Commentary Magazine


Topic: Navy

From the 2006 Files

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

Read Less

The Centuries-Old Bond Between America and the Jews

The essential new website Jewish Ideas Daily today features a link to an extraordinary document — a letter from the Founding Father Benjamin Rush to his wife describing his experience attending a Jewish wedding ceremony in Philadelphia. Not only is Rush’s description simple, plain, and accurate, then and now, it testifies to the wondrous imaginative sympathy that even these 18th-century Americans had toward the Jewish people, and offers (like George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro synagogue) a glimpse of the unparalleled freedom and friendship this nation would extend toward Jews, ever more generously, as the years went on.

As it turns out, the issue of that marriage, Uriah Levy, was, my friend Robert Frost tells me, “a major figure in the history of the US Navy. In addition to saving Monticello from ruin, he was the Commodore of the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) which was a major accomplishment given that he faced significant anti-semitism in the Navy (not quite Dreyfus, but not fun). The recently opened Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.”

More on Levy’s astonishing life, including his six courts-martial and how his purchase of Monticello proved to be the salvation of Thomas Jefferson’s home, can be found here. It demonstrates that the course of true friendship between America and the Jews was not a simple upward arc.

The essential new website Jewish Ideas Daily today features a link to an extraordinary document — a letter from the Founding Father Benjamin Rush to his wife describing his experience attending a Jewish wedding ceremony in Philadelphia. Not only is Rush’s description simple, plain, and accurate, then and now, it testifies to the wondrous imaginative sympathy that even these 18th-century Americans had toward the Jewish people, and offers (like George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro synagogue) a glimpse of the unparalleled freedom and friendship this nation would extend toward Jews, ever more generously, as the years went on.

As it turns out, the issue of that marriage, Uriah Levy, was, my friend Robert Frost tells me, “a major figure in the history of the US Navy. In addition to saving Monticello from ruin, he was the Commodore of the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) which was a major accomplishment given that he faced significant anti-semitism in the Navy (not quite Dreyfus, but not fun). The recently opened Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.”

More on Levy’s astonishing life, including his six courts-martial and how his purchase of Monticello proved to be the salvation of Thomas Jefferson’s home, can be found here. It demonstrates that the course of true friendship between America and the Jews was not a simple upward arc.

Read Less

Missiles? Yawn

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

Read Less

What Are They Getting for It?

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton’s remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton’s remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

Read Less

Boosting Navy Bandwidth

I recall a few years ago visiting an Aegis cruiser, one of the most advanced warships in the world. In its Combat Information Center, sailors can track dozens of targets and coordinate an entire battle group. So it was more than a little jarring to see that the computers that run everything showed glowing green text on black screens. I didn’t realize there were any pre-Windows computers still around. Yet here they were.

Obviously the armed forces need to do a better job of keeping up with new technology—but that’s not so easy to do given loooong procurement cycles and the demands of security and reliability. Vice Admiral Mark Edwards, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks, addresses that very challenge in the new issue of the Naval Institute’s invaluable magazine, Proceedings. He notes a shocking statistic:

The two-way communication bandwidth of a single Blackberry is three times greater than the bandwidth of the entire Arleigh Burke [-class, Aegis guided-missile] destroyer. Looked at another way, the Navy’s most modern in-service multi-mission warship has only five percent of the bandwidth we have in our home Internet connection.

The problem is that the Navy is not keeping up with Silicon Valley:

As computing capabilities continue to grow exponentially, the costs of computers, servers, storage, and software are coming down. Across the commercial industry worldwide, IT budgets are actually declining as capacity goes up. But in the Navy, the opposite is taking place . . . . Moreover, every system we field takes nearly seven years to reach the Fleet. By the time it gets to the people who need it, it is already out of date. There is no agility or flexibility in our IT.

The answer, he argues, is to switch from “closed” to “open” IT architecture. That is, to end the current practice of buying from “only a few vendors who build highly integrated systems—where the software and hardware are tightly coupled and where interoperability between two or more systems is gained only by building costly middleware.” Instead, “[w]e have to . . . separate our data, hardware, and applications. We need a network architecture that is agile and can be upgraded rapidly. It must be flexible, with the ability to accommodate the expected exponential increase in demand.”

Easier said than done. The idea of an “open” architecture based on commonly available software runs counter to a long-standing military mentality. I am glad to see that Admiral Edwards is implementing reforms in the Navy, but I suspect it will be a long, costly process that is sure to be resisted by more than a few bureaucrats.

And, of course, these problems aren’t limited to the Navy. All of the armed forces rely for the most part on highly specialized, one-of-a-kind computer systems that take far too long and cost far too much to field. Addressing this problem will be crucial for maintaining America’s military edge in the 21st century. For as the Economist put it (in a line quoted by Edwards): “If Napoleon’s armies marched on their stomachs, American ones march on bandwidth.”

I recall a few years ago visiting an Aegis cruiser, one of the most advanced warships in the world. In its Combat Information Center, sailors can track dozens of targets and coordinate an entire battle group. So it was more than a little jarring to see that the computers that run everything showed glowing green text on black screens. I didn’t realize there were any pre-Windows computers still around. Yet here they were.

Obviously the armed forces need to do a better job of keeping up with new technology—but that’s not so easy to do given loooong procurement cycles and the demands of security and reliability. Vice Admiral Mark Edwards, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks, addresses that very challenge in the new issue of the Naval Institute’s invaluable magazine, Proceedings. He notes a shocking statistic:

The two-way communication bandwidth of a single Blackberry is three times greater than the bandwidth of the entire Arleigh Burke [-class, Aegis guided-missile] destroyer. Looked at another way, the Navy’s most modern in-service multi-mission warship has only five percent of the bandwidth we have in our home Internet connection.

The problem is that the Navy is not keeping up with Silicon Valley:

As computing capabilities continue to grow exponentially, the costs of computers, servers, storage, and software are coming down. Across the commercial industry worldwide, IT budgets are actually declining as capacity goes up. But in the Navy, the opposite is taking place . . . . Moreover, every system we field takes nearly seven years to reach the Fleet. By the time it gets to the people who need it, it is already out of date. There is no agility or flexibility in our IT.

The answer, he argues, is to switch from “closed” to “open” IT architecture. That is, to end the current practice of buying from “only a few vendors who build highly integrated systems—where the software and hardware are tightly coupled and where interoperability between two or more systems is gained only by building costly middleware.” Instead, “[w]e have to . . . separate our data, hardware, and applications. We need a network architecture that is agile and can be upgraded rapidly. It must be flexible, with the ability to accommodate the expected exponential increase in demand.”

