Who Watches the Intelligence “Experts?”

The other day my wife had me check out an interview she was watching on Hannity since she wanted my feedback.  The interview was with William Binney, a former NSA official who worked for the agency over 30 years.  You figure, a guy like that, with that kind of background, should have some sort of credibility right?

Maybe not.

Just a few observations, other than the obvious one that Hannity really should shut up for a second and let his guests speak.  At 6:20 Binney, in response to a question by Hannity, “so every phone conversation I’ve had in my life you believe has been taped?” Binney responds, “Without warrants, yes that’s right.”

Color me skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that a lifetime of Sean Hannity phone calls has been recorded and are sitting in storage out in Utah, or anywhere.  Maybe I’m naive, but that seems implausible to me.  I just can’t imagine that the technology and storage capacity was there, starting in the 1970’s to record and store every single phone call of a teenage Sean Hannity.  Now? Possibly, but going back decades?  Or maybe Binney didn’t really mean Hannity’s entire life and misunderstood the question.  Or maybe, since he has 30 plus years with the NSA I should shut up since he should know what he’s talking about.

But then at 6:28 he blows any credibility I might have given him when he references the story of former military linguists Adrienne Kinne and David Faulk, “whistleblowers” who made the claim that the US Intelligence Community was deliberately targeting US military and civilians working in Iraq.  This blew up into a big national story for a few days in 2008. And although it’s mostly forgotten now, every so often it’s trotted out in the media as an example of the US Intelligence Community spying on innocent civilians as a routine fact of life and this incident just happened to have been outed by brave whistleblowers speaking truth to power.

I happen to have some peripheral knowledge of that incident and know that the media narrative of it is false.  So why should I trust Binney if he’s bringing that issue up?  More to the point, Binney was out of government by then, so what particular insider knowledge would he have of that incident?

This of course, is just one example of a problem I’m seeing with National Security and Intelligence experts, who go on cable news and, depending on the network, take totally opposite positions on an issue from other National Security and Intelligence experts. It’s by no means unusual for commentators to disagree on cable TV.  I mean, that’s the business model right?  But unlike other commentators and so called experts, commentators on Intelligence issues are trading on their exclusive access to the Intelligence Community and their access to classified information.  But rather than being honest brokers of that kind of access and expertise, they seem to be doing the same thing other cable news talking heads do: exploit their credibility to please the host of whatever show they’re on, in order to get more bookings.

Another “National Security Expert” guest of Hannity’s is LTC Tony Shaffer. Shaffer seems to be more of a wild card than Binney.  He’s claimed that President Obama watched the attack on the consulate at Benghazi from the situation room.  Explosive news if true, but how would Shaffer had known?  It sounds like something he just blurted out.  But Shaffer’s most recent wild eyed claim was that retired NSA and other IC types did the actual hacking of the DNC and gave the information to Wikileaks. Another earth shaking claim if true, but where’s the evidence?  What’s even the basis of the claim?

Another one who plays that game is Malcom Nance, a former Naval Cryptologic Technician and Arabic linguist.  He is also billed as an all-around National Security expert.  He actually has an impressive resume, but when you want to be called to be on panels on MSNBC or the BBC, you have to pick a side, which lead to this tweet a few months ago after the Wikileaks release of John Podesta’s emails:

Now there were no “obvious forgeries” in the Podesta emails.  Even months later, all the information we have on them is that they are authentic. But if a “National Security Expert” tells you they’re “obvious forgeries,” why wouldn’t the average person just accept that? But calling them forgeries, backed up by Nance’s resume, makes good copy; particularly on MSNBC.  That was the kind of national security expertise they want on that network.

Like Nance, John Schindler got his start in the Navy as a Cryptologic Warfare Officer and was a professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College until yada yada yada, and now he runs a National Security blog The XX Committee. Schindler isn’t a cable news whore, but he uses social media in much the same way.

Now…is this just an old friend who is a crusty old liberal and hates Trump, or is this an indication of some cabal in the Intelligence Community that has the goods on Trump and is just waiting for their moment to strike?  Clearly Schindler wants us to think the latter, but who knows?

