Category Archives: spying

“Intelligence” and intelligence

Some of those who pursue a lifetime career in the 17 intelligence sectors of our armed forces and the civilian agencies promulgate a good deal of goobledegook. As in all highly touted [and relatively highly compensated] professions, it is part of “protecting” the turf.

But if truth were told, a good deal of Intelligence is simply intelligence, that is a thoughtful pursuit of well identified goals. Yes, there is the so-called “tradecraft” – the methodology of gathering information. A good deal of it, perhaps the overwhelming majority, is what outsiders would normally call collecting dumb facts. That’s why during the height of The Cold War, the Soviets’ largest embassy outside the Communist Bloc was in Mexico City. It was a joke among knowledgeable Mexicans that most of its personnel didn’t speak Spanish. What they did do was collect what would otherwise pass as ordinary materials from the U.S. – everything from catalogues to telephone books.

The talking heads gossiping on what is going on in the world [should we say intelligence?] are in one of their periodic hysterias about whether U.S. government intelligence is adequate. It is occasioned, by again a not unknown phenomenon, of a group in “the community” who have gone to the media with stories about how they are being short-circuited. They complain, with apparent justification, that their information being passed up the line to decision makers – finally to the chief decision maker, the President – isn’t being heard. Or worse still, that the word is coming down to modify findings to fit preconceived policies of the Administration. The particular issue at hand, apparently, is the evaluation of Daesh as the Arabs call it, the premier organization of Islamic fundamentalists who have created a ministate.

Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, one of the biggest players in the Community, squeezed out of office by White House advisers, is on the loose. Flynn takes umbrage, quite rightly, in accusations that it was the Community which failed to identify Daesh early on as a potent force in the chaotic Middle East. Not so, he vehemently protests, his own organization and others did identify Daesh [ISI or ISIL] as a threat to U.S. interests. That, of course, would seem to be what Pres. Obama did not know or hear or get when more than a year ago he called Daesh the Varsity Team, denigrating its potency.

We are now going to have one of those inquiries into whether, indeed,
“intelligence” is being twisted or rejected on is way up the ladder to the policymakers, particularly the White House. We are not very sanguine that we will get much satisfaction from the investigation. For one thing, as is his wont, Obama has already publicly reached a decision before the inspector general announces his verdict.

‘Intelligence” has unfortunately been plagued through the ages with failures. Pearl Harbor used to be the most dramatic modern example, when all the evidence – including thoughtful estimates by our then ambasssador to Japan Joseph C. Grew had long argued where Japanese [and American policy] were heading. And, indeed, he sent a warning by a fellow diplomat almost a year ahead of the event. The latest debacle, or perceived as one by many, is the reporting which led to Pres. George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and bring down Sadam Hussein. Bush’s critics, especially those on the other side of the aisle, are fond is declaring that this was a perversion of intelligence. In fact, the argument that Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction was built on a a body of facts and conjectures shared by all the other intelligence organizations of our allies.

Bottom line: “intelligence” is, in the end, intelligence, put together by people who are neither 10-feet tall nor have a sixth sense. Better to try to usher our best minds into following such a career and take our lumps when they make mistakes. But, above all, we must honor the profession and see that its product reaches the consumer in a pristine fashion, undiluted by a backward flow of instructions.





