Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Outsmarting Human Intelligence

Outsmarting Human Intelligence
Too Dumb Moralism

© 2005 Ross Williams

This probably won't be a newsflash to anyone, but 9-11 really sucked. Majorly.

The newswatch never stops: our intelligence services failed us.

The CIA is the group of spooks and spies we have that are licensed under US law to collect information in foreign countries about nations and individuals trying to do things to hurt the US. But we don't want the CIA to collect information in the US, because some of the people on whom they’d collect information would be US citizens who are in a snit over some thing or another. Most snit-having people say they’re really gonna show somebody or other a thing or two, and otherwise make wildass threats. And, well, we have free speech. If we can’t blow off steam by making wildass threats, then what good is free speech? So we passed a law back in the Sensitive Seventies that prevents the CIA from operating in the US.

Domestic spying is done by the FBI.

There. Doesn't that make you feel better?

So here we've got the CIA collecting information on foreign hotheads when they're abroad, but they can't follow them into the US because our laws prevent that, so the FBI picks them up in the US and follows them around. ...if they're alerted to their arrival by the INS folks, which most often they aren't.

You might think to yourselves, "But, but, but the CIA knew they were coming to the US, ..." usually, yes, "... so why didn't the CIA tell the FBI themselves?"

Oh, you naive and simplistic people. The CIA didn't tell the FBI what the CIA knew because that's not the way it works. Should it work that way? Maybe, but it doesn't, and it wasn't, and it never has, and it likely won't. Ever.

For a few reasons.

First: the more people who know the secret, the less secret it is. That's the purpose of making something secret: not everyone gets to know. Not everyone is important enough. The FBI isn’t as important as the CIA. …to the CIA. And the CIA doesn't want the FBI to know what the CIA knows. And vice versa, for that matter.[1]

Second: if the CIA is supposed to tell the FBI what it knows, then pretty soon the CIA will be irrelevant. And there'll be a whole agency-worth of people looking for work, and lining the off-ramps of the DC Beltway. "Will be nosy for food". No agency, office, bureau or department in the government – in any government – is ever, ever, ever going to do anything to make themselves irrelevant. They may, like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, reduce their workload to nothing, but the BIA is still the only ones capable of doing it. Sharing work in a bureaucracy makes the sharer downsizable.

Now, I'll admit right up front that the CIA and the FBI should cooperate, should tell each other what they know, should share secrets. For I am as idealistic as the next guy. I just don't advertise my idealism very often, because stated idealism makes you sound like an idiot whenever you leave the bar.

The world does not work that way period end of discussion. It doesn't get simpler than that. And it won't be made to work that way no matter how many idealists collect in front of the White House to wet their panties by listing the million and one reasons why it should. It won't be made to work that way until after a crisis. Even then it won't be because everyone agrees. "Oh, yes, the CIA and the FBI were both being selfish and short-sighted brats. They were each trying to take their ball of secrets and go home."

Well, we may agree on that, but we don't count. The only people who count are the pinheads and the weenies who run the country, and they have to go through their episodic ventures of blame-laying and partisan catcalling first.

Did the US have enough information to piece together the whole 9-11 plot – or at least enough of it that the "other nineteen" should have been red flagged even to the Logan skycaps? Yes, in spades. But ... the CIA knew part of it, the FBI knew another part of it, and neither were sharing because they don't do that. There was no unifying, kingly piece of information that would have caused either the CIA or the FBI to have the cartoonish light bulb over their head turn on

Jumping ahead a few rounds of recriminatory posturing, we find that the government has attempted to eliminate the intel bottlenecks by putting our spies – both foreign and domestic – under one roof. They both answer to Homeland Security. There's a whiff of the Orwellian in the name. Even though the creation of Homeland Security presumes that creating more government to cure a government-made stupidity is not laughably preposterous to all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, the move is, at least, on the right track. Somebody needs to make the CIA and the FBI talk. To each other, that is.

That said, kill DHS. Now, before it mutates – and all government departments mutate. Put these people back in their old jobs. The noble purpose of making the CIA and the FBI share the same sandbox[2] isn't worth the overhead of a ganglionic governmental cancer. We've got too many as it is. Besides, the CIA and FBI already do operate under one roof. Last I checked, they were both Americans. One would think that would be enough.

