Friday, April 29, 2005

Ends and Means

Over at ArmchairGeneralist I just posted a long rant in the comments of a post llooking at Charles Duelfer's Final report, which basically made official what everyone should know by now- Iraq posed little threat to the U.S. and had no WMD. My rant was in response to Bobby Bran, who's blog is one of my daily reads, on why the ends don't justify the means when it comes to Bush's lies surrounding the leadup to and the prosecution of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Here's my rant, spelling errors and all:
your comments are so full of errors of judgement that it's hard to know where to start responding. Let's start with the most obvious logical fallicy:

"a policy error connotes a "mistake" and I think it is far too early to determine that the War in Iraq was a mistake, error, or failure. It may very well turn out to be a mistake... But then again it could also turn out to be the most successful maneuver of the 21st century."

The first problem here is that we cannot know what course history would have taken if we had not acted. You don't know if Saddam would have lasted another year or another 20 years. This has to be the most common, and frustrating, error of rationality that I hear coming from the G. W. apologists, and though the masses may be put to sleep by such heavenly rhetoric, those who actually use their brains will reject this as so much sophistry.

The second error you are making is assuming that even if deposing Saddam was the right thing to do, that the way that we did it, i.e. massive invasion and a bungled occupation, was the only way to do it. This is what I would call the dumb jock mentality- i.e. all brawn, no brains. We are, by far, the most powerful nation in the history in the world. But that strength is not limited to our military prowess. We have technological, economic, and communications powers at our disposal that could equally be brought to bear on an adversary- if we would use our mind instead of (or at least in conjunction with) our nuts.

On a more pragmatic level, your assumptions are way off as well. You obviously volunteered to join the armed services, as did every other man and woman who is in Iraq serving, and our national security depends upon men like yourself who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their nation. So, when the leader of the nation obviously lies to push our nation into a war of CHOICE, against a nation that had not attacked us, nor did they have the capabilities to attack us, then we have a serious problem. Because, there may be a good number of men and women out there who will sign up and fight for whatever purpose the government sees fit. And then there are those of us who would rather send Bush and his energy/defense industry pimps up shits creek before I roasted in the hot desert sun to line the pockets of a few wealthy men.

Even if there were a draft the lies would be devastating to the war effort. It's funny how quickly we forget history, but I'm sure that you know that most people supported Vietnam when it started. I'm sure that you also know that we never, ever, lost a single battle against the N. Vietnamese. So how did we lose the war? We lost the support of the American people, and that support is vital if you are going to expend the time, blood, and energy to defeat a determined foe, especially one resorting to "irregular" combat. This would be the prime example of why the dumb-jock mentality is harmful for security- if we lose sight of what the actual war is about, or what victory truly is, then we will lose the war.

And as far as the BS argument that Saddam would have attacked us if he could (not yours but the argument made by many Bush apologists)- who cares? Not that everyone is out to get us, but with so much of the world's wealth in our hands, and so many aggressive men out there willing to do whatever it takes to snatch that wealth from us, you have to suspect that there are many, many people out there who would attack us if they could. And if they don't want to attack us to take what we have, there are those who want to attack us just to see the big guy fall, or those who hold grudges because we took the resources from their nation (or had a surrogate/regional ally do so for us), and so on. And so if we start attacking all those people who "want" to do us harm, rather than those who actually pose a direct threat to us, then we are weakening ourselves, and thus strengthening our real potential adversaries (Good morning China).

Last- what the hell does Iraq have to do with Isalamic Extremism? I'll save you the trouble- NOTHING. So what does it have to do with Islamic extremism today? Everything. We've managed, in two long years, to turn a nation that was a pain in our ass, into a center of activity against us, and a hotbed of terrorism. We have succeeded in alienating the moderate muslims of the area who would like nothing more than to help us, we have turned Bin Ladin's idiodic ramblings into "prophesies" (i.e. that the US had designs on conquering the M.E.), and all for the low cost of thousands of Americans dead, many more injured, tens-of thousands of dead iraqis, a nation that has fallen into near-compelte anarchy (i.e. a failed state- supposedly the exact thing that fosters islamic extremism), hundreds of billions of dollars, and our standing in the eyes of the world.

Oh, but Saddam is gone. Let me go take the Champaign off the ice, cause world peace must be right around the corner.

On another note, I really got to get the hell outta NYC before 9-12 hits, you know the sequel to that event that I watched from my roof (which most people watched on the boob-tube, and which was used to beat myself and all the other NY liberals over the head with ever since). Because while Bush is off galivanting through Babylon, there are real bad people (unlike the Phantom Menaces that the NeoCon-artists see through their tinted galsses), whom we probablly don't know, who are planning to attack us again.

