Friday, April 22, 2005

New Boys in Town
The Neocon Revolution and American Militarism

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Blog editor's note: This is the second excerpt from Bacevich's new book on the new militarism (see previous item from yesterday.

In our own time -- and especially since the ascendancy of George W. Bush to the presidency -- "neoconservative" has become a term of opprobrium, frequently accompanied by ad hominem attacks and charges of arrogance and hubris. But the heat generated by the term also stands as a backhanded tribute, an acknowledgment that the neoconservative impact has been substantial. It is today too soon to offer a comprehensive assessment of that impact. The discussion of neoconservatism offered here has a more modest objective, namely, to suggest that one aspect of the neoconservative legacy has been to foster the intellectual climate necessary for the emergence of the new American militarism.

As a practical matter, the task of reinventing neoconservatism for a post-Communist world -- and of spelling out an "imperial self-definition" of American purpose -- fell to a new generation. To promote that effort, leading members of that new generation created their own institutions.

To read the full text, see

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Normalization of War

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Blog editor's note: Bacevich, a writer who identifes himself as a cultural conservative, is a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, former contributor to such magazines as the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and former Bush Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. This is the first exceprt from his new book, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War and is provided by I'll link the second excerpt in the next few days.

At the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The skepticism about arms and armies that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamored with military might.

The ensuing affair had and continues to have a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue. Few in power have openly considered whether valuing military power for its own sake or cultivating permanent global military superiority might be at odds with American principles. Indeed, one striking aspect of America's drift toward militarism has been the absence of dissent offered by any political figure of genuine stature.

For example, when Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, ran for the presidency in 2004, he framed his differences with George W. Bush's national security policies in terms of tactics rather than first principles. Kerry did not question the wisdom of styling the U.S. response to the events of 9/11 as a generations-long "global war on terror." It was not the prospect of open-ended war that drew Kerry's ire. It was rather the fact that the war had been "extraordinarily mismanaged and ineptly prosecuted." Kerry faulted Bush because, in his view, U.S. troops in Iraq lacked "the preparation and hardware they needed to fight as effectively as they could." Bush was expecting too few soldiers to do too much with too little. Declaring that "keeping our military strong and keeping our troops as safe as they can be should be our highest priority," Kerry promised if elected to fix these deficiencies. Americans could count on a President Kerry to expand the armed forces and to improve their ability to fight.

To read the full text, see visible text for link here

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Larry C. Johnson
The Counterterrorism Blog

According to its self-description, "The Counterterrorism Blog, a unique, multi-expert blog dedicated to providing a one-stop gateway to the counterterrorism community. To our knowledge, there has been no such blog on the internet. We envision the blog’s audience to be the policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch, as well as serious students elsewhere, who want to visit a single site to access (1) overnight and breaking news, with realtime intel and commentary by operational experts; (2) discussions of long-term trends in counterterrorism; (3) summaries of and discussions about US and international law; and (4) a calendar of upcoming events, hearings, and seminars. We want to highlight those experts who have extensive knowledge of counterterrorism cases, and thus enable them to expand their opportunities to bring their expertise to the attention of policymakers."

Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year's debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better--they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department's discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655. At least 300 of those incidents occurred in India in the Kashmir region. NCTC, I'm told, is still tweaking the numbers. For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents. In the Secretary's defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq). Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face. (Note: the reporting requirement in 22 USCS is reprinted below.)

To read the full text, see The Counterterrorism Blog

Sunday, April 17, 2005


By Richard Reeves
syndicated columnist
Apr 15, 2005

DALLAS -- A few years after he left the White House, I asked Richard Nixon how many people were involved in making the foreign policy of the United States. "Very few," he said. "Two thousand? Three thousand? I'd put the number somewhere around there. That's how many people a president would find it worth talking to. They're very close, most of them in New York or Washington ..."

Not that he always wanted to talk with them. His greatest foreign policy triumph, the 1972 opening to China, was pretty much a solo effort with one man, the talented Henry Kissinger, doing the staff work. But the former president did say he usually had to build some kind of support among that foreign policy elite of diplomats, politicians, professors, corporate executives and bankers, and some military men. They all had real or potential input on how a country of about 200 million people (in 1970) faced and dealt with the world, allies and enemies.

