Commentary Magazine


Topic: Senate Armed Services Committee

One More Reason Why the Military Is Among the Most Trusted of Institutions

I wanted to issue a concurring opinion to what Max wrote. I suspect the opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will, over time, appear either misplaced or exaggerated. Because social attitudes have shifted on gay rights so dramatically since the early 1990s, I rather doubt that the fears of DADT critics will be realized. As Max points out, the military has shown an impressive ability to adjust to shifting social mores. And other nations have adjusted fairly well to having openly gay members serve in the military.

I would add that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a persuasive argument, I think, in favor of congressional repeal because he foresaw a judgment by courts overturning the law. A legal judgment would require instant compliance, Gates warned, whereas a congressional repeal would allow time for the military to adapt.

Marine Corps commandant General James Amos was the most passionate advocate among the service chiefs against repealing DADT. “Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” Amos said in explaining his views on DADT. “That’s the currency of this fight. I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” But now that the decision has been made, General Amos pledged to lead the effort to integrate openly gay Marines. Here is the text of the statement:

Fidelity is the essence of the United States Marine Corps. Above all else, we are loyal to the Constitution, our Commander in Chief, Congress, our Chain of Command, and the American people.  The House of Representatives and the Senate have voted to repeal Title 10, US Code 654 “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the United States Armed Forces.” As stated during my testimony before Congress in September and again during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, the Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy. I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines. On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years.

Whatever one thinks of General Amos’s opposition to repealing DADT, his action today is quite impressive, and quite important. It’s also yet more evidence as to why the military is among the most trusted institutions in American life.

I wanted to issue a concurring opinion to what Max wrote. I suspect the opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will, over time, appear either misplaced or exaggerated. Because social attitudes have shifted on gay rights so dramatically since the early 1990s, I rather doubt that the fears of DADT critics will be realized. As Max points out, the military has shown an impressive ability to adjust to shifting social mores. And other nations have adjusted fairly well to having openly gay members serve in the military.

I would add that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a persuasive argument, I think, in favor of congressional repeal because he foresaw a judgment by courts overturning the law. A legal judgment would require instant compliance, Gates warned, whereas a congressional repeal would allow time for the military to adapt.

Marine Corps commandant General James Amos was the most passionate advocate among the service chiefs against repealing DADT. “Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” Amos said in explaining his views on DADT. “That’s the currency of this fight. I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” But now that the decision has been made, General Amos pledged to lead the effort to integrate openly gay Marines. Here is the text of the statement:

Fidelity is the essence of the United States Marine Corps. Above all else, we are loyal to the Constitution, our Commander in Chief, Congress, our Chain of Command, and the American people.  The House of Representatives and the Senate have voted to repeal Title 10, US Code 654 “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the United States Armed Forces.” As stated during my testimony before Congress in September and again during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, the Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy. I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines. On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years.

Whatever one thinks of General Amos’s opposition to repealing DADT, his action today is quite impressive, and quite important. It’s also yet more evidence as to why the military is among the most trusted institutions in American life.

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Going-Out-of-Business Sale in the Senate

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

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The Magic Words

Politico reports that during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus, named by President Obama to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was pressed by Senator Lindsey Graham on a recent letter sent by anti-war congresswoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tying support for war funding to a plan for withdrawal.

Under continued questioning from Graham, Petraeus said that putting such conditions on war funding “would be contrary to the whole policy, which is conditions based.”

Those words — “conditions based” — are vital. They demonstrate to both our friends and our enemies that we’re not foolishly committed to withdrawal on an arbitrary date (in this case, July 2011). That Petraeus used these words isn’t surprising; he knows how to run and win a war. But it would help a great deal if his command in chief would as well.

Politico reports that during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus, named by President Obama to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was pressed by Senator Lindsey Graham on a recent letter sent by anti-war congresswoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tying support for war funding to a plan for withdrawal.

Under continued questioning from Graham, Petraeus said that putting such conditions on war funding “would be contrary to the whole policy, which is conditions based.”

Those words — “conditions based” — are vital. They demonstrate to both our friends and our enemies that we’re not foolishly committed to withdrawal on an arbitrary date (in this case, July 2011). That Petraeus used these words isn’t surprising; he knows how to run and win a war. But it would help a great deal if his command in chief would as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.'”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire — the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.'”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire — the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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RE: The Jihadist Attack on Times Square

John McCain is worried the Obami haven’t learned anything from the Christmas Day bombing attack:

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime leading Republican on national security issues, said he expected the suspect in the case could face charges that might warrant a death sentence if convicted.

“Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

“Don’t give this guy his miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

Well, that seems to be a good query for the Washington press corps. Did we even bother to assess the risks and benefits of Mirandizing a terror suspect this time around? Last time the administration seemed to operate on automatic pilot. We’ll find out if they have internalized any of the lessons of the Christmas Day bomber, or whether, as it always is the case with this crew, they simply didn’t get the communications plan right last time.

John McCain is worried the Obami haven’t learned anything from the Christmas Day bombing attack:

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime leading Republican on national security issues, said he expected the suspect in the case could face charges that might warrant a death sentence if convicted.

“Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

“Don’t give this guy his miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

Well, that seems to be a good query for the Washington press corps. Did we even bother to assess the risks and benefits of Mirandizing a terror suspect this time around? Last time the administration seemed to operate on automatic pilot. We’ll find out if they have internalized any of the lessons of the Christmas Day bomber, or whether, as it always is the case with this crew, they simply didn’t get the communications plan right last time.

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A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel

Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” As if to illustrate the point, consider the misleading commentary that continues to emerge, attributing anti-Israeli sentiment to Gen. David Petraeus. I already knocked down one fallacious Web item written by terrorist groupie Mark Perry on Foreign Policy’s web site. The meme has also been refuted by other Foreign Policy contributors.

But Media Matters, the far-Left activist group founded by David Brock, continues to peddle this twaddle. Its website proclaims: “On The Middle East: It’s Palin vs. Petraeus & New Poll.” They quote statements made by Sarah Palin supportive of Israel and critical of the Obama administration’s attempts to pressure Israel on West Bank settlements and then gleefully proclaim: “But that isn’t how Petraeus sees it.” The item goes on:

Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian issue before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Petraeus said:

“The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests… Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas….”

Actually, that’s not what Petraeus said. Rather, it’s pulled from the 56-page Central Command “Posture Statement” filed by his staff with the Senate Armed Services Committee. A better indication of what is on the general’s mind is what he actually said. If you check the transcript of the hearing (available on Federal News Service) you will find that he doesn’t mention Israel or its settlements in his opening statement, which provides an overview of the most pressing issues that he sees affecting his Area of Responsibility. He talks about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, information operations, and cyberspace — but not Israel. The only time Israel came up was when Senator McCain asked Petraeus for his views. Here is what Petraeus said, in its entirety:

We keep a very close eye on what goes on there [in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip], because of the impact that it has, obviously, on that part of CENTCOM that is the Arab world, if you will. And in fact, we’ve urged at various times that this is a critical component. It’s one reason, again, we invite Senator Mitchell to brief all of the different conferences that we host, and seek to support him in any way that we can when he’s in the Central Command part of the region, just as we support Lieutenant General Dayton, who is supporting the training of the Palestinian security forces from a location that is in the CENTCOM AOR as well.

And in fact, although some staff members have, various times, and I have discussed and — you know, asking for the Palestinian territories or something like that to be added to — we have never — I have never made that a formal recommendation for the Unified Command Plan, and that was not in what I submitted this year. Nor have I sent a memo to the White House on any of this — which some of this was in the press, so I welcome the opportunity to point that out.

Again, clearly, the tensions, the issues and so forth have an enormous effect. They set the strategic context within which we operate in the Central Command area of responsibility. My thrust has generally been, literally, just to say — to encourage that process that can indeed get that recognition that you talked about, and indeed get a sense of progress moving forward in the overall peace process, because of the effect that it has on particularly what I think you would term the moderate governments in our area. And that really is about the extent of our involvement in that, Senator.

So there you have it. General Petraeus obviously doesn’t see the Israeli-Arab “peace process” as a top issue for his command, because he didn’t even raise it in his opening statement. When he was pressed on it, he made a fairly anodyne statement about the need to encourage negotiations to help moderate Arab regimes. That’s it. He didn’t say that all settlements had to be stopped or that Israel is to blame for the lack of progress in negotiations. And he definitely didn’t say that the administration should engineer a crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations in order to end the construction of new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem. In fact, his view, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is that settlements are only “one of many issues, among which also is the unwillingness to recognize Israel and the unwillingness to confront the extremists who threaten Israelis.”

I doubt that Sarah Palin would disagree.

Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” As if to illustrate the point, consider the misleading commentary that continues to emerge, attributing anti-Israeli sentiment to Gen. David Petraeus. I already knocked down one fallacious Web item written by terrorist groupie Mark Perry on Foreign Policy’s web site. The meme has also been refuted by other Foreign Policy contributors.

But Media Matters, the far-Left activist group founded by David Brock, continues to peddle this twaddle. Its website proclaims: “On The Middle East: It’s Palin vs. Petraeus & New Poll.” They quote statements made by Sarah Palin supportive of Israel and critical of the Obama administration’s attempts to pressure Israel on West Bank settlements and then gleefully proclaim: “But that isn’t how Petraeus sees it.” The item goes on:

Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian issue before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Petraeus said:

“The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests… Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas….”

Actually, that’s not what Petraeus said. Rather, it’s pulled from the 56-page Central Command “Posture Statement” filed by his staff with the Senate Armed Services Committee. A better indication of what is on the general’s mind is what he actually said. If you check the transcript of the hearing (available on Federal News Service) you will find that he doesn’t mention Israel or its settlements in his opening statement, which provides an overview of the most pressing issues that he sees affecting his Area of Responsibility. He talks about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, information operations, and cyberspace — but not Israel. The only time Israel came up was when Senator McCain asked Petraeus for his views. Here is what Petraeus said, in its entirety:

We keep a very close eye on what goes on there [in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip], because of the impact that it has, obviously, on that part of CENTCOM that is the Arab world, if you will. And in fact, we’ve urged at various times that this is a critical component. It’s one reason, again, we invite Senator Mitchell to brief all of the different conferences that we host, and seek to support him in any way that we can when he’s in the Central Command part of the region, just as we support Lieutenant General Dayton, who is supporting the training of the Palestinian security forces from a location that is in the CENTCOM AOR as well.

