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01 May 2014


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Wait a minute.....
Is describing Hagel as a "weak reed" not complimentary?
If so, what happened?
I recall your strong support of Hagel for SECDEF.



Where does this leave Dempsey?



Weakened, pl



I was wrong. pl


History repeats: once again an "Army of Northern Virgina" type will have to say a farewell to arms.

Why am I not surprised? Most military men still have the handicap of integrity and honor. And after all,the civilian denizens of the Imperial Capital are not very competent, but they are a thoroughly treacherous lot.

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

In which case, it is very seriously bad news.



Sounds like the R2P crowd is about to create the intel to support their "new reality." If you don't like the analysis, get a new analyst. It worked for Cheney & crew and got us into Iraq/Afgan. Hang on to you swivel chair seats. I fear that we're in for a hell of a ride. Dempsey is in for a real stress test.

Charles Dekle

Col Lang,
Well know I am really worried. Hopefully, General Dempsey can beat back the buffoons.



Indeed. Not good news.


Not knowing any of these players my comment is tongue in cheek. What surprises me is that Shadd is going also. He being in a SES position says a lot to me as either he was part of a screwup or more likely he backed the changes proposed by Flynn and is falling on his sword. Flynn had too high a profile and was attempting to move mud thus the bureaucrats won. LTG Legere has a reputation as a hard driver, straight shooter and a knack for intelligence. But then the mud has beaten many a person.



So far as I can see, this has nothing to do with the difficulty involved in "moving mud." What mud? What little I know of DIA at present indicates to me that they have been doing their job at a high level of efficiency. Indeed, they "called" the bullshit emitting from the WH over Syria, Iran and the Ukraine. For you to imply that Flynn was fired because he failed makes me suspicious of your motives. What I know of Legere makes her sound to me to be a beneficiary of affirmative action and a professional horse holder for senior officers. What has she ever done that was actual intelligence work other than be J-2 in Korea in a static situation, be military assistant to various generals and the housekeeping commander of the 501st MI brigade? I would like to be proven wrong about that. pl


Mud, the type of inertia in how Washington works. LTG Flynn was attempting major changes and came up against strong internal/external resistance to change. Of course Change is for good in any organization. I look to the internal IC power play as dovetailing with above. Flynn's only failure was not to play the game of Mud.

As to Legere my knowledge only comes from comments made by those who served under her a positive implication that time will tell.

I always look to your sources as much better than mine which are limited at best. Will appreciate your thoughts on Shadd.



So, in your version the WH and the Obama Administration were not involved and are blameless for the removal of a major obstacle to their door kicking at the gate of hell? pl



Shedd went to DIA from CIA, so not sure why the others wanted him gone, too.


jimmy w

if you move from one of these agencies to another and find you like it there you are thought of as a "traitor" by the group you have left behind. as an example, when I ran defense HUMINT I sought the assignment of a number of experienced CIA case officers to work in the various parts of my staff. Their experience was useful and their advocacy helped obtain DCI "coordination" on operational plans. A number of them adapted so well to DIA that they wanted to transfer permanently. That pretty much killed any career they might later have if they returned to CIA. pl

Bill H

I think you were more misled than wrong, but I admire your statement. "I was wrong" is a statement too seldom made, because it requires character and strength to make it.


Reading about this reminds me of the bureaucratic fighting that took place between the GRU and the KGB. This isn't good and as noted about isn't helpful to Dempsey.



In nearly all countries there are two foreign intelligence services, one civilian and the other military and pretty much without exception they are enemies. pl

Ryan Murphy

True enough, sir. While competition can be good it can be get to the point of being destructive. The feuds between the GRU and the KGB sometimes ended bloodily, usually with the GRU being the losing side. Fortunately, the US hasn't reached that point, but where we are at can bring about the same result intelligence wise.