My point is, I’m not sure that we can take these Intelligence and Security experts at face value.  They all seem to have agendas, whether commercial or personal, and because of the nature of their expertise, they are more or less unchallenged.  They are usually the only ones on a cable news panel that have held a security clearance so it makes them hard to challenge.  And frankly, that even goes for me too.  I dismissed Binney because of his take on the Kinne and Faulk story but I’m not willing to share anything about my issues with it.  So why trust me?

Don’t trust me, but you’re better off not trusting any of these “experts” until you can discern their real motives and agendas. And even then…

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Make Selective Service Selective

A funny thing happened a few months ago while the entire country was in shock and horror at the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  Secretary of Defense Ash Carter took the opportunity to announce that all combat roles would be open to women.  As this administration is known for never letting a crisis go to waste, the DoD took advantage to announce a controversial policy that would have generated a great deal of news coverage, much of it negative, under cover of an ongoing American tragedy.  You can’t say that they didn’t have great timing.  The story was, as planned, lost in the greater story of terrorism on US soil.

I had previously expressed both my opinion (unfavorable) and prediction (it was going to happen regardless) on women in combat arms military occupational specialties here. So I knew that studies would show that putting women in combat arms specialties would be a bad idea, and that the military was going to make it happen anyway even if they had to jiggle the standards to make it happen.selective service 1

So there really isn’t a reason to go over the same arguments again as to why women in combat arms fields is not just a dumb idea, but a dangerously stupid one that at some point will cost many lives and drastically impact military effectiveness.  We’re too far gone for studies, or reason.  The country is running on pure PC approved ideology now.  Facts are for bigots.

But that brings up the next step in the post “women in combat” debate.  What to do about selective service? Should women be forced to register, and therefore be eligible for a future draft?  Feminists of course try to have their cake and eat it too by supporting women registering for selective service but at the same time think that the draft is wrong and selective service should be eliminated…now that they are suddenly asked to sign up. The issue even came up during the Republican Primary debates.

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I’ve given this some thought, and recognize that we’re not going back on women in combat (until of course it blows up in our faces but by then it’s too late), so accepting the inevitable, I think I figured out a way to make feminists happy as well as more traditional minded folks like myself.

Make selective service voluntary.

The truth is, even if some massive emergency required a draft, we’re just not going to need every young person between 18 and 25. We wouldn’t be able to process and train that many people and currently most young people would not be eligible for the military; mostly due to fatties, druggies, dummies, and various tattooed freaks with criminal records. Do we really need to waste time processing, and rejecting, these losers in a national emergency?

Making it voluntary cuts out a lot of people who wouldn’t qualify for the military anyway and it eliminates the possibility of any future legal challenge to the draft. The Supreme Court has already ruled that a military draft doesn’t violate the constitution, but that was a century ago.  In an age when court decisions are based more on if it feels good do it rather than stare decisis, having a strictly voluntary selective service would go a long way to nipping in the bud future court challenges.  After all, if you are knee deep in an alien invasion, do you really need the Supreme Court issuing a stay on further conscription until they review the case next October?

Of course the question that comes up is; if selective service is voluntary, is who would be crazy enough to actually volunteer for it and sign up?  I’m glad you asked…

Currently, if you are male, you are required by law to sign up for selective service. But also, you are required to sign up in order to be eligible for federally backed student loans.  Do you know who isn’t required to sign up for selective service to be eligible for federally backed student loans? Females.  So right now, women are free riders on the student loan train, but if we’re changing the law to allow women to sign up, we naturally, in the interest of equality, should require women to sign up to be eligible for student loans.

A pool of potential draftees in the selective service database who are volunteers makes for a smaller, but better quality pool of people. The logic of limiting eligibility for federally backed student loans to just those who volunteer to be called to military service if the need arises seems clear.  Of course, not all of those people would be qualified for military service anyway, although the current student loan rules that disqualify anyone convicted of a felony drug charge doesn’t hurt separating the wheat from the chaff.  But we could do better than that.

Michael Bloomberg, take notes.

Since one of the largest disqualifiers for military service is weight, why not require a weigh in every year to ensure that the prospective student/draftee is within their BMI? The logistics and cost of a full military physical to make sure these young people are qualified for military service might be unrealistic, but a simple weigh in wouldn’t be.  Having one at your doctor’s office or at a local recruiter would make sure that when the balloon goes up, we don’t have tens of thousands of college kids who’ve sucked at the teat of government largess for years suddenly show up at the recruiters in stretch pants, riding their Hoveround scooters, looking like an audition for “People of Wal-Mart.”