The fact that no one US intel agency had enough information of their own to piece together the 9-11 plot is a direct fallout of the law passed over 30 years ago prohibiting the CIA from domestic spying. The purpose behind preventing the CIA from spying in the US was that our 60s anarchists and bomb-throwing radicals were Really Good Kids®, just mixed up with the Wrong Crowds® and shouldn't be spied on. They were still spied on, just not by the CIA. The FBI took the job. And after that, the FBI and the CIA had their own little fiefdoms of information, and the secret-keeping started.

Give the CIA their job back, or at least most of it[3]. That's solution number one.

The second part of the solution goes back to the unifying, kingly piece of information that we didn't have, and increasing our chances of getting it. The reason we didn't have it is because, starting around the same time we gave the FBI the job of domestic espionage, we started giving ourselves a national lobotomy. By which I mean: killing off our "human intelligence". We passed laws, by which I mean budget appropriations, that de-emphasized HumInt, and threw more money at space-age high-tech gizmory instead.

This started around Nixon-Ford, proceeded apace during both Carter and Reagan [Reagan was particularly enamored of gadgets], accelerated under Bush the Elder, and attained warp speed under Clinton. The Sensitive Seventies gave way to the Outrageous Eighties, which then leaked into the Neophytic Nineties. We went from being too demure to dirty ourselves with HumInt, to being too keen on ostentation to have time for it, to being too naively unaware of its purpose in the first place.

An entire generation raised on the pablum of human dignity for all, including the undignified, came to believe that only rotten people do rotten things for rotten reasons, forgot that good people can do rotten things for good reasons when it’s us doing it, and declared that when anyone else did these rotten things, well, it didn’t make them rotten, since they probably had good reasons. …like resisting the rotten ol’ US.

It's one thing to stick an American microphone in a foreign diplomat's hotel room to eavesdrop. It's another to stick a hot American chick in the diplomat’s bed to fuck for America. We can get the diplomat’s words from the microphone, yes. But we get the diplomat’s heart from the slut.

It's one thing to stick a camera on an American satellite and watch the troop movements of the nations we don't like. But it's another to hire some slimeball to move with those troops. The camera will find out where they're going, but the slimeball will know why.

Our seventies sensitivities told us to cease trading in sluts and slimes. How dare we resort to running a patriotic escort service? How dare we hire the scums of the earth to do our bidding? We are a civilized nation; that sort of lowbrow, barrel-scraping activity is beneath us. Isn’t it? Hiring whores and scuz isn’t dignified. Is it?

But our seventies sensitivities imposed another hair-shirt straightjacket on the US that has caused us far more harm than the noble idealism that frowned on our mere pandering. Or, rather, these idealistic sensitivities had our nation fitted for the hair-shirt straightjacket, and demands we don it every time our foreign policy dares to consort with a third world tyrant.

How dare we do that, too.

The reality is, though, third world kingpins to whom we give tokens of our esteem give us most of the really juicy information we get. For the price of a crate of Stingers, cluster bombs, or other assorted military hardware, not to mention plain old cash, we get The Goods. All this booty tends to prop up their tyrannical governments – or depose the tyrannical governments who won’t cooperate with us – but at least we get something out of it.

And that makes a bunch of idealistic Americans dampen their drawers. It doesn’t matter that we’re getting anything from third world misery, they claim, we’re consorting with tyrants!

Yes, indeed we are. Do you have a point, other than to exclaim the obvious?

Well, their point – as has been repeatedly imparted to me by the spluttering idealists – is that only a cold-hearted cynic could rationalize third world tyranny by saying “at least we got something out of it.”

When I say “Yeah? And?” they typically launch themselves into the same Sea of Impertinence that makes being a public idealist such an easy person to mock. Apparently, if it weren’t for the insufferable international intrigue that only the United States dispenses, the rest of the world would be living in well-fed peace and group-hug harmony, employing native craftspeople as industrial CEOs, and just generally respecting the hell out of each other’s personhood. You may recall how a few thousand years of traditional African infibulation was inspired by American cold-war coercion.

