If McMaster and Mansoor et al. truly stand behind this, so much for their “go long” plans. Adios muchachos.
Col. MacMaster you may recall led the only really effective U.S. counter-insurgency operation in Iraq at Tal Afar (before being banished to London because his success embarrassed the rest of the Army. The Joint Chiefs brought him in from the cold late in 2006). He knows of what he speaks:
Life was horrible in the city. They would leave headless bodies in the street. They kidnapped a young child on one occasion, killed the child, put a booby trap inside of his body and waited for the father to come claim the body to kill the parent.
Petraeus in Iraq relies on McMaster (still London based), Mansoor and others — renegade and dissendent colonels and officers — to avert catastrophe. As even ninth graders tinkering with MySpace pages know by now, there aren't enough troops. Unsurprisingly, the whiz kids are not wowing the cloistered Americans crouching in the Green Zone. Bruce Hoffman provides the buzz kill quote below:
“Their role is crucial if we are to reverse the effects of four years of conventional mind-set fighting an unconventional war,” said one Special Forces colonel who knows some of the officers.
But there is widespread skepticism that even this unusual group, with its specialized knowledge of counterinsurgency methods, will be able to win the battle of Baghdad.
“Petraeus' 'brain trust' is an impressive bunch, but I think it's too late to salvage success in Iraq,” said a professor at a military war college, who said he thinks the general will still not have sufficient troops to implement a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, and also that the United States really has no solution for the sectarian violence tearing apart Iraq.
“It's too late to make a difference in Iraq,” agreed Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University terrorism expert who has advised the U.S. government on the war effort.
One delusion common to some State-side analysts and pundits looking at Iraq is applying retrospectively coherence onto what really are the Administration's random, ill considered and ad hoc lurches. The 180 degree by Cher Condi yesterday to join the “neighborly” chat case in point. This is not a crowd that can plan and prepare for the inevitable. For the rest of us, it is well past time to think beyond the surge's failure. Former Clinton national security staffer Steve Simon's CFR piece “After The Surge” noted in the piece above does just that.
Who knows? The Democrat majority may even get its act together and help the Nation brace for the deluge. It's one thing to be “antiwar”. Quite another for demos to see and forced to live with defeat. A time comes when even the Friedmans run out.
“I would note that the Iraqi government has invited Syria and Iran to attend both of these regional meetings,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today, in announcing the talks, which will also include the Britain, Russia and a host of international organizations and Middle East countries. “We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq — and to work for peace and stability in the region.”
The first meeting — which will include senior Bush administration officials like David M. Satterfield, the State Department’s senior adviser on Iraq — will be held in Baghdad in the first half of March, administration officials said. In early April, Ms. Rice will attend a ministerial level conference, which will likely be held somewhere else in the region.
Of course the ad hoc strategic insanity of the Warlord's policies goes without saying. The entire Bush enterprise was a roll of the dice that a quick operational military victory in 2003 would produce strategic results for the U.S. and The Realm. The gamble failed. In 2004 we entered a different war, a war of attrition. We never mobilized for it militarily, economically and politically. In fact the U.S. today can not under any politically feasible calculus of national power objectively prevail in such a war.
So the U.S. flounders around, trying to understand our war of attrition and growing defeat in absolute (not tactical military) terms. This context explains U.S. contradictory policies that created a Shia crescent by waging war against Sunnis in Iraq only to abandon the Shia 4 years later for the Sunnis. Short term tactical political and military logic shaped by battlefield conditions du jour produce more strategic incoherence. Incompetence is dangerous. Unpredictable incompetence is often fatal for all sucked into it.
U.S. joining a meeting to discuss a meeting may not amount to much. Recall in 2005 Cher Condi testified to Congress that Neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had been empowered to talk to his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad on Iraq. There remains much finger pointing to this day over his efforts and what actually happened. Even if talks occur, they are not a goal themselves but only a means to an end.
Does anyone have confidence in what this crowd will actually say?
A senior official from one of the biggest PSCs already operating in Iraq last night claimed firms had been told to expect increased business opportunities in areas such as personnel protection, highway security and the training of Iraqi police and soldiers.
“It is not entirely surprising that they recognise PSCs still have a value in Iraq,” the source said. “But them wanting to meet us demonstrates that they have accepted just how valuable the industry can be.”
As Japan sheds its postwar pacifism and gears up to take a higher military profile in the world, it is enlisting cadres of cute characters and adorable mascots to put a gentle, harmless sheen on its deployments.
