DNI One Year Into The Boy King

Walter Pincus, an old school reporter of the best kind, sums up some perspectives on where intelligence reform went after the 9/11 Commission klieg lights shut down. Many of the anecdotes Pincus shares we’ve discussed here together long ago. In that sense, the piece brings one up to date rather than conveys fresh information.

What’s missing from Pincus’ reporting are the actual key issues — tasking and budget. Commuting aside (it’s not just a Starbucks double mocha latte kvetch, D.C. traffic is famously brutal, in no small part due to incompetent divers let alone inadequate infrastructure), who whom still rules, and budgetary control is the ultimate Peacemaker. Control over tasking also defines priorities and the the entire scope of the intelligence product cycle.

We predicted we’d end up in this miasma. First when Snarlin’ Arlen offered similar reform bills in 1987/88 after Iran Contra. And more recently when we were quoted in nationally syndicated columns blasting Cher Condi’s fatuous testimony on Community reform before the 9/11 Commission. (Well worth the subsequent and wholly coincidental tax audit). Pincus rightly recalls Duncan Hunter’s stand to expand intelligence oversight jurisdiction for HASC/SASC and DoD programmatically.

We have to admit Panetta’s flackery and full court leaking have been surprisingly effective. We didn’t think a year ago he’d have anything thing like his success creating notional constructs of a functioning and at least capable Agency [sic]. In the end, the Community will seek inertia and the status quo under the best of times. A change agent in the White House would make all the difference. Yet as we see with the Bush Lite Nuclear Posture Review, President Goldilocks is not going to go there.

Que sera, sera.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Gates agrees in concept to surrender some DoD control over the Community budget. Under ordinary circumstances we would applaud this belated move.

    Clapper (the current DNI) notionally benefits as control of budgets is real power in D.C. Gates is canny. He just punted to Clapper a staggeringly bloated non-DoD Community budget that Clapper now will have to defend and justify. DoD is preparing for its third war in 10 years – preserving its own corpulence on the Hill.

    Don’t hold your breath in any event. Committee jurisdiction is the alpha and omega of power on the Hill. Lots of rice bowls involved here. But in theory a micro step forward. Funny how bright a faint glimmer is in the twilight.


  2. latte says

    Yikes.. cringe, &cringe again at conveying incoherence.
    Really need to attempt at least an advanced alpha beyond the brainstorm/notes phasing next time

  3. latte says

    read and weep:


    The formulation of a paradigmatic cabable of realizing viable grand-strategy for the United States would have to

    (i) re-evaluate intellectual relationships to and between fields in the social sciences rubric: economics chiefly, but also infrastructural design and cultural design.

    –Brzezinski’s ontology in particular is puerile and simplistic, and though I pass along Engdahl as worthy contrast (especially given Brzezinski’s constraints as public figure; and I am gaining increasing respect for his overall contributions the more delve into earlier work), one still has the sense of being locked up under MacKinder’s spell. It’s a childish paradigm, a game of Mattel Risk, which reduces conceptions of the homeland economy and society to a pump model of resource consumption, without any attention given to the full variation in possibility in the configuration of the domestic economy/society for maximum production; indeed it well should be asked what qualifies as /production/ in the 21st century.

    The crucial resources and engines of production are not material resources but sentience, intelligence and perspicacity. These phenomena are on the abstract and subtle side of the of our sensory apparat’s perceptual continuum, and therefore fall by the wayside in the models of contemporary economics and geopolitics, which favors ‘tangible’ (easily metric’d and modeled) ‘concrete realities’ … material and materiel, like fuel oils. In the final analysis neither the mental resources nor the physical resources are sufficient by themselves; both are necessary but *not* sufficient.

    A viable grand strategy is a holistic affair, and in this case the formulation of such would require a substantial collective intellectual investment, which could be essentially described as the process of constructing higher-resolution scientific models over the relevant domains: economics, society, culture, engineering, and their inter-relationships.

    (ii) The key change necessary is a substantial shift in focus away from resource reductionism to focussing on the domestic situation in the United States: what kind of people are we? what kind of civilization have we become? Questions like these are necessarily addressed in both /operational/ as well as /esthetic/ modes. That is to say, both scientific (functional, rigorous) as well as philosophical (valuations, desired end-states) modes. In a rigorous setting surely the operational mode is preferable during daylight working hours; again, for this to succeed necessitates intellectual advances of substantial degree; the moribund American academic scene would have to get back into play. They’ve been reduced to a credentialization and indoctrination racket, as part of a process of being consigned to a corporate (fascist) back-office.

    Only on the basis of a solid domestic foundation could any kind of coherent global posture be conceived. In the meantime patchwork operations of a provisional nature would be necessary to attempt some reasonable resource import security, in addition to cooperation with the international community on security aspects relating to proliferation of advanced weapons. On the other hand, half-cocked adventures over MacKinder’s Victorian Secret gameboard ought to be consigned to backroom parlours.

    Above comments figure over a ground partitioned into national identities, whereas major trends show an attempt (very successful here and in EU) to transcend the statism with new corporate and financial hierarchies. The process, especially in the US, has not been un-destructive, to put it mildly. A society of barely sentient electro-shocked “pink-slime” (Cockburn’s ground beef: http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04022010.html) may not have a high survival or productivity coefficient under diverse possible conditions.
    But this process (national sovereignty transcended, subverted, co-opted by transnationals; resident populations reduced to inert and confused slime by ‘culture’) is questionable when applied to China and Russia. Have they been hollowed out by corporate power? No. I see occasional attempts to convey that idea, but evidence suggests otherwise. Therefore: is the situation best described as: Western parasitic corporate cartels with state-instrumentations (ie Pentagon as a client of Goldman-Sachs) at war with still-viable states in the Shanghai Co-Op? If so, adds dimensionality and flavor to the situation. If the PLA and FSB hold the line, it looks increasingly like the GS/Pentagon(for lack of better terminological invention) axis would lose simply because it has destroyed its host organism. When the base/foundation is gone, it’s over. We see this playing out in the US today. Everyone knows, but it’s impossible (apparently) to dislodge the parasite organism.

  4. latte says

    With respect to the 9/11 commission, wondering how this sort of thing fits into your observations and diagnosis:
    In this case what I’m looking for is not so much your expert opinion but any symptoms.
    It was the Washington Post who published the editorial angrily denouncing the crazed ravings of that high-ranking Japanese politician who had expressed some of these verboten fantasies off-the-record. It seems to me the US political establishment is operating as outlier here –ie outside global intelligent consensus on this issue, and others, by extension.

    Similar (self)deceptions are manifested in response to the obvious war-crimes documented in the Apache/Baghdad video released yesterday. It’s not news(we’ve been discussing randomly targeted weddings in Afghanistan for years), but the direct video is new, and the mechanisms of denial leveled in response are surely noteworthy.

    In an environments of such massive self-induced cognitive dissonance, arguing over technicalities and minute elements of ‘intelligence-reform’ is a bit fatuous. It really is practicing deck-chair choreography in the midst of catastrophic hull failure.

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