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|Principal-agent problem||Elite Theory||The psychopath in the corner office||Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior||Meetings mania||Humor||Etc|
Bureaucracy is an organizational model rationally designed to perform complex tasks efficiently. Bureaucratic organizations are typically large organizations, and they are characterized by formalized rules and regulations, systematic record-keeping and archiving of past decisions, formalized planning for the future, hierarchies of status, defined career paths (within the organization and across organizations), a concern for organizational identity, and other features.
Many of these features considerably vary across organizations, but government, military and international corporations as well as international organizations (UN, UNESCO, World Bank, IMF) are more or less typified forms. The army and most churches also belong to this category. The fact that bureaucracies are governed by rules make them something like staffed with human robots, where rules serve as a program governing the robot behavior. And as in sci-fi such robots very soon start to demonstrate behavior that was not designed by the programmers ;-).
For example, scholars and specialists often lament that once the bureaucracy commits itself to a course of action, it rarely adjusts its path. Bureaucracies prize continuity over innovation and cling to the prevailing orthodoxy even if that means moving strait till everybody start to fall from the cliff. With the notable exception of the top layer of hierarchy ;-).
While each bureaucracy is created with particular mandate, like Frankenstein it very soon it escape the control of its creators and start living the life of its own, pursuing goals that might nothing to do, or worse completely opposite to those to achieve which it was created. At some point a new phenomenon called organizational culture emerge. the latter comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communications practices, attitudes and assumptions. The elements fit together as a self-reinforcing system and are resistant to any attempt to change it. Hierarchy, with its attendant multiple layers of goals, roles, accountabilities, values and communication channels became entrenched.
Any bureaucracy is a political coalition that is designed to protect and enrich its members (see Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition). And that goal explicitly conflict with the goal of efficient and dispassionate service that they theoretically should provide. That means that there is inherent contradiction within any large bureaucratic organization. that also means that one of the most central problem of bureaucracies is Principal-agent problem which is essentially another side of The Iron Law of Oligarchy. This problem recently (in 2008) get some attention in respect to financial sector:
In political science and economics, the principal-agent problem or agency dilemma treats the difficulties that arise under conditions of incomplete and asymmetric information when a principal hires an agent, such as the problem that the two may not have the same interests, while the principal is, presumably, hiring the agent to pursue the interests of the former. The “agency problem” is an inherent dysfunction in all principal/agent relationships, a dysfunction so powerful that such relationships can never fully achieve their stated objectives.. Here is how Wikipedia defines this relationship
The principal–agent problem or agency dilemma occurs when one person or entity (the "agent") is able to make decisions that impact, or on behalf of, another person or entity: the "principal". The dilemma exists because sometimes the agent is motivated to act in his own best interests rather than those of the principal. The agent-principal relationships is a useful analytic tool in political science and economics, but may also apply to other areas.
Common examples of this relationship include corporate management (agent) and shareholders (principal), or politicians (agent) and voters (principal). For another example, consider a dental patient (the principal) wondering whether his dentist (the agent) is recommending expensive treatment because it is truly necessary for the patient's dental health, or because it will generate income for the dentist. In fact the problem potentially arises in almost any context where one party is being paid by another to do something, whether in formal employment or a negotiated deal such as paying for household jobs or car repairs.
The problem arises where the two parties have different interests and asymmetric information (the agent having more information), such that the principal cannot directly ensure that the agent is always acting in its (the principal's) best interests, particularly when activities that are useful to the principal are costly to the agent, and where elements of what the agent does are costly for the principal to observe. Moral hazard and conflict of interest may arise. Indeed, the principal may be sufficiently concerned at the possibility of being exploited by the agent that he chooses not to enter into a transaction at all, when that deal would have actually been in both parties' best interests: a suboptimal outcome that lowers welfare overall. The deviation from the principal's interest by the agent is called "agency costs".
“Looting” is a reasonably violent word that conveys with some degree of accuracy the essence of principal-agent problem in financial sector. Perverse incentives is more politically correct work meaning essentially the same. Attempts to constrain financial looting using laws and regulation, or at the individual level, by a sufficiently powerful moral conscience proved inefficient.
Criminal prosecution is difficult as top officers amass considerable wealth and can afford the best defense money can buy. At the same time Stalinism-style purges, while definitely effective contradict norms of the modern societies. Changing situation via regulation is difficult as financial oligarchy controls lawmakers and, as Obama election had shown, also might well controls the nomination of presidential candidates from both parties.
There are three laws that govern this process of corruption:
A former Pentagon official says the history of the Veterans Administration is littered with stunning examples of waste and incompetence, and the latest allegations of delayed care, secret wait lists and multiple sets of books at VA institutions only takes it to a new level.
In any case within any large organization there are powerful mechanisms (filters) which prevent promotion of competent people into higher levels of hierarchy, selection of loyalty dominates selection based on competence and there are well established mechanisms of degradation of previously competent members as they climb up the hierarchical ladder.
Even in cases of indoctrination with ideology which inhibits those impulses, corruption of the organizational elite is a serious problem as collapse of the USSR demonstrated to the surprised world. Only an idiot (or PR prostitute ;-) would say that it was angry Russians who overthrow the Communist regime; in reality it was Communist elite, including KGB elite which changed flags and privatized the state resources.
This is the key to understanding complex dynamics in large organization, where bureaucracies that often engage in actions that look close to absurd (or are absurd) to the uninitiated, but are always directed on preservation and enhancement of power of top bureaucrats. One of the most important features of bureaucracies is that along with "functional side" it also necessarily becomes a political coalition which relentless, consistently and skillfully fights for self-preservation and growth of its influence, often sacrificing "functional" part like pawns in the chess game. As soon as self-preservation become the paramount concern, the original purpose of the bureaucracy to provide efficient and dispassionate service ("functional part") is subverted and buried beneath the higher priority activities of providing benefits, increasing staffing, and, the most importantly, increasing budgets ("political part").
|As soon as self-preservation become the paramount concern, the original purpose of the bureaucracy to provide efficient and dispassionate service ("functional part") is subverted and buried beneath the higher priority activities of providing benefits, increasing staffing, and, the most importantly, increasing budgets ("political part").|
Tendency of mature bureaucracies to pervert their organizational, functional goals necessitates periodic purges and reorganizations. One of the first political party which understood this complex dynamic were Bolsheviks, who under Stalin instituted periodic purges of State-employed bureaucrats ("apparatchiks"), so that the fear for their well-being (and often life) served as a powerful countervailing force to the natural tendency of bureaucracy to pervert its goals. Which of course have had only temporary effect.
In the USA similar mechanisms of appointing as head of government agencies by political appointees (who are often, unfortunately, are completely incompetent in the area of activity they were made responsible for) is much less effective, but also has its positive sides. The US Congress looks more stagnant then the USSR Politburo with the average serving term of senators probably exceeding twice of more the term of a typical Politburo member.
Limitation of term of the President along with natural change of political objectives serves as a periodic, but very mild reorganizing force. This effect is watered down by the short term assigned to the presidency as in such short period it is impossible to institute substantial changes in top departments such as Department of State and Department of Defense (which actually has budget larger then GDP of the USSR and is probably less efficient in spending those money that the socialist economy of the USSR).
Intelligence community is another part that tend quickly escape the control and pervert the goal for which particular organization was created. Here natural tendency of any large bureaucracy to try to enlarge their sphere of influence and minimize the control from above looks really menacing to the very existence of democratic government in the country as Church Committee discovered long ago. To members of the commission CIA looked more like a tail which wags the dog, then as a regular part of the government, and as Assassination of President Kennedy had shown this is really the case. And it was the chief of FBI J. Edgar Hoover who convincingly proved that that idea of rotation of high level executives in the US government has well defined exceptions. None of presidents dared to touch him until he died in the office occupying it for almost 40 years (1935-1972).
In large corporation the role similar to Stalin purges can play periodic changing of location of headquarters, as election of president of the corporation and its board are typically formal and are run by the same clique that runs the organization.
Another negative side of bureaucracies is that they serve as perfect environment for Authoritarians (especially Double High Authoritarians) as well as sociopaths. See The psychopath in the corner office and Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior
So it is interesting that the term psychopathic is applicable to bureaucracies too, not only to individuals. Bureaucracies can demonstrate several of typical psychopathic traits. Like psychopathic managers, bureaucracies often prevent subordinates doing their jobs and prevent employees fulfilling their duties. The term Psychopathic corporation is often used to highlight the connection between corporate psychopaths and modern government organizations and mega-corporations. Here is a short but very useful list from Our Church Administration is Critically Infected « Another Voice
1.Illogical Thinking: The lack of independent, critical thinking.
2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds: Authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another.
3. Double Standards : When your ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy to use double standards in your judgments. You simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what you’ve decided to do.
4. Hypocrisy: The leaders of authoritarian movements sometimes accuse their opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-free speech when the latter protest against various books, movies, speakers, teachers and so on.
5. Blindness To Themselves: self-righteousness.
6. A Profound Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentrism means dividing the world up into in-groups and out-groups…….in-groups are holy and good…out-groups are evil and Satanic.
7. Dogmatism: the Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense: By dogmatism I mean relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty. Loyal followers obey without questions…..
The key feature of such companies is that do not treat employees as humans, they treat them as animals to be culled when appropriate.
"The psychopathic company has no allegiance to the employees within, just
to top management,"....
Although multiple vices and tendency to convert rules into absurd of large bureaucracies are self-evident and huge volume of literature exists about perversions of bureaucracies, especially military bureaucracies (The Good Soldier Švejk ), this form of organization is not totally bad. At the same time progressive degradation of bureaucracies with age, perversion of goals and tendency for unwarranted extension of its influence and size are well established.
In other words, benefits to the proverbial “red tape” associated with bureaucracy do exist, but as its amount increase at some point all benefits dissipate and organization became totally parasitic. Quantity just turns into quality. At the same time strong mechanisms of self-defense and survival ensure that such a bureaucracy can last a long time past this point. And as Parkinson aptly stated perversion of use of resources is a rule not an anomaly.
Also level of competency of top bureaucrats are open to review as strong mechanisms within organization exist that put loyalty to higher brass first and prevent promotion of competent people into higher levels of hierarchy as well as mechanisms of degradation of skills (and often IQ -- acquired idiocy) of previously competent members as they change roles during climbing up the hierarchical ladder (The Peter Principle).
There is also a strong tendency of top layers of any large bureaucracy to form a oligarchy and cut oxygen for newcomers, and possibility of change. In other words forming permanent organizational elite, much like aristocracies in the part. That's what Iron law of oligarchy is about. So there can't be a democratic established bureaucracy, even in principle. Any established bureaucracy is by definition an oligarchy that often acts in concert and reflect interests of other oligarchic groups in society no matter what is the formal charter of the organization.
For example, bureaucratic regulations and rules help ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes appropriate precautions to safeguard the health of Americans when it is in the process of approving a new medication. It does not work perfectly as it is often perverted by special interests, but it is better then nothing and might be even better then alternatives. The proverbial "red tape" associated with truckload of useless documents actually also serves positive role documenting pretty complex things, so that multiple players have common vision and if problems arise again, data exists for analysis and correction. Here how John Kenneth Galbright viewed the phenomena:
John Kenneth Galbraith, who took the analysis well beyond the manufacture of pins. According to Galbraith, much of the dynamism of the modern world could be attributed to the advance of science and technology, which in turn resulted from “taking ordinary men, informing them narrowly and deeply and then, through appropriate organization, arranging to have their knowledge combined with that of other specialized but equally ordinary men.”12
As Galbraith implied, specialization creates the need for coordination. Bureaucracies bring order out of potential chaos in two ways. The first of these is what people tend to think of when they hear the word bureaucracy: rules, regulations, and strict procedures. All bureaucracies make abundant use of explicit and implicit Standard Operating Procedures to guide and control the activities of their employees. This, of course, can be another source of frustration when dealing with a bureaucracy because there may be situations not covered by existing rules, or the rules may be of dubious appropriateness. But even more frustrations, as well as endless opportunities for corruption and abuse, would ensue if the members of an organization simply made decisions on the basis of personal connections or individual whims.
Along with the use of formal roles and rules, bureaucratic organizations coordinate the work of their members through another property that is distasteful to many: hierarchical authority. The structures of most bureaucratic organizations can be (and usually are) depicted in an organization chart that puts every position at a hierarchical level that clearly indicates who is subordinate or superordinate to whom. In addition to aiding in the coordination of work, organizational hierarchies serve a number of other functions, such as delineating responsibilities and motivating workers by holding out the prospect of promotion. Organizational hierarchies are especially prominent in military and paramilitary organizations such as police forces, where observing rules and obeying orders issued by superiors are of paramount importance. Other kinds of organizations can get by with more egalitarian structures, but some degree of hierarchical ranking will be found in all bureaucratic organizations.
A final characteristic of bureaucratic organizations is their extensive use of, and reliance on, written records. It is no coincidence that the first extensive government bureaucracies emerged in Egypt, Babylonia, and China, places where written languages were first created and developed. As a practical matter, written records are essential for the preservation and dissemination of rules, regulations, and operating procedures, along with essential documents such as contracts, tax records, and voter registrations. What began thousands of years ago with the first scratching on clay tablets continues to a greatly magnified degree today, as modern information and communications technologies such as computerized databases and e-mail have extended the reach and potency of the written word
At this point, many readers are probably thinking that this discussion of bureaucracy is seriously divorced from reality as they have experienced it. And they are right—not only do bureaucracies in the real world often depart from the above principles, but the imputation that they are the embodiment of rationality seems quite a stretch. Here we will again simply note that an ideal type presentation of bureaucracy is only a starting point for further analysis, just as a mathematical description of the acceleration of a falling body has to first set aside the effects of air resistance in order to derive the formula for determining the rate at which the body gains speed. There will be numerous places in this book where real-world organizational structures and procedures and their consequences for the way work is done will be presented, along with the reasons for their departure from ideal-type bureaucracies. As a starting point, we need to consider which kinds of work environments are well suited to bureaucratic modes of organization and which are not.
Likewise, the impersonality of bureaucracies can have benefits. For example, an applicant must submit a great deal of paperwork to obtain a government student loan. However, this lengthy—and often frustrating—process promotes equal treatment of all applicants, meaning that everyone has a fair chance to gain access to funding. Formally bureaucracy discourages favoritism, meaning that on the surface friendships and political clout should have no effect on access to funding. Reality is totally different.
The concept of bureaucracy is closely linked with the concept of oligarchy. Any large corporate bureaucracy is an oligarchy. Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for society or environment at large.
Bureaucracies may have positive effects on employees. Whereas the stereotype of bureaucracies is one of suppressed creativity and extinguished imagination, this is not the case. Social research shows that many employees intellectually thrive in bureaucratic environments. According to this research, bureaucrats have higher levels of education, intellectual activity, personal responsibility, self-direction, and open-mindedness, when compared to non-bureaucrats.
Another benefit of bureaucracies for employees is job security, such as a steady salary, and other perks, like insurance, medical and disability coverage, and a retirement pension.
Programmers and system administrators rarely have anything good to say about bureaucracies, and their complaints may hold some truth. As noted previously, bureaucratic regulations and rules are not very helpful when unexpected situations arise. Bureaucratic authority is notoriously undemocratic, and blind adherence to rules may inhibit the exact actions necessary to achieve organizational goals.
Concerning this last point, one of bureaucracy's least-appreciated features is its proneness to creating “paper trails” and piles of rules. Governmental bureaucracies are especially known for this. Critics of bureaucracy argue that mountains of paper and rules only slow an organization's capacity to achieve stated goals. They also note that governmental red tape costs taxpayers both time and money. Parkinson's Law and the Peter Principle have been formulated to explain how bureaucracies become dysfunctional. They are pretty fascinating findings:
In a sense, weakness of explanatory part of Peter Principle ignores the nature of bureaucracies as political coalitions. It only suggests that there are hidden but powerful mechanisms which prevent appointing competent members into positions of power. Moreover at higher levels of hierarchy successful candidates are often intentionally mediocre as they were selected as a compromise reached between two groups which fight for power. Paradoxically 'faking mediocrity" is a successful policy for getting some politically savvy and competent managers to the top. As somebody suggested “In the republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous.” Another aspect is that mediocre but power hungry managers are wee aware about this weakness and try to mask it by corresponding selection of less competent but more loyal candidates. This tendency is related to Steve Jobs well known observation that "bozos tend to select bozos" (“the bozo explosion.”). See Why Every Company Needs A No Bozos Policy - Forbes:
What is a bozo? It’s a little like pornography, you know it when you see it. However, let me try to more precisely define one.
A bozo is someone who thinks they are much smarter and capable than they actually are. They constantly over-estimate their abilities and under-estimate the risks and threats around them. They typically don’t keep an open-mind. They look instead for data that confirms a previously held bias. They also don’t handle details well. They expect other people to clean up their messes when they happen, and so don’t feel the need to obsess over the little things. Because they don’t have a keen sense for the competitive market in which they operate, they typically don’t have good judgment in key strategic decisions or when hiring top talent. Instead of hiring the smartest folks around them, bozos prefer to hire people who blow smoke, telling them how great they are, or for some non-obvious business reason such as sharing the same college or frat.
In this sense we can talk about Institutalized perversion of "competence based promotion" and
resulting incompetence at top layers. The accent here is on servility as substitution for
competence for loyalty and "politically correctness" as the key values which determine promotion
in large bureaucracies. This is most common for military bureaucracies. See also
Although the extent of bureaucratization should reflect the kind of work being done, the decision to organize things along bureaucratic lines may also reflect existing economic and social cleavages. As several critics have argued, a key element of bureaucratic organization, the division of labor, may represent an effort by management to simplify workers’ tasks to the point where no skill is required to get the job done. From the perspective of management, this has two advantages. First, it lowers labor costs by allowing the use of unskilled, low-paid workers. Second, “de-skilling” removes an important source of potential power within the workforce. Employees with special skills are hard to replace, and this significantly improves their bargaining power when it comes to wages, benefits, and working conditions.15 In similar fashion, bureaucratic hierarchies may be established and maintained not because they contribute to the effective functioning of an organization but because they confer authority and prestige to some of its members at the expense of others. These points have been emphasized by Marxist critics of capitalist organizations, who have argued that both division of labor and hierarchy are organizational devices used to control workers and accumulate capitalist profits.16
Marxists have not been the only ones to take a critical stance toward bureaucracy. Other critics have been particularly concerned with the effects of bureaucratic organization on employees and the way they go about their work. One of the most trenchant criticisms of the effects of bureaucracy on individual workers came from Max Weber himself. For Weber, the formal rationality embodied in bureaucratic structures and procedures was itself problematic. After all, what Weber saw as the cultural basis of rationality, the “disenchantment of the world,” carries a double meaning. Especially in everyday use, disenchantment connotes a sense of disillusionment to the point of cynicism. As Weber fully realized, a totally disenchanted world is flat and gray, containing little to elevate the spirits of men and women. As Weber noted in a famous passage in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, a totally disenchanted culture produced “narrow specialists without mind, pleasure seekers without heart; in its conceit this nothingness imagines it has climbed to a level of humanity never before attained.”17
A more sharply focused insight into the effects of bureaucratic organization on individual workers has been provided by Robert Merton through his description of the “bureaucratic personality” and the circumstances that give rise to it.18 For Merton, bureaucratic structures and procedures are established to get certain things done, but sometimes they become ends in themselves. When this happens, we may see the emergence of the “bureaucratic virtuoso,” a functionary who closely adheres to all the rules and procedures but hardly accomplishes anything of significance. Organizations and their personnel can succumb to this malady for both organizational and personal reasons. In the case of the former, “bureaucratic ritualism” may be used by organizations as a defense mechanism in a hostile political climate. For the individual bureaucrat, job insecurity may provoke a need to do everything “by the books” so no blame can be assigned when things go badly.
A more recent description and analysis of contemporary bureaucracy and its consequences for working life comes from George Ritzer, who has invoked the McDonald’s chain of fast-food restaurants as the archetypical early 21st-century organization.19 Echoing Weber, Ritzer describes four key features of McDonald’s operations: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and the control of people through the use of nonhuman technologies. There is nothing dramatically new here; “McDonaldization” has a lot in common with Taylor’s scientific management and Ford’s assembly line. But while Taylor’s ideas were never fully implemented, and the use of assembly lines was largely confined to the manufacturing sector, McDonaldization has gone well beyond the fast-food industry. The procedures, technologies, and managerial values that have made McDonald’s the world’s largest hamburger chain are now being applied to a great variety of organizational settings: retail establishments, schools, and even the sex industry.20
Although critics have assumed that McDonaldization necessarily results in a thoroughly unpleasant and alienating work environment, careful research into the actual experiences and feelings of McDonald’s workers has presented a more complex picture. The most intensive effort at assaying the effects on employees of McDonald’s organizational structure and operating procedures was conducted in the mid-1990s by Robin Leidner.21 In some ways, her research supports the conception of McDonald’s as a stereotypical impersonal, bureaucratic organization. Although dealing with individual customers, one of the central activities in any fast-food establishment, is difficult to routinize, this is accomplished through the use of numerous formal rules and procedures, as well as prepared scripts that workers use when interacting with customers.
Food preparation is highly routinized through the technologies that require little or no judgment on the part of the cooks, such as dispensers that always supply an exact quantity of ketchup and cash registers that tell cashiers how much change to give customers. For managers and owners of individual restaurants, McDonald’s provides “the Bible,” an exhaustive manual covering all the procedures and standards to be employed.22
In addition, the firm requires that prospective owners of franchises attend “Hamburger University” in Oak Brook, Illinois, where they are taught operational procedures and, more generally, are imbued with McDonald’s corporate philosophy.23
These key elements of “McDonaldization” have served the firm well, although they have been criticized for making work at McDonald’s a routinized, poorly paid job that requires little in the way of worker skills. At the same time, however, these organizational rules and routines can work to the advantage of McDonald’s employees. The well-defined routines reduce uncertainty and conflict over who is supposed to do what. Routinization also shields employees from clashes with customers because the workers can defend and justify their actions by noting that they are simply doing what they were required to do. In Leidner’s summation, “Depending on the context, service routines can help workers do their job, can boost their confidence, can limit the demands made upon them, can give them leverage over service-recipients, and can offer psychic protection from demeaning aspects of the job.”24
Of course, it is precisely this ability to invoke bureaucratically established rules that has allowed some individuals to justify unethical or even criminal behavior by claiming “I was just following orders.” Several classic experiments in social psychology have demonstrated the willingness of people to inflict harm when they are ordered to do so.25 We therefore also have to take into account the moral dimension when assessing the advantages and disadvantages of bureaucratic organization. Rules and regulations are an essential part of bureaucratic administration, but they also may allow, and even encourage, actions that individuals would not do on their own volition.
Bureaucracies breed special type of careerists, for whom the sole , dominant orientation is not the well being of the organization, but personal climbing up the corporate layer (upj santoro sociology bureaucratic organizations)
Bureaucratic OrganizationsIn this course we will explore the nature of formal or bureaucratic organizations. We will look at bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes in five interrelated areas (see Hummel's Preface): socially, culturally, psychologically, linguistically, and most importantly, as a political system -- a system of power. Let's very briefly develop some working assumptions from these five areas.
"Red tape" ... "You can't fight city hall" ... "climbing the corporate ladder" ... "suits" ... "clients" ... "the bottom line is the bottom line" .... We live in bureaucracies which penetrate every aspect of our existences. We are citizens, employees, unemployed, students, teachers, clerks, patients, customers, drivers, subscribers, debtors, prisoners, etc. All of these terms can be said to describe social roles that connect us to formal organizations.
In one of his earlier writings, Karl Marx described bureaucracy like this:
- A bureaucracy imposes, and is characterized by, certain types of social relationships -- typically a hierarchical system of authority -- as well as horizontal coordination of tasks.
- Bureaucracies imply "bureaucratic culture" -- that is, norms, values, beliefs, knowledge, and even morality that are typically bureaucratic.
- Psychologically, bureaucracies promote a bureaucratic way of thinking or an "organizational mind."
- Bureaucracies produce their own language or linguistic categories for defining the world. In popular jargon, this bureaucratic language is known as "company speak."
- Bureaucracies are systems of power -- social organizations whose purpose is to control material, informational, and especially human resources.
"The principle of its knowledge is...authority, and its mentality is the idolatry of authority. But within bureaucracy the spiritualism turns into crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, faith in authority, the mechanism of fixed and formal behavior, fixed principles, attitudes, traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the aim of the state becomes his private aim, in the form of the race for higher posts, of careerism."
But the real pioneer of the sociology of bureaucracy was Max Weber. Weber understood bureaucracy in much the same way as Marx. He understood bureaucracy as a principle of social organization which historically only comes into being with the modern state and as he said, with "the most advanced institutions of capitalism." Weber understood the growth of command by large-scale, alienating, and impersonal bureaucracies to be a historical principle of development in Western society, in a process that he called "rationalization."
Social organization would, to Weber, become progressively more machinelike. People would, as a result, lose more and more of their freedom and community control over everyday life. This would impose upon us the "iron cage of organization."
An important question addressed in this course is whether or not the bureaucratic form of organization itself and this progressive loss of freedom which Weber described as our fate, are inevitable? Are more human and humane forms of organization and society possible?
In emphasizing the study of bureaucracies as political systems we must look not just at the "intra-organizational" distribution of power and authority, but at bureaucratic organizations in the context of larger, even global political and economic contexts like the state, class, and market. Bureaucracies or formal organizations, which are for us the contexts in which we live our lives, are themselves contained in larger and more inclusive contexts of power.
Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic and promote authoritarian style of leadership, which focuses on instrumental concerns. This type of leader makes decisions independently and demands strict compliance from subordinates (Society the Basics, 6-e Chapter 5 -- Overview_
- To be able to identify the differences between primary groups, secondary groups, aggregates, and categories
- To be able to identify the various types of leaders associated with social groups
- To be able to compare and contrast the research of several different social scientists on group conformity
- To be able to recognize the importance of reference groups to group dynamics
- To be able to distinguish between ingroups and outgroups
- To understand the relevance of group size to the dynamics of social groups
- To be able to identify the types of formal organizations
- To be able to identify and describe the basic characteristics of bureaucracy
- To become aware of both the limitations of and informal side of bureaucracy
- To be able to consider ways of humanizing bureaucracy
- To consider the issue of the McDonaldization of society
- A social group is defined as two or more people who identify and interact with one another. Not all collections of individuals are social groups; some are categories, and others are crowds.
- Primary and Secondary Groups Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) studied the extent to which people have personal concern for each other in social interaction settings. A primary group is a small social group whose members share personal and enduring relationships. Relationships in such groups have a personal orientation. Secondary groups are large and impersonal social groups whose members pursue a specific goal or activity. The distinction between these types of groups is not always clear in real life.
Group Leadership Some research reveals that there are usually two types of leaders in social groups.
- Two Leadership Roles
- Instrumental leadership refers to group direction that emphasizes the completion of tasks. If successful, such leaders gain a distant respect.
- Expressive leadership focuses on collective well-being. If successful, such leaders enjoy more personal affection. This differentiation is also linked to gender.
- Leadership Styles
Leaders also vary in the ways in which they include others in the decision-making process. Three decision-making styles are identified.
- One is authoritarian leadership, which focuses on instrumental concerns. This type of leader makes decisions independently and demands strict compliance from subordinates.
- Another type is the democratic leader who takes a more expressive approach and seeks to include all members in the decision-making process.
- A third type is labeled laissez-faire. Leaders using this approach tend to downplay their power and allow the group to function on its own.
- Group Conformity Three research projects illustrate the importance of group conformity to the sociological understanding of group processes.
- Asch’s Research Solomon Asch conducted an experiment in which "naive" subjects were asked to answer questions concerning the length of lines. Five to seven secret accomplices of the experimenter comprised the rest of the group. They purposely gave incorrect answers. Often the naive subject would give a "wrong" answer in order to conform. Figure 5-1 (p. 111) illustrates an example of the lines used in this experiment.
- Milgram’s Research Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment that naive subjects believed was about learning and memory. The experiment was actually measuring obedience to authority. Naive subjects played the part of "teachers" and thought they were giving electric shock to "learners" when wrong answers were given.