Easier said than done. The idea of an “open” architecture based on commonly available software runs counter to a long-standing military mentality. I am glad to see that Admiral Edwards is implementing reforms in the Navy, but I suspect it will be a long, costly process that is sure to be resisted by more than a few bureaucrats.

And, of course, these problems aren’t limited to the Navy. All of the armed forces rely for the most part on highly specialized, one-of-a-kind computer systems that take far too long and cost far too much to field. Addressing this problem will be crucial for maintaining America’s military edge in the 21st century. For as the Economist put it (in a line quoted by Edwards): “If Napoleon’s armies marched on their stomachs, American ones march on bandwidth.”

Read Less

Obama and Webb?

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

Read Less

Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Read Less

Sharing with China

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States will release data on the Navy’s successful shootdown of a stricken American reconnaissance satellite. “We are prepared to share whatever appropriately we can,” he noted in remarks to reporters. Gates’s offer came in response to comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. “China is closely following the possible damage to the security of outer space and relevant countries by the U.S. move,” he stated. Liu, calling on the United States to “fulfill its international obligations in earnest,” stated that the Pentagon should “provide necessary information and relevant data to the international community promptly.”

Liu’s request—more like a demand—came in conjunction with sharp comments carried by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, and unwarranted attacks from Beijing’s surrogates in the Chinese academic community. The harsh reaction orchestrated by China’s leaders raises a simple question: Why is Gates agreeing to release any information at all?

The defense secretary, of course, will not provide much, if anything, of technical value, but this is not an issue of supplying classified material to a potential adversary. The issue is the way we are interacting with China. The Chinese, for no good reason, threw a tantrum about this week’s shootdown. So how did we react? We tried to placate them with technical data.

For years we have given Chinese generals and admirals military information in the hopes they would respond in kind. They have almost always failed to do so. For instance, despite repeated requests, they still have not said anything to us about their destruction, with a ground-launched missile, of an old weather satellite in January of last year.

This week, both before and after we shot down our satellite, the Chinese hurled belligerent comments in our direction. Yet we reacted as if they were our long-time partners. They will not even agree to install a phone link connecting our military with theirs, despite our attempts spanning years to put one in place. What kind of “friends” are they?

By rewarding unfriendly conduct, we are encouraging the very behavior we wish to forestall. What Gates should have done yesterday is told the Chinese that we will cooperate with them only if they cooperate with us. It’s time we require reciprocity in our dealings with China. You don’t need a degree in International Relations to come to this conclusion. All you need is common sense.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States will release data on the Navy’s successful shootdown of a stricken American reconnaissance satellite. “We are prepared to share whatever appropriately we can,” he noted in remarks to reporters. Gates’s offer came in response to comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. “China is closely following the possible damage to the security of outer space and relevant countries by the U.S. move,” he stated. Liu, calling on the United States to “fulfill its international obligations in earnest,” stated that the Pentagon should “provide necessary information and relevant data to the international community promptly.”

Liu’s request—more like a demand—came in conjunction with sharp comments carried by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, and unwarranted attacks from Beijing’s surrogates in the Chinese academic community. The harsh reaction orchestrated by China’s leaders raises a simple question: Why is Gates agreeing to release any information at all?

The defense secretary, of course, will not provide much, if anything, of technical value, but this is not an issue of supplying classified material to a potential adversary. The issue is the way we are interacting with China. The Chinese, for no good reason, threw a tantrum about this week’s shootdown. So how did we react? We tried to placate them with technical data.

For years we have given Chinese generals and admirals military information in the hopes they would respond in kind. They have almost always failed to do so. For instance, despite repeated requests, they still have not said anything to us about their destruction, with a ground-launched missile, of an old weather satellite in January of last year.

This week, both before and after we shot down our satellite, the Chinese hurled belligerent comments in our direction. Yet we reacted as if they were our long-time partners. They will not even agree to install a phone link connecting our military with theirs, despite our attempts spanning years to put one in place. What kind of “friends” are they?

By rewarding unfriendly conduct, we are encouraging the very behavior we wish to forestall. What Gates should have done yesterday is told the Chinese that we will cooperate with them only if they cooperate with us. It’s time we require reciprocity in our dealings with China. You don’t need a degree in International Relations to come to this conclusion. All you need is common sense.

Read Less

New Allegations against Iran

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

Read Less

A Thanksgiving Insult

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry, reversing a previous decision, announced that it had given the U.S. Navy’s Kitty Hawk carrier group permission to dock in Hong Kong for a four-day Thanksgiving visit. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that China had, at the last moment, refused permission for the port call. The Navy had already flown hundreds of dependents to that city in anticipation of the long-planned visit, and the six ships of the carrier group had been idling in circles in the South China Sea pending Beijing’s expected approval. The Foreign Ministry gave no explanation for its earlier refusal. It said that its later approval was based on “humanitarian considerations.”

The 8,000 crewmembers of the Kitty Hawk and its fleet spent Thanksgiving steaming back to the carrier’s home port of Yokosuka in Japan. “The ships will not be coming back,” said a spokesman from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. “They are 300 miles out to sea and there is a storm in the area.”

Storm or no storm, the Consulate should have announced that, after Beijing’s petty behavior, the Kitty Hawk would not be returning to Hong Kong—and that the Navy will no longer ask for permission to dock in Hong Kong or other Chinese ports. Why should we try to go where we are treated so poorly?

In 2006, American military personnel spent about $32 million in Hong Kong. Let’s support our friends in the region by calling at their ports, instead of those of petulant autocrats. How about, for instance, docking in Taiwan?

The Chinese were obviously trying to make some point with their insult. There has been speculation as to what they were upset about, but it really does not matter. It’s about time we stopped acting so magnanimously and started to make some points of our own.

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry, reversing a previous decision, announced that it had given the U.S. Navy’s Kitty Hawk carrier group permission to dock in Hong Kong for a four-day Thanksgiving visit. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that China had, at the last moment, refused permission for the port call. The Navy had already flown hundreds of dependents to that city in anticipation of the long-planned visit, and the six ships of the carrier group had been idling in circles in the South China Sea pending Beijing’s expected approval. The Foreign Ministry gave no explanation for its earlier refusal. It said that its later approval was based on “humanitarian considerations.”

The 8,000 crewmembers of the Kitty Hawk and its fleet spent Thanksgiving steaming back to the carrier’s home port of Yokosuka in Japan. “The ships will not be coming back,” said a spokesman from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. “They are 300 miles out to sea and there is a storm in the area.”

