Dec 11, 2011

High-stakes Hilarity (the ongoing progression of)

NYT says PAK Taliban in talks with gov.

WaPo says PAK Taliban not in talks with gov.

While we are dealing with the region, Crocker articulates the tailored narrative regarding last week's attack against Shiites in Kabul.  Says we have no idea who did it.  But it wasn't the group claiming responsibility.  And that the attack won't spawn sectarian violence.  Ambassador psychic?  Wishful thinking?  Something else?

PS Scuttlebutt months ago was that a RQ-170 (equipped with science modules) was flown over Fukushima from a base in S. Korea.

Loved the ZH quip re the Iran flap: "The good news is we will all be able to buy a personal drone at Wal Mart in 6-9 months."

Dec 8, 2011

#Dude -- Amusing US Policy T'wards PAK et al

Needless to say, dude's regurgitating conventional wisdom.  To dude's credit, dude does touch on the intel cooperation angle. Barely.

Amusing that US policy towards PAK has gotten so entangled in a wilderness of lies.

Just like US Iran policy.  And US Iraq policy.  And US policy toward all the others.

Sometimes being sneaky just doesn't pay.


PS: What could be more retarded than the public explanations of the recent PAK ambassador secret message controversy?

We are supposed to think that there are no channels more secure than a dodgy hedge fund type for the PAK ambassador to convey a very pro-American scheme to US officials.

Would only make sense if the ambassador wanted to avoid the institutional partiality of the most likely channel.  Meaning that he knows about some special reason to avoid using said channel.

If so, he picked the wrong dude to deal with.

Also, the way this played out would indicate that existing political arrangements with PAK are adequate.

Nov 27, 2011

Where's the River of Snot?


A senior US law enforcement official asked me if I noticed anything strange about the video footage of the UC Davis incident.

I told him that I had only seen the famous still photo in the press.  I hadn't seen any video.

"You've been exposed to pepper spray before haven't you?", he asked.  I recounted for him the time that I was responsible for a minimal AD from a large canister of the stuff inside a moving vehicle. 

He reached for his IPad and clicked on the first YouTube video he could find.  "What isn't right about this scene?", he asked.  I answered, "the protesters aren't hauling ass out of there. They aren't acting like they have been pepper sprayed."

"Where is the River of Snot?" He continued, "Before riot cops use pepper spray they mask-up.  Do you see any of the cops standing there wearing gas masks?  The stuff that they are spraying is marker.  They are identifying the protesters that they are intending to arrest.  Look right there, that other cop is standing in the mist with no effect."

He got no argument from me there.  That wasn't pepper spray.

"Then why aren't the cops coming to their own defense?," I asked.

Timing is everything.

Nov 15, 2011

Blast From the Past

Remember the mention of Cicely Angleton's passing? Now we have the obit of another member of the same exclusive circle. (The deceased was the sister of Mary Pinchot Meyer.)

While Mrs. Bradlee’s life with her husband Ben was in many ways charmed — private dinners at the White House and weekend getaways at Hyannis Port, Mass., with the Kennedys — it also had enduring sorrows. Their circle included Mrs. Bradlee’s older sister, Mary Meyer, a painter whose murder in 1964 on the C&O Canal towpath remains unsolved.

The case took an eerie twist, Ben Bradlee later wrote in his memoir, “A Good Life.” The Bradlees saw CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton picking the padlock on Meyer’s Georgetown art studio in an attempt to retrieve her diary. (Meyer and Angleton’s wife were friends.)

Mrs. Bradlee subsequently found the diary, which appeared to disclose her sister’s affair with late President John F. Kennedy. Mrs. Bradlee and her husband, who was serving as head of Newsweek’s Washington bureau, turned the diary over to Angleton with the promise that the CIA would destroy it.

More than a decade later, Mrs. Bradlee was upset when she heard Angleton had not kept his word. Through an intermediary, she got the diary back and set it on fire.

The real story is more spooky than here portrayed. Does anyone believe that Angleton would have conducted a black bag job himself over trifling gossip?

Nov 11, 2011

Mr. X By HENRY A. KISSINGER

The NYT gets Henry Kissinger to review John Lewis Gaddis's book about George Kennan for the Sunday Book Review.  Kissinger delivers a compliment or three about Gaddis, and then reviews Kennan's career, not the book.  

And as you might imagine, the Kissinger imperative works its way into the story:

Kennan often shrank from the application of his own theories. In 1948, with an allied government in China crumbling, Kennan — at some risk to his career — advanced the minority view that a Communist victory would not necessarily be catastrophic. In a National War College lecture, he argued that “our safety depends on our ability to establish a balance among the hostile or undependable forces of the world.” A wise policy would induce these forces to “spend in conflict with each other, if they must spend it at all, the intolerance and violence and fanaticism which might otherwise be directed against us,” so “that they are thus compelled to cancel each other out and exhaust themselves in internecine conflict in order that the constructive forces, working for world stability, may continue to have the possibility of life.” But when, in 1969, the Nixon administration began to implement almost exactly that policy, Kennan called on me at the White House, in the company of a distinguished group of former ambassadors to the Soviet Union, to warn against proceeding with overtures to China lest the Soviet Union respond by war. 

Kissinger refers to Dean Acheson as "the greatest secretary of state of the postwar period."  False modesty or a ghostwriter?  Gotta be one or the other, but we are leaning towards the former because no Kissinger Associates staffer would risk the repercussions from making a call like that.

Kissinger - the great Balance of Power practitioner - admired that Kennan (at least at times) shared his Metternich-influenced approach:

Stable orders require elements of both power and morality. In a world without equilibrium, the stronger will encounter no restraint, and the weak will find no means of vindication.

(...)

It requires constant recalibration; it is as much an artistic and philosophical as a political enterprise. It implies a willingness to manage nuance and to live with ambiguity. The practitioners of the art must learn to put the attainable in the service of the ultimate and accept the element of compromise inherent in the endeavor. Bismarck defined statesmanship as the art of the possible. Kennan, as a public servant, was exalted above most others for a penetrating analysis that treated each element of international order separately, yet his career was stymied by his periodic rebellion against the need for a reconciliation that could incorporate each element only imperfectly. 