- Janis’s Research Irving Janis studied factors that he believed affected decision-making processes and created groupthink, the tendency of group members to conform, resulting in a narrow view of some issue. The Kennedy administration's decision to invade Cuba is used as an example of this phenomenon.
- Reference Groups The term reference group signifies a social group that serves as a point of reference in making evaluations and decisions. These groups can be primary or secondary. They are also important in anticipatory socialization processes.
- Stouffer’s Research Samuel Stouffer conducted research on morale and attitudes of soldiers in World War II in order to investigate the dynamics of reference groups. Stouffer found what appeared to be a paradox: Soldiers in branches with higher promotion rates were more pessimistic about their own chances of being promoted than soldiers in branches with lower rates of promotion. In relative terms, those soldiers in branches with higher rates felt deprived. This research suggests specific social groups are used as standards in developing individual attitudes.
- Ingroups and Outgroups An ingroup is a social group commanding a member’s esteem and loyalty. This group exists in relation to outgroups, or a social group toward which one feels competition or opposition. This dichotomy allows us to sharpen boundaries between groups and to highlight their distinctive qualities.
- Group Size Group size significantly influences how members socially interact. As a group's membership is added to arithmetically, the number of possible relationships increases in a geometric progression. Figure 5-2 (p.113) provides an illustration. George Simmel studied social dynamics in the smallest social groups. He termed a dyad as a social group with two members. What makes this type of group special is the intensity of the relationship. The triad is a social group with three members. Dyads and triads have certain unique qualities resulting in particular patterns of stability, intensity, and other socially significant variables.
- Social Diversity Race, ethnicity, and gender also affect group dynamics.
- A network is a web of weak social ties. Little sense of membership is felt by individuals in the network and only occasionally do they come into contact. Most networks are secondary in nature. Demographic characteristics such as age, education, and residence influence the likelihood of a person's involvement in networks.
Today our lives seem focused around formal organizations, or large, secondary groups that are organized to achieve their goals efficiently.
Types of Formal Organizations Amitai Etzioni uses the variable of how members relate to the organization as a criterion for distinguishing three types of formal organizations. The first is termed a normative organization.
People join this type of organization to pursue some goal they consider morally worthwhile. These are sometimes also called voluntary associations. The second type is referred to as a coercive organization. These serve as a form of punishment (prisons) and treatment (mental hospitals). The third type identified are utilitarian organizations. These organizations provide material benefits in exchange for labor.
Origins of Bureaucracy Formal organizations date back thousands of years. Max Weber suggested that tradition, referring to sentiments and beliefs about the world passed from generation to generation, dominated the world view in preindustrialized societies. Focus was on the past, and so organizational efficiency was not of great concern.
Characteristics of Bureaucracies
PROBLEMS OF BUREAUCRACY
The Evolution of Formal Organizations
May 28, 2018 | www.amazon.com
D. Blackdeer on September 3, 2001From Here to EternityJCY 500 on July 21, 2014
1953 Best Picture (eight Academy Awards) about Army soldiers dealing with corrupt leadership in Hawaii just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Burt Lancaster heads the cast as First Sergeant Milt Warden, a top soldier trapped in an infantry company commanded by the incompetent and corrupt Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes, played by Philip Ober.
Holmes is an incapable officer seeking promotion as the regiment's boxing coach while Warden holds the company together. Conditions are status quo until Private Robert E. Lee Pruitt, played by Montgomery Clift, arrives from the bugler corps.
Holmes attempts to recruit Pruitt as the new middleweight boxer, but Pruitt refuses for personal reasons. Holmes then embarks on a campaign of harassment, ordering the other boxers in the company to service Pruitt with frequent punishment and extra work detail to change his mind. In the meantime, Warden falls for Holmes's wife Karen played by Deborah Kerr, and risks his career in an adulterous relationship that soon develops into a serious love affair.
Frank Sinatra turns in a great performance as "Maggio," a fellow soldier who becomes Private Pruitt's best friend during the ordeal. Other marvelous features are the supporting cast providing terrific characters around the main actors, and the production's location at the historic Schofield Barracks on Oahu. It's easy to see why this was Best Picture in 1953.A film for all time
One of my all-time favorite films. Superb performances by Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, and Montgomery Clift in a gripping tale set in an army base on Hawaii in the period leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Frank Sinatra was born to play the part of Angelo Maggio in what is, along with Manchurian Candidate, his best work.
The most impressive acting is from Clift. The extended scene with Donna Reed, as she unsuccessfully pleads with him to not attempt to rejoin his unit, is simply breathtaking. What he does with his eyes and simple gestures so richly reveals his inner torment.
May 27, 2018 | www.imdb.com
Throughly enjoyable. barberoux 28 March 2003
"The Sand Pebbles" was a throughly enjoyable movie. The setting was exotic and the story engaging. Though it starred Steve McQueen, who did an excellent job, its strength was the ensemble acting with a very talented cast including Richard Crenna, Richard Attenborough, Mako and Candice Bergen. The story was nicely involved and, though it portrayed the sailor's prejudices, did not feel condescending toward the Chinese as many war-type movies do. The men were caught up in the turbulent times and many of the conflicts portrayed seem to come more from troubled psyches. It is not Ramboish macho crap. I found the portrayals of the people and times entertaining. I had read the book so maybe I read more into the movie than others seeing it cold. It was a very good movie and well worth a watch.
The Sand Pebbles - a powerful and human anti-war film fernies 11 October 2000 `
The Sand Pebbles' has been one of my favourite films since I first saw it on television in 1976. The widescreen version does justice not just to the sweeping panoramas of the quite breathtaking Chinese scenery, but also to the sweeping events and themes of the story. It is in every way a `big' film, dealing with political and military intervention (clear parallels with Vietnam at the time of release), nationalism, racism, and the horrors of war. Yet for all its heavy themes, it is most successful in the depiction of its very human characters. These characters are not just the means of conveying the `messages' of the film, or fodder for the gripping and well-staged action scenes. They are individuals in their own right, involved in something far greater than their own destinies. Some are unpleasant and ignorant while others are honourable but lost in the sea of historic events surrounding them. Some, like Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), demand sympathy and respect as they struggle to come to terms with their personal challenges brought to the fore by these historically significant and politically dangerous events.
Inevitably there are slow and confusing passages as the political implications are expounded, but these are more than compensated for by our emotional engagement as we become involved in the stories of the people caught up in the political fall-out. Robert Wise's direction is strong and emotionally charged, complemented perfectly by Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully haunting and ominous music. Steve McQueen gives what was probably the performance of his career (receiving his only Academy Award nomination), and he is supported by a wonderful cast including Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen (aged just 19), and especially Mako. But it is really McQueen's film. His very presence lifts scenes and he manages to convey authenticity and gain the sympathy of the viewer with consummate ease. Apparently misunderstood by some critics on its release, it is a powerful and intrinsically human anti-war film. It is not a happy film, but it is totally absorbing and thought provoking.
May 27, 2018 | www.amazon.com
0 out of 5 stars with a tip of the hat to predecessors like "Golden Boy" and and Kipling's military tales By Jeffrey A. Beard on December 20, 2016 Ahead of it's time--feels contemporary in it portrayal of the morals and mores of peacetime barracks life, with a tip of the hat to predecessors like "Golden Boy" and and Kipling's military tales; still poignant and pointed after all these years. 3 1/2 stars
By Gerard J. St. John on June 15, 2015I'll Bet That's Prewitt!By Peter Monks on July 21, 2012
From Here to Eternity has long been one of my favorite movies. I cannot resist watching its reruns on television. Recently, I decided to read book, the 802-page hardcover volume.
Everyone knows that a book is always better than the movie, and that was the case here – but not by much. The casting for the movie was superb. You cannot read about Pvt. Prewitt in the book without seeing in your mind's eye Montgomery Clift; Sgt. Warden, without seeing Burt Lancaster; or Maggio, without seeing Frank Sinatra. The book reminds me of a string of short stories, mainly focusing on Prewitt and Warden during their assignment at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Prewitt is an outstanding welterweight (147 lbs) prizefighter who refuses to fight for the company's boxing team. Also, he is a gifted bugler who was once assigned to duty at Arlington National Cemetery. Prewitt's company commander, who is also in charge of the boxing team, orders the NCOs to give Prewitt "the treatment", i.e., all of the tough, dirty jobs, until he agrees to join the boxing team. Warden, the company's first sergeant, sympathizes with Prewitt but has no authority to override the orders of the company commander.
Most of the stories in the book were covered in the movie, with the exception of the one involving a group of homosexuals in the Honolulu area, and one involves a suicide by a member of the company boxing team. A few details of some of the other stories were revised slightly in the movie, but not to any significant level.
The author's writing style is interesting in many respects. For example, there is extensive discussion about psychology, philosophy, religion, and morality with respect to the persons and events that are the subject of the book. These comments give added meaning to the events in the book – and also account for its substantial length. On the other hand, such intellectual discussion is totally out of character coming from persons who had minimal education, and virtually no contact with liberal arts. The author seems to be cognizant of this disconnect when he mentions that a particular character or characters "read a lot of books." There is even one character that mysteriously shows up as a prisoner in the stockade, apparently for the purpose of abetting this type of discussion. He disappears from the book by walking out of the stockade in a successful escape. His purpose in the narrative appears to have been completed when he painted the philosophical setting of life in the stockade.
The author frequently uses poor grammar and spelling in an apparent effort to present a realistic speech pattern of the day-to-day language of the minimally educated soldiers. In addition to being inconsistent with the high level discussions of psychology and philosophy, it is a technique that doesn't work well.
All told, it is an excellent book that captures the atmosphere of an overseas military post. You feel like you were there.Unmatched description of peacetime soldiersBy Garrett Zecker on December 1, 2016
"From Here to Eternity" is, together with Sword of Honour (Penguin Modern Classics) , one of the greatest books ever written about peacetime soldiering or soldiers not actually engaged in combat. While Waugh captures the absurdity, tedium and frustration inherent in being a junior officer marooned in military backwaters, in "From Here to Eternity" Jones is almost unmatched in describing in-barracks military life from a soldiers point of view. My only reservations are the author's occasionally excessive digressions to allow Malloy in particular to expound on what are the authors thinly-veiled views on politics and class, and that Jones shares with Mailer's The Naked and the Dead an inability to create an officer that is anything other than a caricature (Jones does a - slightly - better job in The Thin Red Line . While as individuals Jones' officers are one-dimensional, their collective introspection and emphasis on sports and the relatively trivial or routine at the expense of preparing seriously for war is accurate enough. The real strength of "From Here to Eternity" is Jones' ability to vividly illustrate the life of a soldier in peacetime, complete with the indignity, absurdity and coarseness that is often inherent in military life when not sustained by an immediate objective or sense of purpose. If there is a book that does a better job of portraying garrison life I am yet to find it.The Greatest Generation" on the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl HarborBy Steve on March 11, 2015
I read this book as a part of wanting to accomplish The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels. It is also a preface to watching the film which is on the list of 1001 Films To See Before You Die (visit beforewediefilms-dot-com for the blog I write with my wife). It was opportunistic to finish this book this week as we are marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
From Here To Eternity is the first novel James Jones wrote, and he had set out to complete a novel that captured the essence of his life and those of his fellow soldiers in the peacetime army. It examines several characters who wander about trying to make sense of life, relationships, money, art, hobbies, work, brotherhood, and the pecking order while living the regimented military life. While the narrative mainly focuses on a young recruit named Prewitt, it also weaves through other stories of people who surround Prew in a somewhat inconsistent manner. The book is funny, touching, bold, and in many ways an extraordinary view into the pre-WWII lives of "the greatest generation."
I read this book over several months and had to put it down a few times. I am an avid reader and read voraciously, but the first half of the book was so dry that it seemed to be almost a catalogue of non-things happening. It wasn't until the halfway mark that the strings dangling off of the characters interactions began getting tied up in actual events, and it was at this point that my fascination with the characters and Jones' incredible building of so many characters as actual three-dimensional people began to take shape. It turns out that for the entirety of the time that I was bored, Jones expertly characterized hundreds of people for their true calling and individual moments of truth. When they were put into situations where they had to face a bad marriage, adultery, a broken heart, loss, death, being out of control of things, regimented systems, interpersonal conflict, and a hundred other challenges, it became immediately clear that Jones was putting the meat on the bones of these incredibly strong and true people to face what life was about to throw at them. The result was incredible for me, and while at times I was wishing the book wasn't so needlessly long, by the end I was wishing there was more.
Jones' prose is very interesting in the novel, as it switches between the pedestrian and (albeit, realistically) vulgar to some paragraphs that were truly memorable. The simple playing of TAPS by Prewitt danced the narrative camera from person to person and created this gorgeous symphony of experience that was a beautiful four or five pages if I remember correctly. Another was a night where one soldier was sleeping with another man's wife, but the horror of the betrayal is stripped away with Jones' writing to reveal the beauty of truly feeling free, and contented, and in love.
I read Open Road's "Restored" edition, which I only understand to include a lot more that the author wanted to include in the original but was asked to remove (some sexual language and vulgarity), and some portions that were almost completely censored because of obscenity laws (including entire chunks focused on homosexuality in the army and civilian life). I have never read the original, but what I read here felt true and real, and I am happy to have experienced Jones' preferred text my first time through.
A truly excellent book, well deserving of the National Book Award.So Very GoodBy Amazon Customer on July 1, 2013
I feel like an idiot. I'm 65 years and just discovered James Jones. This book is excellent in so many ways. I hated for it to end but instead of wallowing in self pity, I immediately read the other two in the trilogy, "The Thin Red Line" and "Whistle" and then his WWII. I will give each of those five stars as well. These plus "The Naked and the Dead" by Norman Mailer are simply fantastic.
I read "From Here to Eternity" in the Kindle edition but purchased all three as used hardcover editions. These are books you will want to keep as real paper books.Probably My Favorite Novel EverBy J. BUCKWALTER on January 12, 2015
I doubt very much whether I have anything new or important to say about From Here to Eternity. It's a great book, but its greatness was well known long before I was born, let alone before I got around to reading it. Anyway, here goes...
