Political Autism

September 13, 2014

“Jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenant of Islam’ – John Brennan

We often think of human behavior as events with boundaries.   Indeed, most contemporary digital choices seem to be binary; either/or, black/ white, on/ off, yes /no, for/against, or the now ubiquitous “like/dislike.” The binary meme is reinforced  by a culture of absolutes, a world where arbitrary, if not smug critics construct lists which presume to tell us about the “best” and “worst” of the animate and inanimate alike.

The prominence of engineered opinion on the internet says volumes about dot.com culture, a space where selecting from a list is easier than doing or thinking for yourself.  In many respects, the internet is a closed loop, a humid electronic womb with: membership, special jargon, passwords, and banalities like ‘emoticons.’ The bait for social networks is belonging, a childlike desire to be “liked” or accepted.

The dot.com social kindergarten, however, has two facets.  Twitter and Facebook and other forums have become propaganda and recruiting venues for Islamists and terror. Pardon any redundancy.

The very term “social” network is now an oxymoron. The internet is a kind of global village populated by the needy, the greedy, and the seedy- and those looking for an infidel or an apostate to kill.

Best and worst are the most pernicious adjectives because the ‘best,’and related assertions of optimism, is the default setting for all manipulative politics. And the “worst,” or absolute pessimism, may not exist at all – or at least the worst seems to be beyond knowing.  Indeed, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) may have captured the thought a hundred years ago midst the Industrial Revolution.

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,

                             More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.

                             Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

                             Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

Surely, the worst individual, national, or cultural behavior seems to have been removed from the jurisdiction of moral judgment. A spoiled child or an irresponsible adult might be diagnosed, and excused, as victims of some illusive deficit disorders or social ailments like alcoholism or addiction. Giving a drunk, junkie, or criminal a place on the sick list is of a piece with medicating annoying children – or classifying felons as victims.

With individual behavior, notions of discipline, restraint, choice or free will have been disabled by organic, dare we say “scientific,” determinism. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of psychological or social disorder is left to the speculations of crypto-sciences like psychoanalysis and sociology. Errors in these realms are then often compounded, collectively, by other academic fancies like political ‘science.’ The study of politics is rigorous science in the same sense that graffiti is great art.

The general absolution of young and adult is not without cultural consequence. Indeed, wishful thinking seems to be the default setting of all modern politics. Surely, optimism has a place in all eras. Still, history (Hegel and Fukuyama not withstanding) is a palindrome of sorts, a process that runs two ways; both backwards and forward.

Time is not linear. Time is not a one-way street either, nor is time the metronome of progress. Recidivism, not progress or enlightenment, is the true default setting for most cultures.

Contemporary Muslim societies might take a bow here. Were rot not the default setting for political systems, we might all be speaking Greek, Hebrew, or Latin today. History is as much about decay as “progress.”

We need only consider the advent of Islam in the 7th Century to appreciate the recidivist phenomenon writ large.  Those who cannot appreciate the power of apathy, stasis, or religious fascism are the most likely to drowned when the tides of time runs backwards.

Collective reluctance to confront national, if not global, pathology might be described as cultural autism – a kind of infantile defense mechanism. Apathy is loudest voice when culture starts to hemorrhage the values that made success possible in the first place.

Two contemporary examples provide illustrations; the resurrection of the Cold War in Europe and the resuscitation of the global Islamic caliphate. The “End of History” and the “Arab Spring,” in the space of a few years, have morphed into a whiff of nuclear firestorm in Europe and a new Islamic winter in the Ummah. The obvious vector of modern social and global politics is recidivism.

Backwards is the new forward – again.

The new Cold War in Europe and the enduring hot wars in the Muslim world are kissing cousins; the former now a ready excuse to ignore the latter.  Alas, the nuclear tinderbox in East Europe and charnel house in the Levant are both created problems.

Since 9/11, the global Islamist threat has been minimized, rationalized, or addressed with half-measures like rendition, criminal show trials, “humanitarian interventions,” small wars, or drone strikes. Friend and foe are flummoxed.

Throughout, Washington and Europe refuse to identify the threat, refuse to call the menace what it is: religious arrogance. Indeed, words like criminal, extremist, or terrorist are used to obscure the truth of Islamism – a now toxic mix of political imperialism and religious fascism.  The perennial civil war within Islam, Shia versus Sunni, and global terror, in combination, now threaten to suck civilization into the gates of hell.

Had they a strategic map, Joe Biden and Barack Obama might know that highway to recidivist hell runs through Tehran, Riyadh, Mosul, Medina, and Mecca.

The United Nations took two weeks to declare the Ebola virus as a global menace. The European Union took a few months to raise the Russian threat to DEFCON ridiculous. Yet, after 50 years of universal barbarity and depredations, Washington still can’t connect the dots between rot and religion corrupted.

There is nothing new about religious fascism or caliphates. There is nothing new about rape, infanticide, honor killings, genocide, misogyny, slavery – or headless journalism either. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the logical consequence of recidivism ignored, that rabid dog stalking the civilized world since the mid-20th Century – or since 632 AD, depending on your attention span.

And now we are led to believe that the real strategic threat is Vladimir Putin.  If we are to buy into Russophobia, and another round of nuclear chicken with Moscow, we must ignore more than a bit of modern history: the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the provocative, some say unnecessary, expansion of NATO; Georgian incompetence and aggression; Victoria Nuland’s meddling in Kiev that underwrote a fratricidal civil war in Ukraine.