Kennan's dissenting view on Vietnam is portrayed as follows:

In a turbulent era, Kennan’s consistent themes were balance and restraint. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he applied these convictions to his side of the debate as well. He testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against the Vietnam War but on the limited ground that there was no strategic need for it. He emphasized that the threat posed by Hanoi was exaggerated and that the alleged unity of the Communist world was a myth. But he also warned elsewhere against “violent objection to what exists, unaccompanied by any constructive concept of what, ideally ought to exist in its place.” He questioned the policy makers’ judgment but not their intent; he understood their dilemmas even as he both criticized and sought to join them.

Kissinger's final judgement:

So emphatically did Kennan sometimes reject the immediately feasible that he destroyed his usefulness in the conduct of day-to-day diplomacy. This turned his life into a special kind of tragedy. Until his old age, he yearned for the role in public service to which his brilliance and vision should have propelled him, but that was always denied him by his refusal to modify his perfectionism.

(...)

Policy makers, even when respectful, shied away from employing him because the sweep of his vision was both uncomfortable (even when right) and beyond the outer limit of their immediate concerns on the tactical level.


Well.  Not exactly accurate.  After he left the State Dept., Kennan was a consultant to the Cold War arm of the U.S. Government from the 1950's until at least the 1990's.

Nov 10, 2011

NYT Mag - Gettin' Lulzy with Herman Cain

From this Sunday's NYT Mag - On the Ropes with Herman Cain

In October, Cain had to undo damage from the following: a suggestion to put up an electrified fence on the Mexican border, statements endorsing a woman’s right to choose, an apparent unfamiliarity with the terms “right of return” and “neoconservative,” a tentative thumbs-up to negotiating with Al Qaeda for prisoners and news stories of a completely mismanaged campaign.

That was before things got tough. Now allegations of sexual harassment have drowned out pretty much anything else related to Herman Cain. And if that’s in any way a blessing, it’s only because it diverted attention from what may have been some serious violations of campaign-finance laws.

(...)

The Web site of J. D. Gordon Communications, the firm founded by Cain’s campaign spokesman, J. D. Gordon, offers, among its services, “crisis communications.” It notes that “timely and accurate responses to a crisis have never been more important to success.” Given the way Gordon has handled Cain’s latest crisis communications, perhaps Guant√°namo Bay, where Gordon was the Navy spokesman, should be seen in a new light. 
[FTW]

(...)

Let us pause here to make a necessarily severe assessment: to say that Herman Cain has an imperfect grasp of policy would be unfair not only to George W. Bush in 1999 but also to Britney Spears in 1999. Herman Cain seems like someone who, quite frankly, has never opened a newspaper.

But I suspect Cain’s flubs are unrelated to intelligence. In 2010, Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute set off a lively debate by suggesting conservatives had fallen prey to “epistemic closure,” a fancy way of saying that they were getting all their information and opinions exclusively from one another. This may or may not be true of the conservative movement. But it is certainly true of Herman Cain.

“I can honestly say that if I hadn’t been on the radio, I wouldn’t have been as familiar with the issues as I am now,” Cain has written. “I believe that having that program was God’s way of forcing me to understand the critical issues confronting our nation.”

In short, Cain’s briefings on politics came from heated right-wing callers on talk radio. “Epistemic closure” is probably too mild a term for such conditions.

(...)

Cain likes to tell his audience that “the voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media.” In fact, he likes to tell them this right after dropping everything for a television interview ...

Cain also likes to tell his audience that callers to his show went from “concerned” to “frightened” for the nation’s future. This, too, is true. More than any other candidate, Cain has managed to connect to those Americans — yet, unlike Sarah Palin, he has done it by unleashing optimism rather than bitterness. He can articulate a crowd’s worst fears — America is falling apart, weakening in the world, suffering economic carnage — and then reassure everyone that, no worries, we can fix it. If any candidate were able to relate to voters in this way and have a clue what he or she was talking about (there, in Cain’s case, is the rub), that person would be unstoppable.

Nov 7, 2011

A review about a new book on George Kennan in The New Yorker

A long review of John Lewis Gaddis's new book on George Kennan is in the Nov 14 issue of The New Yorker.

The review starts off by establishing that Kennan did not much care for Americans (America yes, Americans no).  A number of examples illustrating how Kennan was a dick are included (this is not even the worst):

In January, 1944, when the end of the war was in sight, Kennan served in the American delegation to the European Advisory Commission, in London. Bohlen (who had been in Tokyo when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and was interned for six months) remembered Kennan returning to Washington “appalled by the behavior of American soldiers—their reading of comic books, their foul language, and their obsession with sex, among other things. He wondered whether the United States was capable of being a world power.”

Once we stipulate that Kennan had his flaws as a human being, we are able to get down to business.  A very good discussion of  The Long Telegram and "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" by "X" begins thusly:

In all his reports, Kennan’s repeated message to Washington was “Get real.” He didn’t just disapprove of idealistic policy talk. He deeply loathed it. Declarations about the self-determination of peoples or international economic co√∂peration—the kind of thing that Roosevelt and Churchill announced as Allied war aims in the Atlantic Charter—seemed to him not only utopian and unenforceable but dangerously restrictive on a government’s scope of action. If you tell the world that you are fighting to preserve the right of self-determination, then any outcome short of that makes you look hypocritical or weak. Concessions to Soviet national-security interests were going to be necessary in Eastern Europe; it was better to be frank about this, and to stop pretending that Moscow and Washington had the same goals and values. But for domestic political reasons the American government always wants to appear virtuous, Kennan thought; so it continued to call the Soviets comrades and allies even as they were clearly preparing to walk all over the Atlantic Charter.

(...)

Kennan was appalled when he read the draft of Truman’s speech [announcing the Truman Doctrine], and for the rest of his life he protested that he had meant containment to be a policy of selective confrontation, and its means to be diplomatic and economic, not military. But he was construed otherwise. Lippmann wrote a book, called “The Cold War,” in 1947, attacking Kennan and containment, on the assumption that the X article, which appeared four months after Truman’s speech, was meant as a justification of the Truman Doctrine. Lippmann had got Kennan completely wrong. Kennan was so upset that he wrote Lippmann a long letter explaining his mistake, but could never bring himself to send it.


Reviewer kinda goes off the rails when he suggests that Kennan's requirement to have suicide pills on hand when stationed in Moscow was so that he could make an honorable exit if his compulsive womanizing were to be discovered.  (The real reason is doubtlessly more prosaic.)  And Gaddis, the author of the book, does not endorse the reviewer's theory on this.