And let's all pray that nobody else gets fresh with us, cause it's really hard to fight a war without any soldiers...

All rants aside though, it's not hard to see that not only is "the ends justify the means" an immoral way to govern, it's also harmful to our military readiness. As Vietnam should have taught our leaders- we cannot win a war without public support, even if we have far superior force to bring to bear on our enemy. And while it may be alright for the Bush Administration to change its rationale for war whenever it pleases, we cannot expect the American people to fall in lockstep in their march through cognitive dissonance. And so, as we should expect in this situation, support for the war has been steadily falling.

Ah, but there's a big difference between now and Vietnam- there was a draft during Vietnam. But shouldn't the fact that we have an all volunteer army make it less likely that we will fail due to a lack of will? Maybe, but definitely not if you can't find soldiers to sign up to fight.

And what do you know- people don't want to sign up to be sent to fight in a war of choice against a nation that did not attack us. Besides the recruitment failures that I have noted here on the site, the Washington Post reported this week that enrollment in Army ROTC was down in the past 2 school years.

Maybe those college kids are too smart for their own good, or maybe the Bush Administration is just way too stupid for the good of our nation. You be the judge.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Light Posting

For those few folks who stop by here on a semi-regular basis, you may have noticed a lull in posts over the past two weeks. I have been working on my Master's thesis, which will be completed in two-three weeks.

The thesis is titled The Keys To A Future Majority and the first two pieces are already posted on Music for America, the group that helped reel me into a life in politics.

The first post, Meeting Music For America, is mainly anecdotal, but it does contain a bit of the story behind what motivated me to start this site. The rest of the story behind the site will be contained in later parts of the thesis.

The second post looks at the psychological and sociological phenomena of the Reminiscence Bumps, Collective Memory, and Generations, and gives a little insight into why the 2004 election seemed at times to be more about Vietnam than contemporary issues. It also points to why I believe that youth-focused campaigns are so important.

I'll still be posting over the next two weeks, just in a more limited fashion.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Civic Soldier Forum

Armchair Generalist pointed earlier in the week to an organization dedicated to building a bridge between civilian and military progressives. The group is called Civic Soldier Forum, and this is what they hope to accomplish:
We are building a progressive community within the military and bridging the gap that exists between civilian and military progressives.

By exchanging ideas and through grass-roots coordination, we ensure the progressive community reaches out to like-minded service members. We foster military service among progressives and build supportive networks within our Armed Forces. We advocate that the strength of our military comes not only from a dedication to duty and country but also from its ideological diversity. We assert that supporting your troops does not mean suppressing your conscience.

We are soldiers and veterans who have not shed our responsibilities as citizens, and we are citizens who understand our vital role in championing progressives in our military.

And these are their four basic missions:
* Find progressive service members and bring them together
* Introduce those service members to like-minded organizations
* Help progressives out of uniform connect with military progressives
* Frame progressive issues in context relevant to the military

Obviously I'm thrilled that a group has stepped to the plate to handle these difficult mission.

One hope that I have is that progressive organizations will open their leadership positions to military personnel. All of the 527s and 503(c)s that I worked with during the election were sorely missing the types of ogranizational, communications, and leadership skills that I believe that military personnel posses. By bringing in former service members into these organizations progressives could bridge the gap between themselves and the military, and at the same time make themselves much more effective and efficient organizations.

I do wonder what the last of their missions, the framing of "progressive issues in context relevant to the military" means to this group. Maybe if they could point to some bloggers or writers who write in such a way than I'd have a better idea...

Draft Watch: A better option than the draft

Intel Dump's Phil Carter, who wrote "The Case for the Draft", had a guest blog last week on Operation Truth looking at a RAND study that suggests options for shoring up our military other than the draft. This is from the summary:
Recruiting is expensive. On average, it costs the U.S. Army about $15,000 to recruit one soldier,1 and it must recruit 80,000 to 90,000 each year. If a soldier fails to complete his or her first term, the Army must spend a like amount for a replacement. Thus, it is very much in the Army's interest to minimize losses at every phase of the first term. This has become more important in recent years because the Army, during the lean recruiting years in the late 1990s, vigorously expanded its recruiting effort by adding and expanding enlistment incentives, by increasing recruiting resources, and by modifying recruiting practices.

This monograph focuses on the implications of these decisions for the manning and success of first-term soldiers. It also examines how the Army manages first-term soldiers. Training losses and retention problems drive up the demand for new recruits. Given the expense of recruiting and training losses, the Army should assess whether different management strategies could improve the success rates for first-term soldiers. It may be possible to cut attrition without compromising Army standards.

