Friday, November 04, 2005

Victory Strategy not Exit Strategy

Exactly one year after the American electorate confirmed a modicum of faith in President Bush, polling data shows that faith has disappeared. Every week brings a lower approval rating, setting records as they plummet into the 30s. A mere 37%, of Americans now approve of the president’s leadership. Buffeted by the gusts of crises, like the f ailed Miers nomination, and the Scooter Libby indictment, the administration is foundering in the constant gale that is Iraq. It need not be so.

Pragmatic critics from the center and the right, who wish to see Bush’s second term succeed, not fail, have called for a White House shake up. Such re-staffing has become a second term tradition in presidencies of the last few decades. And they are often undertaken in the face of bad news at the polls. So far the Bush administration has reflexively closed ranks, reflecting the president’s faith and loyalty in those who have served him well in the past. Even more than Reagan or Nixon this president is loyal to his own.

That is now his biggest obstacle. Bush is actually very close to achieving the Holy Grail of Republican/conservative politics, a Supreme Court, that if not ideologically right wing, will at least make decisions in keeping with a conservative interpretation of the law. When Sam Alito is confirmed conservatives will be able to breath easy for a decade or so, that the high court will not pursue an activist approach to social change. It may not be everything that the movement hoped for, but it will be essentially enough.
The president however, is in danger of having his swan song two or three years early. If Bush cannot convince the American people that his vision for America’s security is the right one, and do so in just twelve months, than he stands to lose the congress to Democrats and become a lame duck.

The problem lies in the White House, and the way this administration communicates its political message. Like many other bodies, this president’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The consistent framing of Bush team’s message s has been a paradox. When speaking to “the base” and when running for office, Bush has been effective. But when explaining complex policy objectives, the traditional Bush style has failed.

There is no denying that the inner team of Cheney, Rove, Libby, et al. has in some ways been brilliant. But the light of day shone on their tactical style by the Fitzgerald probe, has further revealed the inherent weakness of the approach. The continuing debate over the war in Iraq makes this clear. Fully three years after the national decision that war in Iraq would be acceptable, mainstream Democrats are still hammering the administration over the arguments that led us there.

While there were myriad reasons to go to war in Iraq, the administration fixated on WMD as its focal point for sales. The evidence seemed strong enough to convince much of the nation, and many of the world’s intelligence services. The evidence was, in retrospect, equivocal at best. Hindsight being 20/20 the other concrete reasons for war may have been better off seeing he light of day earlier. But the Bush team’s most consistent communication mistake has been to underestimate the American public.

The basis for the strategy of regime change in Iraq can be found in the 2002 document “The National Security Strategy of the United States”(NSS). This white paper lays out the overlying strategy for US foreign policy. It combines classic realist thinking with neo-conservative policies and a recognition of globalization’s importance, and it shows the handiwork of then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. The key phrase, of the document is the goal of developing a “balance of power favorable to democracy.”

Yet the public face of the document was the phrase “preemptive war.” This is because the administration, after publishing a thorough, well crafted document, allowed the media to explain it to the public unaided. Shortly thereafter the PR team became focused on selling the war.

Many of the reasons for going to war are supported by the NSS. Iraq is perhaps the most important nation in the Arab world. Strong in terms of population, and resources. Diverse ethnically and religiously. Geographically positioned to balance Iranian power in the gulf, Iraq is strategically key.

Under Saddam Iraq had occupied our attention for over a decade. After one war, and a dozen years of air operations he remained a defiant dictator, who refused to play by the world’s rules. He played a coy game about WMD, pretending to have more than he denied he did. His continuing stance against the west, the UN, and international law, required resolution.

Bush and Cheney have come under fire from the left for conflating Iraq and al Qaeda. The left is fond of proclaiming that Iraq had little to do with al Qaeda and nothing to do with 9-11. Bush has done little to explain the real nexus. The very real dictates of US policy in the Persian Gulf required, at least, a policy of containment against Saddam. But containment required US troops based in Saudi Arabia and other gulf states.