And in fact, although some staff members have, various times, and I have discussed and — you know, asking for the Palestinian territories or something like that to be added to — we have never — I have never made that a formal recommendation for the Unified Command Plan, and that was not in what I submitted this year. Nor have I sent a memo to the White House on any of this — which some of this was in the press, so I welcome the opportunity to point that out.

Again, clearly, the tensions, the issues and so forth have an enormous effect. They set the strategic context within which we operate in the Central Command area of responsibility. My thrust has generally been, literally, just to say — to encourage that process that can indeed get that recognition that you talked about, and indeed get a sense of progress moving forward in the overall peace process, because of the effect that it has on particularly what I think you would term the moderate governments in our area. And that really is about the extent of our involvement in that, Senator.

So there you have it. General Petraeus obviously doesn’t see the Israeli-Arab “peace process” as a top issue for his command, because he didn’t even raise it in his opening statement. When he was pressed on it, he made a fairly anodyne statement about the need to encourage negotiations to help moderate Arab regimes. That’s it. He didn’t say that all settlements had to be stopped or that Israel is to blame for the lack of progress in negotiations. And he definitely didn’t say that the administration should engineer a crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations in order to end the construction of new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem. In fact, his view, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is that settlements are only “one of many issues, among which also is the unwillingness to recognize Israel and the unwillingness to confront the extremists who threaten Israelis.”

I doubt that Sarah Palin would disagree.

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McCain on Obama’s “Serious Mistake” in the War on Terror

The Left has often pointed to Sen. John McCain as an exemplar of correct and moralistic thinking on the war on terror, especially when he was criticizing the Bush administration on enhanced interrogation methods. But oddly, they’ve chosen to ignore his position on Obama’s ill-conceived policies. Don’t expect to see this exchange touted in the left-wing blogosphere:

WALLACE: What do you think of the president’s plan — apparent plan to send up to 100 detainees from Guantanamo to a prison in rural Illinois?

MCCAIN: I think it’s a serious mistake, and I think that the way to dispose of the — of this issue is by having an overall policy.

Right now they’re going to — they’re going to try terrorists in New York City, thereby giving Khalid Sheik Mohammed what he wanted when he was captured. He said, “I want a trial in the United States and a lawyer.” I think they’re making a serious mistake.

WALLACE: What’s wrong with Thompson, Illinois?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think that it’s anywhere in the United States. It’s not the fact that it’s Thompson, Illinois. It’s any …

WALLACE: No, but what’s wrong …

MCCAIN: … any place.

WALLACE: … with sending them there?

MCCAIN: I think that they should be either sentenced to have the kind of military commissions that we have outlined in law and may make — have to make additional changes to, and — because they are enemy combatants, and I don’t think they should be kept in prison in the United States. Read More

The Left has often pointed to Sen. John McCain as an exemplar of correct and moralistic thinking on the war on terror, especially when he was criticizing the Bush administration on enhanced interrogation methods. But oddly, they’ve chosen to ignore his position on Obama’s ill-conceived policies. Don’t expect to see this exchange touted in the left-wing blogosphere:

WALLACE: What do you think of the president’s plan — apparent plan to send up to 100 detainees from Guantanamo to a prison in rural Illinois?

MCCAIN: I think it’s a serious mistake, and I think that the way to dispose of the — of this issue is by having an overall policy.

Right now they’re going to — they’re going to try terrorists in New York City, thereby giving Khalid Sheik Mohammed what he wanted when he was captured. He said, “I want a trial in the United States and a lawyer.” I think they’re making a serious mistake.

WALLACE: What’s wrong with Thompson, Illinois?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think that it’s anywhere in the United States. It’s not the fact that it’s Thompson, Illinois. It’s any …

WALLACE: No, but what’s wrong …

MCCAIN: … any place.

WALLACE: … with sending them there?

MCCAIN: I think that they should be either sentenced to have the kind of military commissions that we have outlined in law and may make — have to make additional changes to, and — because they are enemy combatants, and I don’t think they should be kept in prison in the United States.

Well, in point of fact, McCain has long argued for military commissions and never sided with the ACLU types who want full constitutional rights and civilian trials for terrorists, but this was largely ignored by the netroots looking only for comments that might support their views on the matter. In this regard, McCain is in perfect accord with former prosecutor Andy McCarthy (who vigorously disagreed with McCain on enhanced interrogation). As McCarthy pointed out recently, the arguments in favor of the detainee transfer are based on misunderstandings and misrepresentations as to the consequences of the move. He points to Sen. Dick Durbin’s unsupported contention that detainees moved to Illinois couldn’t be set free:

Nevertheless, Durbin is being disingenuous — doubly disingenuous, in fact. First, the principal fear is no longer that the Obama administration will try to free the terrorists and relocate them here. It is that the federal courts will order the release of the detainees. And second, the senator’s brave assurance that if “a detainee is found not guilty, he will not be released inside the United States” is a smokescreen. As he well knows, most of the Gitmo terrorists are not going to be found guilty or found not guilty — they’re not going to be tried at all. . .

