Monday, October 19, 2009
The State of US Intelligence?
A book review and a report have appeared recently in the US which reflect much on the current state of US Intelligence after eights years of George W. Bush/Dick Cheney's handwork. The trends that have led us to this point of course predate both, or rather date back to the years when Bush was attempting to crawl back up on his barstool. Cheney's influence of course goes back to the end of the Cold War and the restructuring of US intelligence which started in the early 1990s.
William Pfaff's recent article pointed me to Dr. Marc Segeman's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of this month. The last four pages of the document constitute his conclusions and pretty much lay out the rational limits of what our policy concerning Afghanistan "should" be. "Should" defined in terms of national interest supported by rational policy which is connected to available means. There are no "private" or hidden interests involved here, simply the interests of the United States as a state protecting the welfare/interests of the political community it supposedly represents - the American people.
The other document is a book review on a new book about the NSA. The book's strongest part is WWII and the early Cold War period, as in the version as to what really did MacArthur in, but James Bamford's article brings us much more up to date. The NSA, Bamford tells us, has been the key winner in the intelligence shake up that happened after the various intelligence "failures" which followed Bush's moving into the White House. There are obvious reasons for this, one of which I will come to shortly.
But first I think it necessary to point out something that may not be so obvious about these two seemingly very different texts. They both indicate the status of US Intelligence after eight years of Bush and now one of Obama. Dr. Segeman's testimony before the Senate Committee is going to have little influence on what US policy in Afghanistan is, or am I wrong? This is because the Senate some time ago abandoned their constitutional function in regards to foreign policy, and will follow and sign off on what ever the president decides. I also suspect that decision will be based on domestic political considerations (as in various powerful political/economic interests that see war as profitable, or necessary to send "the right message"): or as we say in strategic theory "objective politics" will trump "subjective policy". The American people don't really enter into the calculation.
So how does this link with the seemingly unlimited expansion of the NSA?
In one word: POWER. That is what intelligence is post-George W. Bush. The NeoCons see the US as the lone SuperPower, able to wage war relentlessly since our power is infinite. We simply act out our phantasies in the real world and let "the wogs" sort out the mess, which is what being an American President is all about in a NeoCon world. "Intelligence" is meant to allow the NeoCon leader the "freedom" to do what he has already decided upon. Intelligence based on real world threat assessments is the last thing these "leaders" wish to hear . . . So the good Dr's careful analysis is for naught. At the same time, for a political elite which has given up on democracy, the ability to turn this massive Cold War relic on the very same people it was originally meant to protect must seem a no brainer.
How Obama decides on the Afghan question will take care of any doubts as to where he stands in relation to Bush's policies, but the continued expansion of the NSA is already the handwriting on the wall.
Sadly, the republic canary in the mine died some time ago.
Update 1: War on Terror II