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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Abandoning Sanity, the War on Terror Blunders On

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity put out a memorandum titled Countering Terrorism - How Not To Do It.

VIPS represents the intelligence "establishment", which was disrupted in the post-9/11 environment. Intelligence analysts had been manhandled by the White House particularly in regard to intelligence estimates on Iraq. CIA chief Tenet had placated the White House.

Nowhere was the absence of CIA independence made more clear than in Bush's January 2003 State of the Union Address, where Bush claimed Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium in Niger--a statement which had been proven patently false by Joe Wilson's inquiry into the matter.

The CIA had been responsible for fact-checking the content of all Presidential State of the Union addresses, at least before what the VIPS memo calls the “9/11-Changed-Everything chestnut."

Cheney had been meddling in the intelligence-gathering sector for quite some time. His interest in Iraq went back to before 9/11, where he had a secret energy policy task force meeting with Big Oil representatives in which a map of the oil fields of Iraq was examined.

As a motive, the seizure of Iraqi oil was certainly in place, the advocates for war simply seized on 9/11 as their opportuunity. Resistance to the war came from veteran intelligence professionals whose job it was to measure the real threat posed by countries like Iraq.

Reforms to the existing intelligence-gathering systems were made, so the status quo had been abandoned. Using the failure of the intelligence community to prevent 9/11 as a pretext, the US government was consolidating a vast array of intelligence services into a single body: the Department of Homeland Security.

The VIPS memo explains that the new order required destruction of the old intelligence-gathering infrastrucure. The merger "created chaos by throwing together 22 agencies with 180,000 workers-many of them in jobs vital to our nation’s security, both at home and abroad. It also enabled functionaries like the two Michaels-Brown and Chertoff-to immobilize key agencies like the previously well-run Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), leading to its feckless response to Hurricane Katrina."

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity has grounds for opposing the reorganization. Previously independent agencies were made to share bosses, and a whole new layer of bureaucracy was added, in typically over-engineered federal style.

Diversifying the methods used to analyze intelligence is vital; consolidation threatens to force a one-size-fits-all approach to analyzing threats.

The federal bureaucratic structure doesn't lend itself to independent thinkers, who are likely to be denied leadership positions as office politics witness the advancement of yes men and analysts whose work is judged by their political affiliations.

Whenever an agency of the Department of Homeland Security's size is created, politics are bound to effect how intelligence is analyzed and shared. Intelligence must be gathered without favor to any political party.

Protecting our analysts from political pressure is vital. Our leaders depend on objective and independent analysis free of political opinions to make national security decisions.

Politics is a tool of expediency quite the opposite of the deliberate, pain-staking investigatory process needed for good analysis. Professionals in the field work hard to verify facts. They reach conclusions only after exhaustive examination of data. Imposters are revealed and their opinions discounted.

One such slouch, Ahmed Chalabi, discredited by the CIA and State Department, found a home as a spy for the Pentagon--he told them what they wanted to hear, that we'd be welcomed with open arms, etc.. The intelligence--garbage in--was in turn sent up the chain of command all the way to the White House. The garbage was then sent out in government press releases to solidify the case for war.

Pre-war Intelligence

The absence of Iraqi WMD has been blamed on faulty intelligence, which is inaccurate because there was an explicit effort made at the request of Cheney to find evidence that Iraq had WMD (alongside an effort to connect Iraq to terrorism.)

Failing to find the intelligence they sought at the CIA, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and architects of the Iraqi War turned to the Pentagon, where they created the Office of Special Plans, a shadowy group of outside consultants who searched for any shred of evidence that could justify an attack on Iraq. Rather than generate unbiased analysis, the purpose of the OSP was to find evidence which made the case for war.

Cherry-picking desirable intelligence while ignoring the unfavorable is the complete opposite of how intelligence should work. An objective threat analysis should determine the response needed; instead, war proponents sought to build a body of evidence to support the intervention they sought. Their methodology worked backwards.

Ultimately, the intelligence cherry-picked by the OSP turned out to be false, but by then the group--run by the discredited Douglas Feith--had sent its dubious findings on to the White House Iraq Group. WHIG which was run through Cheney's office; it's job was to supply the mainstream media with evidence of the threat posed by Iraq. Prominent in this group was none other than Scooter Libby, whose job it was to pass on what were essentially lies about Iraq to media figures like Judith Miller, who then wrote about what they'd been told. In Miller's case, allegations of Iraqi WMD, scantily fact-checked, were featured in the front pages of The New York Times.