Storm or no storm, the Consulate should have announced that, after Beijing’s petty behavior, the Kitty Hawk would not be returning to Hong Kong—and that the Navy will no longer ask for permission to dock in Hong Kong or other Chinese ports. Why should we try to go where we are treated so poorly?

In 2006, American military personnel spent about $32 million in Hong Kong. Let’s support our friends in the region by calling at their ports, instead of those of petulant autocrats. How about, for instance, docking in Taiwan?

The Chinese were obviously trying to make some point with their insult. There has been speculation as to what they were upset about, but it really does not matter. It’s about time we stopped acting so magnanimously and started to make some points of our own.

Read Less

Book Review: God and Gold

In God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, Walter Russell Mead coyly claims that the originality of his interpretation of the roots of Anglo-Saxon primacy rests in its focus on the meaning, as opposed to the mere dimensions, of American power. This is too modest: Mead’s achievement is larger than that. His real accomplishment is to restore religion to its rightful place in the history of Great Britain and the United States, and their roles in the world. This no small feat. It’s hard enough to explain why Britain—a small island in the North Sea lacking all natural resources except coal, potatoes, and herring—rose to be the first of the great powers by 1815, and equally hard to explain how the United States inherited and adapted the British system in the 20th century. Factoring the influence of religion into this dynamic is vastly more difficult, but Mead does an admirable job of it.

The historic grand strategy of Great Britain and the United States, as Mead understands it, is simply told: Britain was the world’s first enduringly liberal modern society, and the first practitioner of an open and dynamic economic system that traded throughout the world, relying on its navy to defend its trade routes. This system provided Britain the resources to fight and win its wars, and the power and self-confidence to promote liberal values and institutions. In the 20th century, the United States, shaped by its British inheritance, took over the role of protector of this maritime order from the totalitarian empires and enemies of modernity that continued to threaten it, of whom al Qaeda is merely the latest example. But the rise of Britain as a liberal capitalist power is only the better known half of the story. While capitalism generates resources and tax revenues on a scale unimaginable to early modern empires, it poses a big problem: the vast expansion of state power. Once the revenues begin to flow, in other words, the challenge becomes limiting the power of the state.

Read More

In God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, Walter Russell Mead coyly claims that the originality of his interpretation of the roots of Anglo-Saxon primacy rests in its focus on the meaning, as opposed to the mere dimensions, of American power. This is too modest: Mead’s achievement is larger than that. His real accomplishment is to restore religion to its rightful place in the history of Great Britain and the United States, and their roles in the world. This no small feat. It’s hard enough to explain why Britain—a small island in the North Sea lacking all natural resources except coal, potatoes, and herring—rose to be the first of the great powers by 1815, and equally hard to explain how the United States inherited and adapted the British system in the 20th century. Factoring the influence of religion into this dynamic is vastly more difficult, but Mead does an admirable job of it.

The historic grand strategy of Great Britain and the United States, as Mead understands it, is simply told: Britain was the world’s first enduringly liberal modern society, and the first practitioner of an open and dynamic economic system that traded throughout the world, relying on its navy to defend its trade routes. This system provided Britain the resources to fight and win its wars, and the power and self-confidence to promote liberal values and institutions. In the 20th century, the United States, shaped by its British inheritance, took over the role of protector of this maritime order from the totalitarian empires and enemies of modernity that continued to threaten it, of whom al Qaeda is merely the latest example. But the rise of Britain as a liberal capitalist power is only the better known half of the story. While capitalism generates resources and tax revenues on a scale unimaginable to early modern empires, it poses a big problem: the vast expansion of state power. Once the revenues begin to flow, in other words, the challenge becomes limiting the power of the state.

The Anglo-Saxon societies surmounted this challenge because of their dynamic religious faith, which provided both a spiritual compass and assurance in the middle of rapid social and economic change and which, as a result of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1689, limited the ability of the monarchy to raise money without the consent of Parliament. The result was that British and American state power left room for both faith in God and the use of human reason, striking a balance between the two. This balancing continues today: the “cultural and political rebalancing the United States is currently witnessing,” writes Mead, is “part of the process by which American society adjust[s] to the rapid pace of change.”

In his book, Mead channels both Adam Smith’s understanding of the role of faith in the making of Anglo-Saxon society, and Alexis de Tocqueville’s convictions that democratic, open, and liberal institutions could not exist unless rooted in a society of believers. The failure of the declared enemies of the Anglo-Saxon order—Mead calls them Waspophobes—to understand the strengths of this order derives precisely from their focus on materialism, and on their failure to arrive at de Tocqueville’s realization that British and American society have, in their faith and their broader civil society, a cultural and intellectual life that is far from simply materialist. (Contemporary liberalism, I would say, suffers in a more mild way from the same deficiency.) Mead’s work, taken as a whole, offers a compelling vision of the roots of American power that is liberal in the truest sense of the word: that is, a study in the importance of human freedom and responsibility.

It is regrettable, therefore, that having run so well, Mead stumbles at the last gate. Throughout his book, Mead’s view is very much the view from 30,000 feet: events like the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, or the Suez Crisis fly by in paragraphs, or even in phrases. The emphasis throughout is on the essential unity of Anglo-Saxon culture, and on the grand strategy that resulted from it. There is much to be said for this vision, unpopular though it will be in some quarters, but by limiting himself to it, Mead misses the essential contribution of Britain and, especially, the United States to the modern world order. It is one thing to claim that the United States was influenced profoundly by British culture and faith. But while there may be an Anglo-Saxon culture, or even an Anglo-Saxon grand strategy, there is no Anglo-Saxon state: 1776 saw to that. The Anglo-Saxons did not invent the state or the diplomatic institutions by which states relate to one another. Nor, as Mead notes, is the Anglo-Saxon form of the state dominant in the world today: the French or Soviet models have a far better claim to that title. The uniqueness of Anglo-Saxon grand strategy is that it emphasized resisting empires and establishing rules of secession and state legitimacy; it was only within the nation-state order that the liberal values with which Britain and the United States identified could be defended.

In this context, the final chapters of Mead’s work are truly perplexing. Indeed, they are so out of tune that they raise the suspicion that Mead included them solely to cover himself on the Left. For, after three hundred pages of praise for the Anglo-Saxon order, he about-faces to argue that the mission of the United States now is to carry out a “diplomacy of civilizations” to assuage the grievances of the Islamic world, grievances that began with the Crusades. The United States now must turn to remedying the “centuries of inequality and oppression” by assuring that Muslims have “due recognition” for their “just and legitimate aspirations”—which Mead recognizes may not be compatible with the existing framework of the liberal maritime order.