As the exemplification of a realist in international relations, Kennan drew criticism easily:

[I]n 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn attacked Kennan, by name, for refusing to apply moral values to politics. “Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong, and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world,” he said.

Solzhenitsyn was right that Kennan was allergic to concepts that were important to Soviet dissidents, concepts like “human rights.” The reason Kennan considered the United Nations a bad idea was that it is an organization based on the pretense that every nation can subscribe disinterestedly to international legal principles—when nations are always, and rightly, interested primarily in preserving or extending their own power. He was horrified by the Nuremberg Trials. “Crimes against humanity” was just the sort of exalted legalism that he thought led to foreign-policy disaster. In any case, he believed that, once the United States accepted Stalin as an ally, it lost the moral authority to condemn Nazism. Kennan spent a good deal of his early life in Germany; in the two volumes of his memoirs, there is not a single mention of the Holocaust.

The review wraps up on a high note:

Still, buried within Kennan’s realism there is a moral view: that in relations of power, which is what he thought international relations ultimately are, people can’t be trusted to do the right thing. They will do what the scorpion does to the frog—not because they choose to but because it’s their nature. They can’t help it. This is an easy doctrine to apply to other nations, as it is to apply to other people, since we can always see how professions of benevolence might be masks for self-interest. It’s a harder doctrine to apply to ourselves. And that was, all his life, Kennan’s great, overriding point. We need to be realists because we cannot trust ourselves to be moralists.

Nov 5, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Like 'A Last Standing Hetero-Hero'

A really shitty piece from David Sanger (NYT). Quds force plots "from Yemen to Latin America." And this:

“The Saudi plot was clumsy, and we got lucky,” another American official who has reviewed the intelligence carefully said recently. “But we are seeing increasingly sophisticated Iranian activity like it, all around the world.” Much of this resembles the worst days of the cold war, when Americans and Soviets were plotting against each otherand killing each other — in a now hazy attempt to preserve an upper hand.

Unless he is talking about the proxy wars like Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, he is way off base.  Killing each other's intelligence officers was off the table to avoid snowballing reciprocation.  That's why the lobby at CIA had relatively few stars on the wall until quite recently.

And this is just really special:

To many members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — and, by the accounts of his former colleagues, to the Israeli leader himself — the Iran problem is 1939 all over again, an “existential threat.” 
 
“WHEN Bibi talks about an existential threat,” one senior Israeli official said of Mr. Netanyahu recently, “he means the kind of threat the United States believed it faced when you believed the Nazis could get the bomb.”


On another subject, was funny seeing coverage of the "Vengeful Librarians."  (If they were really vengeful, we would have been toast for exposing way back when that bit about how they deal with bloggers - sending requests for info to embassies, etc.)

Finally, this smells a lot like one of those cases of emailed disinfo that spreads urban legends for metric marking.  (Or aren't we supposed to mention these?)

PS: Now we know why Herman Cain instituted his policy of not allowing his campaign staffers to speak to him unless spoken to.  ;-)

Nov 3, 2011

Tokenism Revisited.-- Rice, Powell, and Economic Warfare

Fascinating all week long to witness the media framing the prospect of a Greek referendum as beyond the pale.  Nobody even faking a preference for democracy. (of course Papandreou is playin' pussy's brinkmanship)

Also, international relations-wise , moments like this can be really instructive.  A keen eye will often - by monitoring course changes by political actors - get a good idea of who is buttering who's bread.

Also, on another topic, funny this: intelligence officials underscored that the United States does not conduct economic espionage as a matter of national policy.  Times have changed?  (Methinks not.)  They probably could have worded it better, i.e. to indicate that we don't spy to help our corporate interests.  (But that would have been pushing it too.)

And from this weekend's NYT Book Review:


Brent Scowcroft, Gerald Ford’s and George H. W. Bush’s national security adviser, said about the man he had worked with in two previous administrations: “Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore.” What had turned this capable, pragmatic, respected figure into the harsh and belligerent man who seemed toward the end to believe that only he understood the world of his time? Part of it was that he had become “really conservative,” as he told President Bush when he was invited to join the ticket in 2000. Certainly, he was convinced that 9/11 had dramatically changed the world and had radically transformed America’s role in it. And he was disturbed that so many people did not share his views. He also had serious heart problems through much of his life, which intensified during his tenure as vice president, and though he courageously fought to keep going, his poor health may have contributed to what Scowcroft considered his change.

The angry responses to Cheney’s book are evidence of how embattled the Bush White House became in its last years, and how central Cheney’s role was. Colin Powell has accused Cheney of taking “cheap shots” in his book. He has challenged Cheney’s claim that he had forced Powell out of the State Department. Powell himself had long made clear that he would serve only four years, and he charged Cheney with lying. Powell also called Cheney’s statements in the book “the kind of headline I would expect to come out of a gossip columnist.” He added, “I think Dick overshot the runway.” Rice responded to Cheney by describing his book as “utterly misleading” and an “attack on my integrity.” 

PS  A best friend -- Kodiak -- remains adamant on insisting Dick's a real nice guy (neighbors or energy biz-buddies, or something along those lines). Such claim remains a gnawing notion -- not unlike gravity -- I can't quite shake despite ambitious velocity vectoring asymptotically (alas) towards terminal. Dissonance.

Oct 26, 2011

A Motocrossin' Karzai Under Moonlit Firmament

Think my chronic (intermittently as such) dinner-date is vectoring POTUS'ward. We agree on nuthin' but manners and appreciation of certain harsh & easy geo-climes (Fla.& Baltics). Comity makes the world go 'round, an effwit was heard a mutterin'

Just saw that Karzai ("I will side with PAK in a conflict with US") will be receiving a visit from McChrystal. Which contractor McC will be representing is a mystery for now.  But SMC 101 would argue to look skeptically at stuff like this:
“Karzai has always liked to feel he had a special relationship with the Americans beyond with the ambassador,” said Bruce Riedel, who conducted the first review of Pakistan and Afghanistan policy for President Obama in early 2009.

“This could be a way to develop a useful back channel for Karzai, as well as a back channel for the administration. It could let McChrystal say things that might not be all the politic for Ryan Crocker to say.”
Hilarious, considering that Karzai is an entirely created and owned product of the same folkz who used to sign Riedel's paycheck 
The reality is in this head. Mine. I'm the projector at the planetarium, all the closed little universe visible in the circle of that stage is coming out of my mouth, eyes, and sometimes other orifices also. --Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49

Bioterrorism Preparedness - Shortcomings & Clusterfuckery

Next Sunday's NYT Magazine will feature a piece on possible shortcomings (and actual clusterfuckery) in US preparedness against bioterrorism.

