Habakkuk on the neocons’ use of intelligence



Whether or not one should argue with people who do not argue in good faith is an interesting question. My view, for what it is worth, is that one should.

However, it is both true — and important — that many of those who are commonly called ‘neocons’ do not argue in good faith: that they prefer, rather than confronting the arguments of others, to use smear tactics, and also that they are remarkably unwilling to consider evidence that calls into question their preferred theories. This is a crucial fact about them which is still very inadequately appreciated — not least because of the deference which has been paid to their views in the mainstream media. So, on the many occasions when they are clearly either in bad faith or plain wrong, it is important to point this out.

If this seems over the top, I can perhaps illustrate by reverting to an earlier discussion on this blog.

A good example of familiar neocon approaches was the hatchet job done on Sherman Kent, a pivotal figure in the wartime R&A branch of the wartime OSS and in shaping the analytical side of the CIA, by Carl Schmitt and Abram Shulsky — the latter of whom headed the Office of Special Plans, through which much of the bogus intelligence used to justify the Iraq War was channelled. Their article Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence suggested that Kent’s conception of intelligence as research involved a naïve faith in the ability of a ‘social science’ method to generate reliable predictions about the behaviour of adversaries — and this, they claim, led him to discount the importance of espionage, and the interception and deciphering of enemy communications.

When I read Kent’s book, I discovered that most of their charges were based upon a total misrepresentation of what Kent said. Certainly some of this may be due to intellectual incompetence. Anyone with any grasp of the context in which Kent was writing should be aware that the last thing he could have been expected to produce was a candid discussion of the crucial contribution of codebreaking to victory against Germany and Japan. A generation after he wrote people who had worked at Bletchley Park still did not talk about it even to their immediate families. It could be that the inability of Schmitt and Shulsky to grasp this is simply a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the Straussian disbelief in the importance of context — who can say? However, some of the distortions are so flagrant that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that one is dealing with people utterly devoid of the standards of intellectual integrity that university education is supposed to instil.

What Kent was actually stressing was a very simple and crucial point — that in intelligence gathering as in other forms of intellectual inquiry, it is important to get clear the questions you want to answer, and then look at all the available means by which you can answer them. He also argued that, commonly, ingenuity in the exploitation of open sources yields far more information than espionage — although he never said that this was necessarily the case. He stressed that the relative importance of secret intelligence and open sources depended upon the specific problem you were confronting.

In attacking Kent’s fundamental argument, Schmitt and Shulsky were not making useful criticisms of the inadequacies of the CIA — they were striking at the basic foundations of good intelligence practice, and thereby doing their level best to turn the United States into a kind of self-blinded giant: a danger to others and to itself. And their appalling theory was reflected in Shulsky’s absysmal practice — the fact that the neocons were led by the nose by Ahmad Chalabi, who may well have been in the instrument of a well-planned Iranian deception operation.

I developed the argument at some length in a piece which Colonel Lang posted — see http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2005/11/habakkuk_onleo_.html

Another extraordinary feature of paper by Schmitt and Shulsky I did not perhaps discuss adequately. It appeared to be their view that the CIA had been easy meat for the deception tactics of those cunning criminal masterminds in the Soviet Union. But the available evidence suggests that this is patent nonsense — and a form of nonsense which has done a great deal to land your country and mine in the mess in which we now find ourselves.

Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, a long article appeared in the Financial Times, in which a prominent commentator for the paper, John Lloyd, hailed Richard Pipes as a prophet vindicated on Soviet nuclear strategy. Largely on this basis, Lloyd went on enthusiastically to endorse the enthusiasm of Daniel Pipes and his fellow neocons for remaking the Middle East. As Lloyd is a former leading intellectual light of the British Communist Party — insofar as that is not a contradiction in terms — his enthusiasm was perhaps unsurprising. The succumbing of what was once a great newspaper to neocon delusions is much more so. But, unfortunately, the pattern is representative of what has happened in much of the American and British media.

In fact, if one looks at the publicly available evidence in a reasonably dispassionate way, it is clear that Pipes — and the Team B project in which he played a central role — got almost everything wrong: and in particular failed to spot indications of a fundamental change in Soviet thinking about nuclear weapons in Soviet writings available to American intelligence analysts. One of the great exponents of the research approach to intelligence has been Raymond Garthoff — the most important pioneer of the academic study of Soviet military strategy, and the man who, according to Allen Dulles, got rid of more Soviet divisions ‘than anyone since Hitler.’ (Actually this was not strictly accurate — he simply established that only about a third of Soviet divisions were at full strength.)

In his 1978 paper ‘Mutual Deterrence and Strategic Arms Limitation in Soviet Policy’, Garthoff took issue with the famous paper published by Richard Pipes the previous year on ‘Why the Soviet Union Believes It Could Fight and Win a Nuclear War.’ He pointed to evidence in Soviet writings of a shift from contingency planning based upon nuclear preemption to launch on warning. His argument was developed in the 1987 study of Military Objectives in Soviet Foreign Policy by Garthoff’s Brookings Institution colleague Michael MccGwire. Before turning academic, MccGwire had been a seminal figure in post-war British intelligence, having headed the Soviet naval section of our Defence Intelligence. Rather than starting out with Plato or game theory, he had begun with practical questions like why were the Soviets building so many submarines with 100mm guns and no anti-aircraft capability? This hardly seemed a promising pattern of armament for attacking NATO’s transatlantic communications. Eventually MccGwire realized that it was a pattern of armament very well suited to countering possible D-day type operations in the Baltic and the Black Sea: and that this was what a large part of the Soviet submarine programme which had started at the beginning of the Fifties was designed to do. This provided an invaluable window in the actual planning assumptions on which Soviet military strategy as a whole was premised — giving some basis for making sense of the inherently ambiguous information provided by available Soviet writings.

In his Military Objectives study, MccGwire built on Garthoff’s analysis by showing how changing patterns of Soviet procurement, deployment and exercising, taken in conjunction with the textual evidence, established a shift in the late Sixties and early Seventies from nuclear war-fighting strategies to strategies designed to keep a war conventional if possible and limit escalation if nuclear use could not be prevented. It is a classic example of the kind of thorough exploitation of publicly available evidence which Kent was recommending.

The different interpretations of Soviet nuclear strategy in the Brezhnev era led to completely different interpretations of the changes in Soviet security policy introduced by Gorbachev. If one adopted the Pipes interpretation, then Gorbachev’s anti-nuclear agenda naturally read off as a cunning strategy of deception. In terms of the Garthoff/MccGwire interpretation, it was simply a radical development of existing trends. On this basis, from 1987 onwards, MccGwire and Garthoff were arguing that the changes involved in Soviet security policy were likely to be radical. And they were proven right. Moreover, an enterprising young man called Kent D. Lee, with the aid of Garthoff’s advice, obtained the declassification and release of the entire back file of the confidential General Staff journal Military Thought, together with other formerly classified Soviet military publications. One consequence of this was when he wrote his 1990 study of Deterrence and the Revolution in Soviet Military Doctrine, Garthoff was able to write that there was ‘no strategic doctrine for waging intercontinental nuclear war in the available military strategic literature, open or closed.’ There was nothing — zilch, nada. Pipes and his associates were simply plain wrong.

When subsequently Bruce Blair — like MccGwire, someone who went from the particular to the general, having been a Minuteman launch control officer before turning academic — was able to study the Soviet nuclear command and control system with the help of candid interviews with informed Soviet sources, it became clear that this system was heavily biased towards the prevention of inadvertent launch and control of escalation. The whole focus of the strategy was on conventional warfare, just as Garthoff and MccGwire had suggested.

But, precisely because they are as brilliant at the manipulation of opinion as they are incompetent at intellectual analysis, the neoconservatives have managed to get themselves established as prophets vindicated on Soviet nuclear strategy. The belief that the demonstration of ‘strength’ and ‘will’ embodied in the Reagan nuclear buildup was decisive in ending the Cold War follows naturally. It is not only gullible former British Communists who have been led up the garden path by this. The fatal consequences of simplistic readings of the retreat and collapse of Soviet power have been brought out in the recent paper by Robert English entitled ‘Lessons from the Bloc’ in the National Interest (available at http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=15426.)

Having noted the way that the non-military aspects of American success in the Cold War have been neglected, English goes on to write:

‘So when another major global challenge arose, the operative lessons were: Hard power is what really matters; allies are to be commanded and not consulted; concern for image and ideals only hampers our freedom of action; and the post-regime change will take care of itself. This is the neoconservatism that set its sights on another troubled world region, celebrated another military triumph (“Mission accomplished”, declared President Bush), dismissed early signs that something had gone very wrong (“Democracy is messy” lectured Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) and keeps faith with its historic mission by a near-Orwellian trick of turning bad news into good (“War and violence are the birth pangs of a new Mideast”, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice).’

I find myself here being reminded of the conclusion of the famous Long Telegram which the figure generally regarded as the architect of ‘containment’, George Kennan, sent from Moscow on 22 February 1946. As his final thought, Kennan stressed that ‘we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society.’ The ‘greatest danger’ that could befall the United States in coping with the problem of Soviet communism, he wrote, is that ‘ we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.’ As regards the neoconservatives at least, his warning seems to have been to the point.

As a spoiled British child of the post-war Pax Americana, what staggers me about so many of the neocons is their patently inability to grasp that American success in the Cold War was in very substantial measure due quite precisely to the fact that your country did not behave as the Soviets did. Why then this sudden enthusiasm for Soviet-style thuggery? Allies are ‘to be commanded not consulted’ — precisely as in the Warsaw Pact. War and violence the ‘birthpangs of a new Middle East’ — sounds very Leninist, doesn’t it? This does not mean that military power was unimportant to the outcome of the Cold War — far from it. But it seems to quite extraordinary that the neoconservatives simply cannot understand that the moral authority of the United States was crucial to the success of the post-war Pax Americana, and also to the retreat and collapse of Soviet Communism.

It is still crucial to the international position of the United States. For one thing, the whole nuclear ‘double standard’ depends for such acceptability as it has on the belief that the existing nuclear powers can be trusted with nuclear weapons while others cannot be. In the light of the recent performance of the Bush Administration — and the Blair government — it is getting rather difficult to make this case sound persuasive! If people want to have moral authority, they must earn it. And one way of earning it is to insist on standards of intellectual integrity in argument — and here, to be frank, it helps to say clearly that knaves are knaves, and fools are fools.

David Habakkuk

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118 Responses to Habakkuk on the neocons’ use of intelligence

  1. FMJ says:

    Here are some things about Strauss and the Straussians you may not know.
    1). Strauss was a closet nihilist. He believed that the scientific method was just a historically conditioned way of thinking. For Strauss, scientific truth was only valid insofar as people believed it was valid. The Straussians think we’re all a bunch of chumps for thinking evidence and data can describe an objective reality.
    2). The Shulsky and Schmitt piece is written in the same esoteric style that Strauss is famous for. Right smack bang in the middle, there’s a really big secret.
    Strauss hints in his works that esoteric writers (like himself) secretly share the views they are supposedly attacking. Strauss will put his true views in the mouths of his supposed enemies. He never says that his enemies are wrong. The extent of his criticism is that his enemies are inconsistent.
    S&S communicate their really big secret in the same way that Strauss does. In LS and the World of Intelligence, notice that S&S never describe the content of Strauss’ esoteric method. Instead, they describe what unnamed *critics* say about the method. Notice that S&S never say that the critics are wrong. The extent of their criticism is that Strauss’ critics are inconsistent.
    If you want to know how neocons analyse intelligence, read what S&S say that Strauss’ critcs say about the esoteric method. It’s practically a confession.

  2. JohnH says:

    The neoconderthals cannot afford to argue any other way. If they ever revealed their true agenda, people would be aghast and outraged and the neoconderthals would be totally disgraced and banished. So instead of arguing on the facts they create bogeymen, false pretenses, and smear anyone who fails to buy into their make-believe world.
    The sad part is that so many believe what they say. So few understand what they are really doing. And so, from their point of view, lying and deception has been an unquestioned success. Their minions have learned well, and future Roves and Wolfowitz will perpetuate the illusion.

  3. Martin K says:

    “A self blinded giant”
    That, sir, is as a precise formulation of the US conundrum as I have read anywhere. Compliments. They have almost no quality control, to speak in industrial terms, on their processes.
    I have worked in factories for five years, and if you do not have quality and process control running continously on all items with more than five moving parts, things go to hell. Literally, i n the case of melting ovens. The neo-cons are bad engineers.

  4. Tom Griffin says:

    There’s an interesting example of the mask slipping in England at the moment.

  5. Tom Griffin says:

    Would it be fair to say that the same method could be applied to Roy Godson’s book, Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: US Covert Action and Counterintelligence?

  6. Will says:

    Interesting reading. Brings to mind the following:
    from the wiki
    “Adding to the clamor was an infamous event in July 1955. At the Soviet Aviation Day demonstrations, held at the Tushino Airfield, ten Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stand.[3] After their flyby they flew out of sight, quickly turned around, and flew past the stands again. They repeated this SIX times, presenting the illusion that there were 60 aircraft. Western analysts extrapolated from the illusionary 60 aircraft, judging that it would take only a short time for the Soviets to produce 600.

    “Over 2,000 B-47s and almost 750 B-52s were built to match the imagined fleet of Soviet aircraft.

    “The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) 11-10-57, issued in December 1957, predicted that the Soviets would “probably have a first operational capability with up to 10 prototype ICBMs” at “some time during the period from mid-1958 to mid-1959.” After Khrushchev claimed to be producing them “like sausages”,[2] the numbers started to inflate. A similar report gathered only a few months later, NIE 11-5-58 released in August 1958, concluded that the USSR had “the technical and industrial capability … to have an operational capability with 100 ICBMs” some time in 1960, and perhaps 500 ICBMs “some time in 1961, or at the latest in 1962.”[1] None of these estimates were based on anything other than guesswork.
    Beginning with the collection of photo-intelligence by U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union in 1956, the Eisenhower administration had increasing hard evidence that claims of any strategic weapons favoring the Soviet Union were false. Based on this evidence, the CIA placed the number of ICBMs closer to a dozen. Continued (sporadic) flights failed to turn up any evidence of additional missiles. Curtis LeMay argued that the large stocks of missiles were in the areas not photographed by the U-2’s, and arguments broke out over the Soviet factory capability in an effort to estimate their production rate.
    It is known today that even the CIA’s estimate was too high; the actual number of ICBMs, all interim-use prototypes, was four.[3]
    Later evidence has emerged that one consequence of Kennedy pushing the false idea that America was behind the Soviets in a missile gap was that Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev and senior Soviet military figures began to believe that Kennedy was a dangerous extremist who, with the American military, was seeking to plant the idea of a Soviet first-strike capability to justify a pre-emptive American attack.[citation needed] This belief about Kennedy as a militarist was reinforced in Soviet minds by the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and led to the Soviets placing nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962.
    Warnings and calls to address imbalances between the fighting capabilities of two forces were not new, a “bomber gap” had exercised political concerns a few years previously. What was different about the missile gap was the fear that a distant country could strike without warning from far away with little damage to themselves. ”
    “A second claim of a missile gap appeared in 1974. Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago, accused the CIA of systematically underestimating Soviet missile deployment, in his 1974 foreign policy article entitled “Is There a Strategic Arms Race?” Wohlstetter concluded that the United States was allowing the Soviet Union to achieve military superiority by not closing a perceived missile gap. Many conservatives then began a concerted attack on the CIA’s annual assessment of the Soviet threat.”[6][PIPES?]
    from the Grateful Dead
    Casey Jones
    “Driving the Train, High on Cocaine, Davey Jones Watch Your Speed, Trouble Behind, Trouble Ahead, Trouble with you- trouble with me, two good eyes and can’t see.”

  7. Charles I says:

    Very penetrating, FMJ.
    This is not exactly on point, but certainly illuminates the War, Money & Power Party’s (WMPP) resolve when confronted with reality, opposition, or, absurdity of absurdities, public sentiment.
    Jaun Cole today cites Nancy Pelosi’s pathetic plaint at her discovery that many many Republicans still ardently support the war, especially now that we’re “winning”, found here:
    “Pelosi: Republicans `like’ Iraq War
    By CHARLES BABINGTON – 23 hours ago
    WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out at Republicans on Thursday, saying they want the Iraq war to drag on and are ignoring the public’s priorities.
    “They like this war. They want this war to continue,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters. She expressed frustration over Republicans’ ability to force majority Democrats to yield ground on taxes, spending, energy, war spending and other matters.
    “We thought that they shared the view of so many people in our country that we needed a new direction in Iraq,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference in the Capitol. “But the Republicans have made it very clear that this is not just George Bush’s war. This is the war of the Republicans in Congress.”
    Asked to clarify her remarks, Pelosi backed off a bit.
    “I shouldn’t say they like the war,” she said. “They support the war, the course of action that the president is on.”
    “And that was a revelation to me,” she said, “because I thought the American people’s voices were so — and still are — so strong in this regard.”
    Pelosi, who opposed the U.S.-led invasion from the start, said the war was “a catastrophic mistake.”
    Despite being forced to make concessions on multiple fronts, Pelosi said Democrats have been fiscally responsible and attuned to the public’s concerns. As a result, she said, voters will reward Democrats in next year’s presidential and congressional elections.
    Democrats “set a high water mark” on many bills, she said. “Where we have to come to is a different place,” thanks to the “political reality of not having a president of the United States. And nothing speaks more clearly to Democratic victories in the next election than when you see this is what is possible.”
    In response, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in statement: “Republicans have stood on principle to protect current and future generations of Americans, whether it polled well or not. The success our troops are having in Iraq today is proof positive that our stance was the right one.” (!!!!!!!-CI)
    Juan goes on to comment:
    “I don’t doubt that some Republicans like the Iraq War. It after all got a lot of them elected, and has thrown a hefty part of the $500 billion spent on the war so far to their corporate sponsors.
    But what really strikes me about the speaker’s remarks is her misreading of the Republicans. She appears to have thought that they had mostly turned against the war in their hearts, and would become allies of the Democrats in ending it. In other words, she seems to have blamed Bush for the war and to have assumed that the Republican representatives would now want to run away from Bush.
    But for all the Caesar-like power that Bush claims for his imperial executive, he could not have steam-rollered the country into war if he had not had enablers in the then Republican-controlled Congress.
    I understand how one gets to be collegial across the aisle in a body like Congress. That might help explain why Pelosi did not initially believe that her Republican colleagues could possibly be so short-sighted or venal as to actively support the war.
    But you just have to contrast the way that the Republicans took power in the House in 1994 with a disciplined plan that shifted resources radically to the Right and took no hostages among their foes. They even dared impeach (in the lesser sense) a very popular Democratic president, as a way of making sure Al Gore never became his successor. In other words, they came to town as ravenous as a horde of marauding Mongols and as mean as a canyon full of rattlesnakes.
    Pelosi came to power, in contrast, with a namby-pamby pledge not to impeach Cheney or Bush (and she stiffed Dennis Kucinich, who quite rightly wanted at least to pursue the former). She came to power with no apparent plan to strengthen the key Democratic constituencies or throw resources to them.
    And now a year after the Dems took the House back for the first time in 12 years, the Democratic Speaker suddenly realizes that she is facing a phalanx of determined warmongers.
    Many (not all) Republicans view themselves as benefitting from prolonging the war. As long as it is still going on, they can’t be accused of having lost it. As long as it is still going on, they may yet show a skeptical American public, or at least the part of it that funds political campaigns, some benefit. As long as it goes on, they can hope to postpone the catastrophe long enough so that if they do lose the presidency, it will tar that Democratic incumbent and help restrict him or her to a single term.
    And she thinks they want to end the war?
    You have a sinking feeling that a small band of nice gentle hobbits is facing off against the Orcs of Mordor, without any magic rings or even just ordinary armament, and without any over-arching strategy.” J.C.
    Mongols take no prisoners, and are impervious to argument, reasoned or otherwise. They do fight to the death. They take no prisoners( unless they can be put to work for $2 a day for corporate America). One does not argue with them when it is apparent from the fury and success of their attack that they intend no quarter. You stand and fight for what you value, because otherwise it will be razed to the ground, nary a second thought to the horde galloping to its’ next conquest to remake the world into the Mongol way.
    Fukyama wrongly foresaw the end of history. What is intended is the discrediting of history(Swift boat, anyone?) for future engagements, and where this is not possible, its permanent sequestration (Presidential records), cynical rewriting(see David H. above, or There were no Arabs here), or outright destruction( 5 million emails, 2 videos and counting, although the count is classified D.E.O.D.E.N – Dickie’s Eyes Only Decider’s Eyes Never.)