“Prince Pickles is our image character because he's very endearing, which is what Japan's military stands for,” said Shotaro Yanagi, a Defense Agency official. “He's our mascot and appears in our pamphlets and stationery.” Such characters have long been used in Japan to win hearts and minds and to soften the image of authority.
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 !”
Having 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.”
We 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.
Elsewhere, 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?
Take up the White man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed.
Not so much Rudyard these days. Granted, the U.S. media mischaracterized Blair's remarks. The partial withdrawal of 1,500 still leaves a British footprint around Basra for some time. Blair is also prone to bold public declarations with tempered follow up. Even so, hard to argue Britain's largest military operation since WW II didn't fail. Or that the withdrawal isn't starting the next phase of Iraq's future.
The Stiftung thinks we know why. U.S. cable news producers don't know how to cram the south and now British withdrawal into a standard template. Court dramas follow predictable and comfortable arcs. Baghdad provides smoke, bombs and drama. But southern Iraq?
So we want to help. Here's how. First, we have a sexy triangle struggle. Cable can approach it as either Springer-esque shoutfest or Anna Nicole Smith custody battle. At issue is a three-way Shia factional struggle for control of Basra and its vital oil and port facilities. Obviously the latter part requires tarting up a bit. But if Monty Python can transform mollusks into riveting must see TV (“Yes, the mollusk is a randy little bastard!” or “Mollusks, thos t** sucking rapists of the ocean” ) we think American cable TV can sex up oil and port facilities.
We are lucky that we have three parties vying for control. They are perfect for a long running cable narrative like Anna Nicole. First we have the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The news producers could start off calling them the “Council” which sounds vaguely inert and PTA-ish. But later when ratings sag SCIRI can be used. Even the name when pronounced off a teleprompter to Americans will sound ominous and ethnic. Then there is the Islamic al-Fadhila party. Anything with “al” in front of it to an American is a terrorist ipso facto. And finally, when more evil mojo is needed to keep viewers after the tease at the 30 and on the hour, there is Moqtada al-Sadr's faction. He glowers well for the 'Breaking News' swoosh.
So we have three parties trying to control the Basra-Mollusks/oil export facilities. Then we have the failed/weak mediator, al Maliki. Maliki tried to broker an arrangement among the three parties and failed miserably. A failed mediator is perfect for cable news drama. Harpies and pundits will be able to pile on mercilessly. This drama will play out for at least the next year. More than enough time for CNN, MSNBC and Fox to write a theme song for “The Basra Custody Battle.” Even better when existing minor militia clashes escalate into full scale attacks. The end result will be regardless a brand new Shia-controlled state comprised of Basra and neighboring regions. Another 3-4 months of speculation about 'who lost the Mollusks/oil export facilities' and finger pointing — how did Iran win yet again.
The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel . . . When Israeli officials asked Secretary Rice about the possibility of exploring the seriousness of Syria in its calls for peace talks, her response was unequivocal: Don't even think about it.
Israeli officials, including those in the intelligence community, are divided over the degree to which Syrian President Bashar Assad is serious and sincere in his call for peace talks with Israel. One view describes Assad's call as a propaganda campaign, and insists that the Syrian leader is not serious. Among those holding this view is Mossad chief Meir Dagan. In Military Intelligence the view differs. There are those who say that Assad is serious in his call for peace talks, but also say that this does not mean that those talks would be easy for Israel. They even suggest that there is a very good chance that the talks would fail.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far adopted the strict American position not to respond to the Syrian feelers. On the other hand, at the Foreign Ministry and within the defense establishment, there is a greater degree of openness to the offers, and the overall view is that the door should not be closed entirely to the Syrians. Similarly, many believe that the Syrian offers should be tested for their sincerity.
Poland and the Czech Republic are independent countries. They make their own decisions.
Cher Condi, Feb. 21, 2007
The U.S. may be facing a strategic debacle in the Middle East. Fanciful notions of 'lilypads' across Eurasia to support global U.S. power projection evaporate. But the U.S. at least seems determined to consolidate the rollback of the old Soviet sphere of influence. Win some, lose some.
Our move to deploy ballistic missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic further entrenches the U.S. military periphery towards the Russian front door. That is not to say the system works or will in the near future. Each gound facility, however, its a totem — a multlibillion dollar U.S. physical presence. More importantly, manned by Americans.