So we have custody of extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried and who will not be taken off our hands by any trustworthy country. Their detention is now being scrutinized by judges who are skeptical of the traditional military practice of indefinite detention without trial. Some of us have implored Congress to enact rules of procedure for terrorist-detention hearings that would stop judges from favoring the terrorists over the military. But Democrats like Senator Durbin have turned a deaf ear, preferring to watch the judges make up the rules as they go along.

It’s a measure of how extreme and ill-advised the Obami’s war-on-terror policies are that those who previously tangled over the Bush administration’s approach are now in full agreement. It might be illuminating to have Attorney General Eric Holder come before the Senate Armed Services Committee or the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to be grilled by McCain on the administration’s policies. Now that would be worth watching.

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Buchanan’s Iran Pretzel

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

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More on the Hearings

There are many things to say about today’s Senate testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. But what has struck me, so far, are the following.

The first is that in Petraeus and Crocker you see two men who embody excellence, a wonderful thing to see in any field of human endeavor. It’s especially comforting to find it in a place as important and fragile as Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are informed, careful, candid, and wholly in command. They have a complicated story to tell–and they tell it very, very well.

The second thing I noticed was how respectful and strong Petraeus and Crocker are. Senator Bayh (D-Indiana), for example, asked a question whose purpose was to get General Petraeus to say that those who disagree with Petraeus’ strategy are just as patriotic as those who agree with his strategy. General Petraeus made the right and obvious rejoinder: one of the reasons we fight for freedom is to allow people to hold different opinions. But he also made a powerful case that (these are my words, not his) not all opinions are equally valid or informed – and that the wrong opinions, animating wrong decisions, can have terrible consequences.

The third thing that jumped out at me is the vast ignorance of many Senators. For example, Senator McCaskill (D-Missouri) appears wed to a particular (defeatist) narrative regarding Basra: it was, she insisted, a terrible loss for Prime Minister Maliki, a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr, and evidence that the Iraq project is falling apart.

Ambassador Crocker patiently explained why this interpretation is wrong. He pointed out that there is actually fairly widespread support throughout Iraq for Maliki’s efforts, that there is a strong popular reaction against Shia militias, and that Sadr appears to be putting some distance between himself and elements of the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) militia. These are all important data points.

General Petraeus made many of the same observations in response to previous questions. He pointed out that planning of the Basra operation left a lot to be desired–but that the Iraqi government’s willingness to take the battle to the enemy was encouraging. He acknowledged the troubling defections we saw within the ranks of the Iraqis–and told about the very impressive and heartening conduct of most of the ISF. Things are still playing out in Basra–but some of the early stumbles seem to have been corrected, adjustments are being made, and things are better now than they were. This is, in some ways, the story of Iraq writ large.

What we’re getting, and not only from Senators critical of the war, is posturing. Many Senators appear far more interested in making speeches than they do in asking pertinent questions. Iraq is a fluid situation–yet so many political figures have made up their mind. They act as if things are frozen in amber, as if a snapshot in time is a permanent state of things. And they seem wholly uninterested in increasing their understanding of the facts on the ground–especially if the facts on the ground demonstrate progress. Petraeus and Crocker, at least, are nuanced and knowledgeable. Which is, unfortunately, something rarely found on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are many things to say about today’s Senate testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. But what has struck me, so far, are the following.

The first is that in Petraeus and Crocker you see two men who embody excellence, a wonderful thing to see in any field of human endeavor. It’s especially comforting to find it in a place as important and fragile as Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are informed, careful, candid, and wholly in command. They have a complicated story to tell–and they tell it very, very well.

The second thing I noticed was how respectful and strong Petraeus and Crocker are. Senator Bayh (D-Indiana), for example, asked a question whose purpose was to get General Petraeus to say that those who disagree with Petraeus’ strategy are just as patriotic as those who agree with his strategy. General Petraeus made the right and obvious rejoinder: one of the reasons we fight for freedom is to allow people to hold different opinions. But he also made a powerful case that (these are my words, not his) not all opinions are equally valid or informed – and that the wrong opinions, animating wrong decisions, can have terrible consequences.

The third thing that jumped out at me is the vast ignorance of many Senators. For example, Senator McCaskill (D-Missouri) appears wed to a particular (defeatist) narrative regarding Basra: it was, she insisted, a terrible loss for Prime Minister Maliki, a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr, and evidence that the Iraq project is falling apart.

Ambassador Crocker patiently explained why this interpretation is wrong. He pointed out that there is actually fairly widespread support throughout Iraq for Maliki’s efforts, that there is a strong popular reaction against Shia militias, and that Sadr appears to be putting some distance between himself and elements of the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) militia. These are all important data points.