The basic bottom line is this: the third world is run, and overrun, by despotic turdballs. We can’t ignore them; that causes tall American buildings to fall down. We can’t stop them all from being who they are; if we arrested every tyrant and wanna-be, we wouldn’t have any room for our own drug addicts and campaign finance scofflaws. If we went to war to remove every tyrant from his throne, we’d have the Iraq/2003 wailing self-recrimination every day in hundreds of different ways. No, no, “regime change” is acceptable for Democrats to accomplish in [white] Serbia in favor of the [white] outcasts, but unacceptable for Republicans to try in [brown] Iraq in favor of the [brown] outcasts. And there’s absolutely no racism being implied, or anything. Good gosh a’mighty, no!! Perish the thought.

The tyrants are going to be there, tyrannizing their people, with our help or without it. Refusing to help them won’t make them go away. Witness Castro’s Barrel o’ Laughs Land. Refusing to sell them F-16s doesn’t drive them from power. They’ll buy French Mirages or Russian MiGs instead… and then get friendly with the frogs and the bears. Which leaves good ol’ noble Uncle Sam with a dopey grin on his face at the Diplomats’ Ball because he’s the only guy there without a clue what’s going on in the rest of the world. Which is true enough in the first place; we don’t need to compound the problem by deliberately cluing out for high-minded nonsense.

With most of the world being run by tyrants, and several of those tyrants not liking the United States, how do we tell which of those tyrants are likely to actually do to the US what they say they’ll do to the US? We can listen to them with microphones, and watch them with satellites. But there’s a discreet limit to the amount of information that electronics can get for us.

We can also follow them with trenchcoated CIA agents wearing fedoras, talking into lapel pins and being generally unobtrusive.

It’s time to hire the sluts and the slimes. A slut is a good weapon to throw at a diplomat or other individual. A slimeball is a good weapon to throw into a known group of ne’er-do-wells. But they don’t work very well collecting information on new threats from new sources.

So we get some of those tyrants working for us. Tyrants arrest thousands of dissidents at a swipe and ask them electrode-loaded questions anyway, why not buy some of that information? We’ll sell you some really sleek airplanes for your air force if you pass along anything you uncover during your human rights violations which may be of interest to us… We’ll sell you the bombs that go on the F-16s if you pass along what you find out about some of these other countries as well…

Know which tyrants are on the US payroll? Those who have F-16s. Know who’s on the French payroll? The tyrants who have the Mirages. Know who’s owned by the Russians? The ones who have MiGs. While rocket science is necessary for modern jet fighters to fly, you don’t need it to figure out the politics.

Batista was a corrupt nogoodnik, yes. So’s Castro. Difference: Batista was “our guy”. Castro has MiGs. Read the tea leaves.

Noriega was a despicable, drug-running bully, certainly. But he was “our guy”. And when he went into business for himself, we … um … “extradited” him.

Caldera was the typical Banana Republican, but he was our Banana Republican[4]; he got F-16s. Chavez is another typical Banana Republican, but from the super-Socialist side, and he can’t get parts for those F-16s; he’s buying weapons from Russia now.

The Saud royal family has F-16s as well. And the Saudi people, generally Wahabi-sect Sunni like their hero Osama bin Laden, hate the royals. The Saud family is “our guy” as well, when they aren’t trying to curry favor with their own peasants. They usually fail when they try, so the F-16s might actually come in handy some day.

The Shah of Iran had F-16s … he was a tyrant. And he was becoming more of one as time went on. Enduring 25 years of attempted ouster by self-righteous Islamic fundamentalists, luxuriating in Paris exile and with French protection, will do that to you. He was “our guy” right up until he wasn’t anyone’s guy. And that brings us to the source of so much of our current partisan finger-pointing.

Saddam Hussein, whose air force was filled with Mirage and MiG fighters, was famously[5] photographed in 1983 shaking hands with Don Rumsfeld. We sold Iraq helicopters and cluster bombs in return for …? Not goat cheese and dates. Try intelligence on the recently Shah-less Iran, and his cooperation on maintaining world oil price stability[6]. While gassing Kurds[7] is an efficient manner of being a thug and running afoul of our fickle intellectual moralists, invading Kuwait clearly violated the nature of our agreement, not to mention constituting an act of war against the world. For the same reason that free access to the High Seas is considered a strategic resource by every nation – and an act of war when it’s denied – so is a stable market for necessary commodities such as petroleum.