This brings up a question I have for you. During the late 70s and 1980s there was a "team B" I understand that put out an alternative view of the military capabilities of the Soviet Union. From my understanding this was a case of "hawks" verses "doves". There are people today who claim that the neocons dominated "team B" and grossly exaggerated the USSR. What I'm curious about were the claims about Soviet combat strength and capabilities overstated? My reason for asking this is years ago there was a congressman I knew as an acquaintance named Larry McDonald. [Had he not been killed I suspect he wouldn't have much use for the neocons.] I asked him whether is was true and he replied this was the case. Do you have any thoughts about this?


ryan murphy

I was not a USSR guy and the controversy over the Soviet Estimate occurred while was I in the field squatting on stony hillsides with men with rusty rifles. Nevertheless, by the time I joined DIA headquarters as DIO for the ME/South Asia the controversy was still much alive. The Soviet Estimate was so important because it was needed by the armed forces to justify appropriations to congress. Because of that the armed forces themselves had a vested interest in a national Soviet estimate that indicated a robust Soviet capability. At the same time, the neocon interest was present even then throughout the government including in the IC. The claim was made by the neocon faction in government and out that the official NIE on the Soviet Union did not credit the Soviets with as much military strength as they possessed. To test that idea an external/internal analytic team was formed that was known informally as "Team B." That team wrote a report that claimed that the Soviets had virtually no economic problems and were so immensely strong that only a massive US build up could balance them. This view mad the virtue of representing both the interests of the armed forces and the neocons and became the basis for a great deal of spending. Did "Team B" falsify data? Probably they did not. They just "cherry picked" the data they wanted to believe and ignored the rest. This is the same method that the neocons used before the Iraq war. pl


Thanks for the reply, colonel.

Over the years I've discovered that what I thought I knew wasn't always the case, aspects of the Cold War being a case in point. In recent years while I got most things correct there are other things I was wrong based on either inaccurate information or outright lies. You allude to the Office of Special Plans concerning the nonsense alleged about Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. I can take you back even further to 1990-91. There was a lot of lie told then as well and I believe the claims (save the one about the baby incubators being stolen, that was recognized as propaganda) I heard from newspapers like the WSJ. This lead me to believe back in August and early September that Saddam was going to push to the oil terminal at Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia. The guard unit I was in at the time was a TLAT (HUMVEE mounted TOWs) battalion. I found myself busy as hell during August taking equipment to a facility here in Atlanta to cleaned in the case of vehicles for shipping overseas, having weapons repaired and picking up supplies. Despite being attached to the 82nd AB and the DC screaming for this unit it wasn't mobilized. Instead and because I was on a volunteer list I found myself with another unit in the wrong desert.

It all turned out to be one big damn lie. I can readily believe what you wrote back as nothing has changed. All of this is why my two biggest hatreds are reserved for liberal internationalists and neocons.

Anyway, taking all this into account I reserve the right to change my mind about something or someone if my previous view was base on inaccurate information or lies.


ryan murphy/ryan

Are you the same person? If so, resolve that. It is too confusing to deal with if you are one person with two names here.