Some people might argue that this is nanny-statism, however if you are getting a benefit from the government, what’s wrong with having requirements for it?  Nothings free in this world, and the sooner the entitled generation learns that, the better. And is it really that onerous a requirement to be healthy?  If you can’t keep the pizza and ice cream away from your pie hole long enough to pass a weigh in once a year, I have doubts on your ability to demonstrate the self discipline to complete college anyway.

And there are downstream benefits of requiring a healthy weight for beneficiaries of federal benefits.  Even if a fair portion of graduates, upon getting their last student loan, decides to celebrate with a pizza a day, the fact that they had to maintain a healthy weight for a couple of years will benefit them health-wise years later and will benefit the country overall in reduced healthcare costs.  And who knows, maybe some of them will decide to maintain a healthy weight through their lives?

And…if you really don’t like this idea, then we shouldn’t have decided it would be neat to have mothers of young children as infantrymen.  That’s a much worse idea.

 

For Obama’s War Non Policy, it’s Go Big or Go Home

A year ago I wrote about President Obama’s low energy lack of engagement with trying to save Iraq and defeat ISIS. I had offered some suggestions on how Obama could have butched up his war plans to actually be effective.  Of course I didn’t really expect Obama to take any such advice, whether from me or the countless military advisors at the Pentagon.  Ultimately, he just wasn’t that interested and prefers to wait out the clock until he’s out of office and then complain about whatever the new guy (or gal) decides to do.  Of course in the past year, a couple of things have happened:

Everything has gotten worse.  The Islamic State hasn’t been stopped, and it might be generous to say that they’ve been slowed down.

The Islamic State is now a real state. They are now acting in their territory just like any other government, settling disputes and providing government services.  No one recognizes their government as a legitimate government, but it’s there anyway.

The amount of airpower we’ve been willing to put into the war effort has been kept at a low enough level to not make much difference.

The Obama Administration, CENTCOM, or someone in it (*cough* James Clapper* cough*) is politicizing intelligence to make sure only happy talk is allowed to be disseminated.

Obama’s plan to train a “moderate” Syrian rebel force is a complete failure. We spent $500 million to field 4 or 5 rebels in country.

In the meantime, a massive refugee crisis has broken out as a result of the war, consisting of as many as 9 million Syrians.

The Russians are moving in, setting up operations inside Syria to shore up their ally, President Assad.

So it’s pretty clear that Obama’s no-effort strategy is an abject failure.  And it also means that anything I thought could have been done a year ago has washed away.  The situation is far direr today than it was a year ago and will probably get worse before it gets better, which may not be in the foreseeable future.

So tossing my old plans in the garbage, it’s obvious that we need a new one, but what?  The option I outlined last year included:

  1. Training the remaining semi friendly anti ISIS forces, primarily the Kurds but also some Iraqi regular army units.
  2. Fortify and blockade the Syrian-Iraqi border to keep ISIS from resupplying and reinforcing its holdings on the Iraq side, allowing the Iraqi’s to take back their own territory and force Assad to engage ISIS instead of him using them as a pawn to drag us into saving his bacon.

All of that is meaningless now.  The reality is, whether we accept the existence of the Islamic State or not, is that there is a Sunni Arab state operating in majority Sunni Arab territories taken from both Iraq and Syria, and it’s likely to remain in some form or another.

But this is a good news / bad news situation.  Given where we are now, I thought I had come up with an original, not yet discussed solution to the Syrian issue.  Unfortunately, in researching this, I discovered that The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon had already beaten me to it:

“…[A] final option is partition or confederation. Partition is certainly easier said than done — whether the goal is to create new countries or autonomous zones held together through some weak central government. But if the parties do recognize that they need to work together and there is some natural way to divide up land that is seen as both fair and militarily enforceable, partition can work. Conflicts between Bosnia and Kosovo, between Eritrea and Ethiopia and between the two Sudans have all ended this way — though often only after a great deal of blood has been spilled, and often only with the help of international peacekeepers along the various lines of separation.”

Given the ethnic/religious map of Syria, it just makes sense that we should stop trying to fit square ethnic groups into the round holes of artificial states that would never have existed if not for the European map making that lead to the Sykes Picot Agreement, which divided up the Middle East by the British and French after World War I. O’Hanlon seems to envision some sort of federation or confederation, but I think mini states would work better.  Let Assad keep the Alawites, and let the Christians, Druze and Kurds go their separate ways.

The Sunni Arab area needs to be let go.  It mostly belongs to the IS anyway.  The only part of that area that needs to be separated is a Sunni enclave separate from the IS for refugees; and of course a possible staging area for future operations against ISIS.

Of course there is more than one fly in that ointment.  The first one is Putin.  He’s moved into Syria in a big way and appears ready to take the military offensive against ISIS to save his client state.  Before the Russians moved in to Syria, the US had the option of operating more or less without taking the Russians into consideration.  But the US policy of keeping the Russians out of the Middle East, which had lasted for decades, has collapsed due to the Obama administration’s inattention.  If anyone has taken Rahm Emmanuel’s advice of never letting a crisis go to waste, it’s been Putin. So anything having to do with Syria now has to go through the actual military power that is on the ground there: Russia.

The other fly in the ointment is of course the Obama administration.  They are the architects of this catastrophe, due to their inexperience and purposeful ideological blindness.  They wanted hands off the Middle Eastern disasters and this is what it looks like; hundreds of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

So for that reason I rate the possibility of actually accomplishing anything as quite low.  Going big would require a major military commitment.  But on the plus side the only areas you would want to take are those areas that truly want be liberated from ISIS, whether they’re Christian, Druze, or Kurds.  Although I’m not sure I would even support that kind of military commitment, I recognize that if you really want to do something useful, you have to do it on that scale.  But  I don’t think the Obama administration has even the appetite for diplomatic action.  Far more likely than going big is simply going home. At least Obama has given a good example of what happens when America Shrugs: chaos.

For those who think the idea of partitioning Syria is unrealistic, there is precedent.  That was how the Yugoslavian civil war was eventually resolved, by; partitioning the area into several states.  The Middle East is revolting against their old, artificially created borders anyway.  That can either be guided to a more peaceful resolution or it can be ignored and resisted with all of the accompanying death and international chaos that goes with it.  But one way or the other, it’s happening.

Update: Since I wrote the above, Putin has changed the game once again. At Monday’s speech at the UN he said that he wants to put together an international anti terrorist coalition to go after the Islamic State. Russia will introduce a UN resolution to that effect, and who can blame them?  International politics and leadership abhors a vacuum, and if the United States is no longer providing leadership, apparently Russia will; on their terms.

When you can’t see PTSD

Before I retired from the Army Reserves, my last unit was a small detachment where we worked special projects.  So drill for us was spent behind a computer, researching and working on various work products. Although I was a newly promoted Sergeant First Class, I was selected as detachment NCO.  I wasn’t the senior NCO in the unit however. There was another SFC who had date of rank on me by several years.  However when he was asked to be the Detachment NCO, he turned it down flat.  Generally, that just isn’t done.  The senior person is supposed to be preparing, and willing to take over when personnel leave, but he was having none of it.  So when I was asked to assume those responsibilities (I accepted of course-although it was less of an ask and more a matter of being told) it wasn’t because I was just so great that the unit leadership thought I was a perfect choice, it was because the person who should have done it just flatly refused.

But being asked to take over as senior Non Commissioned Officer for the detachment was merely a formality.  The truth is he was supposed to take the job, and it was confounding to the unit leadership that he out and out refused.  I didn’t get it either, and I had asked him.  He just waved me off on that one; he didn’t seem to have a clear reason or couldn’t seem to articulate it. This wasn’t the first time that Sergeant Ed (that’s what I’ll call him) had troubles with the unit leadership.  Months prior he had gotten in a shouting match with a Major over…nothing.  He had just lost his temper for no reason.

That should have been a clue for me, but I totally missed it.

Sergeant Ed had been deployed to Iraq and had been back for about two years at that point.  He didn’t enjoy his deployment.  Not being sarcastic here but some guys do.  They like the adventure, the camaraderie, and the extra combat pay.  And the younger you are, the less cognizant of danger you are.  That’s why young guys traditionally make the best soldiers.  Sergeant Ed wasn’t a young guy when he was deployed though.  He was in his fifties; an unimaginably ancient age to be deployed in a combat zone for the active services, but strictly routine for Guard and Reserve.