Hillary and Common Sense

Hillary and Common Sense
If there is anything left of the strategy of the Hillary Clinton grab for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, it must be a plot to create a numbing boredom for the voters producing a kind of stupor which would accept her coronation whatever its conditions.
The continuing series of charges and lies and admission and new denials and new admissions of some pretty obvious facts is beginning to wear on our nerves. We can’t but imagine that that is true for most of the voters, even the most politically motivated and engaged partisans who try to follow every complicated turn of events.
There is an additional problem, of course: None of this falderal is helped by the media, as increasingly inept in this subject as it has been all through hitching its wagon to the Obama star some six years ago. For most of the talking heads, whether knowingly or unwillingly, fall into every trap of the general confusion set in motion by the Hillary team and we get a so-called discussion of detail that constantly misses the whole point of the argument. .
Let’s get a few things straight:
First of all, it is perfectly clear that Hillary set up the separate nonofficial server [or was there more than one?] to hide whatever it was that she thought the usual official registration required of all government servants. It had nothing to do with her original claim that it was to lessen the claim on her operating several handheld devices, since we now know she several devices and have the photographs to prove it.
She did that, we must assume, because she wanted to hide something.
Nor is it acceptable that she would not know that official messages must move on official lines of communication. That is why there are official networks, or at least, one of the reasons. The other, and that brings up still another point, is that those networks have elaborate if sometimes faulty, we learn, methods of hiding their contents from the view of out potential enemies. That may or may not be the case with her own specially designed network, whatever the expert hired help she may have rented which now takes the Fifth.
The question, then, still unanswered, is: What did she want to hide? That is, what did she fear even within the strictures of confidentiality of government documents, did she believe her official correspondence would reveal that would be damaging to her own reputation. She surely could not have believed she was increasing security by ignoring the government networks. For she had to assume, that government networks already had provided for guarding national security secrets that she might be privy to because of her correspondence.
In all the digging in the minutiae, growing by the hour, the media have not really put that question front and center.
Secondly, it is also perfectly clear that any message transmitted to the Secretary of State, whatever its official classification, takes on an importance of its own simply for that reason. Furthermore, we have to assume that few if any messages are sent to the Secretary of State which someone in the bureaucracy or in her own entourage do not think are important.
The fact is, of course, that the Secretary of State is not only one of the most important officials of the federal government, with duties that have enormous implications in domestic as well as in foreign affairs. But since the Secretary of State is now the fourth in line for succession to the presidency in a major emergency, a crisis which can never be altogether discounted, that makes her correspondence and her knowledge gained from it all the mort important. Any piece of information which flows to the Secretary, presumably to be scanned if not studied becomes important for that very reason.
Okay, now we risk going off the deep end ourselves and adding more blather to the general cacophony.
But enough already! Hillary Clinton knowingly took her communications in office as Secretary of State out of the purview of official examination. Is that, or is that not, enough to discredit her campaign to make herself the chief executive of The Republic. And that we have to leave to the voters to decide.

Remembering the fall of Vietnam


Remembering the fall of Vietnam

Hopes for freedom died 40 years ago

Illustration on remembrance of the Vietnam War by Alexander Hunter/The Washington

By Sol Sanders – – Sunday, May 3, 2015

Probably no event in contemporary American history touched more of its citizens than “Vietnam.” I use the quotes to describe a concept that includes more than the country, the American war and 58,000 lost American lives, and convoluted arguments still haunting our political discourse.

Millions of words have been written about this tragedy. Unfortunately, much is ill-informed, ideological and distorting the issues. I sometimes despair historical truth will ever emerge from all the claptrap.

My own “Vietnam” begins much earlier than for most Americans, decades before the massive U.S. military buildup and its disastrous end. It began when I was a callow youth, a budding journalist fascinated with Asia after a short collision with India as an ambulance driver in the British army in World War II. That led to Indonesia, and thence to Vietnam. It metamorphosed into roaming Southeast Asia as a freelancer.

My year in Hanoi during “the French war” (1950-51) taught me basics of the convoluted Indochina conflict. And they were far from those I — and some of my well-meaning anti-colonialist friends — thought we knew. We thought we had done our bit when in 1946 a few Vietnamese emigres — mostly sailors who had jumped French ships — staged a highly successful protest meeting at the old McAlpin Hotel on Herald Square in New York City. Do Vang Ly, then a Columbia University Vietnamese student but already a veteran fighter for his country, and I were the spark plugs.

