Friday, July 21, 2006

Organized Disorganization

Just finished reading State of War by James Risen, the author who neo-conservative scold, William Bennett, said belongs behind bars for...well I'm not really sure; obstensibly because Risen's reporting on the CIA's secret overseas prisons and NSA's massive domestic surveillance program damaged "national security", but most likely because Risen's reporting sheds light on, and deigns to criticize, the Republican administration and its foreign policy. And that's downright illegal and unAmerican. Anyway, if Bennett says the guy's reporting warrants inprisonment, than you just gotta go out and get the book, don't you?

I read State of War on the heels of reading most of the way through The One Percent Doctrine, a more recent book that covers much of the same ground, the war on terra through the frame of the CIA, although Risen's book comes across as more critical, particularly of Tenet, who was apparently the primary source for One Percent Doctrine.

I'll probably have more to say about both books in future posts, but one thing that stands out from them, and Cobra II as well, is (a) just how poorly the Iraq invasion was planned and (2) the planning, or lack thereof, was so bad, it couldn't have been by accident.

Cobra II's authors write about how uninterested the Pentagon was in identifying, much less securing, the supposed sites of Iraq's WMD in the lead up to the war, to prevent those arms and materials from ending up in the hands of foreign jihadists or would-be-insurgents. Risen notes the lack of Arabic speakers in the CIA, kind of a surprising one would think when invading two Middle Eastern countries.

When I read these accounts and see the chaos and killing Iraq, I can't help but think that while an Iraqi civil war might not have been the war architect's plan or hope, there's a sense that how Iraq has played out isn't necessarily counter to the neo-con's vision of global affairs.

I wrote a week or two back about different foreign policy perspectives including neoconservatism. One thing about neoconservatism that I probably didn't emphasize is that orientation's comfort level with instability and chaos. But the administration's response, or again, lack thereof, amidst the most recent Middle East explosion in Lebanon just reinforces the idea that the neocons would just assume see the Middle East, except Israel, meltdown. That would seem to carry over to the neo-con's call to bomb/invade Syria and Iran. That we presently lack the troops needed for such a mission, and that our Iraq debacle should be an object lesson, a negative object lesson, for planners wanting to bomb/invade any more Middle Eastern countries is beside the point. In the world of Bill Kristol, and the neocons still spread throughout the administration and reporting the "news" at Fox, any instability in the Middle East caused by our bombing and destruction is either irrelevant or actually beneficial, to the degree that it weakens ours, or Israel's, opponents.

For an administration "creating its own reality", there's little need to play by the old rules, or any rules at all. All of which would have been largely irrelevant had it not been for 911, which was absolutely fortuitous for the neocons spreading throughout the administration. As Ron Suskind notes in The One Percent Doctrine, 911 not only gave the neocon defense establishment a perfect opening to invade Iraq and expand executive power, but created, or at the very least, reinforced, in the mind of the president the idea that any past historical evidence, practice, or practicioners (including his father) were unreliable or inapplicable for the crisis posed by global terrorism, meaning that the administration insulated itself to an even greater degree in its decision-making than it probably would have anyway.

A final inference I draw from State of War is that the administration's governmental neglect extends beyond the most obvious domestic linkages to FEMA and the Mine Safety and Health Administrations of the executive branch, but even to foreign policy agencies including the CIA and the State Department. Both were regarded by the neocons in exile as subversive and insufficiently political. And while State was initially awarded to the administration's most distinguished member, Colin Powell, the General was all but shut out of the major decision making process and he and his successor, Condi Rice were barreled over by an aggressive Rumsfeld Pentagon.

And the latter, while dominating the foreign policy decision-making has made clear it's disdain, both before hand and afterwards, for "nation-building". The result has been a narrow circle of insulated decision-makers in Washington, playing hit and run over the Middle East, with little regard for diplomacy or for reconstructing the desecrated society's they leave in their wake. Afghanistan, the first point of entry, is over-run with heroin growers, Iraq is awash in blood, and Lebanon has all but been destroyed. Think the "west" will include in its strategy for "peace" the healing of Beirut? Not likely. Syria and Iran await.

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