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Monthly Archives: October 2012

There’s a lot to talk about, especially when it comes to Benghazi, and I’d been trying for weeks to contact my old friend, James Jesus Angleton, the former head of CIA counterintelligence.  Since he’s been dead for a long time, it’s not so easy, and I have to rely on my singularly untrusty ouija board, which has been in and out of the repair shop for years.  Finally, with lots of static (maybe due to Hurricane Sandy), I got him.

Or, rather, I got his spirit, easily recognizable by his high-pitched gravelly voice (LOTS of cigarettes) and his quizzical tone.

JJA:  If you’re calling about the weather, forget it, I don’t do hurricanes.  Anyway, the intel on Storm Sandy was excellent.  A bad day for mankind, a good day for computer modeling…

ML:  No, it’s an intelligence matter.  Benghazi and all that.

JJA:  One of the most disgusting events I’ve ever seen.

ML:  Let’s start with the intel, ok?  Did we have enough information to expect the attack on 9/11?

JJA:  Listen to me.  Carefully.  The whole point of “intelligence” is to understand the world we’re in.  Sometimes you need secret information to achieve that understanding.  You might need to know about foreign leaders’ real intentions, as well as their real capabilities, for example (think Iran, think al Qaeda).  You can’t get that sort of information without conducting espionage.  You need agents, moles, penetrations, intercepts, the whole panoply of spycraft.  But sometimes you don’t need any of that, all you need is to open your eyes, nose, and mind to what is right in front of your face.  Benghazi is mostly–not entirely, but mostly–that sort of thing.

ML:  Yes.  There were two previous assaults on that compound, after all.  Ambassador Stevens was constantly asking for increased security, and the date–9/11–was an obvious red flag.

JJA:  Indeed.  Even the Red Cross had left Benghazi, and the Libyan government had warned about the bad, and worsening, security in the city.  So you didn’t need “assets” inside the terrorist groups to worry about an impending attack.

ML:  But the State Department says that, after all, there was no “specific” information that warranted greater protection for our guys there:

State Department officials have asserted that there was no specific intelligence that warned of a large-scale attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which they asserted was unprecedented. The department said it was careful to weigh security with diplomats’ need to meet with Libyan officials and citizens.

JJA:  Of course they would say that.  It shifts the blame to CIA.  In essence State says that CIA did not have assets inside the terror groups, including AQ, and so it was inevitable that Stevens would be insufficiently defended.  The implication was that, if only State had known it was coming, they’d have had adequate protection in place.

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Why Is Obama so Nasty and Vulgar?

October 28th, 2012 - 6:01 pm

Rude, insulting language about Romney (“bullsh****r) from the president.  Vulgar sexual innuendo, aimed at seducing young women to vote for him.  The vice president asking a bereaved parent about the size of his murdered son’s testicles.  It’s quite a spectacle.  We’re a fractious people, and our politics have always been full of colorful language, but I can’t recall the current depth of vulgarity.  The “politics of personal destruction” have gotten uglier.  Does it mean anything?  Should we try to understand it?

First, it bespeaks a coarsening of public language.  No surprise there (Romney’s gentlemanlyness is more surprising, in fact);  for a long time our movies and television have abandoned the rules that banned certain words and phrases.  Still, until recently, our political leaders have avoided such vulgarities, at least in their public rhetoric.  No more, at least at the highest level of the current Democrat Party.

Second, it shows the shrinking vocabulary of our political life.  There are plenty of usable and powerful synonyms of “buls*****r,” but a graduate of Harvard Law School didn’t have any of them on the tip of his tongue.  Or perhaps he just preferred the vulgarity.

Third, it is yet another step in the erasure of the line that once divided public and private.  We always knew that there was (sometimes) a big difference between public image and private behavior.  No man (except maybe Sir Winston) is a hero to his valet, etc. etc.  But still, there were proprieties, rules for public decorum, and those who fell from grace in public were criticized and excoriated for falling.  No more, at least so far as I can see among the Democrat faithful.

To be sure, there’s a difference between the two parties.  When male Republican candidates make disgusting and ridiculous statements about rape, the faithful turn on them, properly so IMHO, but neither Obama nor Biden has come in for punishment for their use of obscenities and vulgarities.

So the rules for proper decorum are out the window, and the former arbiters of good taste are on board, ratifying the changes by their silence.  It’s a shame, but there you have it.

But the arbiters–the intellectuals, the elite punditocracy et. al.–can’t dictate standards to the rest of us,  even though they often delude themselves into believing they can. The politicians who indulge in the new nastiness clearly believe it’s fine with us, because they think their elitist friends dictate standards to the rest of us.  I think they’re wrong.  When only EIGHT PERCENT of Americans have a positive view of the media, it tells you something, after all.  And when I read about the sudden 7 percent drop in Obama’s approval ratings in three days, I suspect it has something to do with bulls*****r and losing-your-virginity-is-like-voting-for-Barack ads, and Biden’s disgusting remarks to a bereaved father.

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The October Surprise

October 20th, 2012 - 7:16 pm

The New York Times reports (and the White House denies) that “The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.”

Two of the three assertions in that lead paragraph are demonstrably false.  One-on-one negotiations have been going on for years (most recently, according to my friend “Reza Kahlili,” in Doha, where, he was told, Valerie Jarrett and other American officials recently traveled for the latest talks).  The only news here is that the talks would no longer be secret.  And the notion that only diplomacy can avert “a military strike on Iran” is fanciful.  There are at least two other ways:  sanctions may compel the regime to stop its nuclear weapons program, or the Iranian people may find a way to overthrow the regime, thereby (perhaps, at least) rendering military action unnecessary.

