Dealing Us Out of the War

"Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain."
      -Carl von Clausewitz
There was a joke going around the Army in the mid-70s during the rise of the Operations Research System Analyst (ORSA) in military decision-making: 
 

One day, the Chief of Staff wanted to know what equaled 2 plus 2.  His exec called in representatives from the various branches, Armor, Infantry, Artillery, Medical and Logisticians.  Each in his own style and sense of logic confidently proclaimed to the boss that 2 plus 2 equaled 4.  Not content to just accept this overwhelming consensus from non-subject matter experts, the Chief called in his ORSA.  The General asked him point blank, "What, sir, is 2 plus 2?"  The ORSA glanced around the room to make sure they were alone, looked in the closet, checked behind the curtains, and quietly said, "Sir, it's whatever you want it to be."
 

And such is the case with the recently released NIE, which has a summary judgment about Iran's nuclear program that is so blatantly out of whack that its most basic analysis was not even supported in the body of the document.  It's a clear cut case of giving the boss the answer he wants, and then manufacturing the data to produce the desired result -- and not very well done I might add.
 

But who would be so desperate to continue this charade of infallible intelligence when there has been case after case of intell being suspect at best, or flat wrong at worst?  In my view, the public's anger is largely misdirected at the usual suspects in the CIA and State Department, while ignoring other important players in this tragedy who make use of intelligence everyday, and know full well its limitations: the beltway military establishment and the Central Region high command.

 

According to Jeff Stein, CQ Politics National Security Editor, the jury-rigged report was a massive push-back against an Iran bombing campaign from the military with the assistance of the SecState and SecDef Robert Gates.  Stein is correct on one account.  All of this shouldn't have been surprising, since the signs pointing towards the release of this stunning piece of intelligence propaganda have been evident for several weeks.

 

As early as November 4, this report began to cast doubt on the mullahs' nuclear program after GW's mid-October speech about the mullahs potentially triggering WWIII if they were allowed to develop the bomb.  Two-faced IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei then said he had "...not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear-weapons program going on right now," although once the NIE came out, he even admitted that it was "too generous" to the Persians given their past deceptions of Baradei's inspection teams.

 

Then about a week later, Admiral William Fallon, Commander of CENTCOM, suddenly took on the role of sailor-statesman when he said that a military strike is "not in the offing," and that,

 

"Another war is just not where we want to go."

 

So much for a Theater Commander striking fear in the heart of our fanatical enemy; at least he could have left a little doubt in Ahmadinejad's mind -- you know, for deterrence purposes.

 

Stein thinks that the military balked on an Iran operation ever since Rumsfeld rigged a 2002 wargame against the mullahs to allow a US victory, when in fact, unorthodox tactics by Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper initially had the Iranians winning.  However, bashing Rumsfeld on his insistence on transformational warfare theories has already been shown to be both unfair and hypocritical, especially since he didn't start the process.  If you are searching for the transformation zealots, look no further than the Clinton  Pentagon.

 

Stein is onto something, though, but it is infinitely more important than getting outsmarted in a wargame.  Military leaders, under congressional pressure, focused on "war as a criminal enterprise" and the punitive raid as a substitute for playing the game of nations, while second and third world countries were left free to do pretty much as they pleased with their industrial and social infrastructure to prepare for war with the Great Satan. 

 

Our military superiority may be as powerful as advertised, just don't ask us to win the long war, especially against Iran.

 

Our dealings with the mullahs' regime have been most puzzling and without a satisfactory explanation.

 

First, we focused our post-Gulf War I maritime interception program in the Persian Gulf exclusively on Saddam's WMD shipments while we turned a blind eye toward North Korean ships headed to Iranian ports, laden with long-range missile components and Lord only knows what else.  Maybe the Syrians know what these NoKo shipments consist of, but they're not talking right now.

 

Second, I wrote about Iran's long-term maneuver nearly four years ago, and how the Shiite firebrand Moqtada al Sadr was Iran's point man in Iraq, leading a fifth column acting in concert with the mullahs' regional plan of domination.  We knew this in 2003 when an arrest warrant was issued on the charge of murder.  Sorry to debunk the popular myth of the State Department mucking things up in this regard, but contrary to popular belief, Bremer and the State Department were all for nabbing this guy. 

 

Who balked?  The military command, which was more worried about a rotation schedule than taking action to throw this Iranian agent provocateur in jail.  Whatever happened to "for the duration?"

 

A little over a year later, the attacks into Najaf revealed the extent of Sadr's involvement with the mullahs and also showed that his militia's proficiency at torture rivaled that of any Sunni Baathist holdover or AQ terrorist.  Did I mention we knew about his connection to Iran and that intell concerning the presence of Iranian special operations and intelligence cadre was ignored or downplayed?  And what about the resurrection of the small boat attacks against Iraq's only off-shore oil terminal?