  8. Will says:

    in the words of yogi berra, it’s deja vu all over again:
    “in his 2007 book The Fall of the House of Bush, Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger goes into detail about the formation and inaccuracy of Team B:
    “ 1976 is the era of détente, and the neocons hate this; they fear losing their favorite enemy, the Soviet Union. They are saying the CIA is coming up with much too rosy of predictions and they don’t believe the intelligence. Who takes over the CIA at this point? George H.W. Bush. They decide they have to go to battle against him and they form what is known as Team B, which starts an “alternative intelligence assessment.” It effectively says the CIA is all wrong and that we have to redo their intelligence. But Team B’s estimates were completely inaccurate.[36]

    so who was on team B? Rummy, Wolfie, Pipes. Hard to believe Dumbya threw in his lot with these thugs that shafted Poppy. They even advocated first-strike.

  9. Andy says:

    Excellent commentary and I find very little I can disagree with. I’m very familiar with the Schmitt/Shulsky article and their attack on Kent – not so much with the details on Soviet conventional and nuclear doctrine.
    I would add to your list the 1998 Rumsfeld commission on ballistic missiles which really foretold how the Bush administration would treat intelligence.
    Still, my principle point you do not address: How best to deal such tactics? My own social science, academic and intelligence training taught me the surest way is to attack their methodology, their assumptions, and their arguments. My feeling is that once one enters into the realm of labeling or name-calling or attacking the messenger instead of the message, then you’ve lost, lowered your own standards and engaged them on their own terms.
    What is a better way to counter their tactics?
    ISTM that by choosing not to meet their faulty arguments head-on and instead dismissing them because they are “neocons” then two things happen. First, their arguments gain credibility because they are not refuted. I know this from my personal experience. On right-wing blogs, for example, I’ve been called everything from a “Democrat” to a “surrender monkey.” Stating largely the same thing on left-wing sites gets me “neocon” and “GoP sockpuppet.” When someone is forced to “go personal” I know I’ve “won” the argument because they either cannot or choose not to refute what I say.
    Secondly, it’s unlikely to convince anyone to adopt your point of view. Moderates (like me) view those tactics as just the other side of a coin and therefore uncompelling.
    Finally, I must point out that such tactics are not unique to the neocons and are used by some on the left as well. I hasten to add, however, that the neocons have certainly institutionalized such tactics to a much greater degree than anyone else and they are much more dangerous because of their agenda. Still, take this example from Juan Cole on the NIE:

    The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran says that Iran did have a nuclear weapons research program until early 2003, but then dismantled it.
    There is now a high level of confidence that Iran is no longer seeking nuclear weapons.
    This finding reverses numerous statements of George W. Bush to the effect that Iran is frantically trying to get a nuke.
    So what convinced the US intelligence community that Iran’s weapons program was long ago dismantled?

    Juan Cole is a respected academic and his mischaracterization of the NIE is quite a shocking error to make, but it’s one that’s been picked up by many others and now many believe Mr. Cole’s mischaracterization. Were I a partisan, I could attack Mr. Cole for engaging in “BDS” or simply dismiss him as a blind administration critic and dismiss him. Instead, I choose to point out the error and make the case that he is wrong based on the merits.
    What I’m suggesting is that the same response is necessary to face the much greater and more dangerous sophism the neocons engage in.
    I want to reiterate that biases, agendas and affiliation (neocon or otherwise) should be completely discounted – rather, I believe they should always be secondary and supporting of arguments and counter-arguments made on the merits.
    Finally, intelligence, by its very nature, rarely provides enough information to make definitive judgments. Almost always there is ambiguity and often there is a great degree of it. In such circumstances, it is not unexpected for reasonable people to legitimately come to differing conclusions based on the same available evidence. In fact, this happens all the time within the community. It’s one reason why social science methodology is so important because human beings of all stripes tend to interpret toward their own preconceptions and biases when faced with ambiguous information. Hence, fervent anti-communists are likely to view Soviet intent through that lens while others will interpret based on their particular biases. One of the things I most admire Sherman Kent for is his founding work in eliminating bias through analytical methodology and tradecraft.
    Anyway, before I end I want to link to Kent’s Imperative, a blog I discovered recently that seeks to continue Kent’s work on the methodological and tradecraft aspects of intelligence. It’s not only well written and informative, but it’s also refreshingly free of politics.

  10. johnf says:

    Very good thought piece.
    Arguing with people like this can be so frustrating – their patent dishonesty, their repeated practice of playing the man, not the ball – that it can often reduce civilized people to impotent rage.
    I wonder how much of this came from their protected and indulged position as the “Vulcans” in the seventies and the eighties. They could claim constant Soviet mendacity, invent missile gaps, and claim that nuclear war was winnable. They could create clouds of publicity around themselves, they could strike heroic poses. Why? Because they knew they would never be called on it. Because everyone knew MAD ruled. There wasn’t going to be a war, but you could make a hell of a name for yourself in Washington by pretending there could and would be one.
    Then, with the end of the Cold War, they didn’t have a real and serious opponent anymore. (Though some of them took as long to be persuaded about this as nowadays it is taking to persuade them on NIE). But they were guys who made their living out of being incredibly big and tough. And never being called on it.
    So this bunch of blinking academics and dinner party poseurs got to actually start their very own war. And are going to have to spend the rest of their lives and of history getting called on it.

  11. anna missed says:

    It seems that the neo-cons are arguing from a flawed interpretation of William James theory of pragmatism. In that the truth value of an assertion (of fact) lies in its utility or use. Hence, the truth of an Iraqi or Iranian threat lies in the gain from removing it – whether or not it actually ever existed.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am interested in your statement that the neocons favored “first strike.” ??
    You know that the Israelis now appear to favor the same thing. Is this a reflection of neocon thinking? pl

  13. pbrownlee says:

    Given POTUS43’s stormy (to put it mildly) relationship with 41 I do not find it at all difficult “to believe Dumbya threw in his lot with these thugs that shafted Poppy”.
    One of the strongest strings holding up the W-puppet may well have been constant reassurance that (insert particularly dumb action here) will show you are “a better man”, tougher etc. than Poppy.
    We have all been adrift on a kind of rancid Oedipal soup since January 2001.
    Where the Hell is Sophocles when you really need him?

  14. JohnH says:

    “How best to deal such tactics? My own social science, academic and intelligence training taught me the surest way is to attack their methodology, their assumptions, and their arguments.”
    Agreed, the only way to win is to attack their basic premises. Pulling a few well selected strings should make the entire web of deceit unravel.
    Unfortunately, most elected officials, aided and abetted by the foreign policy/national security mob, have developed a severe case of group-think, so any attack must deal with virtually the entire Beltway establishment. Their willful gullibility is then conveyed to the general public, which still has this incredible need to believe whatever government leaders say, even when they are known, notorious liars.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Bertrand Russel, in his book “Unarmed Victories” substantially agrees with the perceptions of the Nikita Kruschev vis a vis JKF. He attributes the continued existence of the human race past the Cuban Missile Crisis to the sanity of one man and one man alone – Nikita Kruschev.

  16. jonst says:

    One should argue with neocons and call them names. Expose them, ruthlessly, to ridicule wherever, and whenever, possible. One should, as well, vigorously, but politely, challenge their methodology, assumptions and their arguments. One should see that candidates that reject the neocons come to power and understand why their supporters put them in power. In short…like any war, and this is a war for America’s soul, fought against dishonorable men, in many cases, numerous types of tactics and strategies must be on the table for consideration and use, often at the same time.

  17. Tom Griffin says:

    “How best to deal such tactics? My own social science, academic and intelligence training taught me the surest way is to attack their methodology, their assumptions, and their arguments.”
    Interestingly, the BBC is in the middle of doing exactly that:

  18. Will says:

    Team B was headed by Zioncons. Israel has always been a first strike opportunistic state, because of the land hunger- never considered itself bound by the UN charter rules about the inadmissibility of waging aggressive war to gain territory and plant settlements. 1956 Sinia land grab. Eisenhower said get out. But then again in 1967 but bigger and better w/ LBJ collusion.
    more interesting reading
    Poppy became the head spook but Darth Vader who was WH chief of staff and Rummy watered his power down with a Team B review
    “First, Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney manipulated their appointments to advance their own agendas within the American political arena. Or, secondly, Rumsfeld and Cheney convinced Ford to make these changes in order to improve his re-election prospects against his primary Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan.[2] ”

  19. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    A few months ago, I critiqued Habakkuk’s essay on “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence”. It was my attempt to determine the esoteric “secret” of the Straussians. Here is part of the critique…with a last sentence update.
    Habakkuk appears to propose that, under the neoconservative worldview, US strategic intel analysis no longer follows the Anglo-American tradition that arose after World War II under the direction of Sherman Kent. Under Kent, US strategic intelligence analysis relied primarily upon gathering and analyzing facts based upon the methodology of the social sciences, while at the same time recognizing that potential adversaries will engage in deception. The neoconservatives jettisoned this approach and, instead, now make analytical conclusions that simply “take off from the wish”. Neoconservatives cloak this process as “intuition” based on the assumption that a potential, or perhaps desired, adversary is always engaged in deception, so one therefore must go beyond the facts to determine intent.
    However — as Stephen Hadley recently proved by his decision to block intel analysts from access to vital information on the IDF attack on a Syrian site– the neoconservative idea of intuition is completely decoupled from any process of determining reality. In fact, Hadley just corroborated and repeated the pattern we saw during the buildup to the Iraq invasion of March, 2003. Neoconservatives will ignore the facts and analysis, manufacture propaganda and even take affirmative steps to conceal information from analysis by the US intelligence community. So their approach is not intuition at all but creating illusions based upon desires.
    As Habakkuk points out, the result of the neoconservative approach is that Hitler is projected onto the world at large. He writes:
    “I stress this, because a characteristic of the neocon approach is that wherever we are, we are back in 1938. Every threat ends up being, in one form or other, Hitler reincarnated. It is difficult to be clear here how far one is dealing with genuine misperception, and how far with manipulative rhetoric.”
    Then Habakkuk makes an absolutely riveting revelation — one that perhaps suggests that the neoconservatives, by relying on a methodology of deception themselves — are in fact defining their own persona and intent when they publicly attack their adversary of the moment, be it a person or a group. In other words, if you want to determine the character and intent of those hiding behind the mask of neo-conservatism and the Straussian noble lie, then listen to the nature of their ad hominem attacks as if it is a form of self-identification. Habakkuk suggests this point in the conclusion of his essay, where he writes that the two twentieth century regimes that systematically practiced the neoconservative version of strategic intel — taking off from the wish — were those of Hitler and Stalin and they, to use his words, “do not represent encouraging models”.
    Not encouraging indeed. And what does Habakkuk think of New York Times journalist David Brooks? He writes:
    “I must admit that confronted by David Brooks, I am indeed tempted to remark that the degree of his faith in intuition has Hitlerian echoes, and also that, as was the case with Hitler, it is likely materially to hamper the prospects of United States both in avoiding conflicts that are avoidable and in prevailing in conflicts that are not.”
    So, by incorporating Habakkuk’s conclusions, the question becomes this: what is the shameless strategic neoconservative wish we now confront in the autumn of 2007? To answer that question I suggest first taking a look at David Wurmser and the Wurmser option.
    And…as a December 07 update to the above partical critique…check out this PBS debate on you tube between Zakaria Fareed and the imperial wizard himself — Norman Podhoretz. It appears to prove the Habakkuk thesis.

  20. jayinbmore says:

    As a spoiled British child of the post-war Pax Americana, what staggers me about so many of the neocons is their patently inability to grasp that American success in the Cold War was in very substantial measure due quite precisely to the fact that your country did not behave as the Soviets did. Why then this sudden enthusiasm for Soviet-style thuggery?
    Ever since the PNAC released it’s statement of principles I have wondered the same thing. When I read it in 1998 or 1999 (can’t exactly remember), I thought it was odd that a group claiming to be conservative would say something so reminiscent of Trotsky.
    The explanation may be along the following lines. I think the problem is that they failed to recognize the danger inherent in a revolutionary/visionary mindset – a mindset of which that statement of principles is indicative. I’m no social scientist, but it seems to me that if there’s a lesson to be drawn from revolutions past, especially the Soviet one, it’s that insisting your ideological vision is the “silver bullet” is only going to lead to ruin. Reality is always there to wreak havoc on your program (mug you?) and since you can’t admit your ideology is at fault, you have to purge the, uhm, counter-revolutionaries. It’s this intellectual trap that the Neocons walked into, protestations of being “mugged by reality” to the contrary.

  21. DH says:

    “Israel has always been a first strike opportunistic state, because of the land hunger- never considered itself bound by the UN charter rules about the inadmissibility of waging aggressive war to gain territory and plant settlements. 1956 Sinia land grab. Eisenhower said get out. But then again in 1967 but bigger and better w/ LBJ collusion.”
    From the ‘A Lot of Nothing at Annapolis’ post http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2007/11/a-lot-of-nothin.html#comments :
    “Ben Gurion’s Israel had its eye on the West Bank on the gitgo and cooked up the 67 war to capture it, has colonized it & settled up to the gills, and is scarcely going to let go of any substanial parts of it.”
    Will you please elaborate on what Israel did to cook up the ’67 war?

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Sidney O Smith:
    “Intuition”, properly understood, is understanding gleaned from many prior experiences. I doubt many people have lived the requisite number of life-times that which could enable them to develop “intuition” in international relations.
    I also think the resurrection of Hitler & Munich, just like the resurrection of the Shoah, is a form of propaganda – it is a deliberate emotional appeal to the semi-religion that Shoah has become in the West.
    However, I think this is all epi-phenomena. The phenomena itself is the belief in the Western leaders and their polities that they are better (in moral sense) from other people in the world and that the asymmetry of power between their polities and the rest of mankind makes them un-touchable.
    In other words, the neo-conservatives are only appealing to that part of the Western psyche that considers herself to be superior to the rest of mankind and ready to beat those benighted people into line.
    Of course, like everything else, all of this boils down to the Fall of Man – no doubt.

  23. Andy says:


    Stephen Hadley recently proved by his decision to block intel analysts from access to vital information on the IDF attack on a Syrian site

    I had not heard that – can you provide any details and/or sourcing?

  24. Andy;
    Your assertions that the Neoconfederacy of Dunces currently running our country into the ground should have their arguments countered with reasonable, measured dialogue disproving their worldview falls on deaf ears in regards to myself. To wit; all of these guys have lied for so long and caused so much suffering, heartache and bloodshed in the world that I’d just as soon kick ’em in the teeth as rebut any argument they have to make about Iran.
    The fact that Iran is a theocratic, undemocratic quasi police state that is run by the Persian equivilant of the “Moral Majority” can’t be disputed. ‘Res Ispa Loquitor,’ as the toadies in the legal profession would say. But that doesn’t get Cheney, Fieth, Rice, Wolfowitz or any other those rat bastard neocon pricks off the hook for lying us into this awful war in Iraq, and trying like hell to start another in Iran. Not enough evidence? Why, forge it! Don’t like the intell your own agencies are telling you? Why, just start another one, that is absolutely certain to give you the info you know is right (Office of Special Plans, anyone?) Trying to terrorize your own citizens into a war? Just send out the DC goon squad to hit the Sunday Talking Head shows until it’s “Smoking guns and Mushroom Clouds” morning, noon and night.
    Your assertion that the likes of Henry Kissinger or John Bolten are making some sort of reasonable argument for taking action against Iran is, for me anyway, kind of like listening to John Wayne Gacey talk about the great insulating quality of dead bodies jammed into the crawlspace the his house, or Jeffrey Dahmer extolling the great health effects of his ‘special’ dietary preferences. Oh, and Kissinger…wasn’t he the one that said (after we had screwed the Kurds the FIRST time back when they were engaged in a guerilla campagn against…wait for it…Saddam Hussien…for the then Shah of Iran’s geopolitical aspirations in the region) “Diplomacy is not missionary work.” (or something very close to that). In short, Andy, these guys have about as much credibility with me as Wile E Coyote, Super Genious, and his corporate masters at The Acme Corporation. Alas, the only person Wile E Coyote, Super Genius ever hurt was himself, typically by his own hand in pursuit of some half assed plan that, in retrospect, appears to have all the earmarks of something the likes of Fred Kagan would cook up in his office, deep in the bowels of the AEI.
    SubKommander Dred

  25. socialman says:

    The difficulty of comprehending the straussians is the result of a deliberate ploy. machiavelli was the original source but Strauss was not prepared to let political commonsense be open-sourced. Strauss created, in effect, a closed guild based on “hidden truths” to guarantee his financial/social longevity. Arguing with Straussian was akin to attacking his meal wagon since he was a transplant. His students became acolytes blind to the master’s faults.

