March 21, 2013

“What difference does it make?” – Hilary Clinton

If you were wondering about the vector of American foreign and military policy in the next four years; you could do worse than examine the new national security team: John Brennan, John Kerry, Charles Hagel, and Martin Dempsey.

John Brennan

Brennan is first among equals as a White House intimate; heretofore a minor White House staffer who has had the president’s ear for the last four years. Yet he is the sponsor of a foreign policy where Islamism is the central, yet invisible, nexus of near and distant national security threats.   “Invisible” because Mr. Brennan has made his mark as an articulate apologist for, and co- architect of, a policy of stealth appeasement.

The pillars of the Brennan doctrine are threefold: high visibility engagement with Islam, low visibility isolation of Israel, and clandestine kinetic containment of “radicals.” Wars of the future war under a Brennan doctrine will be confined to joystick combat, military gamers in Nevada using drones for selective global retribution.

Withal, any solo holy warrior, or Muslim organization, that kills in the name of Allah or jihad, or sympathizes with terror tactics, will still be characterized as an unrepresentative minority.  Thus, a larger Muslim culture, especially the Arab vanguard, enjoys a kind of blanket absolution – and no incentives for reform.  With Brennan, oblivious is the burka that obscures the obvious.

Alas, the roots of Muslim cultural pathology are religious, not political. Recent regime changes, especially in the Arab world, facilitate religious recidivism; not because Muslims misunderstand democracy, but because most adherents see no need to subordinate religious dogma to secular choice. Tribal aristocrats and military autocrats might get the rope or a bullet; but ayatollahs and imams are immune.

In the Ummah, internal and external instability are symptoms of this continuing conflict between rote and reason. The Muslim East is still struggling with a dilemma that the Christian West resolved centuries ago, a religious Reformation followed by evolutionary political Enlightenment.  Misguided contemporary notions of moral equivalence tend to ignore the dangers of Islamic religious homogeneity and political absolutism. Such naiveté enables theocratic despotism and inspires genocidal fanatics.

The logic of the Brennan doctrine allows the ideological threat to be contained; theoretically limited to the likes of al Qaeda. Never mind that PEW surveys of Muslim attitudes in general, Arab opinion in particular, consistently registers toxic levels of hostility towards the secular West; anti- Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American sentiments.

With appeasement, statistical evidence, numbers of Islamist adherents and numbers of western casualties do not matter. The lynchpin of 21st century moral malaise may be a phenomenon that Dalrymple calls “incontinent forgiveness” and Rebecca Bynum clarifies as “tolerance raised above justice and forgiveness (raised) above mercy.”

With the Brennan doctrine, the body bags of  US Marines in Lebanon, New York’s Twin Towers, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lockerbie, Beslan, the USS Cole, or Benghazi are negligible investments in soft power; a strategy downsized to accommodate elusive goals like nation building (nee development), transition, and stability – objectives with no clear measures of effectiveness.  Defeating theo-fascism is not part of the Brennan plan.

In his new role as CIA director, John Brennan is now the official curator of the Islamist foreign policy trope. If the Brennan doctrine does not tilt or pander to Mecca, then someone needs to explain why President Obama has yet in genuflect in Jerusalem.

John Kerry

Senator Kerry of Massachusetts might be the perfect choice to fill Hilary Clinton’s pants suit as chief American “cookie pusher.”

Mrs. Clinton was the most mobile, most visible, most popular, and least effective member of the president’s national security team. If frequent flyer miles are a measure of merit, then Mrs. Clinton is an over-achiever. Unfortunately, per diem and apology tourism might signify celebrity, but not social progress.

Like Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice before her, Hilary was in the cat bird’s seat to confront global chauvinism and misogynistic obscenities in the Muslim world, yet she did little save preach, provide timid lip service to woman’s and human rights. Like Brennan, Mrs. Clinton seems to be pogonophobic.

As Hilary took her victory lap before congressional committees, she provided a fitting coda for Obama Cabinet beliefs about hate crime, cultural terror, and the global jihad to date. “What difference does it make?” says Mrs. Clinton. To be fair, we should note that Hilary Clinton, like her husband, is a fairly typical representative of her generation – an era where celebrity is confused with achievement.

