So Gina Haspel was the Russia hand we needed all along...

Democrats painted President Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, as some sort of torture-minded anti-Muslim terrorist fanatic. Like most of us care whether terrorists busy trying to kill us end up getting tortured. It wasn't true and was boring as hell. Now that she has finally been confirmed as CIA Director, it turns out they were doing something more than just smearing her, they were withholding her real story that we as Americans needed to have, which is that she has major expertise on our top espionage adversary, Russia.

According to PBS:

She's sure to tap that latter experience as she takes over at the nation's premier intelligence agency at a time of rising tension with Moscow. President Donald Trump has characterized it as worse than during the Cold War, and it's been aggravated by investigations into Moscow's interference in the election that brought Trump to power.

That's right, now that she's in, the press is finally releasing her real story to us, the one they had been hiding, since they couldn't use it as a political weapon against President Trump at the time.

Much as they howled about Russian collusion with Hillary Clinton's electoral loss as a narrative, they couldn't bear to bring up that Haspel was a Russia person and would have the actual knowledge to keep America safe as the Russkis meddled. It shows how little they cared about the topic, and how their real mission was to put Hillary Clinton in office, not safeguard the republic.

So, far from being a torture maniac, as they had implausibly claimed, it turns out that Haspel is the Russia expert we need, at the helm of a major agency that's very focused on Russia. Frankly, who better to lead the agency? Haspel's expertise is expertise that is, actually, quite rare for anyone, even in the CIA itself, to have.

A 2015 chart from the ICEF educational monitor shows that Russian language studies have fallen nearly 18% during the Obama years (2009-2013). I've seen worse ones elsewhere, too.

Fact is, barely anyone knows anything about Russia whether through its language or culture, because Russian Area Studies degrees have declined 66% in the U.S. since 1969. In the last year the Department of Education was known to be counting these things, there was just one PhD granted in the field in the U.S. in 2014. Last year, I wrote this:

How many Russians do most Americans know, anyway?  How many kids in school study the Russian language?  On the other side of the equation, how many Americans do most Russians know?  The connections are negligible.  Other than from a small wave of immigrants from the 1980s and 1990s, the Russians are largely unknown to us.  Since the Cold War's end in 1991, Russian language and Russian area studies at universities have dwindled precipitously, to just 371 bachelor's degrees, 12 master's degrees, and one – count 'em, one – doctoral degree.  Those figures are from 2014, and the Department of Education hasn't gotten around to updating them in the past three years, but the trend line from the charts is clear: it's a 66% decline since 1969, and it's the only strategic language and studies area that has seen any such decline.  Chinese, Arabic, and Korean have all seen soaring gains.  Russian is the only one that has fallen.  Neither we nor the intelligence community has the knowledge base needed to make informed decisions about the country.

Haspel not only knows her Russia, she knows its espionage apparatus - and having read quite a bit about it myself, I can say that's an accomplishment in itself, given its vast size, its multiple numbers, its uncertain leadership, its intransparency.

Paul Klebnikov's book on the Yeltsin years in Russia, Godfather of the Kremlin, covered extensively the tangled structures and shifting leadership of the intelligence agencies as they were penetrated by an unholy nest of gangs, oligarchs, Chechens, and organized crime alongside former KGB and Soviet military elements, creating agencies of shifting, uncertain leadership, and power. The book gives a whiff of how hard to understand these agencies aligned, supposedly, with the Kremlin. And how as the state collapsed, the intelligence agencies remained intact. Karen Dawisha's book, Putin's Kleptocracy, is another which explains just how tangled the oligarchical relationships are and how money amounts to power in Putin's Russia. Fiona Hill's Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, is yet another. All of these books show just how hard it is to understand Russia even as they explain the problems. And this is critical and necessary information to master if anyone is to make an informed assessment of how Russia works. Even in English, it's hard as hell of grasp, it takes hours and hours of study just to understand the broadest of pictures out there, and if you do it, your head will hurt.

What it means is that Haspel is the dark Russia-oriented expert who can keep the secrets and inform the president accurately about what is going on whom we need. We don't need her out here making public relations speeches, or discussing policy. We just need her to separate the reality from the bee ess and keep Trump up on the real facts of what is going on, which is actually her job now. We've had idiots lead the agency, starting with John Brennan. Now it's time for someone who knows what she is talking about.

But you'd never have known that from what had been reported in the press.

There is a caveat in that she said she believed the Senate report on Russian collusion, which I know from my own Russian sources and what they told me before the election to be in error (the Russians liked Trump but were convinced Hillary Clinton would win and focused far more on her campaign than Trump's), but I hope she just said that to get confirmed. She was apparently very traumatized by the whole clown show from Congress and their willing lackeys in the press, and reportedly almost withdrew her name last Friday. Her endorsement by hardline outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo would seem to alleviate that, or at least give cause for hope.

What a shame that her confirmation hearing debacles were so enmired in phony torture tales that they didn't open a window to what Haspel does well in her mastery of Russia, and why America could benefit greatly from her non-partisan expertise on a very difficult and understudied - yet utterly important - adversary. Well, we know now. Thanxalot, press.

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