Coming at the close of a book dedicated to sympathetic explanation of that order, this is a remarkable claim. It is only proper to note that Mead proposes to make the United States responsible for the resolution of grievances that arose long before it came into existence. Burdening the United States with the responsibility for Arab grievances is bad enough, but to view “the Arab world” as a unified entity is to make the same fundamental error that Mead makes when he writes of the Anglo-Saxons: it is to assume political unity where there are merely cultural commonalities. More concretely, it is to agree with the Islamists that the fall of the Caliphate was an immense tragedy.

Through his advocacy of the “diplomacy of civilizations,” Mead turns his back on the nation-state system and on the international organizations that Britain and the United States have, above all other nations, been responsible for creating. Mead, in fact, places the burden of satisfying the Muslim peoples entirely on the United States. He argues that “pious Muslims of unimpeachable orthodoxy, conspicuous virtue, conservative principles, and great passion for their faith,” not liberal reformers, must bring the Muslim peoples into a dynamic, capitalist, and liberal world.

To make things worse, Mead’s precise policy recommendations for the United States are conspicuous by their absence. His “diplomacy of civilizations” revolves, in the end, around listening more closely to the grievances of the Muslim world. Mead cites the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr as this philosophy’s guiding light. Niebuhr’s role in Mead’s work, as it was in Peter Beinart’s The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (2006), is to serve as a tough-minded but sensitive liberal who was fully aware of the reality of original sin, and, hence, of the need for the United States to be more understanding of its enemies and more aware of its own potential for evil. From all points of view, this is a most implausible picture. Developing a sympathetic understanding of declared enemies of the system is entirely foreign to Anglo-Saxon grand strategy and its values. Elizabeth I, Pitt the Younger, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Reagan had no time for this approach. Neither, in fact, did Niebuhr. His role in history was, in the era of Hitler and Stalin, to tell American liberals to get in the game, to remind them that a relentless focus on their own capacity for evil was demoralizing and destructive, and that there really were worse things in the world than the United States.

Niebuhr is indeed the philosopher that we, and the democratic world, need today. Mead’s work illustrates why. By casting his lot with the Muslim conservatives and accepting their right to set the international agenda of grievances, and by abandoning the Muslim liberals and reformers whom Niebuhr would have celebrated, Mead undermines, rather than reinforces, the order he wisely, if only partially, explains. A true history of the Anglo-Saxon contribution to the making of the modern world would emphasize not only religion and capitalism, but also the transformation of the world of empires into the international state system. Mead’s failure to find this third leg of the triad leads him into historical errors and contemporary fallacies that reveal the pervasive weakness in our understanding of the system that we ourselves have been the leading force in creating. But, by restoring religion to the story, he has already done a very great deal to correct the prevailing vision.

Read Less

Mistakes Were Made

The United States military has lately been having a string of bad luck in its handling of things nuclear. But is it merely bad luck, or something else?

First came the “Bent Spear” incident of August 29, in which the Air Force lost effective control of the whereabouts of a handful of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, the most serious such episode in decades. An Air Force briefing explaining in detail what happened can be found here

Now comes word that the Navy has been derelict as well. Sailors on the submarine USS Hampton neglected required daily safety checks on the ship’s nuclear reactor for a month. They then forged records to cover up their neglect.

The Navy Times broke the story. It quotes a former submarine commander explaining what is at stake:

It’s not that it’s dangerous at the instant. Blowing off the chem sample that day isn’t what’s dangerous, but the operational philosophy adopted by people who would do that, if applied to the other aspects of operating the nuclear-propulsion plant-watch stations or other aspects of the submarine, could be dangerous. That’s what’s scary. Besides, why the hell wouldn’t you check the chem levels? First, that’s the ELT and the CRA’s job. Second, it takes about an hour and a half each day to do it. Third, you’re on a submarine, so it’s not like you’re going to get away with doing nothing on your free time.

At a time when the military is said to be spread thin by commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, these stories are not going to go away. Nor should they. This is an area where the Defense Department simply has to get things right.

The United States military has lately been having a string of bad luck in its handling of things nuclear. But is it merely bad luck, or something else?

First came the “Bent Spear” incident of August 29, in which the Air Force lost effective control of the whereabouts of a handful of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, the most serious such episode in decades. An Air Force briefing explaining in detail what happened can be found here

Now comes word that the Navy has been derelict as well. Sailors on the submarine USS Hampton neglected required daily safety checks on the ship’s nuclear reactor for a month. They then forged records to cover up their neglect.

The Navy Times broke the story. It quotes a former submarine commander explaining what is at stake:

It’s not that it’s dangerous at the instant. Blowing off the chem sample that day isn’t what’s dangerous, but the operational philosophy adopted by people who would do that, if applied to the other aspects of operating the nuclear-propulsion plant-watch stations or other aspects of the submarine, could be dangerous. That’s what’s scary. Besides, why the hell wouldn’t you check the chem levels? First, that’s the ELT and the CRA’s job. Second, it takes about an hour and a half each day to do it. Third, you’re on a submarine, so it’s not like you’re going to get away with doing nothing on your free time.

At a time when the military is said to be spread thin by commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, these stories are not going to go away. Nor should they. This is an area where the Defense Department simply has to get things right.

Read Less

Men in Black

The assault on Blackwater in particular and on the private military industry in general continues unabated, largely because leftists are eager to “prove” that the Bush administration, in cahoots with out-of-control mercenaries, is raping Iraq. For examples, see these typically simplistic columns by Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman, which essentially parrot the one-sided brief against Blackwater prepared by Rep. Henry Waxman’s Democratic staffers.

The fact that Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, happens to be a conservative who has donated to Republican candidates and is part of a wealthy Republican family in Michigan makes his company a particularly attractive target. In reality, as viewers of Tuesday’s hearings before Waxman’s committee could see, Prince does not easily conform to the image of a greedy and corrupt capitalist. With his blond crewcut and ramrod posture, he is about as all-American as you can get, and, though he came from a background of privilege, he volunteered to serve as a Navy SEAL officer—one of the most dangerous and demanding assignments in the entire armed forces.

Read More

The assault on Blackwater in particular and on the private military industry in general continues unabated, largely because leftists are eager to “prove” that the Bush administration, in cahoots with out-of-control mercenaries, is raping Iraq. For examples, see these typically simplistic columns by Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman, which essentially parrot the one-sided brief against Blackwater prepared by Rep. Henry Waxman’s Democratic staffers.