We drew for participants on an early United Nations General Assembly session Asian luminaries and Americans noted for their interest in the new “underdeveloped countries.” They included everyone from Norman Thomas, the old U.S. socialist warhorse, to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru’s poet sister, and novelist Pearl Buck, epitome of Western interest in China. Naively, our purpose was to support Ho Chi Minh, purportedly heading a broad national alliance, still negotiating with the French for independence until almost by accident they stumbled into war. A quiet agent among us from Ho’s Paris “embassy,” we were to learn later, saw to it that we adhered to the Communist “line.”

In Hanoi, I learned that beyond the constantly mutating argument between the Vietnamese and the French was the more bitter struggle between the Vietnamese Communists and nationalists. During a 16-month post-World War II hiatus, when the Communists controlled the Tonkin Delta, they had massacred nationalist leaders. In my time, plaques — imitating those for fallen French Resistance heroes throughout Paris — marked the spot where anti-Communist nationalists were struck down. Those included, interestingly enough, the older brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, later to lead the Republic of South Vietnam — the man of that generation from their Confucian court family originally slated to have been the politician.

I still remember the shock when I wrote a friend back in Boston, Harold Isaacs, author of a famous tome on the Chinese Revolution, that were it a choice between Ho Chi Minh and the then-French puppet “chief of state” Bao Dai, I would choose the ex-emperor. As the dedicated southern Vietnamese Trotskyists calculated, it was clear what Ho’s Indochina would be, whereas the corrupt and incompetent Bao Dai might still afford an avenue to Vietnamese freedom.

These two currents — dedicated, efficient, merciless Stalinists with their calls on the Soviet Union and its propaganda and infiltration in the West — and the incompetent, feuding and often far too fallible non-Communists continued the Vietnamese struggle. That contest seemed to have been finally decided once and for all with the fall of the Saigon regime, the 40th anniversary of which we marked on April 30.

However painful the specter of Americans being hauled off the roof of the Saigon embassy as North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the Presidential Palace gates, the United States was ready to shrug and turn to other issues. Nor were officials in Washington ready to admit the cutoff in American military aid had produced the catastrophe. But alas, for the Vietnamese, it marked yet another milestone in that continuing struggle between an alien totalitarianism — morphing as Lenin had prophesied in his more pessimistic moments into traditional Asian despotism — and the universal search for freedom.

Tens of thousands fled the “reunification.” Unknown thousands died in unworthy seacraft. My friend, Do Vang Ly, managed only by an accident of fate to survive. Washing up on an eastern Malaysian beach, he and a little band shepherded by a Catholic priest, were about to be shoved back into the water by their fellow Southeast Asians (a long-forgotten footnote to all the horror). But he took his water-soaked diplomatic passport from his shoe and persuaded the police to take it to a friend, the Malaysian foreign minister.

As with more than 1.5 million other Vietnamese refugees, “Tony” and his family made it to America. But he did not live to see the democratic Vietnam to which he had devoted his life. The continuing travesty in Vietnam today mocks those hopes. Nor do the new self-serving American rationalizations — in which some of our most aspiring politicians indulge — mask that the old fight still goes on if under different auspices.

• Sol Sanders is a veteran international correspondent.

Copyright © 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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U.S.-Israel crisis

The United States and Israel are under full sail into a perfect storm.

The caterwauling back and forth from the Israeli and Anglo-American left that Prime Minister Netanyahu is inviting Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s intervention in upcoming Israelis elections as a prop for his popularity are indicative of how far relations have sunk.

The Obama Administration, often tone-deaf to the nuances of the Mideast tangle of rapidly shifting antagonisms and tacit alliances, has made an accommodation with Iran its number one regional strategic priority. Washington seems ready to accept “nuclear threshold” – Tehran’s ability to build a bomb but with “proper” mullahs’ guarantees and UN inspection to hold off — as an alternate to total nuclear disarmament. Such an arrangement would establish Iranian jihadist hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the Greater Middle East.