  26. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. I would suggest that an analysis of the work of the Paris based Russian intellectual Alexandre Kojeve and his relationship to Strauss and Straussianism is important in the context of this thread. This is particularly true if delving into the “esoteric” realm of Neoconservative ideology and method/praxis. At one level, they are Nietzschean.
    Allen Bloom was trained by Kojeve in Paris at Strauss’s suggestion. Wolfie is a Bloom student.
    See, Shadia Drury, “Alexandre Kojeve. The Roots of Postmodern Politics”(New York: St. Martin’s 1994).
    See Kojeve’s “The Emperor Julian and his Art of Writing” in Ancients and Moderns: Essays on the Tradition of Political Philosophy in Honor or Leo Strauss, ed. Joseph Cropsey (New York: Basic Books, 1964), pp. 95-113.
    2. On Kent and NIE’s, there is a useful book:
    Donald P. Stuery, Sherman Kent and the Board of National Estimates. Collected Essays (Washington DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1994).

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The influence of Albert Wohlstetter on the Neocons is also an important factor.
    “But Wohlstetter, through his command of detail, particularly quantitative detail, and his ability to weave elaborate numerical models out of arcane pieces of information, had changed the language of strategy. Earlier thinking had been built on an assessment of the enemy’s intentions and capabilities. It relied on secret intelligence and scholarly analysis of communist ideology, Russian nationalism, and “Kremlinology”–detailed expertise on Moscow’s palace intrigues.
    Wohlstetter’s methodology, on the other hand, relied largely on probabilistic reasoning and mathematical modeling that utilized systems analysis and game theory, signature methodologies developed at Rand. The designs or intentions of the enemy were presumed, or presented as a future possibility. This methodology exploited to the hilt the iron law of zero margin of error that was the asymptotic ideal for nuclear strategy. Even a small probability of vulnerability, or a potential future vulnerability, could be presented as a virtual state of national emergency [emphasis added].”
    from Khurram Hussein, “Neocons: The Men Behind the Curtain” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists v.59, n.6 Nov/Dec03

  28. Will says:

    your question is outside the scope of the discussion for an extended answer. Many American are still unaware that the IAF destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground in a first strike. Nor are they aware that the Israelis had first grabbed the Sinai in 1956 and Eisenhower had ordered them out.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    SubKommander Dred:
    You wrote: ” a theocratic, undemocratic quasi police state” etc.
    Iran is not “undemocratic” as you suggested. She is quasi-democratic, in my opinion (in comparison to US and EU).
    Moreover, I would like to know on what grounds do you object to a “theocratic” state?
    I have heard this turn of phrase bandied around, specially by Western people, a lot.
    Are there intellectual arguments against such a political order that can hold water? If so, I would like to know it.
    The intellectual arguments for it are of course in the works of St. Thomas, Al Farabi, and the Late Ayatullah Khomeini.

  30. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    I believe that a personality that leans towards intuition is an asset but I see no evidence that neocons have that kind of M-B profile or perhaps I-Q. From what I have read, intuition perhaps arises in part out of the ability to have empathy for others. In the vernacular, it is just “putting yourself in their shoes”. To translate to Sun Tzu (and the ancient Greeks, perhaps), it is the ol’ maxim “know your enemy and know your “self”.
    But I agree with you, without an attempt to understand reality through experience, then intuition is not intuition at all.
    Re: Stephen Hadley denying US intelligence community vital info on the Israeli air strike against a Syrian facility:.
    Key quote:
    “The new information, particularly images received in the past 30 days, has been restricted to a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community unaware of it or uncertain of its significance, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Some cautioned that initial reports of suspicious activity are frequently reevaluated over time and were skeptical that North Korea and Syria, which have cooperated on missile technology, would have a joint venture in the nuclear arena.”
    Also Col. Lang had an thread here at sst back in Sept.07:
    Hadley’s actions — one could argue — evidence more than “dual loyalty”. It is an affirmative step not in the interests of the US. The Wurmser option — if properly reported by Clemons — was an affirmative step to place US troops at risk of death for the interests of another nation. Apparently Cheney endorsed the Wurmser option.

  31. David Habakkuk says:

    Many fascinating contributions, and a great deal to think about.
    Andy says I do not address his principal point: How best to deal with such tactics.
    As I said, I think it is important to argue, even with rascals. However, it is also important to bring crucial facts to people’s attention, which have been ignored, or not adequately reflected upon.
    As regards Strauss, it is important that he started out as a fascist, and did not see Hitler’s rise to power as any reason to revise his views. Is this ‘name-calling’ or ‘attacking the messenger’? I do not think so, as the self-identification as a fascist is his own.
    In the study of Strausss he published last year, Eugene Sheppard quoted him writing to Karl Löwith in May 1933 as follows:
    ‘Just because the right-wing oriented Germany does not tolerate us, it simply not follow that the principles of the right are therefore to be rejected. To the contrary, only on the basis of principles of the right — fascist, authoritarian, imperial — is it possible, in a dignified manner, without the ridiculous and sickening appeal to the “unwritten rights of man,” to protest against the repulsive monster.’
    Sheppard also tells us that:
    ‘In the light of recent events Strauss turned to read Caesar’s Commentaries with a newfound comprehension connecting it with Virgil’s judgement that under Roman imperial rule, “the subjected are spared and the proud are subdued.” Strauss expressed his intransigent defiance of the pressing bleak situation proclaiming to Löwith: “There is no reason to crawl to the cross, event to the cross of liberalism, as long as anywhere in the world a spark glimmers of Roman thinking. And even more cherished than any cross is the ghetto.”‘
    Round about the same time, one of the great American foreign correspondents of the time, Edgar Ansel Mowrer, published one of the classic anti-appeasement polemics, Germany Puts the Clock Back. Am I really expected to see Strauss as a possessor of some kind of ‘esoteric wisdom’, denied to intellectually and spiritually inadequate figures like Mowrer?
    It is central to Shadia Drury’s argument about the Straussians that they come in two kinds — the true votaries, judged fit to be entrusted with the ‘esoteric’ doctrine, and those judged to lack the intellectual and spiritual gifts required to face the truth. It follows as a simple point of logic that it is very difficult to know, with Straussians, whether they are telling you what they actually think or not. The question of whether Strauss himself did or did not stick to the convictions he articulated in 1933, for example, is extraordinarily difficult to answer.
    However, we do have a fascinating fictional account of a leading Straussian — the ‘Ravelstein’ of Saul Bellow’s novel of that name being a portrait of Strauss’s leading disciple Allan Bloom. From this novel, we learn that ‘Ravelstein’ thought Caesar ‘the greatest man who ever lived within the tides of time’. As Clifford Kiracofe points out, Bloom influenced Wolfowitz (although he did not I think formally teach him.) He did I think teach Francis Fukuyama. It was Fukuyama who in his famous ‘End of History article reintroduced the curious version of Hegelianism of the Stalinist-turned-EEC bureaucrat Alexander Kojève, to whom Clifford also refers — pointing out that Bloom studied with him, at Strauss’s suggestion. According to Fukuyama:
    ‘Kojève sought to resurrect the Hegel of the Phenomenology of Mind, the Hegel who proclaimed history to be at an end in 1806. For as early as this Hegel saw in Napoleon’s defeat of the Prussian monarchy at the Battle of Jena the victory of the ideals of the French Revolution, and the imminent universalization of the state incorporating the principles of liberty and equality. Kojève, far from rejecting Hegel in light of the turbulent events of the next century and a half, insisted that the latter had been essentially correct. The Battle of Jena marked the end of history because it was at that point that the vanguard of humanity (a term quite familiar to Marxists) actualized the principles of the French Revolution.’
    So, apparently, the victory of the prototypical modern ‘Caesar’ — Napoleon — represents the triumph of ‘liberty’. It is precisely because the term ‘vanguard’ is ‘familiar to Marxists’, incidentally, that some of us so distrust it.
    Another quote — from an essay on the sociologist Max Weber by Donald MacRae. As early as the 1890s, MacRae writes, ‘Weber saw in the rootless middle classes and the fragmented mases a “longing for a new Caesar”. In a noteworthy article a few days ago, Ray McGovern harks back to one of the classic depictions of just this mentality. He recalls how Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor ‘ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear’. And he quotes the Inquisitor’s anticipation that people will ‘lay their freedom at our feet.’ He also quotes at length from the diary of the anti-Nazi lawyer Sebastian Haffner, which describes precisely the processes Weber and Dostoevsky had anticipated in action.
    ‘The sequence of events is, as you see, not so unnatural. It is wholly within the normal range of psychology, and it helps to explain the almost inexplicable. The only thing that is missing is what in animals is called “breeding.” This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures and forces, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in Germans. As a nation we are soft, unreliable, and without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown.’
    The article is available at http://www.counterpunch.org/mcgovern12122007.html.
    There are those who think that the inhabitants of the United States and Britain are somehow immune from such pathologies. Like McGovern, I do not. Accordingly, I do not find it amusing to find leading American policymakers having their minds shaped by someone who believed that Caesar was the greatest man who ever lived, particularly when the result appears to be that their idea of ‘liberty’ is an imperialistic military despotism. Those who care about the preservation of the republic should find this a cause for deep anxiety and revulsion, I think. Nor do I find it amusing when the veneration of a dubiously reconstructed fascist is regarded as normal and acceptable. So I do my best to draw people’s attention to such facts, whenever I have the opportunity.
    There is also, I think, an element of sheer preposterousness which needs to be brought out. And here, I must admit to a certain personal animus. My own father’s politics were very similar to those of Edgar Ansel Mowrer. In the Thirties he hated and despised both communism and fascism, while believing the latter a more immediate danger: he was an impassioned opponent of appeasement. Like Mowrer, he suffered from the pathetic delusion that a perfectly adequate critique of both could be formulated in terms of his liberal principles. Perhaps I should accept that he was really not one of those with adequate spiritual and intellectual equipment to grasp the ‘esoteric wisdom’ of Strauss. Perhaps my father should have gone and joined Mosley’s Blackshirts — the fascist alternative in Britain at the time — and tried to cure them of their anti-semitic convictions.
    On the whole I am happy he took the positions he did. I think that anyone — then and now — who anticipates that a modern ‘Caesarism’ will bring an Augustan world of peace and plenty is an idiot; and that someone like Strauss who in 1933 was concerned to ‘protest’ in a ‘dignified manner’ against Nazism was a pompous ass.
    And as I think that the Straussians have brought into American culture some of the pathologies that destroyed Europe, beyond a certain point rational argument is not enough. One has to fight. In so doing, I try not to stoop to the kind of methods used by Schmitt and Shulsky. But I certainly I have no intention of renouncing the traditional methods of invective on which successful polemic has so often depended. And your apparent belief that the opponents of the neoconservatives should treat them with kid gloves makes me wonder whether you are actually as ‘moderate’ as you profess to be.

  32. Intelligence, deception and the roots of neoconservatism

    Col Pat Lang’s blog has a very timely piece by David Habbakuk looking at the intelligence roots of the neoconservative movement. The comments thread is also worth a look.A good example of familiar neocon approaches was the hatchet job done

  33. Cieran says:

    The twilight of the neocons is already upon us, and one of the most important reasons they have failed to remake the world in their self-absorbed image is that their strategies were always too expensive. None of these pampered politicos ever had to balance a checkbook or meet a payroll, and it shows.
    Rumsfeld (for but one example) thought his transformational blather could provide war-without-end on the cheap, so that the U.S. taxpayer could actually afford to colonize large portions of the middle east. His economic calculations just didn’t add up.
    The next 16d nail in the coffin for the neocon movement will be the result of yet-another of their self-inflicted wounds, as the nation they have pilfered from for so long slides into a recession that is likely to be deep, prolonged, and painful. Americans care much more about government corruption and the vast costs of empire when times are hard, and times are getting very hard indeed. The Vulcans require warm economic weather to thrive, and winter is arriving, fast.
    There is a strong nativist streak in U.S. politics, and especially in the republican party (e.g., consider how McCain’s presidential ambitions choked the moment he opposed nativist immigration reforms). The realization that the neocons looted the U.S. treasury on behalf of a number of foreign interests will not sit well with this part of the populace, and the hard times will make this group especially noisy, as its ranks swell with those who have been economically marginalized. It may get very ugly.
    The neocon movement is collapsing under its own economic weight as its bad bets come due, and as the staggering costs of its empire become obvious to the American people, who are increasingly tapped out just trying to make ends meet. Thus the Ivy League elites of the neocon variety are likely to be run out of town on a rail, and their terminal woes will begin with the one essential political viewpoint they have so long ignored, namely “it’s the economy, stupid!”
    Mao said that economics always took a back seat to politics.
    Like the neocons, Mao was wrong.

  34. My recollection from reading a quite detailed history of the Six Day War several years ago (Six Days of War: June, 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Michael Oren) is that Egypt and Syria were mobilizing to attack Israel prior to the Israeli preemptive strike at the Egyption AF that Will mentions. According to the author Ben Gurion, who had been retired for several years at the time of the war but still had significant influence, was adamently opposed to a long-term, permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. His advice in this instance was not heeded.

  35. Will says:

    Amazing there wasn’t a wiki article on Dr. Garthoff. There is a stub now. But he was cited in all kinds of other wiki articles.
    It’s not much, but it took while to get all of his 17 books in(that’s all I could find for now). It’s a stub, but i’m going to return and work that thing in about the submarines- 100 mm guns vs anti-aircraft guns once i figure out what the hell it means.
    Raymond L. “Ray” Garthoff is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a specialist on arms control, the Cold War, NATO, and the former Soviet Union. He is a former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, and has advised U.S. State Department on treaties.[1][2] He is the author of numerous scholarly papers, books, and has been featured on PBS documentaries. He is well known for his refutation of Team B’s and Richard Pipes’s characterization of Soviet nuclear doctrine.[3]

  36. Andy says:


    Your assertion that the likes of Henry Kissinger or John Bolten are making some sort of reasonable argument for taking action against Iran

    Had I ever made such an assertion, you’d be right! On the contrary, I don’t think their arguments for attacking Iran are compelling, but that doesn’t mean that everything they say is false nor does it mean that all their arguments are flawed.
    Hence my point is not to convince people like you to see Neocons as credible – rather, it is that they must be engaged in the debate if you want your ideas and views to win the national debate over their views.
    And frankly, the way I see it, if we can engage Iran, or the Soviets, or any number of real adversaries and ultimately win the battle of ideas, why can we not engage domestic political and ideological enemies as well? To suggest they cannot be engaged is essentially the same argument the Neocons use to suggest the North Koreans, Iranians etc. cannot be engaged. Bolton, for example, persists in the view that the diplomacy with foes like Iran and North Korea can never amount to anything because, in his words (commenting on North Korea), “I don’t think there’s any chance Kim Jung-Il can be voluntarily persuaded to give up his nuclear weapons.” He means, obviously, that diplomacy will never work in our efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
    So, something rhetorical to ask yourself is, are you a John Bolton to the Neocon’s North Korea? An entity so beyond the pale that to give any quarter is enable them and thereby flirt with defeat? I would hope not, for that is exactly the flawed ideological framework that informs neocon policy. For the Neocons, talking to and engaging enemies is to legitimize them and is tantamount to appeasement. It seems to me that in the battle against neocon policies we should take care that we don’t adopt such a flawed and absolutist adversarial viewpoint.

  37. David Habakkuk says:

    Re 100mm guns versus anti-aircraft guns.
    One of the best ways of seeing what it means, I think, is to view the German mini-series Das Boot.
    The Allies command the surface and the air.
    Accordingly, your natural method of attack is torpedoes — either submerged, or on the surface at night.
    However, in order to get to the point of attack, you have to travel on the surface. On the surface, you are extremely vulnerable to detection and attack from the air.
    Surfacing to attack with a gun might have made sense before 1939 — but is now a no no.
    Try changing movie. Don’t think Das Boot — think The Longest Day.
    Imagine that, rather than two Messerschmidts flying a kind of forelorn hope, you have squadrons of aircraft.
    And imagine that on the first night of D-day, an armada of submarines had come out of Le Havre.
    They would not need anti-aircraft capability — a. because they were operating within range of shore-based air, and b. because they did not have the same need to travel long distances in daylight.
    When they have used their torpedoes on the main targets, they can then surface and take a pot shot at anything visible with the 100mm gun.
    So — no D-day. From the point of view of a Western military planner, you don’t even think about it.
    One of the great problems of intelligence is putting different kinds of information together.
    Certain kinds of consideration which to you and me — with no professional expertise in naval warfare — are not immediately apparent at all are crashingly obvious to an intellectually curious naval officer.
    MccGwire was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where he graduated in 1942 with the King’s Dirk — the equivalent of the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst.
    Posted to the submarine desk at GCHQ in 1952, he deduced that the Soviets ahd embarked on constructing a massive submarine fleet. Like everyone else, he jumped to the conclusion that its objective was to refight the Battle of Atlantic.
    But precisely because of his professional naval expertise, he was able by 1959 to see that most of the submarines had the wrong armament and were in the wrong places.
    The notion — given classic expression in Albert Wohlstetter’s 1958 Delicate Balance of Terror paper — that Soviet planners expected to knock out American nuclear capabilities and render the remobilisation of the American military-industrial potential was simply wrong.
    What was in the minds of Soviet planners was rather the fact that, less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the United States was landing in force in North Africa.
    Starting from this, MccGwire ended up convinced that in some ways Soviet ‘grand strategy’ was rather easy to interpret. Precisely because it was coherently planned, one could work back from detailed outcomes to the policy decisions which produced them.

