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Op-Ed at Pajamas Media: Panetta and the CIA

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Here’s the PJM piece I mentioned yesterday:

Why Leon Panetta May Be The Right Man For CIA Chief

Given the extent to which President-elect Barack Obama previously positioned himself on the left wing of the Democratic Party, his appointments in the areas of national security and defense have been remarkable in the degree to which the worst fears of conservatives have not come to pass. Robert Gates as secretary of defense would have been a dream pick for a McCain administration and former commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Jones is someone I wish President Bush had chosen as his wartime national security adviser. The immediate howls of protest from liberal Senate Intelligence Committee members and chairmen that greeted Leon Panetta’s nomination to head the CIA are genuine in their rage. For many reasons, conservatives and advocates of a reinvigorated, reinvented, depoliticized CIA may end up being quite happy with the tenure of Director Panetta

….The truth is that the CIA has been in an existential crisis since at least 1991 that has waxed and waned, but it never recovered the competence in clandestinity or the esprit de corps it enjoyed in its glory years under Allen Dulles or the brief revival ushered in by William Casey and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The CIA now bleeds talent to better-paying private military companies like CACI or Blackwater and engages in domestic political intrigue and gross waste like any other government agency. Post-9/11 “intelligence reforms” badly battered the CIA as an institution without building up its original core mission of HUMINT collection and strategic influence operations to a robust and dynamic capacity

Read the whole thing here.

There are of course, respected bloggers and experts with views of their own on Panetta’s appointment. Here is a sample:

The Glittering Eye:

…As I’ve noted before the incoming administration’s managerial experience is extremely limited and, frankly, I think they’re underestimating its importance. Now it may well be that lawyers and politicians are the best possible picks for these important roles to achieve the confidence of the departments they’ll head, the American people’s, and President Obama’s. If that’s right, we’ll be in for an interesting ride with the new administration. If it’s wrong, the downside risk is probably minimized by the civil bureaucracy.

Steve Coll:

As to the Panetta appointment itself, it is unconvincing. The C.I.A. directorship is a diminished post, no longer in charge of the full intelligence community and subordinate to the Director of National Intelligence (who will apparently be Dennis Blair, a retired admiral.) Still, the C.I.A. director has four important jobs: manage the White House relationship; manage Congress, particularly to obtain budgetary favor; manage the agency’s workforce and daily operations; and manage liaisons with other spy chiefs, friendly and unfriendly. Panetta is thoroughly qualified for the first two functions but unqualified for the latter two. He seems to have been selected as a kind of political auditor and consensus builder. He will make sure the White House is protected from surprises or risks emanating from C.I.A. operations; he will ensure that interrogation and detention practices change, and that the Democratic Congress is satisfied by those changes; he will ensure that all of this occurs with a minimum of disruptive bloodletting. All good, but it is not enough

Dr. Ron Radosh

…The point I was trying to make about the Panetta appointment was that although his hands are not tainted by any acceptance of torture, that alone is hardly a sufficient reason to appoint him. I have learned that our fellow blogger and my friend Michael Ledeen has said Panetta is a good choice, as have Richard Perle and Douglas Feith. Their arguments, that he is a good manager and can possibly clean up a highly ineffective and politicized CIA, hopefully has merit. Counterpoints, however, have been effectively made by J.G. Thayer, who writing on the Commentary magazine’s Contentions, blog…

New Op-Ed Up at Pajamas Media

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Entitled Let’s Not Rush into Cold War II:

…In the earnest desire to help a beleaguered ally and perhaps longing for the good old days of Reagan Doctrine moral clarity, conservatives may be losing sight of something important – namely America’s strategic interests. Moreover, their silence in regard to grave failures by our national security establishment in this crisis is bewildering. The results of the Russo-Georgian war are a debacle. Either our State Department, CIA, and the Pentagon failed to accurately assess a likely Russian reaction to an attempt by Georgia to retake South Ossetia by force – an act that provided Moscow with a pretext to attack Georgia – or the war caught us completely by surprise. The former possibility is worrisome; the latter is inexcusable.

President Bush should be commended for his very firm but restrained moves to try and end this crisis and in the process salvage Georgia’s sovereignty and Mikheil Saakhashvili’s position as president of Georgia, both of which were close to being lost, mainly through Saakashvili’s own incompetence. Unfortunately, the president does not have much leverage to work with, having been maneuvered into a dispute with Russia at a time and place of Putin’s choosing rather than ours – a game where Putin and Medvedev hold all the good cards and can deal from the bottom of the deck.

Amusingly, some of the commenters there seem to believe that I am a) a liberal and b) a Russian shill and c) fit to be a member of The New York Times editorial board, perhaps the unkindest cut of all. ūüôā

Sorry boys, if the Georgians had bloodied the Russian invaders, I’d have stood up and cheered with everybody else. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and that reality needs to be accepted on it’s own terms without¬†pretending the Russian military is now ten feet tall. Giving limited aid to Georgia here is fine¬†but the urge¬†to rush in American troops to fight Russia for Saakasvili, as some would like to do, while the Europeans and Georgians sit and watch is simply asinine.