Carter is also participating in an ongoing online debate with James Joyner of Outside the Beltway about the possible need for the draft at Legal Affairs. Very interesting stuff...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Armchair Generalist: What Defines a WMD?

The Armchair Generalist has a great response to many of my questions in a post titledWhat Defines a WMD?.

He gives a short, but very interesting, history of the term, beginning with Franco's bombings of Guernica, and continuing with Zhukov's usage (whom many credit with saving the Soviet Union in World War II, after he took command of the Soviet Army at Stalingrad), as well as some more contemporary uses.

But as J. notes, all of the prior uses of the term "weapon of mass destruction" were meant to address weapons programs of nation-states against non-combatants, and not the limited use of CBRN weapons by terrorists or other non-state actors. And so, J proposes that we should either abandon the term (which, as he notes, isn't going to happen), or we need to work on a new definition that will have some value other than scaring the hell out of people. To that end he proposes the following definition:
Weapons capable of a high order of destruction and/or of being used in such a manner as to create large numbers of casualties (more than 1000 people) during a single event or incident. This may include the use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, high-yield explosives, information technology systems, high-energy weapons, or those improvised weapons that can realistically cause mass casualties or mass effects.
What I really like about this definition is that J. has moved the term beyond the CBRN threats that are generally (and often erroneously) referred to as WMD. And though he notes that the 1,000 casualty figure is a bit arbitrary, it certainly is an improvement over mistakenly using the term to describe, amongst other things, a few drops of ricin.

J. also differentiates between CBRN hazards and NBC weapons, a distinction that I haven't come across in my pretty limited reading on the topic.
Similarly, we have NBC weapons - "military weapons characterized by their use of nuclear, biological, or chemical physical properties to cause immediate casualties and whose threat or use introduces individually diverse and distinct challenges to the planning and conduct of military operations. Riot control agents, herbicides, and industrial chemicals and radiological materials that are "weaponized" for employment against personnel are not NBC weapons." And last but not least, CBRN hazards are "those toxic CBRN hazards that are released against military forces or civilians, not necessarily in quantities that could cause mass casualties. These may include toxic inhalation hazards, biological diseases with significant effects, and radioactive matter. Also included are any hazards resulting from the deliberate employment of NBC weapons during military operations."
Though these distinctions are a little hard for me to wrap my brain around, the demarcation of different threats and threat levels makes a whole lot more sense to me than conflating all these different threats under the WMD banner.

As J. points out, this isn't simply an intellectual excersize- these definitions will determine how we prepare ourselves for these types of events:
...the bulk of the money and attention is and remains on the nukes. We get the crumbs, and then when the ballon goes up and CBW agents are a threat, people start saying "why weren't you ready?" The answer is easy - you didn't ask the right questions and didn't fund the right initiatives.
I hope that we don't come to that, but in these times of politicized intelligence and defense, and what appears to me to be a "dumbing down" of the debate over the threats we face, how likely is it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What is a Weapon of Mass Destruction?

J. at ArmchairGeneralist had a post yesterday dealing with one of his favorite topics, the ways in which CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) threats are overblown by both the media and security experts. In this case J was focused on the "threat" of a Ricin attack by terrorists group, which as he explains is not a WMD.
I'm not trying to downplay the fact that the guy in question was planning to do bad things with ricin, but I will have to slap down those alarmist idiots that believe ricin is of any use other than for individual assassination attempts.
But while ricin and other chemical agents may not be a credible form of a weapon of mass destruction (despite the fear factor involved), I am firmly in the camp of those who believe that biological agents could become extremely devastating WMD.

I've chatted with J. about this subject before, and he feels that biological agents are just too sloppy or hard to get a hold of for terrorists to effectively use them as a weapons of mass destruction (sorry in advance if I'm misstating your position here J). I definitely disagree- I believe that biological agents can be attained, transported, and released successfully by terrorists, of course not without some difficulty. I also believe that the results of a bio-attack could be disastrous. But while the biological agents most often talked about as potential threats are Anthrax, Small-Pox, Hemorrhaging Fevers, the Bubonic Plague and other rare and/or non-wild diseases, there was a news item last week that pointed at another, less exotic, biological agent that terrorists could potentially use in an attack- a deadly strain of influenza.

Last week it was discovered that a laboratory had mistakenly sent out the strain of influenza that caused the 1957-58 flu pandemic, an outbreak that caused the deaths of at least 1 million Americans, to 4,000 labs in 18 different countries.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization rushed to order the laboratories to destroy the errant virus while sending a reassuring message to the public: "While the risk of the situation is very low, we're not taking any chances, and we're doing everything we can to make sure there's no threat to human health," said Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC. No one appears to have gotten sick, but Gerberding noted that because this particular flu virus hasn't existed outside labs since 1968, anyone under age 37 would lack immunity and "would presumably be completely susceptible."