These deployments were sore point in Arab politics, exploited to no end by Osama and al Qaeda who saw US presence in “The Kingdom” as blasphemy. While removing US bases, may not have appeased bin Laden it would have negated one of his major recruiting points. While US troops in Iraq draw insurgent recruits, “The Kingdom” is holy ground in ways Iraq is not. When US troops eventually depart a secure democratic Iraq, their will be a balance of power that doesn’t require a high profile US presence in the region.

Continuing UN sanctions, resulted in humanitarian distress in Iraq. This resulted in the Oil for Food program. Along with weakening the UN by continuing defiance of the sanctions, Saddam enriched himself and his Baathist cronies by corrupting the UN bureaucracy. Rebuilding the credibility of the UN also required an endgame in Iraq.

Creating a stable, democratic Iraq, with a free market economy will go a long way to establishing that power balance that favors democracy in the mid-east. By overturning the repressive, closed regime, that stood outside the laws of nations, but inside the center circle of the middle east, we have taken a step into securing the future.

Today the administration still cannot seem to frame the debate in favorable terms. They seem content to allow the media, the Democrats, and the far left to frame the debate. Aside from curt sound bites about “staying the course” the administration has been incredibly inarticulate about the war. Meanwhile the anti-war movement seizes ever opportunity to nay say our efforts. The recent “milestone” of the 2000th service death is a case in point.

If President Bush has any hope of turning around his current misfortunes, he needs a political staff that focuses on the facts about this war. Starting with the fact that the insurgents are not freedom fighters, liberators, or a populist resistance. The insurgents are mainly remnant Baathists and foreign fighters who’ve flocked to the al-Qaeda banner. They are fighting to destroy the democratic gains Iraq has made.

The president needs to stop letting the left define the debate. America doesn’t need an exit strategy. We need a victory strategy. And that has to be better defined then “staying the course.” Not only would the American people be better served, but our forces in Iraq would be too, if the President defines a unified administration strategy in Iraq. How are American troops going to improve Iraq forces, how is State going to influence the security situation. An effective information campaign, based upon a coherent unified strategy is currently AWOL. The most effective messages on the war have come from outside the administration. Christopher Hitchens, Michael Rubin, Ralph Peters and others have demonstrated the message is rational and palatable. But American’s need to hear it from the president.

The president needs to stand on our successes: Saddam’s removal, elections, a constitution, the growth of loyal Iraqi forces, and to lay out a detailed path forward. It is time for some original language and some original thinking. This is going to require some new blood. At the very least the war message should be farmed out to a new PR team. Not only the president, but the country, and the truth would be served.

Mudville Gazette
Obligatory Anecdotes

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

ACLU restricts rights!

Thanks to Bill O'Reilly for pointing out this story in the NY Sun. Liberal hypocrisy appears to know no bounds. It seems NYCLU, the New York branch of the ACLU, has decided that only the government needs to respect rights of New Yorkers to ACLU standards. The NYCLU the branch that is sueing the City of New York, sueing to stop random bag searches of persons entering the city's the subways, has instituted a bag search policy in their offices. That's right, New York's guardians of civil rights are searching all bags entering their offices.

So it appears that while the ACLU considers it unreasonable to search people getting on a large mass transportation system, of the sort that was attacked in London this summer, it's perfectly reasnoable to search persons entering the ACLU's New York offices. I hope that the corporation counsel for the City of New York is paying attention. This would certainly be good evidence to enter at trial, showing that the searches on the subways meet a standard of reasonable that the ACLU applies at its own facilities.

It MAY indeed be reasonable to search bags at the ACLU office, after all plenty of people want to blow up liberals. Although to my knowledge none of us has ever acted upon these urges. It is more reasonable to assume that at some point al-Qaeda may indeed re-use their subway strategy here in NY. Maybe we should all sue the NYCLU.

Thanks for the link at John In Carolina
Mudville Gazette
See also Stop the ACLU


Everyone should check out Michael Rubin's editorial from yesterday's National Review Online. It helps put the Libby "scandal" into perspective. It's awesome.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dems Cry Crocodile Tears For CIA

It’s interesting and troublesome to listen to the Democrats and assorted liberal interests as they continue to bludgeon the Bush administration over the Wilson/Plame case. A major part of their criticism, now, focuses on the possibility of damage done to foreign intelligence networks by the outing of Ms. Plame. While no one in good conscience can condone the hobbling of our intelligence agencies, the democrats have historically done just that. Now they are crying crocodile tears for the CIA. Where were Arianna Huffington, Michael Moore, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley, NY Times’ Maureen Dowd and all the rest of the gang, when it was the Democrats busily undermining our intelligence capabilities?