The relationship between Libby and Miller information became very useful to the White House when it leaked Valerie Plame's identity. Although Miller didn't take the bait and publicly reveal Plame's identity, Miller's confession that she'd been told Plame's identity did muddy the trail for Patrick Fitzgerald, who'd been unable to identify the person who'd first leaked Plame's identity. While Robert Novak was the first to identify Plame publicly, he'd learned that from Armitage only after Libby had leaked it to Miller.

The willingness of the Administration to give up Plame's identity does show a certain contempt for the CIA. We know from the DHS organization that it devalued the independence of the traditional intelligence-gathering function. Cheney's visits to Langley in 2002 bordered on arm-twisting to get the intelligence he and other advocates for an invasion sought.

The White House was far more confident with the intelligence findings at the Pentagon, which they favored as the primary source of their intelligence. The State Department and CIA, on the other hand, were troublesome, committed to accuracy and objectivity over expediency. Rather than admit how the intelligence gathering process had been subverted, Cheney and others knew intelligence operatives would confess to having made mistakes, simple errors of judgement as opposed to acts of gross negligence. Admitting to structural inadequacies inherent in the intelligence profession was far more congenial a political aftermath than confronting people like Joe Wilson, who dared to confront the false intelligence as the willfully inserted fallicies they were. Wilson's crime was to have a wife still involved in the field, who paid the price for her husband's campaign to tell the truth and reveal the lies.

An overall pattern of intelligence manipulation emerges when the OSP, WHIG, and Niger allegations are considered. I've always considered the likelihood that competing intelligence was being suppressed very likely simply because the Administration wanted a war and through that a second term.

Undeniably, the White House case for war came off well. The Commander-in-chief effect was bolstered in what is know as the Wag the Dog effect--Presidents invariably get more popular in times of war. From what I heard in the January 2003 State of the Union, the President's case against Iraq was quite compelling. While I certainly didn't support the war at that time, the stream of what we now know were clearly lies did make Iraq into quite a menace. The media complied shamelessly in spreading the lies.

Post-facto, the intelligence failure that an absence of WMD in Iraq has been blamed on the intelligence community, a fact which is not lost on the VIPS people.

Blaming the intelligence community was a Rovian slap-in-the-face, adding insult to injury. The CIA was blamed for assumptions they'd never made about Iraq; Tenet played along, attributing the "errors" to the invariably unpredictability of events in the intelligence arena.

Blaming the CIA and faulty intelligence shifted political criticism away from White House's case for war, made on garbage, cherry-picked information rejected by the traditional intelligence community. Rather than address the manipulative purpose it served, pre-war intelligence was dismissed to have been a simple, honest error.

Resource War

The mainstream media did nothing to question any of the allegations, which no doubt contributed to the false premises and was complicit in making the case for an invasion of Iraq.

So the case for war in Iraq had been made psychologically, and the masses prepped for war before carefully chosen intelligence was presented to the public to build the case for war.

9/11 was fresh on everyone's mind so the political climate was ripe for a militarized solutions to confronting the apparent threat from Islamic terror. Afghanistan's role sheltering al Qaeda--labelled responsible for the aircraft attacks on 9/11--led to a speedy invasion there. Under fabricated pretenses, Iraq was invaded despite the clear evidence that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Afghanistan--at least the regime change part--had been easy. Iraq was the perfect target, for as long as the American people were afraid and kept in a state of fear through a stream of Orwellian rhetoric bent on capitalizing politically on 9/11.

The Veteran Intelligence Professional for Sanity memo summarizes the approach taken by the administration:

"Post 9/11 dragnet-detentions of innocents, official tolerance of torture (including abuse of U.S. citizens like John Walker Lindh), and panic-boosting color codes, had already been spawned from the mother of all slogans-”The Global War on Terror”-rhetorically useful, substantively inane."

I've said that I think the occupation of Iraq has been intentionally mismanaged in order to perpetuate a military presence there indefinitely. Our chief motive is colonial: the need to extract oil as easily extracted reserves plummet in response to skyrocketing global demand. The Middle East is the world's best source of cheap energy.

China and India are especially hungry and dealing with even the most despotic regimes like Sudan in their quest for energy. To counter them strategically, US and UK oil conglomerates must control "their share" of the world's remaining reserves.

