have depended on the United States for safety and the promise of a better future. We must abandon our allies in Lebanon and the very idea of an independent Lebanon in order to win Syria's support for our retreat from Iraq. We must abandon our opposition to Iran's nuclear program in order to convince Iran to help us abandon Iraq. And we must pressure our ally, Israel, to accommodate a violent Hamas in order to gain radical Arab support for our retreat from Iraq.
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November 08, 2006
truism is that an animal is most dangerous when cornered.
e see two aspects of the run or fight paradigm at work today. In the Weekly Standard, good ol' Irwin Stelzer offers his evidence that the United States is no longer a great power.
The despair and angst is really quite amusing. Stelzer is ready to throw in the towel. Why? It begins with his being searched like others in Heathrow.
AMERICA IS FINISHED as a great power. Not because it no longer possesses the resources, but because it has lost the will. That was brought home to me on both ends of a recent trip through London's Heathrow airport en route to Phoenix . . .There's more. But you get the idea. Travel the world with your eyes open and you will see that America is no longer a great power. Not that it can't still be one--with our astonishingly lethal soldiers, our daring entrepreneurs, our workers willing to put in long hours, and a productive economy that is still the envy of the world.
But so long as we prefer to fund shopping sprees rather than a military adequate to meet the challenges of our era, and so long as we allow uncertainty about our virtues as a nation to swamp our good judgment, we will continue to doff our jackets obligingly to security personnel who are surprised--just ask them--that we allow our people to suffer such indignities.
self-inflated Hudson Institute functionary searched! Oh the humanity! But the article is instructive beyond its brevity. Its emphasis on status, hierarchy, deference due the “Master Ra — er, Country” and emphasis on macht
and “astonishingly lethal soldiers” tells all. That, Dear Reader, is a glimpse into the sordid id of your typical AEI/Hudson Neocon.
Sy Hersh on the other hand shows that David Wurmser and others are still on the case
, pushing the bomb Iran case inside the Administration. We knew Wurmser when he first started out as a very nice (he is still a very nice person interpersonally) policy wonk. Yet there is no question that in one sense the debate within the Neocon camp over the value of academic pursuits versus operational government service has been resolved. Their best guns now remain those functionaries still embedded within the Administration apparat. A pale echo of the awesome machine in place 2002-2004. Muravchik is alone carrying the external AgitProp burden. A new SecDef of uncertain loyalty to the Agenda is coming in. Body bags still come home. Stelzer has alot more to be depressed about than the indignity of even a well-deserved cavity search.
November 06, 2006
ith the unceremonious dumping of Rummy today, Bush gave a public shove to the tottering edifice of Cheney-ism. Already gravely undermined by Scooter's indictment, bizarre public utterances and lawyer-hunting, Cheney is now truly isolated, without allies. As reported today on several cable channels, the White House was leaking that Bush resisted Cheney's advice to retain Rumsfeld or replace him with a Neocon Kool Aider.
Our contemporary but considerably darker Jules Mazarin, Cheney potentially is left dangling in the bureaucratic shadows, raging at the dawn. (This was unexpected today — see our 'Dead Enders' item here a few days ago).
ates' arrival to OSD while welcome is not wholly the complete 'Realist“ restoration that some banal talking heads suggest. This is beyond just recycling tired recollections of Mel Goodman and Agency analysts who charged 20 years ago that Gates slanted intelligence for the White House
The more important political fact is that Gates was very much a Casey loyalist with all that implies, including the temptation to invoke national security imperatives to trump inconveniences such as legislation (the Boland Amendment) or the Constitution. Gates is certainly less a firebrand and not even close to the manic bureaucratic infighter as David Addington (who was at CIA and later HPSCI during the Casey era). Gates is also an ”Organization Man“ in the 1950s sense of the word, so radicalism is not his inclination. But some of the ”National Security State as prima inter pares
DNA“ definitely is not absent in him as well.
As important, Gates is susceptible to drinking prevailing ideological Kool Aid. The Stiftung has some personal experience with this, as Gates personally rejected warnings about the impending Soviet coup in 1991. He specifically refuted the possibility in July and ignored direct warning evidence. We have always been amused at Gates' (and the Agency's) subsequent efforts to cite strands of memos, cables, etc. in his memoirs to claim that he and the Agency were on top of the situation. Gates after the fact CYA is as contrived and false as much of the Administration's AgitProp is today. We wonder what kind of ”fresh eyes“ Dubya is bringing in.
The Neocons are truly in wretched state today. Rumsfeld's fall is a hollow achievement for them. No longer can they count on the SSCI and HSPCI to be fronts for their disinformation. Santorum, author of the Iran Liberation Act, is gone. So is the always entertaining but ”out there" Weldon. And so on. The Baker Commission will now get a respectful hearing on the Hill. And so will opening up dialogue with Iran, Syria and North Korea. Even if Israel were to launch another offensive in 2007 as predicted both by Israelis and even military historian John Keegan, it will no longer have the automatic AgitProp impact as before and likely will not be enough on its own to ignite military strikes on Iran.
Overall, this is a wonderful day for the Republic. Separation of Powers has a chance to live again. We may have accountability through oversight back. The divisive Christian Socialist-Authoritarianism of the last six years has been rocked back on its heels. Rove and Cheney's social darwinism may be arrested if not completely healed. And abroad, the Neocon policy of mindless embrace of Force and Will has been dealt a body blow.
The progressive blogosphere deserves a bow and our thanks. They took up this fight when the odds were so overwhelmingly against a day of rationality and sanity. Those of us in the Opposition who joined that fight owe them a debt of gratitude. Well done.