Because it was a different story during the Clinton years. Under Clinton’s lead the Democrats were willing to disable C IA operations, including those against terrorists, Outgoing Bill Clinton told incoming President Bush that al-Qaeda then constituted he gravest threat to national security. Yet he took executive actions that critically hampered the CIA’s ability to gather information about terrorist cells. In 1995 Clinton CIA director John Deutch published an internal order preventing the recruitment of intelligence sources, aka spies, with possible human rights violations in their background. CIA insiders called this “The Human Rights Scrub.”

This, according published accounts of CIA insiders, caused a risk averse attitude in the CIA operations division, the agency’s spy recruiting arm. All potential spies had to be investigated and approved by high ranking CIA officials back in DC if there was a possibility of criminal background or human rights violations in their past. This led to an incredible decline in recruiting of sources. Most of the people in a position to provide quality information about terrorist cells have sullied backgrounds. CIA officers often didn’t bother recruiting these persons, fearing there efforts would be dis-approved by the DC bosses. By raising the bar Clinton and the democrats in effect shut the door on information.

There is reason to believe that this policy was established at the behest of Robert Torricelli, then Democratic Senator of New Jersey. Torricelli was apparently reacting to the possible involvement of a CIA informant in Guatemala, in a pair of murders. At the time Senator Toricelli “outed” the CIA’s source Colonel Julio Alpirez, naming him publicly as a CIA informant.

If it is important to keep undercover CIA officers identities secret, and it is, then it is just as important to keep their informants identities secret. For many of the same reasons when intelligence assets are identified not only are their lives at greater risk, and their intelligence value nullified, but the same repercussions can apply to anyone else in that information chain. As Joe Wilson’s supporters have been quick to point out, when an intelligence asset is publicly identified, it potentially exposes all of that assets sources and connections. Further, when an intelligence agency cannot secure the identities of its sources it also hampers recruiting, no one wants to spy for an agency that can’t keep secrets. Yet when Senator Torricelli placed assets lives at risk, made spies and potential spies fear exposure, and encouraged the Clinton administration to restrict recruitment of knowledgeable sources, where was the outcry from the left?

Clinton also presided over a gutting of the agency’s operational side in his first term. According to the 9-11 report so beloved by Bush critics, starting in 1992, funding and positions were cut form the clandestine service. In 1995 the agency graduated only 25 new agents, the lowest number in history. It wasn’t until 1998 five years after the first WTC attack, two years after the Khobar towers, and the same year that al Qaeda attacked US embassies in Africa. The CIA's budget was fair game for a peace dividend, because if you were worried about anything but the economy, well you were stupid. Yet in the mid 1990’s when the CIA was being crippled where was the outcry from the left?

The destruction of a CIA officer’s cover is a serious matter. It is certainly a threat to intelligence operations, and thereby national security. The plaintive cries of the Democratic Party and the rest of the left would be more credible these days if they had a solid history of supporting and respecting the clandestine service’s contributions to our security.

Continuing thanks to my friends Mudville Gazette

Red Hot Cuppa Politics
has a great list of Wilson's lies, may be incomplete but it is damning

Seems it came from A Rose By Any Other Name
See Also NIF
And Obligitory Anecdotes, Open Trackback

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The In-Credible Mr. Wilson.

In the aftermath of Friday’s indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the MSM has engaged in an orgy of blame and reprobation against the Bush Administration. Independent council Patrick Fitzgerald cautioned against reading into the indictment, against using it as a comment on the war. But much of the media has ignored him to do just that. The Philadelphia Enquirer ran a front page "analysis" by Dick Polman with the headline:
“Libby prosecution puts justification for war on trial.” Meanwhile on this morning’s McLaughlin Group, Eleanor Clift the liberal conscience of Newsweek was busy saying that it doesn’t matter that the federal justice system has found it impossible to make a case for an administration wide conspiracy. She is going to help make it in “the court of public opinion.”

