Draining The Swamp, Hopey Changey Style (Slightly Revised)

One thing many people forget about Donald Rumsfeld: he didn’t really want to do Iraq. Oh, he did in the sense that Cheney did, and for many of the same reasons. But he was never a Neocon. Securing The Realm and subjugating the Arab/Islamic self-esteem not his primary concern.

His two big priorities were what has now degenerated into a pathetic bureaucratic joke – defense ‘transformation’ – and special operations/forces. He was afraid Iraq would derail his transformation agenda by strengthening conventional force mindset. We know Rummy’s effort to make Iraq a transformative showcase war turned Tommy Frank’s unimaginative plodding into an incoherent ‘fiasco’. Tommy Franks wasn’t the only bungler.

On the plus side of the ledger [from his point of view], Rumsfeld and his coterie tried to unleash SOCOM (and parallel contractors) first. Like another historical figure before him, Rummy found that rather than having to fight to control the mastiff’s leash, he found merely a moribund, sleepy dog and a depressingly slack chain. Oh, the special forces people reporting to him might sit and roll over. If pressed. But spontaneously chase a ball or squirrel with vigor? With joy of the hunt? Nope.

Rummy eventually radicalized the special forces community to his liking. But he had to overcome alot of conservative military inertia. Only after years of careerists seeing that there really are no consequences in America anymore did they fully join the game. Initially with a ‘Why the f**k not?” and now with gusto. It’s all true what critics say: Rumsfeld’s passive aggressive style of maximizing control and seeming paralytic inability to make decisions proved catastrophic. Yet he understood before DoD and most in the White House (except for Wayne Downing) that a militarized ‘Long War’ would be fought and ‘won’ [in some vague sense] by special forces. It was Rummy first, not this White House, who tempted special forces with the Faustian offer of a blank powerpoint slide: ‘What do you need?’ That was 8 years ago.

Alot of it wasn’t insight so much as turf. Rummy, as we all know, chafed at having to treat the paltry and insignificant CIA not only as peer but leader in Afghanistan in November 2001. ‘Why do we have to follow THEIR plan’ was his angry refrain. Plus, Rummy and Cheney knew shifting intelligence and operational balance towards DoD is a two-fer: no need to deal with the loathed CIA congressional oversight. Instead? *Maybe* a slap on Duncan Hunter’s back and a vague reference. Real men doing real war.

Like any bureaucratic maximizer, if the ‘Long War’ could be used to expand his traditional budget, authority, and swinging his stick – great. Grab history’s hem and hang on, she may not pass again (to quote that other individual again). Every fantasy from the 1980s got new life (the pictures of a Kirov battlecruiser being blown 20 feet out of the water by a hypersonic kinetic energy weapon (KEW) one of our favorites back *then*), plus all the new digital stuff, hardware and post TIA fevered dreams. All passed go. Sure there was the Crusader cancellation. And the Comanche. But the spigot was open for those who understood how to play the ‘transformation game’. And they collected 200 million [insert alot of dough].

So the WaPo’s ‘startling’ revelation about the Ken Doll’s expansion of special forces’ operational scope is less than it seems. The Ken Doll largely continues the Bush Administration’s twilight planning for a post Iraq transition to a different kind of American militarization. The Ken Doll and his team, like their psychic idol JFK, believe that violence can actually stop an idea. The ‘secret’ war in Pakistan is secret only to Americans devoted to ‘The View’. The Pakistanis, the Afghan refugees, tout le monde knows. And this so-called drone success in Pakistan is generating more blowback and radicalization of general Pakistanis than Al-Qaeda could do. The Islamic civil war and fractures along the edge of the ecumenae will be solved -or not – within Islam, not by someone sitting in Nevada yanking a joystick thinking about his next Mountain Dew.

What the Ken Doll’s embrace of expanded special operations reveals is that he, like Cheney, thinks he is fighting ‘terrorism’. We little in the just released national strategy or by action that clear thought has been given to how American action will be a catalyst for the reaction we fear. Now, under the Ken Doll, in even more places that heretofore not considered anti-American. To how many countries must we send hitters sans oversight? 90? 95? Why stop there? Did the Ken Doll think about the Moon as a potential threat environment before canceling NASA’s boondoggle?

And if the military are right that the civilian effort in Afghanistan is woefully inadequate compared to their ‘surge’ (they are), the same was true of Iraq 2003-today. Where is the Obama Administration’s national mobilization to recruit, train and deploy development cadres with the necessary area studies and language skills for insertion? From Yemen to Somalia to Columbia to Easter Island? The idea that special operators can simply slide into 20, 40, 60, 80 countries, train, recon or deploy murderous kinetic ‘solutions’ and leave without ramification is beyond delusional. Which means in the end the Ken Doll — for all his emphasis on ‘resetting’ relations with such and such a country — is stepping on the gas pedal of America’s global militarization.

The WaPo’s story is weighed down with traditional bureaucratic infighting details. Typical military bureaucratic stuff. SOCOM kvetching at subordination to theater and conventional (read ‘uneducated’) commanders. But the Ken Doll that taketh also giveth. Special forces are getting more direct White House face time. Still, there’s the inconvenience of involving ambassadors when teams arrive in country. (Rummy won that fight originally and cut State (and CIA) out). Good lord, visas, too. Tedious ‘who moved my cheese’ spats.

When Cambone, Barnett and others spoke with intoxication of ‘the Battle of Iraq’ and ‘the Battle of Yemen’ as part of the ‘War’, they often cited as justification for the nomenclature that no one talked about the ‘War of Guadalcanal’ or the ‘War on Saipan.’ Have you seen any of those shows on The History Channel? Well, have ya punk?

The Swamp they and the Neocons wanted to drain for victory? Essentially half the world. Woolsey even had some Booz Allen slides to that effect. The Ken Doll scales back the public facade of such insanities. As did the Bush regime in it’s waning moments. Yet the continuity is more than less. The Bush Iraq withdrawal timetable will continue. Strategic defeat in Afghanistan will be sold as a victory next year. This White House is actually approving what the Bush Administration set in motion. A small political price they perhaps calculate to keep Times Square clear of propane. History teaches misadventures almost always start out that way. The Ken Doll ensures here we all continue to jaunt down the same path of spastic, unintended consequences.

Ever try to stop an idea with a bullet? Probably a DARPA program with SRI back in the day.

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