The fact that Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, happens to be a conservative who has donated to Republican candidates and is part of a wealthy Republican family in Michigan makes his company a particularly attractive target. In reality, as viewers of Tuesday’s hearings before Waxman’s committee could see, Prince does not easily conform to the image of a greedy and corrupt capitalist. With his blond crewcut and ramrod posture, he is about as all-American as you can get, and, though he came from a background of privilege, he volunteered to serve as a Navy SEAL officer—one of the most dangerous and demanding assignments in the entire armed forces.

Nor do most of Prince’s employees conform to the stereotype of drunken gunslingers shooting up a town for fun. Most are straight arrows like him with extensive experience in military Special Operations or big-city police SWAT teams. That is not to say that some of them don’t make mistakes or misbehave. But so do some soldiers. The attempts to demonize an entire industry based on the misbehavior of a few are akin to attempts by some to demonize the entire American armed forces based on what happened at Abu Ghraib.

In the Los Angeles Times this morning, I try to put the promise and problems of the private military industry into perspective. One of the points I make is that if we can impose more accountability and oversight on security contractors, we can make more extensive use of them in certain situations where we are not willing to commit our armed forces.

One example I mention is Darfur. Another example is provided in the newest issue (not yet online) of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s journal Orbis, which contains an essay called “Blackwaters for the Blue Waters: The Promise of Private Naval Companies.” The author, Claude Berube, a professor at the Naval Academy, suggests reviving the ancient practice (explicitly recognized in the Constitution) of issuing “letters of marquee” to “privateers,” who would supplement the efforts of our navy in combating drug smugglers, terrorists, and pirates on the high seas. This seems to me a compelling idea. Our navy now has fewer than 300 ships and every single additional ship will cost billions of dollars. Employing private companies at sea could be a cost-effective alternative.

Read Less

What is Behind the Chinese Cyber-Offensive?

Is a Chinese cyber-war against the West underway? Let us connect the dots.

In the most recent episode, earlier this month, Chinese hackers, operating out of Guangzhou and Lanzhou, two regions that are strongholds of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), invaded the computer systems of key German-government ministries in Berlin.

Last November, the United States was hit, and not for the first time. Chinese hackers entered the network of the Naval War College, the Navy’s school for senior officers, forcing the closure of its internal network and the temporary suspension of all email accounts.

That followed an attack in June on the computer systems at Taiwan’s defense ministry and also the American Institute in Taiwan, the de-facto U.S. embassy there.

Then there is Titan Rain, the U.S. codename for an entire series of attacks on U.S. facilities from 2003 to 2005, that included raids on the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, the Defense Information Systems Agency in Arlington, Virginia, and the Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego. All are thought to have originated in China.

The British parliament was also attacked in 2005 by hackers believed to be located in China.

What is behind all these episodes?

Read More

Is a Chinese cyber-war against the West underway? Let us connect the dots.

In the most recent episode, earlier this month, Chinese hackers, operating out of Guangzhou and Lanzhou, two regions that are strongholds of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), invaded the computer systems of key German-government ministries in Berlin.

Last November, the United States was hit, and not for the first time. Chinese hackers entered the network of the Naval War College, the Navy’s school for senior officers, forcing the closure of its internal network and the temporary suspension of all email accounts.

That followed an attack in June on the computer systems at Taiwan’s defense ministry and also the American Institute in Taiwan, the de-facto U.S. embassy there.

Then there is Titan Rain, the U.S. codename for an entire series of attacks on U.S. facilities from 2003 to 2005, that included raids on the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, the Defense Information Systems Agency in Arlington, Virginia, and the Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego. All are thought to have originated in China.

The British parliament was also attacked in 2005 by hackers believed to be located in China.

What is behind all these episodes?

According to “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006,” a U.S. Department of Defense publication, China has been “experimenting with strategy, doctrine, and tactics for information warfare.” The report notes that during a conflict, “information-warfare units could support active PLA forces by conducting ‘hacker attacks’ and network intrusions, or other forms of ‘cyber’ warfare, on an adversary’s military and commercial computer systems, while helping to defend Chinese networks.”

That the Chinese would be developing such a capability is unsurprising. We are developing similar capabilities, as are all advanced military powers. Computer networks are essential to warfare. and the ability to disrupt the enemy’s network while protecting one’s own has become an equally essential task.

Intelligence gathering via illicit entry into computer networks has become an important tool in the espionage toolkit. There are lots of secrets residing in both government and private-sector computers, and it should hardly come as a surprise that the Chinese have been developing techniques for extracting such secrets by clandestine means.

What does come as a surprise are all the recent hacking incidents. We are not at war with China. Neither is Germany or Britain or, arguably, Taiwan. If the hacking is part of a coherent strategy, it would seem to be self-defeating, prompting victim countries to develop countermeasures that make their own systems far more difficult to penetrate in the kind of crisis when the Chinese would really want to turn on their computer-sleuthing and disruption capabilities.

One possibility is that the attacks are being carried out not at governmental direction but by private hackers in China or elsewhere, who are routing their activities through Chinese networks. That is what the Chinese government maintains with some supporting evidence.

Another possibility is that the PLA is operating on its own, without the blessings of Beijing, to hone its capabilities and to test Western responses. Again, there is some evidence to support this theory.

Yet another possibility is that there is less to these incidents than meets the eye. They may in fact reflect the ineptitude of certain ill-prepared sectors of Western governments.

It is useful to keep in mind that major brokerage houses, banks, investment banks, and government central banks use computer networks to move billions of dollars around the world every day. These would be a ripe target for hackers, both inside adversary governments and in the criminal sector. But we seldom hear of any successful attacks against these institutions. Why not? Probably because, given what is at stake, they all put huge resources in computer security. Surely, if they were paying sufficient attention, governments could erect the same kinds of barriers to unauthorized entry.

Finally, there is the possibility that the Chinese government, acting on the basis of motives that are not apparent to us, has opted for short-term at the expense of long-term gain. Governments can do irrational things, and Communist governments, accountable to no one but themselves, doubly so.

In the end, the ongoing Chinese cyber-warfare remains a puzzle. Before we massively retaliate with a cyber-war of our own, it would be useful to get a firm fix on what we are up against.

Read Less

The PLA at 80

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the founding of the world’s largest private army: China’s. The biggest misconception about China’s military is that it belongs to China. Yes, the Chinese state pays for the People’s Liberation Army, but the PLA reports to—and pledges to defend—the Communist Party. On this Army Day, Beijing’s propaganda saluted (as it always does) the army’s 2.3 million members in their capacity as employees and defenders of China’s leading political organization.

