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Déjà or not? Netanyahu in DC

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

[by Charles Cameron — this is all way off to the side of my pay-grade — can I say that? ]

A DoubleQuote: upper panel, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic; lower panel, Adam Silverman at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

SPEC DQ Netanyahu Begin

Silverman then quotes President Reagan, from his memoir, An American Life, p 415:

I don’t like having representatives of a foreign country – any foreign country – trying to interfere in what I regarded as our domestic political process and the setting of our foreign policy.



  • A Partial Accounting of the Damage Netanyahu Is Doing to Israel, upper panel
  • This Has Sort of Happened Before: Mr. Netanyahu’s Meshugana Mystery Tour, lower panel
  • An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941 — a review-lite and a few questions

    Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941, by Charles E. Kirkpatrick

    Mr. Kirkpatrick’s little book provides an excellent primer to the formulation of the United States’ WWII strategy and a refreshing insight into the education of an master strategist, the focus of this post. At 138 pages (plus bibliography/index), Kirkpatrick provides an overview of the enormous contribution of Major Albert C. Wedemeyer, then attached to the War Plans Division, the Army chief of staff’s strategic planners. In the spring of 1941, General George C. Marshall wanted a “more clear-cut strategic estimate of our situation”. Wedemeyer placed his work in the context of four questions:

    1. What is the national objective of the United States?
    2. What military strategy will be devised to accommodate the national objective?
    3. What military forces must be raised in order to execute that military strategy?
    4. How will those forces be constituted, equipped, and trained?

    Wedemeyer understood that number 4 was not possible without a clear understanding of 1 through 3. Number 1 did not exist (probably still does not), so Wedemeyer made his best guess. Wedemeyer placed his task in context and produced a plan in the prescribed 90 days (!).

    No Ordinary Major

    Wedemeyer was no ordinary major. He was a voracious reader and student of history; familiar with Clauzewitz, von der Glotz, Fuller and Sun Tzu. He was fortunate to have a mentor (who happened also to become his father-in-law), MG Stanley Embick. Embick encouraged Wedemeyer to “organize discussion groups of officers during the years on Corregidor. Professional reading served as the context for such social gatherings of Wedemeyer’s peers intelligent and articulate men who met periodically to discuss current events, the books they had been reading, and professional interests.”

    Wedemeyer was an honor graduate of the Command and General Staff College, and his performance earned him the opportunity to attended the Kriegsakademie, the German staff college. However, coupled with impressive academic preparations, Kirkpatrick writes that Wedemeyer’s curiosity exposed him to a “kaleidoscope” of ideas and methods. Kirkpatrick summed-up Wedemeyer: “Competence as a planner thus emerged as much from conscientious professional study as from formal military education…” Going on to say:

    In common with many of his peers, much of Wedemeyer’s professional and intellectual education was less the product of military schooling than of personal initiative and experience in the interwar Army.

    Wedemeyer’s intellectual development was purposeful and paid off. In Wedemeyer’s deep study of his profession he used the prescribed paths, but also explored on his own. How common is that today? What is the real intellectual foundation supporting our professional warriors? Is it the minimum one will glean from the service schools, or we encouraging our people to go a step further.  In an earlier post I wondered aloud, and echoed a remark posed by Jon Sumida with respect to Alfred Thayer Mahan:

    “It remains to be seen whether readers exist with the mind and will to accept his guidance on what necessarily is an arduous intellectual and moral voyage into the realm of war and politics.” (emphasis added)

    Against this backdrop, Tom Ricks in an interview at the Washington Post said:

    The U.S. Army is a great institution. The rebuilding of the U.S. Army after the Vietnam War was an epic struggle and was enormously successful. Today we have great frontline soldiers. They are well equipped, they are well trained and they are in cohesive units.

    The problem is at the very top. This magnificent rebuilding of the U.S. military after Vietnam really did recreate the force, but they kept the old head. The one thing they didn’t really change after Vietnam was how they shaped their generals. What we got was a generation of officers who thought tactically and not strategically. It’s the difference between being trained and being educated. You train people for known attacks. You educate people for the unknown, the complex, the ambiguous, the difficult situation. (emphasis added)

    No intention of singling out the Army, I would cast the net of this question to include the other services, and ask whether we have Major Wedemeyer Majors/Lieutenant Commanders in the pipeline. If we do, are we nurturing and encouraging them? How many of our professional warriors study independently, and like Wedemeyer host/encourage frequent independent fellowship/discussions around books and ideas independent of the academy? As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is no app for intellectual development. We should at least expose our officers to the Wedemeyer method, if you will, and go deeper than service schools, blogs, and the constant chatter in our information laden world. Colleagues gathering to discuss and debate; educating and enlightening each other.

