Almost nobody in Japan heard about the Battle of Midway until after the war. The Emperor Hirohito, upon hearing of the debacle, ordered a comprehensive cover-up. The wounded were isolated on hospital ships. All mail was censored. Surviving enlisted men and officers were held incommunicado until they could be shipped off to distant battlefields from where it was hoped they would never return. The sunken ships themselves were gradually written off over the course of the war until their loss blended in with the general demise of the imperial fleet. In order to coordinate this effort, Hirohito created a special office of cabinet rank.
It worked perfectly. If the U.S. had not won World War 2, Midway would never have existed in Japanese history. The average man of course read nothing in the papers, heard nothing on the radio, saw nothing in the newsreel. But perceptive Japanese “felt” something momentous had happened though they could not identify its cause. It’s impact, though denied in the press, shuddered through the whole imperial fabric. From that day forward events seemed to take a downward trajectory. Only after the war did the Japanese know the root of their misfortunes.
But the loss was worse than four carriers sunk. Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, in their classic account of Midway, The Shattered Sword, argued that the battle broke the Japanese empire in a fundamental way. It was the consequences of denial that really finished the Japanese military:
Cohen and Gooch propose that all military failures fall into three basic categories: failure to learn from the past, failure to anticipate what the future may bring, and failure to adapt to the immediate circumstances on the battlefield. They further note that when one of these three basic failures occurs in isolation (known as a simple failure), the results, while unpleasant, can often also be overcome. Aggregate failures occur when two of the basic failure types, usually learning and anticipation, take place simultaneously, and these are more difficult to surmount. Finally, at the apex of failure stand those rare events when all three basic failures occur simultaneously-an event known as catastrophic failure. In such an occurrence, the result is usually a disaster of such scope that recovery is impossible.
The Japanese did not want to accept what Midway meant about their strategic assumptions and therefore they suppressed it. That was more damaging than the naval losses themselves. It was that failure to adjust to reality which doomed the empire.
The curious thing about September 11, 2012 — the day of the Benghazhi attack — is that for some reason it marks the decline of the Obama presidency as clearly as a milepost. We are told by the papers that nothing much happened on that day. A riot in a far-away country. A few people killed. And yet … it may be coincidental, but from that day the administration’s foreign policy seemed inexplicably hexed. The Arab Spring ground to a halt. The secretary of State “resigned.” The CIA director was cast out in disgrace. Not long after, Obama had to withdraw his red line in Syria. Al-Qaeda, whose eulogy he had pronounced, appeared with disturbing force throughout Africa, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Almost as if on cue, Russia made an unexpected return to the world stage, first in Syria, then in the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
Worse was to follow. America’s premier intelligence organization, the National Security Agency, was taken apart in public and the man who took its secrets, Edward Snowden, decamped to Moscow with a laptop full of secrets. But it was all just a curtain raiser to the dismemberment of Ukraine and the disaster in Eastern Europe:
Ninety percent of voters in a key industrial region in eastern Ukraine came out in favor of sovereignty Sunday, pro-Russian insurgents said in announcing preliminary results of a twin referendum that is certain to deepen the turmoil in the country.
Roman Lyagin, election chief of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, said around 75 percent of the Donetsk region’s 3 million or so eligible voters cast ballots, and the vast majority backed self-rule.
The Ukraine has now been effectively partitioned. The Obama administration talk about inflicting “consequences” and “costs” on Russia turned out to be empty. Almost as if to add insult to injury, Iran has declared victory in Syria over Obama. “‘We have won in Syria,’ said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. ‘The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.'”
And still there’s no acknowledgement of anything being fundamentally wrong.
As with the Japanese at Midway, we’ve all felt a change in the beat of the engines; a difference in the progress of the hull. One person who might understand why the Obama boat is sputtering is fleeing the scene while avoiding an explanation: Hillary. Slate notes that she just had a fundraiser with a virulent critic of Obama:
De Rothschild is a multimillionaire who was reportedly introduced her husband, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, by Henry Kissinger. She became nationally notorious during the 2008 election cycle as a Clinton supporter who refused to throw her support to Barack Obama after the primaries, vocally backing John McCain and calling Obama an “elitist” without any apparent sense of irony. She later said the president is “a loser” who “is going to bankrupt America” and observed that “being half black” did not qualify him to be president.
The Washington Post teasingly suggests there is a reason why Hillary is broadening her circle of friends. “Why Hillary Clinton will be rubbing elbows with a major Obama critic this month,” they ask. But they don’t say. But the New York Times has a theory: Hillary’s problem is Obama. The public is tired of seeing Obama’s mug, and ergo they want to see Hillary’s.