What’s worse, he was deployed in an entirely different Military Occupational Specialty than the one he had been working in for the past couple years.  That wasn’t as uncommon as it should have been.  Something similar happened to me.  I was deployed in my original MOS, not the one I had been working in the previous decade.  At least in my case it was a field that was fairly close to the one I had been working in, so the transition for me wasn’t as extreme.

So he was supposed to be a supervisor (he had the rank) and be an expert in, a field he hadn’t worked in about 15 years.  In a combat zone, with people he hadn’t worked with before.

No pressure.

None the less, that was all in the past, and I didn’t connect it with his performance in the unit.  Until one day…

We were at work one day, each at our workstations working on our various aspects of our project, when he turned to me and asked what I thought was a really off the wall question.

“Say when you’re online, do you ever look at…”

Now here I was preparing myself for some description of some off the wall aspect of pornography.  I steeled myself for the description of some fetish that I really didn’t want to hear about.

“…car crash scenes?”

“Huh?  No.  What?”

That threw me.  I have seen car crash photos online.  Years ago there was a troll on a forum I used to go to that would either post or misidentify links to auto accidents.  But I sure wouldn’t go searching for them.  Who would?

He then proceeded to tell me how he would wake up in the middle of the night and search for gruesome car crashes online.  He couldn’t explain exactly why he did it, but he described it as a compulsion, a compulsion that had its roots in his deployment to Iraq.

And that’s when the story came out.

He had gone on sick call; something minor, and while sitting in the waiting room there was a large explosion outside on the street.  An bomb had gone off, killing several people.  That part sounds like just a news report, but he was in the waiting room of that medical detachment when the stretchers came into the facility.  These were stretchers full of body parts; arms, legs…other parts.  All the while he was helpless to do anything.

That morning became the defining moment of his deployment.  It was the trigger to his post traumatic stress disorder, and I had worked with the guy for two years and didn’t have a clue.

Oh I had sat through the Army briefings on PTSD, and thought I would be able to detect the symptoms in a fellow soldier, but I didn’t.  Instead, I judged him, just like the rest of my detachment command judged him.  We didn’t have a clue even though the clues in his behavior were sprinkled all around us.

But I think what really threw me was his age.  I just didn’t expect an adult in his fifties to be traumatized that way.  For some reason, it made more sense to me that a guy in his twenties would be more affected.  But when you are in your fifties?  It was nonsensical prejudice and maybe it’s one that isn’t emphasized enough.  But it was a difficult lesson to learn.

At least he was taken care of properly by the VA.  Although there are a million and one terrible VA stories, there are even more that were successful.  In this case, he got the help he needed. But my regret, is that I didn’t support him in the way that he needed, when he really needed it.

 

Patching up Obama’s ISIS War Plans

 

My reaction to Obama’s speech last week outlining his plans to deal with ISIS started out like most Obama speeches I watch.  I started out with the best of intentions; I was going to pay attention, make note of the high points…but at some point his speech starts taking on a droning quality, and then it becomes a test pattern buzzing…and then I’m watching cat videos on line and what?  It’s over?  What did he say?  For some reason, I can no longer pay attention to the world’s greatest orator.

So I had to read it online and just didn’t find it that workable.  No wonder I couldn’t pay attention to it.  Oh I give the President credit for trying.  I had written previously that the President is making a difficult step; facing the reality that he may wind up going back to the place he was most anxious to leave, Iraq.  But the President thinks he can build the type of coalition the previous Bush Presidents had built, and they’ll trust him on it, when he’s been trashing our relationships with most of the Middle East for the past 6 years.

But not to worry, I have an alternate plan.

The problem with Obama’s plan is it depends on stuff he is unlikely to get; ground troops from other coalition partners.  They have zero reason to trust us for the long haul, so are unlikely to put their own troops up when we are making clear that we’re not. We’re telling our coalition partners that we’re not going risk our troops, but we’ll gladly risk theirs.  You can imagine how that’s going to sit in the differing capitals.  So that only leaves the air option, associated support, and training of Syrian rebels.

This brings me to another problem with Obama’s plan:  training Syrian rebels.  It’s a bad idea in my opinion.  We’re rolling the dice that we can arm and train Jihadi’s that will only fight other Jihadi’s.  Even a military noob like Obama should be able to see where that will lead.