Today, Nixon's 3,000 is down to four people, according to the cover story of the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine. "Inside the Committee That Runs the World" is the cover line. None of them is from New York or Washington. The cover photograph shows them walking on a dirt road in someplace called Crawford here in Texas. It's an interesting picture: the president, George Bush, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, showing off their good posture; the wise men, old friends, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, bent a bit, each with a hand in his left pocket, looking down as if an answer is written in the dirt.

To read the full text, see

A New Lebanon?

By Max Rodenbeck
New York Review of Books
April 28, 2005
Volume 52, Number 7

Lebanon is smaller than Connecticut and scarcely more populous. Its economy, still struggling to recoup the losses of the 1975–1990 civil war, hardly amounts to the annual turnover at McDonald's. What is so special about the country? The immediate answer is that this statelet, which was subtracted by French imperialists from greater Syria, has suddenly found itself to be the fine point upon which the fate of a much wider region balances.

That sounds an oversized claim, but an extraordinary passion play has been unfolding in Beirut over the last few weeks. It is a drama that happens to pit forces which, in a particularly stark fashion, seem to represent the competing narratives that will ultimately define the Arabs' vision of their recent past and soon-to-be-revealed destiny. These forces are, in many ways, similar to those that have clashed within every Arab society, and continue to do so, in what some historians describe as a struggle between the cosmopolitan Arabs of the coastal cities and those of the inward-looking hinterland. And just now, on the Arab airwaves transmitting scenes from the streets of Beirut, a turning of the tide in this struggle may be fleetingly discerned.

To read the full text, see New York Review of Books

Sharon's Gamble Rides on Bush

By Jackson Diehl
Washington Post
April 11, 2005; Page A19

A year ago this week Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Washington with a bold agenda: to obtain the support of President Bush for a unilateral Israeli solution to his country's conflict with the Palestinians. Abandoning a decade of efforts at negotiations -- not to mention Bush's own "road map" for a two-state solution -- Sharon aimed to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, then impose a border of Israel's choosing in the West Bank, fortified by walls and fences. Rather than seek accord with the Palestinians, whom he knew would never accept his terms, Sharon sought to anchor his initiative in a deal with Bush, whom he asked for an endorsement of Israel's eventual annexation of West Bank territory and its determination never to accept the return of Palestinian refugees. With diplomacy at an impasse and Yasser Arafat still master of his long-suffering people, Bush signed on.

Since then a lot has happened: Arafat died and was replaced by a democratically elected president committed to ending violence and negotiating a settlement. Bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians ceased for the first time in Bush's presidency. A reelected Bush solemnly recommitted himself to the road map and its two-state negotiated settlement, which he said he wants to achieve by the end of his second term. "The world must not rest," he declared in February, "until there is a just and lasting resolution to this conflict."

To read the full text, see The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oil, Geopolitics, and the Coming War with Iran

By Michael T. Klare

Blog editor's note: Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Oil (Metropolitan Books). I consider him one of the most perceptive critics of the National Security State cum Homeland Security State writing today.

As the United States gears up for an attack on Iran, one thing is certain: the Bush administration will never mention oil as a reason for going to war. As in the case of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be cited as the principal justification for an American assault. "We will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon [by Iran]," is the way President Bush put it in a much-quoted 2003 statement. But just as the failure to discover illicit weapons in Iraq undermined the administration's use of WMD as the paramount reason for its invasion, so its claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism. More important, any serious assessment of Iran's strategic importance to the United States should focus on its role in the global energy equation.

Before proceeding further, let me state for the record that I do not claim oil is the sole driving force behind the Bush administration's apparent determination to destroy Iranian military capabilities. No doubt there are many national security professionals in Washington who are truly worried about Iran's nuclear program, just as there were many professionals who were genuinely worried about Iraqi weapons capabilities. I respect this. But no war is ever prompted by one factor alone, and it is evident from the public record that many considerations, including oil, played a role in the administration's decision to invade Iraq. Likewise, it is reasonable to assume that many factors -- again including oil -- are playing a role in the decision-making now underway over a possible assault on Iran.

To read the full text, see

Rumsfeld warns Iraqis against cronyism

By Chris Johnston,
Times Online
April 12, 2005

Blog editor's note: Some observers have noted that Sec. Rumsfeld is particularly well suited to give warnings about cronyism, given his ties to the interests of defense industries, not to mention such as V.P. Cheney's connections to Halliburton.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, warned Iraqi politicians today not to purge the security forces and stack the ranks with their own men.