And last, surely not least, the humiliating loss of Edward Snowden. The US State Department yanked Snowden’s passport during a Moscow layover; thereby gifting Russia a very valuable involuntary Intelligence defector. Should Snowden feel obliged to repay Russian hospitality, the blowback bill needs to be hand carried to Foggy Bottom and the National Security Agency.

The opportunity costs of isolating Russia again could be catastrophic. Never mind cooperative Space exploration, energy, or European economies at risk. Russia is the one superpower with real leverage in Iran and Syria. Indeed Russia has been very helpful on nuclear and chemical issues in a part of the world where there is little reluctance to use either.

Other than Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin also might be the one of few world leaders with the giblets to help eradicate ISIS – and ultimately Islamism. Pushing Moscow into the deep freeze again is nothing short of geo-political, if not suicidal, stupidity.

Without Russia, the hair trigger is back: the nuclear threshold is lowered in Europe – and the Levant is starting to read like biblical prophecy.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was correct. There is no worst. The Free World is led by nitwits with their heads in the sands of Arabia and their asses exposed to nuclear scorch in Europe.

CIA Director, John Brennan, believes that the ISIS caliphate is a “feckless delusion.”  And the President of the United States channels Rodney King, telling the world that he seeks solutions in the Ummah where there are “no victors and no vanquished.” Really?

If the First Family vacationed in Mosul instead of Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Obama might develop a more adult worldview. The American vector is not better to worse, the tack is bad to worse; or as the poet put it: “More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wringThere is no worst!

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We Are Israel

September 8, 2014

“We don’t thrive on military acts. We do them because we have to, and thank God we are efficient.”  – Golda Meir

Almost every news report on the latest Palestinian war leads with comparative casualties; Israeli victims number in the tens while Arabs number in the hundreds. Such stories never fail to report on the percent of women and children injured as if Hamas tactics played no role in the predictable collateral damage of urban warfare.

Back in the day when Communism was a Soviet monopoly, Joseph Stalin is alleged to have said; “One death is a tragedy; a million is just a statistic.” Stalin was, if nothing else, a realist. He knew that numbers, like much statistical evidence, are just as malleable as anecdotal evidence. Objectivity, like truth, is also peculiar to the eye of the beholder. Military disciplines and sciences are no exception.  All wars produce statistics, yet for the most part, battle numbers are most useful as propaganda. Take comparative casualties, the full metal jacket of statistics, a weaponized statistic if there ever were one.

Somehow, for Media apologists, Palestinians terrorists firing from population shields should be immune from counter-battery fire. We are lead to believe that the “disproportionate” number of Palestinian dead or wounded is evidence somehow that Israeli defensive reactions are “excessive.”  Israel is thought to have forfeited the moral high ground. Jews protecting their homes are yet again portrayed as villains.

Never mind the tortured history of Israeli patience or what Jewish casualties might have been if Israel did not maintain a competent defense. If Israel could not defend itself, the price to be paid is another holocaust. Just such a prophesy is part of the Hamas charter.

And never mind that Gaza was given back to the Arabs in what turns out to be naïve quest for peace.  Never mind that Hamas uses hospitals, mosques, and residential neighborhoods as weapons depots, launch pads, and entry points for infiltration tunnels. Never mind that Hamas has used the aid and good will of NGO’s and naïve western supporters to purchase those rockets and fund those tunnels. Never mind that Israeli doctors and hospitals frequently treat Muslim victims in wars that Israel does not initiate. And never mind that Fatah and Hamas are just the most recent examples of the many local and global terrorist organizations with a Palestinian lineage. Let’s leave these facts aside for the moment and speak just about comparative competence.

Jews anywhere, Israelis in particular, are very good at what they do. Indeed, global Jewry is arguably the most successful ethnic/religious minority on the planet. Where Jews live, they make enormous contributions to commerce, literature, science, music, art, and education. Muslims, in contrast, one fourth of the world’s citizens, desiccate in a kind of cultural desert that has persisted since Roman times. Beheading is again one of the faces of Islam. Contemporary achievement and cultural gaps that separate Muslim from Jew are vast by any measure.

And now, of necessity, Jews are also very adept at the world’s oldest profession. The stereotype about Jews being good at everything but contact sports has been laid to rest, yet again in Gaza. Since 1947, Jews have proven themselves to be able soldiers in what, if statistics like population matter, has always been a lopsided conflict, David versus Goliath if you will.

Israeli military efficiency in concert with Arab incompetence alone accounts for disproportionate casualties today, yesterday, and for the indefinite future. There has never been any moral equivalence between the way the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fight and the abject savagery of historical Jihadists or contemporary Islamists. The Jewish David is every bit the moral superior of the Muslim Goliath.

Indeed, while Israel defends itself yet again, the Muslim world writhes in the anguish of medieval religious genocide – in East Africa, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Indeed, Islamism is advancing globally.

Press and politician alike whine and anguish over mice in Gaza while Jihadist elephants rampage. Any fair observer need only load the word “beheading” or “crucifixion” into their search engine to know the gulf between contemporary Jewish culture and bestial Islamic imperialism.

Horrid videos and ‘selfies’ now taunt the West, a clinical forecast of what awaits Jews, infidels, apostates – Americans and Europeans. Muslims may represent a sixth of humanity, but at the same time Islam seems to sport 90% of humanity’s dysfunction.

In Europe, the traditional hubs of anti-Semitism (France, Spain, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia) are now energized too by Muslim immigrants and Islamism.  Jewish victims in Europe, a world away, are blamed for a global social pathology that has nothing to do with Jews, least of all Israel.

