FIRST BLOOD; MIKE FLYNN

February 16, 2017

“…never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” – John Donne

Trump haters have drawn first blood. Michael Flynn was the first casualty. General Flynn could come back into the fold at some later date. Exile, followed by reprieve might be something Donald Trump would do.

Alas, for the moment, the President doesn’t look like he can take a punch. The entire “sanctions” kerfuffle, conversations with the Russian ambassador, is inside baseball stuff.  Nobody cares much about sanctions, Beltway candor or character anyway.

If every lawyer/politician in DC was fired for mendacity, Washington would be a ghost town.

Flynn was outed by a rabid press corps with a seditious agenda. Trump has been blooded. Sadly, Trump didn’t cut his losses. Like the man he replaced, the President simply folded like a cheap tent.

Adding insult to injury, Flynn, like Steve Bannon, is probably anathema to every Obama era hack hired by Trump to date. The establishment has no taste for parvenus.

Mike Flynn, of course, had his share of baggage, but if the truth be told, he was low hanging fruit, an exposed position that the new Commander-in-Chief chose not to defend. The tone is set at the top.

You can fib to anyone in D.C., but the home office. Being called to account for candor by the Washington Post or CNN is a little like getting a chastity pitch from one of Marion Barry’s hookers.

The so called “trust” issue is a hoot too. No soldier was more loyal to Trump in 2016. Indeed, Flynn was one of a precious few prominent Intelligence officials or flag officers, active or retired, to make Trump possible.

Fibbing is a venial sin. Support for Donald Trump is literally a mortal sin.

Flynn knows that the real threat isn’t Russia. Flynn knows that Islamism is the real danger. Flynn knows that Israel is our only reliable ally in a very nasty neighborhood. Flynn knows where the bodies are buried in a bloated and hostile US national security establishment, DOD and the Intelligence Community in particular.

Flynn knows too that the national security community has unsheathed the long knives. Leaked intelligence is a two way street. Oddly enough, Trump doesn’t seem to realize that he too, like Flynn, is on the regime change hit list after just a few weeks in office.

Political pathology at Intelligence agencies like CIA is not confined to domestic machinations.

Shortly after his anointment, Mike Pompeo rushed off to Saudi Arabia to give Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, an award for “counter terrorism.”  Ironically, the award is named after former CIA director George Tennent who you may recall was the author of the fake intelligence that underwrote two fake wars in Iraq.

If CIA can honor the ideological authors of 9/11 with a medal, the revised edition of Mein Kampf should be in the mix for a 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

Clinton, Bush, and Obama have had a quarter century to pack Washington sinecures with like-minded drones. Politically correct, largely liberal, District of Columbia zombies and media partisans will not go quietly into the night.

To such, Flynn was as dangerous as he was expendable. Indeed, the general is now an ugly precedent too, a loyal chump hung out to dry by Trump era Intelligence leakers.

Adding insult to bizarre injury, we now hear that David Petraeus is a candidate to replace Flynn. You might recall that Petraeus was the Obama flag who had a yen for bimbo subordinates. Before that, he was the intellectual godfather of three decades of losing strategy in the Ummah. Petraeus still believes that the global Muslim jihad is a basket of unrelated local insurgencies.

If any name says more of the same, it is General David Petraeus.

Back on team Trump, Steve Bannon is probably next on the hit list. If the new President is naive enough to expect a partisan CIA or FBI to be honest brokers in any leak investigations, he needs to go back to selling condos.

By any measure Donald Trump is an odd duck; not a lawyer, not a politician, and, apparently, not very savvy about the flora and fauna that breeds in the Washington swamp.

The General Flynn fiasco was never about Putin, Russians, sanctions, trust, or candor. The Flynn hit is merely the specter of Trump’s future.

Flynn, like Trump, was in the crosshairs from the very beginning because neither one of them wears a fuchsia pantsuit. The President won a hard election and now loses an easy round one to seditious Beltway louts who know how to hit below the belt. Hard to believe that even a novice CEO can be that naïve.

If any moron at NSA or CIA can drop a dime to the Washington Post and get someone fired, team Trump is in for a thrashing.

Looming hazards to Trump are not so much his rubber knees or glass jaw as it is his future as a populist. The people are a fickle bunch. Early events suggest that Trump might not have anybody’s back but his own.

If loyalty is not a two-way street, then all bets on Donald Trump, or real change in the nation’s capital, are off

*

For a more detailed analysis of the Flynn affair see Eli Hunt at https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-14/the-political-assassination-of-michael-flynn

 

 

 

 

 

 


A TALE OF TWO COUPS

January 27, 2017

Moscow 1991 and Washington 2017

The other day I received an email from a schoolgirl in Moscow; New Year’s salutations, thanks for a gift, and a request that read:

“Get your troops out of Poland; love, your Russky niece.”

I laughed about her presumption about my influence on US troop movements. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of her mother, Tatyana Arkadyevna Malkina, “the girlfriend of Russian democracy.” Apparently, true grit is genetic, that rare courage of a few to speak truth to power.

Malkina was the sole journalist who, at age 24, had the courage to defy the Kremlin establishment, recidivist coup plotters who would have undone the Russian elections, that “revolution without guns” in 1991; those Gorbachev, then Yeltsin, reforms. The ancien regime, totalitarian Communists, were humiliated by a girl who had the courage to face down the old guard and ask:  “Could you please say whether or not you understand that last night you carried out a coup d’etat?”

Faced with an accusation of sedition and treason, the coup plotters slunk back into the dustbin of history. The long dark night of totalitarian Communism was over in Russia.

Since 1991, Tanya Malkina pursued a distinguished career in Russian arts and letters, reporting on social issues, editing a culture magazine, and hosting a thoughtful TV weekly.

Tanya later married an American. She now has two children, two cats, and a vintage tortoise. Although Malkina was once a fixture of the Yeltsin, then Putin, press entourage; she has never been a knee-jerk echo of Kremlin cant nor any party line.

Hot flashes of deja vu

The events of 1991 and Malkina’s brass got me to thinking about American coup plotting in Washington circa 2016; the efforts of Beltway establishment totalitarians to cook the primaries, undo an election, and discredit a new president; all under a smoke screen of dissent and fake news.

The parallels between Moscow in 1991 and Washington in 2016 are a tale of two coups, the first a clear failure and the latter still playing out.

Alas, the Trump revolution has no “girl friend of American democracy.” Not yet anyway.

The feminist American left now whines and protests in Washington, captive to a bimbo’s tantrum over a flawed heroine who lost badly in November. Sexist hysteria, hypocrisy, childish pique, misandry, and sour grapes are now regularly conflated with principled dissent. Geriatric Hollywood matrons like Madonna Ciccone say they are thinking about “blowing up the White House.”

Secret Service supervisor Kerry O’Grady says that she will “not take a bullet” for President Trump. Apparently no one at CIA and the Secret Service has heard of the Hatch Act.

Hysteria indeed! American feminists have few adult profiles in courage like Malkina today.

And the CIA, unlike the late KGB, also stages public rebukes to the new POTUS and erstwhile notions of American democracy. For good or ill, Russian intelligence operatives at home, unlike their American counterparts, seem to be under civilian control.

Ironically, some of the best political analysis on these matters comes out of the Kremlin these days. Sergei Lavrov, contrasted with John Kerry, seems to know the difference between an Islamic terrorist and a freedom fighter. And Vladimir Putin is perceptive enough to observe that Obama’s political party, and an American press corps that calls itself “democratic,” is giving democracy a bad name.

And when Obama’s intelligence sycophants are called out by Donald Trump for partisanship during the recent primaries and the election, CIA Director John Brennan plays the victim, openly attacking the president-elect before and after the inauguration. Prior to the election, Brennan’s colleagues, James Clapper (DCI), Michael Morrel (CIA), and Michael Hayden (NSA) were all on the hustings for Hillary Clinton right up to her November defeat.

Clearly, CIA is signaling the 15 other intelligence satraps, that the “dump Trump” campaign should continue into 2017. Brennan has cooked the books on the Islamic threat for eight years. Small wonder that he seeks to torpedo the realpolitik of Mike Flynn and Donald Trump.

CIA partisans, unlike Caesar’s wife, are not above reproach.

Washington, DC voted for Clinton in November by wide margins. A demographic of hostile federal apparatchiks, including intelligence officers and FBI agents, are digging in as Donald Trump takes office.

Beltway national security nabobs, inveterate regime change aficionados, are now on the wrong side of world history. With any luck, the coup plotters are also on the wrong side of Donald Trump – and in the crosshairs.