As tripwires go, the Poles and Czechs will take them. Oh, and by the way, if the facilities ever work, they could be useful against missiles from the Middle East. The Russians know that these facilities do not have to be in Poland or the Czech Republic — Japan and Turkey would also cover North Korea or Iran. Sea-based Aegis assets would be an initial layer in either case. So one can understand their skepticism.
European missile defense facilities also serve another U.S. interest. They add leverage to our role within the fraying institutional and political ties binding the Europe (New and Old) to the U.S. NATO, Afghanistan apart, is no longer reflexively an American rubber stamp. The strategic direction of the U.K. post-Blair and France post-Chirac promise more distance and skepticism.
Russian frustration with the Administration and America generally transcends Putin and the silovniki. Russians of all stripes have for the last year have been saying many of the same things. Non-Kool Aiders here in the U.S. likely know in some fiber of their being that Putin in Munich spoke for many in Europe and others around the globe.
We see here a long standing Czech strategic concept to create barriers against irredentisim. Benes, who was Czechoslovakia's Foreign Minister at the time, created “The Little Entente” in 1920 among Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia to guard against Hungarian (Habsburg) resurgence. France envisioned using the Little Entente as an eastern threat to Germany to replace Russia. (The entente failed, however, when put to the test with German diplomacy in 1936-1938.) NATO obviously is the main Czech and Polish formal shield against Russia. But multibillion dollar U.S. facilities manned by Americans are even better. That the facilities piss off Ivan icing on the cake. (Historical analogies are always suspect but note that the Little Entente collapsed in 1936-1938 because of French overextension).
Whether such facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic are in the actual long term U.S. interests is another issue. Provoking Russia, break out of the INF Treaty or not, is a high cost to pay considering alternative and effective basing options such as sea-based Aegis platforms and Japan and Turkey. Poland and the Czech Republic are already NATO members and can invoke Article 5. Make no mistake, however. These would be the latest physical manifestation of the borders of the American empire — whose momentum and special interests will outlive the Bush regime.
. . . there clearly is a distinction to be drawn between constructive disagreement about the conflict in Iraq and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The former can be compatible with a genuine commitment to the troops and to their success, as well as their safety. It would, however, require the dissenters to propose other strategies for victory — not simply the use of code-words for defeat, like “redeployment” and “regional diplomacy” . . .
These critics, particularly members of Congress, must be held accountable for such destructive dissent. Our enemies believe their strategy for achieving a political victory by wearing down the United States is succeeding. They are redoubling their efforts as they perceive the rising power of irresponsible anti-war “agitators.” Abraham Lincoln understood the difference between constructive dissent and treacherous agitation. There is no mistaking his determination to “silence” the latter through means he judged to be constitutional. The question occurs: Will it take some further, even more catastrophic attack here at home — an attack made more likely by the irresponsible behavior of today's agitators — to silence their defeatism and reunify the country behind a necessary program for victory?
Poor Frank. Having to devote 3/4 of a column to apologize for putting words in Lincoln's mouth. Frank as the stand in for the remnants of the Christian Socialist Authoritarian regime would hold at least 15 generals traitor. A significant portion of the active force in region. Tony Blair. 60% of the American people. A majority of the Senate. And almost 300 members of the House.
Frank and the regime only wish they could simply decree a modern Order No. 227. Or the German 1945 equivalent. One can't help but think that Frank and the Weekly Standard staff would have been happier alive in April 1945, in the Berlin rubble chasing down those who surrendered or tried to find American lines. Moral clarity and treason indeed.
This is on our mind today — more than Blair and Cheney's response — because of the recent movie “Breach”. You've probably seen the ads. It's about Robert Hanssen, FBI counter intelligence official, Opus Dei activist, devoted Catholic and long time Soviet/Russian spy. As a movie, we'd give it a 3 out of 5. Hanssen arguably was the most damaging spy in U.S. history. We had dinner not that long ago with an official from an earlier administration who argued the Walkers were worse. They are right up there. Those are real traitors. As were Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, Pelton, Ames, Pollard, etc. Not insignificantly, the Gaffneys of the world don't seem all that pre-occupied with say, Larry Franklin and AIPAC. Or Amdocs. Or Chalabi's intensive interactions with Iranians and Iranian intelligence. In fact, they embrace Chalabi vociferously and wave away evidence to the contrary.