And though most of the virus appears to have been destroyed, many troubling questions remain, not the least of which are how a routine laboratory-testing program could have sparked an international health scare and why it took so long for anyone to realize that something was amiss.
At the very least it seems that the government recognizes this as a very real threat:
The incident has brought calls from Congress and the White House for better controls on potentially devastating microbes. Klaus Stohr, head of WHO's influenza program, said that public announcement of the problem was delayed until destruction of the virus was well underway in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists. "There is a biosecurity risk, and we did not want to arouse interest."
That seems reasonable enough, except for the fact that only 80% of the virus samples have been found and destroyed. A few samples have been discovered sitting in FedEx warehouses around the globe, including one in Lebanon.

For now it seems that we dodged a bullet based on pure luck (and the heads-up work of a few Canadian doctors).
It is fortunate that the Canadian doctors noticed that a woman with no flu symptoms was testing positive for the disease and sent the sample on for sophisticated testing. Otherwise, no one would have known that H2N2 was at large, because standard medical labs have no test to detect it. The other way to discover it, scientists say, would be an actual outbreak.
Next time we might not be so lucky. After all, with the recognition of just how destructive and disruptive an influenza pandemic would be, we should expect groups like Al Qaida to attempt to attain and release biological agents such as this. And it is easy to see that we have, at most, lax oversight of the deadly pathogens which exist in American labs.

This episode helps to illustrate a few points that I've been making here on the site. First of all, we can see that biological agents are not controlled to a level that could be considered safe within the United States, let alone the rest of the world, and this has potentially disastrous consequences. In essence I think that this proves that biological weapons truly are a potential WMD.

Second, we can see just how difficult it is to think about and plan for non-traditional security threats. After all, how would we even know where that virus came from if it had been purposefully or mistakenly released? If we can't tell where an attack is coming from, how can we prepare? Does it even matter if the threat comes from Al Qaida or from mother nature? I think that this statement from Richard Clarke, dealing with another non-traditional security area, cyber security, says it best:
"It doesn't matter whether it's al Qaida or a nation-state or the teenage kid up the street," he said. "Who does the damage to you is far less important than the fact that damage can be done. You've got to focus on your vulnerability . . . and not wait for the FBI to tell you that al Qaida has you in its sights."
Right now we seem to be extremely vulnerable to a bio-attack, due to a lack of oversight in the production and storage of potentially dangerous pathogens and the poor preparedness of our national health systems to deal with a large biological outbreak. Unlike nuclear or chemical attacks, we can be sure that we will see a biological “bomb” explode in this nation. I’m not sure what we’re waiting on to protect ourselves, but I wouldn’t want to be the person who had to explain to the American public why the government didn’t do everything in its power to protect the millions of people who could die when an outbreak occurs.

UPDATE As I suspected I misrepresented J.'s position, which is basically (I hope I'm not getting it wrong again) that we mischaracterize many threats as being WMD simply because they are CBRN threats. As he notes, the Anthrax letters killed only 5 people, hardly "mass destruction." This gets back to the title of this piece- "what is a WMD?"- a question which I am less and less sure of the more I read (esp. since I've 'discovered' the rich blog world of arms control, proliferation, WMD, and military experts).

Friday, April 15, 2005

John Stewart On Bolton

In case you missed it, John Stewart covered the Bolton Nomination the other night.

As usual it's both informing and hilarious. And seriously, when someone asks you whether you would have stopped the genocide in Rwanda, just say yes. As Stewart notes, nobody is going to send you back in a time machine to see if you're telling the truth.

Is Party Loyalty A Threat To National Security?

Chan Lowe, The South Florida Sun Sentinel

Yesterday the Washington Post (via Laura Rozen) noted a third attempt by John Bolton to purge a deputy who disagreed with him. This time the accusation is directly related to the leadup to the current Iraq War.
In 2003, John R. Bolton, President Bush's choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, ordered a young official working closely with then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell removed from duties in the State Department's nonproliferation bureau in what U.S. officials described as a third attempt by Bolton to purge career officials he perceived as impeding his policy goals.

The officials, who would discuss the incident only on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it, said Rexon Ryu, an expert on nonproliferation issues in the Middle East, was transferred to another bureau after he failed to produce a document requested by Bolton's chief of staff...

A graduate of Princeton University, Ryu was described by officials as a rising star in the State Department who quickly won the confidence of Powell and Wolf, the former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation who was also Bush's envoy to the Middle East.

At the time of the incident with Bolton, Ryu was working closely with Powell on sensitive issues related to Iraq and traveling with Wolf to Jerusalem. He was also about to take on an additional portfolio -- nonproliferation discussions with Group of Eight countries -- which Bolton directed...