If the president intends to drain the swamp, he could do worse than start with sedition in the intelligence community and the Justice Department. The first great political struggle of 2017 may be with a partisan, DC based 5th column inside the Beltway.

The loser’s revolt is not confined to the intelligence community. State Department and Department of Defense fixers have done their level best to paint Trump into a corner at the UN and in Eastern Europe. That UN vote against Israel and those 11th hour tank deployments to Poland come to mind.

I do not have an answer for Malkina’s daughter, Agatha in Moscow, or her prescient observation about the stupidity of US tanks in Poland. Was it my choice to make, I would send troops to Chicago, Illinois or Langley, Virginia sooner than send them to the Russian frontier.

After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John Kennedy is alleged to have expressed a desire to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.” After Kennedy was assassinated, such sentiments were seconded by Harry Truman. Indeed, Truman expressed profound regret about the rogue agency he had created. The Truman warning, like later Eisenhower cautions, were early symptoms of national “security” corruption, clandestine cowboys, and regime change fiascos.

The Chicago threat is existential, especially to black Americans. Pervasive sedition in the American intelligence community may be existential too, especially to democracy in America.  The Russian threat, at best, is a ploy to ignore the Islamist threat; Putin, on his worst day, is a US DOD budget emolument.

Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Truman must be rolling in their graves today. Trump haters, coup vultures, have come home to roost inside the Beltway.

As new American policy unfolds in 2017, let’s hope that Trump has adults calling domestic and foreign policy shots. Withal, we might hope that America finds its own girlfriend of democracy too.

Sooner is better.

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The “girlfriend of Russian democracy,” circa 1991, can be seen in action at:

http://www.politforums.net/eng/other/1375981611_0.html

 

Tags: Donald trump, CIA, Intelligence Community, coup plots, Hatch Act, Secret Service, Madonna Ciccone,

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fake News & Fake Intelligence

December 24, 2016

Fact and belief are often very different things. With fact, a thing is or it is not, a fairly simple binary calculation. An assertion might be a fact and at the same time not necessarily true. Belief is an amphibian, a sinister specter, often festooned with weeds and barnacles. Indeed, beliefs are scientific, seasonal, ethnic, sexual, political, theological, philosophical, and historical; just to name a few of the veritable infinity of adjectival consorts.

Truth is, as artists well know, part tart and part goddess, ephemera often bought and sold if the price is right. Indeed, she’s more than a bit of an oxymoron too, emphasis on the last two syllables.

The gap between fact and fiction might be narrowed by time, but history and conventional wisdom are selective too, frequently a world apart from reality. The conventional wisdom is often neither true nor wise.

Most arbiters of truth or reality are self-anointed.

Mark Zuckerberg is a modern example, the poster child for millennial vacuity and the nerd generation. The CEO of Facebook, infant terrible of herd exploitation, is about to appoint a posse of thought police to monitor and censor “fake news” on internet.

If you are devotee of Facebook news, you might have the civic awareness and attention span of a gerbil. Still, Zuckerberg is a good modern example of how digital wealth gets confused with maturity or wisdom.

Having Zuckerberg, or any cyber cohort, as a digital news cop is a little like appointing Bill Clinton as scoutmaster for a Girl Scout troop. Clinton and Zuckerberg are indeed soulmates. Just as Clinton uses political position for personal gain and exploitive sex, Zuckerberg exploits and monetizes personal data – and in turn uses gullible adolescents of all ages.

In this respect, Facebook is no different than Nielsen, the   National Security Agency, or the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). All three are accomplished data miners, albeit for different ends. Truth or verifiable fact in those venues, if anything, is probably an afterthought.

Nielsen Creates Truth

Nielsen Holdings PLC is a global data mining corporation that has been in business since 1923. Its signature survey is in-home monitoring of television viewing habits. TV content, programming, and advertising dollars are a of function of Nielsen ratings and statistics.

Well north of eighty percent all domestic purchasing decisions are made by American women who watch television or use TV as a surrogate for child care.

Nielsen is in the business of both monitoring and creating truth in the American marketplace.  All so-called “Nielsen families” are aggressively recruited “volunteers,” a demographic that has been led to believe that their household habits and tastes might be typical – or trend setters.

The Nielsen monitoring pitch appeals to a passive, vain feminine demographic, all of whom volunteer, with incentives, to provide Luxemburg corporate snoops with a veritable gold mine of personal and family behavioral data. Nielsen data is ubiquitous in entertainment, politics, marketing, advertising, retail, and manufacturing.

How volunteer victims, monitored electronically, became a “typical” demographic is a question seldom asked or answered by statisticians. More to the point, the personal is not just political, as Ms. Hamish likes to say, but monitoring female behavior in American homes and numb nut behavior on the Internet is also very lucrative for admen and madmen alike. The emphasis here again is on the second syllable. Hype is still a boys club.

Think of all the fake news embedded in daily the drumbeat of advertising and the daily orgy of vacuous TV News and amusements. Calling TV content “art” is a little like calling Hip Hop and Rap music.

You can hardly scratch the surface of the daytime digital wasteland. Fake news and vulgar memes are created daily on an industrial scale with the assistance of data conglomerates like Nielsen and now internet social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Data isn’t truth either.  Most truth is too painful. The data mining and communication industries cook the books and clueless demographics every day of the week. Fake news today is just another part of the mindless media mix.

The Intelligence Community and “Meta Data”

The federal government and the Intelligence Community are Johnny-come-latelies to data mining on an industrial scale. You would have thought that someone in those 16 federal Intelligence agencies would have noticed those Nielsen families, those Orwellian patriots who volunteer year after year to have their homes and habits monitored.

Wiretap warrants are not required for passive volunteers.

Nielsen and NSA are similar to the extent that they both monitor behavior to recognize and exploit patterns. Industry does it for profit while government does it in the name of security. Both offer no assurances for privacy other than “trust us.”

Nielsen is different from NSA to the extent that commercially profiled demographics get feedback in the form of advertisements and content.

If you believe in permanent erections, believe face cream will make you beautiful, believe a diet will make you a size 2, and believe Bart Simpson or the Kardashians are solid role models for your kids; then you should thank every Nielsen family that you know.

Nielsen creates statistical truth and television remixes those numbers into American culture, such that it is.

Ironically, while consumers seem to trust Nielsen implicitly, citizens have a very different take on Big Brother and the federal Intelligence Community. Trust in God is a much better bet these days than trust in Charlie Rose, Martin Baron, Arthur Sulzberger, or James Clapper.

DCI Clapper likes to call terrorists “nefarious characters.” Household snooping is “meta-data,” an attempt to put lipstick on the state surveillance pig.

Peeping Toms and fake news makers are brothers by the same mother.

The 2016 primaries, the election, and the run up to the Electoral College are all examples of fake news gone awry; all characterized by near universal media and Intelligence ridicule and contempt for the Republican candidate. Pundits and polls were unanimous in predicting that Donald Trump should lose by a landslide. The vast majority of the gainsaying and polling “data” turned out to be wrong.

Hard to believe that what passed for reporting and analysis in 2016 wasn’t a political flash mob, engineered “fake news” on an epic scale.

For American journalists, 1984 seems to be the future.

Adding insult to injury, Clinton Inc., the American media, the Intelligence Community, and team Obama now double-down, claiming that Russian meddling was the reason for the Clinton defeat.  Adolescent pique and lame excuses seem to be the exit strategy for James Clapper and a flailing, if not failing, Barack Obama.

Former Director of CIA, Michael Morell, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi cut-out, appeared on public television no fewer than ten times to vilify the Republican candidate. The former director of NSA and DCI, James Clapper, played similar roles in the campaign season. Clapper resigned after Trump won, but the demonization of Trump and the Russians continues unabated.

The Russians Are Not Coming

Russians are now sucked into the tawdry post-election recriminations inside the Beltway. Washington political, academic, and media elites, right and left, bereft of any adult capability for reflection, are desperately seeking excuses for failure. Russians in general and Vladimir Putin in particular are convenient scapegoats.

Fake news threads associated with the DNC email leak are probably designed to do three things: divert attention from the Hillary nomination fixers, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Trump win, and queer the prospects of improving relations with Russia.

Putin’s mortal sin seems to be that he thinks that Trump will be a better Commander-in-Chief than Obama or Clinton. Such a claim is not much of a stretch, yet still heresy to the American left and social globalists everywhere.

Putin’s venial sins are legend also. Two stand out.

After the Beslan massacre, the Russian 9/11, the FSB went after Chechen terrorists with a vengeance. In less than two years, Shamil Baseyev was cornered and executed on the crapper, literally in a porta-potty. Only one of Basayev’s colleagues lived long enough to get life in prison. Nobody calls Chechen Islamists “freedom fighters” any more.