As an author James Jones is brutally honest. He's also what every tortured high school English student probably begged God for at one point in their life: an author who does not use symbolism (or anyway, he claimed as much in an interview with some Paris based book reviewer back in the 50's). There are several advantages to this, technique, at least when the author put as much care into it as Jones did here. I feel he provides a vast insight into the human psyche in a host of situations. The shifting narrator helps there as well. Jones also does a wonderful job transporting the reader to wherever his characters are whether its a military base, a field exercise, or the stockade. Of course the downside to all the vast amount of introspection and exhaustive detail is that it makes for a looonng book, and there are even a few points where it drags for me. Moreover, since Jones pulls no punches it can be a dark book in places (in particular I had hard time with the portrayal of one character in a protracted drunken stupor because I've seen someone do the same thing in real life, and its extremely unpleasant), and there were other spots where it dragged for me. Finally, there are a couple of portrayals I'm not sure I agree with. The sequence of thoughts portrayed in the suicide scene is (I'm positive) impossible since it was a suicide by gunshot and the bullet would move faster than any sensation or thought it could have caused. Also, I have to question the idea that all senior officers of the era were worthless (its not that Jones ever implies that the officers he writes of represent the whole army, but clearly every senior officer he describes is a disgrace to his uniform, in fact the only decent officer he portrays at all is an ROTC replacement Lieutenant). On the other hand if the book wasn't intelligently (and sympathetically) written with very deep characters, I would not have even been able to tell whether Jones was portraying good or bad officers, so this is still a relatively minor criticism. In any case, if you want a detailed, unbridled, unvarnished look at the life of enlisted men in the US on the eve of WWII, I don't see how you could do much better than this novel. For me personally, I'm very glad to have had such a peak at the time and place. My Grandfather was about 4 years younger than Jones and also spent time on Oahu during WWII. He was an MP around 1943 (at which point Jones would have been somewhere on Guadalcanal or New Georgia). My Grandfather also died when I was just 6 years old, which was, of course, before I ever got to ask him what his time in the army was like (or could have begun to comprehend even if I had asked). So to me this book transcended literature alone, it put me in touch with a little piece of my own family that I never thought I'd get to know. For that I owe Jones a huge debt of gratitude. He showed me a part of my own family's past I never thought I'd get to see. Of course for most people, it won't hold that kind of meaning, it will just be a novel. But even then its a very good one, though also a long one. I highly recommend the whole trilogy" From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line, and Whistle. Of the three, I think From Here to Eternity is the best. The Thin Red Line is great as well, probably the best way anyone will ever come to understand combat without either being there themselves and suffering PTSD as both Jones and the characters he portrayed did or at least becoming a psychologist and tending to soldiers suffering from PTSD, and Whistle is also a very strong work, although possibly the toughest read of all because it is so tragic. From Here to Eternity was the last project of a literary agent who had previously worked with Faulkner and Hemingway. Since it was Jones's debut, it may also have been his greatest work. I've never read anyone else like James Jones, and there may not be anyone else like James Jones.which I also recommend.By russell bentley on February 12, 2016
A must read for anyone interested in a novel with epic scope, issues of power/leadership/control, the "breaking" of men, war, and struggles for freedom and dignity. I was also surprised at how well he writes women! It's not often I have very fond and vivid memories of reading a book, but this was one long, languid dream. Will definitely be rereading. Psychologically, it reminded me very much of the black & white Sean Connery prison film "The Hill", which I also recommend.A Must read for a New GenerationBy Terence M. Kelley on May 3, 2009
This favorite book of my youth was bought as a present for a young relative. I think it is an important piece of literature that everyone should read and I am quite happy to pass it on to another generation. Its development of characters and portrayal of human nature is the equal of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath".All for NaughtBy Phil Aaronson on March 18, 2013
From Here to Eternity is James Jones' masterfully envisioned tale of soldiers and their lovers on the eve of 1941's Pearl Harbor invasion. The rest of the world is already at war, and the neutral United States has begun a peacetime draft as the prospect of war seems inevitable. Despite this impending calamity, the soldiers of Schofield Barracks go on about their daily lives as if nothing had or ever will change: they spend their days routinely and begrudgingly performing their military duties and their nights drinking and whoring, while rarely examining their existences for any greater meaning.
At the center is Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt who has just requested a transfer out of the Regimental Bugle Corps, where he had a soft existence, and into an infantry company, where he will perform "straight duty," soldiering as any other man of the ranks. He immediately incurs the wrath of his commanding officer, Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes, when he refuses to join the company boxing team, preferring to think of himself as retired from boxing after blinding another man in a sparring match. Holmes needs Prewitt to box if he wants to field a championship team, and his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Jake Delbert soon makes clear that such a victory would likely earn him a long sought promotion. The conflict thus established, the characters hurtle unwittingly towards America's humiliation at Pearl Harbor and their own mortal humiliations.
Even Prewitt in his self-righteous suffering is guilty of pride--there are no innocents in this book as in life. Jones draws the Army as a microcosm of society: men and women at odds with their surroundings as they search for meaning. Ultimately, all the characters efforts are in vain; even as they struggle mightily against one another, the reader knows that on December 7th their lives will all be smashed as trivial and meaningless by a calamity far greater than any of them.Great WritingBy David Pancost on March 5, 2017
I read once that Hemingway said that James Jones was the best writer of his generation. I don't know if this is true, but for years I have had this book on my "list" to read. I have finally gotten around to it and am thoroughly enjoying it. I've read a lot of war stories over the years but this is much more than a war story. Jones' insights into human nature are penetrating and revealing, and his writing has retained its power and freshness over the years.Recommended with conditions
If you love the movie and are interested in war narratives, as I am, this novel is a must read. But by itself it's overlong and tedious. The movie has a strong, driven narrative. The novel is a big baggy monster, with long tedious discussions of semi philosophical nonsense. Think Moby Dick without substance. Some things I found especially interesting. Hints of Catch 22. There's an Indian chief, a crazy officer or three, and and heaps of Heller irony but without the laughter. Anger. Everyone is angry with themselves, with the army, with sex, with their lovers, with poverty and with depression America. Sex. There's a strong gay theme. This is true of The Thin Red Line, too, but here it's more cynical. Army life. If you've ever been in uniform, this will strike you as genuine, much more so than The Naked and the Dead or any other novel which comes to mind. To be sure, there's a good deal of exaggeration, but mood and details ring true.
May 27, 2018 | www.amazon.com
July 16, 2000 Format: Hardcover | Verified PurchaseA viable candidate for the "Great American Novel"
If a contemporary reader is looking for one novel that captures with unerring precision the nature of the military and society in World War II, look no further than "Guard of Honor." The setting is authentic, and the characters are drawn with abundant sympathy and an utter lack of remorse. The issues, the personalities, the key incident -- all reflect Cozzens' skill deep insight into human nature and the nature of military bureaucracies, the latter resulting from his service on the Air Corps staff during the war. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.Five StarsUrsiform on April 15, 2001
One of the best novels about WWII that I've read. Impressive in its knowledge of how organizations actually function.WWII from another angleGene Cisco on January 17, 2009
Unlike many war books, which focus on either the glory or horror of battle, or both, Cozzens looks at troubles on the home front during World War II. His setting is a Florida airbase, and the action centers around the arrival of black pilots who are being trained as part of an experiment in integrating the cockpit. A few whites support the effort, a few more oppose it, but most characters are more concerned with their own self interest than with larger moral issues. The common desire to win the war doesn't eliminate social problems at home, nor does it trump human pettiness. Cozzens weaves together several interlocking stories, and while the final fabric lacks the exquisite integration that a truly great writer might achieve, it all manages to hold together in the end. Likewise his prose, while occasionally capable of taking flight, is generally adequate but workmanlike. This book is well worth reading, but go into it expecting a very good novel, not a towering classic of WWII literature.Base AffairsA customer on March 19, 1999
This is surely a masterful novel, though I would caution against depicting this as strictly a World War II epic. Anyone who thinks this has only nostalgic value is mistaken. It is classic in every way.
Gripping and mesmerizing at once, with moments of astounding resonance for today. "20/20" covered (01/09)last night the salaries of employees high and low, the way they are valued, with the result being according to their "usefulness." In this war yarn, various ranked individuals maneuver to avoid blame and scandal, etc. and it plays out according to their usefulness to command figures; in other words war or peace, it remains the same.
Whenever the plot movement lags and minor things intrude, Cozzens' palette of description never fails to amaze. Reading this work, I now realize where "Sgt. Bilko," "Hogans Heroes," and "MASH," derived their inspiration from.
The human comedy known as "life" survives within "Guard Of Honor's" pages in sweeping form. Makes no difference whether on base or in a large corporation, the class mentality survives. Which leaves us with the question to success, whether it will be determined by genetics or usefulness. Base life is much like a city within a city and Cozzens' succeeds in his entertaining military back drop to the human struggle. Cozzens makes it clear that the bullets and shells we avoid are not on the battlefield alone, no?Fighting a war without bullets
Guard of Honor is a book about fighting a war in which not a single bullet is fired in anger. Readers looking for blood and glory will find it here only in the refracted light of the home front. But, this book IS about blood and glory; as well as boredom, loneliness, stupidity, comradeship, insanity, bureaucracy, death and many other things associated with the armed forces.
Cozzens decision to place his novel in Florida during World War II actually allows him to analyze the military culture in the minutest detail without the adrenaline distraction that actual combat would produce. It's a risky choice, but it works brilliantly.
The story contains a bewildering number of characters but is centered around two generous and kind men: Colonel Ross and Captain Hicks. Ross represents the command structure trying to hold an unwieldy organization together through the insanity of war. Hicks is the common man thrown into the same situation. How their lives play out is the heart of the book.
If you want explosions and gore, this book is not for you. If you want to know how the military lives, thinks and breathes read this book and cherish its portrait of a world very different from civilian life.
May 15, 2018 | www.outsidethebeltway.com
James Joyner · Monday, October 26, 2009 · No comments
Two separate reviews of The Fourth Star , a new book by David Cloud and Greg Jaffee, touch on a theme that has fascinated me since I wrote a dissertation on the subject.
NYT foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins (via SWJ ):
"The Fourth Star" paints wonderfully dramatic portraits of the four senior officers highlighted here, but at its heart it's a story about bureaucracy. As an institution, the United States Army has much more in common with, say, a giant corporation like General Motors than with a professional sports team like the New York Giants. You can't cut players who don't perform, and it's hard to fire your head coach. Like General Motors, the Army changes very slowly, and once it does, it's hard to turn it around again.
Actually, it's arguably easier to "cut" bad soldiers than bad football players nowadays, since the latter often have huge signing bonuses and hold teams hostage in a salary cap era. But, otherwise, Filkins is right. While the military is relatively efficient, it's not only a bureaucracy but the very thing bureaucracy was modeled after. Which makes it amusing when conservatives simultaneously rant about the inefficiency of bureaucracy while extolling the virtues of military efficiency. (The military, along with their brethren in the intelligence community and foreign service, does tend to be more motivated and obedient to orders from above than your average bureaucracy.)
New Kings of War blogger " Captain Hyphen ."
One of the most trenchant discussions of these wrong "lessons learned" post-Vietnam is General David Petraeus' PhD dissertation , which the review of The Fourth Star mentions tangentially. While Petraeus might have "irritated many of his fellow officers on his way up," he also identified an important bureaucratic reality, noting it in his dissertation: any serving officer who writes a PhD dissertation critical of the US Army as an institution and publishes it as a book will not rise to the ranks of the general officer corps. Petraeus, of course, heeded his own advice, as his dissertation remained safely tucked away in the Princeton library (until the age of scanning and posting to the Internet; h/t to Paula Broadwell for sharing the link). He was able to continue his upward trajectory, unlike such recent soldier-scholars as Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) John Nagl , whose Oxford DPhil became Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife , arguably a self-inflicted career wound as an Army officer because of its coherent, incisive critique of the Army's failures as a learning organization.
Brigadier General H.R. McMaster , however, is the exception that proves the rule, because it was only the patronage of General Petraeus that made him a general officer after twice being passed over for promotion from colonel to brigadier general. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty was the oft-cited, seldom-read mantra of senior officers in the last decade and appeared to be part of the hold-up for his advancement. Further compounding the delay, his successful counterinsurgency campaign as the commander of an armored cavalry regiment in Tall Afar made his conventionally-minded brigade commander peers look bad (or at least that's one interpretation of how it was viewed within the Army).
How a bureaucracy without lateral entry promotes and selects its leaders is a vital issue with implications measured in decades, dollars, and lives. I look forward to reading how Cloud and Jaffe capture this dynamic in the US Army today.
One could argue McMaster exemplifies, rather than serving as an exception, to the rule. Generally, being passed over -- let alone twice -- for promotion pretty much indicates that you're done. Certainly as a prospective general officer. Conversely -- and I don't claim to have any inside scoop here -- Nagl certainly seemed to be an officer on a fast track who left the Army voluntarily to 1) so his family could settle down and 2) to take advantage of a flood of opportunities to apply his expertise in the think tank arena. It seemingly proved a wise choice, as he soon wound up as president of CNAS.
May 10, 2018 | www.unz.com
"Were we right or were we wrong?" This was Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet's central question in his 2004 talk to the faculty and students of his alma mater, Georgetown University. What he was talking about, of course, was the critical political issue of whether or not the Intelligence Community (IC) of which he was the titular head "got it right" in telling the American people and their government that Iraq was a clear danger to the United States, as opposed to being a threat to regional states, and if that danger was substantial enough to serve as a justifiable basis for war, invasion and occupation. In Tenet's address there was much of self-protection and an implicit warning that neither he nor the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would accept to be "scapegoated" in a search for the roots of misadventure in Iraq. His words establish a claim to blamelessness for the CIA and the larger Intelligence Community in the decisions leading up to the Iraq campaign and a related claim to have done as well as could fairly have been expected. In other words, he wished to be thought innocent in this matter. Is that reasonable? Is it fair to expect American citizens and officials to believe that the Intelligence Community did its work well in helping the government of the United States to make sound decisions about Iraq? This is an important question, because if they did not, then why were their judgments so flawed in spite of the incredible amounts of taxpayer money lavished on the agencies of the IC? Why should so much money have been lavished on these agencies if they could do no better?