This year’s ritualistic expressions of mutual party-army appreciation seem more numerous and passionate than on past anniversaries. President Hu Jintao mentioned the party’s total control over the military at least 15 times in his Army Day speech. Some foreign observers speculate that the excessive declarations are meant to cover up rifts in the military’s leadership or the failure of Hu—who is also the party’s general secretary—to consolidate control over his generals and admirals. (Others say that he is already in charge.)

Here’s a shortcut for those who do not want to devote their lives to studying this impenetrable issue: Beijing operates an abnormal political system and maintains an abnormal relationship with its armed forces. And here’s something else: because the party controls the army (or at least tries to do so), our attempts to establish military-to-military ties are bound to end in failure. It is not just that the Chinese generally believe in secrecy as a powerful military tool (though they do): secrecy lies at the heart of China’s political system, and of its peculiar government-military relationship.

The Bush White House should know this by now. It has done all it can to try to build functional military-to-military relations with China, but has not succeeded. The Chinese continue to ask for assistance—their more recent requests included the arresting gear of aircraft carriers and the training of carrier crews—but they are not willing to reciprocate. We let them tour our navy’s most important base—in Norfolk, VA—in April of this year, but they were not willing to let our Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Mullen, make a visit to a comparable Chinese naval facility. (In response, Mullen, departing from the Bush administration’s renewed emphasis on military ties with China, canceled his planned trip to Beijing.)

On this anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army let’s send the Chinese our birthday greetings—but let’s stop making gifts of our know-how and technology.

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the founding of the world’s largest private army: China’s. The biggest misconception about China’s military is that it belongs to China. Yes, the Chinese state pays for the People’s Liberation Army, but the PLA reports to—and pledges to defend—the Communist Party. On this Army Day, Beijing’s propaganda saluted (as it always does) the army’s 2.3 million members in their capacity as employees and defenders of China’s leading political organization.

This year’s ritualistic expressions of mutual party-army appreciation seem more numerous and passionate than on past anniversaries. President Hu Jintao mentioned the party’s total control over the military at least 15 times in his Army Day speech. Some foreign observers speculate that the excessive declarations are meant to cover up rifts in the military’s leadership or the failure of Hu—who is also the party’s general secretary—to consolidate control over his generals and admirals. (Others say that he is already in charge.)

Here’s a shortcut for those who do not want to devote their lives to studying this impenetrable issue: Beijing operates an abnormal political system and maintains an abnormal relationship with its armed forces. And here’s something else: because the party controls the army (or at least tries to do so), our attempts to establish military-to-military ties are bound to end in failure. It is not just that the Chinese generally believe in secrecy as a powerful military tool (though they do): secrecy lies at the heart of China’s political system, and of its peculiar government-military relationship.

The Bush White House should know this by now. It has done all it can to try to build functional military-to-military relations with China, but has not succeeded. The Chinese continue to ask for assistance—their more recent requests included the arresting gear of aircraft carriers and the training of carrier crews—but they are not willing to reciprocate. We let them tour our navy’s most important base—in Norfolk, VA—in April of this year, but they were not willing to let our Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Mullen, make a visit to a comparable Chinese naval facility. (In response, Mullen, departing from the Bush administration’s renewed emphasis on military ties with China, canceled his planned trip to Beijing.)

On this anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army let’s send the Chinese our birthday greetings—but let’s stop making gifts of our know-how and technology.

Read Less

Command Performance

The recent spate of appointments of admirals to top “joint” jobs within the U.S. armed forces is, so to speak, making waves within the military. The Army feels especially miffed that, at a time when it is carrying the major burden of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its representation in the most senior jobs is as low as it’s ever been.

As an Associated Press article notes, “Of the U.S. military’s nine combat commands, only two are run by Army generals, and that number will be cut in half when Bryan Brown retires next month as the senior officer at U.S. Special Operations Command.”

General Brown, a veteran of Army Special Operations Forces, is being replaced by Admiral Eric Olson, a veteran SEAL. At the same time, Admiral Mike Mullen, the current Chief of Naval Operations (i.e., the Navy chief of staff), has been nominated to replace Marine General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; his deputy will be Marine General James Cartwright.

In other personnel shifts, Admiral James Stavridis became head of Southern Command last fall, while more recently Admiral Timothy Keating has become head of Pacific Command. The latter is a traditional Navy billet. But what really rankles the Army is that Keating’s predecessor, Admiral William Fallon, has taken over Central Command (covering the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia), whose leadership traditionally has rotated between the Army and Marine Corps. Of the nine unified combatant commands, the Army will be left with just one—European Command, where General Bantz Craddock is the boss.

Read More

The recent spate of appointments of admirals to top “joint” jobs within the U.S. armed forces is, so to speak, making waves within the military. The Army feels especially miffed that, at a time when it is carrying the major burden of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its representation in the most senior jobs is as low as it’s ever been.

As an Associated Press article notes, “Of the U.S. military’s nine combat commands, only two are run by Army generals, and that number will be cut in half when Bryan Brown retires next month as the senior officer at U.S. Special Operations Command.”

General Brown, a veteran of Army Special Operations Forces, is being replaced by Admiral Eric Olson, a veteran SEAL. At the same time, Admiral Mike Mullen, the current Chief of Naval Operations (i.e., the Navy chief of staff), has been nominated to replace Marine General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; his deputy will be Marine General James Cartwright.

In other personnel shifts, Admiral James Stavridis became head of Southern Command last fall, while more recently Admiral Timothy Keating has become head of Pacific Command. The latter is a traditional Navy billet. But what really rankles the Army is that Keating’s predecessor, Admiral William Fallon, has taken over Central Command (covering the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia), whose leadership traditionally has rotated between the Army and Marine Corps. Of the nine unified combatant commands, the Army will be left with just one—European Command, where General Bantz Craddock is the boss.

Suspicious souls within the Army are starting to wonder if there is a conspiracy against the men and women in green, perhaps a holdover from the tenure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was intensely suspicious of the Army for not being in synch with his high-tech (and highly misguided) plans to “transform” the armed forces. Or perhaps, some self-flagellating Army officers speculate, this is a sign that their service isn’t doing a good job of producing competent senior leaders.

Both explanations are plausible. But it’s also possible that there may be less here than meets the eye.

Consider that the Army at the moment holds the two most important combat commands in the entire U.S. armed forces. General David Petraeus is the senior commander in Iraq, while General Dan McNeill is the senior commander in Afghanistan. Neither position is as publicly prestigious as that of combatant commander. But those jobs are of much greater actual significance at the moment than running, say, Southern Command (with responsibility for Latin America). They are probably even more significant than running Central Command—which may be why Defense Secretary Robert Gates felt free to appoint an admiral to that position, knowing that our land wars would still be run by army four-stars.