Osama bin Laden was at large for ten years before Uncle Sam brought him to justice. Al Qaeda and ISIS are still in business.

Another Putin sin is Syria. NATO has been mucking in the Levant for decades now, five times as long as it took to win WWII on two fronts. In the last couple of years, Russia did more to defeat terror in the Levant than Brussels and Washington have done in 30 years.

Aleppo and Syria are not Benghazi and Libya redux. Thanks to the Kremlin.

The fake news campaign against Russia and Trump persists nevertheless, a tactic pregnant with domestic and foreign policy blowback. Fake news and fake Intelligence are now fast friends. If 16 Intelligence agencies cannot deny hackers or interference, what does that say about the competence, or impartiality, of Clapper’s legions?

Partisans at NSA and CIA might be the best things to happen to Chekist spies since fur hats and vodka.

Withal, Russia is a better ally to Syria than the US ever will be to the Kurds. For good or ill, the Russian president can make a decision, act, and stand by allies long enough to succeed.

Putin seems to be an effective action hero who swings a big stick whilst critics like Barack Obama, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the Clintons seem to be a cabal of vindictive losers, fey wannabees who suffer from terminal political penis envy.

The real threat to the integrity of the American political system is a mirror. Sadly, political reflection, right and left, apparently died with Pat Moynihan.

Media hostility to a reform minded presidential candidate is predictable, given the social globalist cast of American journalism. However, the open hostility of Intelligence Community leaders to an incoming president is unprecedented and seditious in ways that should be obvious by now. American Intelligence is too big and, arguably, now out of control.

If America continues to tolerate partisans on the taxpayer dime, especially in the Intelligence Community; “crooked” Washington will surely breed more of them.


Previously published at American Thinker

Tags: James Clapper, Vladimir Putin, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, DNI, CIA, NSA, FSB, and US Intelligence Community

Images:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/Pietro_Liberi_-_Time_Being_Overcome_by_Truth_-_WGA12980.jpg/800px-Pietro_Liberi_-_Time_Being_Overcome_by_Truth_-_WGA12980.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/FSB.svg/150px-FSB.svg.png

 


Twerking at the Pentagon

December 11, 2016

Call it karma, but the 2015 Super Bowl was a tribute to the virtues of modesty, experience, and ultimately, poetic justice.  The Carolina Panthers were led by an obnoxious bore that never missed an opportunity all season to twerk like a teen on the playing field or gloat like a fool at interviews.

The Denver Broncos, in contrast, were led by a mature and modest adult on the cusp of retirement. On Super Bowl Sunday, the old man from Colorado wiped the gridiron with Carolina. Lessons in humility continue today, the Panthers are last in their division in the 2016 season.

Presumption comes before the fall in sport and war. Trash talking never won a real fight in the real world. Adult leadership always matters.

Success in sports, business, statecraft, and war is a function of quiet confidence. Gloating motivates the competition. An overestimate is a no-lose hedge. An underestimate is a fatal flaw. And if you’re in it to spin it, you are probably not going to win it.

At the moment, team America is losing five hot wars and one cold war, all in slow motion.

Somehow, such ground truth is lost on the virtual generation of politicians, diplomats, and generals. Indeed, if you follow the national security monologue today, you would be led to believe that spin, propaganda, public relations, and bombast are substitutes for actual success.

Resume and political twerking seem to be the new measures of accomplishment for national security professionals.

America might be bleeding, yet generals, for example, wear so much fruit salad camouflage than no one notices the hemorrhaging. Indeed, ignoring deficits and defeat is now a DOD meme. The Pentagon is a bull pen for oft promoted and often decorated underachievers.

Contemporary operational art, if it can be called that, is to do just enough to keep Muslim small wars going but never enough to win.

The only true victors in the matrix of military mediocracy seem to be Beltway bandits and the chaps who make and sell gadgets, bombs, and bullets to DOD.  Dwight Eisenhower is probably spinning in his grave today. Hot “long wars” and long cold wars are good news for the military/industrial complex. Not so much for the taxpayer or true security.

Few, at this point, can argue that Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen are better off after American meddling. Let’s review the bidding.

Eastern Europe

The Clinton era campaign to dismantle Yugoslavia is still playing out. Civil war in the Balkans began with agitation in Muslim Kosovo which quickly escalated to other Yugoslav provinces. Pushback from Christian Serbs degenerated into a sectarian blood bath. The EU and America sided with Muslim factions, bombed Serbia into a cease fire, and the rest is history. EU and NATO helped to create two radical Islamic sanctuaries in the heart of Europe, ignoring the toxic record of Muslim fascism in Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina.

When an objective history of 20th Century Balkans is written, Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina will not be in the win column.

It’s probably no accident that the EU sought to dismember a former Soviet client state whilst the USSR itself was racked by political revolution.  NATO and the EU filled the Warsaw Pact vacuum by pulling former Moscow satellites into the Brussels orbit. Absent the Warsaw Pact buffer, Russia found itself with both the EU and NATO as hostile neighbors.

The Cold War with the Soviet Union, and now Russia, was never far removed the turmoil in the Balkans. Say what you will about Vladimir Putin, but he has stabilized Rodina within. His pushback in Georgia and Ukraine is understandable too from a Russian security perspective. Surely, no rational Kremlin leader could let the naval and nuclear weapons at Sevastopol fall into the hands of neo-Nazi crazies in Kiev.

These days, it’s probably not difficult for the average Russian to believe that the Kremlin is the ultimate regime change target for Brussels and Washington.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan began as another proxy war with the Soviets; an early clandestine success that morphed into a nasty guerilla war with the locals. The Kremlin was prudent enough to cut its losses in 1989. When the Russians departed, the Americans stepped in for a quarter century of humiliations. The Taliban (nee Mujahedeen ) now have a secure theocratic naro-state in most of the countryside. Sovereign Afghanistan barely exists outside of Kabul.

The Afghan War used to be known as the “war of necessity’ when bin Laden was alive. The 9/11 mastermind is dead now for five years, but al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS still flourish and one of the three is likely to eventually seize Afghanistan.

When Afghanistan succumbs, whither nuclear Pakistan?

Iraq

At the beginning of the Obama administration, Iraq was known as the “war of choice,” implying that America didn’t need to be there. After the initial Schwarzkopf  blitz of 2003, America is still in Iraq, albeit with fewer allies. Indeed, America, a “coalition of one,” is currently fighting its third Iraq war in 13 years. Iraq is now the DOD poster child for battle fatigue and mission creep. No end in sight for either.

Having reversed the sectarian poles, Sunni to Shia, and cashiered Sadam Hussein’s army; America now finds itself as a proxy ally to Shia Iran, mired in a ground war with a growing Sunni Islamic State.

Former Bath Party soldiers fight for the Levant jihad. After rearming Shia Iran by “deal”, America now sides with a Persian client state that one day may be the Shia counterpart of Sunni ISIS. Yes, Iraq and Iran used to be irreconcilable enemies. Naive American policy blunders gifted Baghdad to the ayatollahs.

The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq provided an opportunity for the kind of executive twerking that minimizes Muslim imperialism to this day. Team Obama mocked ISIS as the “junior varsity.” What the president failed to say was more telling.

Presumably, the Muslim “varsity” is the larger global jihad. According to intelligence estimates, ISIS alone now has a presence in 40 states and attracts recruits from 90 countries, including America.  And ISIS is just one of dozens of global jihadist armies, Sunni and Shia, with similar religious/political agendas. Islamist foot soldiers are supported directly or indirectly by both Arabs and Persians.

The blow back from three American campaigns in Iraq is now threefold:  ISIS, a Shite Iraq, and a new vassal state for Iran.

The quagmire in Baghdad is starting to make ten years in Saigon look like money well spent.

Syria

Hard as it is to imagine, Syria is a bigger mess than Iraq, although it’s difficult to believe that either state will survive in its present configuration. Syria is the exemplar of “humanitarian” folly, although Libya might be close second.

The Syrian campaign began as another anti- regime fiasco, underwritten by the simplistic belief that democracy is the default setting for failed Muslim states. Sovereign failure and collapse, alas, is engineered by sponsored assassinations, coups, civil wars, or “humanitarian” interventions.

The decades old campaign to unseat Bashir Assad has now degenerated into another proxy war with the Kremlin. In this case, Moscow has the moral high ground. Unlike American, the Russian intervention in Syria is at the request of the host. The Kremlin is actually defending, not destroying, Syrian sovereignty.