An ideological regime in its death throes almost never goes down to absolute zero in support. Even in May 1945, the regime there probably retained 10% popular support. Referring to the comments discussions elsewhere about Ian Kershaw, Kershaw has written that the regime enjoyed 90% approval ratings until March 1943. So no matter what size the debacle in the Middle East, the oceans of blood spilled, the strategic consequences, expect that the Bush Administration will likely never break a floor of 20+%.
There is one more connection between Hanssen and the Gaffneys of the world. Hanssen, writing his Russian control, described the U.S. as an overdeveloped child with great strength but little brains, easily manipulated. That basic contempt for America and Americans is also at the core the Neocon credo. Their anger? The so-called child refuses their manipulation.
BBC reports of an alleged U.S. strike plan against Iran did not impress the Stiftung much. Practically, we know already of planning and wargaming on Iran. For several years now. CENTCOM and DoD would be guilty of incompetence if they didn't. Indeed, NORTHCOM likely has a plan somewhere for crushing the potential threat from Alberta.
This particular leak has the whiff of an Administration plant. The Beeb claims that the U.S. set “two triggers” for attack: (a) Iranian nuclear weapons; and (b) Tehran's direct and provable culpability in attacks on U.S. troops. U.S. intelligence via former DNI Negroponte already is on record that Tehran is years away from (a). The Warlord has already accused them of (b).
All this institutional and intellectual momentum rested in large part on misreading air power's success in seemingly achieving victory in Belgrade by itself (and its promise hinted at in Desert Storm). Belgrade seemingly vindicated Douhet, Mitchell and Warden. An “effects based” approach of “influencing” outcomes created a distortion in application of military power - pursuit of ill-defined aims and goals. We happen to agree with Vego supra who argued that military planning works best when it focues on finishing specific tasks towards a clear objective. As he notes, EBO in essence substitutes the targeter's view of the world for warfare.
The U.S. was not alone. Our ideologically driven misunderstanding of air power helped lead the Israelis astray, too. The botched Israeli obliteration of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon? An attack the Israelis patterned after U.S. Air Force doctrine and Belgrade. Even wingnuts could grok this:
Israel's new chief of staff, an air force general, believed that most of Israel's future operations would be conducted from the air. Military leaders were convinced that with superior communications and air power they did not even need new U.S. “bunker buster” munitions to root out terror leaders in underground hideaways. Today, this vision of air power as a panacea has been shattered.
If the BBC report can be believed, the military-only target sets are a substantial move off the civilian targets so prominent in Belgrade and Lebanon. In other words, the wanton destruction of civilians and civilian infrastructure is avoided at least at the outset. Of course, a restricted target set is not in and of itself a repudiation of EBO. Even its harshest critics would concede that. In this case, It is entirely possible that the EBO mafia may claim compellence/coercion leverage on regime high value security and power assets. As Vego and others note, such thinking is likely wildly flawed - i.e., history teaches that EBO advocates almost always fail to underestand or predict accurately the secondary and tertiary impacts of their actions. Hezbollah's increased popularity after Israeli bombing is only one example. Iranian nationalism likely would do no less in rallying the people (of all ages and demographics) to the regime.
Is the Warlord stupid enough to initiate transitory violence and thereby ensure the Mullahs' rule for another three decades? Most definitely. Has he decided to do so? We don't think so, not yet. We base that on our temperature read of the Usual Suspects. They, like the Israelis, remain despondent. Will he be out maneuvered by Tehran? Almost certainly. How does one say 'paper tiger' in Farsi?
Neocons and wingnuts abuse history like addicts with a crystal meth stash. Lincoln and Winnie probably are the favorite fixes. In the movie “Gladiator”, the hero Maximus bonds with troops declaiming “strength and honor.” One imagines over the linen table cloths in the AEI dining room the refrain is somewhat different — “That's Churchillian”, perhaps.
But right up there with Honest Abe (now also reduced to shilling for a sleeping pill) and the 1/2 Brit alcoholic is the Munich Conference of 1938. Cliff May asks today “Has anything changed in the last 69 years?” Sadly, he and VDH prove the answer is “no”. Munich remains a poster child for wing nut and Neocon AgitProp titillation. Munich also works because the image of apocalyptic failure and weakness invoked also summons its antidote — be like Winston.
Munich is valuable as a meme because it crunches down historical complexity into the preferred binary narrative of forward or back, victory or defeat. In this simplification, Neville Chamberlain naively caved in to the evil dictator that September in 1938 and let loose WW II.