Suspicious is the total absence of any energy conservation. Big Oil has certainly influenced US government policy to the point Americans have become dependent on petroleum imports. The perception that cheap energy is needed to sustain our gluttony has prevailed in top economic policy circles. Rather than confront our addiction, we've fed it, failing to increase efficiency or fully develop alternative energy source. The need for raw materials, or in Iraq's case its oil, still encourages colonialism in our foreign policy.

Unfortunately all troop losses in Iraq can be attributed indirectly to our demand for oil; all continued losses represent the price in blood for our oil we will extract, a predatory process that will require the US to maintain military control over Iraq indefinitely.

Freedom or Security

The old debate over peace and security is always worthy of reconsideration. While the use of WMD does highlight the consequences of security failures, there's absolutely no way to prevent a terror strike, so we can only reduce the chance of its occurrance.

The VIPS memo continues:

"Everyone wants security. But all too few recognize that security and liberty are basically flip sides of the same coin. Just as there can be no meaningful liberty in a situation devoid of security, there can be no real security in a situation devoid of liberty."

The idea that we can use our military to counter the threat of terror is simply too appealing to politicians. In the short-term, the citizens rally round the troops; nationalism, militarism and patriotism merge, to oppose the war is to oppose the nation.

Early on, the fear and possibilities of destruction through terror are clear. Later, after the trumpets fade and results of miltiary action begin to emerge, it's harder to believe we are "winning" or even able to stop terror.

Rather than opt for non-violent efforts that require patience, war can force instant regime change. Yet unfortunately, terrorism is a non-state actor. Military action may be useful in reducing the capacity of terrorist groups to wage operations, but fundamentally the poltiical and economic motivations for terrorism must be considered.

The Veteran Intelligence Proffessionals for Sanity memo explains the inherent foolishness of making war on a stateless entity:

"Declaring 'war' on the tactic of terrorism elevates to statehood what actually may be scattered, disorganized individuals, sympathizers, and small groups. It empowers the terrorists as they add to their numbers and provides the status of statehood to what often should be regarded and treated as a rag-tag group of criminals."

Ultimately, US foreign policy in regard to the issue of Palestinian statehood must be addressed. As long as the Arab world makes the Palestinian issue the source of its animosity, the US must try to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Military force alone, wielded by any government, cannot resolve the diplomatic challenges associated with the region.

Our war machine has been built to fight other States, not deal with the motives of terrorism. Trying to reduce the threat of terror requires far more creativity. Still, the political appeal of fighting an fellow State through the exercise of military force offers much to any incumbent President, despite the clear evidence that terrorism is not congruous with the goals of any State, even an Middle Eastern one that opposes the US like Saddam did.

Terrorism may serve the interests of some States like Iran, but destroying the enemy State will in no way reduce terrorism because terror is not exclusively dependent on any one State: it has no Head to cut off. As Iraq has shown, disembowling the State can in fact have the opposite effect: spreading the influence of terrorist groups and instilling more hatred of the US.

Politics by other means

Political motives geared towards the domestic body politic do more to shape the response to the threat of terror than do more pragmatic concerns like geopolitics or limitations to the effectiveness of military force. Politics are an unfortunate bedfellow for military planning, but an invariable part of any war effort, shaping both its genesis and attaching nebulous or shifting victory conditions to the end of any conflict.

The appeal of war-making lies in the willingness of the population to succumb to their lower nature. It's not that hard to rile up the masses; nationalistic fervor is incredibly valuable as a political tool.

It's all too easy for policy-makers to be swung by the popular appeal of war-making, to think that waging war is the end in itself. Delivering the short-term political benefit to the incumbent President, wars blind our leaders with a potent stew of militarism, nationalism, and patriotism. These emotions may play well in the electorate--linking Elite with Everyman in their support for war--but ultimately it's the children of the lower classes that end up paying the price for their leaders' wars.

Wars need rationale, long-term resolutions that are quite the opposite of irrational populism prevalent in the rush to war. Our leaders need to rise above the short-term political benefits of launching wars: the exuberance obstructs the facilites of reason in favor of glorifying our nation. Average citizens are excited by the prospect of exerting the maximum force in a collective effort, which reawakens nationalistic urges, and can prove the superiority of American might.

The emotional profile that one hand fulfills base instincts in the population--resulting in a "wag the dog" effect on the President's popularity--on the other hand becomes a liability as wars drag on and rarely turn out as expected. Vietnam was the ultimate example of a rag-tag insurgency becoming an impossible-to-win quagmire.

