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Archive for June, 2005

Thursday, June 30th, 2005


The Neurolearning blog honors the passing of the great popular historian of the Civil War, Shelby Foote who came to his craft in an unlikely way.

” Let us cross the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

R.I.P. Mr. Foote.

Thursday, June 30th, 2005


Marc Schulman posted today posted MoveOn.org’s ” Talking Points” for writing letters to the editor to papers across the country advocating a time-table pull-out of troops from Iraq in the wake of Bush’s speech. The key one is here because it gives away the game:

“We need a real exit plan with a real timeline providing real accountability for our leaders. We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community. And we must renounce permanent military bases in Iraq because that angers the Iraqi people.”

First, there are a number of good reasons for some kind of potential troop reduction. Resting and rebuilding overstretched and overstressed units. Movement to another deployment to carry on the war in a different theater in the GWOT. Shifting roles for U.S. military personnel within Iraq vis-a-vis Iraqi forces as Iraqi units increase their operational comptency. These would all be examples of reasons to alter troop levels. It’s a safe bet that none of these reasons are foremost in the minds of those who wrote MoveOn.org’s talking points.

I won’t bother with critiquing the self-evidently asinine “We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community.” That’s a throw-away line to reassure the nervous within MoveOn.org’s email list that there’s another form international 911 than the United States military to help the Iraqis. There isn’t an ” international community” with the military resources to undertake such a task, even if they had the will.

Telegraphing our ” exit strategy” with a public timetable is not designed to ” hold our leaders accountable”but to enable the insurgency’s strategic planning. It is designed to demoralize the Iraqi government soldiers and policemen who will then begin looking ahead to the day the U.S. pulls out and encourage their collaboration with insurgency. It is designed to create an inflexible and artificial constraint on the ability of American commanders and the Iraqi government to respond to the insurgency.

Strategically and tactically it represents some supremely wrongheaded advice from people who have a political vested interest in seeing bad things happen and who will take no responsibility for events once their advice is followed. If you pull troops out you can just pull them out, a ” timetable” doesn’t add value, it increases problems that make actually pulling out troops more difficult and costly.

I wager MoveOn.org’s leadership worries a great deal more about a stabilized and democratizing Iraq with a few American military bases in 2008 than an Iraq sliding in to chaos and civil war.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005


Experiencing some tech problems right now. More later

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005


My compadre at the excellent blog The American Future, Marc Schulman, put up a thorough review of the President’s speech on Iraq which I advise you to check out in full. Some highlights in Marc’s view:

His words provide the context for our efforts in Iraq — notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi’s complaints. There were terrorists in Iraq prior to our invasion, even if there was no “operational” connection (in the opinion of the 9/11 Commission) between them and Saddam’s regime, and the Iraqi terrorists do share “the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens” on 9/11.

“To defeat them abroad before they attack us at home” ignores the risk (not certainty) that highly trained terrorists who aren’t killed will turn their attention to the US if and when the hoped-for establishment of a democratic Iraqi government is accomplished. Our goal should be to kill and incarcerate all of them; this would be the war on terrorism’s equivalent to our demand for unconditional surrender during World War II.

Bush is absolutely right in saying that the only way that “our enemies can succeed” is if “we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden.” Withdrawal is out of the question. Above and beyond what would happen in the Middle East, a withdrawal would shatter our credibility, and with it, our influence in world affairs. That would be the path to international anarchy.

A good example of why The American Future is a daily read for me. I am going to ignore Democratic and liberal critiques of Bush’s speech for the same reason I am not going to comment on Marc’s criticism of the Democratic response that he offers in his post – because the dynamic of ideological paralysis that envelopes the Democrats on GWOT or Iraq has little to do with Bush per se. The reigning mentality on display in that party has been going on since the defeat in Vietnam and either it will be worked through to reach a rational and effective liberalism on defense and foreign policy or the Democrats will go the way the Whigs did over slavery and sectionalism.