Alas, the Obama administration and his uniquely inept national security and foreign policy teams have supported a cascade of regime changes in the Muslim world, from North Africa, to South Asia and now most perilously in the Levant. Imprudence and appeasement has liberated the dogs of Muslim hell.

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rampages through the created chaos in the Levant, a barbarian nightmare that has nothing to do with Jews and everything to do with American and European policy blunders. And now with the Arab and Muslim world aflame; a confederacy of the clueless in Washington and Brussels are picking a new fight with Russia too; a diversion to be sure.

Mister Obama may not be a Koran thumping zealot, yet surely he creates as much suffering as any rabid Islamist. And just as surely, the Obama national security team is a milquetoast ‘ally’ of Israel.

Nonetheless, America should send Bibi Netanyahu and the IDF a thank you note and a case of champagne sometime soon. Here’s what David has done to Goliath in the past few days.

The IDF has put a bullet through the ears of any ‘two-state’ solution. Hamas has been exposed as an unreliable partner for even the likes of Fatah, say nothing of Israel. The Palestinian unity and statehood chimera is the real collateral damage from recent fighting.

The generals in Cairo have been alienated too. Closure of the Israel border might be inconvenient. Closure of the Egyptian border could be fatal for Gaza. Egypt has decades of bad blood with the Muslim Brotherhood. General el-Sisi is not likely to tolerate an al ikhwan stepchild, a terrorist state, on Egypt’s northern border. Hamas may have done a lot more than shoot itself in the foot this time.

Hamas, Fatah, and global Islamism may still have friends in the Media, New York, Brussels, and Washington, but allies that count, local coreligionists, now including the most populous nation in Arabia, appear to be fed up with the idea of “Palestine.” Ins’allah!

The West has been on the wrong side of history since New York was attacked by a Saudi/Arab terror team. Clearly the tactical response of remote air strikes, small wars, and appeasement has failed. Islamists are on the march while free-world allies dither. Europe and America are now perilously close to being on the wrong side of civilization too.

Israel has thrown itself again into the breach, a solitary beacon of courage beset by a nest of vipers. Israel again rises to be the 21st Century metaphor for the Gates of Vienna. Would that America, Europe, and the rest of the civilized world see the example in the most recent Jewish struggle? Religious or political fascism cannot be appeased; it must be defeated in detail at the points of origin, those dark tunnels that riddle the Muslim body politic.

Sponsor states like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Turkey, and Iran must be confronted. Without external ideological/ material support and sanctuary, groups like al Qaeda, Hezzbollah, Hamas, and ISIS would be impossible. Terror is the symptom, cancerous religion abetted by fascist politics in the Ummah is the disease.

Barack Obama tells us that he is seeking a solution where there are “no victors and no vanquished.”  Hard to believe such vapidity coming from the mouth of a man who presumes to lead the civilized world. The historical and real-politic naiveté of such banalities defies explanation.

There is no substitute for victory.   We are with Israel – or we are done!

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Colonel G. Murphy Donovan was the last Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence. He was also a former senior USAF research fellow at the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica. The author served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive (1968) and the invasion of Cambodia (1970).

Images;

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ROAD KILL ON A PLATE

August 3, 2014

“Your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from someone else’s plate.” – Dave Barry

Once upon a time, the only question about food was quantity; too much here, too little there. “Here” usually meant America or the free world and “there” was usually the undeveloped or Third World. The clear broth of hunger and poverty has now been muddied by political rhetoric; the “have nots” are now patronized by ambiguous phrases like “the developing world.” Individual victims of poverty are called underserved or less “fortunate,” as if luck or the whims of Gods were in play. If Fortuna plays any role in social improvement schemes, surely she helps those who help themselves.

All nations are developing in one way or another. The problem with the optimism of gerunds is that words like “developing” are meant to suggest a process, positive progress. The alternative, social recidivism is seldom discussed or even expected. The Muslim world and Africa are but two examples of cultures where progress defies aid, assistance, history, and the best intentions. Domestic minority communities have developed similar immunities. Nonetheless, hope and wishful thinking are still the perennial toppings for most international or domestic social buffets.

Alas, the welfare state drains the energy of poverty at the expense of motivation, achievement, and initiative. To mix a metaphor, the wolf at the door has been tamed by national, state, and municipal sugar teats. Yet, poverty is still the rapier of politics. No matter that “poor” in America means subsidized housing, bad food, an automobile, air conditioning, television, the internet, obesity, and a government check.

Cynical politicians are wont to save us from ourselves for a price.   Dependents make for a permanent voting bloc. Political parties give back just enough to pacify, insure loyalty, and stifle ambition.

Rhetoric plays a major role in poverty manipulations. A handout is now a “hand up.” A sorry meal in a feral school is an “investment.” The president’s wife has now commandeered the bully pulpit on poverty; especially, the subordinate issues of diet, nutrition, and exercise.

The idea that the First Lady gardens, goes to the market, or prepares food for her children is an insult to common sense.  Michelle Obama has access to the best take-out, health care, and life-style coaching in Washington, DC – at tax payer expense. Indeed, the First Lady’s posturing on weight control is disingenuous also.

This is not to suggest the president’s wife doesn’t have a little junk in her trunk too, but Michelle’s figure, like that of any American woman, is more a function of genetics, domestic culture, and social class than it is of eating habits. Thin says as much about class as diction.