 

And let's not forget about the central issue of the latest NIE: Iran's nuclear program.  In this regard, the operating counter-proliferation model is as flawed in its emphasis on terrorist use of WMD without expert assistance as we have been in building an army to deal with the insurgent "criminal" terror group rather than fighting regional and global nation-states.

 

For example, the manufacture and use of Biological Warfare and Chemical Warfare agents by terrorists without state sponsors cannot be classified as anything but a dismal failure.  The 1995 Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway by Aum Shinrikyo, demonstrated that without the necessary military institutional weapons industry and expertise, it is not very easy to make, let alone disseminate, nerve gas.  For all of their effort, there were only 12 killed and 5,000 injured, the vast majority of whom suffered from "shock and emotional upset."

 

The anthrax-laced letters sent out shortly after the 9-11 attacks caused even fewer deaths.  Despite the high degree of weaponization of the spores, perhaps indicating a substance of high quality foreign manufacture, terrorist methods of employment of agents, without a military targeting regimen and combat dispensing systems, resulted in five Americans killed.  And we expect these kinds of guys to devise and employ far more complex nukes?

 

What is clear is that inspection regimens that endlessly examine the technical minutiae of whether a dictator had the right aluminum tubes, for example, do little to provide any margin of confidence over the long term that his military and scientific institutions will give up their banned materials and mass terror weapons of any type.  Also, air strikes -- particularly discreet precision bombing operations -- are certainly a coercive tool in gaining cooperation and in delaying production.  But the only way to defend our citizens and to verify compliance with UN resolutions is to defeat the bad guy, and have possession of the ground and a submissive populace, just as we did in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

If you doubt this, go ask Musharraf or our own national security establishment if they are more worried about a terrorist or criminal heist of a Pakistani nuke or a hostile political power taking control of the entire nuclear infrastructure.

 

[For a detailed discussion of the significance of the dual use nature of a "peaceful, civilian" nuclear program see here, here, and here.]

 

The bottom line is that even the most ardent supporters of Western military action against the mullahs routinely miss the larger point about the history of the current stand-off and the geo-political stakes involved in taking on the Iranians.  And members of the conservative and pro-war media are no exception.

 

Bluff and bluster about airstrikes and fomenting rebellion are just that.  The operation to ensure the mullahs reveal their embedded and dispersed nuclear facilities and labs does not compare to action against the few sites run by Saddam, despite our military superiority in the region.  We're talking an extensive combined arms and services campaign and an interminable occupation with more troops than we could muster given the situation in Iraq.

 

This is the real meaning of the NIE; the ultimate push-back from military chiefs and their congressional sponsors who have failed to rein in the nearly two decades of soft, post-modern intelligence and military thought  in the afterglow of our Cold War and Desert Storm victories.

 

While we rightfully criticize the President for his part in correcting this sad situation, let's not forget the beltway military and congressional mutual admiration society as the prime causes  of this mess.  We must also acknowledge that if it weren't for George Bush, we would have left Iraq a long time ago, and very well could have been the target of a WMD attack on our homeland .

 

And despite the seeming acquiescence to the mullahs, GW has firmly stated that airstrikes are still in the plan.  How he has withstood the constant attacks from the media, the left, and his own national security establishment, I'll never know.  But thank God that he has.


Personal Note

This column marks my final regular contribution to The American Thinker as its National Security Correspondent.  My family and I will be transitioning to a new and exciting phase of our personal and professional lives, but it is one where regular analysis of current events will not be possible.  I want to express my deepest appreciation to all contributors and correspondents at AT.  You are the reason it is read by more movers and shakers than the editor wants to admit.

 

Speaking of the editor, I am especially grateful to AT editor and publisher, Thomas Lifson.  I found out that bar room criticisms of the major press columnists is one thing, but actually placing your thoughts and reputation in the public forum is quite another.  This was especially true for my first piece which, at its heart, discussed events that were very painful to reveal.  Thomas was not only the tough editor, but a mentor who recognized and understood my personal conflict and helped me to a resolution.  Your guidance and leadership mean more to me than you know.

 

To the readers of AT, I must say you are a special breed.  First, you read the best political and national security journal on the web today, and second, your comments are the most cogent I have ever read (except for the loons and goofballs who rant and rave and use dirty words).  Whether we agreed or disagreed, I learned a lot.  For those who occasionally go to the archives and wish to comment on an old article, feel free to write.  The editor will know how to contact me.

 

Finally, in the Cavalry we never say "Goodbye;" It's always "Until the next post."  See you there.