Some tent pole concepts support this false narrative. Waving his signed agreement in the air, Chamberlain did declare “peace in our time”. The agreement did allow the Germans to annex Czech Sudetenland. Cliff May oddly enough embraces the Corporal's sneer as his own — “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.” The lesson? Don't negotiate with dictators. Use force to rebuff them. For Neocons, the subtext is also prevent 'another Holocaust', etc.
Munich as historical truth doesn't work very well as Neocon cystral meth. As we know, the United States negotiated fairly successfully with the Soviets for almost 50 years. Krasnoyarsk and some other issues aside, the treaties worked. There were countless less formal agreements and understandings over the years. Hard to mock Chamberlain for waiving a scrap of paper in the air when one recalls Winnie himself sat down later with Stalin writing percentage spheres of influence on a map. Stalin could indulge the amateur artist. He famously asked of the Pope, “How many divisions does he have?” Stalin knew Churchill's percentages were every bit as delusional as Chamberlain's hopes. Even Truman, invoked by the Warlord lately refused military confrontation when Stalin blockaded Berlin and opted for the airlift. Truman also rejected war with China and fired MacArthur.
Neocons are undeterred and trotted out the Munich thing in 2002 to accuse Hans Blix (writing today coincidentally about Iran) and the UN of appeasement. Since then, Bibi, Frum and others accuse the U.S. and particularly Bush regime skeptics of 'another Munich' for their refusal to embrace strikes on Iran. Someone at NRO seemingly drops the M-bomb at least once every two weeks.
Why May Doesn't Know History
May is a former communications flack for the Republican Party, now tarted up via his AgitProp front group “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies”. He is in the Bibi wingnut crowd. Today he takes no prisoners. He turns on former Neocon darling, German Chancellor AndreaAngela Merkel*, for her lack of moral clarity. May also sleazily blends the Corporal and Iranian Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, into a composite Munich aggressor.
The problem is that May has no idea what he is talking about. The truth is that the Corporal saw Munich as a defeat. The historical German record is clear about Hitler's outrage. He was furious that Chamberlain saddled him with diplomacy and averted war in 1938.
Hitler wanted and needed war in 1938. He knew that his military modernization program gave him a significant but diminishing advantage. By 1940 he knew the gap would for all intents and purposes close. The German General Staff under Beck was ordered to and did prepare for a 1938 invasion (Beck was a regime opponent and even mused about a coup against Hitler at this time). A war beginning in 1938 would have favored the Germans even more than that in September 1939. Had the Mays of the world had their say in 1938, the Western democracies would have been even more unprepared (if one can imagine such a thing). The Russians, one year after the 1937 military purges and the ongoing Yezhovschina, would have been a non factor. Hitler's anger was amplified all the more precisely because for class and other reasons, Chamberlain as the personification of the 'English Genteman'. To the low born Corporal, Chamberlain (like the hated Prussian Junkers class) was indeed a worm, etc. Yet he still did not get his war.
Secondly, May et al. (such as VDH) fail to understand what actually happened at Munich. The conference came about in large part because another dictator, Italy's Mussolini, intervened and sought to mediate very much against Hitler's interests. His rage at being cheated out his war he wanted at Munich had as much to do with Mussolini's diplomatic intervention as Chamberlain's piece of paper. Unlike the wingnut simplistic (and wrong) historical template, Munich did not represent “totalitarian dictators” versus the West — Mussolini worked actively against Hitler's interest in provoking war and sought to resolve what he mistakenly thought was a simple terrirorial dispute through diplomacy. Hitler never forgot this, and while he continued to admire Il Duce he was careful to keep him out of future plans, providing for example, notice of the Barbarossa campaign only on its commencement.
In fact, it was not Munich that started WW II. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 (with the secret annex which gave 1/2 of Poland to Stalin) was the green light for war. To be sure, Stalin considered briefing joining with the West against Hitler. But declassified Soviet archives reveal that Stalin wanted the Germans and the West to go to war with each other, and weaken both. He schemed to allow the Soviet Union to delay its involvement and emerge stronger than either. In short, the causes and timetable for the European war are not monocausal or linear. Neocon fabrications notwithstanding.