That comes at a time when Israeli leadership – with the background of The Holocaust — cannot but take Tehran and its allies’ threats to erase it from the map as its most serious security threat. On a shorter timeline, the fact that Tehran now has allies on the Mediterranean to the south and north of Israel building missile arsenals is a present and current danger for Jerusalem and American strategic interests in the region..
The Obama Administration’s reiteration of America’s traditional all out support for the Israeli alliance increasingly ring hollow given Washington’s private asides. Obama’s insistence that negotiations go back to the indefensible pre-1967 boundaries — which received a public rebuke from Netanyahu — poisoned their already difficult personal relations between the two leaders. Nor did open Israeli support for Mitt Romney’s candidacy do more than pour salt in the wounds. Continuing leaks not even officially denied by State and White House spokesmen designed to join up with worldwide criticism of Israeli policy reinforce Jerusalem’s worst fears of White House attitudes..

The Obama Administration’s coolness toward Israel took on new meaning when the “routine” transfer of weaponry from Germany was framed in new red tape during the final days of the last Gaza war. For those with longer memories, it recalled the anomaly of Pres. Richard Nixon – despite his well-known private anti-Jewish comments –mustering a massive weapons airlift for Israeli survival in the surprise 1973 Yom Kippur War in support of American strategic interests.
Now, on the contrary, there is a growing belief both in American Zionist circles and in Israel that only the overwhelming support for Israel among the U.S. public and Congress inhibit the Administration — buttressed by the traditional antagonism toward Israel in the State Dept. — going further bilaterally and at the UN to pressure Israel for security concessions to an artificial Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, despite its continuing critical dependence on the U.S., the Israeli public with an increasingly negative view of Obama, is moving away from Washington’s insistence on concessions to the Palestinians. The most recent 50-day Gaza war after a threat of continual missile fire endangering all Israel could only be the death knell for any strategy of “land for peace”. Israel’s reward for a withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has been establishment of a ruthless jihadist Gaza regime which will not make even the perfunctory concession of accepting a Jewish state. Nor can Israelis ignore that in the last 2006 Palestinian elections, Gaza’s Hamas won almost half the parliamentary seats. Elections are now on hold largely because Pres. Mahmoud Abbas knows he could not win against a growing jihadist infiltration even on the West Bank with its short artillery range for Tel Aviv, much less Jerusalem.

There is the likelihood that the March 17 Knesset elections will show a further shift to a more uncompromising Israeli position even in the unlikely event of Binyamin Netanyahu’s replacement as prime minister. There is, objectively, no Palestinian negotiating partner in any event. No Palestinian leader, whatever his true beliefs, feels strong enough to meet any of the earlier concessions the Israelis made on withdrawing from the conquered areas. No shibboleth is as unrealistic as the Americans’ stated purpose to give the Palestinians contiguous areas which would, presumably, mean cutting off the Israelis’ access to the Negev by linking the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In an era when everything is being done, not only by the Palestinians but by “the political pilgrims” on the left in the U.S,. and Europe who have drifted to their cause, Israel will not abandon claims to its historic roots in a united Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [“the West Bank” after the 1946 war over the UN partition scheme]. It is there that the Hebrew kingdoms existed in classical Greek and Roman times, not in the plains surrounding present-day Tel Aviv.
The two-state “solution” has always been ephemeral, especially with the Palestinians, the U.S. and the Europeans, campaigning against Israeli “settlements” on the West Bank, both as an Israeli defense strategy and a cultural prop for reestablishing a Jewish state in the Mideast. The obvious question is that if 15% to 20% of the Israeli population is to remain Arab [and largely Muslim], how is it that the new Palestinian state should be “ Judenrein”?. And, in fact, by the Obama Administration making “settlements” the sine non qua of renewed and fruitful negotiations, it condemned negotiations from their outset.

A demographic revolution which has seen Arab birthrates both inside Israel and in the Occupied territories fall dramatically has vitiated the old argument of a larger Jewish state being swallowed in an Arab sea. On the contrary, Israeli birth rates are up, even among the secularized as well as the large haredi [religious] families.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s naïve assumptions about the Arab Spring continue to haunt the Obama Administration. It courts the Muslim Brotherhood, parent of almost all contemporary jihadist terrorism in the region, as a kind of Islamic version of the Christian Democrats, thus alienating the Egyptian military regime [despite reluctantly continuing to give Cairo massive aid]. It attempts to appease Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he Islamicizes his own country and ignores his NATO membership [except to ask for aid facing a chaotic Syria], ignoring U.S. and American sanctions on both Iran and Russia as well as gross anti-Semitic public utterances and a flirtation with Hamas. The feeble bombing of the Sunni jihadist revolutionaries of ISIL [now followed with a drip-drip of American ground forces back into Iraq] for all Washington’s bombast puts more questions around Washington policy for the U.S.’ traditional Arab allies in the Gulf.

Granted that the morass of Middle East politics would stymie a Solomon [if one dares to use that metaphor!] much less an increasingly lameduck Obama Administration, now even facing a revolt of Congressional Democrats. But the zigzagging Obama policies, whether on Syria or the new expressions of Islamic violence in Israel and the West Bank, continue energizing Israeli militancy. The outbreak of terrorism inside and outside the Green Line with the tacit inspiration of Abbas’ Arabic statements is dramatizing the crisis even for the befuddled American and European media.

The lack of American resolve in the face of the assassination of its citizens by the jihadists and constant statements equating terrorists on both side of the Israeli-Palestinian equation further imperil day to day relations with the Israelis, however historic and intense their intimacy.

Without an about-face in Obama policy, which seems unlikely to come quickly if at all, a public breakdown in Jerusalem-Washington relations now seems inevitable.

Foreign Policy 101

In a revolutionary world environment, foreign policy of a great power – and especially the lone superpower – is bound to be full of inconsistencies. Interests are far-flung and constantly demanding new priorities. But one does not have to refer to Machiavelli to recognize rules of the road which when violated are costly and in the case of the U.S., destabilizing for the entire world.

Again, those guidelines are often internally contradictory in the nature of generalizations.  But a knowledge of and adherence to them is essential to pursue a foreign policy, and, in this instance, of the superpower, the United States, and world peace and stability..

That we living through cataclysmic times does not have to be extensively argued. Suffice it to say that the digital revolution alone has made it harder than ever to distinguish between reality and perception by exaggerating – to quote Sec. Donald Rumsfeld – unknown unknowns. A recent former CIA operative hired by a Swiss bank to prevent fraud put it to me succinctly: the ability to reproduce almost any document [or signature] has led to almost unlimited financial hoax.

In the world of international relations something similar is equally true. But, again, there are basic dictum which are as old, at least, as the European nation-state and apply today as they always have. Many are commonsensical. To be unacquainted with them is to introduce new and additional volatility in an uncertain world.

America’s role Because of its size, its population and continental breadth, and its economy, the U.S. under any conditions would play a major world role — disengaged as well as engaged. But there are important additional nonphysical aspects. The Founders, however conservative their personal backgrounds [with the unresolved problem of black slavery], constructed a new nation on ideology rather than ethnicity, race or language. They believed that they were creating a new and unique beacon of liberty and justice harking back to Greek and Roman institutions as well as a Judeo-Christian ethic.

That, in essence, is “American exceptionalism”. To associate it with such more precise policies as “interventionism” or “isolationism” is to misunderstand completely. All one has to do is hark back to the 1930s debate of America’s world role in which both poles invoked U.S. singularity, whether Midwest agrarian populist isolationists, or East Coast industrial and financial bureaucratic interventionists.

Furthermore, it might not make much difference whether the concept is valid.the fact that it has been accepted as a part of American foreign policy for more than 200 years – however much hypocrisy one might charge – makes it is an important part of any discussion. Perhaps that is why Pres. Barrack Obama had to make the sharpest possible break with his earlier [presumably] offhanded remark in Europe denigrating the whole concept. But he did so now “with every fiber of my being. ” – indeed a turnabout!