The Article explains why we have not yet developed a needed new Anthrax vaccine:

Five years later, the cancellation of that contract is still a matter of fierce debate in biodefense circles. Many experts say that the decision had less to do with science than politics. Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, recently studied the role that lobbying may have played in VaxGen’s demise. Between 2004 and 2006, Lilly writes in a new study, the company that produced the old anthrax vaccine, which is now called Emergent BioSolutions, employed an army of lobbyists to undermine the VaxGen contract. “Each time VaxGen’s test results were less than had been hoped for,” the report says, “Emergent pounded VaxGen with a highly orchestrated campaign to overstate the problems and discourage government support of the effort.” 

[...]

General Russell, who led the early countermeasure program, told me: “It was Emergent lobbying that killed VaxGen. Period. Emergent bought the Congress. Congress killed VaxGen.” Several current officials share Russell’s view. When I asked one senior biodefense official about the lack of a new anthrax vaccine, the official nearly exploded: “Why don’t we have a second-generation anthrax vaccine? The reason is Emergent lobbying!” Even the director of Barda, Robin Robinson, acknowledged that politics played a role in the decision. “Should we have kept it? I think there’s a long debate,” he said. “They had brought in some really top-flight people in there, and Lance Gordon was really good at judging talent. Unfortunately, there was a lot of political pressure.”

Soon after the VaxGen contract failed, the company folded into another, and Emergent bought the rights to develop the new anthrax vaccine it had spent three years lobbying against. Abdun-Nabi told me his company was still trying to develop that vaccine, but critics question whether Emergent, which signed another contract this month to deliver $1.25 billion more of the old vaccine to the stockpile, is pursuing the replacement vaccine as enthusiastically as possible. “They bought the technology and buried it,” Russell says. “We are five or six years behind where we should be. We should be working on a third-generation vaccine.”

There are disagreements over how far afield we should be looking past the two main bioterror threats: smallpox and anthrax:

In fact, other than the vaccines for anthrax and smallpox, there are no vaccines in the stockpile for any other agents on the material-threat list, nor are any of those vaccines in the advanced development program, nor will any of them enter the program any time soon.

[...]

Many agents on the list, Fauci said, were a product of the cold war, when the U.S. military kept a list of “Category A” pathogens being developed by the Soviet bioweapons program. “So when the decision was made to make an investment into developing countermeasures,” he told me, “that was essentially their matrix from the beginning: these are what we know the Soviets had. We know they have stockpiles. This is what we’re going to protect against.” He mentioned the bacterium glanders, which was reportedly used by Germany in World War I and by Japan in World War II but seemed to Fauci a comparatively minor threat today. “I think the unknown threat of a mutant microbe is infinitely greater than someone coming and dropping a glanders on us!” he said. “I mean, seriously! Get real about that!”

When I mentioned Fauci’s comments to O’Toole, who oversees the biological-threat list at the Department of Homeland Security, she said he was “completely wrong” to suggest that the list is rooted in cold-war thinking. “We use current intelligence as an integral part of every material-threat determination,” O’Toole said. “I’m surprised anyone in N.I.H. would think otherwise, particularly since the details of the material-threat determination process are briefed at the White House. It does raise a troubling question about how seriously N.I.H. is engaged in the biodefense mission.”

Whether or not Fauci is right about the origins of the material-threat list, his observation that a natural outbreak is more likely than a biological attack is difficult to dispute. Each year, seasonal flu leads to about 200,000 hospitalizations and several thousand deaths in the United States. Although a biological attack could be much larger, there is no certainty that such an attack will ever happen. How to balance the unlikely but catastrophic potential of bioterror with the steady advance of natural disease is one of the most puzzling challenges for biodefense policy going forward.

To some extent, this is also a question of framework. Fundamentally, the countermeasure program is a public-health project, yet with its reliance on classified intelligence and secret-threat assessments, it is more closely aligned in many respects with the methodology of other national-security projects. Where biodefense fits into government bureaucracy will have a profound impact on its financing. In public health, the $12 billion necessary to develop new vaccines for a dozen material-threat agents can seem a towering, even absurd, figure. Within the realm of national security, the same amount represents less than a quarter of the cost of the military’s experiment with the V-22 Osprey heli-plane, or about what the U.S. will spend in Afghanistan between now and Christmas.

“We spent trillions of dollars in the cold war preparing for a potential nuclear exchange that never occurred,” says Kenneth Bernard, who was the senior biodefense official in the Clinton White House from 1998 to 2001 and then again in the Bush White House from 2002 to 2005. “We’re not spending that kind of money to prevent a bio attack because the people who work on biology are not trained to think like that. They are much more interested in dealing with the three particular strains of influenza that are in the dish this year than they are in thinking about a plague attack in 2018.”

Oct 21, 2011

SMC 101

SMC 101: 1) US Knew. 2) MIL Advisors Went. 3) ISR Yes.

and on the bigger story,

New tactical PSYOP tool operational day before yesterday (was supposed to be rolled out Nov 1). This much good to go, will ID when we get green light.


New tool fits seamlessly into existing PSYOP toolkit. SMC twit followers may have to twist in the wind an hour or two to get exact details


Approved for operational use (incl. detainee operations with permission of battalion commander).  Lulu.

Oct 16, 2011

Another Whistle Stop for the Caldwellville Express — Registan.net

Fine piece at Registan by Dan Smock. He is right about Caldwell's dog and pony show. And about the manipulation of the numbers.

And on the manip, today's NYT brings us the newest installment of "lets show progress in Afghanistan" (by dropping whole categories of attacks from the publicly released assessments.)

The real numbers are worse. We have this on the best of authority.

Some may think this is merely this generation's version of the "five-o-clock follies", and that the deception of the American citizens is being done for our own good. That would be to put a too charitable interpretation on the situation.

Everyone snickers and shrugs their shoulders at the fact that USG/MIL cannot learn shit (and that they have no institutional memory for lessons learned from past fuckups). Always they are assumed to be covered by the best of intentions. Saw the same thing in Iraq.

Nope, an established pattern like this is malfeasance (and misfeasance too, for any lawyers in the house). Clearly being influenced (even ordered) from the political level.

Not to mention that the people in that part of the world aren't buying it.