    On strategy, Kirkpatrick quotes Wedemeyer:

    …strategy, properly conceived, thus seemed to me to require transcendence of the narrowly military perspectives that the term traditionally implied. Strategy required systematic consideration and use of all the so-called instruments of policy–political, economic, psychological, et cetera, as well as military–in pursuing national objectives. Indeed, the nonmilitary factors deserved unequivocal priority over the military, the latter to be employed only as a last resort.

    Wedemeyer’s net was wide and comprehensive and worthy of emulation. While his accomplishment(s) are impressive, so was his preparation.

    Wedemeyer went on to a successful Army career, retiring as a 4-star. In 1985, he was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan. (See the New York Times obituary.)

    This is an important and accessible introduction to the nuts-and-bolts of strategic planning and has my strongest recommendation.

    A free electronic copy can be found here (pdf).

    “Trust, but verify” and Pakistan: III

    Sunday, May 8th, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron — third of three parts ]



    David Ronfeldt said something in a recent comment here on strategy that to my mind maps very nicely — like one of those zooms in films from a very long view of a New York cityscape right in through the window of a brownstone onto a particular book on a certain someone’s bedside table or desk – onto this week’s questions about Pakistan:

    as others have noted better than i, strategic relationships may involve competition in one area, collaboration in another, and a potential for serious conflict in yet another.


    That seems to be pretty much the attitude of the ISI retiree Michael Wahid Hanna described on the Afpak channel two days ago:

    “As for duplicity, I would say that diplomacy is not single tracked. We all follow many different tracks; sometimes, apparently, working against each other,” a retired senior official from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) told me and my colleagues during a private gathering in Islamabad in July 2010 that was organized as part of The Century Foundation’s International Task Force on Afghanistan. “Double games or triple games are part of the big game.”


    Time magazine gives the argument from both the “they must have known” and “honest, we didn’t” sides:

    The most damaging accusation against the Pakistani military, of course, is that it must have known bin Laden’s was hiding in the small garrison town where army personnel at frequent checkpoints demand identification. “They knew. They knew he was there,” wrote Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida, echoing the suspicion of many Pakistanis. Kayani had driven past bin-Laden’s bolt-hole literally a week earlier, on his way to tell a gathering at the military academy that the “Pakistan army is fully aware of internal and external threats.”
    Kayani was adamant that the Pakistanis had no idea that bin-Laden was hiding in Abottabad. “We had no clear, actionable information on Osama bin-Laden,” he told the journalists. “If we had it, we would have acted ourselves. No one would have questioned our performance for ten years. It would have raised our international prestige.”

    That’s fair and balanced with, if you’ll excuse the pun, a great deal hanging in the balance…


    Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis, accordingly, tries to weight the the US and Pakistan in terms of their respective affordances to each other…

    Let’s see… What does Pakistan do for the US? … Pakistan’s military keeps it’s existing and future nuclear capability out of the larger world game. As has been discussed at SST many times, Pakistan either has or will soon have the real world CAPABILITY of ranging Israel’s target set. They have around 100 fully engineered and manufactured deliverable nuclear weapons. They have aircraft and missiles (Shahiin 2 improved) that would do the job. The missile launchers are fully mobile. The US has zero control over this nuclear strike force. Logically, the willingness of the Pakistan military to keep this “piece” off the chess board is a major boon to the US. We do not want to see that willingness change to something else.
    On the other hand … The Pakistani security services support many of our worst opponents in Afghanistan. This is so well documented that I won’t bother to do so again.


    Are you dizzy yet?