Now comes John Kerry another reliable sailor from the US Senate, America’s axis of political inertia. The Senate has not passed a budget in recent memory, yet deficit spending proceeds apace midst the worst economic threat since the Great Depression.  Alas, Kerry is not known for his economic acumen; his marriage into a pickle fortune notwithstanding.

Senator Kerry is a 30 year veteran of the foreign policy wars on the apologetic Left. Like Ted Kennedy, Kerry made his bones as an anti-war zealot, scion of the Jane Fonda wing of the Democrat Party. And like Mrs. Clinton, Kerry is likely to be a loyal and reliable face for the Brennan doctrine, a mix where timidity in the West will encourage the worst in the East.

John Kerry’s rehabilitation by near unanimous bi-partisan consent is a foreign policy marker too, a signal that there are little or no significant differences between the American Left and American Right on the Brennan doctrine.

Charles Hagel

If Kerry is a poke in the eye, then Charles Hagel is an inside joke – or a deer caught in the national spotlight. The only choice for Secretary of Defense that might be worse would have been John Kerry. Hagel’s confirmation hearing was astounding. In a few short hours he managed to backtrack on every controversial position he took as a senator.  Hagel has defined himself as a political eunuch.

As a self-described ideological castrato, Mister Hagel might be a cynical, yet logical, choice for a Defense Department that is about to undergo a surgery that cuts more than giblets. Hagel is painted as a bi-partisan player, but his Republican record is one of political opportunism underpinned by ‘closet’ anti-Semitism.

Hagel was probably selected because he is malleable, reliable, and an ecumenical complement to Brennan – another loyal subscriber to the defend Iran and “blame Israel” idioms. Painting Jews as scapegoats for Muslim angst has a history at the Pentagon. David Petraeus, Brennan’s CIA predecessor, while at CENTCOM, sponsored a ‘study’ to that effect. The “two state” chimera is underwritten by the ludicrous belief that tempering Arab and Muslim belligerence is a function of Israeli concession or capitulation.

Martin Dempsey

There was a time when flag officers might be excluded from any analysis of policy futures. Military officers were expected to stay out of politics. Alas, that ship sailed with Admiral Mike Mullen, the last chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Mullen, you might recall, led the charge for gay rights, a political hot potato if ever there was one.  Under Mullen, sexual preferences, or gender orientation, became a military readiness issue.

And political correctness was not limited to rear echelon warriors. During the same period, then ISAF commander, David Petraeus had female soldiers wearing hijabs rather than helmets in the field.

Taking a cue from Mullen, the new JCS Chairman, Martin Dempsey, jumped into the social sweepstakes before Leon Panetta departed. Dempsey opened the combat arms to women in the name of equality. The top four star claims that “sexual assaults will decline” (sic) in the US military with women at the front.

When Dempsey was asked why he did not act to save the Benghazi four, he replied that he was aware of the crisis in real-time, but did not receive a request for help from Mrs. Clinton. While Brennan and Clinton might be afraid of beards, Dempsey’s cavalry seems to be saddled with a “mother may I?” complex.

JCS crisis timidity does not limit enthusiasm for social engineering; risky experiments unencumbered by experience or evidence. Never mind that candidate women have already failed to meet infantry training standards in the Marine Corps.   Statutory equality among first responders, police and firemen, has led to significant alteration of training and qualification standards. Marksmanship was the first casualty.

If the Joint Chiefs were serious about equality, they would be lobbying to have women included in selective service registration. Calls for equal rights without equal obligations are a fraud.

Flag officers routinely allow themselves to be drawn into iffy domestic politics, and such generals are sure to be pushovers for hirsute fanatics abroad, zealots who care little for women’s rights and even less for alternative life styles.  And herein lays the real tragedy when misguided notions of equality subvert common sense. When gay State Department envoys and Defense Department women are deployed to Ummah battlefronts, they are exposed to double jeopardy, military and cultural risk. Feminism and homosexuality are capital offenses among Islamists – and sharia justice in these matters is often instantaneous.

The Obama cabinet and the JCS seems to have learned nothing from the executions and mutilations at Benghazi.  American Cabinet officers and generals have elevated special social pleading at home above the special hazards in all those Muslims wars abroad.