  38. Will says:

    Andy makes excellent points. You will never convert some of the NeoKons. But, the fight is over the undecideds. And they need to see both viewpoints laid out side by side.
    I get my information about Ben Gurion (nee David Green) from his contemporary Uri Avnery (born Helmut Ostermann), (the Israeli Peace Activist who fought in the Irgun and in the 56 Suez War).
    I note that Wiki article on Gurion agrees with you
    “After the Six-Day War, Ben-Gurion was in favour of returning all the occupied territories apart from Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Mount Hebron.[11] ”

  39. David W says:

    Andy, I appreciate your participation here, as you’ve brought many interesting facts and ideas to the table. In the abstract, I agree with your point about being wary of falling into an absolutist, reactionary position to the neo Jacobins.
    However, that said, I think the reaction against your seemingly common sense viewpoint is this; the neo Jacobins are not rational actors, nor are they interested in debate. They have succeeded in largely co-opting both the Congress and the Media, which are two traditional vehicles for such debate as you would like to see, while pushing through outrageous changes to the fabric of the US Constitution and Govt.
    While your Bolton analogy is interesting, i’m not sure how well it applies to something like, say, waterboarding. There doesn’t appear to be much gray area there to me, so how can we be anything but absolutist in our position against it?

  40. Andy says:

    Another excellent response, particularly your last paragraph.

    But I certainly I have no intention of renouncing the traditional methods of invective on which successful polemic has so often depended.

    Nor would I want you to. Invective, properly used, has a long and honored tradition in debate and discourse, but so does humor, sarcasm, wit and others. Which is ascendant these days? The danger I see is that for many the invective is becoming the debate to the point that all else is pushed aside. In my view such invective-based discourse is both counterproductive and lacking in integrity. If one wishes to influence those who can be swayed to oppose the neocon ideology then an invective-based approach is not likely to work except to rally those who already think as you do. In short, attacking ideology only gets you so far.

    And your apparent belief that the opponents of the neoconservatives should treat them with kid gloves makes me wonder whether you are actually as ‘moderate’ as you profess to be.

    I see by your last sentence I had not made myself clear enough. Hopefully what I wrote in this comment and my last is clearer.
    As for my politics and ideology I do consider myself moderate, though I acknowledge that term is highly subjective. As I indicated earlier, it’s not unusual for me to be attacked as both a right or left wing ideologue based on the same statement or position posted in different forums. To me, that’s as good a measure as any.

  41. Andy says:

    David W,
    Thank you for the kind comments and a very interesting case with waterboarding. Let my apply my thinking to that particular issue.
    Those who support waterboarding (and I include those who provide tacit support by refusing to condemn it or using the kind of CYA verbiage like “I support enhanced interrogation, but not torture.”) have been swayed by the argument that such methods are necessary to protect the US from terrorism. When those opposed to waterboarding question its use, they are often attacked.
    There are many rational and compelling counters to this flawed argument that require no invective and ideologically-based attacks in response. There’s the long history of the US considering it torture, there’s the argument that using it legitimizes its use against US troops, the overwhelming evidence that’s it’s not as effective as other techniques; there’s the important consideration of moral standing, etc. I think it’s most productive to spend the most effort on those salient points rather than attack a person’s motivations or perceived beliefs in return.
    Those who really believe in waterboarding and have drunk the kool-aid are unlikely to be persuaded regardless. In such a case, what is served by being mean except to cement them as an enemy? Those, on the other hand, who are basically honest and supported waterboarding because of ignorance or deception from the flawed pro-waterboarding arguments are much more likely to change their view in response to a merit-based argument.
    Try this little experiment. Head on over to a prominent progressive or leftist blog and ask this question: “Hey, I don’t see what’s the big deal about waterboarding. It doesn’t seem to cause any permanent damage and people have said it worked and provided information that prevented attacks on Americans. If it doesn’t injure people and prevents attacks then I see nothing wrong with it.”
    Gauge the response you get and consider your reaction to their response. You’re likely to get a ton of replies that attack you personally, assume much about your belief system or ideology and little that addresses the flaws in what you actually wrote. Is that likely to persuade you to reconsider your opinion on waterboarding? No. Hopefully, some will take a more reasoned and fact-based approach which may persuade you despite your indignation at what you feel are unjustified and unwarranted attacks on your person.
    This little experiment is easily repeatable on right-wing sites by altering the statement to bait their preconceptions.
    In short, too often the first response is to attack the person, not what they’re saying. Those opposed to waterboarding, like I am, should avoid it if they want our viewpoint to prevail in the national debate.
    Another case-in-point: The MoveOn “General Betrayus” ad. Regardless of the merits of Moveon’s position on the war it was a plainly stupid move – particularly in hindsight – that materially damaged those opposed to the neocons. If casualties continue to fall into next year, the right will trot it out as an effective cudgel that will portray the Democrats as anti-military leftists. Dumb, dumb dumb.
    So again, my point in all this is to get people to examine their perceptions, attitudes and tactics. This is not meant to treat the neocons with “kid gloves” but to adopt tactics and strategies that avoid shooting oneself in the ass while actually providing tangible results.

  42. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “…I do not find it amusing to find leading American policymakers having their minds shaped by someone who believed that Caesar was the greatest man who ever lived, particularly when the result appears to be that their idea of ‘liberty’ is an imperialistic military despotism. Those who care about the preservation of the republic should find this a cause for deep anxiety and revulsion,”>> David H.
    David H, All,
    This is an excellent and thought provoking thread. I fully share David H’s concerns, admire his powerful analysis, and quite agree that classic invective is rather in order.
    While working on a book a decade ago about Bormann and Heinrich Muller with the author, French colleague Pierre de Villemarest, a Resistance veteran, I was struck by the relationship between Nazi business and financial circles and certain circles in London, Paris, and New York.
    It seems to me the Neoconservative intellectual and policy network must be viewed in larger context. That is to say, in its political context. My own analysis suggests that this intellectual and policy network is in the service of more powerful circles within the realm of international/transnational high finance and business. Kissinger and Brzezinski provide similar services to the same circles.
    The European “Conservative Revolution”, that is specifically the twentieth century Fascist movement (Mussolini, Hitler, etal.) in Europe was as is well known supported by certain segments of Big Business and High Finance.
    For those interests who wish to impose a form of European Fascism on the United States, the Neoconservative network is a useful tool. Do these interests exist in the United States? Yes. Have they attempted such action in the past? Yes, for example, in the 1930s with the so-called
    “Liberty League.”
    Rumsfeld and Cheney themselves during the Ford presidency were actively involved with Straussian circles. Rumsfeld and Cheney would be the “Gentlemen” in this context with the Straussians being the “Philosophers” advising the Gentlemen. The key cutout to Strauss etal was Robert A. Goldwin. See his papers at the Ford Presidential Library cited at:
    Who put Bush 43s foreign policy team together…George Shultz.
    As long as we are talking about the NIE process, I will cite Bill Langer in his book “Our Vichy Gamble” (New York:Knopf, 1947). Speaking of French industrial circles collaborating with the Nazis:
    “These people were as good fascists as any in Europe…Many of them had long had extensive and intimate business relations with German interests and were still dreaming of a new system of “synarchy,” which meant government of Europe on fascist principles by an international brotherhood of financiers and industrialists.” (p.168).
    This international network, and its American colleagues, most certainly survived World War II in good order. You can get a good feel for this crowd in Charles Higham, “Trading With the Enemy. The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949” (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1983). The bibliography is useful for those interested in a more in depth study of the matter. Charles is a character and well informed.
    Some would suggest the Neoconservative network serves this power complex.
    Is it any surprise at all that Jeb Bush was an original signer of the original PNAC proposals? Is it any surprise at all that George Shultz and Dick Cheney recruited the Neoconservative policy network in the Bush 43 Administration?
    Should we be at all surprised that Karen Hughes’ replacement just announced is a denizen of that Straussian temple of doom, AEI?
    The Bush White House is a Neoconservative project because George W Bush and the social-economic-political elite he is part of WANT it that way. For the imperial faction, the Neoconservative network is a useful tool, IMO.

  43. FMJ says:

    This isn’t your main point but I thought I’d mention it anyway. I disagree with you (and Sheppard) on Strauss-as-a-fascist.
    One of the things Straussians do is manipulate the dominant traditions of a society in order to inject morality with the authority of “revelation”, so to speak. For the Straussians, morality is only ‘real’ if people believe in and abide by it. By putting morality in terms of society’s authoritative texts (e.g. religion, traditions, legal codes, even the language of empirical evidence), they compel people’s belief in and obedience to a moral code that they believe is necessary for society’s survival.
    That’s what Strauss was doing in his letter to Löwith. The dominant traditions of Nazi Germany were “fascist”, “authoritarian”, and “imperial”. He was trying to manipulate those traditions to lend authority to his moral conviction: Hitler’s persecution of the Jews was evil.
    I suspect that the Straussians today see their Team B analyses somewhat like Strauss’ letter to Löwith. Our dominant traditions aren’t authoritarian or imperial but pluralist and democratic. Our authoritative text is the language of empirical evidence. The Straussians interpret that text disingenuously to lend authority to a moral judgment: the defense of Israel, the destruction of tyranny.

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    Mr. Bush was twice elected to the presidency of the United States.
    Additionally, he could not have been the policies that he had been pursuing without the consent of both houses of the US Congress.
    One then has to conclude that the “imperial faction” as you say, constitutes a decisive majority of the American people – they had the chance to repudiate the policy of overthrowing sovereign states by their government, and they did not.
    Furthermore, the so-called neo-conservatives’ policy fantasies leading to US war against Iraq are analogous to the earlier neo-liberal fantasies that lead to US war in Vitenam.
    In both cases, one has to ask; “How did these ideological people manage to gain ascendancy in such places as the Office of the Secretary of Defense?” and “How best to prevent this from hapenning again?”
    In other words, how is it possible to have history repeat itself in less than 40 years – almost verbatim [the only thing we do not have yet is the burning of the ROTC building on the college campuses]?

  45. Arun says:

    However, some of the distortions are so flagrant that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that one is dealing with people utterly devoid of the standards of intellectual integrity that university education is supposed to instil.
    My experience is that intellectual integrity is something one possesses or does not possess prior to entering university. I have not ever seen a university ever instill this value into anyone. At best, a university can place barriers to advancement of persons without integrity. A university can make a person with integrity much more rigorous.
    A university can be a filter, an enhancer but not an instiller.

  46. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"One then has to conclude that the "imperial faction" as you say, constitutes a decisive majority of the American people -...">
    Babak Makkinejad,
    Thank you for your comment. I would phrase it perhaps: “constitutes a decisive influence over the majority of the American people.” And a decisive influence over Congress.
    The American people, and the Congress they elect, are rather easily manipulated by the concentrated newsmedia, print and electronic. In the Iraq War aftermath, the LA Times did a study indicating about 70 percent of those polled got their international news and orientation from the electronic media, about 30 percent from the print media. This use of the newsmedia for internal and external propaganda purposes was referred to in the 1950s as the “Great Wurlitzer” in some circles.
    A good example from the past would be the Hearst Press and the Spanish-American War. The Spanish did NOT torpedo the Maine but rather the explosion and blast effect came from within outwards…probably overheated boilers Rickover concluded as I recall. We call this “Yellow Journalism.”
    On the Iran-Kissinger thread I emphasized the role of falsified “intelligence” (actually propaganda) used against President Eisenhower: the Gaither Commission, the “Bomber Gap” and the “Missile Gap”.
    The key figure who put in this “fix” was Paul Nitze. Nitze, as is well known, was a Wall Street banker who somehow turned into a nuclear strategist. In WWII, he handle raw material assessments I believe. He was a mentor of Richard Perle and Wolfie among others.
    As I said on the other thread: ” “The imperial faction strove once more to create an intensified sense of external threat and “emergency.” Not surprisingly, we find Paul Nitze again playing a critical role in the escalation of Cold War fears in 1957. At this time, a study on the US-Soviet military balance was put together by the “Gaither Committee,” a group of outside advisors originally tasked by the White House, as the “Security Resources Panel,” to consider civil defense issues.
    Nitze played a central role drafting the committee’s final report, which was a sharp criticism of the Eisenhower Administration’s overall defense policy. The final report, using language similar to Nitze’s NSC-68 document, claimed there was a rapidly growing Soviet intercontinental nuclear missile capability. The report laid the groundwork for the “missile gap” propaganda of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Similar propaganda, in 1955, created a falsified “bomber gap” threat. The Gaither Report called for increased defense spending on the nuclear triad as well as spending to create a capability to fight “limited wars” in peripheral areas around the globe.”
    Nitze, I believe, worked for the Nazi-linked J. Henry Schroeder banking firm at one point and his mother’s brother, Paul Hilken, as I recall was investigated for his role in the famous “Black Tom” sabotage explosions in New Jersey undertaken by the Kaiser’s Germany in 1916. For which see the very revealing Jules Witcover book and briefly Wiki at
    See also the American Legion Magazine article for the following quote:
    “Not until 1930, however, did the case seem finally clinched when Paul Hilken, a naturalized American living in Baltimore, admitted having been “paymaster” for a number of German agents. One of them, “Graentnor,” already alluded to by Kristoff, also used the name Max Hinch.”
    How is it possible for the imperial faction to maintain policy control? They are powerful politically. So the analysis is NOT just about what policy is correct or incorrect it is about political power and WHY and HOW certain policymakers are sitting at their desks…say like Elliot Abrams, or Elliot Cohen, or Wolfie in the Bush 43 Administration…or Dick Cheney or Rummy…or Tinkerbelle.
    You may have noted that Imperialism (with respect to foreign policy) was an issue during the Election of 1900 here in the US, for example. Not a new issue….and there is most certainly a common thread of personalities running through the old “China Lobby,” then “Vietnam Lobby,” then Neocon Network.
    For one such thread see, Andrew F. Smith, Foreward by Henry A. Kissinger, “Rescuing the World. The Life and Times of Leo Cherne” (Albany: SUNY, 2002). You might want to note the relationship between the American Jewish Committee and Freedom House and the Neocons, etc….

  47. rjj says:

    “knaves are knaves, and fools are fools.”
    Thanks for that edit. Was going to comment on the British-American pejorative gap.

  48. David Habakkuk says:

    A thought-provoking comment, but I think I still disagree.
    One cannot meaningfully speak of Nazi Germany as having ‘traditions’ at the time Strauss was writing, as it had only been in existence for a few months.
    One might suggest that German traditions were distinctly more ‘authoritarian’than those of France or Britain. But to posit a kind of monolithic ‘fascist’ and ‘imperial’ tradition would be an oversimplification, to put it rather mildly.
    As for the Nietzschean strand, which is I think explicit in early Strauss but comes to be hidden later, this is of course a self-conscious reaction against the Christian strand in the Western tradition, in favour of a (debased) form of the Roman.
    The Christian strand is very important in the anti-Nazi opposition which grew up in the military and the bureaucracy in the course of the Thirties.
    Its members were, in the circumstances of the time, desperately isolated figures. But it is a little dubious, is it not, to suggest that figures like Adam von Trott, Helmuth von Moltke, Ulrich von Hassell, or Hans Oster were somehow remote from an authentic German tradition which Strauss was articulating?
    As for what Strauss is saying to Lowith, I think this is the kind of impassioned articulation of his true views which largely disappears in his later writings. He is not saying that liberal traditions are not for Germans — he is expressing a comprehensive contempt for them which I believe he continued to feel after circumstances forced him to make his home in the United States.
    He is also trying to fight off the essentially Tocquevillian argument put forward by figures like Thomas Mann after he came round to supporting the Weimar Republic, following the murder of the Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau by nationalist extremists in 1922.
    This was, in essence, that the ineluctable trend to egalitarianism in the Christian West could manifest itself in two forms — the relatively benign combination of equality and liberty found in the United States, or forms of ‘Caesarism’ which would resemble ‘the hideous eras of Roman oppression.’
    In the circumstances of Germany in the Twenties, what this meant was that the alternative to trying to make the Weimar order work was likely to be utterly catastrophic.
    The notion that this fundamentally Tocquevillian view of Nazism — which incidentally structures Mann’s final reckoning with recent German history in his 1947 novel Doktor Faustus — can be dismissed with the cavalier contempt of Strauss’s dismissal of the ‘cross of liberalism’ is I think simply silly.

  49. Eric Dönges says:

    you wrote Moreover, I would like to know on what grounds do you object to a “theocratic” state?
    I can’t answer for SubKommander Dred, but for me, there are two fundamental problems with theocracy. One is that a theocracy must naturally be based on one religion, which means there cannot be any real freedom of religion under such a system. The other problem is that there cannot be any real separation of powers either, since if your authority derives directly from god (or gods, depending on whom you choose to believe), lesser mortals have no business questioning it.
    From a more practical point of view, the fact that different cultures have very similar ideas on what make a society workable (i.e. no stealing from or killing your neighbors, etc), but are completely unable to reach any sort of consensus on religious matters, suggest that religious doctrine is a poor base to build a society on – unless you want a homogenous, highly repressive one. I don’t.

  50. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    Thank you for your comments.
    But society is made of individual human beings and they are the ones who will be forming their opinions and making decisions.
    And some who there is a large enough portion of the population that has bought into the “imperial project” since at least 1900. Surely this cannot be due to high IQ individuals in the government, media, and political parties?

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    Thank you for your comments.
    But society is made of individual human beings and they are the ones who will be forming their opinions and making decisions.
    And some who there is a large enough portion of the population that has bought into the “imperial project” since at least 1900. Surely this cannot be due to high IQ individuals in the government, media, and political parties?

  52. Andy says:

    Rhetorical question:
    Which state is more theocratic:
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Iran?
    It seems to me there are good arguments either way….

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    There is a distinctly German philosophical tradition which has its origin in the Middle Ages (13-th and 14-th Centuries). The philosophical tradition of the geographical areas that later came to be France & England was dominated by the empirically-based and precise thoughts of the Scholastic Philosophy. German areas, on the other hand, adopted neo-Platonism and some of the ideas of Averroes (ibn Rushd) purporting that opposites can be True depending on the different contexts [Religious Truths may not be Truths in Philosophy and vice versa]. It was this tradition of philosophical monism in the German countries that led to the Reformation and later to Hegel’s Doctrine of the State and the corresponding denigration of the individual.
    To this day, in Germany, children are taught of the Greatness of Rome. And one hears, even in Anglo-Saxon countries that Religion and Science each have their own different domains, and thus, by implications, their own Truths that could be in contradiction with one another. This is a rather astonishing viewpoint since it permits its adherent to believe contradictory statements simultaneously.
    In respect to the opposition to the Christian Tradition, the thinkers had painted themselves in a corner; for doing otherwise would have meant that 1. The Reformation and the Protestant Churches were in Schism and 2. That the Enlightenment Project of creating a Godless Utopia has been a colossal failure. In fact, I think one may view the neo-conservatism as being yet another facet of the same die with fascism, communism, Arabism, etc. being its other faces.