The latest investigation into the Benghazi attack reminds us that the issue isn’t going away any time soon. Pundits are already speculating about potential damage to Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects, but don’t believe the hype: Scandals rarely matter much in presidential election campaigns:
A far more significant threat to her potential candidacy is Americans’ desire for new leadership after eight years of the Obama administration. A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll found this week that 65 percent of Americans would “like to see a president who offers different policies and programs.” Only 30 percent said they wanted ones “similar to those of the Obama administration.”
Note the reappearance of Benghazi once again in the familiar New York Times “nothing happened” mode. Just move on and remember that what the voters want is Hillary’s fresh face. But since the NYT is offering a conjecture of surpassing thinness, why not offer another, so long as it is understood that it is merely guesswork. Here goes: the day the Obama presidency died.
Benghazi had its roots in an alternative theory of foreign policy formed in Obama’s team at around the time of the Surge in Iraq. From that experience, Obama’s advisers persuaded him that it would be possible to “turn” America’s enemies by taking control of them instead of fighting them. It was a dazzling prospect which offered victory on the cheap.
It was to be built on three pillars: covert action, targeted assassinations and diplomacy. The idea was simple, instead of relying on the regular military, the Obama administration would take over the most dangerous jihadi groups through intelligence agencies. Through this mechanism they would become their patrons and cement the relationship with diplomatic deals with their Gulf funders. Drones and hunter killer squads would be employed to promote chosen intelligence assets — American agents — to positions of responsbility in the terror cells. The drones would clear the way for designated jihadis to rise within the ranks. Eventually America would own the jihad and neuter it from within.
America would out ISI the ISI.
But of course there had to be a genuine political component as well. A bone needed to be thrown to genuine Muslim aspirations. Why not give the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt and hand over Syria to al-Qaeda? And why not use American diplomatic muscle to force a deal between Palestine and Israel. That way al-Qaeda could have their own countries and presumably be satisfied with that.
This scheme has a certain superficial attractiveness. It sounds wildly daring, incredibly smart and its formulators must have felt like Cortez on a Peak in Darien. “Boy are we cool to have thought of this.”
There is only one problem with this scenario. It could never be sold to a public who had given their sons to fighting the Jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could never be peddled to crusty old guys who’d see it as a crazy-ass scheme. The solution to meeting the objections was simple. Don’t tell anyone and conduct a secret foreign and counter-terrorist policy, which when it succeeded could be unveiled as proof of Obama’s genius.
All of this is conjecture, but conjecture in the same way that the New York Times argues there is nothing to Benghazi. Absent testimony and the disclosure of records, Benghazi remains a null value, something unmeasured. We don’t know what it is, any more than a blank address field in a database; we only know we don’t know what it is.
So let me insert a guess into the field. Suppose Benghazi was the night when the administration’s secret policy fell apart. In one devastating attack Obama — and Hillary — realized they had been double-crossed and their whole theory had been a dream. In an instant it was plain they could not control the jihad from the inside.
That setback, by itself, was not necessarily a bad thing. Commanders in chief can make mistakes so why couldn’t Hillary and Obama just admit they had this theory but it didn’t work in practice and just learn from it?
Because they had pursued the policy secretly and possibly illegally. Because of 2012. Because like Hirohito, Obama could do no wrong, so there was nothing but to protect the Throne of Heaven from the accusation of fallibility and the guilt of cover-up. So they lied.
Let us now return to Parshall’s observation that “all military failures fall into three basic categories: failure to learn from the past, failure to anticipate what the future may bring, and failure to adapt to the immediate circumstances on the battlefield.” It’s possible that Obama did exactly that on the night of September 11, 2012. He didn’t see the double-cross coming; he had no Plan B for Syria, for al-Qaeda, having bet the farm on Plan A and he covered the failure up.
He went and committed all three categories of failure. “Finally, at the apex of failure stand those rare events when all three basic failures occur simultaneously — an event known as catastrophic failure. In such an occurrence, the result is usually a disaster of such scope that recovery is impossible.”
And now he’s living with the consequences of having to pursue a strategic assumption he knows is wrong but does not dare denounce.
Suppose Benghazi was a catastrophic failure, made all the more dangerous by the possibility that Russia had a hand in it. If Putin, having studied how Reagan used the jihad to bring down Soviet Union, played the same game on Barack Hussein Obama, it would explain many otherwise inexplicable things. The role of Snowden. The disgrace of Petraeus. The exile of anyone and anything to do with Benghazi. The kid-gloves treatment of the Ansar attackers. The strange enmity between Hillary and Obama. Each is bound by the same secret. Each lives in fear of the same smoldering fire burning in the bowels of the administration.
The lie is much more dangerous than the truth. America can live with an Obama mistake. But it can’t live with an Obama who cannot acknowledge his mistakes.
Recent purchases by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.
The War of the Words (The World of Information)
Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech And The Twilight of the West
5 Hour Energy Extra Strength, Berry Flavored, 1.93-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 12)
Mozart: Complete Works for Solo Piano (The VoxBox Edition)
Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific