A grade?

D+  on the details.  He does not understand the situation.

The establishment has gone into a defensive crouch.

John Brennan is a skilled bureaucratic survivor and politican of no great intellect.  I knew him when he was a second lieutenant equivalent in CIA and he was not impressive except as an a– k—-r.

I insist that this is a structural problem beyond the reach or indeed the comprehension of the senior bureaucrats (in and out of uniform).

We need people who can see and feel beyond themselves. 

Today I heard someone say for the first time that we need to make the Yemeni government's writ run throughout the country.  That is the crack of doom.  pl

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34 Responses to A grade?

  1. I understand that Brennan was one of the few Obama trusted during the campaign has having deep credentials in the Islamic world among his chosen advisors. Since his real CIA career and training is opaque to interested citizens wondering if this is accurate? Then the question becomes if a skilled area analyst how does he become a top bureacrat? This seems to reflect the constant split in various bureacracies between the brilliant technicans and the manager/suprevisors whose technical skills may be tarnished or obsoltete but they do know what their bosses want even when exactly the wrong thing. Has anyone in the CIA ever succeeded by being able to speak truth to power throughout their career?

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    This guy is not a skilled Middle East hand. He is merely a skilled courtier and sycophant. pl

  3. Jackie says:

    If Brennan was who I heard on NPR (ATC)a little earlier today, then no, I wasn’t too impressed. Sounded like too much CYA.

  4. dilbert dogbert says:

    Col Lang,
    I assume the missing letters are ss and isse.

  5. Watching the Brennan show on the evening news I wanted to scream.
    Dude, if it was your fault and you failed, why are you at the lectern and not on the street? Did you offer to resign in addition to your apology to the President?
    Let’s not forget he was pick #1 for Director of CIA… until “the hippies” cried out. He lands at the President’s right hand but Chas Freeman get thrown to the sharks.
    Fail. Epic.Fail.
    Does anyone feel any safer today?

  6. walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    Your “friend” sounds like a classic sufferer of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” as it applies to business types of people.
    These guys don’t do empathy, which is why they are happy to plant plenty of kisses on posteriors and get promoted as a result. They are often highly intelligent and hard working, but totally focussed on themselves. They also “calibrate” themselves to their intended audience and easily captivate them.
    The rest of us are no more than “talking dogs” to them – to be put down if we dare to bite the hand that feeds us. They are vicious bureaucratic infighters who drive good people out of any organisation until all thats left are the sycophants and a few broken persons.
    Once you have Two levels in the chain of command with these attributes your organisation quickly becomes dysfunctional since as you know you can go one level over your head if you have a problem, but never Two levels.
    I still have the scars from tangling with these folk in organisations. They are everywhere because we can no longer legally select for “good character” in job selections. That was the virtue of the now dead “old boys club” method of recruitment. How our virtues have betrayed us.

  7. Jose says:

    This guy is not a skilled Middle East hand. He is merely a skilled courtier and sycophant. pl
    Why he got appointed…look at the rest of the Obama inner circle.

  8. Jim Bouman says:

    Please, Col. Lang, do not be shy. Tell us what you really think about Mr. Brennan and what skill and finesse he brings to the job…
    Thanks. I really like this blog.

  9. B. D. Warbucks says:

    “Defensive crouch” is spot on.
    Lots of irate government officials speaking to the media, yet we have yet to see one head on a pike outside the White House. I wonder how many more admirals the Navy would have if every commanding officer who ever ran a ship aground, or had a “paint-swapping” incident at sea only received a stern dressing down?
    Nobody’s Christmas vacation was disrupted, except the Secretary of Homeland Security.
    I notice the DNI, Admiral Blair, has not appeared in any headline or media appearance. NCTC’s Director has been noticeably silent. I hope he enjoyed his ski vacation.
    Meanwhile, the brilliant targeting of Al Qaeda’s planners is fulfilling all of their goals: Our government appears hapless and feckless, and the kneejerk TSA/DHS responses will hack off all travelers and bring transport and commerce to a crawl. Pretty good investment for a “failed” operation.
    I would not worry too much about committing more assets and treasure to operations in Yemen. We cannot project any more sustained power anywhere outside of AfPak and the Persian Gulf. We can continue to harass AQ in Yemen with long-range strikes from missiles and drones.
    But, at least we now know the President is very very angry.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    Who are left to save the world? pl

  11. Reks says:

    In your last post you stated what you wanted Obama to do. What did you want to hear from him that would have assured you that he understood the situation?