The fat shaming that comes from the White House is weak gruel, not unlike the personal poverty posturing we hear from Bill and Hillary Clinton these days. Mrs Obama’s insensitivity about the zaftig demographic is of a piece with her ignorance about Gypsies when she or her husband refers to frauds as “gyps’. MS Magazine put it best when they took Michelle to task with an editorial about “Health and Hatred.”

American taxpayers subsidize an overweight demographic and then ultimately pay for the predictable health consequences of obesity. Free lunch and free health care are package deals sustained by social fictions. There are no incentives for restraint with means or ends. Individual intemperance is aggravated by pork barrels, self-serving rent seekers, and lobbyists countrywide.

America has the only obese poor on the planet. Michelle’s target audience isn’t poverty stricken so much as they are victims of affluence. The dependent demographic has access to all things necessary to be fat, dumb, unhealthy, and unhappy. Drugs, alcohol, and a junk diet often make for a critical mass of dysfunction. Government with no sense of restraint is not likely to cultivate that public virtue among the underclass.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

Everyone seems to benefit except kids. Children in turn do what any intelligent waif does. Kids don’t eat food they don’t like.

Modern palates are educated by fast foods; salt, sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. The junk food industry knows what children like. With the assistance of clueless, lazy parents and venal politicians, the child marketing niche is a free fire zone. Eating in a government financed cafeteria is also an exercise in humiliation, an admission that parents cannot or will not prepare a healthy, edible meal.

More to the point, kids don’t eat government food because it’s awful; ill prepared and badly presented. Most school cafeteria food looks like road kill on a plate. If Michelle Obama wants to understand what’s wrong with the diet of poor children; she, and her daughters, need to try to eat 15 meals a week at a public school cafeteria. Indeed, every school principal, teacher, and education bureaucrat should be forced to eat at public school cafeterias too. If politicians and administrative deadwood ate at the government trough, then and only then, they would know what kids know.

The food stinks!

School cafeteria chow is not just awful. Much of what is served ends up in the trash. Eating is not just another political hustle; it’s a matter of taste and habit. Ignoring qualitative factors (setting, presentation, and taste) in the child diet equation is a little trying to hit a fastball with a jump rope.

The junk food industry may not know much about health food, but they do know everything about setting and taste. How many fast food restaurants are located in basements? And junk food moguls test what they sell too. If a grasshopper burrito doesn’t sell, it’s off the menu.  Only when government food programs worry as much about preparation and taste as they do about poverty propaganda will free lunch be a good “investment.”

Some university presidents make a million dollars or more as public servants. Principals, education apparatchiks, and tenured teachers routinely make six figure salaries with elaborate benefits. What is the average food service manager paid at any public school?

Better still, take a long look at the average school cafeteria worker; overweight, overworked, underpaid, tattooed, and truly scary in hairnets. Have you ever seen Wolfgang Puck, Rachael Ray, or Papa John preparing food in a hairnet?  What’s the point of keeping hair, or toenails for that matter, out of food that’s inedible anyway?

Food in public cafeterias is not just bad; the windowless, basement settings – and the employees – would mute the appetite of vampires. Urban school cafeterias are like municipal post offices, employers of last resort.

The tax dollars that might be saved from waste alone by local school districts could hire the best executive chefs, cooks, and attractive kitchen staffs. A school lunch in could be equal of any Sunday brunch out.

If academic outcomes are a measure of effectiveness, pricey education bureaucrats are a poor investment. A competent chef, cook, or school food service manager is another, indeed an a priori, matter. The proof is in the eating. The effects of good cooking, like good parenting, are measurable.

Parents seem unwilling or unable to prepare food for children. Why not invest in better dining rooms, better kitchens, and only the best food service professionals for schools?  Call it affirmative action eating. We are all, after all, what we eat. Lip service from the Oval Office on hunger and poverty is no substitute for a sunny room and the flavor and taste of a good spinach pie.

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The author keeps a garden and cooks nearly every day. He believes that good ingredients and a tasty lunch are national security issues.

Key Words; cooking, school lunch, junk food, hunger, poverty, and public schools.

Images;

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MILITARY CHARACTER DEFICITS

August 1, 2014

Character is the decisive factor in individuals and nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt

So now we have John Walsh. Another flag officer who steps on his crank and then pretends he was ill at the time. Maybe it’s a David Patraeus thing, a kind of self-love, a lust for advancement and the values lost in the heat of that pursuit. Just as the former CIA director gave sexual harassment a boost with Paula Broadwell; the former Montana Adjutant General, now Senator, Walsh is giving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a bad name, throwing true combat fatigue victims under the bus in the process. PTSD is already the dubious ‘medical’ default setting for any soldier or veteran who behaves badly.

Modern abuse of a combat vitae dates to John Kerry and Vietnam. Kerry parlayed three months in a combat zone to a chest full of medals and service ribbons which he promptly threw on the White House lawn in a fit of feigned political pique.

Playing both sides of the street, war hero/anti-war hero, Kerry used his Navy service as a stepping stone in Massachusetts’ politics. It worked, it still works for Kerry. Lieutenant Kerry, and allies like Jane Fonda, made allegations about American atrocities that were unsupported by evidence. The Secretary of State is still reviled by many veterans for good reasons. Kerry was no Audie Murphy.

Walsh is a disturbing echo of the Kerry military ethos of the 1970s.

Alas, the real problem here isn’t personal integrity so much as national security institutions at risk. Kerry and Walsh raise questions about the standards in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the erosion of national military values like “duty, honor, and country.”

With Kerry, where was the US Navy brass when he collected all those decorations, including three purple hearts for trivial injuries? Kerry never lost a day of duty for his “wounds.” Even by Vietnam standards, Kerry’s fruit salad orgy still amazes contemporaries.