UPDATE:

Similar views from William Lind and Thomas Barnett. See also Spengler.

UPDATE II:

Much thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to my PM post РNice! ( Hat tip to blogfriend Purpleslog in the comments)

Austin Bay Interviews General Petraeus

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Austin Bay scored an interview recently with General David Petraeus. For those newer readers not familiar with Austin, he’s a long time blogfriend ( one of my earliest; if I recall correctly, we were also on the¬†H-Diplo listserv together in the pre-blogging era), an author, professor, journalist and Iraq war veteran, where as a colonel¬†in the Army Reserves he commanded an armored unit and was awarded the Bronze Star.

The video of the interview is here ( registration required for the full interview).

A PajamasMedia podcast of the interview can be found here.

Several blog posts by Bay with excerpts from the interview:

Terror Connects to Crime In Iraq: Analysis by General David Petraeus

General Petraeus: “….We have, in fact, put considerable emphasis on how Al-Qaeda, in Iraq, generates resources. And they do it, again, like a mafia does, that we would be familiar with. It’s through extortion of successful businesses; extortion of money for protection rackets, or what have you; insisting that a cell phone business, for example, give them a cut of their profits or they’ll blow the cell phones down – cell phone towers down; taking a cut out of the cement business, the real estate business, the financial businesses, and so forth.
And you see the same on the militia side; although, again, much reduced now and they don’t control the port of Umm Qasr anymore. They don’t control various other elements that they did control until about six to eight months ago.
So progress there. And then beyond that, certainly corruption is a concern and a problem and one that the Iraqis have very much recognized and about which they’re very concerned. They’ve launched an anti-corruption program.
But this is going to be a serious issue. There is considerable money. There is a very young and still very much developing government largely led by individuals who – very good people and good leaders of opposition parties for many years but have not necessarily exercised strategic leadership in the past and very much growing into their jobs but with bureaucracies that are still very much developing as well.”

UPDATE 2: An Interview With General David Petraeus

AUSTIN BAY: Gen. David Petraeus, let’s pick up on your rheostat analogy. You’re giving us a conditions-based approach to assessing victory in a very intricate, complex and long struggle. Now this is an incremental victory-one step up; a half-step back. Enemy action results in a coalition response; coalition actions result in an enemy response. That’s war among human beings. It strikes me that some of those conditions include a sovereign Iraq that is largely responsible for its own internal security, but is also a United States ally. These are some of the conditions mentioned in the Update Strategic Overwatch video at the ArenaUSA.com. That said; if you would, please comment on a sovereign Iraq emerging as a US ally.

Did you get a chance to look at that video?

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Just briefly, I’m afraid, Austin. But let me just come back to what you just said because the way you stated that is exactly right. It is incremental, and it does have fits and starts. It is this exercise of pushing the stone up a hill, a Sisyphean endeavor at times where you do make two steps up and one step back. Sometimes you get one step up and two steps back.
But, overall, over the course of the past year or so, really since the start of the surge of offenses in particular, that was the large comprehensive offensive launched in June 2007 when we had all of the surge brigades on the ground, since that time, there has been a fairly steady degree of improvement week in/week out, month in/month out. Certainly, again, there have been flare-ups at times. The militia counterattacks, when Prime Minister al-Maliki ordered Iraqi forces and the Basra, were really quite a substantial – more than a flare-up.
But, over time, those were dealt with, more than dealt with, in fact, and very severe losses inflicted on the militia.

 Somehow,  in addition to reporting, Austin  finds the time to write novels,  a syndicated column, blog, give TV interviews and teach undergraduates. I am feeling quite lazy in comparison. LOL!

Zenpundit Op-ed at Pajamas Media

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I have an op-ed/article up this morning at Pajamas Media on the Culberson-Capuano internet rules dispute:

Congress Debates Muzzling Congressmen Online

….There is certainly a legitimate and longstanding interest in preventing the misuse of federal employees or funds by prohibiting them from having any connection to campaign activities, a point on which Republicans and Democrats can easily agree. Furthermore, Capuano is correct to call the current rules “antiquated” and more restrictive, on paper at least, than his proposals. However, the old rules have been widely ignored by congressmen and have never been enforced, which left members of the House free to post online and engage in virtual interaction as they pleased. Enforcing the new, somewhat milder restrictions, as Capuano intends to do, amounts to a severe regime of prior restraint on speech.

More ominous still would be the precedent of the U.S. government designating “official” external websites – imagine having the power to select “official” newspapers – that would have to hew to House regulations and be as free as possible from political or commercial advertising. Given the ubiquity of blogads, most blogs, bulletin boards, and discussion forums would be shut out of the conversation with our nation’s elected officials. Essentially, Capuano is demanding that the internet adapt itself to the House of Representatives instead of the House adapting to the reality of the internet.

Read the rest here.

In addition to the posts on this issue this weekend by Matt Stoller and Mark Tapscott, my friend Lexington Green points to this new piece calling for a bipartisan coalition by Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right.


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