In celebration, both CBS’ 60 Minutes, and NBC’s dateline ran pieces about Valerie and Joseph Wilson, featuring interviews with Joseph Wilson. To be sure on Dateline Wilson made a point to demur from claiming victim status for himself or his wife. He made it clear that the victim here is the nation. To be fair this echoes Mr. Fitzpatrick’s assertion, along with the CIA’s that the blowing of Ms Plame/Mrs Wilson’s cover is a National Security issue. And one I have to agree with.

If anyone intentionally blew Ms Plame’s cover, they deserve to be punished. But the burden of proof here is high. To violate this law, one would have to know that the agent’s status was covert. Mr. Fitzpatrick has thus far been unable to make this case against anyone, and in spite of the MSM’s slanted reporting, he has not left the investigation open “against” Carl Rove or anyone else. He has kept the investigation open, and will empanel another grand jury, as a procedural convenience to support the expected US v. Libby trial.

The media has focused entirely on the administration players. They continue to ignore the roles played by some of their own members, including Robert Novack, the man who really damaged National Security by publishing the information. And they have practically lionized Joseph Wilson . This in spite of the essential dishonesty of his original role in this drama. A role which was publicly as petty and destructive as anything that the MSM attributes to Libby, Cheney Rove et al.

Wilson opened the first act with his inaccurate and self centered account of his trip to Niger. Wilson made a variety of claims about this trip which were misleading, some were outright lies. He started lying with his claim that the VP’s office originated the request for his trip, to backstop an unseen intelligence report from the CIA. It turns out the CIA was looking to back up its own position which ran counter to VP’s.

Wilson who never filed a formal report, but was merely debriefed by the State Dept. and CIA, Did write the now famous NY Times Op-Ed piece. In it seemed particularly upset that his information was ignored. This is in spite of the massive amount of equivocal intelligence that was coming in. Nobody listened to poor Joe Wilson. Maybe he should have actually written a report, before he went public.

Wilson seems to think that his inability to find evidence that Hussein had acquired uranium in one country Nigeria disproves that he attempted to acquire it in any African nation. Again to be fair Mr. Wilson, his investigation was probably thorough enough to show that Hussein had not succeeded in acquisition. It in no way proves that Hussein had not inquired about and attempted to purchase yellowcake. Wilson’s case cannot address this, because short of success any attempt would remain covert.

Mr. Wilson was apparently frustrated over what he perceived as the slight of being ignored. Despite the fact that he was a State Dept. officer for over twenty years he seems terribly naïve about the intelligence process. Even though he had never filed an official report of his findings, even though there was a raging debate over the entire intelligence package on WMD, even though his finding didn’t quite disprove a covert attempt somewhere in Africa, he wanted to be listened to.

So when President Bush went on to mention what his people still considered the possibility of Iraqi uranium quest in Africa, Joe Wilson took it personally. Though he had an apparently high standard of proof for the attempt in Africa, he assumed that in “ignoring” his finding (still unpublished), the administration was “intentionally twisting the facts. So he finally sat down to write a report.

This was a public account of the trip on the op-ed page of the NY Times. There for the first time Wilson wrote down the findings of his trip to Niger. But he outright lied about the circumstances leading up to the trip. So now we have a Washington insider, with a wife who not only works for the CIA, but who recommended him for the trip to Niger, writing a false account of how he was selected for that trip, out of pique at being ignored. If I was Valery Plame I’d have killed my husband around then. They both should have suspected what was coming.

While the Wilson’s had a moral right to expect the administration to respect Valery Plame’s career, they should have been savvy enough to see the risk. Particularly since: A) Wilson falsely attributed the VPs office as the originator of his trip. And B) Mrs Wilson nee Plame had actually recommended him for the role. In almost any political staff effective enough to win the presidency, there are going to be operatives well versed in the tactics of smearing in leaking. To expect that everyone who worked for Bush and Cheney would take the moral high ground, and allow Mr. Wilson to perpetuate his false version of why he went to Niger seems the height of folly. In effect Mr. Wilson was hiding behind his wife’s cover, betting that the entirety of the Bush team would let him lie rather than blow her cover. He reminds me of the little boy crying to his mother after picking a fight with his older brother, and losing.

Crossposted at Mudville Gazette
Another Rovian Conspiracy
New England Republican
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