Dark Horizons

There is no evidence that the Brennan doctrine supports prudent near or long term strategy. Strategic appeasement has now produced a generation of catamite tacticians, leaders that assume a defensive crouch after each indignity, hoping that the next atrocity will not hurt as much as the last.  Blowback after Benghazi illustrates the phenomenon.

The knee-jerk Cabinet response is defensive; blame You Tube then throw more money at outpost “security.”  Indeed, a billion dollars will be taken from Defense Department accounts and thrown into the bottomless pit of Foggy Bottom consular vulnerabilities. Alas, passive “engagement” is again raised above justifiable, if not necessary, action and confrontation.

The moral cowardice embedded in the Brennan doctrine is underwritten by fear, naiveté, and misplaced assertions of moral equivalence. We fear that things could get worse; fears about oil, debt, and terror. We also pray that our tolerance will overcome their dogma; forgetting, unfortunately, that most Muslims are tolerant only where they are a minority. And we continue to be seduced by the shibboleth that Islam is one of the “world’s great religions” and not just another mutating variant of political fascism.


This essay appeared in the March issue of the New English Review (London)

Generals and Geographic Bachelors

March 21, 2013

             “It wasn’t his infidelity that I couldn’t bear; it was his cowardice.”

                                                    – Tatiana de Rosnay           

General David Petraeus illuminates two grand military issues at just the right moment; officer corps character and flag officer performance. Petraeus could be the poster child for a clueless Gilbert and Sullivan character too; “The very model of a modern major-general.” Major-general was the highest rank to which an officer might aspire to in the last century. Grade inflation created the contemporary glut of four stars, including Petraeus.

 David Petraeus gloried in wearing every token of service on his chest, including presumably the good conduct ribbon. Or maybe not! The good conduct medal only goes to grunts, not officers. Clearly, the good conduct award should hereafter be a badge of misplaced military expectations.

Nonetheless; the US Army, West Point, and officers like Petraeus continue to pay lip service to traditional military values and ethics like “duty, honor, and country.” The second imperative seems to have been honored in breach by the former ISAF commander. It’s hard to believe, as it was with Bill Clinton, that Paula Broadwell was a “one of.”

Or maybe the West Point honor oath is more relevant: “a cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal; or tolerate those who do.” Ironically, cheating on your wife seems to be a moral misdemeanor in the Army; while cheating on your trigonometry quiz could lead to dismissal. Alas, Cadet David gets the hat trick here. On the larceny count, Petraeus stole reputation from both sides of his family. His wife Holly is the daughter of a former West Point Superintendent.

And be not distracted by any “honey trap” nonsense; cheating on wives is a military tradition, not a scandal. Officially, a remote tour is designated “unaccompanied,” but overseas orders seldom require celibacy. Alas, unaccompanied officers are known in the trade as “geographic” bachelors. A senior officer is not busted for cheating; he gets drummed out of the corps for getting caught – too visibly.

And morality only becomes an issue when it embarrasses the Service. In this respect, contemporary military culture is no different than American political culture. If and when, Holly Petraeus, sings a few choruses of “Stand by Your Man,” as did Hilary Clinton; the triumph of bimbo ethics will be confirmed. Men behave like swine because the women in their lives, mothers and wives, have low or no expectations.

Patraeus not only gives new meaning to terms like “embedded” and “all in” but he and Mrs. Broadwell give a whole new dimension to “ring knockers,” a military euphemism for arogant military academy graduates. Indeed, if the general was making booty calls with GI Jane in Kabul, the angst in the ranks should be unique. Unlike Europe, Korea, and Vietnam; ordinary soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are discouraged, if not prohibited, from fraternizing with Muslim women. Like Saigon back in the day, however, apparently the brass gets first run on the imported camp followers. Rank still has perks.

For those who might argue that the military ethos is different, consider who comes to defend Petraeus and the nature of the arguments. Members of both political parties, (e.g. Nancy Pelosi and Lindsey Graham ) and the Media lament the loss of a “great leader” to personal, as opposed to professional, failings.

This is the same limp mantra cooked up for Bill Clinton. Neither defense holds water. Perjury is a crime in any court; and adultery, as Petraeus should know, is a court martial offence under the UCMJ. Note that it is the Republican House who excuses Petraeus from testifying, as scheduled, in the Benghazi fiasco. Republicans can’t seem to court enough ill will these days.