General Petraeus made many of the same observations in response to previous questions. He pointed out that planning of the Basra operation left a lot to be desired–but that the Iraqi government’s willingness to take the battle to the enemy was encouraging. He acknowledged the troubling defections we saw within the ranks of the Iraqis–and told about the very impressive and heartening conduct of most of the ISF. Things are still playing out in Basra–but some of the early stumbles seem to have been corrected, adjustments are being made, and things are better now than they were. This is, in some ways, the story of Iraq writ large.

What we’re getting, and not only from Senators critical of the war, is posturing. Many Senators appear far more interested in making speeches than they do in asking pertinent questions. Iraq is a fluid situation–yet so many political figures have made up their mind. They act as if things are frozen in amber, as if a snapshot in time is a permanent state of things. And they seem wholly uninterested in increasing their understanding of the facts on the ground–especially if the facts on the ground demonstrate progress. Petraeus and Crocker, at least, are nuanced and knowledgeable. Which is, unfortunately, something rarely found on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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The Times They Are Not A Changing

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950’s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950’s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

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“Man Enough” For The White House?

Maureen Dowd is worried that Barack Obama’s “impassioned egghead advisers have made his campaign seem not only out of his control, but effete and vaguely foreign—the same unflattering light that doomed Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.” This is a bum rap for Team Obama—they were the ones trying to suggest Obama was less effete, on Iraq for example. It’s Obama who’s been touting his childhood abroad and his Kenyan grandmother as evidence of his foreign policy credentials. Others in the media are fretting about his “toughness” as well.

So we may have reached the perfect gender dilemma: is Obama “man enough” to be President? That, really, is the question Clinton is raising in her own way. “Experience” is a dodge, a subterfuge for the real issue: the ability to face down both America’s enemies and John McCain in November.

Clinton has spent her Senate career developing a response to concerns about a woman’s ability to be commander-in-chief. She joined the Senate Armed Services Committee and voted in favor of the Iraq War, believing she would avoid the dilemma which faced Democrats who voted against the first Iraq war. And despite her feints and attempts to impress the liberal base with her willingness to withdraw troops from Iraq, she cannot shake her reputation for being something of a hawk. (She voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment identifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, for example.)

Now it is Obama’s turn to prove he can stand up to Clinton and McCain, to say nothing of real bad guys like Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In this regard, his excessive deference to personal engagement (Deborah Tannen has something to say about that) as a tool of foreign policy and his cool, aloof demeanor work against him. Can he take a punch or throw one? Does he really understand that as President he’ll face enemies utterly immune to reason, enemies beyond the conciliatory powers of even the best community organizer? Maureen Dowd and the rest of Obama’s media fans are waiting with bated breath for the answer.

Maureen Dowd is worried that Barack Obama’s “impassioned egghead advisers have made his campaign seem not only out of his control, but effete and vaguely foreign—the same unflattering light that doomed Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.” This is a bum rap for Team Obama—they were the ones trying to suggest Obama was less effete, on Iraq for example. It’s Obama who’s been touting his childhood abroad and his Kenyan grandmother as evidence of his foreign policy credentials. Others in the media are fretting about his “toughness” as well.

So we may have reached the perfect gender dilemma: is Obama “man enough” to be President? That, really, is the question Clinton is raising in her own way. “Experience” is a dodge, a subterfuge for the real issue: the ability to face down both America’s enemies and John McCain in November.

Clinton has spent her Senate career developing a response to concerns about a woman’s ability to be commander-in-chief. She joined the Senate Armed Services Committee and voted in favor of the Iraq War, believing she would avoid the dilemma which faced Democrats who voted against the first Iraq war. And despite her feints and attempts to impress the liberal base with her willingness to withdraw troops from Iraq, she cannot shake her reputation for being something of a hawk. (She voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment identifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, for example.)

Now it is Obama’s turn to prove he can stand up to Clinton and McCain, to say nothing of real bad guys like Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In this regard, his excessive deference to personal engagement (Deborah Tannen has something to say about that) as a tool of foreign policy and his cool, aloof demeanor work against him. Can he take a punch or throw one? Does he really understand that as President he’ll face enemies utterly immune to reason, enemies beyond the conciliatory powers of even the best community organizer? Maureen Dowd and the rest of Obama’s media fans are waiting with bated breath for the answer.

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Two Windows Are Closing At Once

As Norman Podhoretz has pointed out in a series of courageous and cogently argued articles (click here and here) making the case for an American strike on Iran’s nuclear program, President Bush seemingly locked himself into such an action when he said, in Podhoretz’s paraphrase,

that if we permit Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now will look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they will rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did and what they failed to do at Munich in 1938.

But with less than a year left in his term, there are no indications that Bush intends to follow through. If he doesn’t, Israel may have to go it alone.

The venomous anti-Israel rhetoric spewing from Tehran is becoming increasingly bellicose. Iran is said to be supplying the Grad missiles used by Hamas in Gaza to strike the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Iran’s nuclear program, despite the trickily worded U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued late last year, is continuing apace. With all these ominous trends in place, the pressure on Israel to employ military measures to ward off the Iranian nuclear menace will only grow.