Nationalists and warmongers on the Right could claim that the Russians and Chinese directly supported the Vietnamese militarily--as they now claim Iran is behind our failures in Iraq--but there's no doubt it was the hard-working efforts of the Vietnamese that ultimately defeated the American army. Any other excuse for the failure of military force to work is probably just an effort to nurse the bruised egos of the supremacy-of-American-military-force crowd.

We're seeing in Iraq now the consequences of a "credibility gap" between what our political and military leaders claim as progress and the actual results on the ground. Wars can't be fought from Washington. Vietnam War apologists blame our defeat in Vietnam on politicization: the infiltration of political aims into military policy and doctrine.

Media management becomes vital; a stream of positive spin is needed to overcome the inevitable bad news. Much of Iraq war management seems also to be meant to minimize the bad news that comes with reporting on the actual effects of trying to implement our vague policies and amorphous goals there. Why? Because military failures bring with them serious political consequences for incumbents, who are typically held accountable for their decision to send our troops to war, as well as for their managing of the war and its results.

By minimizing discontent over the war, it becomes more tolerable politically. It's interesting that so many former generals have come forward in opposing Iraq; perhaps this shows that continuation of the war cannot lead to the satisfactory achievement of any military goals, but rather represents an persistent effort to achieve political (and economic) objectives which in turn is damaging our military.

In most political systems in most countries of the world, incumbents responsible for failing wars are thrown out of office; in ours, the President is apparently free to do as he wishes with our military that day after he wins a second term, at least if Congress is unwilling to exercise its authority over the purse. Signing statements that have framed the President's authority as paramount--under his responsibilities to "protect the American people"--has reduced accountability for the Executive.

Our political system lacks the ability to call elections. We could at least be spared the agony of 15 more months of agonizing Presidential pageanty that substitutes for political coverage by holding an election now. With Bush's popularity now below 30%, ending the Bush Presidency might be welcome addition to ending the media charade, whoever wins in the end.

Since the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution during Vietnam, Congress has authorized "military action." Congressional authority over managing the subsequent war has been inadequately exerted. Congress could de-authorize a previous decision to go to war, but in practice few politicans appear willing to appear as not "supporting the troops." {There may be much more behind support for the war than "supporting the troops"; as it turns out some $20 billion in pork made its way into the recent Iraq war funding request--most of which was offered to Democrats who'd been elected explicitly on a platform of stopping the war.}

Bush has clearly exerted Presidential authority in demanding total control over the way the war is fought. The "opposition party" has failed to hold the Executive accountable. In the absence of public hearings on the war--or the intelligence used to start it--resistance to the war hasn't come from Congress, despite the clear popular mandate to get out, or at least review our tactics in advance of a pull-out. Instead, Congress has been unwilling to confront the President.

In my last post I alluded to a preponderance of thinking among Democratic political consultants that an image of looking "hard on terror" and "tough on security issues" was vital in winning the public trust; I'm searching for a good article that discussed the issue.

President Johnson did micromanage many aspects of the Vietnam war; choosing targets for air bombing raids from the White House. Yet political management--or mismanagement--really can't be the sole reason for the inability of US military force to work.

Limits on Military Effectiveness

There must be other reasons, systemic ones, why the greatest military force the world has ever seen assembled cannot get the results it deserves. Students of strategy will know of Sun Tzu, who famously said that wars are won or lost before they are fought.

Sun Tzu also advocated stretching the enemy lines-of-supply. Lines-of-supply is military jargon for the methods an army uses to overcome distances between the army's region of occupation or operations and its home base. Stretch this geographical distance--Sun Tzu explains--and you proportionally magnify the
difficulties of maintaining the effectiveness of the fighting force.

As wars drag on, lines of supply become increasingly important as equipment wears down and supplies need to be brought to the front, a battefield which is literally on the other side of the world. Sun Tzu advice is so important because if lines of supply are long, they are also vulnerable.

While the US has a strategic airlift capacity beyond the imagination of anyone in the Ancient World, we must also spend huge sums to maintain it. And economics do matter--it was Osama Bin Laden who suggested that the US can be brought to its knees economically through fiscal recklessness, by drawing us into an occupation in the Middle East. Bush and the Congress are certainly appeasing Osama in their profilic spending, much of which focused on sustaining faraway operation at ever greater expense. While the borrows funds flow freely now, how much more can the government borrow in order to pay for the many needs of its aging Boomers?