"I can take you back even further to 1990-91." Well, I was then the head ME guy in DIA and struggled to avoid a positive AUMF vote in the senate. I did everything I could to persuade senators that Kuwait's fight was not our fight. This was on the basis of a lack of any real sort of oil deprivation threat from whomever would end by controlling Kuwait. As well, Kuwait had backed Iraq financially in the Iran-Iraq War They did this not from some sense of altruism or of Arab solidarity (if Iraq really should be seen as an ARAB country) but rather because the Iraqi armed forces stood between Kuwait and what were then severely revolutionary forces in Iran which would have swept away the oligarchic society of Kuwait if Iran had broken through the Iraqis and overrun the place. To fight for a dozen years Iraq needed financial assistance from the Gulf States and they received it from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Saudi Arabia actually heavily funded Iraqi nuclear weapons research as well as conventional arms like all the others. Much of this assistance was provided in the form of loans rather than grants. In the midst of the apocalyptic war with Iran the difference did not seem critical to the Iraqis. When the war ended successfully for Iraq, Kuwait "discovered" that it wanted its money back. The Iraqi reaction was that the debt had been paid in blood. This dispute escalated over time and as such things do, became encrusted with hyperbole to include Iraqi irredentist insistence that in Ottoman times the City of Kuwait had been part of what became Iraq. The Iraqi claim was that it had been nothing more than British imperialism exerted through the Government of India that had created Kuwait as a state under British protection. The whole situation was exacerbated by the fact that Israel at that time regarded Iraq as its principal adversary. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq War Israel had purchased arms for Iran on the international grey market and had been one of the major motivators in the Iran-Contra Affair which had as a goal the provision of TOW, I-HAWK, etc. for Iranian use against Iraq. In this context and after a disastrous mediation effort at Taif in Saudi Arabia, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Kuwait was quickly overrun in a well planned operation that envisioned advance to a series of progressively deeper control phase lines. The first was at the northern border of Kuwait. This one governed the Iraqi assembly for the invasion. The second lay along the southern border of Kuwait but did not allow a crossing of the border into Saudi Arabia. There were further phase lines farther south which include planning for the advance to the Ghawar oil field and the oil ports. The control measures in the plan were a matter of of military planning and not an expression of Iraqi national intent. In the event Saddam decided not to order an advance to phase lines south of Kuwait. With Kuwait firmly in his grasp he settled down to watch and wait. At the same time, Kuwait's hired hands in Washington swung into action and a virtual army of publicists, lobbyists, press hacks and the like began to beat the drums for US intervention. Thatcher's display of "manliness" greatly influenced GWH Bush and a meeting at Camp David followed at which the sycophants competed in making warlike commitments that seemed to equate Iraq with Nazi Germany occupying France in 1940. My views on the background of this sub-regional crisis were well known and it was carefully arranged that those views would not be heard at that meeting. In the end Al Gore voted for the AUMF because he knew which way the wind blew and the die was cast. The Iraqi Army/Wehrmacht imaginary force proved easy to defeat and the situation quickly became one in which the US faced the easily predicted (I did) need to decide if it would occupy all of Iraq. Nobody except the neocons wanted to do that and the stage was set for the decade long interregnum betwixt the wars. Enough? pl

steve g

Col Lang:

Sir, would you or have you ever
considered writing a historical
novel or possibly a series of short
stories about the Gulf War I era?
From what you relate here there are
more than enough characters and real
life intrigue. Liberal use of your
knowledge of Arabic and its many
nuances would be an added bonus to
the reader.

Charles Dekle

Col Lang,
Thank you.

David Habakkuk

Ryan Murphy,

The problem with ‘Team B’ – which was chaired by the Harvard historian Richard Pipes – was not simply that its report grotesquely overstated Soviet capabilities – it was that its members totally misunderstood the whole history of Soviet military strategy.

Accordingly, they were completely unable to make any sense of the changes in Soviet security policy introduced following Gorbachev’s accession as General Secretary of the CPSU in 1985.

When at the start of 1989 I was producing programmes on the so-called Soviet ‘new thinking’ for BBC Radio, we interviewed General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, who was the military figure most closely associated with it.

More or less the first thing he said to us was that, to understand the ‘new thinking’, it was necessary to go back to the realisation by Soviet strategists in the 1970s that it was not possible to win a nuclear war.

Sixteen years later, the BDM Corporation did a study for the Pentagon, based upon very extensive interviews with top-level figures involved in the making of security policy in the Soviet period. A further fourteen years later, in 2009, it was declassified.

A critical paragraph from the summary of its conclusions on the National Security Archive website confirms what was patently clear to anyone who taken the trouble to talk to Larionov face to face – that he had not been lying:

‘The Soviet military high command “understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war” and believed that nuclear weapons use had to be avoided at “all costs.” In 1968, a Defense Ministry study showed that Moscow could not win a nuclear war, even if it launched a first strike. Although Soviet ideology had insisted that survival was possible, no one in the leadership believed it. In 1981, the General Staff concluded that “nuclear use would be catastrophic.” [I: 23-24, 26; II: 24 (Danilevich), 124 (Mozzhorin)] This does not support arguments made by Richard Pipes in the late 1970s that the Soviets did not believe that a nuclear war would result in “mutual suicide” and that the “country better prepared for it and in possession of a superior strategy could win and emerge a viable society.”’

(http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb285/ )

A consequential error was that the authors of ‘Team B’ failed to grasp that the Soviet conventional build-up on the Central Front in the Seventies, and the naval build-up which followed it, were not intended as a complement to a nuclear war-fighting capability, but a replacement for it.

As a result, they ended up restating a vision of Soviet military strategy as essentially political – designed primarily to provide comprehensive ‘escalation dominance’, under cover of which the Soviets could pursue aggressively their supposed goal of ‘world domination.’