Upon coming home, Kerry morphed into a very different, and very politicized naval officer; often half in and half out of uniform, often wearing/not wearing military decorations at anti-war protest rallies. Where was the admiralty then and subsequently when his Swift Boat shipmates challenged Kerry’s Vietnam resume during that pyrrhic presidential bid?

Now we have General Walsh in another political campaign. Put aside the banal stupidity of plagiarism in an era where any high school sophomore can screen a paper for fraud. Put aside also, for the moment, the question of why a US Army colonel can’t write an original 14 page (sic) “thesis.” Put aside also the questions of how this guy got to be a state adjutant, a lieutenant governor, and an appointed US senator.

Instead, ask how did this fellow ever got a military commission, let alone a flag officer slot? He was promoted from colonel to general after cheating at the Army War College (AWC)! Speaking of the AWC, how is an institution credentialed to grant graduate degrees not able to screen for resume hustlers and plagiarists? And how is a fourteen-page cribbed essay a “thesis” in any post-graduate program? On the academic credibility scale, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, now joins the ranks of dot.com degree factories.

The Air Force has not escaped the depression in military values. Ninety-two missile launch officers were implicated in a recent cheating scandal associated with procedural competence. Subsequent inquiries suggest that cheating on proficiency tests has been part of the “culture” at all three ICBM bases for years. The USAF men and women with their fingers on the nuclear button can’t be trusted? Good grief, what’s next?

So here we are once again, with the Walsh fiasco, left to wonder about the integrity of Department of Defense leadership and institutions. And predictably, all of the usual suspects are out on soapboxes defending the indefensible. Excuses suggest that Walsh is a stress victim or he was just distracted, or just guilty of trivial neglect. Even the Clinton defense has been deployed again; Walsh’s behavior is likened to small or private matters, not something that could taint his public professional judgment.

Senator John Walsh’s defenders are probably correct in their calculations. Character flaws like cheating or plagiarism do not matter. After all, one of two major American political parties is behind Walsh “100 percent.” Keep in mind that Walsh didn’t fudge the truth as a junior officer, he cheated as a colonel. Cheating doesn’t matter in the officer corps because apparently character doesn’t matter either.  Among politicians, character seldom matters; and now flag officers have lowered that bar too.  Prudens Futuri  indeed!

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STRATEGIC SWAP MEETS

July 17, 2014

Sometimes a picture is worth a million words. Take Michelle Obama’s recent head shot, a pouty face over a sign that reads, “Bring back our girls!” Michelle is pleading with Boko Haram to return several hundred Nigerian girls abducted earlier this year. This is what passes for foreign policy these days, a silly photo from the White House.

It was the Obama administration that couldn’t bring itself to designate Boko Haram a terror group, until recently. Apparently, religious genocide, forced conversions, and sex slavery did not breach the “terror” threshold at Foggy Bottom or the Oval Office until 2013.

Had Boko Haram been on the terror watch list, maybe the National Security Agency (NSA) would have been watching sex slave trafficking in Africa instead of monitoring domestic sex surfing on laptops in America. Clearly, the praetorian peep show at Fort Meade has a better payoff when “metadata” is used to trash some political naïf like the hapless David Patraeus.

The most populous terror groups in the Middle East and South Asia, al Ikhwan  (Muslim Brotherhood) and the notorious Taliban, still do not make State’s official terror list in the Obama era either. The Brotherhood is a designated terror organization in Cairo but not in Washington DC. Take comfort in knowing that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in Peru are still on the official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

And just when you thought the Obama crew couldn’t be more tone deaf or manipulative, along comes Susan Rice again to rationalize another group of domestic apologists, this time the Bergdahls, a family of Idaho Taliban fans. Bergdahl’s home town, Hailey, was planning a “hero’s” welcome for a favorite son turned rabbit. The US Army cultivated the “hero” canard by promoting the errant private to sergeant while in self-imposed “captivity” for five years. Calling Bergdahl a prisoner of war (POW) or sergeant, as Rice does, dishonors all real combat Non-Commissioned Officers and legitimate POWs, living and dead.

Bowe Bergdahl applied for the French Foreign Legion and was rejected. He served in the Coast Guard for 26 days before he was discharged for psychological reasons. How or why the US Army takes a recruit that didn’t pass muster in a sister service is another Bowe cypher.

Adding insult to irony, America’s most feckless national security advisor again took to the airways to spin the truth about all things Islamic and Bergdahl.  You might recall that in the wake of the Benghazi atrocity, Ms. Rice was the public face of excuse-making for the Islamist murder of a gay American ambassador and three colleagues in Libya.

We mention Chris Steven’s sexual orientation because, in the sick world of Islamism, it might well have been the proximate cause of execution. Midst the moral miasma of Foggy Bottom, American diplomats become hysterical over any real or imagined homophobia in Russia, and at the same time ignore the lethal variety of that same bigotry in the Muslim world at large.

Now Susan Rice, with media collaborators, would have us believe that a marginal soldier, at a minimum an AWOL or possibly a deserter, served with “honor and distinction” in Afghanistan. In fact, his platoon mates, his parents, and even Rolling Stone have testified that Bowe Bergdahl was unhappy with the war against Islamists and voluntarily left his post to seek refuge with the Taliban.

The fact that Bergdahl might have been restrained on occasion by his hosts is moot. After all, he fled to the Taliban where young girls are stoned to death for immodesty and outsiders might be buggered or beheaded with the same unhappy logic (see the Sewing Circles of Kandahar, by Christina Lamb).