In spite of the importance of this question, impatience with the performance of the intelligence people ought to be somewhat dependent on the outcome of a national debate as to what should be expected of the process labeled "intelligence." Reporters sometimes ask rhetorically if decisions should really be made on the basis of intelligence. At first hearing questions like this seem to be both naďve and nonsensical since it is obvious that information is the stuff that decisions must be founded on. Nevertheless, decipherment of these statements leads to an understanding that those who say things like this think that "intelligence" is a form of thinking both esoteric and obscure, a dark art, separate and distinct from the normal way of knowing things and subject to acceptance or rejection by special rules of perception. In other words, they think that it is something like astrology, to be judged by its own "rules."
In fact, "Intelligence" is simply another word for "information" and in ages gone by the term was used in that way by authorities like Clausewitz or Jomini. There is nothing mystical or mysterious about the process by which information or "intelligence" is collected, collated, analyzed and disseminated. "Intelligence" is scholarship conducted in the service of the state. The great bulk of the information used as data in this scholarship comes out of the huge archival files of the major agencies supplemented by daily "feedings" of; diplomatic chit-chat, aerial and satellite reconnaissance, intercepts of communications and hopefully the products of espionage (clandestine HUMINT). Like any labor of scholarship involving the study of human beings by human beings, the work is nearly always conducted with incomplete and ambiguous information as a basis for the analysis.
This natural phenomenon is aggravated by the desire of the studied group to hide something, usually, that which is under study. When George Tenet said before his Georgetown audience that "We never get things altogether right in the Intelligence business, nor altogether wrong," he was correct but his statement was irrelevant to a discussion of the utility of the intelligence process since the quality of the analytic product depends on many variables, among them; good information and the quality of the minds brought to bear on the imperfect information. It is both trite and a truism that "intelligence is an art and not a science." What this means is that human beings may succeed or they may fail in making judgments based on less than complete data and that the skill, intelligence and experience of those involved is the most important factor in determining the outcome. To say that "Intelligence" is a flawed process is simply meaningless in a discussion of the effectiveness of the state in making decisions. If the "Intelligence Community" as it now exists were abolished, some other group would have to assume the burden of performing the same functions for the benefit of the state. What would they be called? Perhaps it might be, "The Agency for Special Planning?"
The issue of the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing Intelligence Community is a separate but linked question from that of knowing whether or not the elected or appointed officials of the Bush Administration may have intruded themselves inappropriately into the deliberations of the Intelligence Community in a way that led to distortions in the estimates of Iraq's significance that were presented to the president and the Congress. It is widely believed now that this occurred but that is not the subject of this essay.
The question under examination here is simple. Premise: "The Intelligence Community produced poor quality intelligence on Iraq." Therefore, one asks – Are there imbedded structural defects in the present United States Intelligence Community that contributed either directly or indirectly to the production of estimates that were unsound and which failed the nation? And, moreover, are there characteristics in the present intelligence community of the United States which now prevent and will prevent it from "reforming" itself? It is clear that the inability of the Intelligence Community to forecast or estimate Iraq's true condition was a major failure. Why did this happen, and how can the defects in the "community" be repaired? What "limits" are there in the psychology and structure of the government that may prevent "repair" of the system?
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The author's conclusion after a working lifetime of studying the flaws in the system from within the community and from the evidence of continuing contacts with old colleagues and new friends in the intelligence agencies is that there are a multitude of problems in the intelligence forces of the United states and that most of them have grown up over a very long time, are now "built into" the system and are unlikely to be resolved without outside intervention by the Congress of the United States. It is impossible to consider them all but a few of the most important are so intractable as to be worth discussing here:
-Leadership. There is a natural tendency in the general public to believe that the upper levels of the Intelligence Community are filled with learned, avuncular and sensitive people somehow reminiscent of "George Smiley," the wonderful British spy and spymaster whose presence fills the earlier novels of John Le Carre. The character, "Smiley" is wise, sadly pessimistic, a profound student of mankind and devoted to his "people." He has a deeply empathic nature, is widely read, speaks several languages and is so dedicated to his craft and its ethic that he fears nothing and will take any risk either to protect his own "people" or to "launch" operations that, if they fail may destroy him. What a marvelous conception this man is!
There are people like that in the leadership of US Intelligence. There are a few, but there once were many more and they are fewer all the time. In fact, the "system" works in such a way that people like "Smiley" are feared and distrusted by the bureaucratic politicians who really run the intelligence agencies. What are really to be found in the upper echelons of the "community" are either people who early in their government service became specialized in the generalized management of organizations (often after early substantive analytic work) or others who were "staff " of some kind, (budgetary planners, lawyers. liaison staff, etc.) The Directors of the various agencies are naturally attracted to such people because they are focused on the administrative functions of the agencies and the protection of their ultimate superior, the Director. This makes them a kind of "insurance policy " for the directors of the agencies.
The old veterans of the intelligence trade often make a distinction between "real intelligence officers" and "managers." "Real intelligence officers" are those who are known to be qualified and capable of the difficult work of analysis and field collection of information and who are known to have the moral character required to stand up to the pressure that is present in every political administration to make the "reality" presented by the "Intelligence Community" conform to the " reality" envisioned by the policy of the administration in power. The "managers" are essentially courtiers grouped about the throne of whichever baron of the Intelligence Community they may serve. The "managers" functions center on liaison with the other barons, lobbying the Congress for money and "protection" of the boss (the Director of their agency). Such people as the "managers" are easily recognized by the directors of the agencies as very valuable to their career survival in the stylized "dance" conducted around Washington by the various parts of the United States Government but they are not well suited to leading "real intelligence officers" to feats of brilliant analysis or imaginative collection operations because they are always in a "defensive crouch" fearing that the "real intelligence officers" will cause trouble for them or "the boss" through disagreement with the "picture" desired by the administration of the day or in Human Intelligence (HUMINT) operations (espionage) gone bad which result in publicity that could be damaging to the "managers'" careers. Incredibly, these are the people who tend to be promoted to "line" command "at the top" in the collection, and analytic functions of the agencies over the heads of the "real intelligence officers."
This pattern of rule by the "managerial" class is now so well established in the intelligence agencies that it is simply expected that senior jobs which control large parts of the agencies in the analytic and HUMINT collection fields will be held by "managers" as opposed to "real intelligence officers." This tendency is so firmly rooted now that the author has often heard very senior "real intelligence officers" described as "just an analyst," or "just an operator" in the context of a selection board picking someone for a high level leadership job in the very field in which the "real intelligence officer" is an authority respected throughout the government.
This tendency is perpetuated and reinforced by a process of "mirror-imaging" in personnel selections in which the ever-growing number of "managers" who are in senior leadership position simply select others like them in the next generation for the top jobs. This results in a leadership cadre in the Intelligence Community which is more and more hostile to the risks demanded as the price of real success in collection and analysis and more and more favorable to the self indulgence of a focus on the "turf battles and budget wars" endemic to Washington and at the same time less and less driven by the desire to do good intelligence work. The personnel management disaster described above is ultimately the responsibility of the directors of the agencies that make up the Intelligence Community. If they wanted to have a different focus in their agencies, there would be a different focus. There have been many fine and devoted heads of the various American intelligence agencies, but all too often the directors themselves are members of the "managerial class" within the Intelligence Community or simply politically selected party functionaries. All too often directors see themselves as "travelers" on a journey to yet further heights within the government and therefore not "decisively committed" to the work of their people. For many directors, the "managerial class" within their agencies is a natural ally in controlling the "wilder impulses" of the "real intelligence officers" in the organization.
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-Risk Aversion. One of the most trite and tedious of the many things said in the national media and in the U.S. Congress about the failures of the Intelligence Community in Iraq and with regard to so many issues is that "HUMINT (espionage in this context) must be improved!" Repetition of this thought has become obligatory in any "serious" discussion of security issues but in fact, no one has done much to improve US espionage capabilities. This would be amusing in its inanity if the underlying phenomenon were not so serious. In fact, the media and the Congress are largely responsible for creating the operating environment in which the wreck of once formidable American espionage capabilities became inevitable. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the public and its representatives convinced themselves that the intelligence services were somehow the enemies of the American people. The FBI COINTELPRO program aimed at Director Hoover's personal list of enemies and the Nixon Administration's meditations (the Houston Plan) on the possibility of effectively combining all U.S. counterintelligence groups into one force contributed to that idea. The Houston Plan was never approved or implemented but the concept itself was enough to "trigger" demand for congressional investigations into the "misdeeds" of U.S. counterintelligence groups.
Rather inevitably the "witch hunt" spread to include U.S. clandestine intelligence. The "Church Committee" in the US Senate resulted. Up until that time it was generally believed in the population of the United States that the intelligence services were filled with honorable people trying to protect the country, but the spirit of that age disagreed and a barrage of "literature" and films spread the idea that career intelligence officers were amoral opportunists animated by a kind of nihilistic sadism. "The Three Days of the Condor," "The Bourne Identity," and similar rubbish which portrayed a universe unfamiliar to anyone who had ever worked in intelligence filled people's heads with the idea that the clandestine services were to be tolerated but only just barely tolerated and that they must be closely watched and restricted. American espionage capabilities began to decline from that time and the process has not yet been reversed.
A mass of regulations were enacted in those and following years which tied the hands of the clandestine services so effectively that they have never recovered. Several categories of people were placed "off limits" as possibilities for recruitment as foreign agents (for example, reporters, professors, employees of American companies) without regard for the fact that these very people have inherent access to people and information often needed to carry out effective intelligence work. The rationale seemed to be that some kinds of people needed to be "protected" from the "dirty" business of espionage. The same kind of "thinking" has caused the clandestine services to rely far too much on "liaison" relationships with foreign intelligence services as a substitute for conducting American run espionage against difficult targets. The reason? Disclosure of foreign operations does not entail the career risk for the "managers" that the failure of an American operation would bring.
The creation of this kind of operating environment served as a powerful "enabling" mechanism for the not so gradual assumption of power in the intelligence agencies by the "managerial class." In an atmosphere dominated by fear of violation of legislated restrictions on behavior and the use of clandestine funds, it was only natural that the directors of the agencies would look to those who had little interest in driving forward the limits of accomplishment and every interest in "limiting the damage" and "preventing surprises" for themselves and "the boss." This has resulted in a degree of control over operations by lawyers and financial officers that is suffocating to the ability of skilled operatives to mount the kind of potentially rewarding but risky operations that would be needed, for example, to penetrate "Al-Qa'ida." Clandestine operations are inherently dangerous. It follows that if they are evaluated by people who "know the cost of everything but the value of nothing," they will inevitably be disapproved before execution if the risks are considerable. Those in Congress who wrote the rules used as excuses to disapprove these operations will then "bleat" pitifully about the need for "better HUMINT" the next time a disaster occurs.
Analysis by Committee. Much the same phenomena exist on the analytic "side" of the intelligence business. Brilliant people from the best schools "sign up" for a career in intelligence work from a sense of patriotism, intellectual curiosity, and a desire to "make a difference" in the world. What typically happens to them after that is that they are "eaten alive" by bureaucracies utterly controlled by the "managerial" mentality. Young analysts are called on to write papers that demand a fresh look, hard work and an undying devotion to the truth. The draft papers they write are not their property and these papers should not be subject to the vanities of "pride of authorship" so common in other works of scholarship, but neither should they be treated with a lack of respect for the views of the analysts and the creativity that the authors bring to the task. Too often, the "editing by committee" system that prevails results in papers that are not only irrelevant to the security needs of the nation but are actually misleading because of their lack of intellectual honesty.
In the "managerial" world, nothing matters so much as "staying in step" with the consensus in the various agencies of the intelligence world as well as making sure that analysis does not deny the political leadership of the country an intellectual "platform" from which they can proclaim their vision of the future. The "mere" belief of the analysts counts for little in the judgment of the "managers" when weighed against the career destroying effect of disapproval or disfavor from on high.
As a result analysis is "ironed out" in a "layer cake" system of committees at ever-higher layers of bureaucracy. These committees are made up of supervisors at the appropriate layer and they "take care" to insure that the interests of the various parties within an agency are protected in the text that goes forward to the next higher layer and that untoward results are avoided. When this process is ended, what is typically produced is a stereotypical example of the "lowest common denominator," not something on which the country should "hang its hat" in making decisions affecting the national fate, and certainly. Such papers are inevitably reflective of the kind of "group think" that grows up in any highly integrated and hierarchical bureaucracy that controls the career long expectations of its inhabitants. In other words, an individual analyst has no chance whatever of having his or her views expressed at the national level unless a large and self-serving group of careerists approve them and find them not to be threatening to their collective view of what serves the group's perceived best interest in terms of its relations with the rest of the intelligence community and the sitting government.
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The rule of the "managerial class" in the intelligence community ensures the permanence of this "system." The ruling group will reproduce itself through "mirror imaging" ad infinitum and will be maintained in position through the perceived self-interest of the kind of people who typically become directors of the major intelligence agencies. This is not to say that there have not been brave, courageous and creative directors of the major intelligence agencies. The author has had the honor of serving under several. It was a pleasure and they know who they are, but the sad truth, known to all who have served for extended periods in intelligence is that most directors are part of the problem. The truth is that intelligence is an art best practiced by gifted eccentrics, people widely and deeply educated, favored by nature and training with intuition beyond the average and who care more for the truth than anything else. Such people consistently will follow their "nose" and their instincts on a trail of information like bloodhounds until they arrive at a truth that matters to the people of the United States. In the espionage field of endeavor, the function of managers is to be "enablers," to make workable the environment in which gifted case officers can break through the manifold barriers that will enable the penetration of groups that threaten the lives of our people. What must be avoided is the selection of managers who instinctively feel that their function is to "hold back" the operators and analysts in order to preserve "peace" within the bureaucracy.
Domination of the Intelligence Function by the Executive Branch: All the intelligence agencies are parts of the Executive Branch. The CIA is a separate organization within the Executive Branch and directly subordinated to the president. The Defense Intelligence Agency is part of the Defense Department as is the National Security Agency. The State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is obviously part of that department. All these groups are deeply imbedded within these "ministries" of government in a constitutional system which ensures that the authority of the political party that controls the white House will control the intelligence agencies as well. This means that the temptation that will always be presented to politicians to attempt to shape" both information collection and the analysis of that information to their taste is likely to be overwhelming.