  12. Reks says:

    “John Brennan is a skilled bureaucratic survivor and politican of no great intellect”.
    As Brennan mentioned a few days ago that he’s been in 5 different administrations. Some are just good at being indispensable while mediocre.

  13. JAC says:

    I got air sick while listening to the news conference. The funny thing was….I wasn’t even on an airplane….
    How many ore will die because of leadership stupidity?

  14. jr786 says:

    We need people who can see and feel beyond themselves.
    I’ve been out here 18 months and doubt very much if anyone is paying attention to the simple things that might stave off trouble.
    Arabs do things a certain way, and Gulf Arabs do things a certain way, and Americans do things a certain way.

  15. walrus says:

    Col. Lang: “Who are left to save the world?”
    No one. You would need Ten Thousand Gen. Norman Schwarzkopfs to make a dent in the problems we have.
    The Narcissists are systematically taking over Government and private organisations in any country where that equal opportunity and political correctness prevents selection committees and recruiters from examining the long term character and reputation of candidates for senior appointments. I see it every day.
    Selection is now:
    Resume? Check.
    Experience? Check.
    Performance? Check.
    …And they are hired.
    The fact that the person is a manipulative SOB who has three marriages behind him, was hated by his co-workers in all his previous jobs for destroying the careers of good men and women, and is a serial womanizer, is legally irrelevant in hiring decisions. In fact some misguided recruiters think that brutality and lack of empathy are useful in a manager.
    Don’t get me wrong. These persons are hard working, intelligent, but have the ethics of the sewer and they must not be put in charge of their fellow men.
    They can’t do empathy. They have a huge sense of entitlement. They are always sucking upwards. In Australia we have one for Prime Minister and he appointed another one as Governor General.
    read about her here, it’s typical behaviour:
    President Obama is borderline Narcissistic with very low empathy levels; the dead giveaways are:
    1. Caught Ogling a girl in France not much older than his daughters.
    2. The “Special Olympics” comment.
    These point to an under developed sense of empathy with other people that acts as a censor on some of our behaviours. There is much about this subject on the web.
    I rub shoulders at a city club with an ex International VP of a major oil company who has his condition. He hates my guts because I once corrected him on a historical date Ten years ago.
    I worked for a female Vice President of a University that had me getting Dun & Bradstreet reports as she dug for dirt on her colleagues and senior employees. She went through Three chiefs of staff all of whom resigned abruptly before she found a sufficiently sycophantic one.
    Anytime you see someone with a very high public profile and considerable riches doing something completely, perhaps criminally stupid, you are looking at a narcissist. Martha Stewart is a classic, as was Leona (taxes are for little people)Hemsley. I’m unsure about Tiger Woods.
    I guess you aren’t a sufferer Col Lang, else you would have been a General by now.
    By way of comparison, if you read Gen. Norman Schwarzkopfs autobiography, you get a picture of the antithesis of a narcissist. Schwartzkopf appears to me to have got results because he was always thinking about other people – his men, his colleagues.

  16. Twit says:

    That was brilliant and true. Thank you.
    Have you read Shadow Elite by Janine Wedel? If not, I highly recommend it. She is an anthropologist who originally studied elites and power players in the former Soviet bloc, until she noticed similar dynamics among US elites. It’s an excellent book.
    Her basic premise is that real power today is held by: “The mover and shaker who serves at one and the same time as business consultant, think-tanker, TV pundit, and government adviser glides in and around the organizations that enlist his services. It is not just his time that is divided. His loyalties, too, are often flexible.”
    These elites, according to her (and experienced by many readers here), are not “conspirators” (which would imply functioning institutions to conspire against), but “flexians” who in essence create a shadow network of power (“flexnets”) around a mix of ideology and self-interest. These Flexians then manipulate and exploit (and ultimately undermine and corrupt) the actual institutions they work within, naturally not to the benefit of the institution or the country, but of both themselves and the flexnets to which they belong. Thus did work not only the Neocons, but also Goldman Sachs/Wall Street/Treaury, the Harvard-driven neoliberal ‘reforms’ of Russia in the 90’s, Brennen, and so on. The whole thing, she argues, is enabled/exacerbated by an increasing personalization of bureaucracy (i.e. nation of men, not laws), a cultural embrace of ‘truthiness’ in all aspects of life, the increase in executive power, and one or two other factors that I can’t recall right now.
    She also talks, like you mentioned, about how the ‘Old Boys’ system was actually better for democracy because it didn’t corrupt the whole system top to bottom.