So  what’s my plan?  First, since the beginning of the crisis, the US has pushed the Iraqi government to be more inclusive and allow US troops back in.  Done and done.  If the administration had done this in the first place, we likely wouldn’t be in this situation, but water under the bridge…

 

1)  That leaves limited forces that are worthwhile to train; mainly the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army.  Of the two, the Peshmerga is the more motivated and reliable force, but they could really benefit from advanced weaponry, and intelligence assistance.  The Iraqi Army is demoralized and needs a great deal of babysitting.  Ideally, we would only need worry about helping the Iraqi Army but they are not up to the task of kicking ISIS out of Iraqi cities.  Some of the Shia militias might be but if we add them into the coalition we risk alienating Iraqi Sunnis, as well as the Sunni coalition partners.  The only Shias we should be reaching out to are those under the auspices of the Iraqi military.   So no dealing with Iran of course.

2)  Since the US invasion, the problem with Iraq has been its porous borders.  They allowed jihadi’s and supplies from all over the world to come to Iraq and fight Americans, and later allowed the Iranians to train and equip insurgents to fight Americans with extremely sophisticated weapons and tactics.  Since the Iraqi Army is the weakest link, their best use could be used as a border guard.  We need to secure Iraq’s borders to prevent ISIS the easy back and forth access they’ve enjoyed.  If we can cut ISIS in two the Peshmerga can secure Kurdistan easier and the Iraqi’s will have a more limited force to deal with and it will make it easier to take back the cities when they don’t have to worry about ISIS reinforcements.

3) Cutting ISIS in two saves Obama from the political problem Obama has created for himself in being in a de facto alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Assad is counting on the US taking care of his ISIS problem for him.  However if we secure the border, that leaves Syrian part of a bifurcated ISIS for Assad to handle.  Do we really want to be in the position of saving the Assad regime?  I say, that cutting ISIS in two solves both the military and political problem.

4) There is one major gap that’s missing, and this is the part that makes my plan politically impossible; if needed, we need to be prepared to send in ground forces to back up our Iraqi and Kurd partners.  Yes, the dreaded, boots on the ground!  Although I opposed the initial invasion of Iraq, I get Colin Powell’s  Pottery Barn warning; we break it, we buy it.  That’s why I was able to consistently oppose the invasion, support the surge, and support keeping a stabilizing force in Iraq. So post surge, by 2008 we had a fragile Iraq taped up, the new administration was only interested in getting out and not caring about what came after.  So although Bush was wrong to invade Iraq, Obama was wrong to abandon it.  Now, we’re still responsible for fixing it.

Not to worry, there’s no chance that any of my suggestions will be adopted.  Of course maybe I’m wrong and we can defeat ISIS with air power alone.  But I’m not counting on it,

 

No Strategy and No Intelligence

This sort of dereliction of duty should have President Obama giving himself a facepalm.

What am I talking about you may wonder?

Source: Obama Given Detailed Intelligence For a year about the rise of ISIS

President Obama was given detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of the Islamic State as part of his daily briefing for at least a year before the group seized large swaths of territory over the summer, a former Pentagon official told Fox News. 

The official — who asked not to be identified because the President’s Daily Brief is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product analyzing sensitive international events for the president — said the data was strong and “granular” in detail. 

The source said a policymaker “could not come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.” 

If true, it means that Obama was lying out of his ass when a few weeks ago he said this:

“There is no doubt that their advance their movement over the last several of months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectation of policy makers both in and outside of Iraq.”

How would he know?  He’s not getting briefed on them.  But this sort of amateurishness I find galling:

Obama, unlike his predecessors who traditionally had the document briefed to them, is known to personally read the daily brief. The former Pentagon official, who has knowledge of the process, said Obama generally was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further requests for information based on the daily report. 

This issue has actually come up before.  Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote a column last year noting that Obama skipped more than half of his intelligence briefings. However he included the administration response, which was that the President reads his Daily Intelligence Briefing every day and doesn’t require an actual in person briefing.  One presumes because darn it, he’s just that smart.