PS: In case the above sounds excessively cunty, I just meant to emphasize that there is no legitimate reason for them to pull this kind of shit. They could claim that morale operations - both of allied troops and the home front - are legitimate. Or that they are trying to influence the enemy.

But our troops mostly know the truth, and same with the enemy. This leaves the true audience for the message - the American people. Domestic morale operations today ain't like in WWII. Now they are only for CYA and to keep the $pigot flowing as long as possible.

Oct 15, 2011

The Plot is Kosher

Last week, a contact gave us a quick sitrep on the Quds Force/Saudi Amb allegation.

"The plot is kosher."

For a few seconds we were thinking we were off base in our impression that it was sheer bullshittery.

Until the source elaborated.

"YellowCake...IraqWMD...
Curveball...AluminumTubes ... TheBritishGovernmentHasLearned ... ", and about 5 or 6 other plums.  Laughing, we were tempted to ask him to repeat the tirade, but didn't want to be thought of as twats.

We took it as confirmation of our original thesis.

Ray McGovern has reached the same conclusion:

There used to be real pros in the CIA’s operations directorate. One — Ray Close, a longtime CIA Arab specialist and former Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia — told me on Wednesday that we ought to ask ourselves a very simple question:

"If you were an Iranian undercover operative who was under instructions to hire a killer to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., why in HELL would you consider it necessary to explain to a presumed Mexican [expletive deleted] that this murder was planned and would be paid for by a secret organization in Iran?

"Whoever concocted this tale wanted the ‘plot’ exposed … to precipitate a major crisis in relations between Iran and the United States. Which other government in the Middle East would like nothing better than to see those relations take a big step toward military confrontation?"


...

Another point on the implausibility meter is: What are the odds that Iran’s Quds force would plan an unprecedented attack in the United States, that this crack intelligence agency would trust the operation to a used-car salesman with little or no training in spycraft, that he would turn to his one contact in a Mexican drug cartel who happens to be a DEA informant, and that upon capture the car salesman would immediately confess and implicate senior Iranian officials?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to suspect that Arbabsiar might be a double-agent, recruited by some third-party intelligence agency to arrange some shady business deal regarding black-market automobiles, get some ambiguous comments over the phone from an Iranian operative, and then hand the plot to the U.S. government on a silver platter – as a way to heighten tensions between Washington and Teheran?


Perfect.

Oct 12, 2011

The Quds Force Plot Bullshittery Falling Apart - Already

Intel types are skeptical about the Quds Force plot story. Lets just put it this way, Justice has had more solid cases than this one.

Meanwhile, someone wishes Americans to think there is some debate as to the geopolitical outcome of our Iraq endeavor. Vacuum Is Feared as U.S. Quits Iraq, but Iran’s Deep Influence May Not Fill It .

To all of the people who believe that - by our efforts since 2003 - the U.S. has empowered a regime in Iraq that is in bed with Iran, we are served a corrective by the governor of Najaf:

"Before 2003, 90 percent of Najaf people liked Iranians,” said the governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, who has lived in Chicago and Michigan and holds American citizenship. “Now, 90 percent hate them."
A slight qualification is proffered:
But winning over the clerics will not be easy. Certainly, some officials, including Mr. Zurufi — who was appointed governor of Najaf in 2004 by L. Paul Bremer III, then the top American administrator in Iraq, and later elected to the post in 2009 — are pro-American, but the clerical establishment, which is less receptive to American influence, wields more power over the people.


Not only did the Americans refuse a request by Mr. Zurufi and other officials to open a consulate in Najaf, the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Najaf actually shut down earlier than scheduled this summer after local clerical pressure, particularly from officials loyal to Mr. Sadr, who spends most of his time in Iran

The above NYT piece will have served its purpose if it supplies a useful talking point in support of the "we won in Iraq" crowd - that the Iraqis hate Iran. Fair enough.

But wait, maybe everything is not peachy after all. Iraq, siding with Iran, sends essential aid to Syria’s Assad.
More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.
The timing for a pressure op against Iran couldn't be better.

If Iran was gonna play kinetic amateur hour in Washington D.C., why would they have gone to the trouble of releasing our "hikers"? A "power struggle" in Tehran? (Not to mention that there are softer places closer to the Middle East for them to pull this kind of shit.)

And do they no longer have their proxies? Or their tradecraft?

Nope, bullshittery is bullshittery any way you cut it.

Can't wait for the first mention of "chatter."

Oct 5, 2011

Overclassification Clusterf*ck

A piece on the overclassification clusterfuck readied for today's NYT.

No wonder nobody - some exceptions notwithstanding ;-)  - can predict shit when it comes to international and national security matters.

Everything has devolved into overclassification, bullshittery and related shortcomings. The proof is in the pudding.

Maybe our technology will come to our rescue and make policy decisions for us.  Cant do much worse.

Sep 28, 2011

Adm. Mullen’s Words On PAK Under Scrutiny -- SMC Avenged

After the UBL raid, we've been almost alone re the US-PAK cooperation angle. For SMC, the UBL raid itself was the big tell (amongst several others).

Just recently Dexter Filkins (he of the flawed piece from two weeks ago) checked in aping the narrative we've been hearing so much of lately. (ref SMC tweet)

Then the dying Christopher Hitchens hopped aboard for a ride on the shall we attack PAK? bandwagon.(ref SMC tweet)

PAK ain't a "loyal ally" - given, but are more helpful than dudes know. (ref SMC tweet) The usual tards have morphed the necessary operational obfuscation into passionate political run-amokism that hasn't been helping matters

Happy me waking up to this piece in today's Post  SMC, thou art avenged!

(High-levels falling all over themselves trying to deal with the "chatter" bullshittery, too.)

Adultz realized that the tards were digging a big hOle for USA if their BS narrative was gonna be carried to its logical conclusion.

It don't get much better than this. (Though they are only walking back the story as much as they can without losing much of what remains of their dwindling credibility)

"U.S. officials said Mullen was unaware of the cellphones until after he testified."

Ho ho ho.  He would have been briefed if it was true.  More accurate would be to say "Mullen was unaware that amateur hour was gonna involve 'chatter' bullshittery."

Its not like we haven't tried to educate them about this sort of thing.

Mullen's key involvement in amateur hour frolics here cannot be good sign.  The level of deception may have gotten out of control.  Subterfuge in furthering an op like we discussed elsewhere a few days ago is one thing, but feeding into the media circus/political spectatorism to the degree that they did is quite another.