If the Coast Guard and the US Army couldn’t trust Private Bowe, why would anyone expect semi-literate Muslim fascists like the Taliban to trusthim?

Barack Obama misused the “no man left behind” ethic by staging a White House photo opportunity with Private Bergdahl’s parents; a charade where papa Bergdahl was festooned in a full length ‘Islamic solidarity’ beard, another photo worth a million words. Bergdahl’s dad, a pensioned former mailman, also graced the occasion with several Koranic incantations. Hard to pass up an “in your face” moment in the Rose Garden.

Smell a rat yet? Seems the Pentagon and the Oval Office are trying to cook the national security books again for a couple of reasons.

The first would be to set a precedent to empty Guantanamo and fulfill a long standing Obama campaign pledge. For Obama, the next couple of years are about legacy, not national safety. The bearded Taliban miscreants swapped for Bergdahl get a luxury villa in Qatar for a few months and should be back in the religious genocide business for a spring 1915 offensive.

A second motive would be to prejudice any US Army officer in any pre-trail investigation or every officer on any potential Bergdahl court martial board. A pair of political lawyers in the White House should know all there is to know about cooking a jury.

The brass at the Pentagon has already has already flunked the partiality test by trying to gag Bergdahl’s platoon, a bevy of hostile eye witnesses. If Private Bergdahl served with “distinction,” why muzzle or malign his mates?

When Bergdahl gets a pass, Obama spin gets a win – again.

Future narratives could follow several story lines. The Army could feign justice with “non-judicial” punishment (reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay), a slap on the wrist, and a Pentagon pouty face. If Bergdahl goes to trail, unlikely just before a congressional election, the administration will probably argue that he has suffered enough and a presidential pardon would do the trick.

The only version of Bergdahl’s expedition and behavior amongst the Taliban may be the story he chooses to tell. Surely a book deal is already in the works. Under any scenario, like Lieutenant John Kerry in Massachusetts, Private Bowe Berghdahl is probably bulletproof and still golden for Idaho.

So maybe administration trash talkers are correct about the “swift boat” analogy. When John Kerry threw in with Jane Fonda, embargoed his military records, and tossed his Vietnam decorations on the White House lawn; he wasn’t running from an unjust war in the Mekong Delta so much as he might have been running to the US Senate. Like Bergdahl, Kerry got to work both sides of the public sympathy street; war hero and anti-war hero.

In truth, Bergdahl is more a mirror image of his ransom, the Guantanamo five. The Taliban psychopaths get to return to the heart of Islam as victims, heroes, and jihadi. Bowe gets to play the same role in America, a celebrated troubled soul victimized by a bad war and callous critics. If Bergdahl is a Muslim convert, he has the potential to do more damage with a Muslim/American 5th Column than he might ever have done as a soul lost to the South Asian skedaddle.

How does Senator Bowe Bergdahl sound? Idaho and the Bergdahl clan seem as well suited as Kerry and ketchup.

Beneath all the Obama/Rice compassion posturing lies a tortured past and a Malthusian future. Recall that candidate Obama ran on a plank that labeled Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” Indeed, a claim that al Qaeda and the Taliban must be defeated so that Afghanistan wouldn’t become a haven for terrorists.

With a good part of Taliban leadership now in Qatar, the Arabian Peninsula is (or always has been) a destination resort for terrorists and their enablers – and that affluent sty includes Saudi Arabia.  For the next two years Guantanamo will apparently serve as terror’s travel agent.

Meanwhile in South Asia, Mullah Omar is celebrating victory somewhere. When Kabul again falls to his Taliban, we will know how the end began. When and if Karachi and Pakistan’s cache of nuclear weapons falls to Islamic fascism too, we will also know how Armageddon begins. America just swapped the negligible legacy of a very weak president for a very troubled future.

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Veterans in the Crosshairs

June 7, 2014

“The best minds are not in government.” – Ronald Reagan

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) hurled brickbats from Chicago for decades. Never mind that the Windy City, if not Illinois, are two of the most corrupt polities in North America. Social inequalities and Capitalism were Terkel’s favored targets.

His most effective analytical tool was the interview where he artfully allowed victims to bare their souls – and sometimes self-destruct.  Terkel’s social criticism was often spot on – brutal and humorous, simultaneously. Unfortunately, he gave more thought to criticism than solutions. Diagnosis and remedy, like good will and achievement, are worlds apart.

With Studs you got blunt and often amusing analysis undone by flaccid, if not shopworn, urban bromides. For Terkel, bigger government at any level was better.

Alas, corrupt government is host to many ironies, but three are paramount: success is a liability, failure is an asset, and as long as the intentions are pure in the public mind, better funding follows failure, not success. Once established, bigger civic programs have few measures of effectives. The end game is there is no end.

The logic is pragmatic. No politician makes a career by defunding or eliminating failed programs. Think of effectiveness as you might Fitzgerald’s receding green light, a flash on the horizon not a destination.

Failure has a permanent constituency: passive taxpayers, venal politicians, and rent seekers who are smart enough to manipulate the first two. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, when it comes to public management and/or results; good intentions are more than enough.

The Veterans Administration (VA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) illustrate these phenomena.

The Veterans Administration, like a deer in the headlights, is again in the headlines – this time for fatal wait times. Seems the VA, like some criminal enterprise, is cooking the books; one set of books for incentive pay and bonuses and another set for the real world where former soldiers may be wasting in waiting rooms or dying on waiting lists. Medical apparatchiks are apparently reporting care statistics and/or mortality rates that do not comport with patient experience.  “Do no harm” seems to have been an early casualty at the VA.