What is the likely timing of an Israeli strike? One new factor in the equation is the Russian supply of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to Iran, rumored about for months and now evidently moving forward. Tucked away in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Wednesday was a single sentence from General Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Iran, stated Maples, “is close to acquiring long-range SA-20 SAMs.”

The SA-20 is an advanced air-defense system with a radius of up to 250 miles. Although it presumably can be defeated by electronic measures of the kind at which Israel excels, its deployment would nonetheless seriously complicate the planning and execution of an Israeli attack. Given the risks of such an operation even without having to overcome the SA-20, Israel would presumably have a strong incentive to act before the new Russian system becomes operational.

Some reports are now placing the date for the SA-20 deployment as early as December. Of course, it would take time for the Iranian military to learn to operate the system even half-way effectively. But once the surface-to-air missiles are pointing toward the sky, the clock on that process would be ticking, just as it is ticking on Iran’s nuclear bomb program. Two windows would be closing at once.

Last week, Iran’s president called Israel a “a dirty microbe.” The intentions communicated by this Nazi-style metaphor are all too clear. But Israel is not about to let itself be exterminated. Barring a sudden change of course by Iran, the Middle East is heading for another major war.

As Norman Podhoretz has pointed out in a series of courageous and cogently argued articles (click here and here) making the case for an American strike on Iran’s nuclear program, President Bush seemingly locked himself into such an action when he said, in Podhoretz’s paraphrase,

that if we permit Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now will look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they will rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did and what they failed to do at Munich in 1938.

But with less than a year left in his term, there are no indications that Bush intends to follow through. If he doesn’t, Israel may have to go it alone.

The venomous anti-Israel rhetoric spewing from Tehran is becoming increasingly bellicose. Iran is said to be supplying the Grad missiles used by Hamas in Gaza to strike the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Iran’s nuclear program, despite the trickily worded U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued late last year, is continuing apace. With all these ominous trends in place, the pressure on Israel to employ military measures to ward off the Iranian nuclear menace will only grow.

What is the likely timing of an Israeli strike? One new factor in the equation is the Russian supply of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to Iran, rumored about for months and now evidently moving forward. Tucked away in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Wednesday was a single sentence from General Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Iran, stated Maples, “is close to acquiring long-range SA-20 SAMs.”

The SA-20 is an advanced air-defense system with a radius of up to 250 miles. Although it presumably can be defeated by electronic measures of the kind at which Israel excels, its deployment would nonetheless seriously complicate the planning and execution of an Israeli attack. Given the risks of such an operation even without having to overcome the SA-20, Israel would presumably have a strong incentive to act before the new Russian system becomes operational.

Some reports are now placing the date for the SA-20 deployment as early as December. Of course, it would take time for the Iranian military to learn to operate the system even half-way effectively. But once the surface-to-air missiles are pointing toward the sky, the clock on that process would be ticking, just as it is ticking on Iran’s nuclear bomb program. Two windows would be closing at once.

Last week, Iran’s president called Israel a “a dirty microbe.” The intentions communicated by this Nazi-style metaphor are all too clear. But Israel is not about to let itself be exterminated. Barring a sudden change of course by Iran, the Middle East is heading for another major war.

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Hillary Takes On Obama On Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton delivered (amidst the distraction of costume-gate, which makes me think this was not an official Clinton tactic) a foreign policy address in Washington D.C. today. The full text is here. There is much standard fare: immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a strong dose of protectionism and lots of shots at President Bush. But the message is also clear: she is no softy, and Barack Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief. On Cuba she had this to say:

We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

She also threw this jab:

If I am entrusted with the presidency, America will have the courage once again to meet with our adversaries. But I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions, until we have assessed through lower level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators. Raul Castro, for example, has a stark choice. He can continue to stifle human rights and economic freedom in Cuba, or he can chart a new course toward democratic reform. We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

There are a few problems with this approach as a campaign strategy (other than the fact it comes too late). First, she needs to say it directly in a debate when eyes are trained on both of them, not in a speech no cable network chose to carry. Unless she is willing to do that, it is not only too late –it’s too little. Second, she tries to do the best she can with her own resume (traveling to China, sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee), but it is rather thin and the obvious response from Obama is that she is hardly more experienced than he. And finally, the their policy positions ( more restrictionist trade policy, get tough with China, get out of Iraq) are not very different at all. Voters are left to stratch their heads about how in practice a Clinton foreign policy would differ from an Obama foreign policy (other than in willingness to lunch with tyrants). Now, she does rough him up a bit, and the language is worth saving for a general election attack by John McCain. But is this enough to knock Obama off his glide path to the nomination? Not likely, I think.