After Bolton accused him of concealing the document sought by his chief of staff, the nonproliferation bureau determined that Ryu's actions were unintentional.

"We looked into the concerns, found the omission was inadvertent and that there was no basis to the allegation," said Wolf, who left the State Department last year and now runs the Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia. "Rexon has provided inspired and loyal service to his country, the president, Secretary Powell and to me as his immediate supervisor."

Ryu, who was then 30, was transferred to the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and then spent eight months working for Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.

The officials said Bolton never demanded that Ryu be fired. But one of them said, "If Bolton says he doesn't want him working on any issues, what are you going to do?"
Rozen notes that Ryu was in fact transferred.

Rozen has a laundry list of scandalous Bolton actions on War and Peace, including pressuring analysts on China, North Korea, and, as I mentioned, Iraq. She also notes his horrendous stance on intervening in genocides and ethnic cleansing in the Former Republics of Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Rwanda. ArmsControlWonk adds Cuba to the list of places that John Bolton wanted analysts to lie about, and the site also notes that Bolton may have had his hands in the Niger Uranium lie that lead the White House to out Joe Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as an active CIA Agent.

And through all of this the supposed "national security" and "moderate" Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee seem to value party loyalty over the good of our security.

We all know that intelligence agents were pressured over Iraq's supposed WMD programs, and that this lead to a series of false assumptions about Iraq's capabilities (at least amongst the simple minded Democrats who couldn't see through the bullshit they were being fed). We also know that in the post-Cold War world we face non-traditional security threats that require our analysts to think outside the box, with the ability to dissent from the position of the civilian leadership when necessary to protect the American homeland. And yet the Republicans seem more concerned with making sure that President Bush doesn't lost face than they are with placing capable personnel into foreign policy positions.

I don't wish or pray that the United States get hit by some sort of unconventional weapon/tactic or by some non-state actor. I won't get any pleasure in saying "I told you so" after we're attacked or we "miscalculate" an enemy that we've decided to ignore. But I believe, full heartedly, that the lock-step march of all of the "security experts" surrounding the Bush Administration will have disastrous consequences. You can only ignore reality, even those parts that you don't like or that go against your ideologies, for so long. Eventually we will have to deal with the real threats we face (unlike the imagined threats that the Neo-Cons see in their hallucinations/dreams), unfortunately we may be forced to deal with them after we've been attacked, and of course by then it's too late.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Is Donald Rumsfeld A Comedian?

I'm thinking that he must be. How else could he deal with the cognitive dissonance of this:
US defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq's new leaders against political purges and cronyism that could create "lack of confidence or corruption in government".
But the most unwittingly ironic part of his speech was this:
"It's important that the new government be attentive to the competence of the people in the ministries and that they avoid unnecessary turbulence," he said
Just imagine if the Bush administration had been "attentive to the competence of the people in the ministries" during the leadup to this war. Then maybe they wouldn't have had to make up intelligence and smear every Government official who spoke out against their justification for war with Iraq and their "plans" for the occupation.

This couldn't have been better timed if it was an episode of Seinfeld.

John Bolton is being questioned in front of Congress for pressuring analysts who were looking at Cuba's alleged bio-weapons program into exaggerating the threat Cuba posed.

Then we have John Negraponte, picked by Bush to become the first Director of National Intelligence. Well, as reported in today's Washington Post, it turns out that he played one of the more central roles in Iran-Contra:
The day after the House voted to halt all aid to rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John D. Negroponte urged the president's national security adviser and the CIA director to hang tough.

The thrust of the envoy's "back channel" July 1983 message to the men running the contra war against Nicaragua was contained in a single cryptic sentence: "Hondurans believe special project is as important as ever."

"Special project" was code for the secret arming of contra rebels from bases in Honduras -- a cause championed by Negroponte, then a rising diplomatic star. In cables and memos, Negroponte made it clear that he saw the "special project" as key to the Reagan administration's strategy of rolling back communism in Central America.
But who needs to respect the laws when there's a war on? Those damned "activist-legislators" need to start carrying out the wishes of the President of the United States. To paraphrase Steven Colbert of the Daily Show- "that would interfere with their 'Constitutional' right of 'separation' and 'Powers'"

And, of course, we can't leave out Bill Luti, a man who supposedly called Anthony Zinni a traitor for giving his professional opinions on the lack of threat posed by Iraq, and who had his fingerprints all over the pressuring of the intelligence community into overhyping Saddam's WMD capabilities.

Oh well, the Bush Administration may be seriously damaging our abilities to deal with the emerging threats that we face around the world, but at least they can provide some dark comedy to lighten up my mood.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Was Anthony Zinni A Democrat?