So I will turn to Marc’s criticism of Bush instead:

“Bush needs to speak to the American public more frequently. Speeches like this one shouldn’t be reserved for anniversaries: in this instance, it was the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis last year. At a minimum, we deserve a quarterly report. I believe that the a more involved and informed public will be a more supportive public.”

Action and not words is the Bush administration strong suit. Unlike Ronald Reagan speaking against Communism or FDR against Fascism, George W. Bush is not effective in the type of presidential role that historian David McCullough called ” the Preacher Militant”. In order to avoid criticism that America is in a ” war against Islam”, Bush tends to muddy the waters over who exactly the enemy is, where by contrast, Reagan ‘s soft touch anecdotes would showcase his anticommunism in a gentle way but with no loss of clarity. Bush instead opts to personalize, focusing on Bin Laden and Zarqawi though killing or capturing either, while a great victory, will not end the war.

Since Bush is a mediocre communicator he tends to avoid speaking out or at least procrastinates until his poll numbers begin to drop and his supporters begin to clamor for a presidential speech, thus raising expectations for a task he does not perform particularly well as it is. So, I am going to disagree somewhat with Marc. Making Bush go speak more frequently or hold more press conferences will just make Bush an increasingly frustrated-sounding punching bag. What the administration does need is an effective communication strategy with an articulated message of the day, week, month on the war.

The President does not need to do all the talking but the administration needs to speak with one voice regardless of who happens to be at the podium.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005


Following on the heels of the previous post is an article published in American Diplomacy by Herman J. Cohen (former deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research from 1980 to 1984; senior director for Africa on the National Security Council, 1987–1989; and assistant secretary of state for Africa, 1989 to 1993).

” Policymaker: Know thy Intelligence Analyst “

Not a bad summary of the IC process, in generalities, despite a certain fact-checking sketchiness and a tendency to refight old battles with dead IC-NSC neoconservatives ( Wiliam J. Casey, Constantine Menges) over Central American policy during the Reagan administration. An excerpt:

About twenty-five times a year, the intelligence community is charged with supporting decision making on issues of high-policy interest. For example, U.S. national security leaders have been grappling with contrasting policy options in Iran ever since the rise of the reform movement in that country in the early 1990s. Should we have a policy of engagement in order to encourage reforms in Iran, or should we assume that Iran’s anti-American posture is not likely to change no matter how its domestic situation evolves? This is the type of policy question that requires deeper study, extended reflection, and in-depth discussion among analysts on a whole range of issues and trends.

The intelligence community deals with these weightier issues through the mechanism of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). All of the intelligence components are invited to participate and contribute draft sections of the final document under the coordination of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). This small body of veteran analysts and operatives from a variety of agencies and disciplines serves as the community-wide coordinating arm for the director of Central Intelligence. The top officials in the NIC are called National Intelligence officers (NIOs) for Asia, Africa, Latin America, nonproliferation, terrorism, and so on.

Whenever a decision is taken to prepare an NIE, the NIO for the region or sector concerned is almost always assigned to be the coordinator of the process. The NIO establishes the terms of reference and negotiates the division of labor for the preparation of the different sections. In the hypothetical case of an NIE about Iran, the CIA would prepare the section on Iran’s support for terrorism and clandestine political operations in the Middle East; State/INR might prepare the section on Iran’s political dynamics; the DIA might put together a document on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The character and ability of the NIO has a decided affect on the clarity and utility of the the NIE sent to the President and top tier policy-makers. The NIE put together on Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion was a superb product, predicting that the hold of the Communist regime in Kabul on the rest of the country would continue to erode and that the USSR would invade to prop up their hapless clients. In hindsight, this seems obvious but it was somewhat radical at the time to predict that the Soviets would extend the Brezhnev Doctrine to a non-Eastern Bloc, non-aligned, Muslim state.

This prediction in the NIE was made long before Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin had his rival President Nur Mohammed Taraki wacked or high Soviet Red Army personages visited Afghanistan on ” recon tours”. As a result, President Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski had months to put together a coherent policy to resist Soviet expansion ( an effort opposed by Cyrus Vance and the State Department) in the worst case scenario of an invasion of Afghanistan.

Not every NIE is quite so well crafted.

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