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13 August 2016

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JMGavin

No one should be surprised. DoD has been completely politicized, as have all other departments of the Executive Branch. This has always occurred to a certain extent, but has become systemic and all-inclusive during the last fifteen years.

Dubhaltach

I wish I could say that I'm surprised but I'm not.

TonyL

I smell BS:

Hayes wrote. "The same Iranian regime promising to abide by the terms of a deal to limit its nuclear program had provided safe haven for al Qaeda leaders and their families and had facilitated al Qaeda attacks on the interests of the United States and its allies."

Willy B

Good call. He writes for the Weekly Standatd aftersll. He had to throw a bone out to the neocons after all.

Cortes

Beat me to it.

How very odd that "sources" should "reveal" such information.

doug

Isn't this sort of thing part and parcel of any war? Didn't Clausewitz note that propaganda was of use in bringing out the best in a country's own troops as well as demoralizing the enemy? There are, of course, problems when one eats one's own dogfood. How to serve it up and still retain situational realism seems difficult, if not impossible, for modern Western democracies.

steve

For years we were told that the Iraq and Afghan armies were making great progress and would soon be able to function on their own. I can't tell if this is all politicization, or if it is concern about promotions (maybe a combination). Junior officers who want to be senior officers sometimes perceive it is best to give their seniors only positive news.

turcopolier

doug

Happy to know you excuse systematic lying. pl

Outrage Beyond

re:

"The story of the trove of intelligence seized during the 2011 raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed should, it seems to me, if it is accurate, be an even bigger scandal."

Was there any trove?

"'Despite all the talk,' the retired official continued, there were 'no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks. The SEALs weren't there because they thought bin Laden was running a command center for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gather information inside that house.'"

--Seymour Hersh, "The Killing of Osama bin Laden"

I think Hersh is more reliable than Hayes.

LeaNder

Seems to be called "operational reporting" nowadays, if that is what you mean:

interim report, p. 10: "No interview provided any instances where operational reporting was used as a justification to come to a more pessimistic conclusion."

What's your take on General James Mattis? Apparently he was forced to retire in 2013. I tried to check what people here wrote about him. Supposedly matters went downhill after he left.

Wikipedia:

"Mattis is known for implementing the COIN strategy."

"As head of Central Command, Mattis oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen.[31] The Obama administration did not place much trust in Mattis, because he was perceived to be too eager for a military confrontation with Iran.[32] He retired from the Marine Corps on May 22, 2013."

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/ltgen-james-mattis-reading-list

Pundita

"Secret File Confirms Trump Claim: Obama, Hillary 'Founded ISIS' to Oust Assad"

http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160813/1044242978/trump-obama-hillary-isis-syria.html

"The Obama Administration’s policy of supporting Salafist opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saw the United States unwittingly support the creation of the Daesh 'caliphate' in Syria.

A 2012 defense intelligence report, originally stamped SECRET exposes that the US-backed anti-Assad coalition at the time was spearheaded by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) that soon after cobbled together to form the Daesh terror network.

The report exposes that while the United States refused to directly aide and support AQI and ISI pursuant to restrictions imposed by domestic anti-terror laws, State Department and Pentagon officials were well aware that the so-called ‘moderate’ rebels were intertwined with the terrorist militants who were the vanguard of the fighting force.

[...]"

Sputnik references a Judicial Watch doc obtained through FOIA.

http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

doug

I don't excuse it. I recognize it as a deeply endemic problem in virtually any conflict. As someone that just wants the facts, please, I hate that this goes on. Filtering the bs from fact introduces more uncertainty. When wars are existential it is, perhaps, more excusable. In wars of choice in democratic countries with a more or less free press it is not as the difference between the happy talk and reality inevitably rears its ugly head if things don't go approximately to plan. It is well understood they usually don't.