So where does that leave us? Munich as a meme does not stand for what May, VDH and Frum say it does. As mentioned, the historical archives make clear that “the dictator” felt he lost at Munich. Second, Munich occurred in large part through the diplomatic auspices of another totalitarian regime interested in promoting mediation. Third, weak and naive as Chamberlain was at Munich, the agreement gave the West a further year to re-arm. In the case of the Royal Air Force, this extra year was the margin of victory or defeat in the Battle of Britain. This is so regardless of what Chamberlain believed his piece of paper said.
Senator Webb showed the Democrats that good offensive AgitProp consists of short, declarative propositions. We've said as much here. So this musing on Munich's overuse and misuse by the wingnuts is an aside to our readers. We'll leave to you the general inapplicability of the German circumstances to Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Hezbollah (did I miss one of the Neocon hit parade?).
We just note that Germany in 1914, of course, had the second highest GDP in the world. It's operational-level military capabilities the world's best by late 1938. Its scientific and technical research arguably among the top three in the world. And it was smack in the center of the world's leading economic cockpit. Its dictatorial head (not symbolic like the democratically elected Iranian President) had a coherent geopolitical and racial philosophy of social darwinism. A viewpoint that he imposed in every corner of German life and governmental activity.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a blessing to the wingnuts. His various quotes give them that get up and go to peddle the Munich and other stuff. Of course, many of these Rightists also dismissed Rafsanjani or Khatami whenever they said something moderate — then an Iranian President was to be ignored as a figurehead without power. Why Iran would not be deterred by an Israeli nuclear weaon never seems to get much attention from the Neocons. Persia has been a cultural and geographic center in Iran for over a thousand years. In other words, the Iranians have a mailing address.
A major reason this is not discussed much? The Israeli fear of deterrence on them. Would not an Iranian bomb require Israel to rethink its approach to southern Lebanon? Or even Gaza or the West Bank? Sacre bleu!
To many Israelis, it seems as if that war, and the destruction it brought, were all for nothing.
For many, it is a thoroughly depressing realization. And this sense of depression is not only permeating the Israeli public. A series of recent interviews with current and former Israeli government officials revealed a level of pessimism across the Israeli government that is unprecedented in recent decades. Several senior officials acknowledged unequivocally that Israel lost the war against Hezbollah, and confirmed that this is a widely held view inside the Israeli government — despite many public pronouncements to the contrary by Israeli leaders.
It doesn't help Neocons much that Winnie is also famous for saying “It is better to jaw jaw than war war.”
I was in the audience in Munich when Putin made his speech, and the tone seemed to me more one of resentment than belligerence. He was proud, prickly, defiant — a leader with all the Russian chips on his shoulder. You could hear his inner voice: We let you dismantle the Berlin Wall. We folded the Warsaw Pact. We dissolved the Soviet Union — all on your promises that you wouldn't take advantage of our weakness. And what did we get? Nothing! You surrounded us with NATO weapons.
Putin's comments may be jarring to Americans, but they express a bitterness that's widespread here [in Moscow]. His generation of Russians grew up in a country that claimed the status of “superpower,” and they don't like being taken for granted.
We've written about the strategic ineptitude of this Administration's foreign policy regarding the Eurasian World Island before, for example,here and here. The resentment Ignatius writes about is very real. We have some experience in this sphere and can attest to two things: (a) the possibilities opened by 1991; and (b) bungling by the West and the U.S. in particular from 1991-1999 which helped foster in some quarters Russian rejection of the liberal democratic idea. Nonetheless, the Russians themselves made the choices during this era and bear the responsibility for their outcome. We just helped things along.
Under the Warlord, Russian disappointment with the West turned to alarm and anger. From their perspective, Russian support after 9/11 and acquiescence to an American presence in Central Asia for Afghan operations morphed into a comprehensive American rollback policy across the entire Russian Near Abroad. We simultaneously invaded and turned their former Iraqi client state into a killing field. All while demanding they help us crush their trading partner Iran. And in return, America offered what precisely?
There is almost a Weimar to mid 1930s transformation now in Moscow — from humiliation and bankruptcy to a growing economy, stability and an oil money boom. Only this Administration's geopolitical narcissism blinded them to this all too predictable and obvious development. As Krauthammer notes, “He [Putin] does not want to bury us; he only wants to diminish us. It is 19th-century power politics at its most crude and elemental. Putin does not want us as an enemy. But at Munich he told the world that, vis-à-vis America, his Russia has gone from partner to adversary.” Doh. (Putin has been signalling this since 2003 at the latest).