America’s tools The most important if the most nebulous of tools in making foreign policy is the prestige of the United States abroad.[So-called opinion surveys, especially those in countries with widespread illiteracy are ridiculous.] More than half a century of overwhelming domination of the world scene, especially the two decades since the implosion of the Soviet Union, have contributed to an overestimate, if anything, of the U.S.’ power and ability to solve problems.

But there is a general talking heads consensus that belief has eroded significantly for whatever reason – policies of the current Administration or the accumulation of debris from two indecisive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a welter of unidentified “mistakes” to which Obama has continually referred. That may be true, but that also depends on the strength of American prestige at its zenith, if, indeed, that point is behind us. My own reading from conversations with informed foreign friends at home and abroad is that the belief in American omnipotence, for better or for worse, is alive and well.

If I am correct, then American power arises in no small part from Harvard University’s political scientist and former government official Joseph Nye has called “soft power”. Americans who have not traveled abroad or those who have accepted internationalization of U.S. fashions as the norm are often unaware of how that influence permeates foreign cultures. However, some of the clichéd ideas concerning American influence are equally irrelevant; e.g., the idea that a U.S. education automatically makes a returned foreigner sympathetic to Washington policy. [Some of the most virulently anti-American politicians abroad have been – and continue to be – products of at least a partial American education, a tribute perhaps to our tolerant institutions.]

In the best of all worlds formal U.S. diplomacy would exploit these cultural levers. That is rarely the case. The massive efforts of American propaganda, for example, that accompanied The Cold War have been largely abandoned. Just as it demoralized a more efficient consular service, incorporation of United States Information Service by State has been a disaster. Libraries which once were the most important U.S. cultural activity [aside from American movies] in backward countries have disappeared without an organized digital replacement.

Less difficult to define, of course, are four other major instruments in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations: formal diplomacy, economic warfare, the U.S. military and clandestine espionage and “special” operations.

Unfortunately, over the years, U.S. diplomacy has taken on more and more the attributes of its traditional European model. As it has done so, for the most part, American embassies abroad deal with their counterparts in a bubble to the exclusion of any attempt to cultivate a wider public. [In many countries, with authoritarian governments, of course, this may not be a choice.]

Worse still, U.S. diplomats suffer from what the French call déformation professionelle – if you are a lawyer, your first instinct is to litigate, if you are a surgeon, you instinctively want to cut, etc. And if you ae a diplomat, you first seek to negotiate. But since a successful diplomatic outcome requires compromise, what do you do when your opponent refuses to budge? You  extend unilateral  concessions  to achieve “success”, including abandoning prematurely “the military option”.

Much is made of the fact that U.S. military expenditures are more than the sum of most other major military powers. The argument is fallacious. Unfortunately, our European NATO allies have cut back their military expenditures, too often already eaten away by non-fighting bureaucracies. Or, for example, the French in their desperate pursuit of a policing francophone Africa have had to rely on U.S. transport.

In a sense that the one and only time NATO’s famous Article 5 has been invoked in Afghanistan is unfotunate– answering the 9/11 attack on the U.S. that required all partners to come to a member’s aid.  For the intervention in an siolated pre-industrial soceity was always destined to be inconclusive otherthan t eliminate the immediate source of violence against America’s heartland.

Ironically, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine may have restored some relevance of that concept, for the Europeans if not for a war weary American public.

All that notwithstanding, the mere threat to use U.S. military in a given crisis – what the geopoliticians call “strategic ambiguity” – is perhaps American policymakers’ most potent weapon. A generally quiet if dramatic example has been the guarantees to Taiwan which permitted development of the first democratic and prosperous society in Chinese history. [However, recent Washington foot-dragging on arms and accomodation of the current Taipei government for economic collaboration with the Mainland may have put it in jeopardy.] Were the Chinese Communist to have bases on Taiwan, it would be a game-changer in the increasingly delicate Northeast Asian powder keg with a rapidly accelerating North Korean drive for WSM and an. aggressive Beijing posture.

To name specific conditions and dates when American military power is to be used [or withdrawn] is perhaps the greatest weakness of the current Administration’s foreign strategies. It prepares the ground for the opponent’s counterstrategy. Even worse is to rattle the cage of a potential opponent – whether Pres. Obama with an announced on-and-off “limited blow”, as against the bloody Syrian regime or Defense Sec. Chuck:Hagel’s latest provocative public denunciation of Chinese adventurism while at the same time cutting back military budgets.

Waging the U.S.’ economic weapon is also a mixed bag. International trade has increasingly become a larger part of the U.S. gross national product, producing jobs as well as profits. And because since 1985 there is more foreign investment in America than U.S. equity abroad, the Treasury has had to trim its use as an instrument of foreign policy. A tax structure which has U.S.-based multinationals holdings in the tens of billions in profits stashed overseas also weighs heavily.

Still, Americaneconomic sanctions – especially when they are applied to third parties – can be crippling as Tehran found out before the Obama Administration loosen the bolts as incentive for a hoped for negotiated settlement..

Clandestine American operations abroad are part and parcel of any effective foreign policy. But certain conventions, however false, have to be adhered to. Yes, everyone knows Washington is listening to their mail but to tell the world as Edward Snowden and his pal Glenn Greenwald did is not only to prejudice important sources of information but to raise doubts for those who would want secretly to collaborate with the U.S., including foreign intelligence organizations. It is no secret that because of its superior facilities, Washington quietly has sometimes done “favors” for those allies.

For the White House [it says] to accidentally reveal the name of a station chief is inconceivable; not that in virtually any country there has always been unacknowledged cognizance generally of who he was. [Our old joke was that he could always be identified because he collected “art”, had a wife named “Magda”, and stacked all Praeger’s books in his shelves – and wore U.S. Navy officer shoes.]

Perhaps the most important and incalculable element in the search for an effective foreign policy is political will. When presidential candidate Barrack Obama — whose team showed incredible smarts at manipulating the media so it seems hardly an accident — prominently carried a copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World so it could be photographed, friends and enemies got an unmistakable  signal.

Defensive backpedaling, even in front of an audience as important as West Point’s graduation class, will not be enough to avoid new crises through miscalculations, the kind which have brought on most wars. Nor must a policymaker wallow in what used to be called “mirror imaging” – assuming your opponent’s motivations are yours.

After the longest war in U.S. history, Obama is unilaterally calling an end to violence in Afghanistan – and, in fact, to “the war on terror”. Is he so certain a sprinkling of Al Qaeda splinters of increasing sophistication in a half dozen other countries – including their recruiting some of our native-bred — will do the same?


American exceptionalism” – the long and the short

In that strange way the history of ideas swivels and turns, an old internal Communist argument is back – but as so often happens, the sides reversed. And few recognize its origins.

When Josef Stalin was wrapping up his enemies inside the Soviet Union and its appendage, the Comintern, the world Communist headquarters, he ran into an ideological problem with the miniscule American Communist Party. Stalin wanted to reconstitute the U.S. party with his own hacks. But as happens among Communists – even to today in Beijing – Stalin needed a “theoretical” issue to justify his actions. He seized on a heresy rampant inside the hugely unsuccessful 1930s American left: namely, without Europe’s ancient class structures and conflicts, the breathtaking exuberance for life and opportunities on this side of the Atlantic would block Marxist apparatchiks bringing on “the revolution”. That was the climatic event Kremlin leadership [even if Stalinists were increasingly skeptical themselves] preached would solve the world’s problems

The then American representative to “The Socialist Motherland”, Jay Lovestone, called it “American exceptionalism” in Party councils, an unpardonable sin.

Lovestone, an old American revolutionary despite his ideological transgressions, escaped Stalin’s goons. But it was by a hairsbreadth with help from a fellow American Communist then in Moscow, one Dr. Juluis Hammer, New York City physician, abortionist, ex-convict, who had befriended V.I. Lenin, the Russian revolutionary who led the radicals to power in 1917-22. . [Hammer would found a dynasty of billionaires prospering from their Moscow connections through the long line of Soviet dictators.]

