Click the links for the full posts. Followed by a brief comment from me:
“This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, “Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!”
…The issue isn’t our military involvement, which has been constant for decades now, but the everything else that we suck at: our diplomatic, economic and social engagement with the region. Criticizing our military in the region is perfectly fine, but most of that criticism (from me included) revolves around how poorly we do the everything else–not the mil stuff per se.”
“Since the reforms of recent years, the CIA no longer runs this “show.” It is among the many functions that CIA has lost to other parts of the government. The NIC now works for John Negroponte as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It appears that Negroponte is trying to let the NIC function as it should, in splendid isolation from the policy confirmation needs of whatever administration might currently be in power. It must be difficult. The neocons believe that they “know better” than the intelligence people, and that estimates should be written on the basis of the needs of an administration for propaganda support of policy. Negroponte evidently resisted that demand in this NIE. He has tried to publicly distance himself somewhat from the judgments of this NIE, but he let it be published. Congratulations Mr. Negroponte. Congratulations.”
“First, I helped put together one or two NIEs and other NIC documents in my day but even without my insights it should strike everyone as fairly obvious that this assessment likely says a whole lot more than just this heavily flogged and hyped data point. If I had to guess I’d say you’re talking at least 15 pages of material that runs across a wide spectrum of terrorism-related issues, so either that’s 15 pages of variations on the “Iraq is the source of all our woes” theme or there is a certain element at work that would like you to believe that is true by leaving out what the other 14 pages says. I’ll let you guess which is more likely.”
“I do wish that people would stop chiding us, the Administration, the President for not seizing on alternatives that we didn’t have. “
” The claim in the NY report would echo judgments of some of our Contributing Experts, notably Evan Kohlmann as early in May 2005, that the Iraq war has been an “engine of international terrorism.” But it’s also true the NIEs have certainly included some major blunders. The 1997 NIE, the last one before the 9/11 attacks on global terrorism, mentioned bin Laden in only three sentences as a “terrorist financier” and didn’t reference al-Qaeda at all. And of course, it was the October 2002 NIE which was a significant factor in the decision to use force against Iraq by famously asserting, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”
“I was sitting in on a small conference with the intelligence community last year and a prominent member of the IC railed against the phrase ‘connecting the dots’. He was frustrated with that analogy because the child’s game the name comes from and intentionally implies has labelled dots to serialize actions. The IC, he argued, does not know what the end product will look like and isn’t given instructions on which dots to connect. Instead, it must infer and figure it out. In the case of the insurgency in Iraq and global extremism, how could one not see the next step from each prior? Action–> Reaction”
I would like to repeat and perhaps, extend, a remark I made on this topic over at The Small Wars Council yesterday.
The great, seldom reported story, here is the unrelenting bureaucratic guerilla warfare being waged by senior career management in the IC, especially at the CIA, against the policies of the Bush administration. It’s like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, including the Nixon administration.
This is not to say that the Bush administration appointees have always been right and their internal critics wrong or that the unwillingness of political appointees to entertain dissenting views didn’t help fuel the scenario in the first place. That is a foolish and blind position to take. But from where I sit as an outsider to the process it would appear that the adversarial dynamic has long since taken on a life of its own – a dangerous one for the USG.
Nor are we getting an accurate view with this story [ Austin Bay points to this rebuttal by the White House; also by Negroponte ]. The contents onf the NIE were selectively leaked and, as with any NIE, some of the most interesting data points never made it into the document; either because the confidence level was not sufficiently high to merit inclusion or they were too controversial for the “consensus” approach. What was left on the cutting room floor ? And why ?
Furthermore, who composes this determined cadre of highly positioned, apparently untouchable, IC leakers and what are their motives ? To whom are they connected in the political world, if at all ?
Bush to order declassification of the NIE.
While it will be potentially amusing and enlightening to see the degree to which the IC insiders and the NYT were conducting an IO against the administration by the selective leaking and spinning of a classified document*, this is probably not the most responsible course of action that the President could take. Publication of so recent a vintage NIE gives too much meta-analytical insight into the current thinking of the IC. Not that I won’t read it myself but if I can draw the appropriate conclusions so can others. Sometimes, being in power means sucking up a few the low blows on the merits and then retaliating politically elsewhere, in a more legitimate context, at a later date.
* be interesting to know if any emails whizzed between the NYT reporters and editors working on the NIE story prior to publication and various apparatchiks in the DNC, Capitol Hill and K Street.
September 26th, 2006 at 3:32 am
Some of the insurgency you’re writing about, Mark, is resentment of the permanent State and CIA staff against the “temporary help”. That’s been going on for as long as I can recall.
I suspect another component of this particular instance of the ongoing insurgency is that the larger proportion of the permanent staff are partisan Democrats. That’s natural and understandable: of course somebody who spends his or her life working for the government is going to be someone who believes in exploiting the power of government.