  17. Jose says:

    Oops, Foolbama…the cold has affected me thinking
    Low of 42
    High of 62

  18. jan gleeson says:

    I wonder what was the rationale for publicizing the fact that mis-spelling of an Arabic name entered into databases meant that the Visa was not reassessed.
    As they say.. garbage in.. garbage out.
    I am heartened by the fact that Obama is of the tech generation, and I hope at least will oversee some rationalization of these massive data collecting systems.
    I am also disheartened to see aging people whine and say.. “but there are 5 million people in the system” or whatever..
    Tough.. Upgrade.. Get someone else who can do it..

  19. Phil Giraldi says:

    Brennan is a smart guy who early on at CIA decided he really didn’t like the work and would be much better at managing and hobnobbing with policy makers.
    I agree completely with Col Lang that this is, as he puts it, an architecture problem, part of a system that is bedeviled by its lack of clear lines of responsibility and authority.
    In Obama’s speech I heard basically a call for even bigger government to manage even bigger data bases, which I think will not make anything better. I also heard the word accountability and buck stops here when we know no such thing is intended. When you say there has been systemic failure you mean that no one is to blame. Until someone’s head actually rolls I will not believe that Obama is serious about fixing anything.

  20. SubKommander Dred says:

    Regarding your post that the President has NPD, my response would be: So, what else is new? You could say the same thing about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, for that matter. As to your assertion that he was “Caught Ogling a girl in France not much older than his daughters,” from my review of the video from that episode, it was President Sarkozy of France that was doing the ogling, while President Obama was most assuredly not;
    It is unfortunate that you would use a discredited incident of Obama’s perfidy, whipped up by the likes of Glenn Beck and his fellow cretins at Fox news. I had thought better of you. There are a lot of things I am quite disapointed about with regard to Obama, and for all I know he could be as pathological as you say he is. Indeed, it would seem that the only folks who seem to climb the ranks of politics, business, academia or the arts in our society have all developed severe manifestations of NPD. You don’t have to make up stuff. The truth is bad enough. What I would like to know is: Just how many more Afghan wedding parties do we have to blow away with Predator missile strikes before President Obama is eligible for another Peace Prize?
    Pete Deer

  21. Jackie says:

    I’ll gladly swap our weather for yours.
    Low: 0
    High: 10
    Current Conditions: Snowing and very windy.
    Your unbearable weather sounds like paradise, all things considered.

  22. Okay based on Peter Baker’s NYTIMES magazine article about a threat to the inauguration and Brennan being considered lead expert on middle-east and terrorism what does this say about Obama skills and judgement about people? It seems to me that he is in love with those overly credentialed and cannot really judge for himself competence, judgement, and even perhaps loyalty. There are reasons certain President’s succeed. Some like IKE have great judgement about people. Some like Nixon knew he had judgement problems so just adopted the principal of distrusting all. George W. Bush trusted Cheney. Washington is an interesting milieu for persons with competency and judgement to be attracted to! The first test IMO of judgement and competency is knowing when you are not competent about a subject and therefore decline to be put in a role where competency demands knowledge and experience and real skills. So now having read the posts, we know that Brennan was not competent to make judgements about the middle east and terrorism but was just another 20 years and out take the pay and run and pretend you are important when you are not really bureacrat. Sounds to me like time for a change. My problem with Brennan is a completely different one. With his training and career at CIA he knows very little about our (US) federal system and what makes STATE and LOCALs go (the Sam Rayburn test–I wish just someone over there [executive branch] had been elected dogcatcher!) s. Also without business experience (test being have you had to meet a payroll) he fails there also. There are many skaters in Washington now and in recent times. What do I mean skater? They skate ahead of the breaking ice. Organizations and institutions and policies and issues are weaker not stronger for their having leadership positons.