If you've read my original Draft Zinni plea, you know that I've been pondering why Zinni has labeled himself a "Luger-Hagel Republican." I guessed in that piece that Zinni was one of the "security voters" who switched parties under Nixon and Reagan because they saw the Democrats as weak on defense.

Today I found the first clue that Zinni may well have been Democrat. In this editorial discussing a speech Zinni gave last week at Lindon B. Johnson's library.
Zinni, by the way, acknowledged the presence in his audience Tuesday evening of Lady Bird Johnson and both of her daughters. He said that, as a college student, he had worked for the Johnson-Humphrey presidential campaign in 1964.
So, it appears Zinni became a Republican sometime after Johnson became president. Would this make it easier to convince him to switch back to the Democratic Party? I hope so, but even then there's the bigger problem of convincing him to actually run for office.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"The War In Iraq" Is To "A Cure For Cancer" As "Martin Peretz" Is To...

"progressive foreign policy expert?" "someone with a grip on reality?" "a rational thinker?" a "smart person?"

Martin Peretz displays once again that being an editor of a magazine and an eloquent writer has absolutely no bearing on one's reasoning abilities. In his recent article The Politics of Churlishness Peretz has the gall to compare Bush's crusade through the Middle East with finding a cure for cancer. I wish I was exaggerating...
If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?

No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success.
So what would that pathology be? A respect for international norms and treaties? A sane, non-partisan, reality-based, foreign policy? Independent defense and intelligence analysis? Respect for the constitution and for human rights? The Geneva Conventions?

Nah. How about the political culture of the Middle East? The cheerleading from this "Democrat" goes on:
(Bush) has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so.
And when I first started to read the New Republic I thought that it was written by intelligent Democrats. But I was wrong, in light of this, and other, ridiculous articles by their staff.

Well, if Bush is right about his Middle East policy than it doesn't take a genius to figure out who Peretz thinks is wrong.
Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.
Yes- those of us who aren't buying the Bush/Neo-Con bullshit on this are just so intractable! It's like all those churlish doctors who insist that you can't get AIDS from tears or pregnant from masturbation. When will they learn that we are winning the war on sex?

It may be true (more likely, it is not) that a deep yearning for democracy has been latent throughout the region for a long time. There certainly was a basis in reality for skepticism about the Arabs' hospitability to the opening of their societies. Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area.
Peretz's map of the Middle East must not include Turkey and Israel, because last I checked... Oh never mind.

I wonder what General Zinni would say about this... Hmm...
At the February Camden Conference I asked retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni if, with the news from Egypt, he thought we could look to President George W. Bush and his so-called neocon advisors as being on to something. Was this the reason Mubarak was loosening control? The genial general tightened and snapped, "Bull (Shit); that is like saying that if Vietnam became a democracy we can take credit for it based upon the Vietnam War."
Oh Zinni, you churlish old General you! Why can't you bask in the warm glow of this glorious new world that Bush has created? Why can't you admit that everything is not only getting better in the middle-east, that it's actually better now than it was 3 years ago?

Peretz ends with this:
It has been heartening, in recent months, to watch some Democratic senators searching for ways out of the politics of churlishness. Some liberals appear to have understood that history is moving swiftly and in a good direction, and that history has no time for their old and mistaken suspicion of American power in the service of American values. One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.
Well, while you're hoping that liberals will poke out their eyes and "see the light", I'm hoping that the exact obvious comes true.

My hope is that those national security leaders who still consider themselves to be Republicans will see the insanity of crusading through the Middle East under any pretense, and join the party of sane and rational national security ideas- the Democratic Party. I won't say that it would be sweet to witness such a transformation, given all of the pain and suffering that the Bush wars have led to, but it might be our only hope to end the Neo-Con revolution. This is what led me to try and Draft Anthony Zinni to join our party. I promise- if you come we'll kick Peretz the hell out. Did anyone even invite him?

Over at Democracy Arsenal, which I may have prematurely called an "amazing blog", there's a conversation going on about this article. Apparently Suzanne Nossel has bought fully into the idea that Bush is responsible for anything positive that's happening in the Middle East. Ugh.

Is General Anthony Zinni A Traitor?

According to Neo-Con dilettante Bill Luti he is.

Karen Kwiatkowski reported in Salon last year (thanks to ArmsControlWonk for the reminder):
I was present at a staff meeting when Bill Luti called Marine Gen. and former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni a "traitor," because Zinni had publicly expressed reservations about the rush to war.
So, what do you get for calling a four-star general who gives his professional opinion about security matters a traitor? In the Bush White House you get a raise.

