Another in Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frog interviews on the National Security Apparat.
Very worthwhile — as they’ve all been. This is number 18. She’s leading one of the most important discussions around.
Ellsberg is measured in assessing Obama, and even so the judgments are bleak. Syncs well with my own black-biled broodings.
Touches on the political consequences of allowing high hopes to fail for lack of leadership. Ellsberg doesn’t mention the Carter-Reaganism dynamic, but what he says brings it to mind.
And he puts the puzzle of the escalation decision in clear terms, observing that neither the top Pentagon brass, nor NS Advisor Jms Jones (retired four-star general), nor Rahm Emanuel — with the fine DC instincts and his eye on the 2010 elections — were pusihng the escalation. (Nor Biden.) And some were on record against it.
Is Obama more of a militarist than Petraeus, whose recent interview in Newsweek shows a mind less than persuaded of any successful outcome over there? Where did the decision come from?
Recall Col. Flectcher Prouty’s history of the Pentagon’s war in Vietnam (which, note, began in 1965) — and which Prouty thinks began almost accidentally, with a big push by Textron and its lobbyists to get the Gov to start buying Bell “Huey” helicopters en masse.
As conglomerate Textron — then as now a major war supplier — was preparing a corporate takeover of Bell Helicopters, a guy from Yale working on Wall Street kept showing up at Prouty’s office atop the Air Force staff in the Pentagon — trying to sell the notion that tactical helicopters would revolutionize counterinsurgency ops …
The Air Force kept saying no. Finally somebody got to somebody on the Nat’l Security Council staff in the White House, and the order came across the river: Let’s buy some more helicopters — and let’s base them across the border from Laos, rather than where all the shootin’s going on. Yeah, let’s put them in Vietnam.
The Huey program was greenlighted — but under CIA auspices. Which perhaps rounds around to explain why a banker out of Yale was lead salesman.
The CIA had opened its first official spy store in Saigon in 1954 (post French defeat at Dien Bien Phu) but our involvement there reached back into the war, when the OSS helped to arm Ho’s nationalists against the Japanese. Some say that the same guys, now wearing CIA badges, including Ed Lansdale, were covertly on the ground again well before ’54, working again with locals but this time to oust the French.
However that may be, Prouty writes that each early CIA Huey base in Vietnam needed some 500 (if memory serves) pairs of Pentagon boots to provide pilots, maintenance, security and support.
And when the bases started drawing fire from local insurgents even more Advisors were needed to Keep the Peace.
Wasn’t long before 16,000 soldiers were in country, under CIA command, shooting at insurgents from behind barricades as the choppers bounced and bombed around the South as Lansdale & company tried to figure out how to win their hearts and minds.
Then, in late ’63, a new President took office persuaded that it was time to let the Pentagon clean house.
The obvious parallel is the CIA’s drone campaign, based in Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan, which began under lame duck Bush-Cheney, August 2008, rather late — perhaps to be sure it was online fait accompli before the new prez came in.
The latter again brings to mind the Bay of Pigs — in particular the panicked revisions to the plan that went on between November 1960, when Kennedy shocked the planners by defeating Nixon, and January when he took office.
Steps were taken to downsize the scheme (quite consciously beyond hope of success) and to persuade the new White House team that the raid had been approved by Eisenhower (not so — rather, by VP Nixon, who headed the CIA oversight committee in Ike’s White House).
The raid came 70 days into Kennedy’s presidency. He wasn’t quick enough to choke it off, but deserves great credit for frustrating the prime motive by refusing its gambit — ie, refusing to send in the Marines to rescue the raid (and execute regime change).
And, of course, he never escalated with the Pentagon in Vietnam. That came after Johnson won his ’64 election.
Obama within weeks of taking office enlarged the CIA drone program.
And now, against the advice and/or instincts of Jones, Mullen, Eikenberry, even it seems Petraeus (four four-star generals) as well as VP Biden and CoS Rahm, he’s escalating the war.
Ellsberg pointedly compares Obama’s decision to that of Johnson (under whom and closely with he worked) in 1965 — and sadly laughs at the notion of turning on a dime and getting out in July 2011. The commitment, he insists, cannot but be anything but indefinite re both time and manpower.
More than puzzling. Why did subordinate Stanley McChrystal win this policy debate? Why was he even involved in it?
And what is the War Aim over there? I STILL don’t see one, and neither it seems does the senior brass.
Let’s see, who makes the Predator drone? Expensive little bombs ….. Who’s their anchor banker …?