    Lawrence Wright at the New Yorker – he wrote The Looming Tower, simply *the* book about AQ’s road to 9-11 – drops one of those tidbits that just might be the exact detail we need to pursue, in one of those long shot zooms in through the window I was talking about. He tells us:

    Within the I.S.I., there is a secret organization known as the S Wing, which is largely composed of supposedly retired military and I.S.I. officers. “It doesn’t exist on paper,” a source close to the I.S.I. told me. The S Wing handles relations with radical elements. “If something happens, then they have deniability,” the source explained. If any group within the Pakistani military helped hide bin Laden, it was likely S Wing.


    Are we getting closer to that starkly phrased remark of Zen’s that I quoted at the outset of this three post series, “Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in an ISI safe house in Abbottabad” ?

    I trust Lawrence Wright quite a bit — but I would like to verify

    “Trust, but verify” and Pakistan: I

    Sunday, May 8th, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron ]

    Ronald Reagan said “Trust, but verify.” Gorbachev said, “You repeat that at every meeting.” Reagan said, “I like it.”


    Zen claimed a couple days ago that “Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in an ISI safe house in Abbottabad” — while over at ChicagoBoyz, Trent Telenko asserted:

    We already knew Pakistan is what we feared a nuclear-armed Iran would be — a nuclear-armed, terrorist supporting, state. Just ask India about Mumbai and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Now we know that Pakistan is attacking us too. Al Qaeda is the operational arm of Pakistani intelligence (ISI) attacking us just as Lashkar-e-Taiba is its operational arm attacking India.

    Those are “strong” versions of claims that have been made in “weaker” forms for some time now.


    Thus the NY Times refers to “the belief among administration officials that some elements of the ISI may have ties to Bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban” while according to the BBC, Adm. Mike Mullen recently claimed the ISI had a “long-standing relationship” with the Haqqani network. A Guardian report used the phrase “rogue elements” in discussing recently wikileaked documents from Guantanamo:

    The documents show the varying interpretations by American officials of the apparent evidence of ISI involvement with insurgents in Afghanistan. There are repeated “analyst’s notes” in parentheses. Several in earlier documents stress that it is “rogue elements” of the ISI who actively support insurgents in Afghanistan.

    So: is it “some elements of the ISI”—or “rogue elements of the ISI” — or simply “the ISI”?


    The Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate was included in the “list of terrorist and terrorist support entities identified as associate forces” in one of the leaked documents, the “JTF-GTMO Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants” with the notation:

    This list is not all inclusive but provides the primary organizations encountered in the reporting from and about JTF-GTMO detainees. Through associations with these groups and organizations, a detainee may have provided support to al-Qaida or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against US or Coalition forces.

    “Association with Pakistan ISID, especially in the late 1990s up to 2003” was listed in the same document as among the “the primary indicators for assessing a detainee’s membership or affiliation with the Taliban or ACM elements other than al-Qaida.”

    BTW, what happened to the ISI in 2003?


    And what of Pakistan itself? is it just the ISI that’s problematic, or the entire state of Pakistan? Time magazine reports:

    CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets,” Panetta says.

    Indeed, the problem may not be that there are rogue elements in ISI, nor that the ISI is a rogue element in Pakistan, but that Pakistan itself may be a rogue state, and a nuclear one at that.

    How simple it is to write such a sentence – and how subtle the task of understanding – not leaping to conclusions but penetratingly understanding – just what the real situation is.


    As Zen says in the same post:

    It is long past time for a deep, strategic, rethink of what ends America wants to accomplish in Central Asia and some hardheaded realism about who our friends really are.

    Intelligence needs to be intelligent, and to be seen to be intelligent.  Whether we trust or mistrust — we need to verify.

    [ first of three, at least ]

    Reagan Roundtable: The Art of the Deal

    Thursday, February 17th, 2011

    Ronald Reagan’s monicker as President was always “the Great Communicator“, for his command of message and the medium of television, though Reagan had a considerable ability to read a live audience as well. Everyone acknowledged Reagan’s rhetorical wizardry, even his Democratic critics, who took some comfort in imagining that Reagan was “only a B movie actor” reading his lines. A nickname that would have pointed to one of his greatest political skills would have been “the Great Negotiator” because Reagan’s talent for winning favorable outcomes, legislatively and diplomatically, is rivaled among presidents only by FDR and LBJ. Yet few pundits give Reagan that credit of being a master of the art of the deal.