Indeed, the Russian Air Force, Kurd, and Persian militias seem to be winning in the north. If Aleppo falls, Russia and Iran will have scored a major victory over the Sunni jihad in Syria. If and when the Russian led coalition drives ISIS back into Turkey, expect John Kerry and Ash Carter to be the first to take a bow.

The valiant Kurds, unfortunately, are unlikely to benefit from any al Nusra/ISIS defeat in Syria.

The Kurds are the largest, if not only, demographic of genuine Muslim “moderates” in the world. Caught between duplicitous Turks and feckless Americans, the Kurdish quest for a national sovereignty is likely to be kicked to the curb by a US defense establishment that prefers to pander to Ottoman theocrats in Ankara.

The Kurd quandary is just a facet of the larger dilemma that dogs US foreign/military policy in the Ummah. Few if any Arab, Persian, or Muslim factions trust the White House or the Pentagon after decades of spastic policy.

Libya

Libya is another tragic case of regime change folly embellished with callous adolescent taunts. Once the most affluent nation in North Africa, Libya is now reduced to barbaric free fall and religious civil war. The ISIS “junior varsity” has more than a toehold in yet another failed Muslim state with oil wealth. Mission creep proceeds apace in North Africa too. US air strikes have begun in Libya – again.

With Libya, gloating reaches new juvenile lows. Mrs. Clinton twerked: “We came, we saw, he died,” after the sponsored Gadhafi kill. Clearly, the US State Department was driving the Libya putsch.

Mrs. Clinton was cackling an artless replay of Julius Ceasar’s cryptic report (47 BC) to the Roman senate: “Veni, vidi, vinci; I came, I saw, I conquered. The very phrase has come to mean quick, successful victory. The American sponsored implosion in Libya is neither.

Subsequent to the Libyan collapse, which included the assassination of the US ambassador, the then Secretary of State concluded: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Assessing the post-Gadhafi meltdown in North Africa; President Obama trash-talked the misadventure as North African “tribalism;” indeed calling erstwhile prosperous Libya, another “shit show.”

Vulgarity is often the lingua fanca for national security amateurs, as when State Department official Victoria Nuland chortled “fuck NATO” because some Europeans failed to endorse the US sponsored coup in Ukraine fast enough.

Yemen

The war in Yemen is another proxy fight, Saudi Arabia against Iran, Persian against Arab, and Sunni against Shia. In this case, America and England side with the Sunni. The wealthiest Muslim nation in Africa is trying to bomb the poorest Muslim nation back to the Stone Age.

Unaided, it would be impossible for the corrupt Emirates or a theocratic Saudi Arabia to fight their way out of a harem. The Saudi free-fire zone in Yemen is impossible without British and American weapons and munitions. Any moral argument about “indiscriminate” Russian bombing in Syria is undermined by the Saudi/American/British aerial blitz in Yemen.

A casual observer would be hard pressed not to see the Yemen and Mosul, Iraq fronts as distractions, if not diversions, from humiliations in Syria and Libya.  Lame ducks, seeking legacy, often morph into black swans.

As we speak, the American navy is exchanging missiles with Shia gunners in Yemen. American and Iranian flotillas are doing a martial pas de deux at Bab al Mandeb, a maritime standoff that could go hot with a single stray round.

Cold War with Russia

Just as the Shia/Sunni rift underwrites much of the mayhem in Muslim small wars, civil and sectarian; the proxy war between America and Russia compounds Ummah instability. Kremlin bashing now seems to be a staple for both American political parties. Even Hillary Clinton was fond of Anti-Putin twerking with Pussy Riot

Much Russophobia is also a diversion too – or whistling in the dark. Picking a fight with Moscow, whilst Muslim small wars abide, is a just twitch short of strategic insanity. Making matters worse, the trash talkers now accuse the Kremlin of meddling in American elections.

If the Russian FSB is capable of tampering with American elections, then the problem is the FBI and the National Security Agency, not Vladimir Putin. Russian and American Intelligence operatives do pretty much the same things, all of which are probably illegal somewhere. The difference between the two is that the Kremlin doesn’t seem to confuse effective tradecraft with adolescent loose talk.

If there’s a legitimate threat to the integrity of American elections from Intelligence operatives, the immediate danger comes from partisan American, not Russian, officials. Michael Morrel, former deputy at CIA, and Michael Hayden, former director at NSA, take a bow here.

And if America is as weak and vulnerable as officials like Morrel and DNI Jim Clapper claim; what does that say about the 17 plus Intelligence agencies and the myriad of DOD agencies that are supposed to provide security?  The problem with national defense may be the same as the problem with domestic social programs. Spending has been divorced from results – and solutions.

The only defense thread with a plus vector is funding, especially in the “wilderness of mirrors,” the Intelligence Community. National security today, for both political parties, is more business than security.

The more America spends on Intelligence, the less the White House seems to know about threats. Bigger Intelligence has never been better, especially if the need is objective analysis. The best technical Intelligence collection in the world is now undone by cooked books and asserted conclusions, especially specious analysis about Russia or Islam.

Much of the associated political twerking is a toxic remix mandated by Beltway thought police.  The worst invective is now reserved for “Russians,” when we actually mean the Putin administration. No such blanket bias is permissible for Arabs, Persians, or Muslims where the preferred terms for culprits are undifferentiated euphemisms such as “criminals, radicals, or extremists”.

Or to borrow a gem from DNI James Clapper, Muslim shock troops and terrorists are called “nefarious characters.”  If you listen to the Orwellian verbiage approved by fiat for America’s Muslim wars, you might believe that race, country of origin, and political theology had nothing to do with the ongoing Muslim jihad or the larger “clash of civilizations.”

The Russian Shibboleth

The specter of the Russian bear haunts those many inconclusive Muslim wars. From Afghanistan in 1978 to Syria today, the perception of the Kremlin as a manipulator of dark forces continues to haunt the American foreign/military policy establishment. It’s as if all the baggage of the Comintern , the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact, and the Cold War were still with us.

Blatant contradictions abound. American foreign policy assumes that Putin’s Russia is Stalin’s Soviet Union. With Islam, a culture barely altered in 1400 years, we assume democracy follows autocracy. In fact, theocracy is the default setting for a metastasizing Ummah. And Russians, since Yeltsin, are models of tolerance and democracy when compared to recidivist Persians and Arabs.

After the Ayatollah’s revolution in 1979, the vector of Shia and Sunni political cultures is race to the barbaric bottom, or the 7th Century, whichever comes first.

Russophobia is now aggravated by Pentagon generals with political agendas. NATO and CJCS brass provide two recent examples.

Former NATO Supreme Allied commander, Philip Breedlove, USAF, was exposed, thru hacked emails, beating the drums for confrontation with Russia. At the JCS, Army Chief of Staff, Mark Milley engaged in similar chest thumping, claiming that Russia was “an existential threat,” a menace that the US Army would “destroy.”

Breedlove and Milley should be careful about what they wish for. Some sense of history might help. The Soviet’s did most of the fighting and took most of the casualties in the last European war. Today, Russians are no longer dependent on the largesse of Lend-Lease. And the Kremlin still has the home field advantage.

Russia isn’t Panama and the Russian Army isn’t anybody’s “junior varsity.” A cynic might conclude that the Kremlin shibboleth is not as critical to US national security as it is for DOD budgets and federal spending.

Efforts to separate Russia from Europe are not in the best interests of Europe or America in any future. Playing a highly personalized version of nuclear “chicken” with Vladimir Putin is not much of a game plan either.

Russians were an indispensable ally for the defeat of 20th Century secular fascism in WW II. Russia may have to play a similar role if 21st Century Islamofascism is ever to be beaten. Unfortunately, the kind of spin and twerking that characterizes State Department rhetoric has migrated to the Department of Defense.

Alas, trash talk and adolescent posturing doesn’t win cold or hot wars. American politicians and generals who can’t acknowledge failure are unlikely to recognize success in any case.

Martial malarkey is especially ironic because DOD is clearly subordinate to the cookie pushers at Foggy Bottom these days. Recall that the former CJCS, another Army general, Martin Dempsey, testified that he didn’t send help to Benghazi because Hillary Clinton at the State Department didn’t ask him for help.

Girls and gays with guns in the ranks is one thing. Girly men on the E Ring is another problem altogether. The mufti militia at the Pentagon needs to think long and hard about getting back to what real warriors do best.

        

                                                                            What Is To Be Done?

 

Stand Up or Stand Down

The bell whether event of the 20th Century was the 1979 religious coup in Iran, the significance of which was largely lost or ignored by most observers under the smoke screen of the hostage crisis and Carter/Reagan era bumbling. The truth about the ayatollahs is that they played America then as well as they played team Obama more recently in 2016.

