NIEs On Pakistan And Afghanistan: Same As It Ever Was

NIEs contradict DoD and CENTCOM’s optimistic spin in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nothing will change.

Political-military tectonic plates are locked for another decade of war. The only viable possibility to change this outcome would be a possible external shock. One example? Foreign debt penalties imposed for U.S. fiscal recklessness. Otherwise, it’s done. As for granular merits themselves, George Carver could have taught these new kids on the block a thing or two about his dealings with MACV. Yeah.

Plus, let’s face it. NIEs ain’t what they used to be. In the dimly remembered B.C. (Before Cheney) era, the intelligence product cycle produced a res, a thing, a report, an appraisal, fact, etc. to assist policy makers to choose wisely. The distinction between intelligence and policy used to be — or at least said to be — sacrosanct. Dick Helms and his predecessors often left the room after delivering their assessments to underscore that intelligence was separate from policy-making.

NIEs as the Community consensus were accorded special deference in this regard. Unlike Tenet’s lurid parody in 2002 they’re usually fairly dry documents, deliberately not designed for talking points or AgitProp. In fact, the high art of a true NIE is to parse phrases and verbiage so that no matter what happens, the NIE predicted/warned/advised/suggested. Savage battles might be fought over a footnote. The final document would be a work of bureaucratic zen.

2 years A.C. (After Cheney) and of course all of that is now quaint. Not just NIEs are different. So is the Community. It’s politicized and radicalized in ways it doesn’t even realize, like the proverbial frog in water raised degree by degree. The ramifications cascade down from the NIE-level to day-to-day matters. Few are left from B.C. and the DO’s ranks at the Agency already depleted before then. Today’s remaining survivors (that didn’t badge flip) are obviously still affected – one way or another – by Cheney’s war of annihilation. Who wouldn’t be? Down the line, the new, larger cohorts obviously reflect dilution/diminishment. The realities are struggles for mission, budget and prestige in a still unsettled DNI world. And give them some slack: the intelligence ‘consumers’ are a sorrier lot, especially in the Duma.

President Goldilocks chose the mushy path of middling escalation. That’s his policy choice. He made this situation inevitable. He declared our Gordian Knot cut with an 18 month escalation and drawdown. Absurd at the time. This is how the Stiftung described it:

Obama it seems increasingly clear will embrace his inner Goldilocks Paradigm and cave to the tragically inappropriate and misguided COIN meme peddlers. He will festoon his surrender to CENTCOM manipulation with a compromise troop number and — as we noted before — the political optics of a more agile, pervasive global counter-terrorism focus. But his imprimatur will transform this needless exercise in political expediency into a policy that will echo for decades and only further radicalize and cohere the very anti-Americanism it seeks to ‘pacify’ locally and for jihadists elsewhere.

Recall Kagan rejoiced at success getting Obama to escalate. They (proponents of war) just needed Obama to get some skin in the game. Once he escalated he would be trapped their way.

Obama engendered cynicism runs deep. His fake deadlines and goals barely get mentioned anymore. How easily Petraeus et al. steered Obama and the country into 2015. New post-2008 CENTCOM military construction continues across the Middle East. People know by now how little Obama’s declarations mean. His cynicism. His war.

God help us.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Harvard now says the massive spike in Agency drone operations in Pakistan might be causing ‘modest’ damage to Al-Qaeda. The statistics are dicey and the causality used to make the claim somewhat nebulous. Still, Leon now has something to pass around and add ‘See?’.

    We remain fully skeptical not only of the report’s methodology, but the cost-benefit of the effort overall. Other than justify the Agency’s rehabilitated existence in a DNI world and their role in the war we believe the American fixation on ‘kinetic solutions’ a gross strategic blunder.

    But then again, these are the people who want to emulate a now mythological cohort who thought Phoenix would prevent T-54/55s from driving though the American Embassy’s gate in 1975. Recursive into fractals at this point.

  2. Comment says

    VDH can dream his chickenhawk dream, but we don’t think The Stab will gain traction. The wedge is on the right – AfPak has been such a mess for so long, it just does not lend it self to fatuous claims like VDH (which he plagerised from Cheney). The prob is that people like VDH and Cheney lack the kind of heft to pull off the betrayal narrative – They would need a bunch of Petraeuses – with McCarther-esque charisma. It would still fail.

    VDH is a poseur on Shakespeare too – He lamented the left’s hatred for classics recently and wailed aboutthe decline of the Bard. In reality, Shakespeare is more popular than ever and it’s not because nobel right wingers attend plays.

    His bad sarcasm isn’t even clever.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    More per SRV’s analysis:

    President Obama lost the war in Afghanistan during the “Great Dithering” of 2009. This was the period when he had all his advisers, including noted national security strategists David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, huddled together loosely for about nine months. They were trying to find the most politically viable way to deliver on Mr. Obama’s campaign promises to personally track down Osama bin Laden and put his head on a pike while simultaneously running the corrupt Karzai regime out of town. Well, they failed in those efforts and now are simply trying to find a way to start leaving in time for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

    The stab-in-the-back wurlitzer is out of mothballs . . .

  4. DrLeoStrauss says

    From your keyboard to God’s ear! To witness that future and then write we underestimated Obama/got it wrong would be a joy.

  5. srv says

    The point is, Obama waits for domestic support wane to appropriate levels, and then pursues an appropriate interval. I’m sure the ISI will find a way to work with that while St. P faps off in the ME and lets the neo/COIN crowd neuter itself. The republicans aren’t going to make a campaign issue of it because they just might win and be stuck with it.

  6. Dr Leo Strauss says

    It’s the perfect statement about oversight:

    I want to thank Speaker-designate Boehner for extending to me the opportunity to serve on the House Intelligence Committee. It was a leading desire of mine to serve on this panel because of the key role it plays in keeping our nation safe.

    “As a mother of five children and 23 foster children, I have a deep appreciation for that portion of our Oath of Office in which members of Congress vow to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ That enduring sense of responsibility will help guide me as I serve on this vital committee.”

  7. Comment says

    If Obama pulls off troop withdrawals, we’ll be a bit surprised and impressed. See how he plays the expectations with his base? Our ideal would be rapid reductions and firing brass who object and let the whiners whine.

  8. Redhand says

    What I find particularly depressing is how all the pro-war crowd tut-tut about the problem of Karzai’s corruption and how “difficult” it makes the task. What is does is make “winning the war” impossible, at the same time that it offers a perfect excuse to withdraw. But of course we won’t. A punitive expedition after 9/11 to kill bin Laden made sense, but every American life lost over there now is one squandered on a meaningless, worthless conflict.

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