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    I raised this point because I think “Theocracy” is a term that is devoid of analytical content since under such a term states as diverse as the Papal States, Tibet, and contemporary Iran are characterized.
    I cannot answer to your points regarding separation of powers [existing in contemporary Iran] and Freedom of Religion since you have used the qualifier “Real”. What distinguishes “real” from “un-real” in this context?
    In regards to your statement: “your authority derives directly from god” and the implicit objections in that statement – I believe St. Thomas already has convincing arguments and I respectfully suggest taking a look at his work.
    I think it is clear to me that any number of states existing today are based on religion: Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, UK, Italy, Argentina [ where the President of the Republic has to be a Catholic].
    Please do not underestimate the attraction of a political and social system in which all your actions are “godly”, where there is no distinction between sacred and profane since the Spirit of God is imbuing all of the society – well at least that is the theory.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not have a defining document which characterizes that state; there is no constitution nor any Basic Laws. They may claim that the state is based on Islamic Law but that Law is not coherent and the Islamic Tradition does not have an authorative treatment -acceptable to all Muslims- as to what an Islamic State should be.
    There is a constitution for the Islamic Republic of Iran which reminds me of the Thomist Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God and its devolution of the people. The Thomist Doctrine, as expounded in the works of St. Thomas, has many similarities with that of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    So the answer is that your question does not make sense since Saudi Arabia is not so constructed. I think the question can be posed for the following states: “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” (its offical name), “Islamic republic od Sudan”, and “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”.

  56. David W says:

    Babak, you are very insightful, however, your thesis on American voters and the authoritarian power structure is incomplete–what you are missing is the voter fraud aspect.
    Bush did not ‘win’ the the 2000 election, he was given the Presidency by extrajudicial fiat. Beyond that, the Republican National Party has been convicted of voter fraud in key states such as New Hampshire and Ohio, and have active efforts to ‘shape’ the voting pool (Rove’s DOJ infiltration was designed to promote and systematize this disenfranchisement process). Also, the rush towards electronic voting machines is rightly seen by many as yet another back door for the Republican voter fraud–all in the service of winning elections while maintaining an illusion that there is significant popular support for their actions.
    While voter fraud is a partisan Republican fundamental, the larger, and perhaps more insidious bipartisan scandal is (the lack of) campaign funding reform, and especially, the hideous legal ruling that ‘money equals free speech.’

  57. Curious says:

    Shorter Andy:
    I saw an Iranian clicking Autin Power Youtube clip. OMG, they are building “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their head”. Can we attack Iran now before they take over the world?
    Everybody online:
    whatta neocon crank.
    I wonder if Israel nuclear scientists are as dumb as this guy. In that case, probably they have to test their nuclear head in India again. Probably half of them will fizz out.

  58. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David W:
    But both parties are guilty of voter fraud [JFK wining Illinois by the 5000 votes cast Cook County – “they were good Democrats when they were alive, no reason for them to change their vote now that they are dead!”] in US and the attempt at changing the voting districts to ensure Republican or Democratic parties.
    I think where you could criticize Repbulicans -excluding the Iraq War – was the impeachment of Mr. Clinton.

  59. Charles I says:

    Babak, America and its’ democracy are not just a function of individuals acting a vacuum. Public opinion polls consistently demonstrate that a majority of the citizenry supports universal healthcare, jaw, jaw, jaw over war, war, war, campaign finance reform and an end to the criminalization of soft drug abusers.
    But the corporation stalks society with all the rights and empowerment of the citizen yet none of the obligations. They cast no vote, answer no polls, but today are so trite yet omnipotent that the mightiest state creation has seen cannot oust a tinpot dictator, let alone fight a war or a hurricane, without them.
    Ensconced astride the planet in a manner best suited to top-down consumption of our garden, they are now angling to take over the counting of America’s votes, having got the counting of the quadrennial 1$bn purse for the top match down pat.

  60. Walrus says:

    The NeoCon intentions are patently clear and obvious and are out in plain sight for anyone who cares to look.
    Their intentions are simply to maintain the status quo, and they are funded by folks who very much like the current status quo.
    The collapse of the Soviet Union should have triggered a series of massive social shifts in America through the distribution of a “Peace Dividend” arising from the dismantling of much of America’s Miliitary/Industrial defence complex, but for reasons I haven’t researched or examined, successive Administrations failed to do this.
    In 1999, the PNAC provided the intellectual rationale for continued defence spending, arguing that America should prevent the emergence of any challengers.
    Bin Laden gave the Bush Administration authority to demonise muslims the world over and paint them as our convenient eternal enemy, thus of course making us cleave closer to Israel.
    Please note that I am not just talking about continued defence spending, I’m talking about the NeoCons wishing to maintain America in a Time Warp to maintain their power and priviledge – that’s what Orwell was talking about in “1984”.
    The issue that truly frighten the NeoCons is the possibility that Americans might find that European and other societies have a lot of attraction compared to American society.
    These attractions include:
    1. Healthcare systems that don’t cost the earth and where the length of your life is not determined by the size of your bank account.
    2. Open and Transparent election funding systems that do not leave elected representatives beholden to rich donors.
    3 Transparent election processes.
    4. Decent public education systems from kindergarten to University.
    5. An intolerance of poverty and massive imbalances of wealth between the poor and the rich.
    6. A concern with fairness, equity and social justice.
    7. A progressive tax system.
    However any time anyone trots these ideas out they are immediately labelled as “socialism” and like obedient Pavlov Dogs, Americans just look the other way.
    Were it not for the NeoCons and the entrenched special interests they represent, you could have remade the country by now into something better, but I now don’t think its going to happen, and as a result, at some point in the future there is going to be a confrontation in America between the rich and the poor.

  61. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Charels I:
    Corporations do not vote; actual human beings do. It stands to reason to discount the polls and rely on the ballot boxes to conclude were the electorate is going.

  62. David Habakkuk says:

    Tom Griffin
    I just got round to following the links you posted.
    It’s difficult to say much off the cuff, but you bring up a range of useful new angles on the English neocon connection — a connection I have been starting to explore. Obviously, I must get hold of Roy Godson’s book, and see how far it does or does not suffer from the pathologies of the Schmitt and Shulsky article.
    As to the arguments about his brother Dean’s Policy Exchange report on the availability of extremist literature in mosques and Islamic institutions in Britain — again, I need to do my homework.
    But a few minutes with Google was enough to inform me that Godson was one of those whom Martin Newland got rid of when he replaced Charles Moore as editor of the Daily Telegraph. Newland explained why in an interesting Guardian interview:
    ‘I soon came to recognise we were speaking a language on geopolitical events and even domestic events that was dictated too much from across the Atlantic. It’s OK to be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel, it’s OK to be pro-American but not look as if you’re taking instructions from Washington. Dean Godson and Barbara Amiel were key departures.’

  63. David Habakkuk says:

    Tom Griffin:
    The Typepad anti-spam filter took exception to the length of my comments on your posts, so I have had to continue in a separate post!
    The attack on the BBC ‘Newsnight’ programme over the Dean Godson report by the former Telegraph editor Charles Moore does I think bear out the argument I was making to ‘Andy’. And ironically, it is Moore’s own account which makes it somewhat difficult, on this matter, to accuse ‘Newsnight’ of bias. Explaining how the report was offered to ‘Newsnight’, Moore writes:
    ‘Newsnight’s people were enthusiastic, but on the late afternoon of the intended broadcast, they suddenly changed their tune.
    ‘Policy Exchange had offered them many of the receipts it had collected from mosques as evidence of purchase; now they said that they had shown the receipts to mosques and that there were doubts about the authenticity of one or two of them.
    ‘Given that the report was being published that night, the obvious thing for Newsnight to do was to broadcast Policy Exchange’s findings at once, allowing the mosques to have their say about the receipts.’
    This, in Moore’s view, is outrageous. He concludes by saying:
    “The BBC chose, in effect, to side with their extreme opponents and to cover up the report, because of an obsession about a few pieces of paper.”
    That a former editor of what is supposed be a ‘quality’ British paper should regard concern about evidence being forged as an ‘obsession about a few pieces of paper’ exemplifies how low some of the British and American ‘right’ have sunk. If some evidence is false, questions are obviously raised about whether other evidence may not be. One then has to ask whether the ‘quality control’ of the whole report is deficient — to hark back to ‘Martin K”s fascinating analogy between policymaking and industrial production. And one also has to ask whether those responsible for it may be more interested in propaganda than in analysis. Any editor worth his salt would need to as such questions, even if Godson’s neocon background had not been so extreme that an editor of the Telegraph worried that he alienated the paper’s natural Tory readership, and even if the family history was not such as to make the possibility that ‘pysops’ were at issue one needing proper investigation.
    But here, one comes back to my argument with ‘Andy’. My case is that the arguments used by Charles Moore reveal a patent lack of intellectual integrity. Accordingly, it seems to me perfectly relevant to mention the fact that the proprietor for whom he worked — Lord Black — is a convicted felon, a man whose idea of a free market economy was one in which company directors could diddle their shareholders to enable them to live the life of riley. Dean Godson was, I understand, special assistant to Black. Does ‘Andy’ think that in presenting the issues in these terms I am resorting to ‘name-calling’? Perhaps he could tell me.
    All this I think confirms my point that Kennan’s fears were well-founded. The peerage used to the be the apex of a society which was, supposedly, based upon concepts of honour. It used to be expected of those who claimed or aspired to the status of ‘gentleman’ in Britain that they had some concern for standards of integrity and honesty. Obviously, often these standards were honoured as much in the breach as the observance. But they did mean something. We seem to have ended — partly as a result of the corrupting effects of the Cold War, but also of course for many other reasons — with a breed of people with not much more regard for truth than Stalinist hacks.

  64. Tom Griffin says:

    David Habbakkuk:
    It’s particularly ironic that Moore should be lecturing the BBC when he was the editor who printed the allegations that led to George Galloway’s successful libel action against the paper.

  65. David Habakkuk says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    Your arguments deserve a much more considered response than I can give them at the moment. But I think we will be returning to them, and there will be ample occasion to explore some of the issues in more depth.
    One problem I have is philosophical ignorance. However, on some of the crucial historical issues, my views — like yours — have a great deal in common with those of John Gray. Putting the point tendentiously, perhaps, I think an approach to modern history which is ‘scientific’ in the sense appropriate to history leads one to stress the role of secularisations of religious ideas — in particular Christian eschatological ideas — in modern history. Here, ironically, historians drawing on anthropological ideas have only recently been catching up with the insights of contemporaries writing from religious perspectives who treated German National Socialism and Soviet Communism as perverse pseudo-religious phenomena.
    To think this, obviously, is to think that secularisation has commonly been in part a fraud — in that crypto-religious patterns of thinking actually survive, among other things generating very bad ‘science’: factual claims which are plain false, be it about the role of the class struggle in the French Revolution or about the sociology of Iraq. And these lines of naturally generate questions, both about the nature of human beings, and about the truth or falsity of religious belief.
    In my case, it pushes back to a lot of questions about which I do not have clear answers. In a way, I suppose that this means that I am something of an Averroist, after all — and think that the attempt to treat all kinds of knowledge as a unified field has very great dangers. I also think that we all have to make sense of these matters — insofar as we can — as inhabitants of specific traditions: so in some sense, right answers do depend on context.
    A corollary of this view is that the project for the ‘democratic’ transformation of the Middle East is, in my view, not only utopian, but in some sense totalitarian in spirit — in that it is based upon the assumption that we represent absolute truth to which all others must conform. The requirement is invalid, in that our claim to absolute truth is unjustified, and also utopian, because people cannot simply jump out of their cultural skins! And these are, in the end, matters which people from different cultures must work for themselves.

  66. Andy says:

    Does ‘Andy’ think that in presenting the issues in these terms I am resorting to ‘name-calling’? Perhaps he could tell me.

    Well first, no need for ‘Andy’ since it is my actual name. As to your question: no. My point, again, is there’s nothing inherently wrong with using ideology/philosophy/what-have-you in arguments along with real examples showing a lack of integrity – intellectual or otherwise. The trouble comes when it is overused or used to replace an actual argument on merits. Your almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy is all fine and dandy for the pleasant academic discussion we’re having here (and I would agree with you on much of it) but is likely to go right over the top of Joe and Jane average citizen who don’t know who Strauss is and furthermore don’t give a damn. Such ideological genealogies have limits in any event unless one can demonstrate causation. For example, I used to work for a guy who was a prominent member of a motorcycle gang and in another job (construction) the owner was affiliated with the mob. In the very unlikely event I ever run for public office, I’m sure these associations will be trotted out as proof of “ties to violent gangs and organized crime” by political enemies. Guilt by association is inherently weak and must be well-supported to be even marginally effective.
    Even when it is, Joe and Jane average citizen aren’t likely to be swayed it unless they are already predisposed to – rather they are more likely to view YOU as an ideologue with your own agenda, biases and ax to grind. That is my point – effective arguments appear ideologically neutral and the more time one spends on ideology the less neutral one appears.
    Now, tracing a person’s ideological lineage is very useful, but not as a compelling argument in and of itself. Rather it’s useful as critical background to, you know, formulate actual merit-based arguments! Knowing the ideological spin is necessary for taking an opponents argument, lies, spin or whatever apart but its use should be limited in the actual arguments themselves. Why? First, it gives the impression the writer is an ideologue which reduces credibility – pot calling kettle black and all that. In an ideological battle perception is important if your goal is to influence (as opposed to motivating the choir). Secondly, as I have said before, effort spent focusing on ideology is effort taken away from exposing flaws in arguments themselves. Showing that someone belongs to a particular ideology does nothing by itself to refute what they actually say or do because even die-hard agenda-driven people are not always wrong.
    And that is really the basis for my criticism of Col. Lang’s Kissinger piece. Along the continuum from pure ideology to pure fact-based analysis, I thought it spent too much time on the man and his ideological ties and not enough actually refuting what he said in the op-ed. Is that a subjective judgment? Certainly. Might reasonable people disagree with me? Of course. That is only to be expected.
    As I said before, in my view this is really about tactics: Relying on exposure of ideological ties to one group or another as a means to combat your opponents lack of intellectual integrity is not going to work in the long run. What’s it’s going to do is make you look like them.

  67. DH says:

    “You may have noted that Imperialism (with respect to foreign policy) was an issue during the Election of 1900 here in the US, for example. Not a new issue….and there is most certainly a common thread of personalities running through the old “China Lobby,” then “Vietnam Lobby,” then Neocon Network.”
    Besides your closing example, would you please link a few names together that would thread through, say, the early 1900s to the present? Is there a book devoted to this subject that you could recommend?

  68. Taters says:

    Thank you Mr. Habakkuk.
    I wonder if Pat Buchanan has been lurking here…yesterday I heard him on the radio referring to neocons as (paraphrased)wild eyed utopian idealists and compared them to radical Marxists. An analogy I have read from our most gracious host here.

  69. rjj says:

    I hope PL is able to benefit from Andy’s more than generous guidance on
    (1) the assessment of an adversary,
    (2) the conduct of a battle,
    (3) the construction of a rational argument, and
    (4) effective communications with the average joe and jane.

  70. Eric Dönges says:

    you are right that “theocracy” is a rather generic characterization that is not sufficient when looking at any society in detail – but your original question that I was responding to was why many people in the Western world see theocracy in a negative light. I am certain that the two big problems I have with theocracy – lack of freedom of religion, and lack of separation of powers – will be exhibited by all theocracies, regardless of their religious or cultural affiliations.
    To your second point, for me, “real” separation of powers means that the different branches of government (judiciary, executive and legislative) are independent of each other and can thus act as a check on abuse of power. In the case of Iran, as I recall it, before the last general parliamentary elections the Council of Guardians simply banned a lot of reformist candidates for not being Islamic enough, thus guaranteeing a conservative electoral victory. This, for me, is a prime example of “unreal” separation of powers, because in practice, the Iranian parliament seems to be subservient to the Council of Guardians, and not its equal. Of course, we could now debate to which degree a “real” separation of powers is present in Western democracies, but that could fill a thread of its own.
    Similarly, a “real” freedom of religion would mean that my choice of religion (or choice not to belong to any religion) would have no bearing on my legal standing. Thus, if certain political offices or government jobs are only open to people with specific religious affiliations, then there is no “real” freedom of religion. Again, we could fill an entire separate thread with a discussion about the degree of “real” freedom of religion in many supposedly secular Western democracies.
    You note a number of states who base themselves officially on religion – but none of these is a theocracy, since in none of them the clergy have direct political power. In my opinion, this is because most people realize that removing the clear distinction between the profane and the divine will result in the divine being sullied by the profane, not the profane being hallowed by the divine.

  71. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The subject is late 19th and 20th century US foreign policy/foreign relations and there is a vast literature in the academic world.
    1. Specifically on the issue of Imperialism/Spanish-American War era, see
    Chapter 11 “US Imperialism and the New Manifest Destiny 1897-1900” in Howard Jones “Crucible of Power. A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913” (Wilmington:SR Books, 2002). The chapter has an excellent bibliographical note. The Jones textbook is a standard college textbook which I use in class myself as it provides an excellent narrative and realistic treatment.
    More specialized: the respected Harvard professor, Ernest R. May’s classic “Imperial Democracy. The Emergence of America as a Great Power” (New York: Harper, 1961) and David Healy’s “US Expansionism. The Imperialist Urge in the 1890s” (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970). Both with extensive, although dated, bibliographies.
    2. The foreign policy “debate” at the elite level for the period after World War I can be followed in part through a review of the journal “Foreign Affairs” published by the Council on Foreign Relations (New York).
    3. On the China Lobby, a good start is Stanley Bachrack, “The Committee of One Million. China Lobby Politics, 1953-1971” (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976. See also, Lewis McCarroll Purifoy “Harry Truman’s China Policy. McCarthyism and the Diplomacy of Hysteria 1947-1951” (New York: New Viewpoints, 1976).
    4. Although many authors treat the imperialism theme in various segments of the period, I have not seen a comprehensive and authoritative book which analyzes US foreign policy elites in depth and imperial policy during the period 1897-2007. Some well known sociologists, such as C. Wright Mills and G. W. Domhoff, have looked into the theme of the “power elite.”

