Archive for December, 2008

December 15th, 2008

Day of the Generals:
The Pentagon will be running
Obama’s foreign policy

Obama seems ready to make an unprecedented grant of foreign policy control to military officers.  What the heck is he thinking?

1. A Marine general, James L. Jones, has been nominated to serve as the new president’s National Security Advisor, at his side in the White House atop the National Security Council staff.
This most important post is usually a civilian, the only significant exceptions to that rule (Navy admiral John Poindexter and Marine colonel Bob McFarlane) having come during the Reagantime.

(Air Force general Brent Scowcroft served as such twice, under Ford and Bush pere, but was never a fightin’ general.  Rather:  a career academic and think-tanker. )

2.  The new-tangled Director of National Intelligence is slated to be a Navy admiral, Dennis C. Blair.  This post was created post 9/11 and first filled by a civilian, the Reaganite ex-convict John Negroponte.  The current director is John “Mike” McConnell, a former Navy admiral and chief of the National Security Agency (itself a branch of the Department of Defense).

3.  It seems so far that the head of the CIA will remain an Air Force general, Michael Hayden, also a former head of the NSA.

The only other brass to serve as CIA chief were:

A. Navy admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, 1947-1950.  The CIA’s first director, appointed by Truman. An intelligence officer left over from the war — and very much a placeholder while Allen Dulles maneuvered to get his hands on the levers.

Dulles (in New York) and fellow Office of Strategic Services spook Frank Wisner (at the State Dept) kept the OSS bones warm from September 1945 (when Truman disbanded the war-born agency in accord with FDR’s intentions) to the CIA’s founding in summer 1947 and were really more or less in charge of operations, both during the interregnum and under Hillenkoetter.

B.  Army general Walter Bedell Smith, 1950-53.  Again, a leftover — Dwight Eisenhower’s wartime chief of staff.  But according to brit spy and grand turncoat Kim Philby, Bedell Smith was as smart a cookie as the American intelligence apparat ever produced.  Dulles (a banking lawyer) replaced him.

C.  Navy admiral William Raborn, 1965.  Served briefly while Washington digested the ascension to the top spot of career spook Richard Helms, who had egg of Bay of Pigs and related embarassments on his face.

D.  Navy admiral Stansfield Turner, 1977-1981.  Not an intelligence officer.  Rather, a clean-hands man brought in by naval academy grad Jimmy Carter.

If one disregards Hillenkoetter and Bedell Smith as transition figures from the war during the CIA’s birthing pains, and Raborn as something Johnson did to let Helms twist in the wind a bit, and Turner as a pure-play Outsider, then …

Then Hayden is the first Pentagonian to be given the CIA.

4.  At the Pentagon itself, baby Bush’s team  — Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and joint chiefs chairman, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen — will each be staying on.

The latter two men have been the hands-on, on-the-ground leaders of baby Bush’s policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan since spring 2008.  Both have been Over There fixing things and giving policy speeches.  They seem to have filled the vacuum left by the banishment in late 2006/early 2007 of the Likud Lobbyists who had been given the reins in January 2001.

5.  A year ago, as it became clear that Hillary was not a shoe-in for the Donkey nomination, the former Army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, was asked if any of the candidates really understood the Pentagon’s mind and desires.

His reply:  “Besides Hillary, you mean?”

She had earned this respect through work on the Senate’s Armed Services committee.  Now she’s going to the State Department.

Thus: a friend of the Pentagon will be running the only top position not held by the generals.

CONCLUSION:  One has to go back to the second war to find an administration so completely in the hands of the military.

What to think?   A measure of unsuspected insecurity, or indebtedness, in the incoming prez?

Loose cannon amidships?

A fortiori in any case:  Look for a big shooting war in Pakghanistan before summer next year.  The kind of war the Pentagon wanted in Vietnam and Iraq 1991, where, in each case, as brass put, they fought with one hand tied behind their backs.

December 15th, 2008

Bush gets the shoe in Baghdad

AMERICAN PRESIDENT: The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace … I’m just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends. … The war is not over.”

IRAQI JOURNALIST: “This is the end!  This is a gift from the Iraqis, this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”


Working on other things, I’d sworn off political punditry til the new year.

The frame from the video clip that the Times shows here illuminates the characters of Maliki and baby Bush.   With the second shoe incoming, the Iraqi leader is calm as he instinctively does the right thing.  But the American?  Cringing and shrinking like a baby that has never had to take care of himself or anything else.

Maliki’s expression as the first shoe flew is perhaps even more interesting and likeable.  The face of a weary leader who has seen it all and knows these things happen.

It was long ago clear that Bush could no longer be sent out to work the world stage.  Perhaps this will bring down the curtain.

And perhaps arab journalists in Washington will now be required to tender their shoes at a security desk before proceeding into press conferences.

“This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!”