However, what's missing this time is accountability. Not so much for the false optimism, sadly I think that mindset will always be there, but for the poor decisioning. The consequences of our actions in the ME were forseen by some while others promised roses and an outbreak of enlightened peoples. Looks to me like the group that was wrong is more influential than ever and the group that was right is shunned. That is inexcusable.

michael brenner

If the man at the top is not particularly concerned about getting accurate Intelligence, and rigorous analysis, that gives license to all sorts of self-serving behavior to proliferate. This is true in every big organization. Combine that with; 1)ramapant careerism; and 2)an infirmed MSM, and this is what you get. Indeed, it's been the norm for at least the last 15 years.

turcopolier

All

There have always been attempts to alter intelligence analytic documents so as to make policy seem more plausible. It happens in every country. It happened to me many times. Often the pressure begins subtly but if one does not yield the "ramp up" becomes a lot of pressure and very direct pressure. This phenomenon results from a basic conflict in the system. 1. The intelligence function exists to describe reality and projected reality. 2. The policy or command function (same thing)exists to create a desired reality, either political or military. It is easy to see how these functions can be in conflict. This is complicated by the fact that the intelligence function is always subordinated organizationally to the commander or head of government. Personal ambition enters into any calculation on the part of the heads of the intelligence function since it is clear that to agree with the boss is the best way to get ahead. CIA usually attempts to claim that it is independent of command influence as an independent agency. This is a specious claim since CIA works directly for the president of the US and has no independence whatever. CIA's position is further compromised because it is a hybrid organization with a mission in both intelligence (information) and covert action. In the latter function CIA participates in creation of desired realities. pl

LeaNder

"In the latter function CIA participates in creation of desired realities."

That's pretty close to one definition of PR, I somewhat instinctively disliked. Public relations is "a process to create agreeable realities". These parallels are no historical accident really.

turcopolier

LeaNder

PR? Well, if you call trying to persuade the WH to follow lines of action in which the CIA is operationally involved PR, then I suppose it is PR although the audience is solely within the US government. Rather than call it PR I would call a corruption of informational process called "intelligence." pl

Haralambos

All,
I read this very long piece today from the _NYTimes_. I would appreciate the analysis and views of folks here who know more of the history and the various situations discussed: http://tinyurl.com/jbwd6yp
The subtitle reads: “How the Arab World Came Apart.”

Vic

Is anyone with prior military experience surprised? Decades ago the military was extremely concerned that they had a problem with "truth telling". Everything from fitness reports, OERs, AARs and almost all documents that officers wrote were of questionable veracity. The underlying problem was "up or out". Officers that had any blemish or shortfalls were eliminated. Everyone had to be perfect all the time.

However, you did not actually have to be good. One only needed to look good. Think of all the US Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan when leaving their position said that things were looking good. However well after a decade, there is still no victory and in fact look worse.

I suspect that it is still the same if not worse given that senior rating officers now have "profiles". It is even more difficult to "look good". The military is chasing civilian performance rating systems. These schemes make huge bucks for the HR firms that promote them. But research shows that all but a couple lack validity. Those few that are valid do not "fit" in with the military system (subordinates also rate superiors as well as co-workers).

Vic

PeteM

I think the story here isn't that this spin is happening, it's SOP and always has been, but that the analysts involved are using our new media platforms to cover their asses from the inevitable fallout. They were spanked publicly after 9/11 and had little means to tell their story then but they do now and they will not be used as the designated scapegoats again.

David Habakkuk

All,

Reflecting on the exchange between the Colonel and ‘LeaNder’.

It can be quite difficult to reconcile the competing demands of providing accurate and intelligence on adversaries and organising ‘covert action’ against them.

Ironically, in days long past when the British still used to think, they were sometimes quite good at reconciling these conflicting demands.

The Second World War Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey, coined a word for the kind of accommodation to the wishes of political masters which has characterised American and British intelligence agencies in recent years: ‘yesmanship’.

He coined another word, ‘wishfulness’. At the risk of glossing his meanings with my own, I would say this meant: if information appears which might challenge your existing views, you either ignore it, or accommodate in a manner which does as little damage as possible to those views.

Both these characteristics were, in Godfrey’s views, key weaknesses of the intelligence system of Nazi Germany.