I rather suspect that you don’t have to do anything to avoid an American military strike on Iran.  I can’t imagine an Obama administration authorizing a military attack.  An administration that can barely bring itself to fly air cover in Libya, and can’t bring itself to take any serious action in Syria, strikes me as very unlikely to unleash our armed forces against the mullahs.

As for the claim that Iran has agreed to talks, even that seems problematic, as the Times admits further down in its story:  “American officials said they were uncertain whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had signed off on the effort.”  If there is no approval from the supreme leader, there is no agreement at all.

The Times’ journalists — Helene Cooper and Mark Lander — then treat us to an attempt to calculate the political significance of their story, but that is as foggy as the report itself.  Maybe it would help Obama claim some sort of breakthrough.  On the other hand, maybe it would leave him open to the charge that Iran is using him to stall for time.  Who knows?  They quote America’s favorite negotiator, Dennis Ross, who is of course all for the talks, and even has a negotiating strategy all ready.  And they quote Nicholas Burns, who is also supportive.

This last is a bit curious, since Burns, who was Condoleezza Rice’s top negotiator with the Iranians, actually believed he had negotiated a “grand bargain” with the Iranians in 2006.  The Iranians would suspend nuclear enrichment and we would lift sanctions.  Except that the Iranians failed to show up for the signing ceremony at the United Nations, and Rice and Burns sat in New York waiting for the Iranian airplane to take off from Tehran.  Apparently Mr.Burns didn’t learn the obvious lesson.

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It Looks Like Carter All Over Again

October 9th, 2012 - 12:42 pm

In the end, Carter lost to Reagan because he dithered too much, because he was just too feckless, because our enemies were running amok, and Carter was trying to make a deal with them instead of acting the way most of us thought a real American leader should act.  Then, as now, the media were overwhelmingly behind the Democratic incumbent, but the real world overwhelmed them.  Then, it was American hostages in Iran.  Now, it is American dead in Libya.  Then, it was a mob of Iranian “students” shrieking “death to America” in Tehran and taking over the American embassy .  Now, it is jihadi killers in Benghazi gunning down our ambassador and three soldiers, and burning the consulate.

Back then, the symbol of a failed president was a big rabbit.  Now, it’s a big bird.

Machiavelli says that once a leader becomes an object of contempt, he’s doomed.  Which is Obama’s current condition.  Once you become the butt of jokes the aura of leadership is gone forever.

I have real trouble imagining that Obama/Biden can undo this situation.  If my political future hinged on the performance of Joe Biden, I’d be in despair.  Hell, if my political future hinged on Obama’s performance sans teleprompter, I’d be looking for the foodstamp counter.

Polls or no polls, Obama has been crippled, and the striking similarities with Carter evoke 1980, when lots of polls were calling for a photo finish, and Carter believed to the last minute that he could win.

You will say that Romney is no Reagan.  And I will say that back in 1980 hardly anyone knew that Reagan was Reagan.  But they knew that Carter was a dithering wimp and they had had enough.

MORE:

Obama Campaign Vows Fight for Big Bird, Elmo. US Consulates, Embassies and Values, Not So Much. (Mitt Pounces)

Too many members of the oracular elite don’t seem to get the connection between policy and intelligence.  Or, if they do get it, they deny it, which also happens a fair amount of the time.  The connection is simple enough:  intelligence goes to the policy makers, and if they make it clear that they don’t want to see or hear about intel that suggests or proves something or other, the intel guys will make sure that the flow of such material shrivels up and dies.  Why?  Because they work in a closed market in which their success depends on selling to the very small number of clients: above all, the president and others in the executive branch.  In recent years, legislators have become part of the mix, but the people at the top of the executive branch matter far more than the others.

Ergo, if you’re a spook, and it becomes obvious that your biggest client does not want to hear about terror, you stop working very hard on it.  And even when you get some important information, you don’t send it to your prime clients, because you know they will yell at you and certainly not do anything about it.

So when the White House acts as if the president really couldn’t have been expected to understand the details of the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which occurred in tandem with other riots and demonstrations against American facilities all over the region, because the Office of the Director of National Intelligence screwed up the analysis, it’s a deception.  Because the director of that office, the hapless General James Clapper, has by now learned that the president and his people don’t want to hear the word “terror,” and don’t want to see any intelligence that suggests a terrorist war against the United States.

This sort of thing is not new with Obama.  I experienced it myself during the Reagan years, when I repeatedly tried to convince the late Larry Eagleburger to develop a more effective counter-terrorism strategy.  He wasn’t interested, and over time our intelligence on the subject got worse and worse.  Things only changed after the terrorist bombings in Lebanon in ’83, at which time CIA director Bill Casey put the best guy he had — Dewey Clarridge — in charge of counter-terrorism, with a clear mandate to do something serious.  And Casey knew he could do it because he had the ear of the president. Even the State Department couldn’t prevent the creation of the counter-terrorism center.

With President Obama, there is no counterforce capable of resisting the suppression of decent intelligence.  When the White House bans the words “war on terror,” no spook is going to risk his career by talking about it.  So it was hard for the intelligence “community” to describe what was happening, both because the correct words were banned, and because the information was predictably lousy.

This is yet another case in which a senior official — General Clapper — should resign on the grounds that administration policy makes it impossible for him to do his job, and because administration policy causes Americans to be killed.

Don’t hold your breath.

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