Lack of confidence or corruption in government would be "unfortunate", Mr Rumsfeld said in Baghdad today on a short and unannounced visit to Iraq.

To read the full text, see TimesOnLine

Ex-Intel Chief Blasts Bolton at Hearing

Barry Schweid
Associated Press

WASHINGTON Apr 12, 2005 — A former chief of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research castigated John R. Bolton on Tuesday as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who abused analysts who disagreed with his views of Cuba's weapons capabilities.

With Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Democratic attack, Carl W. Ford Jr. appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support accusations of harassment.

"I have never seen anyone quite like Mr. Bolton," Ford testified under oath. "He abuses his authority with little people."

Sen. Joseph F. Biden, Jr., D-Del., who is leading the fight to block the nomination, responded angrily to the accusation of mistreatment. Anytime a senior official calls in a lower-level one "and reams him a new one," he said, "that's just not acceptable."

To read the full text, see ABC

Friday, April 08, 2005

Iraq: The Real Election

By Mark Danner
The New York Review of Books
Volume 52, Number 7 ·
April 28, 2005

Blog editor's note: Some observers are describing this analysis as the best, most clear-eyed reportage available on the Iraq elections and what they portend for the future. Certainly, Danner's work provides a valuable example of thematic reporting, as opposed to the episodic sort that dominates mainstream news of foreign affairs. Danner is author, most recently, of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror [New York Review of Books]

"The essence of any insurgency, and its most decisive battle space, is the psychological. [It's] armed theater: you have protagonists on the stage but they're sending messages to wider audiences. Insurgency is about perceptions, beliefs, expectations, legitimacy, and will. Insurgency is not won by killing insurgents, not won by seizing territory; it's won by altering the psychological factors that are most relevant."[1]

Just past dawn on January 30, Iraq's Election Day—the fourth of the US occupation's "turning points," after the fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the "handover of sovereignty"—I stood at the muddy gates of Muthana Air Base outside Baghdad watching the sun rise, pink and full, into a white-streaked sky; then, feeling a sudden tremor beneath my feet, I started abruptly: the explosion was loud and, judging by the vibrations, not far off.

To read the full text, see New York Review of Books

Sunday, April 03, 2005

You Can’t Handle the Truth

By Joseph Cirincione
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 2, 2005

The president’s commission on intelligence delivered half a report. Like the general played by Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," the commission acted as if America can’t handle the truth. The commissioners would have us believe that those who provided the false intelligence were solely to blame, and the senior political leaders who ordered and presented the claims to the public were passive victims. Conservative pundits have quickly declared, "case closed," and urge us to focus on rearranging the deck chairs on the intelligence ship. But buried deep inside the report is evidence that contradicts the commission’s own conclusions and raises serious questions about their recommendations. Most damning is the tale of two CIA analysts who were removed from their positions for "causing waves" when they questioned the reliability of the defector known as "Curveball."

This story only appears 200 pages into the report. It is at the very end of the Iraq section (pg. 192) after Conclusion 26 that finds no evidence of politicization of the intelligence.

An analyst with WINPAC (the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center) was in Iraq in the summer and fall of 2003 and reported serious doubts about the reliability of Curveball’s claims that Saddam built mobile biological labs and conducted biowarfare experiments. We now know that the analyst was correct. Curveball lied. There were no mobile biolabs or bioweapons of any kind. The commission reports that in late 2003, the CIA did not want to admit that "Curveball was a fabricator…because of concerns about how this would look to the ‘Seventh Floor’ and to "downtown.’" Instead, says the commission, the analyst was "read the riot act’ by his office director who accused him of ‘making waves’ and being ‘biased.’" He was kicked out of WINPAC. The same punishment was meted out to a chemical weapons analyst in Iraq who pressed for a reassessment of the CIA’s claims of a large-scale CW program. He, too, was forced to leave WINPAC.

To read the full text, which also includes links to the report itself and a number of sources that corroborate Cirincione's thesis, see Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Another Bet on the Genera l

Washington Post
April 2, 2005; Page A20

Blog editor's note: Americans who have come to accept the proposition that freedom is on the march as the result of U.S. foreign policies would do well to consider the points raised in this editorial in today's Washington Post. The historical record is clear that when official Washington's professed ideals come into conflict with its own perceived interests, it is the ideals that give way. In this regard, it is always useful to keep in mind the critical distinction between a declared policy and one that is actually implemented. Put simply, as an advisor to the Nixon administration observed, "watch what we do--not what we say."