The VA is the largest single payer, state sponsored, health care system in the country. Think of the VA as a prototype of the ACA. The VA has been around since 1930, a cabinet department since the end of the Gulf Wars. You might also stop wondering why, in the run-up to ACA, veteran’s care wasn’t held up as a role model, an exemplar for the federal health mecca to come.

The culture of deception evident at the VA is a federal, not a Phoenix problem. Indeed, when terms like “public servant” are deployed to defend apparatchiks, only half that phrase is likely to be true. In addition to six figure salaries, VA administrators are awarded bonuses or incentive pay to do a lousy job.

Fraudulent bookkeeping is necessary because true merit is lacking. Like T-Ball; everyone gets a good report card and everyone gets a dollar trophy.  Deadbeats flourish where there are no meaningful measures of effectiveness especially at the federal level where most real work is done by contractors and camp followers anyway.  Phony statistics thus become a stand-in for employee achievement. Reform at the VA is unimaginable without fundamental Civil Service reform.

Frankly, neither political party thinks much about places like the VA unless there’s a scandal. Republicans don’t complain, or respond to complaints, because it might offend public unions. And Democrats don’t want to publicize any incompetence that might screw the single payer pooch, nee total socialization.

With both, the political nomenclatura, evenformer military mandarins, will never subject themselves to the same indignities as the proletariat. Rest assured that John McCain, Harry Reid, Colin Powell, and Eric Shinseki, like Congress and staff, will never have to wait in line for three months for a colonoscopy or a prostate biopsy.

You could do worse than think of the Affordable Care Act as a kind of doubling down on Veteran’s health care; another federal bailout for failure, if you will. The VA and the ACA are not exactly comparable at the moment, but you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see the specter of single-payer and an even bigger federal role in medicine on the horizon.

You might also wonder what a soldier like Eric Shinseki is doing in the health care or social services business. Shinseki is the longest serving VA secretary. He owns the fraud problem. Clearly, the retired general knows as much about medical good practice as David Petraeus did about good Intelligence. Giving an infantry officer control of a health care system is a little like giving a proctologist command of an amphibious landing.

To be fair, we should note that minor cabinet sinecures like the VA are usually more about politics; in Shinseki’s case, a reward for very public pushback against the Bush/Rumsfeld Iraq strategy.

And let’s not let organized veterans off the hook here. Most groups like the American Legion, the Veteran of Foreign Wars, and the Disabled American Veterans are social clubs where silly hats, parades, honor guards, convention bacchanals, and ‘selfies’ with celebrities take precedence over effective advocacy. Most organized veterans willingly pose with any nitwit running for office before succumbing to promissory dementia. Truth is few politicians give a damn. Veterans are clearly not an effective, visible, or loud voting bloc.

Outlook

Given the half-life of Media interest in all things military, least of all veterans care, the net effects from the latest VA ‘scandal’ are fairly predictable.

Barack and Michelle Obama will make all the appropriate noises of indignation. Mrs. Obama might even pose with a sign, and a pouty face, as she did when Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 school girls for forced conversion to Islam and the sex slave trade.

Congress will do what it always does; throw more money at the VA, another failed federal institution. The answer is always more funding – never mind that more is never enough. Few federal bureaucrats will get fired! Unionized apparatchiks, like unionized teachers might be moved, but seldom removed.

Any congressional ‘reform’ will probably do more to protect civil servants, contactors, and rent seekers than it will improve the lives of aged or injured former soldiers. Unlike veterans, camp followers have real power inside the Beltway.

General Shinseki probably tarnished what was heretofore a distinguished military career by not falling on his sword earlier. Alas, he was at the VA long enough to get the lay of the land. Generals who dabble in politics are vulnerable and dispensable anyway. Shinseki, like Patraeus, will be just another sorry footnote to the Obama era.

Government solutions are never as real as problems.  Studs Terkel, as usual, is half right again. Hope might hang in there, but esperanza never outlasts funding. Money and institutional self-interest eats hope and good intentions for lunch.  Federal crime not only pays; indeed, there are incentives and bonuses for fraud!

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G. Murphy Donovan, a combat veteran, served in USAF Intelligence for 25 years. He has never seen the inside of a VA waiting room or an American Legion hall.

Images;

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Edward Snowden; Digital Don Quixote

June 5, 2014

“Just because information is stolen, that doesn’t make it more useful.” – Mike Hayden

 

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the child of Pearl Harbor, the worst warning disaster, until recently, in American history.  The World Trade Center was the first homeland test of NSA. The Fort Meade complex and General Mike Hayden, USAF, failed that test.

Hayden discovered the terror threat on daytime television, as Saudi/Arab/Muslim terrorists crashed into Manhattan, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. After the worst strategic failure in American history, Hayden was promoted to the inner circle at the White House. Funding at NSA exploded exponentially. Catastrophe is opportunity.

Thus does operational failure become a fiscal stimulus! Withal; religious wars still rage, bombs still explode in too many public places, girls are kidnapped by the hundreds, and airliners disappear without a trace. Nonetheless, Maryland and Utah and a few other states wallow midst the biggest Communications Intelligence (COMINT) funding windfall in American history.

After the Arab attack, Hayden was summoned to the White House and asked what NSA might need to prevent another surprise attack. Apparently, NSA replied: “everything,” including universal surveillance of all the social media and the telecom monopolies (AT&T and Verizon). Initially, the gnomes at NSA engineered a program that incorporated privacy safeguards. Those safeguards were discarded, but not without a cat fight at the Puzzle Palace and the Justice Department.