  72. David Habakkuk says:

    1. You refer to my ‘almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy’. But my original post had nothing whatsoever to do with either of these things. I was restating the argument of my earlier analysis of the Schmitt and Shulsky paper about the combination of incompetence and dishonesty which characterises their discussion of Sherman Kent; and elaborating my argument that they were plain wrong about the evolution of Soviet military strategy. You told me that you found ‘very little I can disagree with’ in these parts of my argument — although professing unfamiliarity with ‘the details on Soviet conventional and nuclear doctrine.’
    2. What gave you the idea that I was attempting to address the ‘joe and jane average citizen’? Commonly, battles of ideas are won among the educated — mass opinion follows. An obvious example is the case of Thatcherism — the intellectual disintegration of the British left began years before 1979. Actually however, as a former leader writer of the Liverpool Echo, I think I could frame an argument about Strauss in terms that a popular audience would understand very easily.
    3. The ‘genealogy’ I set out in a subsequent comment linked Strauss’s early fascism, the Caesar-worship Bellow attributes to Allan Bloom, and Fukuyama’s extraordinary view of the imperialistic military despotism of Napoleon as representing ‘liberty’. You may not think this is an ‘argument on merits’. I do. Similarly, there is a ‘genealogy’ linking Irving Kristol’s early Trotskyism to strands in contemporary neoconservatism. I understand, incidentally, that he is not ashamed of his past totalitarian enthusiasms. I think he should be.
    4. The argument about ‘labelling and name-calling’ is contentless unless one has a clearer idea of what in concrete terms constitutes ‘labelling and name-calling’. Trying to tie the matter down, I gave you an example — relating to Charles Moore and Dean Godson — and asked you to comment. You did not.
    5. Of course I’ve got my own ‘agenda, biases, and ax to grind’. Anyone who has time to waste putting ‘David Habakkuk’ into Google could find about my agendas, axes to grind, and doubtless biases — they’re not hidden. What yours are puzzles me, I must admit. You make no attempt whatsoever to question my indictment of Schmitt and Shulsky’s application of Straussian ideas to intelligence, but go into something of a huff when I point out clearly established facts about Strauss’s original fascist convictions. There seem to me to be tensions here. Perhaps if you followed my example and posted under your full name, your readers would be in better position to make sense of them!

  73. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per Kojeve and foreign policy,
    Shadia Drury’s book “Alexandre Kojeve. The Roots of Postmodern Politics” (New York: St. Martin’s, 1994) is essential reading. One could argue that the Iraq War fits into “Postmodern” politics and foreign policy in a Kojevean sense.
    Part III treats “Kojeve’s Influence in America” with Chapter 10 on Strauss, 11 on Allen Bloom, and 12 on Fukuyama.
    Wolfie was the Dean of the presitigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). It was renamed the “Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.”
    Fukuyama teaches at SAIS and was quite involved with the “Princeton Project” which outlines and the (suggested) foreign policy for the US for whoever gets elected in 2008. Glancing at the documents one gets the impression of warmed over late 19th century British Liberal Imperialism, Neoconism and the like.
    The really serious study of Kojeve (which I had to borrow from a French colleague) is:
    Dominique Auffret, “Alexandre Kojeve: La Philosophie, l’etat, la fin d’histoire (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1990). This large tome has it down in black and white, page after page after page.
    IMO, it is essential to understand the impact of ideology on policy which is why DH’s analysis is particularly valuable. A competent analysis of any country’s foreign policy cannot be made without reference to the ideologies and policy concepts of the political elites…those who are in power and influence policy formulation and decisions.
    I would again emphasize the intellectual role of the German Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss’s mentor. Schmitt got Strauss his ticket out of Germany (a Rockefeller foundation grant to study in England) so that he could spread the poison. After laundering himself in England (working on Hobbes), Strauss unfortunately comes to our shores.
    I will again emphasize Robert A. Goldwin was the key link between Cheney and Rummy and Strauss during the Ford Administration. We should be very clear as to the personalities and the ideology and the policy.

  74. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments.
    I think your example regarding the Council of Guardians is not appropriate – that Council is still part of the Legislative Branch in the Iranian system. And in fact, there you have a good point for criticizing the Iranian system for excluding certain candidates and thus limiting people’s choice – sort of like Mexico for most of the 70 years after the Mexican Revolution.
    If, on the other hand, you look at the Iranian Judiciary you will see that it is quite independent of the executive or legislative branches – it sets its own agenda for harassing young women and the President and the executive branch are powerless to stop it! In fact, the Iranian system has one great advantage – it is truly government by grid-lock!
    I do not believe that the “real” freedom of religion as you describe it is practicable among Muslim polities – I am not sure you have it very many states except perhaps a few anti-clerical governments in Northern Europe and in China or Japan where they do not comprehend religion as we do. And I doubt very much that any South American country will be considered to have “real” freedom of religion in your sense. And even if Europe there is a list of official religions that receive money from the various governments.
    The people that you have designated by the name “ clergy” are not clergy in the Western sense; they not are stepping into the shoes of the Fisherman. They are Doctors or Masters of the Religious Sciences of Islam including the Islamic Law [sort of like Jewish Rabies]. There are people in Iran who have had Western-inspired education and those who have received their education in the traditional schools [which, by the way, to this day start with the Platonic Trivium]. I cannot find anything wrong with people with the Islamic Legal education to participate in the political life of their country.

  75. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments.
    I think your example regarding the Council of Guardians is not appropriate – that Council is still part of the Legislative Branch in the Iranian system. And in fact, there you have a good point for criticizing the Iranian system for excluding certain candidates and thus limiting people’s choice – sort of like Mexico for most of the 70 years after the Mexican Revolution.
    If, on the other hand, you look at the Iranian Judiciary you will see that it is quite independent of the executive or legislative branches – it sets its own agenda for harassing young women and the President and the executive branch are powerless to stop it! In fact, the Iranian system has one great advantage – it is truly government by grid-lock!

  76. Charles I says:

    Babak re:
    “Corporations do not vote; actual human beings do. It stands to reason to discount the polls and rely on the ballot boxes to conclude were the electorate is going.”
    Precisely. Notwithstanding their opinions and franchise they are going to hell in a handcart driven by corporations diametrically opposed to their interests.

  77. Fascinating thread. I have just finished reading “The Past Remembered” by John Lukacs (2005) which is really a reader of his work. Well known for a well regarded history of the cold war and a book entititled “Historical Consciousness” Lukacs was a Hungarian that became an American citizen after WWII. Parts of the reader trace the origins of the “Neocons” and points out that the pre-WWII American isolationists, including the young JFK, evolved into the Neo-cons and explains how and why. Lukacs also concludes that the two world wars and their fallout, not the cold war that resulted are the real source of 20th Century historiography. He also concludes that all history is revisionist and historical science should always be informed by the Heisenberg physics principal that observation changes results. In passing note that he dismisses with some disdain, Eisenhower, Kissinger, and even earlier figures such as Wilson. But is clearly enthralled with the Post WWII Churchill, and Teddy Roosevelt, but not necessarily FDR.
    Nonetheless, the mention of Lukacs is designed to inform the contributors to this thread that his “Remembered Past” (and he is regarded as a conservative historian) that reading even extracts of his work might have resulted in at least 2/3rds of the comments posted on this thread being at least more accurate historically and somewhat better informed from the past, thus really informing rather than posturing. That this threads “history” is still very very important and to witness the emotion behind some of the comments indicates that thinking about the past is clearly in play. Lukacs points out that we are all historians as opposed to choosing for example to be a scientist. Hopefully other items of PL will result in such an outpouring of historiography. Clearly the arguments over the meaning of the history of the 20th C. and the role of the US are just starting to be “Revised.” Lukacs does posit a decline in historical knowledge and seems to substantiate it in his writings.

  78. Andy says:


    You refer to my ‘almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy’. But my original post had nothing whatsoever to do with either of these things

    Well, to be fair, you’ve addressed very little of what I’ve said and that includes your original post. That post was ostensibly a response to my criticisms of Col. Lang which I quote here:

    I greatly enjoy your informative blog, but it seems that you focus more attention lately on neocon aspect of issues above everything else, which, in my opinion, damages your arguments. Assuming your blog here is meant to influence and inform, then I wonder what utility is served by focusing the majority of your effort on allegations that Kissinger belongs to the neocon club instead of wholly puting that effort into refuting his arguments. Examining connections between Kissinger and the neocons do not show that his views are wrong.

    Throughout both threads I have maintained that basic position and further detailed my thoughts on the subject in a variety of ways. Some have agreed with me while others have suggested that dealing with dishonorable people like the neocons is somehow different, though no explanations are given as to why one should argue with them any differently, much less insight on how to do so. Despite your extensive examination of various subjects and personalities in this thread, your position on this topic remains unclear to me beyond the initial admission that one should argue with those who do so in bad faith.
    Since we agree that nefarious individuals and ideologies must be argued with, the question remains is how? Again, your thoughts are unclear as you’ve not responded directly to my position on the topic and I’m too much a simpleton to distill it from your historical essays.
    Finally, there’s this:

    Perhaps if you followed my example and posted under your full name, your readers would be in better position to make sense of them!

    I fail to see what utility a last name would provide you! Googling it would not provide much, let me assure you. Just consider me a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along. In any event, who I am is irrelevant since, as I’ve stated all along, I believe that arguments should be able to stand on their merits and not be dependent for credibility on the person making them. It would be interesting to know to what degree, if any, you might agree with this or any of my other positions here.

  79. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Charles I:
    They are entitled.

  80. David W says:

    Babak, I while I have to agree that both parties eagerly participate in gaining whatever edge they can, your examples are both historic and quaint, given what the Republicans have been up to for the past 10 years. Talking Points Memo can get you up to speed on the voter fraud ‘innovations’ that the Republicans have been up to during this period.
    Also, I’m not sure what to make of the comment ‘Corporations do not vote.’ Perhaps it is meant to say that votes don’t count as much as lobbying money? Because that’s what I see driving politics in the US today.

  81. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Charles I:
    In a representative system the electorate has the right to be wrong.

  82. taters says:

    You really don’t get it, do you? Everything one needs to counter and defeat neocon arguments, up and down – every time – is here. The “noble lie” can be countered.
    I’m assuming you haven’t read Col. Lang’s definitive “Drinking the Koolaid” for starters. You owe it to yourself and it is easily available on any google search.
    As to your critique of Col. Lang, it reminds of the same kind of thinking exhibited by ‘Viceroy’ Bremer – a blatant disregard for history and an astonishing lack of concern – and opposed to garnering information on the subject at hand. But don’t fret – there is a cure – you’re here.
    Robert Murray

  83. David Habakkuk says:

    You tell me that my ‘almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy … is likely to go right over the top of Joe and Jane average citizen who don’t know who Strauss is and furthermore don’t give a damn.’
    You also tell me to consider you as ‘a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along.’
    But you are also ‘very familiar with the Schmitt/Shulsky article and their attack on Kent’.
    I am most impressed to find a ‘joe average citizen’ like yourself having taken the trouble to get hold of the Schmitt/Shulsky paper. I had some difficulty doing so, as it was published in an obscure symposium on ‘Leo Strauss, The Straussians, and the Study of the American Regime’.
    Obviously then there is no need for you to wait for us educated people to sort out the ‘battle-of-ideas’ for you.
    This gives me new faith that you are wrong in suggesting that the obstacles to alerting the citizenry — in your country and in mine — to the dangers posed by the Straussians are insuperable.

  84. DH says:

    “I would again emphasize the intellectual role of the German Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss’s mentor. Schmitt got Strauss his ticket out of Germany (a Rockefeller foundation grant to study in England) so that he could spread the poison. After laundering himself in England (working on Hobbes), Strauss unfortunately comes to our shores.”
    Strauss was a nihilist. What was the overarching vision he and his followers were/are reaching for? Are they attempting to save Man from himself, or to enslave him in a ruthlessly efficient fascistic nightmare?

  85. Andy says:

    Perhaps I didn’t mention it before (in this forum anyway) that I spent most of a career in the US intelligence community, so my knowledge of Strauss et al comes from professional interest.
    In any event, that is all tertiary to the discussion and once again does not address the points I’ve been making. I’m beginning to wonder if you have any serious intention of doing so….
    One wonders if you’ve actually read much of what I’ve written here since I’ve said several times my disagreement with Col. Lang and others is more about tactics than than any disagreement about the neocons themselves. That you focus on me and not on the substance of what I say only serves to reinforce the point I’ve been making all along! Thanks!

  86. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Charles I:
    In a representative system the electorate has the right to be wrong.

  87. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David W:
    My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.
    My broader point is this:
    The Republicans – who do not seem to be able to govern effectively – were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.
    Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

  88. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “<<"enslave him in a ruthlessly efficient fascistic nightmare">,”
    Seems to me the evidence is that Strauss was sympathetic to European fascism as a protege of Carl Schmitt. He then carries Schmitt’s work forward in the United States. He is clever enough to adopt it to the US context and to cloak his intentions.
    Drury and others argue Strauss incorporated Nietzsche, Spinoza, and the Zionism of the Jabotinsky stripe into his mix. Jabotinsky, of course, admired Nietzsche also.
    Neocon stalwart Mike Ledeen is noted for his enthusiasm for Italian fascism. See, for example, the article in The American Conservative magazine
    “Enslave”… I would suggest on this point the Drury book on Kojeve with particular reference to the discussion on Hegel and the “master/slave” relationship. Fukuyama and others pick this up. Kojeve’s treatment of Hegel is taken up in extenso in the Auffret book I mentioned.
    By their own writings, it would seem Irving Kristol etal.’s goal is to replace the traditional political principles of the Republican Party with their own Neocon political ideology. On the Democratic Party side, their penetration is through Lieberman. The basic concept would be a “modern American Fascism” without the anti-Semitism of the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s.

  89. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David W:
    My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.
    My broader point is this:
    The Republicans – who do not seem to be able to govern effectively – were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.
    Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

  90. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David W:
    My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.
    My broader point is this:
    The Republicans – who do not seem to be able to govern effectively – were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.
    Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

  91. A mix of ridicule, dismissal and logical arguments should be the tactic for dealing with the neocons.
    I think their influence is evaporating anyway. All sorts of fires are popping up, sucking the oxygen out of their marketing campaigns. Isn’t it funny how that works?

  92. David Habakkuk says:

    You tell taters that you’ve ‘said several times my disagreement with Col. Lang and others is more about tactics than than any disagreement about the neocons themselves.’
    What reason have we got to believe you?
    When you refused to give me your name, you asked me to consider you as ‘a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along.’
    You now tell me that you ‘spent most of a career in the US intelligence community, so my knowledge of Strauss et al comes from professional interest.’
    As these statements are incompatible, at least one of them must be untrue. Accordingly, you are simply not entitled to expect that any claim you make about what you think should be taken on trust.

  93. Eric Dönges says:

    your points on separation of powers in Iran are well made; it seems to me that in this regard, Iran is not that different from many Western democracies.
    This leaves freedom of religion. As you note, there are many countries around the world that have an official state religion; however, at least in Europe, this is a symbolic remnant of the past, nothing more. The only country I am aware of (at least in Europe) where there is a “list of of official religions that receive money from the various governments” is my own native Germany, where the Catholic and most of the Protestant churches have an agreement with the German state that the state will collect taxes on behalf of the churches from their German members. If you are not a member of one of these churches, you do not pay the tax. Since religious affiliation (or lack thereof) has absolutely no bearing on legal status, job prospects, or eligibility for political office, Germany does have “real” freedom of religion.
    I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with religious men (or women) taking part in politics (regardless of which religion they adhere to), since any citizen should have the right to participate in politics if he or she so wishes. But making religious belief a requirement for any public office (or letting it determine which set of laws applies to a person) is morally wrong since there is no way to determine which religious belief is correct.

  94. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments.
    I would like to know if a Muslim in Europe can practice his religion? Can he, for example, marry two women – a clear dispensation given to men in the Quran? [It is good to be a Muslim!]
    The feature of the Iranian government system that distinguishes it from all existing governments in the world [to my knowledge] is the existence of the Office of the Supreme [Muslim] Jurisprudent who is elected by the members of an Assembly of Experts [Doctors of Religious Sciences of Islam]. This Assembly of Experts, in turn, is elected by the Iranian public. [The only theoretical precedent for this office before the work of Ayatollah Khomeini “Guardianship of the Jurist” that I have found was the Philosopher-King in Plato’s book “The Republic” and later in al-Farabi’s work “The Distinguished City”.] I think the major concern that created that led to the creation of this office was the fear that the Doctors of Religion had for a return of either dictatorship or chaos. That fear is not unfounded; Muslim polities in the 20-th century seem to have oscillated between dictatorship and chaos with brief periods of representative government in between. So, the Office of the Supreme Jurisprudent has been able to maintain the constitutional government in Iran for the last 27 years. This, in my opinion, has been no small achievement specially considering the history of Islamic polities. I think only Turkey has been more successful than Iran in this respect and even there we are not certain of the future of the constitutional government there.
    You have stated that “…since there is no way to determine which religious belief is correct.” But do you net see? For Muslims it is clear that Islam is the correct religious belief. The Muslim polities will never ever come around to the point of view that you have articulated. For Muslims, all pre-existing religions have been made obsolete by the Revelation in Quran and post-Islamic religious [Druze, Allawaite, Ahamdi, Baha’i, Babi, Sikh, etc.] are all heresies and schismatic. This will not change for the foreseeable future; in my opinion.
    You have one valid point which is what happened almost 20 years ago in Iran. The Iranian parliament altered the electoral law to require “outward conformance” to Islam as a sign of Islamic Piety. [This, of course, was the major error of the Pharisees [The Persian Jews – funny how History twists and turns] against which Jesus fought. ] ] And one of the MP supporters stated: “If we do not do this [restrict the list] we will not get elected since no one would vote for us!” In practice this has meant conformance to the religious kitsch of the Iranian lower classes – 4-day old beard, absolutely no-tie, etc. as a condition of being able to stand for election. It is in this sense that the Iranian system is a restricted representative government. I also think that the electorate has been ready for non-Kitschy candidates for some time now. Future will show.

  95. Andy says:

    More avoidance of the topic at hand!
    Ok, I understand you didn’t get my little bit of snark. The line about “just oconsider me a joe citizen…” was my sarcastic reply to:

    Commonly, battles of ideas are won among the educated — mass opinion follows.

    …which I thought a rather amazing and arrogant thing to say. I reject that simplistic dichotomy, but again, that is really a tertiary topic to the main discussion and so did not want to begin a debate on it. Rather than disagree with you directly and open another tangent that avoids the supposed topic of this thread, I opted to throw in a little barb which I now realize was not as obvious or clever as I imagined it would be.
    And another rather amazing thing to say:

    What reason have we got to believe you?