Sep 26, 2011

Black Market Uniforms? Anyone? Going Once, Going Twice....

U.S. military officials have grown increasingly worried about the threat posed by militants who have infiltrated Afghan security forces to launch attacks on NATO personnel.

One intrepid bunch has been saying this since the time when USG was denying it.  Black market uniforms, anyone?

And it's kinda hilarious how we are portraying insurgent attacks in Kabul as a sign of weakness, or failing that, as a sign that Pak is tipping the scales. Odd that. Most analysts would argue that such a reach into an adversary's capital is a negative metric. When facts don't fit the narrative.

Oh, and an obit, Cicely Angleton, poet and CIA official’s spouse  (He used to say that she thought he worked for the Post Office. Wasn't true, of course.)

Sep 13, 2011

Crucial Piece Re Our Slow-Motion Nightmare Just Hit The Wire

The Journalist and the Spies: The murder of a reporter who exposed Pakistan’s secrets

Dexter Filkins has presented a piece which is just chock full of institutional imperative (from several angles).

The circumstances surrounding Syed Shahzad's murder were so special that we kinda figured the history books would have to deal with it. Too frickin sensitive for any shorter time frame. We were overly optimistic. When narrative can be furthered, sensitivities go out the window.

His work was sometimes inaccurate, but it held up often enough so that other journalists followed his leads. At other times, he seemed to spare the intelligence services from the most damning details in his notebooks.
Ho ho ho. (Not really funny at all, just reminds us of several people.)


Islamabad was full of conspiracy theories about the Abbottabad raid: ... [that] Kiyani and Pasha had secretly helped the Americans with the raid.

[J]ust after the Abbottabad raid, Shahzad published a report claiming that the Pakistani leadership had known that the Americans were planning a raid of some sort, and had even helped. What the Pakistanis didn’t know, Shahzad wrote, was that the person the Americans were looking for was bin Laden.


Hadn't seen his story [which gets an important detail wrong], but can add some color. There were two separate raids. Two separate targets. Conducted within a fortnight or so of each other (UBL second). That's why we asserted immediately after UBL raid that we have done this before in PAK. PAK command knew all about the deepest incursions ahead of time. Not to mention that there were certain arrangements in place since around 2001 that PAK would assist in any UBL raid. And full deniability was to be enforced.

Now shit gets serious (as if the previous was chopped liver) ...


Shahzad’s journalism may not have been the sole reason that he was targeted. I.S.I. officials may have become convinced that Shahzad was working for a foreign intelligence agency. This could have elevated him in the eyes of the military from a troublesome reporter who deserved a beating to a foreign agent who needed to be killed.
...

There is no evidence that Shahzad was working for any foreign intelligence agency, but mere suspicion on this front could have imperilled him. “What is the final thing that earns Shahzad a red card—the final thing that tips him over from being a nuisance to an enemy?” a Western researcher in Islamabad said to me. “If someone concluded that he was a foreign agent, and that the stories he was putting out were part of a deliberate effort to defame the I.S.I. and undermine the I.S.I.’s carefully crafted information strategy—if anyone in the I.S.I. concluded that, then Saleem would be in grave danger.”
...

Given the brief time that passed between Shahzad’s death and Kashmiri’s, a question inevitably arose: Did the Americans find Kashmiri on their own? Or did they benefit from information obtained by the I.S.I. during its detention of Shahzad? If so, Shahzad’s death would be not just a terrible example of Pakistani state brutality; it would be a terrible example of the collateral damage sustained in America’s war on terror.

If the C.I.A. killed Kashmiri using information extracted from Shahzad, it would not be the first time that the agency had made use of a brutal interrogation. In 2002, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an Al Qaeda operative held by the Egyptian government, made statements, under torture, suggesting links between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden; this information was used to help justify the invasion of Iraq.
...

On May 27th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Islamabad, and she presented to Pakistani leaders a list of high-value targets. According to ABC News, Kashmiri was on the list. That morning, Shahzad had published the article naming Kashmiri as the perpetrator of the attack on the Mehran base—broadcasting, once again, his connection to the militant leader.


As if to make amends for this rather inflammatory suggestion, Filkins then forwards what is clearly institutional spin from the IC (ours this time):


As with nearly all drone strikes, the precise number and nature of the casualties were impossible to verify. The high-level American official told me that the “tribal elders” were actually insurgent leaders. But he offered another reason that the Pakistani officials were so inflamed: “It turns out there were some I.S.I. guys who were there with the insurgent leaders. We killed them, too.” (The I.S.I. denied that its agents were present.)

What were I.S.I. agents doing at a meeting of insurgent commanders? The American official said that he did not know.
[That last bit cinched it as a community info product. LMAO]

Lots of other interesting stuff in this long article, including a glimpse of a metanarrative involving the wider regional conflict.

Our business has always been to poke at metanarratives, just (usually) not explicitly identifying who are the targets or even which metanarrative is in play.

Sep 11, 2011

Insufferably In The Lead (And Duly Embarrassed By It)

Good piece.

We seem to be perpetually a good couple of months ahead of everyone else on the US/PAK story. (Certainly no good reason for such antics.)

Back before UBL raid (and during the Davis incident), we were nearly alone on the tensions angle, expulsion threats,etc.

After the UBL raid, now we are alone on the cooperation angle.

It is clear that the whole PAKs didn't know about the raid narrative is the cover story intended to save PAK govt face. The usual tards have morphed the necessary operational obfuscation into passionate political run-amokism that cannot help matters.

Everybody who knows the truth is covering his/her ass.

Aug 29, 2011

Serious Drama In WikiLeaks Land

Serious drama is being concocted in WL land.

Remember JA's insurance file? Well the media is going apeshit about it today - apparently they have just learned of it (they are thinking JA just recently put it online, and accidentally at that).

The real news is that the PW for the insurance file is supposedly now floating around.  Spegiel and WaPo and others are reporting about this - really poor reporting. We have some doubts about the PW allegation. Today's bullshittery is really smelly. We have good reasons for saying this. Hint: DDB has his fingerprints on the story.

Last Friday, the official WL dump suddenly grew to 142,978 cables (out of 251,000).  IOW, 120,000 or so just got released Friday.

The maxim that there are no coincidences is inviolate, but WL is officially denying the PW has leaked, so why then are they releasing the cables in size just at this moment.