Recalcitrant senior NSA technicians were read out of “the program,” some became leakers, but all were neutralized with retirement and several years of retaliatory FBI intimidation.  Raise a problem in the IC and apparently you become the problem.

Edward Snowden would later school himself on the post-9/11 NSA whistleblowers. Snowden recognized that commercial data miners and government snoops were after the same personal data; playing fast and loose with privacy, albeit for different reasons.

The Justice Department wasn’t as easy to intimidate or roll at first. Nonetheless, the Oval Office circumvented the Attorney General by writing a new TOP SECRET CODEWORD presidential directive for NSA operations. Apparently, the major social networks, with one exception, and telecom monopolies collaborated with NSA without a public murmur.

Think of NSA as a stovepipe, a conduit to very special audiences like the White House. Other Intelligence agencies create their own limited access programs too, smaller pipes within the IC stovepipes. Most traffic is vertical not horizontal, the left hand of the IC often does not know what the right is doing – by design. When an agency like Justice refuses to play ball, as was the case with warrantless wiretapping, NSA pulls program access from critics, as they did with post- 9/11 internal dissenters.

Apparently, the purpose of most classification in the IC is to cover somebody’s ass, not to protect “sources and methods.” A ‘world of mirrors’ is the way James Angleton characterized the Intelligence universe, now a digital jungle where friend and enemy wear the same saccharine smiles.

Glen Greenwald now calls the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “one-way mirrors.” They know all about us and we know little of them. Manipulation, not integrity, is the high card in a United States of Secrets.

Mike Hayden, while at NSA, ran Intelligence collection in a moral vacuum shadowed by legal twilight. And Mike Morell, while at CIA, altered Intelligence analyses (see Benghazi talking points) like the political flavor of the day. With the new FBI director, the IC consensus on the literal end of privacy is a done deal.

Recall that under George Bush, when James B. Comey was the deputy at Justice, he offered to resign over warrantless surveillance. Now as top cop at the FBI under a Democrat, Comey seems to have leased his integrity to the politics of the moment.

We are assured by all parties that individual privacy rights are protected by the mysterious FISCR court. If we believe recent revelations On Frontline and in Nowhere to Hide, the IC’s “secret court” will indict a bad burrito and issue a warrant for the predictable results.  A “secret” (sic) court, for secret warrants, where only the government’s secret argument is heard is a little like installing one of Greenwald’s mirrors in a public toilet.

Say what you will about rogues like Edward Snowden, the high-school dropout who blew the whistle on the NSA/social Media/ telecom surveillance peep show. Snowden exhibits more skill, judgment, and ethical grit than Hayden, Morell, and Comey or the dot.com oligarchs. NSA and the greedy internet elite created the problem that the Snowden revelations might have to solve.

Indeed, Snowden, with an ‘all access’ ticket seems to know more about  NSA surveillance  than Jim Clapper,  Barack Obama, or Congress. Withal, one thing is clear; clueless sycophants like Mike Hayden, make skeptical apostates like Snowden possible.

Truth is, NSA, like the rest of the ironically named ‘Defense’ Department, invests most assets in offense, indiscriminate collection for example; an indigestible glut it seems. This Hoover tactic may explain why a malcontent like Snowden can steal the family jewels with a few discrete keystrokes. If NSA strategic defense failed before 9/11 and then internal defenses failed to prevent the Snowden heist, why believe Hayden’s assurances about the future? Three catastrophic surprises will not be a charm.

Key Judgments

Governments that can give you everything, say universal health care, can take anything; to wit, civil rights or personal privacy. The ACA was a party line vote. Nobody got to vote on the NSA expansion and surely not the PRISM computer and universal federal/commercial snooping.

The great irony of collection excess is that there is no evidence that more data, more processing, or more funding has improved Intelligence analysis. The same people who redefine phone calls, Tweets, photographs, and emails as “metadata” can’t name our strategic enemies. State Department sissies refuse to designate Boko Haram as a Muslim terrorist group. IC estimates gag on words like “terrorist.” Terms like Islam, Muslim, Islamist, or religious fascism have been stricken from the strategic vocabulary by fiat.

What doesn’t happen – is now an achievement!

Trying to understand terror and all those Muslim wars, without Islamism, is a little like ignoring pork at a sausage seminar. Within the Intelligence Community, Muslim sensitivities seem to trump common sense and national security.

If warning or candid analysis is the strategic dividend, then the Intelligence investment should be downgraded to junk bond status. Like advertising, the purpose of the end product, analysis, now seems to be influence or social sensitivity, not information or warning. Orwell’s pig lives!

Democratic socialists didn’t win the Cold War; they merely cloned Animal Farm. In the arithmetic of communes, compound failure equals excess. Cultural wars are illustrative, where nation or alliance building is now code for false flags, coups, regime changes, or ‘democratic’ imperialism.

Despotism has three requirements: control, compliance, and secrecy. The ethos of social and political absolutism is alive and well in the West, where failure is never pretty. But it still pays pretty well.

Money and institutional self-interest eats hope and good intentions for lunch.  The intersection of government voyeurs and a so-called “open” Internet is the kind of unnatural act that can only be explained by a critical mass of official and commercial trolls. Crime pays indeed – and well too!

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The author is the former chief of the USAF Intelligence Research Division, NSA Friendship Annex, Fort Meade, Maryland

This essay was previously published by the American Thinker and the Iconoclast.

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