In fact, the distinguishing fact about Soviet military strategy was its obsessive focus on contingency planning to fight a kind of rerun of the Second World War, and the grossly inadequate attention it paid to the political and economic implications of military strategy.

The conventional strategy placed the highest priority on the rapid destruction of NATO forces in Europe. This had to be achieved before NATO threats to implement ‘first-use’ could be implemented, or these forces reinforced (if the massively superior military-industrial potential of the United States could be effectively remobilised and deployed in Eurasia, the Soviets would inevitably in the long run have lost a conventional war.)

While it made sense in narrow military terms, in most other terms this strategy was a disaster. That was a key part of the background to the shift towards a defensive strategy, of which Larionov was a leading proponent.

Two former intelligence analysts turned academics – the American scholar-diplomat Ambassador Raymond Garthoff, and Michael MccGwire, who had earlier been the Royal Navy’s foremost post-war expert on its Soviet counterpart – had identified the shift to the conventional strategy clearly by the early 1980s.

By May 1987 the negotiating positions the Soviets were adopting were clearly incompatible with the maintenance of a capability to eject NATO from Western Europe in the event of war. Accordingly, Garthoff and MccGwire concluded that talk of a shift to a defensive strategy was extremely unlikely simply to be propaganda.

I picked up the story at the end of that year, and spent frustrating months trying unsuccessfully to interest British television current affairs programmes in what looked like perhaps the biggest security policy story of my lifetime.

To my enduring regret, however, I had not at that time come across the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, one of whose analysts was Dr Jacob W. Kipp – he later went on to head the organisation’s successor, successor, the Foreign Military Studies Office. This was a pity, as Dr Kipp could have clarified in a 'phone call a lot of matters about which, at that time, I was in the dark.

Had I contacted Dr Kipp, I would have learned that the same General-Mayor Larionov who was a leading theorist of the ‘new thinking’ had earlier compiled and co-authored the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of nuclear pre-emption, the original 1962 edition of the study ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshal Sokolovskii.

And as became clear to me later, Kipp, working purely from open sources, and having a mastery of the whole history of Soviet and Russian strategic debates, had a grasp of the background to the shift to the defensive strategy not as I far as I can see possessed by anyone in the CIA or DIA at the time.

(Sometimes it really does help not to be ‘inside the Beltway’, but to be sitting in an office out in Kansas.)

A detailed account of the inability of the U.S. intelligence community to make any sense of the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’, and of the errors made by ‘Team B’ which were partly responsible for this, is given in Garthoff’s contribution to a 2003 symposium entitled ‘Watching the Bear.’

(See https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/watching-the-bear-essays-on-cias-analysis-of-the-soviet-union/article05.html )

All this could be dismissed as water under the bridge, were it not for the fact that members of the clique of figures involved in ‘Team B’ – in particular Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, both disciples of Albert Wohlstetter – while absolutely inept at intelligence, are brilliant at propaganda.

Accordingly, they managed to persuade Americans that changes in the Soviet Union that they themselves totally failed to forsee were simply a mechanical result of the confrontational policies they advocated.

This, to my mind, has had a whole series of pernicious effects. As this comment is already far too long, I can only touch on them. Among them is the fact that the Soviet form of ‘totalitarianism’, ghastly as it was, had dynamics quite different from those of the Nazi form of ‘totalitarianism’ has continued to be obscured.

Crucially, the nihilistic/suicidal element which was central to Hitler was quite patently absent in Soviet leaders – including Stalin.

The distinction is obviously critical when it comes to trying to make sense of the implications of nuclear weapons for the international system. Having failed to grasp the differences between Hitler and Stalin, the likes of Perle and Wolfowitz have gone on to treat one leader after another they dislike as though they were latter-day Hitlers.

Having as a result replaced a defanged Sunni/Iraqi nationalist dictatorship in Iraq with rule by Islamist Shia close to the clerical regime in Tehran, they then cast that regime in the role of the new Hitler.

And Wolfowitz, confronted by a crisis in Ukraine which Western policy has been instrumental in provoking, and which could yet, just conceivably, cause a nuclear war, is still gibbering about Neville Chamberlain.

(See http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/03/putin-isnt-hitler-but-hes-still-dangerous/ )

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