The advent of Persian theocracy was seismic for two reasons. Religious rule was legitimized in an erstwhile secular state and theocracy in Tehran, rule by clerics, provided both a role model and spark to the fire that still rages in the Sunni world today. Indeed, if you consult narratives for the period, theocracy and the Shia /Sunni rift are largely ignored. The headlong civic plunge backwards is still called, ironically, a “Jasmine Revolution” or an “Arab Spring.”

Alas, the subtext of the global jihad is religious war, an imperial campaign that targets non-Muslim infidels and apostate secular Muslims alike. Now that Shia and Sunni nuclear weapons are part of the equation, Koranic prophesy about Armageddon becomes more relevant to true believers.

Indeed, the “great game” in the Mideast and North Africa is not between East and West; the true nexus of jihad is the antipathy between Arabs and Persians, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Washington has inserted itself on the median strip between these 1400 year old religious road warriors. Before the Shia/Sunni rift is resolved, something more than American naiveté might become road kill.

The rationale for war is often the same as the rationale for the death penalty. Some miscreants are so evil; killing is the only sensible solution. America needs to acknowledge the primal threat of Shia and Sunni Islamism or stand down.  Half-measures and futile appeasements are variants of a death wish actualized in slow motion.

America will not defeat Islamism alone either. A bloated NATO has done little or nothing to restrain the jihad. Indeed, the one unique European policy response to the Ummah hemorrhage is “open borders.” Who in their right mind believes that the answer to jihad and terror in Europe, or America, is more Muslims?

Non-contiguous Islamic nations do not accept Muslim refugees or migrants for good and prudent reasons. Only infidel morons invite ideological, religious, or kinetic threats into the homeland?

Pay and Play

America must insist that Muslims fight and finance their own wars, rescue their own refugees/migrants, and reform a toxic religio/political ideology tomorrow, if not sooner. If the Ummah is content to succumb to Shia and Sunni fundamentalist theocracy, so be it. A unified Muslim threat simplifies the targeting problem for any future “coalitions” that will have to deal with Islamism.

NATO “partners” too must pay their own way and fight as required or resign themselves to the tender mercies of a European caliphate. The EU is already on a slippery slope if Brexit is any clue. Crash Islamization just accelerates the slide.

Humanitarian Intervention?

Social democratic imperialism, or globalism, is the single political canard that underwrites most recent American and European foreign/military policy disasters. Alas, justifying violations of national sovereignty with good intentions is a little like trying to rationalize rape as speed dating.

Unsolicited intervention is usually propelled by special interests, hidden agendas, or colossal arrogance. Armed assault is a hermaphrodite too; an “intervention” for the aggressor is an invasion for the victim. Worst of all, “humanitarian” intervention, as justified by globalist polemicists like Samantha Powers at the UN, is often a euphemism for coercive “regime change.” There’s nothing legal, democratic, moral, or “humanitarian” about any sponsored coup, insurrection, sectarian or civil war.

Nations are sovereign or they are not.

Recent evidence is conclusive.  Regime change is an act of war sponsored by naive nitwits who have no intention of winning the fight or dealing with consequences of predictable chaos.

The Virtual Illusion

If the policy, plan, or strategy is hair brained, tactics and operational arts are unlikely to compensate. So it is with fifty years of Muslim small wars where much American “combat” is fought by arm chair warriors in air conditioned aircraft, “situation” rooms, Pentagon suites, or mobile trailers. We are told that the American President personally selects drone or cruise missile targets. Small wonder then that American tactics echo round the world before strategy can find its big boy pants.

Virtual warriors are not unlike video gamers, nerds far removed from the blood and guts, but dangerous nonetheless. There’s little evidence to date to suggest that air power alone wins any war, large or small.

Indeed, precision guided weapons had little to do with big kills. Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Muamar Gadhafi were all killed the old fashioned way, with boots on the ground.  An airstrike, unfortunately, seldom provides an opportunity for gloating or twerking.

Body count is never as important as bodies that count.

The bin Laden execution has become such a staple for political demagogues that a generation of children might come to believe that the Saudi villain was shot by Foggy Bottom fairies, not a SEAL team. The American State Department is fond of taking bows for the achievements of others and equally adverse to accepting responsibilities for any failures.

New Alliances

If you compare religion, politics, culture, and praxis; there’s not much of a difference between the Islamic State, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. All lope off limbs or heads as public spectacle, each is the leg of a backward triumvirate metastasizing into the past in a quest for monolithic Islamic theocracy. Turkey is now a prime candidate to make the irredentist trio into a quartet.

When democratic socialists pander to clerical thugs; theocracy is validated. Freedom and democracy are suborned.

After 50 years of humiliations, if not defeat, the much vaunted NATO and the EU condominiums have proven to be paper tigers. Europeans, again taking cues from Berlin, believe that Islam will be appeased if Muslim migrants are pacified with open borders, subsidized hots, cots, and unlimited blond girl friends. Most Muslim immigrants and refugees are single males.

Here again, history is instructive. When secular fascism threatened the world in the 20th Century, most of Europe rolled over, north to south, like cheap tricks. There were a few noble exceptions at the margins in London and Moscow that made a difference. Now that religious fascism again stalks the continent, the usual European suspects again play the catamite.

There’s no chance that America alone saves Europe or the Ummah from their worst instincts. Defeating Islamofascism will require stout partners. Few social democracies in continental Europe are up for that challenge today. For too many Europeans, losing a war is the fastest way to end a war. Hat tip to Orwell.

If the conflict with Islamism is to be won, new thinking, less twerking, and new alliances are crucial. Any secular autocrat is a better ally than any Muslim theocrat. Russia and China are ruthless with home-grown Islamists. Moscow and Beijing have no illusions about the meaning of jihad and the threat posed by fascism, secular or religious, abroad or at home.

“Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.”

Julius Caesar

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Cooking the Intelligence Books

March 23, 2015

“Love is whatever you can still betray.” – John Le Carre

There was a time that intelligence estimates were cloaked in secrecy. Peer review, such that it was, was limited to a few analysts with security clearances, analysts that were not necessarily substantive experts. The iconic Intelligence report is the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a document that is supposed to represent an Intelligence Community consensus. In practice, a recurring NIE might be dusted off once a year and circulated to up to 17 agencies for “coordination” where “happy” might be changed to “glad.” With the exception of statistics, estimates were seldom changed substantially before being filed away for another year.

Any agency within the IC that might have a factual or analytical disagreement is allowed to take a “footnote” to an NIE which will contain the specifics of any disagreement.

An NIE footnote is as likely to be read as the body of an NIE itself is read. Recurring intelligence reports are read with the same relish as congressional bills are read by congressmen. As long as estimates contain enough threat data to justify departmental budgets, as with domestic spending bills, few politicians care much about analytical effectiveness or any correspondence with the real world. Spending, not truth, reflection or restraint, is the sine qua non of American politics and governance.

The link between Intelligence and defense spending is fairly explicit. The circuit between Intelligence and Intelligence spending is even more direct. With the IC, the folks who define the threat get to write their own meal tickets. Take the Islamist threat since 9/11. Any agency that can work “terror” into their mission statement is likely to enjoy a funding windfall.

Alas, were funding tied to performance, the IC and the DOD might have to have to raise funds like Public Television or the Girl Scouts.

Nonetheless, the national security business has changed in significant ways since the advent of an Intelligence czar in 2004, the so-called Director of National Intelligence. Heretofore, Intelligence estimates were classified. Now big reports also have a redacted version available to the Press. All the while, the specifics of threat might be obfuscated.

Unlike German Nazis, Japanese Imperialists, and Russian Communists of yore, the Arab/Persian/Muslim threat does not have any official cognates where the shooters, bombers, or throat cutters might be named or tied to race, religion, country, or ideology. Words like Arab, Persian, terrorist, Islam, Islamism, Muhammadanism, Islamofascism or the like are prohibited by fiat.

Unlike previous global threats, contemporary Intelligence reports would have you believe that the last fifty years of terror and small wars are without a common thread, without an ideology. Ninety or more nations might be sending religiously motivated jihadists to Sunni Arab ISIS, yet that statistic is of little consequence. Terror victim statistics might have reached an apogee but that fact is of little moment either. You might speak of radicals, militants, extremists, and criminals, but none of these are to be paired with religion, ideology, or Islamic culture.

