Oh to have drinks again with John Lehman. How he must have watched Tweedledee and Tweedledum before the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual dog and pony show yesterday. To breathe in the spectacle of Lehman's pique, rage, bewilderment, and ultimate contempt would be still an 'E ticket' ride. Lehman's doubtless withering critique would be spat out in staccato bursts, like Lewis Black on ibogaine and pale ale.
So now we know. The Office of the erstwhile new National Director of Intelligence in action (OenNDI), gelded by Rumsfeld and Cambone at the gate, limps onwards. (Did anyone notice Rumsfeld's 'coincidental' appearances to upstage Negroponte's public debut with his own press presence and tour d'horizon?)
Of course, Lehman's bourbon-fueled critique would be equal parts personal vanity, grossly unfair, and dead on — simultaneously. Even with the impetus of 9/11 and the Commission, the OeNDI was an almost impossible job. And clearly so even back in the mid 1980s, when the original drafts of the legislation took shape. To realize the faint prospect of success, the first DNI appointed would have to have 'kick ass with golf shoes" mentality to impose authority on the Community and solidify his dual power bases in the Oval Office and on the Hill.
Negroponte has done none of that. Earlier, the Stiftung asked, 'Negroponte's Insurgency: How's He Doing?'. We noted at the time at least two tests before him: the Future Imaging Architecture (FIA) mess at NRO, and getting Powell as his General Counsel. He has Powell courtesy of a recess appointment. FIA still remains a headache.
Beyond those two early test cases, Negroponte's assertion of control over the IC remains a work in excruciatingly halting progress. His skeptics say their worst fears are being realized in slow motion, like the car wreck that can not be avoided. To them he is assembling yet another layer of bureaucracy superimposed over the still dysfunctional IC. Negroponte has decided to be — or more importantly, is acting like — an institution-builder, a consolidator of time honored bureaucratic heft, head count and the like.
Nothing to date has proved the skeptics wrong. And the window is closing fast.
But what about the 'substance' of what OenNDI et al. said yesterday? Thanks to Senators Rockefeller and others, a few Senators focused attention at yesterday's dog show on warrantless NSA domestic spying activity. To be met with the usual stonewalling, abetted by the feckless Pat Roberts.
Of interest to the Stiftung, the OenNDI's 26 page statement yesterday reveals how threadbare GWOT has become. An exhausted and depleted metaphor.
Consider how Negroponte organized the threats conceptually yesterday — (i) jihadists, (ii) insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq; (iii) state WMD proliferation — Iran and N. Korea; (iv) 'issues of political stability around the world' (whatever that means); and (v) the catchall 'globalization, emerging powers, narcotrafficking and pandemics' category.
Despite best efforts to hype the threat, jihadists simply can not carry the GWOT framing and its call for global militarization, resources and psychological Agit-prop domestic operations. Rather, the real strategic threats and conceptual challenges were relegated to the 'catchall' category. Noted, for completists and CYA, but not really understood or internalized. Out of 26 pages, instead only 9 bland paragraphs covered the Chinese and Indian economic, political and military rise and impact.
The inescapable conclusion? The 'New Normal' now is an eerily empty void of increaingly hollow catchphrases (GWOT! Jihad!), bureaucratic inertia out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, militarization, and formless political theater.
Not to minimize the challenge of engaging and defeating specific terrorist groups. Or to penetrate, disrupt and shut down WMD networks. The Administration's 1930's AgitProp techniques and instincts of 'GWOT' and 'Long War' have not only failed them, but us as well.