{The Federal Reserve system forces the US government to borrow to finance itself. To work, money needs to flow into the US Treasury from the sale of bonds, which have so far been bought by predominantly Asian central banks. To keep the money coming, the US--like any highly leveraged borrower--will be forced to pay higher interest to attract these investors.}

Predicting the consequences of long supply lanes and strained budgets is impossible. There is no question that al Qaeda aims to damage the US economy.

Another limitation on the projection of military force is the strength of opposition--the fight that defenders of the invaded country put up. There's no way to evaluate just how hard people will resist invaders; religious and cultural sensitivities can make fanatics out of simple citizens. Inspired to defend their naton, families, and homes, average people can commit extreme acts of savagery, as we now see homicide bombers coming from all age groups and parts of Arab society, women included.

Technology may seem to play in the favor of the larger, better-equipped force but can give a false sense of superiority instead. The invention of gunpowder led to a gross imbalance in power: look no farther than the conquistador invasion of the Aztec empire in 16th century to see the consequences of a massive disparity in technology. A few hundred conquistadors were able to conquer vast swathes of territory and defeat armies of tens of thousands, albeit with some help from the Aztec's enemies and their freed slaves.

Over time, the technological advantage fades as the indigenous people gain and use the same military technologies deployed by their conquerors. For students of miltiary science, no weapon has done more to level the playing field than the AK-47. Invented at the end of World War 2 by a brilliant Soviet gunsmith, the AK-47 has become a internationally recognized symbol of armed resistance. The weapon is extremely durable, very easy to assemble and maintain, functioning perfectly in even the most inhospitable climates.

The AK-47 neutralized much of the advantage that US had in Vietnam, reducing the battle to small unit engagements on a level where mastery of terrain and the reliable AK-47 could overcome superior American technology.

Insurgencies where fighters easily merge into the general population offer an advantage. Hitting fast, in ambushes, insurgents tend to rely on speed and mobility to strike out then fade back into the civilian population. We see these tactics now in Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq, or well-planned and executed raids and mortar attacks.

The insurgents in both wars knew full well to expect retaliation against the population. Yet even this they have used to their advantage, revenge by the American military through the exercise of excessive force with gross indifference to the value of civilian life encourage participation in or sympathy for the resistance. The more civilians killed, particularly in airstrikes which are notorious in their inability to discern combatant from noncombatant, as well as child from adult, the more potential recruits for the insurgency.

While the US might be able to blame insurgents for the loss of life, it's ultimately the paranoia and mistrust of the general civilian population that results in acts of genocide waged in response to guerilla hit and run attacks. Lacking a target to shoot back at, forces of the occupation arbitrarily strike out.

One such incident in Afghanistan occurred on a busy road shortly after an attack. Not reported very widely in the MSM, the American army unit apparently killed 12 Afghan civilians who had the most unfortunate luck of passing by after the Americans had been struck. Similar accounts have appeared in Iraq; I saw one video of American soldiers shooting at passing traffic, killing at least one driver, after receiving sniper fire.

The US likes to increased bombing, if Vietnam is an indicator of how the US wants to change its tactics in Iraq. The air war in Vietnam became preferable to ground operations, which resulted in much higher casualites. Unfortunately, dropping bombs kills vast numbers of civilians--an area in which the US Air Force has prided itself since its press conferences during Gulf War ! which proud commanders showed video of laser-guided munitions that surgically destroyed targets while minimizing collateral damage.

Adopting broad-based bombing campaigns would demolish the public relations value of smart weaponry, which would render extraneous billions of dollars in weapon development and research.

A major goal of the War Party is to make war sustainable. If legions of mudered civilians--particularly children--show up on TV screens, support for the war will falter. Limiting bombing to surgical strikes of key infrastructure lets Americans feel not necessarily good, but better about how their nation wages war. To retreat to the use of air power as a blunt force of abritrary civilian destruction hints back to the bombings of London and Dresden, the firebombing of Tokyo, and blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Such bombing campaigns speak more about the inadequacy and arbitrary destructiveness of war, no matter what the military that fights it, no matter how worthy their purpose or valid their cause. When a civilian child dies, nothing good can come from it. To migrate to a campaign of mass bombing is really to orchestrate a campaign of mass murder, one that shows that our civilization has failed to progress beyond the age of Genghis Khan in the barbarity and cruelty with which it treast the most innocent among the enemy.