Thus a national security assessment today is at once officially transparent and functionally opaque at the same time – for the political hustler, the best of both worlds. Alas, transparency, or should we say propaganda, cuts two ways. The 2015 DNI Worldwide Threat Assessment for Congress compared to the 2014 edition is an example. The deus ex machina has now been added to the DNI’s bag of tricks.

Shia Hezb’allah, and Shia Iran disappeared from the threat index in 2015. This is the same Hezb’allah that is the Shia equivalent of Sunni ISIS. Clearly, the latest DNI unclassified threat assessment was written with Shia readers in mind.

The elevation of Cuba to BFF is negligible because Havana hasn’t been a threat to Miami Beach since Khrushchev went shoeless at the United Nations. Any diminution of the Hezb’allah (literally, the party of God) and the Nuclear Persian threats is another matter. A nuclear/terrorist Shia theocracy in the Middle East changes every strategic dynamic; with Israel, with Arabia, with the larger Sunni world, and with NATO.

The motives for cooking the Shia threat are a grab bag of possibilities. Foremost is the specter of concessions to Iran designed to prime the pump for team Obama legacy, in short, a nuclear deal with Tehran at any price. A weak and/or failing American President is an easy mark for Shia ayatollahs with unlimited tenure.

Like the Cuba rapprochement, a lame duck American administration would like to put a Persian “peace” paper in the plus column. Never mind that the Persian priests are unlikely to sacrifice their parity ace to the numerically superior Sunni. At the moment, the Islam bomb is a Sunni monopoly. Only a Shia bomb balances the Sunni/Shia sectarian equation. Nuclear parity for apocalyptic Muslim sectarians would be the strategic equivalent of certain Armageddon for Israel.

Then there is the Syria/Iraq conundrum, two pariah regimes, fast friends of Shia Tehran. Sunni ISIS has made a caliphate of Syria and Iran, a budding empire that aspires to devour what remains of two failing pro-Iranian basket cases. ISIS is also making more than a bit of a splash in Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya.

Washington and Brussels are unwilling to confront Iran or ISIS in the flesh. Such dilemmas make for strange bedfellows. Thus America and Europe now find themselves shagging Syrian Assad, the Iranian ayatollahs, Hezb’allah, and a veritable host of unsavory anti-Sunni mercenaries and miscreants. The Levant is starting to look like a necrotic Abbott and Costello routine. Who’s on first?

And last, but not least, there is the possibility that the dangerous liaison with Shia priests is designed to punish or poke Israel, especially Bibi Netanyahu. In every Arab or Persian political stew, anti-Semitism is sure to be one of the ingredients.

Given the number of times that America has changed sides in the Middle East, only one thing is certain. Neither Sunni nor Shia can trust Washington today, especially an erratic if not incoherent team Obama. Israel especially, with existential skin in the game, has every reason to be wary of motives in Brussels and Washington too, lest Israel become so much collateral damage like the women, children, and Christians of North Africa the Levant.

Withal, one other conclusion is now possible. The American Intelligence Community just might be another Beltway hooker, similar in many respects to the academic and think tank camp followers that surround Washington.  As long as the funding is unlimited, the Intelligence Community seems willing to provide any service or any answer that pays.

Alas, truth is a candid bitch, she can’t be bought. The American Intelligence Community, in contrast, has become just another Washington DC streetwalker.

…………………………………………..

This essay appeared in the 3/23/2015 edition of American Thinker.

 


Broken Arrow

March 22, 2015

Policy is a worldview, a kind of wishful thinking. Intelligence is the real world, a wilderness of untidy facts that may or may not influence policy. The policymaker thinks he knows the answer. The intelligence officer and national security analyst have the much tougher tasks of confirming or changing minds.

When Intelligence fails to provide a true and defensible estimate, a clear picture of threat, policy becomes a rat’s nest of personal and political agendas where asserted conclusions and political correctness become the loudest voices in the room.  American national security analysis has been poisoned by such toxins. An Intelligence report these days might be any estimate that supports the politics of the moment. Truth today is an afterthought at best and an orphan at worst.

Alas, corrupt Intelligence is the midwife of strategic fiasco. Four contemporary failures provide illustrations: revolutionary theocracy, the Islam bomb, imperial Islamism, and the new Cold War.

Back to Theocracy

The Persian revolution of 1979 was arguably the most significant strategic surprise of the last half of the 20th Century. Yes, more significant than the fall of Soviet Communism. The precipitous fall of the Soviet Bloc, however, was another bell weather event unanticipated by Intelligence analysis. The successful religious coup in Iran, heretofore an American client regime, now provides a model for all Muslim states where the default setting among tribal autocracies is now theocracy not democracy. In the wake of the Communist collapse, Fukuyama argued that the democratic ideal was triumphant, an end of history as we knew it, the evolutionary consequence of progressive dialects. Fukuyama was wrong, tragically wrong. History is a two-way street that runs forward as well as backwards.

The fall of the Soviet monolith was not the end of anything. It was followed by profound regression, an era of religious irredentism. Worrisome as the Cold War was, the relationship with Moscow was fairly well managed. Who can argue today that East Europe or the Muslim world is more stable or peaceful than it was three decades ago?

The Persian revolution of 1979, not only reversed the vector of Muslim politics, but the triumph of Shia imperialism blew new life into the Shia/Sunni sectarian fire, a conflict that had been smoldering for a thousand years or more. The theocratic victory in Tehran also raised the ante for Israel too, now confronted by state sponsored Shia and Sunni antagonists, Hezb’allah, Fatah, and Hamas.

Shia Hezb’allah calls itself the party of God! Those in the Intelligence Community who continue to insist that religion is not part of the mix, have yet to explain why God is only part of the conversation on the Islamic side of the equation.

Global Islamic terror is now metastasizing at an alarming rate. More ominous is the assent of the Shia clergy, apocalyptic ayatollahs, a lowering of the nuclear threshold in the Middle East. Sunni ISIS by comparison is just another tactical terror symptom on the Sunni side – and yet another strategic warning failure too.

Tehran is in the cat bird’s seat, on the cusp of becoming a nuclear superpower. Nuclear Iran changes every strategic dynamic: with Israel, with Arabia, and also with NATO. A Shia bomb is the shortcut to checkmate the more numerous, albeit more primitive, Sunni. Iran will not be “talked out” of the most potent tool in imperial Shia kit – and the related quest for parity with Arabian apostates.

The Islam Bomb

The Islam bomb has been with us for years, in Sunni Pakistan, although you might never know that if you followed the small wars follies in South Asia. The enemy, as represented by American analysis is atomized, a cast of bit players on the subcontinent. First, America was fighting a proxy war with the Soviets. When the Russians departed, the enemy became the murderous Taliban followed by al Qaeda. Both now make common cause with almost every stripe of mujahedeen today. In the 25 years since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan has been reduced now to a rubble of narco-terror and tribalism. If we can believe bulletins from the Pentagon or the Oval Office, America is headed for the Afghan exit in the next two years – maybe. Throughout, the real threat in South Asia remains unheralded – and unmolested.

Nuclear Pakistan is one car bomb, or one AK-47 clip, away from another Taliban theocracy. This is not the kind of alarm that has been raised by the Intelligence Community. Hindu India probably understands the threat, Shia Persia surely understands the Sunni threat, and just as surely, Israel understands that a Sunni bomb is the raison d’etre for a more proximate Shia bomb. Who would argue that the Sunni Saudis need nuclear “power”? Nonetheless, Riyadh is now in the game too.  The most unstable corner of the globe is now host to a nuclear power pull.

The American national security establishment seems to be clueless on all of this. Indeed, when a unique democracy like Israel tries to illuminate a portion of the nuclear threat before the American Congress, the Israeli prime minister is stiff-armed by the Oval Office. If Washington failed with Pakistan and North Korea, why would anyone, let alone the Israelis, believe that Wendy Sherman is a match for the nuclear pipedreams of apocalyptic Shia priests.

Alas, the motive force behind a Shia bomb is not Israeli capabilities or intentions. Israel is a stable democracy where any territorial ambitions are limited to the traditional Jewish homeland. Israel is no threat to Persia or Arabia.  Pakistan, in contrast, is like much of the Sunni world today, another internecine tribal or sectarian wildfire waiting for a match.

The advent of the Islam bomb in Asia was not just a strategic surprise, but the step-child of strategic apathy. The folly of taking sides with the Sunni has now come home to roost. Iran is about to go for the atomic brass ring too, with the Saudis in trail, and there’s not much that America can/will do except mutter about secret diplomacy and toothless sanctions. Of course, there’s always the option of blaming Jews when appeasement fails.