These trends also tend to go in cycles. Not long ago the Army was grousing not about Navy admirals but about Marine Corps generals, said to be “overrepresented” in senior Army ranks. Marines, for their part, were upset that two Army generals—Tommy Franks and John Abizaid—had taken successive charge of Centcom. Many wondered why a leatherneck (such as the eminently qualified Lieutenant General Jim Mattis) wasn’t picked.

My sense—and it’s only a sense, since I have no inside information—is that the top jobs are filled nowadays based more on personal qualifications than on service politics. It’s who you know and what your reputation is that count, rather than which uniform you wear. And since the top jobs are so political, it’s often the most astute political infighter, rather than the most brilliant and inspired leader, who gets the appointment.

But the recent appointments do seem to reflect a decline in intra-service parochialism—precisely what the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act was supposed to accomplish. So the latest appointments should not occasion too much grinding of teeth, even in the Army. After all, before long the other services may well be complaining about too many green-suiters at the top.

Read Less

Warships for China?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed optimism about our military relations with Beijing at the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, the preeminent security conference in Asia. American efforts could be complimentary to, not competitive with, those of China, he said at the Singapore conclave. Gates listed the areas where China and America share security interests, such as terrorism, proliferation, and energy security. But he left one major issue off the list—the construction of large warships.

This is particularly disturbing in light of the remarks made by Admiral Timothy Keating in Beijing last month. Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said he found his host country’s ambition to build an aircraft carrier “understandable.” After talks with China’s navy chief, Admiral Wu Shengli, Keating offered to help the Chinese build a carrier “to the degree that they seek and the degree that we’re capable.”

Will the Chinese seek to build a carrier? Without a doubt. They have been contemplating the prospect for decades, going so far as to purchase the hulks of one Australian and three Soviet carriers for purposes of reverse-engineering. Recently, Chinese military representatives have been touring international air shows to find strike planes that can be launched at sea. And the U.S. is, of course, capable of helping them build carriers. The only thing that prevents Keating from handing over the plans to the Nimitz is American legislation: a Tiananmen-era ban on military exports to China, as well as a strict limit, enacted later, on military exchanges.

Read More

Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed optimism about our military relations with Beijing at the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, the preeminent security conference in Asia. American efforts could be complimentary to, not competitive with, those of China, he said at the Singapore conclave. Gates listed the areas where China and America share security interests, such as terrorism, proliferation, and energy security. But he left one major issue off the list—the construction of large warships.

This is particularly disturbing in light of the remarks made by Admiral Timothy Keating in Beijing last month. Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said he found his host country’s ambition to build an aircraft carrier “understandable.” After talks with China’s navy chief, Admiral Wu Shengli, Keating offered to help the Chinese build a carrier “to the degree that they seek and the degree that we’re capable.”

Will the Chinese seek to build a carrier? Without a doubt. They have been contemplating the prospect for decades, going so far as to purchase the hulks of one Australian and three Soviet carriers for purposes of reverse-engineering. Recently, Chinese military representatives have been touring international air shows to find strike planes that can be launched at sea. And the U.S. is, of course, capable of helping them build carriers. The only thing that prevents Keating from handing over the plans to the Nimitz is American legislation: a Tiananmen-era ban on military exports to China, as well as a strict limit, enacted later, on military exchanges.

But why would the U.S. Navy offer to help the Chinese build a carrier? Keating put it very simply: the construction of warships is “not an area where we would want any tension to arise unnecessarily.” The prevailing theory at the highest levels of the Navy, apparently, is that America can avoid problems in the future by placating the Chinese today.

In the course of these discussions, Keating made no mention of the fact that the U.S. Navy has spent much of this decade ignoring a pattern of hostile Chinese conduct. In 2001, the United States reacted to China’s reckless downing of an EP-3 reconnaissance plane and its unjustifiable detention of the crew by apologizing to China—but even that did not satisfy Beijing. In 2002, a Chinese vessel attempted to ram the unarmed USNS Bowditch in international waters. Last October, a Chinese sub surfaced in the middle of the Kitty Hawk carrier group—an unambiguously threatening gesture. Keating, with his latest offers of assistance to Beijing, was merely continuing a failed policy of engagement—and, in doing so, was doubtless taking his cue from those higher up the chain of command.

“As we gain experience in dealing with each other,” Gates said of China in his Singapore speech, “relationships can be forged that will build trust over time.” Unfortunately, our defense secretary has got it all wrong. Our experience in dealing with China over the past decade indicates we should be forging a relationship built on less trust—and on a greater awareness of unavoidable military competition.

Read Less

EEOC Meets CIA

John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.

Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”

Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.

John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.

Read More

John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.

Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”

Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.

John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.

The 9/11 commission was certainly correct that the old order was profoundly flawed. Indeed a long line of CIA directors recognized the contradictory limitations of their position, which seemed to grant them control over the entire U.S. intelligence effort but actually did not. James Schlesinger, who ran the agency for a spell, noted way back in 1971, in a top-secret memo to Richard Nixon, that a series of Presidents had exhorted directors of the CIA “to play the role of [intelligence] community leader and coordinator, but [their] authority over the community has remained minimal.”

But the 9/11 commission’s remedy may well prove to be worse than the disease it was meant to cure. The staff of 1,500 or so employees who now report to the DNI are no doubt among the best and the brightest in the intelligence community. But is this a virtue or a vice? Top talent has been drawn away from the task of actually collecting and interpreting intelligence and into the job of bureaucratic coordination.

What is more, the office of the Director of National Intelligence—the ODNI—is inexorably taking on many of the dysfunctional characteristics of the agencies beneath it, including a seemingly ineradicable preoccupation with affirmative action. As DNI, Negroponte certainly had his hands full with this issue. Even while working tirelessly to avert a second 9/11, he also felt compelled to toil hand in glove with an interagency body called the Diversity Senior Advisory Panel for the Intelligence Community (DSAPIC) to understand “the causes of the under-representation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities” in the intelligence community. This body came up with a plan, Diversity: A National Security Imperative for the Intelligence Community, that made Negroponte confident that the intelligence community would reach its “goal of a work force that looks like America.”

Never mind that a far more urgent “national-security imperative” would be to have an intelligence community that looks not like America but like our key intelligence targets, including Iran or North Korea or Lebanon, where we are flailing around in the dark. Under John McConnell the mindless commitment to diversity evidently persists. It could not be an accident that on the ODNI’s organizational chart the “Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Officer” occupies one of the most prominent spots, positioned on the same line as the director himself.