Postscript: The Administration and the Movement may find it more convenient to keep Putin as a boogeyman to misdirect animus. Consider Rush on the radio this week. He relayed that someone “senior in the White House” said Putin helped the Iraqis move the WMD out of Iraq into Syria. (Rush was careful to add the disclaimer he didn't know if this person should be believed. But then went on to discuss it at length. Elliott Abrams, anyone?).
From a domestic AgitProp perspective, it is inspired — Putin's current villainy morphed into a get out of jail free card for the WMD fiasco. Now, if only they could blame Putin for Katrina . . .
Text of communication as intercepted by Quds Force 'illegal', code named 'Hidden Imam', in place at Fox News. HI provided a copy to General Do Ming Hua of the Glorious Blossom LCD Electronics and Textile Enterprise:
CHENEY . . . (peering into video conference camera):
Joel Surnow? Hello? Joel ! Lynne and I love 24. It is, in my judgment, the funniest show on TV.
We just saw your 1/2 Hour News Hour clips at Mary's partner's house. The Cheneys like comedy. Comedy is always welcome in the Cheney house. The Cheneys are comedic people, if you will.
Lynne and I thought we would give you some feedback to help Fox with their remarkable success in downsizing their audience. That's the kind of effort that doesnt get reported enough by our critics.
Here's a skit that Hannah and Wurmser loved. It's called “Crying Wolf.” I took the liberty of providing this conceptual drawing.
Plus Dick Durbin and those fucking Democrats will hate it! I suggest you save it for sweeps week.
Elliott Abrams and Addington came up with another one, "Stab In The Back.' It's a game show where the contestants are asked to come up with a policy for Iraq. A beautiful nubile aryan blonde woman represents America. A correct answer will save her from disaster. But it is rigged! No matter what decision they make, MsAmerica gets stabbed in the back by a Ted Kennedy look-a-like! Pure hilarity !
Joel, we know that with great comedic talents like you, Fox will continue its exceptional and industry-leading decline. Those mainstream liberal networks only wish they could lose key demographics as fast as Fox is doing currently. All the best wishes for continued catastrophic success.
And remember, if someone like Dick Cheney finds your show hilarious, you know you have a winner!
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.
Jim 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.
Perhaps 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.
He'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.
One 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.
We agree with those that point to the U.S. ambling towards confrontation while thinking itself in a holding pattern. It may be true that no final decision appears to have been made for airstrikes on Iran. Many, but not the majority of Neocons, also seek vindication of their romantic visions of another velvet uprising, or at least manufacturing the facsimile thereof via traditional covert action to destabilize the Iranian regime. And it is also true that the hardliners, such as Meyrav Wurmser, lament that “There is not enough political will for a strike. There seems to be various notions of what the policy should be.”
Sensing the drift and the urgent need to radicalize further Evangelical and other elements of the Administration's base, the Weekly Standard appears to have “turned it up to 11”. We also see Sharansky, whose book so captivated the Warlord, weighing in, as well. Neocons differ on the tactics for overthrowing the Iranian menace in the halls at AEI, Hudson, etc. All are relatively united, however, in claiming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran an existential threat to both Israel and improbably the U.S. as well. They all understand that a U.S. in a policy flux represents an opportunity. What is today avowedly a posture for “containment” is also a posture for pre-positioning assets for strike.
Our old friend and martini sociologist Fareed Zakaria offers another blast of intellectual flatulence, The Road to Reformation. Expect to see more of this meme in the sorrows of this coming Spring.
As informed opinion, it is the shallowest tripe. Either it is deliberate misinformaton and manipulation by Zakaria seeking to find a pony at the bottom of the geopolitical pile he helped create, or Zakaria is truly dim. Perhaps both.