    Reagan’s strategic insight has been alluded to previously in this roundtable and the ability to look at a big picture and construct a strategy for acheiving favorable ends, using acceptable and effective ways that are within your means is the cornerstone of being a good negotiator. Reagan’s career as an actor is frequently cited but it is forgotten that if they gave out Oscars for running the Screen Actor’s Guild, Reagan would have cleaned up at the academy awards. He was a tough union boss and Reagan’s deft handling of contract negotiations with the studios, winning substantial concessions for actors in a politically charged, anti-Hollywood atmosphere, led to his being elected president of SAG seven times:

    “At the request of the SAG National Board, Reagan returned to the SAG presidency in 1959 in order to head 1960
    theatrical negotiations that ultimately resulted in the first pension and health plan for SAG members, not to mention residuals on filmsshot January 31, 1960, and after (once they were replayed on television).”

    Not having anticipated the advent of television, having little bargaining leverage and facing punitive tax rates, many early film actors lived hand to mouth in their old age while the studios raked in a fortune selling their performances to TV networks. Most had been paid a pittance and the lucky few who had made real money had found Uncle Sam claimed up to 90 % of their paycheck. Reagan never forgot that bitter experience and made decreasing marginal income tax rates a key objective in his economic program, which he managed to get through a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives under the Speakership of Tip O’Neill. How? He negotiated for it and afterward, liberal Democrat Tip O’Neill paid conservative Republican Reagan the ultimate compliment that a political opponent can bestow:

    How am I doing? I’m getting the whale shit kicked out of me!

    As the former Speaker explained in his memoirs, belying his image as a genial and somewhat lazy figurehead, Reagan was a shrewd but relentless bargainer. “You fellas tell me who I need to call and I’ll make the calls” Reagan told his staff. Reagan called. He worked the phones like the winner of a national sales award. Congressmen, Senators, their supporters and newspaper editors back home, he charmed the wives of members of Congress, asked after their children and hand wrote them personal letters of thanks and gave them photo ops at the White House. He shared the spotlight and made compromises with Democrats like Bill Bradley and Dan Rostenkowski who were willing to advance Reagan’s strategic goals. Walking in to the conference room to talk with the Democratic leadership, Reagan would frequently begin discussions having dozens of their Democratic members in his pocket and an equal number wavering. Reagan would at the last minute, take half a loaf in legislation if it moved the ball down the field. Then in the next negotiation, he’d return for the other half and often as not, get some of that too.

    The Soviet politburo fared no better with arms control with Reagan than did the leaders of the Democratic party on tax cuts and tax reform. That Reagan was disinclined to make the sort of breezy, one-sided, concessions that had been the hallmark of Kissinger’s approach to SALT was made dramatically clear by Reagan’s appointment of Paul Nitze, the father of NSC-68 and co-founder of Team B, as his adviser on arms control and chief negotiator foe the INF treaty talks. Reagan’s propensity to treat the Soviets in his public speeches as if their Communist ideology were illegitimate and dangerous gave the Soviet leaders fits.

    Longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin remained a dedicated Communist apparatchik and a skillful advocate of the Soviet position even after the demise of the USSR, but his comments about Reagan in his memoir In Confidence, while laden with frustration and incomprehension, are not the picture often seen of Reagan in the MSM:

      • Brezhnev and his colleagus found themselves dealing with something truly new, a deeply disturbing figure who tenaciously advanced a course that profoundly offended and alarmed them.
      • To me, the directness and insouciance of his remarks confirms once again my belief that personal conviction underwrote Reagan’s approach to the Soviets and everything associated with us, and not just some political pose.
      • It was evident from Shultz’s Behavior during our White House conversation and long afterward that Reagan was the real boss, and that the secretary of state carried out his instructions. Shultz hardly intervened in the conversation and ostensibly agreed with Reagan throughout. I even had the impression, perhaps an erroneous one, that the secretary of state was somewhat afraid of the president.

    As Dobrynin’s memois meander slowly, as diplomatic tomes are wont to do, the Soviets ultimately, by stubborn, painful inches born of endless meetings, bent to many of Reagan’s positions, orginally regarded by them as absolutely intolerable: the zero option, exit visas for Pentacostal dissidents, SDI research and most dramatic of all, consenting to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, occurring the year Reagan left office.

    Ronald Reagan, not Mikhail Gorbachev, understood the art of the deal.

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