We tried cozying up to Hussein. So what? We wanted him to be a junior “our guy”. He was fighting the Iranians, who were no longer “our guy”. He was already killing Kurds with his Mirage and MiG fighters, additional hardware from America wasn’t going to materially affect his habits one way or another. And because being an idealist does not necessarily preclude also being a cold-hearted cynic, we all know what his having MiGs and Mirages means… right? Hussein was himself trying to cozy up to as many nations as he could, but then decided, a la Noriega, to go into business for himself.

In the bilateral super-power scheme[8], you don’t go into business for yourself. Even the Russians and the French agreed on that one. Buh-bye Iraqi imperialist expansion; hello latter-day-Versailles peace.

This is the way the world works. It worked that way 2,000 years ago, as well. But instead of jet fighters, Rome gave away indoor plumbing for being “Caesar’s guy”.

Our choices are to operate in the World As It Is and work with tyrants and despots who are willing to be “our guy”; trade jets for intelligence. Or we put on the Pat Buchanist motley, pull the borders up around our ears and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist while we wait for the next Pearl Harbor or 9-11 to wake us up. Or we can cry the big crocodile tears so common among the collegiate omniscients.

Tyrants impose human misery in great gobs; it’s what they do. It’s in their job description. They will continue to do this irrespective of what we do. We can stand back and scold the tyrant, in the same way that our college perfessors scold American foreign policy. But past history indicates that this is a losing game plan. Foreigners dislike, more or less intensely, know-it-all Americans telling them how to behave. Go to your in-laws sometime and correct their child-rearing practices – or their children – if you wish to quibble. Once you get out of divorce court, tell me how it went.

We can ignore the tyrant and his nation. But tyrants have a tendency to be self-centered minor megalomaniacs, and we ignore them at our peril. In terms of child psychology, the ignored tyrant, like the ignored brat, will “lash out” in ways that are disruptive to peace and tranquility. So even though you may be very right in scolding your in-laws for how they raise their children, you don’t get points for being right. And ignoring the tyrant doesn’t stop his imposition of human misery in any event. We’ll end up having to replace the carpet or large sections of major cities.

Those are the realities. Tyrants dispense misery whether we’re involved or not; we are risking Americans’ lives and America itself by not knowing what is going on with the world’s tyrants. The tyrants won’t tell us what’s going on with them unless we deal with them … which usually involves making deals with them.

So, there you have it. Profiting from other’s human misery keeps our pampered professors in tenure, and it does not mean we cause it. We can’t end it by scolding, but we have reduced it, some places, by buying tyrants with jets. South Korea is a damned sight better than it was, even twenty years ago. So’s China, for that matter. And South Africa. Saudi Arabia just held their first-ever election. Okay, so it was only men, but so were our first elections.

The next time someone says “we’re in bed with tyrants”, the appropriate response is “Yeah? And?”[9] The alternative is to deliberately avoid getting information about when and how that tyrant’s human misery will be on the next airplane leaving Logan, and blame ourselves for being so immoral in a world where, frankly, we’re saints – comparatively.

And comparatively is all we’ve got.
[1] This is called “compartmentalization”, the term used to describe when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. US intelligence has about a dozen hands, all in their own compartments. 9-11 was inevitable.
[2] and FBI/INS, CIA/NSA, etc
[3] Hoover’s dead now, folks. So are most of the people he was blackmailing. Capitulating to FBI whim might be political habit, but it’s no longer a matter of career-saving discretion
[4] more or less
[5] or otherwise
[6] at a low price, to undercut Soviet exports and add another millstone around the Brezhnev neck
[7] with Russian chemical weapons and French delivery systems
[8] tri-lateral, according to certain out of joint Froggish noses
[9] Alternatives: “Better us than the French/Russians/Chinese”. “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer – and what’s closer than sharing a bed?”


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