Overtly covert wars and drone assassinations happen because Obama and his unremarkable White House national security staff want them. Obama’s fulsome embrace of tactical expediency only accelerates degeneration of American strategic thinking into compartmentalized, impulsive, unconnected random spasms of violence.
Bureaucratically, ambassadorial struggles for policy control are not unprecedented. State overall has been fending off encroachment on ambassadorial authority for a long time. Rummy pushed DoD assassination teams into embassies who expressly were exempt from ambassadorial oversight. Earlier, even Commerce and FBI drove wedges. Managing an embassy now is far more demanding for any ambassador than just 20 years ago. Without the drones.
In Pakistan’s case, the ambassador’s attempt to control policy predestined to fail. He didn’t understand Obama court political realities. Obama faces domestic gridlock. (Much of it his own doing). Foreign policy and especially ‘covert’ action are his release. The ambassador really contested Obama’s authority and the one sphere of presidential positive feedback.
Foreign policy as mentioned here recently is the preferred refuge for domestically stymied presidents. CIA, CTC and DoD covert militarism cater to Obama’s frustration and proclivity for judging others. They tease and often deliver instant gratification: ‘results’ (aka death), action, baseball cards, full motion video and alleged secrecy. Approving who lives or dies? Doesn’t get any judgier.
Per the NYT it requires a veritable death bureaucracy, faceless GS and super grades, to feed the Addict-In-Chief. The death apparatchiks routinely offer candidates like discussing draft picks in ‘Moneyball’. The rot is deep. Think about this the next time someone suggests watching ‘Conspiracy’. Obama insists on bringing the Cesarian thumbs up/down into the Oval Office. Is it really noble sacrifice to control the otherwise out-of-control system? Then why the leaks bragging about it all?
It’s a compartmentalized program, except spread very far and with direct presidential patronage. The secrecy, insularity and reward mechanisms (presidential approval, a ‘good kill’) create an alternate reality, smug, aloof and at odds with those not read in (let alone ‘Consensual Reality’).
Into this disposal, the ambassador in Pakistan stuck his hand. Others control the switch. Only a poor poker player challenges Obama to abandon his one area of seeming control and instant kicks for what? Prolix cables back to Foggy Bottom? More complexity and frustration with brown people far away?
State’s failure in Pakistan is part of a wider pattern. Lack of strategic coherence is in some ways unavoidable. Institutions of all types erode and dissolve into digital ADD across American society. Tactical impulsiveness commands media, corporations and individuals. Why should foreign policy be any different? Compartmentalized thinking and operations are perfectly suited for a fractured age.
Crafting and implementing enduring, strategically rational architectures perhaps was easier under the old monoculture. No one can deny contemporary American inability to govern domestically. Still, it’s not that we are powerless even so. The root enabler of American imbalance abroad — and Obama’s personal mechanism of death — are the budgets we craft here at home. DoD and the Community must be pared down from their wartime extravagances. Eliminating the gross resource imbalance at least makes a more coordinated, recalibrated strategic posture likely. And State restored to a modestly functioning role.
One unanswered question is would Weberian bureaucratic logic compel any president in these circumstances to pursue similar activities — regardless of character?
All we know is this president isn’t interested in trying to find out.