PAKISTAN'S MILITARY ruler, Pervez Musharraf, once again can boast of the lucre brought to his regime by his alliance with the United States. Breaking an embargo established under his father's administration 15 years ago, President Bush has agreed to sell the Pakistani military dozens of high-performance F-16s, a warplane capable of delivering Pakistan's nuclear weapons that is coveted by its generals so as to increase the menace to neighboring, democratic India. Mr. Bush's decision will bolster Mr. Musharraf's support among the only political constituency that matters to him, his nationalist generals. It will also reinforce the political dominance of that faction in Pakistan, a desperately poor country with a history of squandering its resources on its army while underfunding such social services as secular schools.

The F-16 deal adds to a long list of concessions Mr. Musharraf has enjoyed since Sept. 11, 2001. The Bush administration had written off Pakistani debt, promised $3 billion in aid over five years and sold another $1 billion in weapons to the military even before agreeing to sell these planes. It has stood by indulgently while the general pardoned the perpetrator of the worst crimes in the history of nuclear proliferation, A.Q. Khan, whose sales of nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, Libya and possibly others could not have occurred without the knowledge of military commanders. Mr. Bush has accepted Mr. Musharraf's refusal to allow U.S. or other international investigators to interview Mr. Khan; his administration has also failed to react to growing evidence that Pakistan continues to seek advanced nuclear weapons technologies by illegal means, including in the United States.

To read the full text, see

Friday, April 01, 2005


Blog editor's Note: I was wondering how major newspaper editorialists would greet the unveiling of yesterday's Intelligence Commission report. Below are two samples that indicate two decidedly different readings of the document. For what's worth, I believe the first one by The Times to have hit the bullseye and the second by WSJ to be an exercise in tortured apologetics for the Bush administration.

A Profile in Timidity

The New York Times
April 1, 2005

The president's commission on intelligence gathering could have saved the country a lot of time, and considerable paper, by not publishing its report yesterday and just e-mailing everyone the Web addresses for the searching studies already done by the 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee. After more than a year's dithering, the panel produced some 600 pages of conventional wisdom about the intelligence failures before the war with Iraq, along with a big dose of political spin that pleased the White House but provided little enlightenment for the public.

We were not optimistic when President Bush was pressured into creating this panel in February 2004. Though bipartisan, its membership lacked stature or independence, and Mr. Bush failed to give the commission a sweeping mandate that would go beyond rehashing the distressing but well-known shortcomings of the intelligence agencies. Still, it seemed worth waiting until after the election for the results because it was hard to imagine that the panel would not ask the vital questions.

Sadly, there is nothing about the central issue - how the Bush administration handled the intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs and presented them to the public to win support for the invasion of Iraq. All we get is an excuse: the panel was "not authorized" to look at this question, so it didn't bother. The report says the panel "interviewed a host of current and former policy makers" about the intelligence on Iraq, but did not "review how policy makers subsequently used that information." (We can just see it - an investigator holding up his hand and declaiming: "Stop right there, Mr. Secretary! We're not authorized to know what you did.")

To read the full text, see New York Times

A Media Intelligence Failure

Wall Street Journal
April 1, 2005; Page A10

We'll need time to dig through the details in the 600-plus-page Robb-Silberman report on intelligence that was released yesterday. But one important conclusion worth noting, even on a quick reading, is that the report blows apart the myth that intelligence provided by Iraqi politician and former exile Ahmed Chalabi suckered the U.S. into going to war.

That myth was a media and antiwar favorite last year, before the U.S. and Iraq elections, and when all of Washington thought President Bush was a one-termer. CIA and State Department sources peddled the idea that an Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball" had planted bad information about Saddam's WMD. "Curveball" was widely broadcast as an agent of Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, with the not-so-subtle implication that his intelligence was used by the Pentagon to deceive Mr. Bush into going to war.

The promoters of some version of this theory included Senator Ted Kennedy and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as such prominent journalists as NBC's Tim Russert, reporters at the Los Angeles Times, Joe Klein of Time, and Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek. "The ideologues at the Defense Department were warned by doubters at the State Department and CIA that Chalabi was peddling suspect goods," declared Newsweek. "Even so, the Bushies were bamboozled by a Machiavellian con man for the ages."

To read the full text, see Wall Street Journal