ArmsControlWonk reports that Luti has become the new Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control. So what might qualify one for this high-profile position? How about suspision of treason? (And I don't mean the "you disagree with me so you're a traitor" kind of treason, I mean the real "handing sensative military information to a foreign government" kind) Or, how about suppressing information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war with Iraq?
Here's what Seymour Hersh said about Luti and the rest of the Neo-Con " intelligentsia "
SEYMOUR M. HERSH: Well, the biggest thing I found out is that what we think of as the intelligence community may not be a community at all. For example, I was just listening to Secretary of State Colin Powell describe how he had briefings from the intelligence community on weapons of mass destruction. It turns out that the intelligence community is really very much dominated by a small group of people in the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, has more or less muscled his way into day-to-day intelligence operations. I wrote about an ad-hoc analytical group that began working in the Pentagon in the aftermath of September 11th, and which became formally known as the Office of Special Plans last August. The office is the responsibility of William Luti, the Under-Secretary of Defense, and its director is Abram Shulsky. They argued that the C.I.A. and other agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department, weren't able to understand the connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and the extent to which Iraq was involved in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. They felt that these agencies didn't get it right because they didn't have the right point of view. The Pentagon group's idea was, essentially: Let's just assume that there is a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and let's assume that they have made weapons of mass destruction, and that they're still actively pursuing nuclear weapons and have generated thousands of tons of chemical and biological weapons and not destroyed them. Having made that leap of faith, let's then look at the intelligence the C.I.A. has assembled with fresh eyes and see what we can see. As one person I spoke to told me, they wanted to believe it was there and, by God, they found it.
Man, it's a good thing that Luti and his ilk were right about the WMD question and the whole Al-Qaeda-Saddam link, because it would be really bad for the image of the U.S. if we started a war on "flat-out wrong" intelligence, then played dumb about it while promoting all those people who put forth an obviously false set of "facts" about why we needed to go to war.

That would be a really stupid and dangerous way to shape your foreign policy, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Arms and influence: RIP, George Kennan

This is, by far, the best eulogy of George Keenan that I have read since he died last week, both for its short but precise description of Keenan's acheivmants and for its discussion of how we seem to have lost teh ability or desire to put forth an official doctrine to deal with the threats we face.
Today, we live in what might be called a "post-doctrine" era. Our new global conflict does not have a framing document like the X article, a direct response to fears about Soviet aggression that arose during the 9/11 of the Cold War, the Greek and Turkish crises of 1947. If there are important analyses of anti-American Islamism, terrorist methods, and the long-term strategy for defeating Al Qaeda and its allies, they are far less discernible in the haze of daily news than the works of Kennan, Koestler, Schelling, Brodie, and others were.

The post also discusses one of the more frightening aspects of our current administration- it's almost unlimited disdain for any expert that doesn't march in lockstep with the administration
Most startlingly, there is nothing like the comfort between the White House and the national security intelligentsia that once existed. Where Truman let Kennan speak for his administration, or Eisenhower let Brodie and Schelling guide decisions about nuclear strategy, Bush lashes out at any modern-day Kennans within Defense Department, State Department, CIA, and other permanent members of the national security bureaucracy. His in-house sources of doctrine behave like careerists, not strategists. It's hard to imagine Kennan behaving like Bush's advisers, who so loyal to Bush that they are willing to turn on a dime to disavow their earlier opinions. Where JCS Chairman Colin Powell once helped frame the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine, Secretary of State Powell helps dismantle it to make the Iraq invasion possible. And the list goes on. State sponsors of terrorists are the real center of gravity? Wrong. The real threat is WMDs in Iraq that might be given to terrorists? Wrong. The Iraq invasion will pay for itself? Wrong. Being the world's only superpower means that you'll drag your allies along, like it or not? Wrong. Legal changes like the PATRIOT Act, and bureaucratic reforms like the creation of the Homeland Security Department, are going to bag a lot of terrorist who would otherwise have inflicted more 9/11-like horrors? Wrong. George Kennan could be wrong, but he was more right than wrong. Paul Wolfowitz can be right, but he certainly has been more wrong than right.
Well at least he'll only be fucking up other relief efforts to starving children and faltering nations.
The post ends with a prayer that I wholeheartedly share:
If we're lucky, we may see someone like him again, and we can pray that we'll see a return of disciplined thinking about national security as well.
At this point praying is seeming like the only hope that we will once again have a sane and rational foreign policy. Maybe if we could elect great military minds like Zinni to some sort of national office than we would have a good chance, but I do wonder how long the damage that the Bush Administration is wreaking on our defense, state, and intelligence agencies will take to undo, and what it would take to reverse this trend.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Medal of Honor

I got my laugh of the day from the end of a post on Arms Control Wonk which disccussed how 'Curveball' had been discredited before Powel's infamous speech at the UN.
No word yet on whether the President plans to give Curveball the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Top 10 Reasons Why John Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed As U.S. Ambassador to the UN

Democracy Arsenal provides 10 good reasons
Why John Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed As U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Including:
9. He doesn’t believe in paying U.S. dues to the UN. And has said so. A big part of the job of UN envoy is working with the Hill to get U.S. contributions paid. Withholding dues in the ‘80s and ‘90s led to a diplomatic debacle that took years to put right. We don’t have the time, energy or goodwill to waste on such battles.

