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07 August 2008


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My dear departed father, a cold warrior at Langley for three decades (beginning pre-Langley actually) believed the Church Committee was the death knell of his beloved agency. A few days after 9/11/01 I called him and asked "Do you believe the Church hearings were the beginning of the end for the CIA?" He replied "It wasn't the beginning of the end - it WAS the end."

For thirty years the emphasis on high tech over human intelligence appears to have taken its toll. With respect to the creation of the DNI, I wish someone would explain to me how the Republicans in power get away with making the bureaucracy larger while still claiming the mantle of "smaller government." How does that work exactly?

Richard Whitman

Regardless of who is elected, we will probably see Gates as head of a number of commissions on reform of the defense or intelligence establishments.

~Blue Girl

I am chuckling at this, and with good personal reasons: "These old geezers and geezerettes are tired of watching espionage movies on cable. Their outrage at the disruption of the universe of intelligence work still burns bright, and the folks they mentored at Langley are yearning right along with them. Give it up. You had a good run no matter what the left thinks."

They did have a good run, and no matter what those who don't know any better think, they were instrumental in winning the Cold War. Of course the old timer who gives me the personal reason for smiling at the passage I quoted calmed me down when we were on the brink of disaster in 1983 and told me almost the date and time that the Soviet Union was going to collapse, and said "and then it is going to get really interesting. We may soon yearn for the devil we know."

As for Gates - I have always had a personal dislike for the man, but I have a deep and abiding respect for the talent.

~Blue Girl


Correct me if I'm wrong, but mustn't a retiree be out of the service for ten years before he or she can even be considered for the SecDef job? If I am remembering correctly, GENERAL Clark would not be eligible for nomination until 2010. But I agree he would be a splendid choice for the job.

The times I have met him have only reinforced my overall positive perceptions of the man, as well as the officer.

Patrick Lang

Blue Girl

I do not believe that to be true. I think that a retired service member can take any civilian position that is offered, but someone will say. pl



Good to hear you're reading Taleb. He would be my second-favorite applied epistemologist (after you, of course).

Taleb's web page is here:


and that domain name (which is also the title of an earlier book of his) says much about his theses towards making sense of the world.



Blue Girl is correct, per Wikipedia.

I think this only applies to the SecDef; Clark could have any other Cabinet post, as far as I know.

Patrick Lang

froggy, blue girl et al


The Marhsall thing threw me off. they modified the law for him. Thank God. What a president he would have been. pl


Col: What do you think of the central premise of "The Black Swan"?

I loved the book. IMHO, it shows the futility of putting the word "science" in the titles of all "social sciences," like economics.

If you like the book, you may also enjoy his other title, "Fooled by Randomness."

Mad Dogs

I noticed you passed on quoting the first suggestion of David Ignatius:

· Fix the NSC structure so that it is designed to deal with today's "soft power" challenges rather than the old Cold War problems. Specifically, a Gates commission should think about how to focus money and expertise on the nation-building problems that now fall between the cracks of the interagency system.
(My Bold)

I too would have passed on it as merely the simple product of a simple mind, but for one thing, and that is the lamentable fact that too many of the foreign policy "experts" living in "The Village" (again, that means Washington DC, or the Beltway to us rubes in Flyover land), seem to be spouting this bit of pretentiousness as Gospel everywhere you look.

Nation-building? ¿Por qué? (Why?) ¡Porque! (Because!)

A couple of questions arise:

Uhmmm...what exactly is nation-building?

Aren't all these nations already built? Or is he referring to demolition followed by reconstruction?

Uhmmm...do the architects have a plan?

The Neocons/Jacobins do (drawn on a napkin). Might one use the "Sweden" model? How about the "Cuba" model? How about the "Israel" model? How about the "US" model? I think we all agree to not to use the "Iraq" or "Afghanistan" model.

Uhmmm...who exactly does this nation-building?

In the "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" models, that seems to be the military folks. That hasn't worked out to well, has it? And I don't think the military are really chompin' at the bit to add this to their répertoire.

I guess one of Pat's original points in this post was not to take what David Ignatius says all too seriously.

That is probably worth repeating. And repeating!


General Marshall's accomplishments as a military and civilian leader were enormous compared to the achievements of those now in power.

He was a man of strength who possessed the humility of an ordinary person.

His humility is on display in the photograph at Wikepedia's entry. Three rows of ribbons; he probably rated three times that many. Compare that to the garish display of stars, badges and ribbons on full display on today's senior officers. The only Army badge that means anything is the CIB. In this modern age humility is akin to high-button shoes.

Marshall was a giant compared to the too-many midgets of our generation. breakfast. I agree that he would have been a fine president.

Patrick Lang


Does it matter what the decisions were or does any decision meet that criterion? pl

Cold War Zoomie

When people are finding meaning in things-beware.

-Edward Gorey


Think it fair to point out that others besides "leftists" changed, or alluded to, changed minds on the utility of the CIA. Kennan and Truman among them.


Well, I see Russian tanks are on the march again! Perhaps inspire the old geezers to go back into training and dig up the old manuals again.


I was about to post that Wes clark is ineligle, he wouldn't be eligle until 2010. In lieu of him, I suggest another name in the pot. Pat Lang.
I agree that Chuck Hagel would be a fine choice. And IMHO his brother Tom should definitely be in charge of Veterans' Affairs.

Dan O'Donnell

A good way to get started with Black Swan is by reading the wiki page for Nicholas Taleb. This is a bio, but has references to summaries and talks. Also, there is a ninety minute video of Mr. Taleb presenting the concept (words and illustrations) at Long Now (membership required for the full video).

~Blue Girl

In lieu of him, I suggest another name in the pot. Pat Lang.

I was thinking that COLONEL Lang would be an ideal nominee for the next DNI.

Perhaps Bobby Ray Inman could be lured into the SecDef position for the interim until Clark is eligible?

I don't think future attempts to hang Pollards treachery around his neck would be so successful with the bloom off the NeoCon rose.

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