Imperial Islam

The Ummah problem, the Muslim world, has now replaced the Soviet empire, as Churchill would have put it, as the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” There are four dimensions to the Islamic conundrum: the Shia/Sunni rift, intramural secular/religious conflicts, kinetic antipathy towards Israel and the West writ large, and the failure of analysis, especially strategic Intelligence, to unwrap the Muslim onion in any useful way. Imperial Islam, dare we say Islamofascism, now threatens secular autocracy and democracy on all points of the compass.

Islamic imperialism is a decentralized global movement. Nonetheless, the various theaters are united by tactics, strategy, ideology, and objectives. The tactics are jihad, small wars, and terror. The strategy is the imposition of Shariah Law. The ideology is the Koran and the Hadith. And the objective is a Shia or Sunni Islamic Caliphate – for infidels, a distinction without difference.

Muslim religious proselytizers and jihad generals in the field make no secret of any of this. The problem isn’t that some Muslims dissent from this agenda, the problem is that the West, especially national security analysts, cannot/will not believe or accept what Islamic imperialists say aloud, about themselves. The enemy is hiding in plain sight, yet the Intelligence Community doesn’t have the integrity or courage to make a clear call.

Noted British criminal psychiatrist Theodore Dahlrymple captures the bizarre logic of appeasement:

“Racial, religious and cultural identity are morally important in politics, precisely what so many people would like to deny because it can so easily unleash the vilest political passions. Something that is true, say our people of goodwill to themselves, could have nasty consequences; therefore it is not true.”

Propaganda provides many of the strategic “tells” in any conflict. The Nemstov murder in the shadow of the Kremlin provides an example. The knee-jerk reaction of politician and pundits in America was to implicate Russian culture, the Kremlin, or Vladimir Putin.

Contrast the Nemstov blame game with any or every recent Islamist atrocity and the nuclear race in the Ummah. With these, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend Islam, more concern for Islamism and the religious equivalence shibboleth than the nuclear threat or Jewish, Christian, and apostate heads that are now literally rolling on a global scale. In a recent US State Department brief, we are told by State Department spokesman Marie Harf that Islamic terrorism might be attributed to “unemployment” (sic).

Cold War Redux

The West can no longer take yes for an answer. The deliberate resuscitation of the Cold War midst a host of tactical defeats in the Ummah is probably one of the worst foreign policy choices on record.

The old Soviet Union: took down the Berlin Wall, relinquished former satellites, dismantled the Warsaw Pact military alliance, and purged East Europe of nuclear weapons. In response, America and the EU dismantled Yugoslavia, taking the Muslim side we might add, and aggressively expanded NATO up to the traditional Russian border. The “End of (totalitarian) History” as we knew it wasn’t enough. Any vestigial associations with Moscow were relentlessly undermined. The American sponsored coup, orchestrated by Victoria Nuland at the US State Department, with likely help from the CIA, in Ukraine is the best and most recent example.

The “regime change” strategy in Europe has degenerated into some petulant version of nuclear chicken with the Russians. The American embassies in Moscow and Kiev regularly host anti-Putin dissidents in Ukraine and Russia

Regime change folly has lowered the nuclear threshold in South Asia, the Mideast, and now East Europe. Sevastopol and Kiev are side shows. The real target for Brussels and Washington is Moscow – and the Putin regime. The idea that the Kremlin or Russians can be undone or manipulated by: black operations, cyber war, sanctions, propaganda, or provocations is naïve and reckless. Putin is not a Pahlavi, Gadhafi, Assad, or Yanukovych.

Russians were very helpful in ridding Syria of chemical weapons and clearing the Ukraine of nuclear weapons.  Moscow and Putin have the potential also to be very useful against terror, nuclear proliferation, and resolving the Levant lunacy too.

House of Representatives minority leader Pelosi recently lamented losing the “public relations” war with Russia. The American Secretary of State responded that Russian Television (RT) was responsible (sic). The more believable narrative spun by the Kremlin might be closer to the mark. Truth is a powerful ally, especially when it’s coupled with propaganda.

The origin of the new Cold War may have domestic origins. Neither major American political party has a clue as what to do with the metastasizing Muslim problem. Indeed, both sides gag on words like Islam, Muslim, or Mohammed. As 2016 approaches, both parties desperately need to change the subject and find a foreign policy to run on. Regime change in Russia seems to be the consensus choice for American demagogues, Right and Left.

The idea that domestic “politics stops at the border” was always honored more in the breach than anywhere else. The politics of personal destruction is a time honored tradition in America, especially on the Left. That standard has now been folded into the foreign relations bag of tricks. Henry Kissinger claims that “demonization” is not policy. That may be true in any real politic sense, but the Putin bogyman is an ideal straw man for the next American presidential election. Proxy war abroad seems to be the safe sex of domestic politics.

What Now?

The American Intelligence Community is now the largest (17 agencies and uncountable contractors) and most expensive data collection and processing complex in history. Unfortunately, this gold-plated leviathan is undone by inferior analysis; indeed, estimates and reports that are more political than prudent. Withal, existential functions like strategic warning may be in freefall.

The obvious solution would be to take the strategic warning and national estimative functions out from under the IC, and the Executive Branch, and give those tasks to some apolitical body, assuming of course that an impartial forum might be sustained beyond the control of any branch of government. Realistically, it’s hard to believe that any American political party would sponsor an independent and uncontrollable voice of candor or objectivity.

Nonetheless, there are small things that might be done to make a huge difference. During the Cold War, USAF Intelligence ran a service of common concern for the IC called “Soviet Awareness.” The purpose of that program at Bolling AFB was to educate novice intelligence officers and FBI agents about the Soviet threat. The program included Russian history, the rise and spread of Communism, Marxist ideology, and Soviet military capabilities.

Ironically, the inter-agency program that answered the question “why we fight” was discontinued by James Clapper when he became the USAF Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Clapper is now the Director of National Intelligence. The Soviet Awareness resources were reallocated to the information processing function. Today there is no awareness program of common concern on Russian, Islamist, or any other threats.

Clapper threw the threat baby out with the Soviet bathwater. Indeed, in most service schools, discussing Islamic ideology or religion is off limits. If any soldier or Intelligence officer were to ask: “Why do we fight?” the answer today would have to be, “trust me.”

The real tragedy of Intelligence failure today is the burden born by American veterans, servicemen and women: the dead, crippled, and maimed.  “Why we fight?” is a leadership deficit, the forgotten readiness issue. Troops don’t have a clear picture of the enemy or the ideology in play in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Arabia, the Philippines, and Africa. They will know even less about the rationale for serving in East Europe should another conflict be engineered with Russia.

Indeed, the Pentagon and the Oval Office throw lives at small wars that generals and politicians have no intention of declaring, justifying, or winning – by their own admission.  The Commander-in-Chief says the he seeks outcomes where there are no victors or vanquished. Indeed!

Traditionally, we like to think of collection and associated clandestine operations as the sharp end of the Intelligence spear. In fact, analysis is the cutting edge. Unfortunately, that edge is gone today. You could do worse than think of Intelligence analysis as the Broken Arrow in the national security quiver.

We may not know why we fight today, but there is little mystery anymore about why we fail.

                                                                                       Epilogue

The importance of information is seldom self-evident. Even if significance were obvious, information is still not knowledge. And clearly knowledge is not wisdom. Just as surely, only conscience allows an analyst to know the difference. All key judgments must be accompanied by courage and conviction too; courage to communicate to policy mandarins, or voters, with enough force to prompt action. Repetition is often the midwife of acceptance.

Good data and good analysis might be necessary, but never sufficient. Bridging the gap between analysis and acceptance is often a bridge too far for the timid. The national security continuum is a perilous enterprise. The messenger is always in danger of being shot. Alas, truth is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care who gets hurt.

Nonetheless, changing minds is the object of any good Intelligence. Policy and action is only stimulated by an altered consciousness about the subject at hand. Prudent policy is a function of correct data, honest analysis, moral certainty, and rhetorical skill – written or spoken.

Alas, none of these self-evident, common sense observations, with the possible exception of abundant evidence, play much of a role in American threat analysis these days. A very expensive and growing Intelligence Community  is now the weak link in the national security chain. Any speculations about the catastrophic failures of American foreign policy in the past fifty years should begin with the “wilderness of mirrors,” James Angleton’s metaphor for Intelligence praxis.

…………………………………………….

  1. Murphy Donovan was the last Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence, the directorate that staffed the associated Soviet Awareness Program. He served under General James Clapper.