In most American administrations, the most senior authorities (generally elected) are wise enough to know that without sound and objective judgments from the intelligence agencies, the information upon which they base decisions is worthless. The reason one creates separate information gathering and analysis systems under the rubric of "intelligence" is that there is an inherent "conflict of interest" in any system that allows policy decision makers to be the same people who judge what the reality is upon which such decisions are based. Decision makers can always choose to decide policy questions based on their own view of the world, but it is intuitively obvious that this is not the best way to insure good decisions. For this reasons the most senior authorities generally restrain their subordinates on the policy side of government and prevent excessive interference with the process of judging information.
The danger is that the wisdom of that attitude is not universally appreciated and in some government past, present or future, policy officials may choose to drive the intelligence people supporting their deliberations towards judgments unsupported by convincing and dependable evidence. If one doubts the seriousness of the possible consequences of such a "cattle drive" one need only consider such historical examples of misadventure as the US strategic obsession with the likelihood of a Japanese first strike on the Philippines in 1941. This led the US Government to focus attention of its analytic force in that direction so firmly that Japanese preparations for an attack in Hawaii were completely missed. Another example would be the obsession with the "inevitability" of victory that influenced intelligence to "miss" completely enemy preparations for the Tet Offensive of 1968 in spite of the mass of information available that indicated something really "big" on the way. In both cases the results of policy or strategic thinking having been allowed to "intrude" on analysis were simply catastrophic. Strong leadership by "real intelligence officers" can help to prevent such disasters. The "dissent" taken by the State Department in the October 2002 NIE on Iraq may well have been an example of the survival of such leadership.
How can this be prevented? This problem exists across the world in every country where serious foreign policy and military issues must be considered and decisions on policy and strategy made on the basis of a systematic consideration of available data. In every country there is the problem of trying to insure that the judgments of the information or intelligence people are untainted by external pressures. There have been various methods and structures adopted to deal with this danger to the national security. In some places external "think tanks" are used to "test" the result of internal analysis. In others countries, reliance is placed on the competitive analysis of two or more intelligence agencies, often one military and the other civilian.
In Israel, within the Directorate of Military Intelligence there exists something called the "Devil's Advocate" a name borrowed from the process of canonization within the Catholic Church in which a cleric is appointed to oppose the sainthood of one who has been presented for consideration for that honor. In the Israeli "Devil's Advocate" section, the officers so employed have the job of opposing the analysis accepted by the government and of preventing the acceptance of institutional "group think" as the basis for decisions. For the senior Israeli officers who serve in the "Devil's Advocate" section it is understood that opposition to the judgments of the rest of the intelligence community will have a career price and that the officers who do this work should look forward to a fruitful life in retirement from the army soon after their service in this job. Nevertheless, they perform a vital; perhaps "priceless" is not too strong a word, service for their country. None of these devices seem altogether suitable for the United States as a "safeguard" against overwhelming pressure to bring their analysis into conformity with policy. The sheer scale of the institutions involved in American life dictate modification of the methods used in smaller governments. Some approach that combines the better features of these institutional "fixes" would probably be appropriate.
Can the "Intelligence Community" change itself to eliminate the problems discussed above?
The United States "Intelligence Community" is a "mature bureaucracy," a group of institutions that have reached a stable equilibrium in their internal politics and in their relationships
Heros , May 10, 2018 at 7:09 am GMTI guess Lang is talking about what he refers to as the "Borg". His biggest problem is that he is one of them, as this long disinformation article shows.jilles dykstra , May 10, 2018 at 7:11 am GMT
How can you even pretend there were "intelligence failures" after these guys murdered the Kennedy's and pulled off the 9/11 new Pearl Harbor.
As usual, Lang is just laying a smoke screen for his war criminal Masonic brothers.Of course Iran is a danger to the USA.Randal , May 10, 2018 at 9:12 am GMT
In 1953 there was the CIA coup, that ended democratic Iran, and brought the USA puppet shah in power.
In 1979 Muslim clerics had the audacity to send the puppet away, and put themselves in power.
Since then they, with success, resisted the USA yoke.
Right now Assad is a danger to the USA, he's still alive, and, with help of Russia, and some help of Erdogan, in power.
Both regimes undermine USA prestige in the world.Fascinating stuff, thanks. One of the best articles I've read on Unz, in fact, and that's saying quite a lot because there's been a lot of great stuff here over the past few years.anonymous  Disclaimer , May 10, 2018 at 10:11 am GMTMr. Lang hasn't appreciated my pending questions about his first two columns here at Unz Review, but I have a couple more, one substantive, the other editorial.Sceptical , May 10, 2018 at 10:23 am GMT
1. What does Mr. Lang specifically advocate, if anything?
He urges Congress to revamp a bureaucracy. But he says that when Congress addressed that bureaucracy in the mid-1970s as part of the post-Vietnam "'witch hunt'" it "tied the hands of the clandestine services so effectively that they have never recovered." (He seems to see himself as one of those so bound. But that's not made clear in the context of anything between 1968 (Tet) and the circa 2002 warmongering against Iraq.)
So if a Congressman during a hearing were to ask Mr. Lang how his work had been hampered before he retired, and for his specific recommendations going forward, what would he say?
2. What's "up" with the needless quotation marks?This is an interesting critique of the current state of the intelligence community. The author's contention that the system has devolved into a bureaucratic muddle under the thrall of the executive branch seems accurate but:divadab , May 10, 2018 at 10:58 am GMT
The disregard for the Church Committee and pining for the days of the gifted operator being free from pesky managerial control seems misplaced. I know most Americans have a limited sense of history and memory but, for example, look at the blowback from the Mossadegh coup, the bad intelligence we received from Gehlen about the Soviets, MK ULTRA, Robert Parry's revelation that members of the intelligence community interfered with Carter's attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages held by the mullahs. There are many more such examples. I am not so sure that the "good ol days" were that great. Also, is it even true that the Executive branch is in control(does the tail wag the dog)?Interesting analysis – apparently reflecting imperial institutions bureaucratized to the point of calcification, like an alzheimers brain. I wonder if by extension the senior ranks of the military in general have become inhabited by risk-averse careerists? Can this explain at least partly its lack of success in warmaking since Vietnam?xxxyyyzzzttt , May 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm GMTLang is what we draft soldiers use to call "Lifers"; people who define their life by their love of guns and bombs etc. Reading him daily over the years brings to mind Kissinger's denigration of military men's intelligence or Hitler's comment that Generals don't understand economics. Not intelligence in the sense of IQ ( I have learned a lot from him; smarter than me no doubt). Rather intelligence in the sense of not being able to see reality through the lens of their love of shoot 'em up bang bang.art guerrilla , May 10, 2018 at 12:21 pm GMT
For example, he really would have us believe that there is something wrong with "Intelligence". They make mistakes. Not the reality that they provide the rational for the wars he is so proud to have been a part of. He is proud of his killing deeds in Vietnam, which was largely the result of what: failed intelligence in the Gulf of Tonkin? He is proud of the role he played in the killing Kaddafi's baby daughter. Was this the result of failed intelligence about terrorism? Come on Pat your are like the Robert Duval character in Apocalypse Now who "loved the smell of Napalm in the morning." Intelligence has not failed the likes of you. It provides the rational for you to do what is you live to do – killing. You spent your adult life killing or being responsible for killing people whose only crime was to be sitting on oil.
When you were doing your killing in Vietnaum, draftees like me were saying "hell no I won't go". There was a saying at the time: "What if someone gave a war and no one showed up". If people like you would stop showing up we would not have troops stationed in 125 countries in the world today. Guys like you show up because you love the shit and you could care less about the accuracy of Intelligence. Intelligence is the opium of the people. It gives them a reason to pay people like you to act out your childhood fantasies about war.
Repectually!@HerosKemerd , May 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm GMT
thank you, saved me a bunch of snarking at the author
as for the article itself, I rarely don't finish articles and comment on them, but the sophistry is so wide and deep, it was impossible to finish
the author -as does the korporate/lapdog media- makes a number of presumptions which are not supported by current reality (which is -in fact- the reason for their role as gatekeepers) firstly, AS IF we had a system which makes decisions based on facts, the greatest good for the greatest number, and -you know- reality
we do not
what we have imposed upon us, is a PURPOSEFULLY corrupted and broken system which is used by the 1% to enforce their will all the 'fact finding', 'research', etc, etc, etc, is so much window dressing and bullshit to justify doing what they want to do and has NOTHING to do with what eggheads, pontificators, pundits, academics, etc have researched, experimented on, or theorized
repeat: it is ALL bullshit to make the insane decisions FOR the 1% seem like the only choice we haveOh Americans! One thing about brits that I like is tbat they never hesitated talking about their empire or imperial interests. But all americans seem to have have blinkers (set by their imperial hubris or genuine belief that their country stands for the good) even supposedly intellectuals cannot escape it. Taleb calls them intellectual yet idiot, l suppose Lang is one of them.Anonymous  Disclaimer , May 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm GMTThe intelligence community, while apparently giving useful tactical-level information sometimes , is now, from what I seen, just a propaganda tool. Look at the Skripal farce. The IC of the "five eyes" confirmed Russia was behind trying to kill the Skripals by smearing his door handle with nerve agent (so ludicrous it's like something out of A Fish Called Wanda ). Or Russian collusion and the Steele dossier and golden showers. Or Clapper as head of the NGA in 2003 claiming they had satellite photographic proof Saddam was moving WMD's. Or Assad's "chemical attacks on his own people". What's worse is that the IC hucksters (not IC, per se, just those pitching the wares) no longer even bother putting on an elaborate dog and pony show, show & tell, and holding vials of inert anthrax at the U.N. Pretty soon we won't even need the IC middleman, though I'm sure the six-figure contractors, who now make up the bulk of the IC, will still be collecting the big bucks for "protecting America".utu , May 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm GMT
What is truth?," asked an exasperated Pontus Pilate after being badgered by a certain (((group))) to take action and put a certain innocent God-man to death. Somethings never change.Totally false article.G Standfast , Website May 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm GMT
Mr. Lang created a false dichotomy which basically is reduced to No True Scotsman fallacy written from the position of the true Scotsman. There are no true Scotsmen.
Things are much simpler. It all comes down to integrity which is a question of morality. Mr. George Slam Dunk Tenet produced what he was asked to produce. There was a war to be had and he had to do his job and show that he was a team player and he did it. This was not an issue of bad intelligence or that somebody made a mistake. If anybody had integrity there in CIA he would refuse and be ready to resign. I haven't heard of anybody resigning or being fired prior to war in 2003. The additional dimension was a fear of physical threat. Mr. George Slam Dunk Tenet had attacks of anxiety fearing that he or his family would be hit while driving around Washington DC on business or with his family. Was it because there was something wrong with Mr. Tenet psychologically or was the idea planted in his mind by somebody who had enough credibility to make Mr. Tenet believe it? If the latter it shows that in Washington DC thing are done not differently than in some third wold capitol.From the TV adaptation of Smiley's People, spoken by George Smiley as portrayed by Alec Guinness (49:30):English Outsider , May 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm GMT
In my time, Peter Guillam, I've seen Whitehall shirts go up and come down again. I've listened to all the excellent arguments for doing nothing and reaped the consequent frightful harvest. I've watched people hop up and down and call it progress. I've seen good men go to the wall and the idiots get promoted with dazzling regularity. All I'm left with is me. And the thirty odds years of Cold War without the option.@HerosAnon  Disclaimer , May 10, 2018 at 3:18 pm GMT
Oh, SUCH nonsense. What hope is there of a sensible attempt to alter the disastrous course Western foreign policy is taking if anyone can read a stunning piece of analysis like that and come up with such a reply?@English OutsiderLeaNder , May 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm GMT
The author has a valid point regarding "groupthink" in the intelligence services but his descriptions of the alternatives don't seem to hold much water. It's not like even it its glory days American HUMINT was anywhere near up to, say, Soviet standards.@art guerrillaWorkingClass , May 10, 2018 at 3:51 pm GMT
as for the article itself, I rarely don't finish articles and comment on them, but the sophistry is so wide and deep, it was impossible to finish
But nevertheless you feel entitled to judge an author whose article you haven't even read? At what point did you decide it was sophistry pure and simple?Blah blah blah. Then more blah blah. Why would anyo0ne read this shit. The CIA is an abomination. It should be destroyed. Glad I could help.Linda Green , May 10, 2018 at 3:58 pm GMTThe purpose of the Iraq war was to reunite Iran and Iraq as a bulwark against Israel. The goal was achieved. The resurgent Iran we are seeing today is the fruit of the Iraq war.utu , May 10, 2018 at 4:19 pm GMT
Watch what is happening rather than what the talking heads are saying. And keep your friends close and enemies closer.
If you listen closely you can hear the knashing of teeth in Israel that big brother stopped re-arranging the chess pieces in the M.E. after he installed a Iran allied shia (Nouri Al-Maliki) as leader of Iraq.
Mission Accomplished!@Heroshyperbola , May 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm GMT
His biggest problem is that he is one of them, as this long disinformation article shows.
Exactly!The elephant in the outhouse is again kept hidden by Lang. This alone is enough to disqualify anything he says.art guerrilla , May 10, 2018 at 4:35 pm GMT
Israeli Spies in the US
. Intelligence Pact
It seems that, as Blitzer contends, Washington and Tel Aviv made a deliberate effort in the mid-1950s to put an end to these covert operations against one another. Most observers assign responsibility for this to top CIA official James Angleton .. Sharing information on Arab countries may have been one example of this. Another may have been assistance in getting nuclear weapons for Israel. According to Seymour Hersh, "sources close to" Angleton told former New York Times reporter Tad Szulc that the CIA helped the Israelis obtain technical nuclear information in the late 1950s. "This fits in with something I had been told by a high-level CIA official," Seymour Hersh added in 1978, "that Angleton, then in charge of CIA liaison with Israeli intelligence, gave the Israelis similar technical information in the mid-1960s."  During this period, enriched uranium was vanishing from an American atomic energy company with close ties to the Israeli government.  ..