I would call that nonsense, and I know a little bit about the subject.  During my military career I gave briefings, I wrote and helped assemble briefings, I’ve read them, and sat in on briefings.  Military and Intelligence officials get their briefings in person from a briefer, and I can assure you it’s not because they aren’t as smart as the President.  You need a briefer there because if you have any questions on any of the briefed issues (and I’ve never seen a high level person being briefed who didn’t ask questions) you need to have someone there who can elaborate on the issue.  Being briefed isn’t a passive activity; you are supposed to be actively engaged in your own briefing.

And that’s among people who already have spent a working lifetime immersed in the details of military and intelligence capabilities and areas of interest. That is not the President’s background.  He received his first intelligence briefing shortly before the election in 2008; the guy is no expert.  If anyone needs the handholding of a skilled briefer it’s him.

It’s not as if Obama is the first President who arrived in the White House with no military or national security experience, but I doubt there has been a more arrogant one who was just too cool for the room and who no doubt genuinely thinks he knows more than the military and intelligence professionals who desperately need to educate him. No wonder Obama has ‘no strategy for handling ISIS.  He’s just recently heard of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why The Administration is Surprised by the Berghdahl Reaction

All the negative reaction to the release was of no surprise to me, but the administration was caught totally flat footed by the negative reaction of the military and the American public to Bergdahl’s release.  As Obama scribe Chuck Todd reports:

 

As Obama high priest Chuck Todd stated, the administration did expect some sort of pushback by the release of these five Taliban Gitmo prisoners, but why was the Obama administration caught so flat footed by something that the entire rest of the country felt uneasy about, the effort that went into the release of an apparent deserter?

I have two possible theories on that:

Theory One:  The Left regarded him as a hero, so Obama did too.

In 2009, when Bergdahl first disappeared, it was reported that he had left post without weapons and without permission, so from the very first reportage on this issue, we’ve known that he wasn’t just captured, but that he just walked away under suspicious circumstances.  At the time I used to argue politics with a lefty who actually posted the story on his blog and was troubled by his apparent desertion as well.  All very non-partisan right?   Then came FOX.

A few days after Bergdahl’s capture/disappearance/desertion, Fox News ran an interview with its Military Analyst, LTC Ralph Peters, who had some choice words on Bergdahl:

Peters called Bergdahl a liar and possible deserter.  If the blogosphere left needed to know what side to be on in this issue, Peters showed them; the opposite side from Peters and Fox.  I saw the left reaction to that near immediately when the same lefty who first posted the blog post on Bergdahl noting that he had walked off post suspiciously and that there was a lot more to this story, suddenly switched gears and attacked Peters for dare besmirching a captured American POW.

Private First Class Bowe Robert Bergdahl, Unit...

Private First Class Bowe Robert Bergdahl, United States Army. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I assume that 180 degree reversal came about due to some talking points that felt more hay could be made by attacking Peters and Fox for daring to attack an American soldier.  And of course, a disillusioned solder is the perfect lefty military icon.

So it makes sense that to the typical member of the Obama administration, all they would know of Bergdahl is that he’s an American hero that was attacked by Fox News years ago.

Theory Two:  An excuse to empty Guantanamo Bay

A few weeks ago I caught some video of President Obama being asked about his promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.  Obama seemed really heartfelt about his regret at not closing it.  Unlike so many issues, where it feels like he’s just reading off a teleprompter (OK he is), Obama sounded very sincere about still wanting to shut down Gitmo.  This wasn’t just a campaign promise; he really wants to do it.

But Obama has been stymied by Congress, and not just “obstructionist” Republicans, but Democrats as well.  He couldn’t get Gitmo closed when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, so the odds of accomplishing anything via legislation appear dim.  But even if Obama can’t close Gitmo, he’s the Commander in Chief.  He could empty Gitmo.

It’s possible that trading 5 Taliban bad guys wasn’t so much a trade as Obama giving away something he wants to get rid of anyway and pretending it’s a trade.  By all indications, these are some of the “worst of the worst.”  With those guys gone, it makes releasing guys not as bad easier.  With the Afghan War winding down, it’s possible that Obama is going to pretend that’s the end of the war on terror, and just let everyone go from Gitmo.

Although such a move seems highly irresponsible, so was releasing those five Taliban commanders and he did that, in spite of the recommendations of the military, intelligence, and foreign services.  If the Obama administration intends to do a back door shut down of Gitmo, he’s already gotten the worst out of the way.

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