Hillary Clinton delivered (amidst the distraction of costume-gate, which makes me think this was not an official Clinton tactic) a foreign policy address in Washington D.C. today. The full text is here. There is much standard fare: immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a strong dose of protectionism and lots of shots at President Bush. But the message is also clear: she is no softy, and Barack Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief. On Cuba she had this to say:

We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

She also threw this jab:

If I am entrusted with the presidency, America will have the courage once again to meet with our adversaries. But I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions, until we have assessed through lower level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators. Raul Castro, for example, has a stark choice. He can continue to stifle human rights and economic freedom in Cuba, or he can chart a new course toward democratic reform. We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

There are a few problems with this approach as a campaign strategy (other than the fact it comes too late). First, she needs to say it directly in a debate when eyes are trained on both of them, not in a speech no cable network chose to carry. Unless she is willing to do that, it is not only too late –it’s too little. Second, she tries to do the best she can with her own resume (traveling to China, sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee), but it is rather thin and the obvious response from Obama is that she is hardly more experienced than he. And finally, the their policy positions ( more restrictionist trade policy, get tough with China, get out of Iraq) are not very different at all. Voters are left to stratch their heads about how in practice a Clinton foreign policy would differ from an Obama foreign policy (other than in willingness to lunch with tyrants). Now, she does rough him up a bit, and the language is worth saving for a general election attack by John McCain. But is this enough to knock Obama off his glide path to the nomination? Not likely, I think.

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Is President Bush the Real Author of the Iran NIE?

I recently had a chance to sit down over coffee with Donald Rumsfeld, now in private life, to discuss intelligence issues and some other related subjects. In the course of our conversation (as I recalled this morning on the anniversary of December 7, 1941), Rumsfeld brought up the subject of Roberta Wohlstetter’s magisterial book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. He especially pointed me to the book’s introduction by Thomas Schelling, which opens up a short and very brilliant discussion of the nature of surprise, a copy of which Rumsfeld had on hand to give me.  

“Surprise, when it happens to a government,” wrote Schelling,

is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that, like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he’ll be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also those that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes straightforward procrastination, but also decisions protracted by internal disagreement. It includes, in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion — which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

This text, and presumably the attack on Pearl Harbor itself — Rumsfeld was nine years old when it occurred — seems to have had a profound influence on the former Secretary of Defense. When he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearings on the still-innocent date of January 11, 2001, he was asked a simple but highly pertinent question by Senator Pat Roberts: “What’s the one big thing that keeps you up at night?”

“Intelligence,” is what Rumsfeld replied without missing a beat. And the “importance of considerably improving our intelligence capabilities so that we know more about what people think and how they behave.”

Alas, improving our intelligence capabilities is one thing President Bush has conspicuously failed to do. Our country fell victim to a first intelligence failure on his watch on September 11, 2001, in an attack on our homeland that in both casualties and costs was more devastating than the Japanese surprise attack of 1941. Our country was then led into a war in part on the basis of an erroneous intelligence estimate about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Since September 11 we have poured immense resources into improving intelligence and embarked on numerous reforms, including both a 100-day and a 500-day plan to “integrate” the intelligence community’s diverse components. But as we see from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran — shoddily argued on its face, with the facts it puts forward directly contradicting its own starkly stated finding that the Iranian nuclear-weapons program came to a halt in 2003 — the fundamental problem of our intelligence community remains intractably in place. Some very low-quality people, who have few inhibitions about smuggling their politics into intelligence findings, continue to occupy positions of high responsibility in the bureaucracy.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? We can blame some of this on Bush’s first CIA director, George Tenet. And we can also point a finger at Tenet’s successor, the far less canny but equally hapless Porter Goss, who was forced out of the job within half a year. And we can question many of the decisions taken by John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, the two directors, successively, of the new post of Director of National Intelligence.

But who appointed all these people? Who kept the Clinton holdover George Tenet in office after September 11 and then, even after the Iraq-WMD “slam-dunk” fiasco, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor? Who appointed Porter Goss to run the CIA and failed to back him up when he tried to clean house? Who acquiesced in the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is emerging as a clumsy and duplicative bureaucratic behemoth, far more focused on drawing and redrawing the organizational charts of the intelligence community than on getting the intelligence itself straight, as the latest NIE demonstrates?

Looking back over the past seven years, I believe it is increasingly apparent that President Bush’s failure to reform the intelligence community — to manage even to gain control of it — is emerging as the largest blot on his presidency. Accused of politicizing the intelligence community, the President has manifestly failed to depoliticize it, with ramifications now spreading across the globe, including the prospect of Iran’s obtaining nuclear weapons while the U.S. turns a blind eye. 

“Neglect of responsibility,” wrote Schelling, is one of the factors that lead governments to be taken by surprise. Such neglect already cost us dearly on September 11, 2001. We are now fully into the age of weapons of mass destruction, and it may cost us far more the next time around.

I recently had a chance to sit down over coffee with Donald Rumsfeld, now in private life, to discuss intelligence issues and some other related subjects. In the course of our conversation (as I recalled this morning on the anniversary of December 7, 1941), Rumsfeld brought up the subject of Roberta Wohlstetter’s magisterial book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. He especially pointed me to the book’s introduction by Thomas Schelling, which opens up a short and very brilliant discussion of the nature of surprise, a copy of which Rumsfeld had on hand to give me.  

