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.
But this latest “intelligence failure” is far worse than I’ve portrayed it, because the root cause of the president’s failure to get it right from the get-go has nothing to do with the spooks. It has to do with our Iran policy.
A casual scan of Middle East news produces a fearsome array of slaughter, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and Libya to Egypt. Long ago, indeed prior to our invasion of Iraq more than nine years ago, I categorically stated that there could never be decent security in Iraq or Afghanistan so long as the current regime ruled in Tehran, because Khamenei and his fellow mass murderers could not possibly permit us to establish viable, free societies next door to Iran. The same applies to Libya and the other actors in the Arab Spring. Thus, the terror wave, in large part sponsored and operated by the Iranians.
Therefore, anyone who understands the basic dynamics of the Middle East had to know instantly that the slaughter in Libya should be viewed in the context of the larger war against us and our would-be friends and allies. But this feckless administration refuses to have the American people see that context (that’s why “war on terror” is censored), and the oracles won’t even go there for fear of embarrassing the president (the oracles don’t much care if American soldiers and diplomats get chopped down), and the subject never gets raised at all.
The focus on “intelligence” deflects us from seeing the world as it really is. We don’t see things in their proper context, and nobody says “but you didn’t need classified analyses to know what was going on.”
It’s all part of what Phil Howard once called “the death of common sense.”
If only there were a real opposition in the United States, its leaders would be making these points all over the country, every day. But Romney and Ryan are narrowly focused on the little details, rather than talking about the huge bloody war waged against us.
I think that they would gain enormous respect and support if they talked about the real world, and the real war. And I also think it would help prepare them for the great task that this country must soon perform: winning a global war before our enemies threaten our survival.