So much for the general’s character.

Defending Petraeus on performance grounds may be an even a shakier argument. The general belongs to the “kiss up, kick down” school of military management, again an import from the political world. Like politicians, political generals insist on deprivations from which they usually exempt themselves.

Recall, that during the hot war in Iraq, serving under a Republican, Petraeus was vilified as General “Betrayus.” Now, under a Democrat administration, as the retreat from Afghanistan unfolds, the former ISAF commander is held up as a national hero. Where are the victories? Is the Arab or Muslim world more pacific or stable today, because Petraeus marched through?

Even insipid goals like “transition” are a shell game. We still have troops in Iraq; and after 2014, a similar contingent will remain in Kabul. The true accomplishments of all those small wars in the Muslim world to date are twofold; NATO has simplified the Islamist target set and enabled the triumph of radical religious politics. Indeed, American troops are now killed by our so-called “moderate” Muslim allies; surely a comfort to Islamists.

The great failure of senior officers like Petraeus is candor, or more bluntly, integrity. America cannot do for Muslims what Islam is unwilling to do for itself. That fundamental ground truth is ignored or spun by senior military officers and politicians alike.

And are we to believe that Petraeus reinvented the Army with novel counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine? The test of any doctrine is achievement; or to use a word absent from flag officer vocabulary these days, the test of military theory is victory. There are only two routes to change in the Ummah; reform or defeat. Neither is evident after 50 years of futile American sacrifice.

Politics and yearly troop rotations are at odds with the Petraeus doctrine. The force ratios required by the Army Manual (FM 3-24) will never be achieved with the current force structure; and brief, but repeat, deployments are at odds with consolidating any annual gains or winning any “hearts or minds.”

Problems with academic theory begin with flawed assumptions; nearly all conflicts in the Muslim world are civil wars, not insurgencies. The Army doesn’t have a foreign civil war mandate. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps has bought into the COIN nonsense too. The elimination of the draft makes it easier for politicians and generals to play fast and loose with national treasure and volunteer lives; another ground truth ignored by Petraeus doctrine.

Before leaving the performance report, we might look at some of the small steps that allowed Petraeus to advance from Kabul to Langley. First was that borderline anti-Semitic CENTCOM study commissioned by Patraeus that suggests that resolving the Israel question is key to abating Muslim rage. Nonsense!

Israel/Palestine is a regional problem; Islamism is a global conflict. Secular governments worldwide are the real Islamic targets. Israel is a convenient distraction, a political stalking horse. And Tel Aviv has made a host of territorial concessions since defeating the Arab armies; all to no avail. Elimination of Israel is the oft stated goal of Palestinians and Islamists alike.  Appeasement in the Levant could only hasten another Holocaust. Petraeus is no friend of Israel, and that alone made him a poor choice for CIA.

Israeli Palestinians are better off than any similar group living in any Arab country, including Jordan and Lebanon. Indeed, at one time or other, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Lebanese have successfully exterminated militant Palestinians. Israel’s tolerance of Arabs and Islam, by any measure, is enlightened.

The CENTCOM study and Petraeus clearly catered to existing bias, a kind of closet anti-Semitism, among the American academic Left and Obama acolytes. Petraeus subsequently consolidated his politically correct posture on Islam by taking a knee in Afghanistan. American women in uniform were encouraged to wear the hijab while on patrol. Pandering now trumps American troop safety as America slinks out of South Asia.

By such baby steps does an officer, with little or no Intelligence experience, advance from Princeton to CIA. Petraeus garnered an Agency sinecure with a wet finger in the political winds. He was politically correct on all things Islamic. He was reliable – until Paula came along.

So we are left to ponder the merits of several heliographic Petraeus biographies. In retrospect, Paula Broadwell’s powder puff pastiche, All In (sic): the Education of David Petraeus  is at once an inside joke and reminiscent of Doris Kerns Goodwin’s methodology and subsequent biography of Lyndon Johnson – another politician who quit in the middle of a tedious war. The literary world needs to stop calling tomes about the living, “valentines.” A more appropriate classification would be toilette biography.


Originally published in American Thinker and the New English Review