Douglas Hanson has served for four years as national security correspondent of American Thinker. He will be missed, and will always be welcome back.
"Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain."
      -Carl von Clausewitz
There was a joke going around the Army in the mid-70s during the rise of the Operations Research System Analyst (ORSA) in military decision-making: 

 

One day, the Chief of Staff wanted to know what equaled 2 plus 2.  His exec called in representatives from the various branches, Armor, Infantry, Artillery, Medical and Logisticians.  Each in his own style and sense of logic confidently proclaimed to the boss that 2 plus 2 equaled 4.  Not content to just accept this overwhelming consensus from non-subject matter experts, the Chief called in his ORSA.  The General asked him point blank, "What, sir, is 2 plus 2?"  The ORSA glanced around the room to make sure they were alone, looked in the closet, checked behind the curtains, and quietly said, "Sir, it's whatever you want it to be."

 

And such is the case with the recently released NIE, which has a summary judgment about Iran's nuclear program that is so blatantly out of whack that its most basic analysis was not even supported in the body of the document.  It's a clear cut case of giving the boss the answer he wants, and then manufacturing the data to produce the desired result -- and not very well done I might add.

 

But who would be so desperate to continue this charade of infallible intelligence when there has been case after case of intell being suspect at best, or flat wrong at worst?  In my view, the public's anger is largely misdirected at the usual suspects in the CIA and State Department, while ignoring other important players in this tragedy who make use of intelligence everyday, and know full well its limitations: the beltway military establishment and the Central Region high command.

 

According to Jeff Stein, CQ Politics National Security Editor, the jury-rigged report was a massive push-back against an Iran bombing campaign from the military with the assistance of the SecState and SecDef Robert Gates.  Stein is correct on one account.  All of this shouldn't have been surprising, since the signs pointing towards the release of this stunning piece of intelligence propaganda have been evident for several weeks.

 

As early as November 4, this report began to cast doubt on the mullahs' nuclear program after GW's mid-October speech about the mullahs potentially triggering WWIII if they were allowed to develop the bomb.  Two-faced IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei then said he had "...not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear-weapons program going on right now," although once the NIE came out, he even admitted that it was "too generous" to the Persians given their past deceptions of Baradei's inspection teams.

 

Then about a week later, Admiral William Fallon, Commander of CENTCOM, suddenly took on the role of sailor-statesman when he said that a military strike is "not in the offing," and that,

 

"Another war is just not where we want to go."

 

So much for a Theater Commander striking fear in the heart of our fanatical enemy; at least he could have left a little doubt in Ahmadinejad's mind -- you know, for deterrence purposes.

 

Stein thinks that the military balked on an Iran operation ever since Rumsfeld rigged a 2002 wargame against the mullahs to allow a US victory, when in fact, unorthodox tactics by Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper initially had the Iranians winning.  However, bashing Rumsfeld on his insistence on transformational warfare theories has already been shown to be both unfair and hypocritical, especially since he didn't start the process.  If you are searching for the transformation zealots, look no further than the Clinton  Pentagon.

 

Stein is onto something, though, but it is infinitely more important than getting outsmarted in a wargame.  Military leaders, under congressional pressure, focused on "war as a criminal enterprise" and the punitive raid as a substitute for playing the game of nations, while second and third world countries were left free to do pretty much as they pleased with their industrial and social infrastructure to prepare for war with the Great Satan. 

 

Our military superiority may be as powerful as advertised, just don't ask us to win the long war, especially against Iran.

 

Our dealings with the mullahs' regime have been most puzzling and without a satisfactory explanation.

 

First, we focused our post-Gulf War I maritime interception program in the Persian Gulf exclusively on Saddam's WMD shipments while we turned a blind eye toward North Korean ships headed to Iranian ports, laden with long-range missile components and Lord only knows what else.  Maybe the Syrians know what these NoKo shipments consist of, but they're not talking right now.

 

Second, I wrote about Iran's long-term maneuver nearly four years ago, and how the Shiite firebrand Moqtada al Sadr was Iran's point man in Iraq, leading a fifth column acting in concert with the mullahs' regional plan of domination.  We knew this in 2003 when an arrest warrant was issued on the charge of murder.  Sorry to debunk the popular myth of the State Department mucking things up in this regard, but contrary to popular belief, Bremer and the State Department were all for nabbing this guy. 

 

Who balked?  The military command, which was more worried about a rotation schedule than taking action to throw this Iranian agent provocateur in jail.  Whatever happened to "for the duration?"

 

A little over a year later, the attacks into Najaf revealed the extent of Sadr's involvement with the mullahs and also showed that his militia's proficiency at torture rivaled that of any Sunni Baathist holdover or AQ terrorist.  Did I mention we knew about his connection to Iran and that intell concerning the presence of Iranian special operations and intelligence cadre was ignored or downplayed?  And what about the resurrection of the small boat attacks against Iraq's only off-shore oil terminal?