Lovestone, briefly an “independent revolutionary”, blossomed into an exceedingly effective anti-Communist, first with the WWII Office of Strategic Services [OSS], later transformed into the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]. Then working as international director for Mr. George Meaney, the old plumber who headed the AFL-CIO, Lovestone helped bring much of the European left into the anti-Soviet fold

American exceptionalism, as clever slogans are wont, metamorphosed over the decades. It has melded with the beliefs of religious reformers who originated some American colonies [the Pilgrims, Ann Hathaway, William Penn, George Lord Baltimore, etc.] They saw themselves as precursors of a new social order. Their phraseology often borrowed from Judeo-Christian thought, specifically Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Later, the American Republic Founders believed they were creating a new civilization on the western shores of the Atlantic, distinct from Europe’s old evils. When asked by a passerby the result of the secret conclave of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin, the grand old wizard of American Revolution international politics, told her, “We have created a Republic, Madame, if you can keep it”.

The latest to use the concept, if not the slogan itself, was Pres. Ronald Reagan. In his 1989 farewell speech, he explained:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.”

This recurring theme divides the U.S. polity today as perhaps no other intellectual current. Much of the self-anointed, sophisticated “political class” [European jargon recently brought to America in defiance of the Founders’ dream of citizen-politicians] denigrates the whole idea. Pres. Barack Obama, for example, recently said in France he believed only in American exceptionalism as a rationalization every nation state has for the importance of its own credo. Some of his most loyal political base has long argued American exceptionalism camouflages rampant chauvinism, xenophobia, arbitrary use of power for self-interest — even opportunism and greed.

That line of attack was enhanced when in the post-World War II world, American exceptionalism took on new meaning. With a Europe in ruins and even in recovery dependent on the U.S. defense umbrella to prevent Soviet domination, America’s economic aid was overwhelming. Its support was not only brute strength but set patterns for economic development and world order. Official U.S. aid and private investment outflows created the norm for industrial countries’ international relations. American-style multinationals replaced, then dwarfed old European trading companies outgrowths of European colonialism. The dollar became the international currency in which most values were expressed.

Battered and tarnished as the current U.S. economy may be, when the EC attempted to meet “the Greek crisis” — which could lead not only to the destruction of the Euro but “the European project” itself —  it begged for help from the International Monetary fund. There, indirectly, the American taxpayer carries a disproportionate load — more evidence of the U.S.’s still special role in world affairs.

American exceptionalism lives!


One Chinese import too many!

This one didn’t come through Walmart – even that purveyor of all things Chinese would have been hesitant.

It is the new Confucius Institute that George Mason University has decided to import. Shame on them! It joins the old and not very well publicized scandal that our universities – there must be some strange Jesuitical explanation at Georgetown – have sold out their Mideast studies to Saudi money. Can you imagine that Georgetown has an institute named for a Saudi billionaire who said we caused 9/11, the towelhead from whom Mayor Giuliani refused a check. But the good fathers have always had their own standards of morality!

But back to George Mason: it used to be an island of commonsense in Washington’s otherwise mediocrity [American], eroded [Catholic], and halting [George Washington] university circles. But obvious there is “change” in Obama’s Washington.

The Confucius institutes have very little to do with the old Chinese sage – not that probably any heir to the European Judeo-Christian tradition should trifle with the “rites” for very long. They are to be propaganda centers around the world for the most evil regime that even the bloody 20th century could produce.

The professors, who are obvious converts to Confusionism, wouldn’t know the difference between the Confucionists and the Legalists. In that they share intellectual abilities with the hacks now running the old Chinese empire.

Please don’t give me the line that the Goethe Institute, the British Council, l’Alliance Francaise are in the same category. The argument is idiotic. Those institutions represent and try in their humble way to perpetuate the values of Western civilization for representative, democratic governments.

To quote an old Chinese axiom: the barbarians are inside the gate, a time to rise!