Monday, September 14, 2015

The Nuance of Inaction

Intelligence analysts have come forward to claim that their analysis has been altered to minimize the threat of ISIL and overestimate the success of our efforts to defeat the group. I believe this is a longstanding problem with this administration.

This is not good:

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military's Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

I've certainly been skeptical of reports that we are winning the war against ISIL--notwithstanding my support for the general war outline (with caveats) and with consideration of my recent view that the war is going far too slowly.

And it explains the mismatch between the president's view and the view from the ground on the rise of ISIL.

I basically think that the military is reacting to the pressure coming from the very top of their chain of command that there is no problem so bad that it can't be minimized.

That's my basic worry over the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. Even as the painfully few State Department security personnel raced to the sound of the guns to do something, our large concentration of forces in Western Europe did exactly nothing in response:

I still haven't been satisfied that our military acted as if we are a nation at war when our facilities were attacked--by rushing to the sound of the guns with what we had available in the hope that we might be able to affect the outcome that was still unknown.

But the party line during a presidential election year was that our wars were responsibly ended and that al Qaeda was on the run. I suspect that notion infected the military chain of command so much that our military didn't react to the attack like we were (and are) at war.

Remember that it doesn't excuse lack of action that day to say that American forces could not have reached Libya in time to save the consulate or CIA annex. Distance and time were the least of our problems.

The knowledge that we could not have reached the consulate or annex before they were lost and sacked comes from hindsight. At the time there was no way to know how long the crisis would last. Yet we did not move our military when the crisis was fluid.

This worry about why we did not act doesn't require a "stand down" order to be valid. This worry just requires commanders unwilling to challenge the thinking of their bosses up the chain of command who are known not to want to hear bad news.

Long ago, I read a book about a Russian-Chinese war in which a French diplomat explained why he was knowingly transmitting false portrayals of American actions during a crisis to his superiors in Paris. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "It is better to be wrong in the same manner as your superiors than it is to be right when they are wrong."

Now you understand the concept of nuance.