Remember, remember the 7th of November !
, Robert Gates
, Robert Gates
November 03, 2006
oody Allen once said 90% of life is just showing up. But don't underestimate timing.
And woe be unto him who misjudges when to kiss off an ideological regime sinking in defeat. Too soon and one is still subject to “mobile courts” rendering summary executions for ideological desertion. Who doesn't remember the grainy black and white pictures of lifeless victims festooned with placards, except this time the signs would read “I am a defeatist and chose not to defend the [American] people.”
But jettisoning loyalties too late risks getting sucked down in the regime's undertow. What good is it to slink furtively out of the ruins of an undisclosed bunker or think tank and hop amidst the rubble? One risks not only being shot like a dog by the victors but perhaps the even more ignominous fate of passing away unremarked, becoming an un-person, forgotten. No book deals. No cable TV appearances. No directorships on companies.
o timing is key. And it looks like Perle et al. now regret theirs.
Not coincidentally, the political environment has changed the last 10 days or so. Confident predictions of a Democrat blow out are changing. The regime surprisingly succeeded re-energizing its ideological base. The tightening of the elections and possibility that the regime may retain Loyalists (even in a diminished state) makes perfidy especially tricky. In Vanity Fair the Neocons take shots at the Maximum Leader. Not only may he surivive November, astonishlingly his hard core ideological praetorians still march under his banner.
Reading the hastily cobbled together explanations for their turn in Vanity Fair
, two things are clear: (a) none of them wanted their kiss off to appear in the heat of a rapidly narrowing election contest, allegedly claiming it would be improper; and (b) their real fear that in such a newly energized and polarized environment, they risk ideological explusion and political summary execution by the dreaded pundit “mobile courts” for desertion.
Deftly invoking the always reliable canard of “the liberal media”, Perle, Frum et al. blame Vanity Fair for printing accurate quotes. Most of them concede the quotes are nothing new and stuff they have been saying for years.
The Stiftung can verify that indeed several of the Neocons in the piece said much the same thing to us across the 2004-2005 time frame. In the link above, several of them point to earlier writings. Indeed, even those who are operationally more important to the Neocon cause than the pundit class such as David Wurmser on Cheney's staff (and a hoped for Dark Dauphin for the Future) privately rage at the Administration's incompetence (which sometimes is described in almost treasonous terms). So it is important to remember the crux of Perle, Frum et al.'s gripe — that these long held (and known) positions somehow are so highly charged and special that Vanity Fair broke faith by running the story before the election. Please.
The truth is that the Neocons now feel they miscalculated in the interviews — or worse, appear to have miscalculated. (Young ones like Michael Rubin can be excused because he is still a Padawan Learner).
They took shots at El Jeffe
, the “Big Man”. And Dubya is not going quietly into the night. This regime is justly feared for its remorseless insistence on loyalty. The risk of reprisal and punishment from a wounded regime and its base is thus very real. Had the Neocons been wiser and confined their remarks just to Rumsfeld, they could bask in solidary with Gannett's Army/Navy/AF/Marine Times editorials.
But reading the prevailing political winds weeks ago when they gave the interviews, they thought they were wise to tack to the new wind. There was no sign that the base would come home. In their case, the die was cast. They crossed Massachusetts Avenue, so to speak
. But turned and saw the army did not follow.
How odd this late in the game for them to lose their collective nerve. As Ledeen of all people knows, usually when you draw the pistol against the Prince, you must fire and hit. Or pay a terrible price.
Except in America, perhaps. Then one must write another item for The Corner.
, Vanity Fair
nd so it goes said Kurt Vonnegut.
Perle, Adelmen and Frum cut loose the President and the Administration
The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.
nd how sharp the serpant's tooth said The Bard. But in this case, it would be how harsh the parasite's rejection of its sickly, spent Host, when it can no longer serve its function.
Existential despair, however, is not in their ouevre. Rehabilitation and fighting another day very much is.
eocons don't have an Oprah. Leno is too plebian. So how to do the expected contrition and rehabilitation turn? No one really reads the policy journals any more beyond the people who write for them and their friends. Too small a platform. Other than an HBO miniseries and DVD merchandising blitz, Vanity Fair one supposes will have to do.
Ditching Bush for personal responsibility with botching their vision does two things. First, it ties the albatross of Iraq around the sinking Bush. Both disappear into the abyss of historical ignomy together . Make no mistake, however, that the true villian — Judas (if one may make that analogy) ? — is Donald Rumsfeld in this mythos.
Dubya's sin is the minor one of being too naive/nice/conflicted/loyal, etc. Well intentioned but weak. Cheney was too loyal to Rumsfeld as well. And all far too tolerant of Fifth Columnists in the Community and at State. As the Corporal once raged at the end, “I was too lenient”.
Secondly, and more importantly, this expitiation (expect more of it) and Self Criticism is an accepted mechanism for cleansing before a return to policy leadership. Unlike say Deng Tsaio Ping in the late 1970s, we don't have pig farms for them to spend 2 or 3 years of hard labor. Perhaps if there was any justice, the Neocons would be forced to star in a Survivor series. 2006 allows plenty of time for them to recant and emerge as senior members of the McCain, Guiliani or even Clinton campaigns. Adelman as always remains the dimmest of the bunch, more a pamphleteer than thought leader. He doesn't get the joke:
Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as “the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world”—is dead, at least for a generation.
t of course was never about just that or even mostly that. As Perle, Ledeen, Kristol(s) all know.
The guppies like Beinhart and the rest who style themselves as Neoliberals are about to get bigfooted. By the A Team.