The concept of an Islamic reformation or Ijtihad is “the use of analytical and scholarly techniques to gain a balanced understanding of the meaning of the Qur'an, by emphasizing equally the analyses of the historical, economic, and social conditions that brought about the holy texts.” As noted by Wikipedia, here are the six tenets of the Islamic reformation:
To use critical thinking and critical theory in studying and in teaching the texts of Islam
To revive the appreciation of the arts, humanities, and the social sciences
To empower women and to protect women's rights, for the promotion of true gender equality
To empower ordinary people in political life, for the separation of Mosque and State
To foster a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding in interfaith dialogue
To contribute vibrantly to the modern world, and to live and immerse Islam without hindering its' beliefs
If the parties slaughtering each other and innocents in Iraq have nothing to do with Ijtihad, none of the external regional parties do either, save one. The House of Saud and its Wahhabi partners remained committed to virulent unmoderated Islam. So the ruling regime in Tehran. True, the Stiftung has been part of colloquia with Iranian intellectuals who are fully immersed in Itjihad. But they are not involved in the sectarian violence in Iraq and wider sectarian violence, however, weakens them rather than strengthens a reform agenda. The only possible regime that might support a true reformation might be the Hashemites in Jordan. Even so, no one sees Amman's interest in Iraqi outcomes as based on a desire to promote any of the principles above. In other words, no one fighting in Iraq today is fighting for reformation nor is a reformation a likely outcome from the violence.
It is not for nothing that Zakaria deliberately leaves reformation undefined. He must. So why write such a transparently dishonest piece? One expects Bletchley II veterans to labor to turn facts upside down and sell them as progress. But to sell the pure nihilistic sectarian violence as a “reformation” simply because Western religous wars also were violent is brazenly deceptive.
Meme 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.
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.
Movement 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.
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.”
As 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.
Back 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.
In 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.”
Oddball, Crapgame and Kelly had to actually engage the Germans and a tiger tank to blow the bank. The screenwriters back then
would simply not believe 360 tons of cash disappearing in a war zone. Or having culinary school graduates overseeing the Ministry of Finance, etc.
Just the CPA angle is a stagggering undertaking. Money for nothing indeed. Wrapping one's head around the scale of the managerial and fiscal incompetence remains difficult even now. Let alone keeping track of all the interested parties involved.
Our view is that current investigatory staff hires still are not enough. Just for this one issue, let alone the many others. For example, today opened another huge can of worms — the private military contractor issue. The first hearings ever on this subject as incredible as that seems. Hard to feel sympathy for CSC/Dyncorp, Blackwater, etc. — not just because Cofer Black et al. are cashing in. That is part of the times. And not just the grotesque disparity of paying the mercs $100,000 to do what active force personnel do every day. The testimony today about shortages before Fallujah are further proof that “the private sector” is not inherently superior or even as good in solving battefield challenges.
Today the lights just flicked on. And the cockroaches are flitting to the corners. Perhaps now the American people will learn the details how the entire government contractor community 2001-2006 spiralled out of control.
How wonderful to have a government functioning again. But not soon enough for the 3,000 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and tens of thousands of wounded.
Everyone every year knows a federal budget is fiction. But these guys? They don't even bother pretending otherwise. It's all very late GOSPLAN.
One thing seems clear. You Dear Reader likely have some programs or funding that you believe are urgent. Put them aside for a moment. To us, the American fiscal and economic disarray in the budget are just the mirror image of our geopolitical strategic bulemia. Our usual disconnect betwen ends/means and strategic realities.
Resource constraints may soon begin to make choices for us. Our defense industrial binge is only just beginning. Taking out war fighter welfare and after care needs, much of this national treasure is allocated to defense industrial/service politics. We are just beginning to see the tip of the procurement cycle for next generation platforms for each of the services: new carriers and surface ships, new fighters, and the Army's future combat system, space and missile defense, etc. These budget items the past few years — large as they are — are the camel's nose under the tent. Once ensconced in the budget, cancelling these programs will be almost impossible politically. One or two may be trimmed. The services will be lobbying for their sacred cows and seeking to knock over their rivals' rice bowls. The momentum will be too powerful. Even Rumsfeld at the height of his power had trouble with Crusader. A successor president will think twice about facing what Carter did with the B-1. Expect these programs like in the past to be stretched into smaller, completely uneconomic and irrational batch buys, etc. The usual game.
It was nice to see the Dems play good meme-ball (tm) today. “Filled with debt and deception” — from Kent Conrad. A good sound bite. “Waste, fraud and abuse” became a mantra in the 1980s for the Reagan Administration to attack Democrats. A chief of staff of a very powerful baron on the Hill used rage in chats with the Stiftung at how that meme transmuted itself into a universal truism. Democrats never really figured out how to deflect it. Will the Democrats have the coordination and infrastructure to hammer that meme, Conrad's — or any other — into a winning game of meme-ball? Conrad is off to a good start.
Yawn. 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.
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.
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.
So 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.
Oppositionists 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).
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.
What 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).
From 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.