    …you are simply not entitled to expect that any claim you make about what you think should be taken on trust.

    For all your rhetoric against dishonest debate, you are growing adept at the tactics! So now I am required to prove to you I really believe what I say – or, rather, disprove that I’m dishonest? How is that even possible were it germane? Is this a requirement you impose on everyone or just certain kinds of troublemakers? What is the litmus test? One wonders. Perhaps, while I’m at it, I should prove I’m not a rapist and that I don’t beat my children as well?
    The fallacy you put forth here of requiring me to prove a negative has a long tradition and, ironically, it’s the same fallacy the Bush administration and the neocons used regarding Iraq ‘s WMD!
    In any event – even though I am being honest – whether I believe what I say or not is irrelevant to the validity of my arguments! It’s one point, among many, I have made repeatedly that you have yet to openly agree or disagree with and it’s a point that can easily be addressed regardless of the honesty of the one making it….
    David, at this point I can only conclude that your refusal to address my arguments here is intentional though I hope you prove me wrong. A whole lot of debate experience tells me your repeated attempts to change the debate and make it about me to the point now of openly questioning my honesty and thereby impugning my integrity indicates to me you’re unable to refute the substance of my arguments and so are forced to attempt to discredit them by discrediting me. That’s a classic ad hominem game I’m quite familiar with and one I won’t play nor reciprocate in kind.
    I’m still interested in your views and criticism of the arguments I’ve put forth here, but I’m not going to respond to further ad hominem, so the choice of what direction this conversation goes is entirely up to you.
    Best Regards,

  96. David Habakkuk says:

    Tell me why you will not give me your name.

  97. Andy says:

    It’s for a variety of reasons. First, as I said before, my point is that who I am is largely immaterial to my arguments, but there are practical reasons as well. I’ve made no secret that I used to work in the intelligence community and I still do a lot of traveling. For personal security reasons, when I go overseas I don’t want XYZ country nor anyone else to know that or be able to find out through a simple google search. Secondly, my wife is an active duty Air Force officer. We strongly support the idea that military personnel should remain apolitical and we probably go farther than most in that regard. Although my views are my own, I do not want to damage her career should I say something stupid – particularly given her career field (which will remain unnamed) and the not insignificant time I spend on military-related sites which are, in turn, read by many in the military. There is my own job to consider as well and I don’t want the opportunity, even if it’s remote, of embarrassing my employer should I write something stupid or controversial.
    Finally, I am a privacy advocate. Far too much information is available to anyone who has even minimal information about you. As an experiment earlier this year I spent about $100 and had an extensive online background check run on my name. The report I received back pretty much had my entire life history as well as basic information on my family. Such information is available to anyone worldwide for $100 or less and even more detailed information can be purchased for not much more. That should be reason enough for anyone to be cautious using full names on the internet. Paranoid? Maybe, but I’m not about to take the chance – no thanks.

  98. David Habakkuk says:

    I see I am dealing with a scholar-spook, with a profound interest in methodological issues to do with intelligence, and intimate acquaintance with arguments about the utility (or lack of it) of Straussian ideas for intelligence practitioners.
    As there have now been five new threads since this one started, I fear we are arguing without an audience. But I am confident that future threads will provide ample opportunity to continue our discussions on the most appropriate tactics for countering the neocons. I look forward to it.
    Meanwhile, however, you can perhaps help me with a practical problem.
    I must admit that I had rather left the issues raised by the Schmitt and Shulsky paper behind — moving on to other matters. It was only your comments, and the intervention from Tom Griffin, that made me realize that there was a lot of unfinished business here. The roles of the National Strategy Information Center and the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence had largely passed me by — as had the links identified by Griffin to Lord Black’s entourage, Policy Exchange, and arguments within the British Labour Party in the Fifties.
    Anyhow, I realised that I really do need to read the report on The Future of U.S. Intelligence that the Consortium published back in 1996. But getting hold of a copy has proved unexpectedly difficult. I have looked both on Amazon and on the Abe site, but drawn a blank in both cases. There is a link to the Executive Summary and Key Judgements on the Consortium website, it seems not to be functioning any longer.
    It occurred to me that in the light of your evident interest in these arguments, you might have a copy. And if you were prepared to get it scanned or copied and sent to me, that would be an enormous help. I would be obviously be prepared to pay to get this done. I can see that your concern to protect your privacy might be a problem, but it may not be an insurmountable one.
    Alternatively of course I could approach the Consortium directly. Do you think this would be a promising strategy? If so, could you advise me on how best to go about it?

  99. Eric Dönges says:

    to answer your question “I would like to know if a Muslim in Europe can practice his religion? Can he, for example, marry two women – a clear dispensation given to men in the Quran?” – if state recognition of these marriages is important, then no, he can’t. I would argue that the number of wives a man may legally have is actually not so much a religious question, but a practical one dependent on the ratio between men and women in a society. How many men in muslim societies actually have more than one wife ?
    That being said, your point is well taken – there are obviously limits to the amount of freedom of religion available in Europe (we also don’t allow animal or human sacrifices, for instance). But we don’t place special taxes on non-Christians (quite the reverse, at least in Germany !), and we don’t deny them housing, jobs or the ability to run for public office, at least not in theory (though I would argue that the problems Muslims are likely to face in practice are down to plain old racism, not religious intolerance). Obviously, we could do better, but at least we’re trying – unlike many Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia for example. (And yes, I am aware that compared to most Arab countries, Iran is actually fairly liberal).
    And as to your point that Muslims are convinced their beliefs are correct – of course I see that. Just like my parents are convinced their Catholic beliefs are correct. My point is simply that since we can’t actually prove that one system of belief is correct or not, we should not attempt to force our beliefs on others, and we certainly should not enshrine religion in law. Of course, in practice there will always be points of disagreement (like the number of wives/husbands you may have, what holidays are officially recognized, which mind-altering drugs are acceptable, etc.), with different cultures reaching different compromises – this is inevitable. But some form of compromise will have to be reached, because otherwise war is also inevitable. And to get back to our original point of discussion, I don’t think a theocracy can reach an acceptable compromise in this regard, so I think theocracy is not a workable form of government.

  100. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    You wrote: ” …with different cultures reaching different compromises … But some form of compromise will have to be reached, because otherwise war is also inevitable …. I don’t think a theocracy can reach an acceptable compromise”
    Historically, you have been wrong. Both the Ottoman Empire, the Czarist Russia were better guardians of cultural and religious diversity thanwhat followed them – both militantly secular; Kemalist Turkey and the Communist Russia. And of course the Third Reich was as secular as the next guy.
    I think you in EU & US are emotionally very uncomfortable with religious governments. I also note here that your polities and governments do support the religious project of the Jews in Palestine.
    “Physician, heal thyself.”

  101. Andy says:

    I don’t have the “Future of US Intelligence” publication either and unfortunately. Your best bet is probably contacting the Consortium directly and if that fails then you might consider contacting a research library that specializes in intelligence or national security. They may be able to dig up a copy for you.
    I’m leaving town for the holidays tomorrow, but when I return I’ll call a few friends and see if I can dig something up.
    Best regards,

  102. Andy says:

    I neglected to mention I do have a copy of an article bearing the same title written by Schmitt and Slusky about a year earlier and published in the winter 94/95 edition of The National Interest. It’s 11 pages along and also on intelligence reform, but it’s difficult to know how much commonality it has with the 1996 monograph. If you’d like the earlier, shorter article, email me at me(at)nonpartisanpunditDOTcom (replacing the “(at)” and “DOT” naturally) and I’ll send it along.

  103. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Hey Habakkuk:
    Have you looked at the works of David Gutman? It is becoming more and more difficult to find his works via the ‘net but some of his essays may warrant a looksee. Although from a different discipline, analysis of his work may lead to conclusions that are consistent with, if not corroborate, your work on Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence.
    Gutman is a psychiatrist from Chicago. From what I can recall, he was affiliated with AEI. Awhile back, I came across his work and determined that it may offer a window into the “psyche” of the AEI and its epigones (including Michael Novak). In other words, Gutman’s work is a blueprint of the psychological background from which neoconservative actions spring.
    I don’t have time right now to explore in greater detail. But Gutman’s work, in my admittedly nonexpert opinion, reflects enough of the truth to capture your interest. But then, like all great deceivers, he uses those insights for a purpose that may reflect that of the Straussians.
    Each person must come to his or her own conclusion, but reluctantly, I decided that Gutman’s view is the exact opposite of the points stressed at this website such as: respect the local culture and, secondly, to win, the military and the people must emerge on the same side of the struggle.
    No…Gutman’s approach is diametrically opposed to such. He describes Arab society as a honor-shame culture and claims that to win the US must absolutely devastate the Arab and, more generally speaking, Muslim world, much in the manner of Sherman’s march through Georgia during the civil war. (I believe that ol’ California hippie from the sixties — Victor Hanson says the same. Funny how people change).
    But Gutman’s work does more than simply provide the opposite view of that given to us by Fall in his chapter “The Future of Revolutionary Warfare”. Gutman’s evidences a desire to take a even darker step beyond “burn the village to save the village.” Gutman wants the US to burn the village on a global scale. (And so does Hanson).
    At a deeper level, I contend, the purpose of his work is this: At an unconscious level, he is trying to eradicate the concept of guilt when the US commits ethnic cleansing on a global scale. Here is one of his key quotes from an essay he wrote: “If we refuse to be guilty about the war that we have to fight, and if we can refuse the temptation of a shameful retreat, then we will eventually prevail on the fighting fronts as well.”
    In that vein, Gutman’s work may reflect the same intent that was shown with the Stanford and Yale studies. These experiments proved that the public, under the certain circumstances, could sanction and promote systematic torture.
    Another point: Gutman’s work evidences that the weltanschauung of the neoconservatives is one that rejects a society that has rules based on honor. So I merely suggest that Col. Lang is exactly right when he says that these are not “honorable” men. Gutman’s work proves it. Honor is frowned upon and ridiculed.
    A very interesting inquiry, at least to me, is to determine if the ideological and historical legacy that gave us the concept of “an officer and a gentleman” is the exact opposite of the work of Gutman and the corresponding (Leo) Straussian view. I am not a military type, but I do come from a family and region of the US, where the ethos underlying the idea of an “officer and a gentleman” is highly valued.
    This is one reason that I think the best hope for US resides, at least in part, with a push back against the neoconservatives by those “officers and gentlemen” of the USM who represent a opposite tradition than that of the AEI.
    Remember, it was a neoconservative, Luti, who called General Zinni a “traitor” and this event symbolizes the meeting point and resulting clash of two ideological histories: People of the lie vs. “an officer and a gentleman”.
    If I may…I have a good radar when it comes to detecting, for lack of a better word, “bullies”. And when I watch John Bolton on television, I have absolute conviction that I am watching a bully who buys into the Gutman psychological view. And I sometimes wonder if the best way to deal with Bolton is not as an “officer and a gentleman” but as a bad ass NCO who decides to chat with him in a honky tonk. You know, someone who flicks cigarette ashes into Bolton’s drink and says, “What are you going to do about it?”
    I exaggerate of course only to make point. But, again, Col. Lang, in my view, is exactly right. By their own admission, the Straussians are not honorable men and women. And by their own admission, they proudly call themselves what M. Scott Peck titled his book…People of the Lie.
    One last point: Gutman proves to me that the strategy of the AEI will ultimately lose. It is just a question of how much suffering will take place in the US and the world beforehand. History seems to suggest that a society engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing and torture will self destruct and ultimately destroy itself. Perhaps a society can repress guilt but I don’t think it can eradicate guilt. Lesson to be learn: Tzu is right, the AEI is dead wrong. To win, a nation, must at least strive to become Sun Tzu’s sovereign imbued with the moral law. And Bolton symbolizes the exact opposite.
    Here’s one link to a Gutman essay. Make of it what you will.

  104. David Habakkuk says:

    Sidney Smith,
    This is absolutely fascinating. It calls for extended comment — for which however Christmas morning is hardly the appropriate time. But I will return to these matters after the holiday.
    There is an overlap with some of the issues which I was trying to discuss when I attempted to post a comment about Philip Weiss’s discussion of Kevin MacDonald.
    Something rather bizarre happened there. My initial post was rejected as spam by Typepad. I posted a short comment, asking whether anything could be done about this. You then posted your kind remarks about my analysis of Strauss. I posted a short response, which appeared.
    Access to all subsequent comments, of which there have been many, is unavailable from my computer. I am interested in how the discussion developed, and will access it from a friend’s computer in the near future.
    A happy Xmas, and best wishes for the New Year, to you, to Colonel Lang, and to all commenting on this invaluable site.

  105. Eric Dönges says:

    from your previous comments on other threads I know you like to blame secularism (and the Enlightment) for both Soviet Russia and the Third Reich, but I think you are simply wrong. Neither Soviet Russia nor the Third Reich held to any of the principles behind the Enlightment. And both where not really secular either; they just attempted to replace Christianity with an Ersatz-Religion (materialism in case of the Soviets, and an extreme form of “German exceptionalism” in case of the Nazis).
    I also don’t think your examples of Czarist Russia or the Ottoman Empire help your argument – neither where theocracies. Also, while both may have been better guardians of cultural or religious diversity than what succeeded them, using either of these two as a positive example boggles the mind – both ruthlessly ruled their conquered peoples.
    You are correct that here in the EU we are very uncomfortable with religious governments – you just have to look at European history, and what role religion played in it, to figure out why. Put bluntly, it just didn’t work for us. And I don’t think it will work for anyone else.
    And just where do we (the EU) support the Jewish religious program in Palestine ? I thought we where generally critical of it. The Israelis at least are not very happy with us. Or does not calling for the destruction of Israel count as support ?
    As to your final comment “physician, heal thyself” – I can only agree. Everybody should start improving the world in their own backyard.

  106. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    I do not think that in my assessment of the failure of the Enlightenment Project I am unique; I stand in good company with Gheorghiu, Biffi, Mannet, Shestov, and many other Western thinkers. You wrote: “…they just attempted to replace Christianity with an Ersatz-Religion…”. It is the word “just” in your sentence upon which our entire discussion revolves; for that “just” meant expunging God and replacing Him with the worship of collective powers of man – another road to damnation.
    The Ottoman Emperors always claimed to be both Religious and Worldly leaders of the (Sunni) Faithful. Theirs was a religious state par-excellence. The Czarist Russia, also endorsed the Divine Rights of Kings and the Orthodox Church was the Junior Partner in the Russian State. As I stated before, and you seemed to agree, “theocracy” does not have theoretical content and I would rather use “religious state” in lieu of that word.
    Neither of these states were a paragon of enlightened self-rule with a charter of basic rights. However, when you look at the scale of destruction that followed the introduction of the successor states – both avowedly secular-; in Russia millions died for realizing ideals of Mr. Karl Marx of London. The Young Turks, the predecessors of the Kemalist Turkey, were involved in the Armenian massacres which were later followed up by the expulsion of the Pontic Greeks, more Armenians, etc.
    What do you mean by “…religion not working for us”? The NAZIs, the Fascists, the Communists were all nominally Godless and caused the deaths of at least 80 million people on the European continent in less than 2 generations. Not even the 30-year War had this level of casualties. [And the secular states of US and Russia, for the past 60 years, have lived in a mutual suicide pact called “deterrence”. Is this not madness? ]
    I am not even counting their disciples elsewhere in the world; such as the Chinese, the Khmre Rouge, or the Arab Nationalists. I would like to understand in what sense religion did not work for you in EU especially considering that the intellectual and spiritual underpinnings of the core of your moral and political ideas are from the Christian Religious philosophers and jurists of the late Middle Ages.
    I observe here that both in US and EU (more so in EU) Shoah has been elevated to a semi-Religion; although it is not the Revealed Religion of Judaism, or Islam, or Christianity. But it is ironic, in my opinion, that the polities who lay claim to a vigorous form of anti-clerical secularism feel the need to try to create a new religion.
    In regards to EU’s support for Israel here are a few examples: Germany just gave Israel, for free, 3 Dolphin class submarines; France was complicit in the enablement of the nuclear weapons program of Israel, EU has taken the same position as Israel vis-à-vis HAMAS.
    I would like to ask you if there are any circumstances under which EU will be willing to sanction Israel?
    Yes, everyone should try to clear their backyard, if they can. I do not believe this is any longer possible since the phenomenon of “globalization” has made the notion of “backyard” rather quaint and outdated. States and polities are now coupled in ways that were unimaginable in 1914; we are, in a way, in each other’s throats. Thus, it makes sense to try to reduce the temperature. What I have tried to establish in my postings at this site over the last few years has been to point out the extreme importance of Revealed Religion to the state of the world and to elucidate the hollowness of most common secularist formulations of the present historical moment. And indeed, entangling with people of other religions and faiths for any prolonged length of time, will inevitably degenerate into a religious war with no end in sight; in my opinion [Even if one claims to be secular {whatever that means.)]

  107. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Sidney O. Smith III:
    “People of the Lie”…
    I love it!
    Zarathustra himself could not have picked a better description for the minions of Ahriman, the Dark Lord.

  108. David Habakkuk says:

    Babak Makkinejad:
    ‘Thus, it makes sense to try to reduce the temperature.’
    As you know, I agree with you strongly on many points — as well as disagreeing with you strongly on others. Here you formulate very lucidly a thought I have had in relation to a number of arguments — including questions of nuclear strategy we discussed on this blog some months ago — without ever managing to put it as clearly as you do. I am in your debt.
    I certainly think it applies in spades to relations between Christians and Muslims — also secularists and Muslims, and indeed secularists and Christians. Unless we can frustrate those who are trying to ‘raise the temperature’ in these relations, we are liable to head straight over a cliff.
    On other occasions, however, it is appropriate to raise the temperature. Many of the reasons why American (and British) policymakers — and intellectuals — did this in relation to the Soviet Union after 1945 were extremely good ones.
    One of the tragedies of the Cold War is that this process ran out of control — among other things, it generated ‘feedback loops’, so those who sought to, as it were, sound the tocsin became frightened by the bells they themselves had so energetically rung. The kind of shoddy Machiavellianism whose disastrous potentials Sidney Smith is discussing is in part a product of this.