So, he set out to exploit them. In order to do, he had the help of the extraordinary and bizarre collection of people he had recruited.

So, on the one hand, Ian Fleming was an absolutely ghastly man – but a fertile source of bizarre disinformation ideas, and a very efficient intelligence organiser.

By contrast, Ewen Montagu was a lovely man. He was the pampered scion of a great Anglo-Jewish banking family – the nephew of Edwin Montagu, who as the sole Jewish member of the Cabinet in 1917 had fought an unsuccessful rearguard action to prevent the Balfour Declaration being adopted.

Like his uncle, Ewen Montagu was a man of very great ability indeed – a criminal lawyer, and a very good one, whose hobbies were fly-fishing and yachting.

Clearly, he liked the ‘game’ element of the criminal bar – the contest which you win because you are in other people’s minds, and they aren’t in yours. It is a job for which you need imagination (as also, perhaps, in a different way, for fly-fishing.)

Of Godfrey, Montagu wrote that ‘he was the world’s prize shit, but a genius. ... I had enormous admiration for him as an intelligence brain and organiser – the more sincere as I loathed him as a man.’

The job that Montagu and his colleagues were given was to persuade Hitler to disregard the absolutely obvious: the fact that, if there was to be an invasion of Europe from North Africa, it had to come through Sicily.

Instead, it was necessary to persuade him that any apparent plans to invade in the obvious place were a cover for the real plans, which were to invade in Greece and Sardinia.

Among the means they used to do this was having a submarine deposit a corpse which purported to be that of a top-secret courier carrying the invasion plans from London to North Africa, supposedly shot down over the Atlantic.

It was a ploy that could easily have backfired. The reason it did not was because German intelligence – for the reasons that Godfrey had diagnosed – was essentially useless.

Anyone looking at the recent record of American and British intelligence can see that they are actually the true heirs of the ‘Sicherheitsdienst’ and the ‘Abwehr’. (Although frankly, to compare Sir Richard Dearlove or Sir John Scarlett to Admiral Canaris would be a gross insult to the last-named.)

Unfortunately, people in Washington and London haven’t yet woken up to the rather basic fact that, if you have people like Gates, Tenet, Clapper, Morrell, Dearlove, Scarlett, Sir John Sawers, etc etc running your intelligence services, this has practical consequences.

To put it bluntly, you are going to get into very deep trouble – not least, because adversaries will work out how to use your own strengths against you.

Your can thrown as much money and technological expertise as you like at problems. But in the end, if those in charge do not have a relevant combination of intelligence and integrity, it will not work.

Babak Makkinejad

Dr. Joseph Gobbles - The Founding Father of the Public Relations field.

BraveNewWorld

For democracy to function properly you need an informed electorate. Instead you have the government using psyops on their own population. Think there is any connection between that and the current state of American politics?

Willy B

Gen. Michael Flynn has spoken to this document on many occasions, such as here: https://levantreport.com/2015/08/06/former-dia-chief-michael-flynn-says-rise-of-islamic-state-was-a-willful-decision-and-defends-accuracy-of-2012-memo/

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

doug

To put it bluntly, you are going to get into very deep trouble – not least, because adversaries will work out how to use your own strengths against you.

I've long wondered if Chalabi was a prime example of exactly that.

Willy B

Dear Col. Lang,

Thank you for this clarification, but it seems to me that this begs the question: Is this a generic problem among intelligence bureaucracies and policymakers or do geopolitical choices play a role, too? US geopolitical policy since 9/11 has not been grounded in reality. Rather, it has been based on so-called ideas like humanitarian intervention and regime change. We all know that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with who was actually responsible for 9/11. The Chilcot report also shows us that the idea that Saddam Hussein had WMD was an article of faith among the proponents of the war, even though there was no real intelligence backing it up. The problem of terrorism is much worse, perhaps an order of magnitude worse, than it was on Sept. 19, 2001. What do you think has happened to the intelligence function over the past couple of decades? Has it been corrupted by these geopolitical choices?

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