The Sept. 11 commission catalogued in detail how our intelligence establishment simply does not function. We made priority recommendations to rebuild the 15 bloated and failed intelligence bureaucracies by creating a strong national intelligence director to smash bureaucratic layers, to tear down the walls preventing intelligence-sharing among agencies, and to rewrite personnel policy with the goal of bringing in new blood not just from the career bureaucracy but from the private sector as well. This approach was completely rejected by the Bush administration, which decided instead to leave this sprawling mess untouched and to create yet another bureaucracy of more than 1,000 people in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was the exact opposite of what we had recommended.The above-excerpted article, by one John Lehman, who served on the 9/11
From "We're Not Winning This War" (Emphasis mine)
We are at war with jihadists motivated by a violent ideology based on an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith. This enemy is decentralized and geographically dispersed around the world. Its organizations range from a fully functioning state such as Iran to small groups of individuals in American cities.Bref, we aren't at war with a lot of disconected, discontinuous, occasionally cooperative, often antagonistic groups of various sizes, organizational structures, impetuses, grievances, locations, tactics, and capabilities, who share only a variety of associations with the world's second-largest religion and a fury over American foreign policy, though not necessarily the same parts of that policy. Instread, we're at war with a lot of disconected, discontinuous, occasionally cooperative, often antagonistic groups of various sizes, organizational structures, impetuses, grievances, locations, tactics, and capabilities, who share only a variety of associations with the world's second-largest religion and a fury over American foreign policy, though not necessarily the same parts of that policy.
Not-so-bref. Perhaps a visual aid:
Since ideas don't occur in Governmentia so much as the infect, Lehman, like Posner and a bunch of other Official Kooks in the Court of the Dauphin, feels the proper remedy to our woes is a domestic spying agency without police powers. That such agency is forbidden by the Constitution is no impediment to these folks, for whom the Constitution is not only just the Constitution, but also just a piece of paper. The survival of some political entity called The United States of America, which is not, as we all surely know, in doubt, is of greater import than the survival of the political entitiy called The United States of America. Content is secondary to masthead.
The initial excerpt from the article follows the "James Bond, James Bond, my Kingdom for James Bond!" lines. Lehman's lament--that their mitigatory reforms to reduce the size of government agencies produced the opposite effect--are the tears of a man who, having served as Secretary of the Navy, a position dedicated only to the growth, never to the diminishment, of an institution, hasn't even a basic understanding of organizational behavior. When working on a contentious labor negotiation last summer, my colleagues worked mightily to trim the size of our bargaining agreement, to streamline relationships between management and labor, to simplify the chain of command, the make lines of authority and responsibility more transparent and more direct. We failed. The contract is longer than ever, the organizational chart more complicated. Late in the game, it was necessary to bring in a mediator, who met initially with both sides in private. When we explained these goals to him, he chuckled at us and said that never in his twenty-five years of mediation and arbitration had he seen such a thing accomplished "without tearing up the whole damn agreement and starting from scratch."
That, it goes without saying, is not the spirit possessing a man who wants a "strong national intelligence director to smash bureaucratic layers, to tear down the walls preventing intelligence-sharing among agencies, and to rewrite personnel policy."
Lehman goes on to lament North Korean missile-rattling (do missiles rattle? if so, are they a threat?) and China's plans to build a 600-ship navy, all of which sounds like a plea to quit fucking around with all this forward thinking and rebuild a vast conventional military, to do something or other, whatever it is. Such competing imperatives play well in Freedonia, D.C. These are the same people, by and large, who constantly regret Americans' deep-held distrust of their own institutions. Well, of course they distrust their institutions! For more than half-a-century now, the policy of their government has been to pat them on their collective head with one hand and utter soothing noises out of one side of its mouth, while pushing the air-raid siren button and whistling warnings with the other. Concurrently, it has erected a vast structure of secrets, first in order to keep the nuclear cat in the bag, then, once it became clear that that wasn't going to work, simply for the sake of keeping secrets with the sort of self-dissimulating absurdity that makes the ever-present shades of Franz Kafka and Michel Foucault grin with posthumous vindication of their eternal rightness about just-about everything. Americans aren't a particularly bright or involved people. They don't distrust their rulers for complex reasons of sociology or ideology. They distrust their rulers because their rulers are untrustworthy.
I've drifted somewhat afield of the original argument, so I'll just tack on a conclusion and call it a post. It works at the WaPo, so it oughta work here. The only steps that we, as a nation, could take to significantly reduce the threat of terrorism, which is really relatively minor as threats go, involves taking actions abroad that I would characterize as sane and you, John Lehman, and all your sleepover buddies, would call "retreat."