As wars stretch out, trumpets fade, and casualties mount, their appeal lessens. The concept of a broader War on Terror clearly hasn't motivated Americans to believe that our sacrifice is worthy. Vietnam, on the other hand, may have seemed more important going forward under the Domino Theory, which states that the whole of Southeast Asia would fall to communism if we didn't hold the line in Vietnam (a theory which has proven to be wholly misguided.)

The War on Terror has broken down because the US is in fact fighting different types of wars. Arguably, another Pearl Harbor-type event could reinvogorate the case for attacking other Islamic nation like Iran. But war- and terror-fatigue have worsened; people will grow callous to even the loudest alarm if it rings often enough. The more that Iraq serves as a proxy for the broader war on terror, the worse the prognosis for the larger war.

By linking Iraq to the War on Terror, Bush and the White House have gambled with a broader, more serious threat to our nation's security than Iraq could have ever been: that posed by radical Islamic fundamentalists. By invading, we've motivated Iraqis to oppose us by linking with radical fundamentalists or whoever is the most vociferous in their opposition to our presence.

Al-Qaeda may be resented by many Iraqis, but terrorism doesn't need the support of a majority of the population to be effective. Every addition recruit that sides with al-Qaeda represent a failure of military force, and a threat to the safety and security of the US. Generating recruits for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups may put a gleam in the eye of any greedy military-industrialist or Right-winger eager for an even longer war, a continuation of war represent not a victory, but rather the inability of military force to achieve our objectives in the War on Terror.

There's no denying that we've created a terrorist training camp in Iraq and the Shia-Sunni divide may be creating a level of chaos that encourages terrorism. It's unclear if Iraqi resistance to the American occupation will lead to a retaliatory strike on the US homeland: clearly the motivation to expel the infidel is different from that which motivates terrorists to strike in the heartland of the infidel.

And being far more intelligent than they are given credit for, the typical Iraqi insurgent has to know that a terror strike on the US would only harden American resolve to continue the occupation. In this regard our ongoing presence can theoretically discourage terror strikes by providing a closer alternative target in our troops there, as well as by serving as an example to other Muslim nations of what the US can do.

Still, 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi, and so linkage between the nationality of the terrorists and the US retaliation is far from established. Because of ties between the Saudi royals and the Bush family, and our dependency on oil, countries like Saudi Arabia apparently have nothing to fear from an attack on their nations in response.

By lashing out though, arbitrarily, the US can theoretically intimidate like "a child with a shotgun" might, to borrow Putin's words in referring to the US. Whether a potential terrorist will take what's happened in Iraq as a deterrent remains far from clear; the psychosis exhibited by a die-hard terrorist makes it unlikely that they will consider the geopolitical consequences of their actions, although they most certainly want to do damage. Understrength, the inadequate US military presence has created a state of general anarchy that encourages homegrown terrorists to take revenge by whatever means are at their disposal.

A false flag operation--a terror act committed by a country other than the one blamed--is far more likely. Still, war-fatigue may have weakened the potential response. Stretching US occupations out to new countries like Iran would further degrade our non-nuclear deterrence capability, which has become increasingly important as our foreign policy belligerence stimulates countries like Putin's Russia --real ones, with nuclear weapons--who increasingly see it as their duty to oppose a unipolar world in which the US is the undisputed authority.

Other Sources

1) Whack-A-Mole: John Stewart humorizes this analogy that's been made here on this blog and elsewhere in the media. The Whack-A-Mole arcade game involves striking toy moles with a hammer as they pop up. As one is hit, another pops up.

The idea with Iraq is that the insurgents simply move on whenever the US targets one region, the insurgents go on to the next. In this regard, no substantial damage is done to the "Moles" even if one is hammered down, another comes up.

This is a lot like striking at drug dealers in another war, the one on drugs. Rather than stop the entire problem, there's an illusion of progress on a superficial level. The underlying dynamic never changes--the Moles, or drug dealers, just keep popping up.

2) Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article explains how General Taguba's career was destroyed by his investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

This reporting fits into the general conclusions that I've drawn on how torture is an ineffective means of gathering intelligence. The willingness to resort to torture shows the extent of influence over the military exerted by politicians and bureacrats without any proper understanding of intelligence-gathering or interrogation.



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