Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The ins and outs and boobs of military intelligence

Going in!

In one of those curious foot-notes to history, the United States laid plans for an invasion of Britain. No joke: straight up. Here's the version from American Heritage, "History's Homepage":
A more aggressive example of our Anglophobia was declassified in November, 1975, by the Pentagon, over the protests of the State Department, which called it a “very embarrassing item diplomatically.” The embarrassing item was a set of secret plans for the American invasion of Britain that had been drafted in Washington’s war plans division in 1928-29.

At that time the general staff believed that American inroads on British foreign trade might trigger a war between the two countries. According to the plan, whose color-keyed maps labeled Britain as “red” and Canada as “crimson,” American forces would “Destroy red armed forces in North America and the western North Atlantic, including the Caribbean and West Indian waters; isolate crimson from red; deny red the use of bases in the western hemisphere; occupy such territory in crimson and other red possessions as may be necessary and gain and exercise such control of sea communications as will contribute towards red’s economic exhaustion.”

Finally, an invasion of the British mainland—the first since William the Conqueror’s—would be launched from Ireland with the aid of “irreconcilable elements in the Irish Free State.”
This fantasia needed a cherry on the top, and it is that final nonsense: who were the “irreconcilable elements"? De Valera's Fianna Fáil, on the cusp of elected power? Or Frank Ryan's IRA?

Getting out?

Today's American military is immensely bigger, stronger and better-resourced than in 1928. Today there are one-and-a-half million Americans in uniform: the budget is $505 billion. That lot must cover every possible contingency, perhaps even an invasion of Britain if we don't behave. Well, every contingency except one.

That one is withdrawal from Iraq.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote to the Defense Department on 23rd May, asking whether there were such plans. Actually, what she wrote was:
... to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress—including the Senate Armed Services Committee [of which, of course, Clinton is a member]—with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning...
The Under Secretary for Policy, one Eric Edelman, responded that her question:
reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia...such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Which presumably means no plan, not now, never, ever ... Or something.

Edelman is a career diplomat, and a close buddy of Condi Rice and Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld. He was whisked back to Washington, from being US Ambassador to Turkey, when Douglas Feith, Rumsfeld's bag-carrier, opted out. Al Kamen, in the Washington Post of 3 December 2004, noted he was
... seen as someone—perhaps the only one on the planet—who can comfortably straddle all the relevant political worlds. He's a career foreign service officer, a former ambassador to Finland who also worked for then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz and for Clinton Ambassador-at-Large Strobe Talbott. But he also worked for Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney from 1990 to 1993 and for Vice President Cheney from 2001 to 2003 and with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice frequently when he represented Cheney at top-level meetings.
Quelle galère!

So Hillary wrote her letter. And then the roof fell in.

The New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton but now fallen on hard times in the Murdoch stable, saw it as:
The Pentagon yesterday launched a blistering attack on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for boosting "enemy propaganda" by demanding the U.S. military whip up plans for withdrawal from Iraq.
msnbc.com ("a fuller spectrum of news") headlined their piece:
Pentagon rebukes Clinton on Iraq
Says the candidate's talk of troop withdrawal reinforces the enemy
and accompanied this with a picture captioned: "Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is being criticized by the Pentagon for her anti-war rhetoric."

Predictably, Fox News ("We report. You decide.") took a similar line:
Pentagon to Sen. Hillary Clinton: You're Aiding the Enemy With Iraq Withdrawal Questions
Hillary 1, Pentagon 0

Now all this was a big mistake: Hillary is not so easily put off; she went for the organ grinder, not the monkey. By the end of the week, most media recognised she was scoring points:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to be getting some anti-war street cred on the left, with a little help from the Pentagon's No. 2.

Clinton is ratcheting up a spat with Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman by going to his boss, Robert Gates.
Gates went belly up:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he is personally engaged in developing contingency plans for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and emphasized that those efforts constitute a "priority" for the Pentagon...

His letter—delivered by courier to Clinton's office on Wednesday evening—sought to smooth over a series of tense exchanges between the Democratic presidential front-runner and the Pentagon.
Edelman has form

Edelman had misjudged, and needed his boss to cover for him. Collapse of various stout parties.

But Edelman? Why? Did he not realise the folly of his tone? Was he put up to it by Gates? Or Cheney? Or whoever?

The mystery is that Edelman is, or should be wise in the dark arts of dealing with the Press. For it was he who came up with the idea of outing Valerie Plame:
Take Eric Edelman, Libby's former deputy. According to the indictment, Edelman suggested leaking information about the fact-finding trip to Africa undertaken by Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, to rebut Wilson's allegations just days before Libby first leaked Plame's identity to Judith Miller.
Getting it off your chest

None of all this will be of great news to transatlantic news-wonks.

The pity is that a significant issue (and yet another Administration cock-up) was drowned out by an even more important matter:
More than a week after The Washington Post's Robin Givhan's devoted an entire column to Hillary Clinton's alleged low-cut outfit, the controversy over the piece reached new heights this weekend as Sunday talk shows and numerous newspapers referenced the piece.

Among them was "Meet the Press," on which the column drew complaints from NBC's Andrea Mitchell, but support from John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, who said, "When you look ... at the calculation that goes into everything that Hillary Clinton does, for her to argue that she was not aware of what she was communicating by her dress is like Barry Bonds saying he though he was rubbing down with flaxseed oil."

On CNN's Reliable Sources, host and Post colleague Howard Kurtz cited the piece, saying "Now, you're probably thinking, why are we in the media wasting our time on such sartorial nonsense? Maybe because we care so much about how we look, so we assume politicians must have the same obsession."
But British bosoms are bigger and better!

That Givhan story (which is still being recycled even in the New York Times) has extra British inches:
Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton's was a teasing display, then Smith's was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn't as unnerving. Perhaps that's because Smith's cleavage seemed to be presented so forthrightly. Smith's fitted jacket and her dramatic necklace combined to draw the eye directly to her bosom. There they were . . . all part of a bold, confident style package.
"There they were". So much for the sisterhood. Now, if the piece were by-lined to a male ...

It's all unhealthily reminiscent of the classic dialogue from Yes, Prime Minister:
Hacker: "The Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country and the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who do run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, the Morning Star is read by people who think the country should be run by another country and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is."

Sir Humphrey: "And what about people who read The Sun?"

Bernard: "Sun-readers don't care who runs the country so long as she's got big tits."
But (back to the top) will the Pentagon recommend invasion if we Brits insist on running our country? Or inviting the Iraqis to run theirs? Sphere: Related Content

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