Could there also be a generational aspect? We may be seeing the Baby Boomers’ last hurrah. A bunch of aging hippies?
September 26th, 2006 at 5:04 pm
Definitely, career-appointee friction is a constant in DC, albeit a phenomena that tends to wax and wane. I’m sure that is part of it.
I also find the generational point you raise intriguing as most senior ppl today experienced the public excoriation of the Church-Pike era and being left to twist in the wind by the White House and even some DCI’s, early in their careers. An experience that I’m certain, left a mark.
I am genuinely curious though to know how much of this insurgency is motivated by raw political partisanship and how much is attributed to clear policy differences or personal grudge matches
September 27th, 2006 at 12:03 am
Raw political partisanship?
Rather grasping at straws mates, grasping at straws.
September 27th, 2006 at 1:40 am
I don’t actually know the motive, beyond emnity toward the Bush crowd, which admittedly, could be from a relatively conservative source.The Reagan administration was riven by the bitterest of factional rivalries before they even reached the point of partisan clashes with the Democrats.
What I do know is that the alacrity with which Bush decided to declassify the NIE testifies to the slanted nature of the leak.
Moreover the lack of real intel substance in the leak – ” Iraq is aggravating terrorism” (Duh!) – vs. the political effect (Aha!) of that bit of data demonstrates two things:
a) the leaker sought to make political hit and had clearance of a requisite level to see recent NIEs.(Congress hasn’t seen it yet, at least not outside executive Intel committee sessions). This wasn’t a move to torpedo a particular policy, just deliver a sharp jab.
b) They were taking considerable care not to release anything else and had the patience to cover their trail. That NIE has been in a lot of hands since April.
I can’t rule partisanship out until I know who leaked. Could be a mix of motives though I lean partly toward grudge/disgruntlement.
September 27th, 2006 at 12:18 pm
Maybe someone with the information just got tired of hearing the “things are getting better in Iraq” and “we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here” spin.
Maybe that someone (or those someones) also was concerned about the same lies being recycled to justify a war in Iran. That would take the spotlight off Iraq and strengthen the appellation of “war president.”
September 27th, 2006 at 1:28 pm
I frankly find your ongoing search for partisan justifications – this is hardly the first time – to be ludicrous and provincial.
While I will not claim to know people in Washington well, I have had enough contacts over the past decade with US intel and diplos overseas that I find the suggestion of a partisan crusdade against the Bush Adminstration ludcirous.
There is a simple explanation of the ongoing hostility in State Department, in the US intel community etc.
The Bush Adminstration has shown itself to be positively Bolshevik in its approach to policy making and execution, and not even rising to the dim level of competence of the Bolsheviks who for all their self-delusion at least generally had discipline in execution and a certian basic competence.
Across the board, overseas the United States is losing credibility – positively pissing it away. Americans with exposure to this – including rather conservative types such as the I Bankers I deal with, etc. are disgusted. Provincials of course may not have noticed the gross incompetence that is not merely frustrating, but actually dangerous.
I have heard US diplos who proudly have pics of them as Young Republicans with Bush the Father and Reagan despairing openly of American FP in MENA – and not indisciplined youngsters.
If these continued facts do not give you pause in your self-decieving search for partisan reasoning, well, I can only say that Americans deserve the government they have.
For my part, I have witnessed a rising level of disgust among the professionals who while they may not be always correct, are at least not generally gross incompetents.
September 28th, 2006 at 2:52 am
I don’t disagree with you on execution. What I cannot agree with is the implication that I’ve drunk a cup of “Right-Bolshy” kool-aide by suggesting that political angles might have been a consideration in leaking selectively.
Nor am I a simpleminded basher of the State department or the CIA – I’m quite cognizant of the difficulties they face but their institutional and cultural flaws exist and have been noted by many ppl, other than myself, who have no particular love for the Bush administration ( Michael Scheuer and Stansfield Turner leap to mind). At no point would I suggest that what American policy in Iraq suffers from is a mere deficit of ” happy talk” – I’m aware how badly things are going, I get direct feedback from Iraq as well.
What happened with the NIE did not occur in the ME, but in Washington, so ruling out a political motive a priori in terms of multiple causation seems premature.
September 29th, 2006 at 7:36 pm
I don’t oft have the occasion to call you a self decieving idiot, but this is one.
Your diplo service and others rotate through Washington to field every two tours as I understand. The chickens coming home as it were.
Given the unceasing revelations of the sheer and utter incompetence of the current American administration, rather than pissing and moaning about leaks and imaginary partisan political motivations, I would suggest you might more productively wonder why a generally professional service -indeed several- seem to be revolting. Given the disaster that is Iraq and the sheer delusional instanity that is American MENA policy, you might well ask why your penchant for looking for party political explanations makes any sense.