8. He won’t enjoy the support of U.S. diplomats around the world. 60+ ex-diplomats have signed a letter opposing Bolton. Current envoys feel the same way. But Bolton will need the embassies to back him in capitals to succeed in pushing through U.S. proposals (see Retail Diplomacy). Personal views about Bolton will undercut this support.
And over at ArmsControlWonk they note:
Apparently some Senate staffers are looking into whether Bolton was involved in pressuring intel analysts about their assessments of Cuba’s BW program.
No wonder the Bush Administration loves the guy so much.

Who's Really To Blame For The WMD Screwup?

Larry C. Johnson has a good followup to his whitewash piece at The Counterterrorism Blog.
The unfortunate impression left by the recent report on intelligence failures submitted by the Robb/Silbermann commission suggests that the CIA in general failed. Yet, as noted in a previous post on this site, we need to go beyond the generalities and look for the specifics of who failed. We need to look at the chain of command from the top down at CIA and ask who, if anyone, has been held accountable. The short answer is, not many. Keep on reading for specific names.

Would it surprise you to find out that the one guy who got it right is being turned into the fall guy?
Of the four, the one who got it right in the estimate was Paul Pillar. Yet, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that Pillar's judgments on terrorism were wrong. Fortunately for Pillar his judgments have been endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9-11 Commission, among others. But Pillar is not out of danger. Only he has been attacked by reporters who are perceived as mouthpieces for the Bush Administration (Robert Novak and John Roberts). He has been called disloyal for the simple act of providing an assessment of what was happening in Iraq that did not square with the wishful thinking and rosy scenarios emanating from the West Wing of the White House. Message to analysts, be careful about telling the truth to the President because you will be accused of being disloyal.

And here's a message to America- be afraid, be very afraid. Because at just the moment when we need more independent thinking intelligence and security analysts, the Bush Administration is letting it be known that the only information that they want from the intelligence community is that which conforms to what they already believe.

Insestuous Amplification anyone?

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Counterterrorism Blog: The Senator Robb, Judge Silbermann Whitewash

Larry Johnson, at the Counterterrorism Blog provides the best analysis of the sorry ass report on Iraq's supposed WMD program. Really increadible read, and definitely worth reading the entire thing.
Yes the analysts were wrong. They believed that Iraq was reconstituting the nuke program. But there were important caveats. First, Iraq would only have a nuke if left "unmolested" to develop such a capability. That is not codeword for invasion. Second, even if left unmolested Iraq would not have acquired a nuke until at least 2007. And how strong was this judgment? The analysts made it with "moderate confidence". It was the policymakers, not the analysts, who made the decision to go to war and who misrepresented to the public what the estimate actually said.

I am not saying the CIA is free of blame. There were major mistakes of leadership. For example, the man who led the drafting of the October 2002 estimate surrounded himself with true believers who shared the view of Bush Administration policymakers at the NSC and Department of Defense that military action in Iraq was required. This National Intelligence Officer created obstacles to dissident voices within the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community from being heard. But to pretend that the flaws in the intelligence explains why President Bush took us to war requires that we ignore a host of other uncomfortable facts.

CIA analysts got it right on the lack of operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Yet, notwithstanding the correct judgment of the analysts, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that there was such a relationship. In their words, the war in Iraq was an extension of the war on terrorism.

Analysts also got it right on the alleged link between Iraq and Niger on the question of uranium. The analysts who briefed Congress in October 2002 said there was no truth to the allegation. Yet, the White House wanted to run with it. We know from a previous Congressional report that the Assistant Deputy Director for Intelligence asked George Tenet in early October 2002 to intervene with the White House, who insisted on putting the Iraq/Niger allegation in the President's speech in Cincinnati. Only after Tenet called Stephen Hadley was the info removed. The CIA analysts consistently warned the Administration that the info the Brits had also was unreliable and the reports of Iraq trying to get their hands on a nuke were wrong.

But the policymakers did not want to hear it. In fact, Don Rumsfeld and his minions were briefing TV and newspaper pundits just two weeks before the President's 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Niger.