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Checkmate in Baghdad and Geneva

October 4, 2013

“Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” – JFK

War is a messy business. Serial wars get even more untidy over time. Often, it’s hard to know where one begins and another ends. Such is the case today as the Arab spring looks like another Muslim winter. America and Europe stumble from one conflict venue to another wondering what happened to all those rosy assertions about jasmine, justice, moderation, and modernity. The Islamic world is a mess and no one has a clue as to where or how the sequential mayhem ends. In Syria, the nanny states of the West are again perched on the brink of another sectarian and/or tribal abyss.

Nonetheless, the optimism of intervention still prevails. Today you hear argument after argument about the responsibilities of power and success – or preaching about very selective humanitarian concerns.  If you read enough foreign policy analysis you might come to believe that someone has the answer, or that somehow Europe and America have the “responsibility” to make the Third World well. Never mind that the very words “developing” and “emerging” have become geo-political oxymorons, triumphs of hope over experience.

Ironically, the grand strategy, if there is one, when you strip away the boilerplate, can be summarized with a single word – that word is “more.” More is the mantra of imprudent expectations; bailouts at home and flailouts abroad. If one “investment” doesn’t work, surely the original sacrifice wasn’t big enough. No thought seems to be given to developing a new game plan. More aid, more pandering, more troops, more drones, or more missile strikes; but never more common sense. It’s always more, and more is never enough.

And now ‘more’ is accompanied by “red line” moralizing, the color coded version of chicken. Alas, the no-fault/default cultures of Europe and America are unlikely enforcers of any kind of norms and standards in the less civilized world. The West insists, ironically, on measures of accountability and restraint that have been abandoned in Europe and America. Political decay, especially in the First World, has consequences.

All the rhetoric about global responsibility is a rehash of the “white man’s burden” trope. Worse still, the hand-wringing and preaching seems to validate “orientalism,” guilt driven theories that excuse and forgive Muslim pathology because the chaos is thought to be the results of European racism, colonialism, or exploitation.

Ironically, much of the confused strategic rhetoric originates with senior military officers and the Intelligence Community.

Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has sought to redefine most wars as either guerilla, insurgent, or conventional conflicts. Conventional conflict is a distant third in most deliberations. Real wars might have to be declared and put to a vote. Unfortunately, the accepted taxonomy ignores ground truth and the worldview of likely opponents.

Most wars in the troublesome Muslim world are in fact religious wars, conflicts where the nexus is a clash between religious and secular values. The most obvious evidence of religious war, external to the Muslim world, occurs at the tectonic plates of religion, those borders where Muslim and non-Muslim polities meet. South Asia, North Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus region, Thailand, and the Philippines are obvious examples. Even China has pockets of Muslim irredentism.

When ayatollahs and imams rant about “jihad,” or holy war, they have few illusions about the nature of contemporary conflict. Indeed, most Muslim clerics seem to grasp global strategic reality better than American generals who insist on parsing various Muslim wars into local insurgencies with local motives. Religion has become the invisible camel in the infidel tent.

The most celebrated version of the official US military view in these matters is contained in Army Field Manual 3-24; Counterinsurgency, the doctrinal bible that David Patraeus helped write and subsequently rode to four star notoriety. Unfortunately, like too many of his over-schooled peers, General Patraeus is more likely to be remembered for his social life than his military insights or battlefield achievements. Equally misguided was the US Marine Corps decision to adopt the Army manual in the interests of tactical ecumenism.

Religious war is now a global phenomenon, thanks in part to the failure of flag officers to acknowledge that threat. The Pentagon doesn’t have any official guidance for religious war beyond political correctness.

Within the Ummah, modern wars are of two types; civil and proxy. Contemporary revolutions in Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, the Sudan, Somalia, Mali, and Egypt are religious civil wars. These in turn are of two classes; sectarian (i.e. Shia vs Sunni) or secular/sectarian. Secular military dictatorships, Egypt today for example, have been in the clerical crosshairs since Mohammed’s time. Libya and Syria are examples of secular oligarchies where tribal rivalries created opportunities for Islamists.

Syria is a prominent example of modern proxy war, where principals (Russia and the US or Iran and Israel), once removed, are attempting to settle old scores or exploit a regional opportunity. Any notion of moral “red lines” or WMD thresholds in Syria is just another flight from reality, a veil for political egos and hidden agendas.

The American Ranch Hand campaign (1962-71), which poisoned Southeast Asia for nearly a decade, was the most egregious, sustained modern use of chemical warfare. Granted, the putative aim of the Agent Orange campaign was defoliation; still, the net effect was to poison civilians and water sources under the canopy. No American administration is well-positioned to point fingers at Syria when the US Air Force, the Pentagon, and the White House have yet to acknowledge or accept responsibility for the mutilation of a generation of American GIs and several generations of Vietnamese children.

We might also recall those gassed Kurds and Persians (1988) of recent memory who perished from indifference if not complicity. Or we could mention the million or so Rwandans (1994) who fell to tribal clubs and cutlery. Such events barely make the evening news in the West. With these and Vietnam, ‘moral’ superiority about chemical warfare or genocide, if it ever existed, is a void not a high ground.

The recent gas attack in Syria is not an exception, nor is it a rule. Identifying culprits is probably irrelevant.  Nations adhere to international conventions or “norms” as it suits their interests. Credible force is the only reliable sheriff or deterrent. And a false flag prologue is often the pretense for the use of force.

Clearly there is more than a little overlap in any conflict taxonomy. Nonetheless, the need for a new vocabulary for the age of intervention is underwritten by two indisputable facts: religion underwrites much of the typology and too many conflicts are misrepresented as insurgencies when they are in fact civil wars. If Libya or Syria were true insurgencies, America should have sent guns to Gaddafi and Assad.

The ‘insurgent’ paradigm suits the politics, not the reality, of modern war. Terms like Islamic, religious, or “civil” war are avoided because the US military has no charter, doctrine, or legal authority for intervention in overseas internal disputes; and surely no moral authority for taking sides in religious rivalries. The Sunni tilt in American foreign policy since 1979 speaks for itself, a grim litany of blowback and failure.

At a minimum, you could argue that American intervention has made Shia fanatics, Hezb’allah, the Taliban, and now a global al Qaeda possible. Recall that America helped create a vacuum in southern Lebanon for Hezb’allah to fill. Recall also that clandestine support to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the Soviet era made the Taliban possible. Imprudent signals to Islamists made the recent Muslim Brotherhood electoral success possible in Egypt too. In the geo-political arena, unqualified support for Saudi and Emirate oil oligarchs makes Salifism and related religious fascism possible worldwide.

The incompetence of intervention has more than a little to do with the caliber of American generals since Korea. Surely, David Patraeus was no guerilla fighter like Joe Stillwell and Martin Dempsey is no cavalry officer the equal of George Patton. At Benghazi, American military honor was compromised by timidity, if not bureaucratic cowardice. General Dempsey claims that he did not act because Mrs. Clinton didn’t give him a green light. Under Dempsey, the military ethos changed from “no man left behind” to “cover your behind.” Victory is no longer a staple of any flag officer’s resume or vocabulary.

The Intelligence Community is also part of the rhetorical decay. While at the White House, John Brennan literally scrubbed any reference to Islam, Islamists, jihad, or holy war from public and administration conversations about national security. He actually convinced most government departments, contractors, and the Press to delete any language that might suggest linkage between terror, religious war, and Islam. The Director of National Intelligence now refers to Islamic terrorists as “nefarious characters.” At CIA, Brennan is now well placed to police the language and analysis of National Intelligence Estimates.

And the chickens of strategic decline are home to roost as America again sides with the Sunni in Syria. Dithering in the West for two years has allowed Bashar al-Assad to regain the tactical advantage on the battlefield. And strategically, the Alawite regime now has a clear victory.  American gun sights have been lowered from regime change to “let’s make a deal.” Never mind that time is as good a gift to Assad as any aid from the Persians and Russians.

And the proxy war is a disaster. Vladimir Putin throws a ‘Hail Mary’ in Syria, and Foggy Bottom and the White House morph into cheer leaders. Worse still, the American administration embarrasses itself by trying to take credit for the Russian initiative. Say what you will about Putin, he is a better friend to Syria than Obama is to Israel. When the next “red line” is in the works, it might have to be drawn around Israel.

The Russian strategy may look a little like a deus ex machina, but compared to the Obama amateurs, Putin plays the great game like Winston Churchill. And putting John Kerry in  a diplomatic cage match with Sergei Lavrov is like watching  a bear  toy with a cocker spaniel. Checkmate in Baghdad and Geneva!

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The author provided intelligence support to Ranch Hand at Tan Son Nhut AB in 1968 and 1971. He writes occasionally about the politics of national security.