Jul 20, 2011

Double-Gaming It -- CIA and ISI

David I. hints at what we have been saying for awhile.  Things between Pak and US intel (at least at the highest levels) aren't really as dire as advertized. 


Also, FOX News really pushing it.  (From a few days ago, see last video in the article.  LMAO) The narrative is so audacious it is brilliant. They really do know their audience. The framing of Murdoch as victim will resonate with their viewers various complexes about persecution, etc.


Gotta split for a few weeks.

Jul 16, 2011

Ahmed Wali Karzai’s Killer Taliban Foe

Can you imagine what this would look like to President Karzai if he was a conspirato​rially-ori​ented nutjob? ;-)

Ahmed Wali Karzai’s killer had been a Taliban foe

Mohammad also met with U.S. and British military officials, and would be introduced to the new commanders when they rotated into Kandahar, the relatives said. Two of Mohammad’s brothers-in-law said they work as guards at a Central Intelligence Agency base in Kandahar — situated on a hillside at the former home of Taliban leader Mohammad Omar — as part of the agency-run paramilitary group called the Kandahar Strike Force.

These relatives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mohammad was not a member of the strike force, which Karzai helped recruit to fight the Taliban, but that he shared intelligence with U.S. officials and arrested hundreds of insurgents over the years.

“If there was something Sardar could do that the Americans couldn’t, they would ask him to do it,” Malik said. “If American forces were suspicious of someone, they were asking Sardar to make the arrest.”

(Thank goodness Hamid Karzai is a solid citizen, or else we might just have more problems with him than we do already.)

Jul 15, 2011

Not Trying To Be Droll: Kerry -- Next SecState

Sunday's NYT magazine is running a long feature piece on the next SecState - John Kerry.  Lots of inadvertently funny bits.
Kerry insists that Assad’s true interests require him to shift to the West, which in turn require him to make peace with Israel. But was Assad really prepared to pursue his interests if they required a break with Iran and an acceptance of Israel? The fact that he never did so, and that he ultimately turned on his own people rather than permitting measured dissent, may show that he lives in a more Darwinian world than do those who seek to entice him out of it. Kerry also maintains that Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to make real sacrifices for peace. But there’s scant evidence that this is so. Relationships are very important to diplomacy, but it’s possible to set too much store by them.

Article goes to great pains to maintain fiction that Pakistan at a high level did not know about Bin Laden raid beforehand (even embellishing a contentious Kerry dinner meeting with two of the Pakistanis who very likely had been informed).
Practically everything is an uphill battle in Congress these days. The Foreign Relations Committee has attracted some of the most wild-eyed members of the G.O.P.; during the immensely protracted, though ultimately successful, negotiations over the treaty with Russia on nuclear reductions last fall, Kerry needed even more forbearance than he had lavished on Karzai.

Jul 14, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Iraq

NYT is preparing a piece for tomorrow's print edition about the Iraq clusterfuck that states that the PR war is crucial to success (or lack therof) of the US endeavor.

To make this palatable to the citizenry in Iraq and the United States, the public relations game is to draft language that is politically acceptable yet obscures the reality that American soldiers will continue to face an enemy, will need to defend themselves and will almost certainly continue to die.

Also, article says that a US col. got pissed off and went off the narrative by issuing his own press release about a probably routine miscarriage of justice there. Embassy wants him to STFU. LMAO.

The fact that we have enabled an Iraqi regime to come to power that is antithetical to US interests is lost on the "we won the Iraq War" crowd.

Jul 9, 2011

Serious Business -- RDX/HMX Implants

Body Bombs Added to America’s Air Security Concerns

If this were true, then NFW would we be seeing this:

Representatives for several European airlines said that they had learned about the new security recommendations only from a reporter’s inquiry.

[We're talking about Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways - not just some random fly-by-night commuter lines - as well as BAA, which operates Heathrow Airport, and Airports Council International Europe being in the dark about this threat.]

Although some slippage in the timely dissemination of warnings is not unheard of in the intel business, the smart money here is that bullshittery is afoot.

Of course, this all could just be water-softener.
 
Can't help suspecting that they are also paving the way for more contractor boondoggling. Money seems to expand to fill any gaps in coverage of the most lunatic terror threat fantasy that the most cracked mountebank can pull out of his yuck-pasty ass.

They are starting to credit "chatter" (see SMC Maxim) from AQAP for the "warning". Serious business. LMAO

Jul 8, 2011

My Chicago -- Flying Long In and Longer Over

There's something powerful about flying in to America from long abroad.

Take Chicago -- minutes upon minutes approaching half hour of warehouses, suburbs, saturated infrastracture, more suburbs, more warehouses, blue-specky backyard swimming pools, and then a landing still far delayed beyond what any wonderful anticipation could reasonably inflict.This is my home (not 'Homeland')

We're supposed to shit our pants and protectively devour 'selves because a few clustering and persisting mofos dropped a speck of our buildings decade ago. Anyone bother to take measure of how many buildings we still have in reserve?

Alas, too much estrogen in our tap water.

Back to brave and composed, for no other reason than that we reasonably owe taciturn composure to our grandmothers' fallen neighbors and to those quietest of surviving persisters -- both then and now.

Sudden, silent, and violent burial upon our foreign enemies. Calamitous devastation upon our wailing domestic alarmists.
What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing? --Gravity's Rainbow

Jul 6, 2011

Sodom Hussein -- An Ailes Product?

Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News.

Story based on docs from Nixon and GHW Bush Libraries.
 
Incomplete files from Bush I admin, but I'm beginning to think that GHW Bush's curious new pronunciation of Saddam as "Sodom" immediately post-Kuwait invasion of 1990 - after years of saying it correctly - was not a helpful suggestion from the boyz (as I have always assumed), but was from Ailes.

Jul 5, 2011

Who's The Smelliest Dude In The Iraqi Homeless Shelter -- Taking On Iran

<>Fresh off a glorious day of hot dogs, water fights, and fireworks, they go and get us all grumpy again. This bullshittery is orchestrated as usual. (see SMC Maxim)

Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries

The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.

Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region

The narrative is that Shiite militias are attacking U.S. forces - with the requisite help from Iran - as we pull out in order to get a leg up on other "anti-government Shiite militias" for the big sorting out that will occur when we draw down.

Apparently some tard in the IC predicted this would happen, so they think this is serious business. But of course it is bullshit. Reason: we have already succeeded in enabling a very pro-Iranian regime to take power there. The idea that there is a competition for being the smelliest dude in the homeless shelter is kinda exaggerated.