 

And let's not forget about the central issue of the latest NIE: Iran's nuclear program.  In this regard, the operating counter-proliferation model is as flawed in its emphasis on terrorist use of WMD without expert assistance as we have been in building an army to deal with the insurgent "criminal" terror group rather than fighting regional and global nation-states.

 

For example, the manufacture and use of Biological Warfare and Chemical Warfare agents by terrorists without state sponsors cannot be classified as anything but a dismal failure.  The 1995 Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway by Aum Shinrikyo, demonstrated that without the necessary military institutional weapons industry and expertise, it is not very easy to make, let alone disseminate, nerve gas.  For all of their effort, there were only 12 killed and 5,000 injured, the vast majority of whom suffered from "shock and emotional upset."

 

The anthrax-laced letters sent out shortly after the 9-11 attacks caused even fewer deaths.  Despite the high degree of weaponization of the spores, perhaps indicating a substance of high quality foreign manufacture, terrorist methods of employment of agents, without a military targeting regimen and combat dispensing systems, resulted in five Americans killed.  And we expect these kinds of guys to devise and employ far more complex nukes?

 

What is clear is that inspection regimens that endlessly examine the technical minutiae of whether a dictator had the right aluminum tubes, for example, do little to provide any margin of confidence over the long term that his military and scientific institutions will give up their banned materials and mass terror weapons of any type.  Also, air strikes -- particularly discreet precision bombing operations -- are certainly a coercive tool in gaining cooperation and in delaying production.  But the only way to defend our citizens and to verify compliance with UN resolutions is to defeat the bad guy, and have possession of the ground and a submissive populace, just as we did in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

If you doubt this, go ask Musharraf or our own national security establishment if they are more worried about a terrorist or criminal heist of a Pakistani nuke or a hostile political power taking control of the entire nuclear infrastructure.

 

[For a detailed discussion of the significance of the dual use nature of a "peaceful, civilian" nuclear program see here, here, and here.]

 

The bottom line is that even the most ardent supporters of Western military action against the mullahs routinely miss the larger point about the history of the current stand-off and the geo-political stakes involved in taking on the Iranians.  And members of the conservative and pro-war media are no exception.

 

Bluff and bluster about airstrikes and fomenting rebellion are just that.  The operation to ensure the mullahs reveal their embedded and dispersed nuclear facilities and labs does not compare to action against the few sites run by Saddam, despite our military superiority in the region.  We're talking an extensive combined arms and services campaign and an interminable occupation with more troops than we could muster given the situation in Iraq.

 

This is the real meaning of the NIE; the ultimate push-back from military chiefs and their congressional sponsors who have failed to rein in the nearly two decades of soft, post-modern intelligence and military thought  in the afterglow of our Cold War and Desert Storm victories.

 

While we rightfully criticize the President for his part in correcting this sad situation, let's not forget the beltway military and congressional mutual admiration society as the prime causes  of this mess.  We must also acknowledge that if it weren't for George Bush, we would have left Iraq a long time ago, and very well could have been the target of a WMD attack on our homeland .

 

And despite the seeming acquiescence to the mullahs, GW has firmly stated that airstrikes are still in the plan.  How he has withstood the constant attacks from the media, the left, and his own national security establishment, I'll never know.  But thank God that he has.


Personal Note

This column marks my final regular contribution to The American Thinker as its National Security Correspondent.  My family and I will be transitioning to a new and exciting phase of our personal and professional lives, but it is one where regular analysis of current events will not be possible.  I want to express my deepest appreciation to all contributors and correspondents at AT.  You are the reason it is read by more movers and shakers than the editor wants to admit.

 

Speaking of the editor, I am especially grateful to AT editor and publisher, Thomas Lifson.  I found out that bar room criticisms of the major press columnists is one thing, but actually placing your thoughts and reputation in the public forum is quite another.  This was especially true for my first piece which, at its heart, discussed events that were very painful to reveal.  Thomas was not only the tough editor, but a mentor who recognized and understood my personal conflict and helped me to a resolution.  Your guidance and leadership mean more to me than you know.

 

To the readers of AT, I must say you are a special breed.  First, you read the best political and national security journal on the web today, and second, your comments are the most cogent I have ever read (except for the loons and goofballs who rant and rave and use dirty words).  Whether we agreed or disagreed, I learned a lot.  For those who occasionally go to the archives and wish to comment on an old article, feel free to write.  The editor will know how to contact me.

 

Finally, in the Cavalry we never say "Goodbye;" It's always "Until the next post."  See you there.

Douglas Hanson has served for four years as national security correspondent of American Thinker. He will be missed, and will always be welcome back.