“Surprise, when it happens to a government,” wrote Schelling,

is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that, like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he’ll be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also those that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes straightforward procrastination, but also decisions protracted by internal disagreement. It includes, in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion — which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

This text, and presumably the attack on Pearl Harbor itself — Rumsfeld was nine years old when it occurred — seems to have had a profound influence on the former Secretary of Defense. When he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearings on the still-innocent date of January 11, 2001, he was asked a simple but highly pertinent question by Senator Pat Roberts: “What’s the one big thing that keeps you up at night?”

“Intelligence,” is what Rumsfeld replied without missing a beat. And the “importance of considerably improving our intelligence capabilities so that we know more about what people think and how they behave.”

Alas, improving our intelligence capabilities is one thing President Bush has conspicuously failed to do. Our country fell victim to a first intelligence failure on his watch on September 11, 2001, in an attack on our homeland that in both casualties and costs was more devastating than the Japanese surprise attack of 1941. Our country was then led into a war in part on the basis of an erroneous intelligence estimate about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Since September 11 we have poured immense resources into improving intelligence and embarked on numerous reforms, including both a 100-day and a 500-day plan to “integrate” the intelligence community’s diverse components. But as we see from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran — shoddily argued on its face, with the facts it puts forward directly contradicting its own starkly stated finding that the Iranian nuclear-weapons program came to a halt in 2003 — the fundamental problem of our intelligence community remains intractably in place. Some very low-quality people, who have few inhibitions about smuggling their politics into intelligence findings, continue to occupy positions of high responsibility in the bureaucracy.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? We can blame some of this on Bush’s first CIA director, George Tenet. And we can also point a finger at Tenet’s successor, the far less canny but equally hapless Porter Goss, who was forced out of the job within half a year. And we can question many of the decisions taken by John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, the two directors, successively, of the new post of Director of National Intelligence.

But who appointed all these people? Who kept the Clinton holdover George Tenet in office after September 11 and then, even after the Iraq-WMD “slam-dunk” fiasco, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor? Who appointed Porter Goss to run the CIA and failed to back him up when he tried to clean house? Who acquiesced in the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is emerging as a clumsy and duplicative bureaucratic behemoth, far more focused on drawing and redrawing the organizational charts of the intelligence community than on getting the intelligence itself straight, as the latest NIE demonstrates?

Looking back over the past seven years, I believe it is increasingly apparent that President Bush’s failure to reform the intelligence community — to manage even to gain control of it — is emerging as the largest blot on his presidency. Accused of politicizing the intelligence community, the President has manifestly failed to depoliticize it, with ramifications now spreading across the globe, including the prospect of Iran’s obtaining nuclear weapons while the U.S. turns a blind eye. 

“Neglect of responsibility,” wrote Schelling, is one of the factors that lead governments to be taken by surprise. Such neglect already cost us dearly on September 11, 2001. We are now fully into the age of weapons of mass destruction, and it may cost us far more the next time around.

Read Less

Have Democratic Lawmakers . . . Moved On?

In light of the successful U.S. troop surge in Iraq, the word withdrawal may be heading for the same trash bin that contains those other dead letters exit strategy and civil war. Democratic lawmakers, made hypocrites by their own rhetoric, now find themselves funding the war they’d declared lost, and doing so more-or-less unconditionally. Politico.com reports:

According to one senior Democratic lawmaker, there’s a growing discomfort among pro-defense Democrats about linking a $50 billion Iraq measure to troop withdrawal.

“We have to come off this lack of funding for the military operations,” the lawmaker said. “We have to continue the funding. We don’t want to look like we’re against troop funding. … We should separate the funding discussion from the rest of the war.”

Okay, what about “the rest of the war”? What current details of battle would they like to change?

It seems they’ll have to get back to us on that one. Last month, a funding bill contingent on troop withdrawal received 53 votes; that’s seven votes short of breaking a filibuster. So, they’re now looking for something that says, “We won’t stand for this war. Now, go out there and win!”

“I am advocating as strong a statement as we can get 60 votes for,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

How about, “Keep up the extraordinary job”?

In light of the successful U.S. troop surge in Iraq, the word withdrawal may be heading for the same trash bin that contains those other dead letters exit strategy and civil war. Democratic lawmakers, made hypocrites by their own rhetoric, now find themselves funding the war they’d declared lost, and doing so more-or-less unconditionally. Politico.com reports:

According to one senior Democratic lawmaker, there’s a growing discomfort among pro-defense Democrats about linking a $50 billion Iraq measure to troop withdrawal.

“We have to come off this lack of funding for the military operations,” the lawmaker said. “We have to continue the funding. We don’t want to look like we’re against troop funding. … We should separate the funding discussion from the rest of the war.”

Okay, what about “the rest of the war”? What current details of battle would they like to change?

It seems they’ll have to get back to us on that one. Last month, a funding bill contingent on troop withdrawal received 53 votes; that’s seven votes short of breaking a filibuster. So, they’re now looking for something that says, “We won’t stand for this war. Now, go out there and win!”

“I am advocating as strong a statement as we can get 60 votes for,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

How about, “Keep up the extraordinary job”?

Read Less




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