They hope that enough repetitions of the the now-revived "Iran is arming our enemies in Iraq" narrative and they will have the American public eating out of their hands.

But with 6 active interventions going at the moment (and counting), their goal of taking on Iran ain't gonna be in the cards any time soon. So they will settle for an extension of our commitment in Iraq

Jun 30, 2011

Clusterfuck Grim



That Afghan clusterfuck is getting grim. (Just talking about the political stuff, Karzai's openly daring us to GTFO, knowing full well that he would be dead within a week.

That is if he stayed - which he wouldn't.


This means that he knows we ain't going nowhere.

General Dostum is a non-starter. (A worse war criminal than even the U.S. can get away w/ backing. And our boy, Abdullah, is from the wrong tribe.)

Alas.

(I do love tweakin' the gurlz & boyz. Muzt be eazily amuzed.)

PS

So now, -- just how the Devil tastes this particular flavo[u]r of the Victorian? Artifact? [sic, recte artefact] ;)

Trying to sound reasonable (but fails due to avoidable errors)

Kinda ignoring some basics here, but what can we expect (government-defined reality and all).

See The Heimat Formulation in XXXXXXXXXXXX and Influence Operations [S/NF]

And while we're checked in here at the shack of ill repute, a tribute: Robert Morris, Pioneer in Computer Security, Dies at 78

His son's case was all over the media, I'm sure y'all recall.

Jun 29, 2011

Indicators List For Instability Auteurs

Thought we'd spring a truncated 101 indicators list as aid to plebs wanting to establish a makeshift baseline for tracking events & developments in NatSec investment properties. This framework could be applied more universally than just to today's problem areas. Remember it's only child's play so have fun with it while always brushing any and all worries aside.

-Quality of leadership/organizational capabilities
-Responsiveness to popular demands
-Ability to deliver basic goods and services
-Internal security capabilities
-Effectiveness of civil/criminal justice systems
-Breadth and depth of political corruption
-Human rights violations
-Weakness of civil society
-Pervasiveness of transnational criminal organizations
-External support for government
-Ethnic/religious discontent
-Military discontent with civilian government
-Popular demonstrations/strikes/riots
-Insurgent/seperatist/terrorist group activity
-External support for opposition
-Threat of conflict with or in neighboring state
-Weakness of domestic economy/unemployment/inflation
-Degree of income disparity
-Capital flight
-Decreased access to foreign funds
-Reduced trade openess
-Extent of environmental degradation
-Food/energy shortages
-Ability to respond to natural disasters
-Contested elections
-Unpopular changes in food/energy prices
-Sudden imposition of unpopular policies
-Coup plotting
-Government mismanagement of natural disaster or national emergency
-Death of key figure

Tripple WTF -- The Khost CIA Bombing

WaPo's Joby Warrick has written a new book about the Khost CIA bombing.
Taking after the uninformed media nomenclature about the incident, he has named his book "The Triple Agent."

Certain CI folks have to be amused at his (and the other media parrots') credulity.

There is no such thing as a triple agent

Jun 28, 2011

Counterinsurgency Scorecard: New RAND study on Afghanistan

The failure to disrupt the insurgents' tangible support needs was identified as a biggie. The lack of "good governance" and legitimacy of Karzai government are also bothersome to RAND.

Oh, and about that "scorecard", Afghanistan is given a 3.5, which is lower than the lowest-scoring COIN win [a 5], but higher than the highest-scoring loss [a 0].

So there you have it.

Counterinsurgency Scorecard: Afghanistan in Early 2011 Relative to the Insurgencies of the Past 30 Years [27-page PDF]

The previously published RAND monograph, Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency, used detailed case studies of the 30 insurgencies worldwide begun and completed between 1978 and 2008 to analyze correlates of success in counterinsurgency (COIN). A core finding was that a case's score on a scorecard of 15 equally weighted good and 12 equally weighted bad COIN factors and practices perfectly predicted the outcome of those 30 insurgencies. That is, the balance of good and bad factors and practices correlated with either a COIN win (insurgency loss) or a COIN loss (insurgency win) in the overall case. Using the scorecard approach as its foundation, a RAND project sought to extend the findings to the case of Afghanistan in early 2011. The effort involved an expert elicitation, or Delphi, exercise in which experts were asked to make "worst-case" assessments of the factors to complete the scorecard for ongoing operations in Afghanistan. The consensus results revealed that early 2011 Afghanistan scores in the middle of the historical record in terms of COIN wins and losses: Its score was lower than that in the lowest-scoring historical COIN win but higher than that in the highest-scoring COIN loss. This suggests an uncertain outcome in Afghanistan, but the findings may help provide additional guidance as operations continue.

Jun 24, 2011

Cambodia's Curse

From this coming Sunday's NYT Book Review: Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land

A study by the Cambodian psychiatrist Muny Sothara found PTSD "in 47 percent of the population"; another study, of Cambodian refugees in Massachusetts, found that 60 percent of PTSD victims there suffered from sleep paralysis, a half-conscious state of catatonia.

(...)

Social scientists are finding that PTSD is being passed from one generation to the next. Has this become Cambodia's curse?

Or is impunity the curse? In the aftermath of Pol Pot's death in 1998, the United Nations partnered with Cambodia's judges to try the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Brinkley explains the logic of the costly proceedings. "If nothing else, Ieng Sary fed the state's omnipresent culture of impunity," he writes of one Khmer Rouge leader. "If he, with the blood of two million people on his hands, faced no penalty, no censure, no retribution, how hard was it to accept the killing of a journalist here, a trade-union official there?"

(...)

The United States did not directly foist the Khmer Rouge on Cambodia. But Brink­ley describes how Lon Nol, who was friendly to Washington, overthrew Prince Sihanouk in a 1970 coup, and how the prince, in frustration, implored Cambodians to join the Khmer Rouge.

Brinkley disputes any further American complicity, even though the United States continued a secret carpet bombing campaign until 1973. But two scholars, Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan, have seized on data on the bombing released by President Bill Clinton; beginning under Lyndon Johnson, the United States dropped more bombs on Cambodia than the Allies dropped in all of World War II. Brinkley seems to dismiss the argument that the extensive bombing, with its tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, might have added urgency to Sihanouk's plea to join the Khmer Rouge. Yet Owen and Kiernan report that former C.I.A. and Khmer Rouge officers affirmed the American bombing helped the Khmer Rouge win support.