  109. Eric Dönges says:

    I did not say “religion does not work for us”, I said religious governments have not worked for us. When you point out the atrocies commited by the Soviets, the Nazis, and the Young Turks, you conveniently forget the atrocies commited in the name of God in the preceeding centuries. That less people where killed than in the 20th century was not due to lack of zeal, but only due to lack of ability. Can you imagine a world in which medieval European religious thinking is coupled with 21 century industrial capability ?
    Your religious world can only work if all people where to adhere to the same religion (as you acknowledge in your last paragraph) – and that is simply not going to happen. Even if you could forcibly (and it would have to be forcibly) convert all the world to Islam or Christianity, you would then have people fighting over the correct interpretation of scripture. No, the only way we are going to have peace on earth is if humanity learns to compromise, which means finding the lowest common denominator that (most) people can live with. This means that there will have to be some form of separation between church and state.
    I don’t see Shoah being elevated to semi-Religion by anyone except certain Israeli groups who use the Shoah as an excuse for their policies, or certain Jewish groups who see it as a convenient way to get money out of the German state. The fact that Germany, Austria and France make Holocaust denial a crime has a very different reason – we don’t want a repeat of Nazism, and the first step to make such a repeat performance possible is to deny that the Nazis actually did anything really bad.
    As to EU support of Israel – I’ll grant you the Dolphins (as a German taxpayer, I am rather pissed at this, but I wasn’t asked). But I fail to see how labeling an organization that intentionally targets civilians a terrorist organization is either wrong or support for that organization’s enemy. A better argument would be to ask why we won’t label the IDF as a terrorist organization. The answer is, of course, that:
    a) The EU does not have a common foreign policy, so keeping the status quo is the simplest thing to do.
    b) Most EU citizens have no idea what is actually going on in Palestine, and don’t really care.
    c) Any action the EU would take against Israel would likely cause U.S. retaliation.
    Personally, I would be for treating Israel like apartheid-era South Africa until the Israelis decide to rejoin the civilized world, but because of the reasons already mentioned above the only way I see this happening would be either in response to a U.N. security council resolution (not going to happen as long as the U.S. has any say in the matter), or if the Israelis did something so outrageous the EU simply couldn’t ignore it anymore.
    Finally, you write “… I have tried to establish in my postings at this site over the last few years has been to point out the extreme importance of Revealed Religion to the state of the world …”. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough, but I do not deny the importance of religion to the state of the world. My point is that since it is impossible to reach religious consensus without indulging in the kind of behavior that all religions claim to condemn, basing government and law on any single religion is immoral and irresponsible.

  110. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments:
    You wrote: “…you conveniently forget the atrocies committed in the name of God”. I am not denying them but I believe the scale was always much less than the non-religious ones. Moreover, someone comes to you and wants to kill you in the name of a religion; but you can often convert and save your life. The victims of Shoah, NAZIs, Communists, etc. were never given that opportunity for the object was not conversion rather destruction.
    You wrote: “..imagine a world in which medieval European religious thinking is coupled with 21 century industrial capability”. Indeed I can and perhaps that world would have been a better world than we have today since it – in its last flowering in late 13-th Century-forcefully and strongly put forth the value of human life. Once one subscribes to the idea that “God is Dead”, morality, charity, love, and everything else falls on the way side. Any way, we cannot run that experiment, we have the history that we have had. I think many people in the West have a negative view of the middle ages because they are victims of the Renaissance propaganda and later the anti-clerical attacks of the Enlightenment.
    You wrote: “Your religious world can only work if all people where to adhere to the same religion”. Undoubtedly it could be beneficial if all of mankind embraced the same religions; Muslims are confident that Islam will be that while the Catholics know that Christ has promised the Christianity will be that. I guess we have to wait and see. However, in the absence of such uniformity, there is still scope for hope. Consider the meeting that Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Vajpayee had a few years ago in Tehran. You had the leader of Shia Muslim fundamentalist meeting quite cordially with the leader of Hindu fundamentalists. And the reason was that both knew there was no margin in a Hindu-Muslim War.
    You wrote: “I don’t see Shoah being elevated to semi-Religion”; well you are entitled to your opinion but you are also in denial.
    Your comments regarding Israel-Palestine only serves to reinforce my thesis: In the religious war between Judaism and Islam in Palestine, EU has taken sides.
    You wrote: “… basing government and law on any single religion is immoral and irresponsible.” On what basis do you say “immoral”? All of your morality comes out of the Ministry of Jesus, the Blessed Son of Mary and not out of any other principle; where did you get this moral sense? I submit to you that the separation of Religion and Politics does not obtain in Islam and it is eminently moral to base the government on basis of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. And as for “irresponsible”, I think it eminently irresponsible for Christians to try to force down Muslims’ throats forms of government that are incommensurate with the religious and historical sensibilities of those people or take side in their religious war with another religion.
    I am not advocating either universal religion (however desirable that might be in certain circles) nor religious government per se. I have tried to make a case, in my postings, that the religious people of this world are not benighted fools who need to be brought into the Sunlight of the this new Modernity Millennium; that there are valid and potent criticisms that might be lodged at the Altar of (Western) Godless Modernity which cannot be easily discounted. That God is, in fact, not Dead and once again visibly working in and through history.

  111. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    Thank you for your kind words.
    The world would certainly be a very boring place we all agreed on everything, wouldn’t it.
    I am pleased that you have found some of my remarks worthwhile; I was hoping to be able to at least start a discussion in my postings.
    I think I understand your point about the Cold War; that the liberal representative system in the West was worth defending vigorously; I am in agreement with you.
    I am not opposed to heated intellectual confrontation and debate among thinkers who belong to different religious traditions – not for me are the various vacuous humanitarian awards that presumably promote ecumenical encounters among people who know nothing of one another’s traditions. I think it will be a good idea to have such discussions; and they must start from very specific issues rather than from generalizations about one another.
    For example, one can approach the Orthodox Jews and inquire as to why they consider a menstruating female to be religiously impure. Likewise, one can approach Muslims and asks them if they can do away with slavery in Islamic Law why cannot they do away with XYZ as well – trying to reach an agreement that certain parts of the Law have become obsolete. And the secularist may be engaged to explain why they support abortion.
    But to do so, in my opinion, one has to appreciate the (partial at the very least) validity of the other side’s Truths and, in turn, one then must admit that he himself could be (partially) wrong. Unfortunately there is a great fear here – as one Ayatollah said: “There are no valid proofs for the existence of God but I am teaching and preaching since to do otherwise could invite the evils of social and moral chaos.”
    “Be not Afraid” seems to be a pretty good motto to me.

  112. Eric Dönges says:

    I think you thoroughly misunderstand my position. While I admit to being a lapsed Catholic, I do not belong to the “religion is a form of mental disease” crowd; I find those people as abhorrent as any religious fundamentalist. I don’t want to take your religion from you; but I do object to you (or anyone else) forcing your religion on me through government and law.
    I would never accept living under Islamic rule. Similarly, I assume a Muslim would never accept living under Christian rule (if he even could, as Christianity has been notoriously hostile to “heathens” in the past). Now, unless we want to split the world into a Christian and a Muslim part (let’s leave out the other major religions for simplicities sake), and then fight the inevitable wars against each other every few generations or so until one side finally manages to wipe out the other, then we are going to have to find a compromise that does not involve declaring any religion as the One Truth – which is exactly what religious governments do by their very nature, and what I object to most strongly. There may very well be One Truth, but I am very sure we haven’t found it yet, and I remain skeptical that we ever will.
    You ask “On what basis do you say immoral”. On the basis that I think it is immoral to force Christian religious laws on Muslims (or anyone else) or vice-versa. My morality does not come from the Ministry of Jesus like you claim; it comes from the belief that morality is a “survival instinct” on the species level, necessary because homo sapiens can override instinctive behavioural inhibitors with “rational” thought. Many religious laws do not have any bearing on species survival, and so should be optional for those who choose to believe in them. I see absolutely no value in the Jewish and Muslim prohibition on eating pork, for instance.
    Frankly, I do not care that Islam does not believe in the separation of religion and state, because I do not believe in Allah or that Mohammed was his prophet – a sentiment I share with a significant majority of mankind. In my eyes, Islam has to make a choice – compromise, like Christianity was forced to do, or risk annihilation in continual warfare with the rest of mankind.
    You still don’t have me convinced that the EU is taking sides on the conflict in Palestine. Yes, we are biased in favor of Israel, due to the fact that the Israelis are closer culturally to us than the Arabs are. The fact that the Palestinians have no idea how to do PR targeted at European audiences does not help their cause any either. But to me, what the EU is actually doing is sitting on the fence, trying to avoid doing anything of real consequence for either side. For instance, the EU does not recognize the occupied territories as Israeli (and goods manufactured there cannot be labeled as “made in Israel” in the EU) – but doesn’t do anything to force the Israelis to actually leave. The Israelis themselves certainly don’t see the EU as supportive.
    As to being in denial on the Shoa as a semi-religion, perhaps I don’t get out enough, but I just don’t see it around me. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to where you see this phenomenon manifest itself in Europe in general and Germany in particular ?
    Finally, I would like to say that I fully agree with your response to David Habakkuk. Discussions where all participants “agree to agree” before the discussion even starts are completely pointless, as any issues of consequence will likely be omitted in the name of harmony (not to mention that such “discussions” are totally boring). Better to have a heated debate – if nothing else, it makes us think about our own positions, which is always a good thing. What I like about this blog is that the debate, while heated, tends to stay civilized.
    P.S.: I appreciate the possibility that I might be partially or even totally wrong, which is why I’m always talking about the importance of compromise in human relations. I can’t imagine anything worse than doing harm to others in the name of a falsehood.

  113. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments.
    You wrote: “…but I do object to you (or anyone else) forcing your religion on me through government and law.”; well no one is forcing Islam down your throat. By the same token, I hope people and governments in Europe and North America will kindly refrain from imposing their misguided pseudo-religions and fads on the rest of mankind.
    You wrote: “I would never accept living under Islamic rule” well, no one has asked you.
    You further wrote: “…unless we want to split the world into a Christian and a Muslim part…” – the world is already so split since the 7-th Century. Moreover, the political history of the last 150 years may be viewed as the history of the ejection and roll-back of the Christian domination of the Muslim polities. In my reading of the world, I see that US & EU in their post-Christian phase – have laid claim to the One-Truth. Their One-Truth is that their particular and specific local institutions are universal and thus applicable to all of mankind. This is their new faith since they left God behind. As for conflict, I observe here that it is Western powers that are fighting a rear-guard action to maintain their political influence in non-Western parts of the world. My recommendation, as always, is to avoid un-needed entanglements in the affairs of alien people for whom one does not possesses any sympathy or understanding.
    You wrote: “…morality is a “survival instinct” on the species level”. I cringed when I read this since, to me, it indicated a collectivist basis for the value of the life of the individual. This is a fundamental and irreducible difference between you and I and it cannot be abridged; in my opinion.
    I do not believe that you can account for the complex moral life of individual human beings from that collectivist basis: the livies and passions of the religious martyrs, charity for the aged, the cripple, the deranged, and the mentally retarded cannot be accounted for by your materialist doctrine. But this does not surprise me, it is part and parcel of the same misguided Enlightenment Project; I hope that this latest incarnation causes less harm.
    You wrote: “In my eyes, Islam has to make a choice – compromise, like Christianity was forced to do, or risk annihilation in continual warfare with the rest of mankind.” Last I looked, it is in fact the Western polities that have been at war with the rest of mankind – in Iraq a war of choice is being waged by a Western power with a Coalition of the Willing of other Western powers. May I remind you also that in India the English caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Bengal [both Hindu and Muslim] when they commandeered the water-craft that were essential for the delivery of the foodstuffs all across Bengal during WWII, that in Algeria in 1948 the French murdered 45,000 Algerian Muslims [men , women, children] wantonly, that in Rwanda the French were supporting the genocidal Hutus [well discussed in the Indian papers], that in the 19-th Century the Belgian government was killing the blacks whole-sale in Congo to clear that land for the European settlers; and I have not yet begun to count….
    I submit to you that it is in fact the Godless Western Modernity that has to make a compromise with the rest of mankind and get rid of its delusional attempts at creating Heaven on Earth while, simultaneously, maintaining the Power of Death over the rest of mankind.
    Your comments regarding EU and Israel reminds of an old joke about the Non-Aligned Movement – “They are non-aligned all-right, non-aligned against the United States.”
    On Shoah as a semi-religion; I am afraid we will have to agree to disagree.
    I think what distinguishes myself from you is that I am not un-sympathetic to your point of view [even though I disagree with it] but I fear you are not sympathetic to mine.

  114. Eric Dönges says:

    to me, you seem as unsympathetic to my views as I seem unsympathetic to yours. What distinguishes us in my opinion is that we come from very different backgrounds (it’s impossible to tell through the anonymity of the internet, but I suspect we also have a generational gap between us) and thus see the world and its history through very different eyes. I think it is unlikely that we will ever agree on much of anything of substance.
    But what you or I believe is not really relevant – the fact remains that while we seem to live on different planets intellectually, physically we have to share the same planet, which is growing increasingly smaller thanks to modern technology. So either we try to find a compromise we can both live with, or we’ll end up at each other’s throats.

  115. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your comments.
    I believe we have made progress in uncovering the basis of our differences.

  116. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    To continue to emphasize one theme that weaves throughout this thread: developments in other disciplines and other branches of the US government appear to confirm Habakkuk’s conclusions re: Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence.
    Like a midwife reminiscent of a witch from McBeth, the Straussian worldview may have helped give birth to another unAmerican idea that has appeared in the executive branch and undoubtedly will face legal challenges in the federal judicial system. It is the unitary executive theory, which basically asserts that all governmental authority should coalesce around the President. It is part of the idea of “soft fascism” — a concept that reflects a Straussian intent.
    Of course, as always, there is an unexpected turn that tricks expectations. The president, while working under this theory, signed an executive order that allowed the war powers to flow into the office of the VP. As a result, we have witnessed the creation of an imperial vice presidency, perhaps for the first time in US history.
    From what I can glean so far, David Addington is the driving force behind the rise of the imperial vice presidency. In the 3July06 issue of the New Yorker, Jane Meyer wrote all about Addington in a most aptly titled article, “The Hidden Power”.
    For reasons I can quite fathom, last summer I spent a day or so trying to pinpoint the legal mechanism that gave rise to the imperial vice presidency. Most people point to Executive Order 12958 but, in my opinion, such is not the case. It is Executive Order 13292, which amended the earlier one — EO 12958. Most significantly, it was signed five days after the beginning of the Iraq invasion.
    While doing this research, I begin to see distant echoes of changes within the judiciary that may signal the same devolution that Roberto Unger described in the Weimar Republic. I, however, am more optimistic that the neoconservatives in the US will find a much tougher go in our judicial system but it will be close.
    I wrote a short letter that details the procedural history of Executive Order 13292 and some of its salient points. It was in response to an article by a legal scholar named Huq who wrote a (recommended) article published at the Nation and titled “Cheney and the Constitution”. Huq only relied on E.O. 12958. If interested, you can read the letter at the following link. It is the second letter. You may very well begin to see a correlation between that which gave rise to EO 13292 and that which gave rise to “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence”.

  117. taters says:

    Mr. Habakkuk,
    Thank you for a great thread and an excellent read. Great comments.
    How can one argue rationally with those that have contempt and a true disdain of history? It wasn’t that long ago when a reprise of the 2002 HASC debate regarding Iraq, between Wes Clark and Richard Perle was played out again in congress.
    In the first go around, Clark had to leave a little early before Perle for a flight. In essence, Clark asked why the rush to invade, he also stated time was on our side and that force should only be used as a last resort. He also said that we should talk to those in the region,including Iran and Syria. I believe everyone here is quite familiar with Perle’s take.
    And Perle, being the class act he is, mocked Clark as soon as he left.
    Clark was gracious, and made his point – perhaps too much so. Like Col. Lang said about neocons, ‘These are not honorable men.’
    In round two, after Perle (Who came in with a cookbook)faced questions by Rep. Walter Jones,R-NC (Yes, Walter Jones, he of freedom fries fame, who now rightly believed he had been duped the first time around and regrets his decision for AUMF.) He was quite upset, and was talking about the hundreds of letters of condolence he had signed. He may have more military in his district than any other congressman,certainly more than his fair share. Perle appeared non plussed. To me, this was akin to Rumsfeld auto penning KIA letters. Rumsfeld’s regret was that he was caught doing it. This disconnect appalls me. Chalabi and Wolfowitz seem to have it in spades.
    Back to round two – Clark learned his lesson about these less than honorable men and hammered Perle and HSAC chair Duncan Hunter.
    The truth is of no concern to the people of the lie. (An expression I picked up from a fellow reader here, I apologize for not giving proper credit)
    I would like to leave you with Gen. Clark’s parting salvo to Hunter.
    It was not always thus. At the September 2002 hearing, GOP lawmakers joined in Perle’s dismissal of Clark’s argument that “time is on our side” in Iraq and that force should be used only as a “last resort.”
    Perle said Clark was “wildly optimistic” and called it “one of the dumber cliches, frankly, to say that force must always be a last resort.” While Clark fiddled, “Saddam Hussein is busy perfecting those weapons of mass destruction that he already has.”
    In retrospect, Clark’s forecasts proved more accurate than Perle’s, and even Republicans on the committee made little effort yesterday to defend Perle or to undermine Clark. The exception was Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who pressed Clark to acknowledge that the Iraq invasion should get some credit for signs of democracy in the region.
    “We’ve got to do a lot less crowing about the sunrise,” Clark rejoined.
    When Hunter’s GOP colleagues didn’t join his line of questioning, he took another turn grilling Clark. The chairman likened President Bush’s Middle East policies to those of President Ronald Reagan in Eastern Europe.
    “Reagan never invaded Eastern Europe,” Clark retorted.
    In another try, Hunter said Clark was “overstating” the risk in challenging other countries in the Middle East. Clark smiled and showed his trump card — reminding Hunter of their exchange at the 2002 hearing. “I kept saying time was on our side,” Clark said. “I could never quite satisfy you.”
    As for who proved correct, the general said, “I’ll let the record speak for itself.”

  118. taters says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    I beg your indulgence for going off topic but I am thoroughly enjoying The Butcher’s Cleaver, it is an absolutely excellent read.
    And may God bless you, Zinni, Clark and the other honorable ones for standing up to the neocons – and for the poisonous slings and arrows you were repaid with by these treasonous SOB’s in kind.
    With gratitude,
    Robert M. Murray

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