  23. Pan says:

    This is Obama’s “Heckuva job, Brownie” moment.

  24. Fred Strack says:

    Why do we have a list of 4,000 people who are so potentially dangerous that no one on earth will let them fly on an airplane but no one on earth will arrest them?

  25. walrus says:

    Sub Dred:
    “Regarding your post that the President has NPD, my response would be: So, what else is new? You could say the same thing about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, for that matter. ”
    There is a difference between NPD and having a high level of Narcissism in your personality. Narcissism is an essential component of personality. I don’t see NPD in Clinton or President Obama, or for that matter Tiger Woods.
    True NPD sufferers leave organisational and personal wreckage behind them wherever they go. Many organisation scan survive the attentions of these creatures for a while, but once you have Two or more levels of them in management the decline in organisational effectiveness is swift and certain.
    As for the subject of “databases” and intelligence “obviously missed” I am extremely sceptical because it is always extremely easy to “join the dots” after the fact.
    By way of example how about profiling someone who has military training, an engineering degree, owns firearms, has announced themselves skeptical of Americas entire Middle East policy and knows someone who has been to Yemen, has been to Pakistan, has a pilots licence and explosives training and who lives Two streets away from a convicted terrorist who spent time in Guantanamo and knows someone who knows that terrorist.
    Excuse me for a minute,…….someone is knocking on my front door.

  26. Annie says:

    Where mediocrity is the norm, it soon becomes the ideal.

  27. Thomas says:

    Sir, somewhat off topic:
    On a previous thread, you mentioned standing nightwatch on the wire while agents Adam and Eve were rediscovering the knowledge of good and bad.
    In your view did they earn their daily bread by producing anything useful?

  28. Patrick Lang says:

    Norman S had the nasty habit of throwing people out of the Army for being overweight. at that time, he was hugely overweight.
    MY infrequently diagnosed case of NPD was probed today by a man who wrote to tell me that I was a “fatprick alpha male wannabe.”
    Creative. pl

  29. Fred Strack says:

    “Norman S had the nasty habit of throwing people out of the Army for being overweight…” The Navy was doing the same thing at the time. Damned waste of talent, but if the objective was to prevent thousands from being eligible for retirement then it was quite effective.

  30. WRC says: There are many skaters in Washington now and in recent times. What do I mean skater? They skate ahead of the breaking ice. Organizations and institutions and policies and issues are weaker not stronger for their having leadership positions.
    He keenly observes one of the major reasons our government is completely dysfunctional. Fortunately, my observations suggest there are many superbly competent, problem solving-oriented, team building professionals in government service who can positively affect the course of our government and Nation.
    Unfortunately, these people labor under more than a few layers of narcissists. And a growing number of them realize they will never be able to “make it better” by working in the government as it is constructed today.

  31. ISL says:

    Connecting the dots in a number of posts on this website, is the lack of accountability. Bush inaugurated an era of zero responsibility, and Obama has taken that to new levels (there is no longer even accountability to the rules of accounting and the market).
    Absent accountability, there is absolutely no incentive not to repeat mistakes ad infinitum, and likely many incentives to, in fact, repeat them and leave others to pay the price. However, I guess looking forward means the past no longer exists. (There is a quote about those who do not know history)

  32. Allen Thomson says:

    > Nobody’s Christmas vacation was disrupted,
    One notes that the pictures of NCTC HQ on Google Earth show a mostly empty parking lot on Sundays.

  33. Tyler says:

    Sorry about the delay, I just read this thread.
    And the answer to that is a NO. NO a thousand times over. Just a lot of last minute call ups to go provide “security” because the CIA was going to snatch someone or because a “battalion plus” of Al-Qaeda and Taliban was moving into a village according to this dude who the CIA swears was legit.

  34. Thomas says:

    I figured you have been busy.
    Thank you for the response.

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