One would have hoped that the top of the chart would have been occupied by a benignly titled slot like “director of special projects,” whose real job would be to think through how to identify and apprehend home-grown jihadists. A most important fact to bear in mind is that it was not the ODNI or the CIA or the FBI that broke the plot now brought to an end in New Jersey, but a sharp-eyed video-rental clerk.

To apply for a position at the ODNI, click here.

To fight terrorism, click here.

Read Less

Britain’s Humiliation

An American friend asks what I, as an Englishman, think about the hostage affair. My answer is that words cannot express how sickened, humiliated, soiled, contaminated, and ashamed I feel.

I feel sickened by the fact that a ship in the navy of Nelson could be captured without a shot being fired, and that British sailors and marines could participate in propaganda stunts that go far beyond the old rubric of giving name, rank and number only, and finally parade before Ahmadinejad to beg his forgiveness.

I feel humiliated by the impotence of our government and armed forces in the face of naked aggression, a humiliation compounded by the disloyalty of our European partners and the refusal of Russia and China to support British forces kidnapped while carrying out a UN mission.

Read More

An American friend asks what I, as an Englishman, think about the hostage affair. My answer is that words cannot express how sickened, humiliated, soiled, contaminated, and ashamed I feel.

I feel sickened by the fact that a ship in the navy of Nelson could be captured without a shot being fired, and that British sailors and marines could participate in propaganda stunts that go far beyond the old rubric of giving name, rank and number only, and finally parade before Ahmadinejad to beg his forgiveness.

I feel humiliated by the impotence of our government and armed forces in the face of naked aggression, a humiliation compounded by the disloyalty of our European partners and the refusal of Russia and China to support British forces kidnapped while carrying out a UN mission.

I feel soiled by the apologists for Iran who pervade our airwaves and press, led by the former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, now chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. Lamont claims that Tony Blair’s support for American policy is to blame for Iran’s hostility, and that the release of the hostages proves that “neocons” were wrong to urge a tough line.

I feel contaminated by the sight of Ahmadinejad posing as a benefactor even as he orders yet more terrorist attacks in Iraq. One of the most recent: a bomb that killed four British soldiers and an interpreter in Basra just as the hostages were being released.

I feel ashamed of Patricia Hewitt, our health secretary, who criticized the woman sailor held hostage for smoking a cigarette, but said nothing about the indignity of her being deprived of her uniform, forced to wear a Muslim headscarf, and patronized by Ahmadinejad because she was a mother.

Tony Blair waited until the sailors and marines were safely home before reminding the British people that Iran is arming, financing, and inciting terrorism throughout the region while defying the will of the international community in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, reported the prime minister’s remarks as responding to a gesture of friendship from Iran with “a slap in the face.”

In reality, Blair has been frustrated by his inability to respond more robustly to the Iranian provocation. America’s former ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, told the BBC that the Iranians were testing the British to see if there would be any price to pay for their outrageous behavior. Now they had their answer, said Bolton: “Softly, softly.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

The Iranians will be emboldened, realizing that the media’s sentimentality in hostage crises imposes a crippling handicap on Western leaders who, like Blair, wish to avoid appeasement at all costs. Negotiations with Tehran almost certainly made no difference to Ahmadinejad’s decision. (They may even have been counter-productive in their bestowal of a spurious legitimacy on Iran.) Such negotiations were nonetheless demanded by the arbiters of public opinion in preference to other diplomatic or military responses.

In the U.S., Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi are demanding similar negotiations with Syria. Wrong for Iran; wrong for Syria. To jaw-jaw may, as Churchill said to Eisenhower in 1954, always be better than to war-war, but not if the guy you are jaw-jawing with is quietly war-warring behind your back.

Read Less

Time to Close Gitmo

The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favor the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My friend David Rivkin has now co-authored an article with Lee Casey in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of keeping terrorist suspects locked up in Gitmo. My heart is with Rivkin and Casey, but my head tells me that Gates and Rice are probably right at this juncture.

On the merits, Rivkin and Casey have, to coin a term, a slam-dunk case. Terrorists captured on the battlefield can’t be treated with the niceties of normal criminal law. Even if there isn’t sufficient evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some terrorists are so dangerous that they need to be locked up anyway. And Gitmo is as good a place as any to keep them confined. It’s on a U.S. naval base but beyond the jurisdiction of domestic criminal law, and the facilities there are now as nice as any in a domestic prison.

Read More

The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favor the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My friend David Rivkin has now co-authored an article with Lee Casey in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of keeping terrorist suspects locked up in Gitmo. My heart is with Rivkin and Casey, but my head tells me that Gates and Rice are probably right at this juncture.

On the merits, Rivkin and Casey have, to coin a term, a slam-dunk case. Terrorists captured on the battlefield can’t be treated with the niceties of normal criminal law. Even if there isn’t sufficient evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some terrorists are so dangerous that they need to be locked up anyway. And Gitmo is as good a place as any to keep them confined. It’s on a U.S. naval base but beyond the jurisdiction of domestic criminal law, and the facilities there are now as nice as any in a domestic prison.

I completely understand why the Bush administration decided to go down this route. Unfortunately, unfair as it is, the President’s decision to confine terrorism suspects at Gitmo has turned into an international debacle. Al Qaeda members have skillfully played on the sympathies of foreign audiences by claiming all sorts of abuse. Even if the claims are false—as most surely are—they have been widely believed. Gitmo has been demonized, especially in Europe and the Middle East, as some kind of American Gulag. The allegations are absurd but they have become the received wisdom abroad—in part because the administration has done such a poor job of defending its detention policies.

The public relations damage is so severe and continuing that I’m afraid it probably warrants closing Gitmo. Of course that doesn’t mean the detainees should be released to return to a reign of terror. Ship them to other detention facilities in the U.S. or abroad—for instance the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where dirty-bomb suspect Jose Padilla was held. Rivkin and Casey are right that some “human-rights advocates” will never be satisfied until all terrorist suspects are granted trials either in domestic courts or, better still, in the International Criminal Court. It is worthwhile exploring whether laws and procedures can be created to make this a viable prospect; it is very much in our interest to have an international tribunal that can imprison international terrorists, taking the onus off us. In the meantime, simply closing Gitmo will have tremendous symbolic value and will allow us to win a valuable victory in the court of international opinion. That, in turn, will make it easier to win the kind of cooperation abroad we need to successfully prosecute the struggle against jihadist extremism.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.