A similar pattern of cooperation between US and Israeli intelligence agencies exists in the area of military procurement. "Israelis were caught in the Pentagon with unauthorized documents," one US official told former Congressman Paul Findley, "sometimes scooping up the contents of 'inboxes' on desk tops." This official recalled that a number of Israelis were very quietly asked to leave the US as a result of such activities; no formal charges were ever filed against them. Several US officials told Findley that the Israelis would submit orders for military items they were not supposed to have or even to know about -- using top-secret code numbers and sometimes precise specifications. Presumably they obtained the information from friendly executive branch contacts, but no official efforts were undertaken to discover the sources of the leaks.  ..@LeaNderhyperbola , May 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm GMT
1. it appears you are guilty of the 'sin' you accuse me of: my post SAID why I thought it was sophistry (as well as in agreement with heros analysis) in short, because IT DENIES OBVIOUS REALITY
the author prattles on AS IF 'intelligence'/information that is gleaned by spooks or WHOEVER, actually matters in what decisions our 1% superiors make on our 99% behalf (but NOT for our 99% benefit)
2. don't be such an authoritarian tool: FORGET about what the 1% SAY is what guides their decisions, etc, LOOK AT WHO BENEFITS, you scared, shorn, sheeple again, in short, as they EXPLICITLY STATED in the bulldozing run up to the eye-rack-eee war part 1, they 'fixed the intelligence' around the ALREADY MADE DECISION TO ATTACK for the greedy reasons of Empire, NOT because sad damn who's sane was our hitler-of-the-month ™
it is difficult to take such propaganda victims as yourself seriously; you are stuck on the superficial layer of what Empire presents as 'reality', and don't see (or even GUESS) that there is a man behind the curtain pulling the levers to bedazzle you
bread and circuses, kampers, bread and circuses
hee hee hee
ho ho ho
ha ha ha
ak ak ak@English Outsiderschrub , Website May 10, 2018 at 4:57 pm GMT
Pity the English. They have been slaves of a racist-supremacist, foreign sect ever since Cromwell let the sect back in the country. Time for Americans to again free themselves from the "city of london" sect.
The goy and the golem: James Angleton and the rise of Israel
.. "Angleton was was a leading architect of America's strategic relationship with Israel that endures and dominates the region to this day," Jefferson Morley writes in The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton. More than any other man, the longtime chief of U.S. counterintelligence made possible Israel's shift "from an embattled settler state into a strategic ally of the world's greatest superpower."
Angleton did so chiefly by burying any effort in the U.S. intelligence establishment to question Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons in the 1960s. "Angleton's loyalty to Israel betrayed U.S. policy on an epic scale," Morley writes. "Instead of supporting U.S. nuclear security policy, he ignored it." ..My first contact with CIA was while visiting the remote Mojave Airport in California in the early 1980s during a motorcycle trip to Death Valley. While there I noticed numerous Boeing 707 airline sized planes parked off a faraway field in the distance. There must have been at least twenty five or thirty of these airline size planes just sitting in isolation from the rest of the planes at the airport.English Outsider , May 10, 2018 at 5:15 pm GMT
At first, I thought the planes were merely being mothballed (stored) there until I saw one of them start to move. Curious, I remember asking one of the workers at the airport about who owned the large planes and was told that no one really knew but it was referred to as the "spook airline" because the planes and their use were shrouded in absolute secrecy. Nobody knew who piloted the planeseither because their pilots arrived at the airport either in smaller executive size planes or in vans that went without stopping directly up to the planes after entering the airport property.
it was only later that I discovered these planes belonged to Air America, the "the CIA airline" and were apparently used to ferry large numbers of mostly mercenary soldiers to areas the CIA was interested in at the time. I also learned that the Mojave Airport was only one of several other similar such bases of Air America operation. A friend described laughingly described Air America as the "Coup Airline" because of the CIA's propensity for the overthrowing of unfriendly governments.
About this same time, I also started reading more and more articles about the fact that our elected representatives, even at the highest levels, didn't actually fully know what the CIA was up to because of the CIA's so-called, ultra secret "black budgets" which allowed it to operate without any sort of control from our elected representatives below the Presidental level who claimed they didn't want to know about these "black" activities out of fear of getting blamed once the activities arising out of them became known.
I also started reading about rumors that parts of the CIA had become essentially self-funding using illicit activities like drug running and arms sales to avoid any sort of even marginal budget control by even the President of the US. The CIA's own airline would, of course, provide the ideal transportation vehicle to facilitate such activities.
Essentially this meant that a significant part of the CIA had been allowed to essentially go rogue without any sort of real supervision whatsoever. Unfortunately, The Mossad, would have been more than happy to step in and provide this oversight using friendly Zionists already embedded within the agency.
There are those who now claim that parts of the CIA are hotbeds of Israeli controlled spying activities operating specifically within its unsupervised "black budgets".
State department leader Dean Acheson warned this would happen in the mid-1940′s when plans started being made to turn the wartime OSS into the CIA. I have always thought his opinion might have been formed by his secret wartime access to the Venona Transcripts which extensively detailed how intelligence agencies in both the US and the UK had become hotbeds of Communist spying activities. (Sort of like the Israelis and the CIA today. )
Read about Acheson's very prescient criticism here
The CIA cannot be fixed. It is too far gone. It should be abolished.I would earnestly recommend that you go to the Colonel's site, SST, and read, from the beginning long ago, his articles analysing the defects of Western foreign policy and what leads to those defects. You will find there the most powerful and informed thinking on this subject that there is.Them Guys , May 10, 2018 at 5:28 pm GMT
I myself don't really belong here because I'm a tooth and nail Deplorable as well as a foreigner. But so what? We both know that what our respective elites are doing is wrong. We both know that there has to be some other way. If we don't seek out balanced and considered analysis then we might as well run off and join those many dissidents for whom dissidence is merely a hobby, or those many others for whom it merely offers occasion for dispute.So, these inner problem's within every major intel agency can be basically summed up in just four word's ..Beware the jews within.bjondo , May 10, 2018 at 5:29 pm GMT
Now back to my soon to be finished one page book that will sum up everything false we were told or taught regarding WWII in all it's many areas .."The Complete Untold Truth about, WWII" .
"Them Germans was Correct!" The End.
Best one page book length expose' one can obtain in the vast search for real fact based Truth, of which international jewry so hate's for one to learn of eh.Get rid of the intelligence agencies.LeaNder , May 10, 2018 at 5:39 pm GMT
If Jewsa needs info about a region, country, even itself, ask Russia, China. Answers will be intelligent, diplomatic, accurate, and relevant.
Billions saved can go to help, real help not bombs, countries destroyed for Israel and impoverished by Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, ilk.@LeaNderThem Guys , May 10, 2018 at 5:52 pm GMT
I asked at what precise part of his piece you smelt sophistry. Maybe I have lost my ability in reading comprehension of your language. Could well be? Apparent from being more generally not too fond of sloganeering.
a number of presumptions which are not supported by current reality
Those would be specifically?@schrubAriusArmenian , May 10, 2018 at 5:54 pm GMT
Just look at how during the reign of Chabad Rabbi Dov Zakiem appointed as Head of Pentagon $$$ controls etc What began as a mention to tv reporters a day prior to 9/11 event's of somehow pentagon cannot account for a Missing $2.3-TRILLION!!! Has as of last date I read any new revelations of that missing cash, morphed into almost $9.5-TRILLION missing!!! And that last amount was like several month's ago.
What a Cohencidence eh? And just think what new and worse swindle scams Israel and it's mossad wonderkins can come up with to do next with so large an amount of Black Budget ready cash available?
Yes Yes I know that several hasbara clown's and tribal member's will say no such stolen cash ever goes to 100% innocent Israel and it's equally innocent jewry aka "The World's Biggest and Only Victim's that ever matter".
But daily now another 10,000 folks in America awaken to fact that research proves beyond all doubt that virtually Every evil and bad and immoral and unethical type issue or event since 3,500 yr's ago has More jewdeo fingerprint's all over it than any other cause period.
And once red pilled and awakened to such real truth's .None are able to return to their former asleep position even if they wished to No amount of jewish hasbara propagandas will ever be able to undo real truth once that cats been let out of the bag so to speak.
Mossad/Israel state moto:.."By Deception(lies!) You Shall Cause War's" .Indeed they do eh.The author is right as far as he goes but he ignores the CIA/Wall Street complex that was established by Allen Dulles – that complex is at the very core of the US Deep State.Hot Nuns of Castle Anthrax , May 10, 2018 at 6:06 pm GMT
That complex is held together from the top; notice that only the very connected are put in charge of the CIA and connected means very tied into Wall Street.
The CIA, in spite of their low period in the 1970′s, has been very effective in controlling the US media.
Note how the Brennan secret team created a trap that the democrats walked right into.
And note how they have the FBI taking the fall while the CIA continues to operate in the shadows.
I like the author; he brings some sanity but he is still a creature of US supremacism.
He doesn't like me; he has blocked me from commenting at his site.
But I still hope he speaks out as far as he goes.It is helpful to learn the point of view of the knightly orders, which, as in the middle ages, constitute a parasitic class indoctrinated to see nothing but the stylized ethical set pieces proper to their order.Heros , May 10, 2018 at 6:20 pm GMT
Here are a few things Lang cannot acknowledge without jeopardizing his identity:
Impunity. Doesn't show up in the list of CIA flaws, but it's staring him in the face, right there in black and white: the Central Intelligence Agency Act, the Rogers/Huston get-out-of-jail-free card, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the operational files exemption, the political questions doctrine, and lots of secret law and regulations. Under municipal law (strictly speaking, it doesn't meet minimal legal standards, it's administrative red tape,) CIA can get away with anything. So they are institutionally criminal. This is a sore point, frantically repressed. Even vague recollections of old movies are enough to trigger the traditional posturing of honor-based chivalric cultures.
Operations. Beltway courtiers are constrained to discuss CIA's intelligence function in isolation from its overwhelmingly dominant, and inherently criminal, clandestine operations function. In reality, all analysts are paid to do is complain about NCS crime. Then when their next criminal racket gets caught, NCS trots out some analysts to say, 'We at CIA warned about this.' CIA operations includes gun-running, drug-dealing, human trafficking and pedophile blackmail, murder, torture, coercive interference, and aggression by armed bands and irregulars. Intelligence is not CIA's business.
Rule of law. Lang, in the context of the USG going to war, writes, "If the "Intelligence Community" as it now exists were abolished, some other group would have to assume the burden of performing the same functions." Right. That other group would be the duly constituted authority under US supreme law, the UN Security Council, which the intelligence community devoted most of their efforts to subverting with foreign corrupt practices and fabricated war propaganda. It's not like CIA got stuck with this job, they usurped it.@English OutsiderRobinG , May 10, 2018 at 6:27 pm GMT
Having had my comments deleted and been blocked several times on SST, I can tell anyone who would listen to not listen to your advice and waste hours poring over that myopic blog. Myopic, because anytime someone writes an interesting comment that contradicts any of Lang's masonic beliefs, Lang gets nasty. Even TwistedGenius has had to dance around a snarling Lang because he crossed some secret line.
Sure, Lang was right about a lot of things from 2003-2007. But he was also often wrong and no one ever dared to call him on it.
Once again, I will point out Lang's complete failure to deviate from the narrative on things like all these gun-grabbing "mass shootings". As I recall Lang was even very wishy washy about the second amendment, offering to sell his guns in a government gun grab. So he lies to us about about what his masonic brethren are up to on this front.
But of course the biggest void in his analysis is the JQ. He attends barmitzfa's, purim, and who knows what other kind of cabal rituals. He cannot deal with the JQ because he is borg, and he knows what kind of punishment would await him. And angry jews crying for blood revenge aren't any where near as bad as when the masonic brotherhood turns on you.@Scepticalsmelly oil and gas , May 10, 2018 at 7:01 pm GMT
(does the tail wag the dog)?
Good question. Where does Trump get his ludicrous talking points on Iran and Syria?@Heros
Agree but I think it is much more than a smoke Screen and preparation for war.
The 527 paid slave drivers and their bureaucrats and military (called the USA) has become a permanent false flag operation. The 9/11 advisory explained:
1. slave drivers have been ordered to spy on slaves,
2. slave drivers have been ordered to silence all slave protests and objections,
3. slave drivers have been ordered to study the slaves like rats in cage,
4. slave drivers have been ordered to deprive the slaves until production is sufficient to satisfy the Pharaohs.
5. slave drivers have been ordered to keep the USA dark, slaves are not allowed to know or learn anything
they don't pay for.
6. Slaves are expected to listen to Pharaoh produced, media distributed propaganda at least 12 hours per day.
Americans now live in fear of the Bastards from the Dark Side Kingdom of Lies.
The problem is how to save America from the USA. The USA is milking our cattle, selling our eggs, fencing us in with costly schooling and licenses to be eligible to get work, spying on our thoughts, destroying our earning platforms, price and ticket gating our access to information, bottling and selling to us, our once free water and air, and generally putting Americans at risk to attack from the global outside and famine blight from the inside.
Feb 10, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com
The Borgist foreign policy of the administration has little to do with the generals. To comprehend the generals one must understand their collective mentality and the process that raised them on high as a collective of their own. The post WW2 promotion process in the armed forces has produced a group at the top with a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively.
These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board."
If asked at the top, where military command and political interaction intersect, what policy should be they always ask for more money and to be allowed to pursue outcomes that they can understand as victory and self fulfilling with regard to their collective self image as warrior chieftains.
In Obama's time they were asked what policy should be in Afghanistan and persuaded him to reinforce their dreams in Afghanistan no matter how unlikely it always was that a unified Western oriented nation could be made out of a collection of disparate mutually alien peoples.
In Trump's time his essential disinterest in foreign policy has led to a massive delegation of authority to Mattis and the leadership of the empire's forces. Their reaction to that is to look at their dimwitted guidance from on high (defeat IS, depose Assad and the SAG, triumph in Afghanistan) and to seek to impose their considerable available force to seek accomplishment as they see fit of this guidance in the absence of the kind of restrictions that Obama placed on them.
Like the brass, I, too, am a graduate of all those service schools that attend success from the Basic Course to the Army War College. I will tell you again that the people at the top are not good at "the vision thing." They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers. pl
Jack , 09 February 2018 at 05:42 PMSirFredw , 09 February 2018 at 06:26 PM
IMO, this conformism pervades all institutions. I saw when I worked in banking and finance many moons ago how moving up the ranks in any large organization meant you didn't rock the boat and you conformed to the prevailing groupthink. Even nutty ideas became respectable because they were expedient.
Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs.You remind me of an old rumination by Thomas Ricks:Peter AU , 09 February 2018 at 06:37 PM
Take the example of General George Casey. According to David Cloud and Greg Jaffe's book Four Stars, General Casey, upon learning of his assignment to command U.S. forces in Iraq, received a book from the Army Chief of Staff. The book Counterinsurgency Lessons Learned from Malaya and Vietnam was the first book he ever read about guerilla warfare." This is a damning indictment of the degree of mental preparation for combat by a general. The Army's reward for such lack of preparation: two more four star assignments.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/07/cmon-man-meathead-generals-and-some-other-things-that-are-driving-me-crazy-about-life-in-this-mans-post-911-army/"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case.Anna , 09 February 2018 at 06:48 PMSince Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question -- Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? "Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan" by Paul Craig Roberts: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/heroin-addiction-america-spearheaded-us-led-war-afghanistan/J , 09 February 2018 at 07:05 PM
" in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meager 185 tons. It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program. The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin.
In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since Washington's invasion. Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World's illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. Who owns the airplanes and ships that transport heroin from Afghanistan to the US? Who gets the profits?"
---A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan "finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies." -- All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security?Colonel,divadab , 09 February 2018 at 07:16 PM
There needs to be a 're-education' of the top, all of them need to be required to attend Green Beret think-school, in other words they need to be forced to think outside the box, and to to think on their feet. They need to understand fluid situations where things change at the drop of a hat, be able to dance the two-step and waltz at the same time. In other words they need to be able to walk and chew gum and not trip over their shoe-laces.
By no means are they stupid, but you hit the nail on the head when you said 'narrow thinkers'. Their collective hive mentality that has developed is not a good thing.God help the poor people of Syria.james , 09 February 2018 at 07:30 PMthanks pat... it seems like the usa has had a steady group of leaders that have no interest in the world outside of the usa, or only in so far as they can exploit it for their own interest... maybe that sums up the foreign policy of the usa at this point... you say trump is disinterested.. so all the blather from trump about 'why are we even in syria?', or 'why can't we be friends with the russia?' is just smoke up everyone's ass...David E. Solomon , 09 February 2018 at 07:50 PM
i like what you said here "conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board." - that strikes me as very true - conformist group thinkers... the world needs less of these types and more actual leaders who have a vision for something out of the box and not always on board... i thought for a while trump might fill this bill, but no such luck by the looks of it now..Colonel Lang,DianaLC , 09 February 2018 at 07:56 PM
Your description of these guys sounds like what we have heard about Soviet era planners. Am I correct in my understanding, or am I missing something?
As a young person in eighth grade, I learned about the "domino theory" in regard to attempts to slow the spread of communism. Then my generation was, in a sense, fractured around the raging battles for and against our involvement in Vietnam.Bill Herschel , 09 February 2018 at 09:11 PM
I won't express my own opinion on that. But I mention it because it seems to be a type of "vision thing."
So, now I ask, what would be your vision for the Syrian situation?This has been going on for a long time has it not? Westmoreland? MacArthur?turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:40 PM
How did this happen?Bill Herschelturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:48 PM
Westmoreland certainly, Macarthur certainly not. This all started with the "industrialization" of the armed forces in WW2. we never recovered the sense of profession as opposed to occupation after the massive expansion and retention of so many placeholders. a whole new race of Walmart manager arose and persists. plDianaCturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:55 PM
The idea of the Domino Theory came from academia, not the generals of that time. They resisted the idea of a war in east Asia until simply ordered into it by LBJ. After that their instinct for acting according to guidance kicked in and they became committed to the task. Syria? Do you think I should write you an essay on that? SST has a large archive and a search machine. plDavid E. Solomonturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:08 PM
I am talking about flag officers at present, not those beneath them from the mass of whom they emerge. There are exceptions. Martin Dempsey may have been one such. The system creates such people at the top. plelaine,turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:12 PM
Your usual animosity for non-left wing authority is showing. A commander like the CENTCOM theater commander (look it up) operates within guidance from Washington, broad guidance. Normally this is the president's guidance as developed in the NSC process. Some presidents like Obama and LBJ intervene selectively and directly in the execution of that guidance. Obama had a "kill list" of jihadis suggested by the IC and condemned by him to die in the GWOT. He approved individual missions against them. LBJ picked individual air targets in NVN. Commanders in the field do not like that . They think that freedom of action within their guidance should be accorded them. This CinC has not been interested thus far in the details and have given the whole military chain of command wide discretion to carry out their guidance. plJturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:24 PM
Thank you, but it is real GBs that you like, not the Delta and SEAL door kickers. plGaikomainakuturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:27 PM
"I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist." The Borg and the military leaders are not of the same tribe. they are two different collectives who in the main dislike and distrust each other. plAnna. Their guidance does not include a high priority for eradicating the opium trade. Their guidance has to do with defeating the jihadis and building up the central government. plturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:30 PMPeter AUturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:44 PM
Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups. pljamesPeter AU , 09 February 2018 at 11:01 PM
Trump would like to better relations with Russia but that is pretty much the limit of his attention to foreign affairs at any level more sophisticated than expecting deference. He is firmly focused on the economy and base solidifying issues like immigration. plThe medical profession comes to mind. GP's and specialists. Many of those working at the leading edge of research seem much wider thinking and are not locked into the small box of what they have been taught.turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 11:16 PMPeter AUJ -> turcopolier ... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
The GPs do not rule over a hierarchy of doctors. plCombat Applications Group and SEALS don't even begin to compare, they're not in the same league as 'real deal' GBs. The GBs are thinkers as well as doers, whereas Combat Applications Group and SEALs all they know is breach and clear, breach and clear.kao_hsien_chih -> Jack... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
There is more to life than breach and clear. Having worked with all in one manner or another, I'll take GBs any day hands down. It makes a difference when the brain is engaged instead of just the heel.A lot of technology entrepreneurs--especially those active today--are stuck in their own groupthink, inflated by their sense that they are born for greatness and can do no wrong.FB Ali , 09 February 2018 at 11:23 PM
The kind of grand schemes that the top people at Google, Uber, and Facebook think up to remake the universe in their own idea of "good society" are frightening. That they are cleverer (but not necessarily wiser) than the academics, borgists, or generals, I think, makes them even more dangerous.Col Lang,turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 01:03 AM
They are indeed "narrow thinkers", but I think the problem runs deeper. They seem to be stuck in the rut of a past era. When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now.
Of course, these policies ensure that they continue to be well-funded, even if the US is bankrupting itself in the process.dogearLondonBob , 10 February 2018 at 06:59 AM
He is still the Saudi Mukhtar for the US and most of the generals are still narrow minded. plThey [the generals] seem to have deliberately completely ignored the issues and policy positions Trump ran on as President. It isn't a case of ignorance but of wilful disregard.turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 07:55 AMLondonBobDianaLC said in reply to turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 09:23 AM
I think that is true but, they were able to talk him into that, thus far. plI've been reading this blog for some time. My question was facetious and written with the understanding of your statement about the generals not having a good grasp of "the vision thing" on their own.Terry , 10 February 2018 at 09:25 AMSo true and as others commented this is a sad feature of the human race and all human organizations. Herd mentality ties into social learning. Chimps are on average more creative and have better short term memory than humans. We gave up some short term memory in order to be able to learn quickly by mimicking. If shown how to open a puzzle box but also shown unnecessary extra steps a chimp will ignore the empty steps and open the box with only the required steps. A human will copy what they saw exactly performing the extra steps as if they have some unknown value to the process. Our massive cultural heritages are learned by observing and taken in as a whole. This process works within organizations as well.TV , 10 February 2018 at 10:18 AM
I suspect a small percentage of the human race functions differently than the majority and retains creative thinking and openness along with more emphasis on cognitive thinking than social learning but generally they always face a battle when working to change the group "consensus", i.e. Fulton's folly, scepticism on whether man would ever fly, etc.
One nice feature of the internet allows creative thinkers to connect and watch the idiocy of the world unfold around us.
"A natural desire to be part of the 'in crowd' could damage our ability to make the right decisions, a new study has shown."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216212049.htmThe military by definition is a rigid hierarchical structure. It could not function as a collection of individuals. This society can only breed conforming narrow leaders as an "individual" would leave or be forced out.Barbara Ann , 10 February 2018 at 10:22 AM
That part of our brain responsible for the desire to be part of the 'in crowd' may affect our decision-making process, but it is also the reason we keep chimps in zoos and not the other way around. Or, to put it another way; if chimps had invented Facebook, I might consider them more creative than us.Babak Makkinejad -> Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 10:30 AMDo you think chimps are, per the Christian Docrine, in a State of Fall or in a State of Grace?Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 10:32 AMThis is an interesting discussion. The top in organisations (civil and military) are increasingly technocrats and thinking like systems managers. They are unable to innovate because they lack the ability to think out of the box. Usually there is a leader who depends on specialists. Others (including laymen) are often excluding from the decision-making-proces. John Ralston Saul's Voltaires Bastards describes this very well.Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg -> gaikokumaniakku... , 10 February 2018 at 11:58 AM
Because of natural selection (conformist people tend to choose similar people who resemble their own values and ways-of-thinking) organizations have a tendency to become homogeneous (especially the higher management/ranks).
In combination with the "dumbing" of people (also of people who have a so-called good education (as described in Richard Sale's Sterile Chit-Chat ) this is a disastrous mix.
Homogeneity is the main culprit. A specialists tends to try to solve problems with the same knowledge-set that created these.
Not all (parts of) organizations and people suffer this fate. Innovations are usually done by laymen and not by specialists. The organizations are often heterogeneous and the people a-typical and/or eccentric.
(mainly the analytical parts of ) intelligence organizations and investment banks are like that if they are worth anything. Very heterogeneous with a lot of a-typical people. I think Green Berets are also like that. An open mind and genuine interest in others (cultures, way of thinking, religion etc) is essential to understand and to perform and also to prevent costly mistakes (in silver and/or blood).
It is possible to create firewalls against tunnel-vision. The Jester performed such a role. Also think of the Emperors New Clothes . The current trend of people with limited vision and creativity prevents this. Criticism is punished with a lack of promotion, job-loss or even jail (whistle-blowers)
IMO this is why up to a certain rank (colonel or middle management) a certain amount of creativity or alternative thinking is allowed, but conformity is essential to rise higher.
I was very interested in the Colonel's remark on the foreign background of the GB in Vietnam. If you would like to expand on this I would be much obliged? IMO GB are an example of a smart, learning, organization (in deed and not only in word as so many say of themselves, but who usually are at best mediocre)Isn't the "Borg" really The Atlantic Council?ISL , 10 February 2018 at 12:58 PMDear Colonel,ex-PFC Chuck said in reply to FB Ali ... , 10 February 2018 at 01:08 PM
Would you then say that a rising military officer who does have the vision thing faces career impediments? If so, would you say that the vision thing is lost (if it ever was there) at the highest ranks? In any case, the existence of even a few at the top, like Matthis or Shinseki is a blessing.FB Ali:Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 02:03 PM"When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now."That's true not only of the US military but of US elites in general across all of the spectra. And because that reality is at odds with the group-think of those within the various elements that make up the spectra it doesn't a hearing. Anyone who tries to bring it up risks being ejected from the group.I forget an important part. I really miss an edit-button. Comment-boxes are like looking at something through a straw. Its easy to miss the overview.kooshy , 10 February 2018 at 02:19 PM
Innovations and significant new developments are usually made by laymen. IMO mainly because they have a fresh perspective without being bothered by the (mainstream) knowledge that dominates an area of expertise.
By excluding the laymen errors will continue to be repeated. This can be avoided by using development/decision-making frameworks, but these tend to become dogma (and thus become part of the problem)
Much better is allowing laymen and allowing a-typical people. Then listen to them carefully. Less rigid flexible and very valuable.
Apparently, according to the last US ambassador to Syria Mr. Ford, from 2014-17 US has spent 12 Billion on Regime change in Syria. IMO, combinedly Iran and Russia so far, have spent far less in Syria than 12 billion by US alone, not considering the rest of her so called coalition. This is a war of attrition, and US operations in wars, are usually far more expensive and longer than anybody else's.J , 10 February 2018 at 02:49 PM
"The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country. This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011." https://goo.gl/8pj5cDColonel, TTG, PT,Richardstevenhack -> turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 02:56 PM
FYI regarding Syria
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/sen-tim-kaine-demands-release-secret-trump-war-powers-memo-n846176It may "demand" it - but does it get it? Soldiers are just as human as everyone else.dogear said in reply to Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 02:59 PM
I'm reminded of the staff sergeant with the sagging beer belly who informed me, "Stand up straight and look like a soldier..." Or the First Sergeant who was so hung over one morning at inspection that he couldn't remember which direction he was going down the hall to the next room to be inspected. I'm sure you have your own stories of less than competence.
It's a question of intelligence and imagination. And frankly, I don't see the military in any country receiving the "best and brightest" of that country's population, by definition. The fact that someone is patriotic enough to enter the military over a civilian occupation doesn't make them more intelligent or imaginative than the people who decided on the civilian occupation.
Granted, if you fail at accounting, you don't usually die. Death tends to focus the mind, as they say. Nonetheless, we're not talking about the grunts at the level who actually die, still less the relatively limited number of Special Forces. We're talking about the officers and staff at the levels who don't usually die in war - except maybe at their defeat - i.e., most officers over the level of captain.
One can hardly look at this officer crowd in the Pentagon and CENTCOM and say that their personal death concentrates their mind. They are in virtually no danger of that. Only career death faces them - with a nice transition to the board of General Dynamics at ten times the salary.
All in all, I'd have to agree that the military isn't much better at being competent - at many levels above the obvious group of hyper-trained Special Forces - any more than any other profession.
That is well put.most important is the grading system that is designed to fix a person to a particular slot thereby limiting his ability to think "outside the box" and consider the many variables that exist in one particular instant.Mark Logan said in reply to Peter AU... , 10 February 2018 at 03:30 PM
Creative thinking allows you to see beyond the storm clouds ahead and realize that the connectedness of different realities both the visible and invisible. For instance the picture of the 2 pairs of korean skaters in the news tells an interesting story on many levels. Some will judge them on their grade of proffiency, while others will see a dance of strategy between 2 foes and a few will know the results in advance and plan accordingly
https://www.google.com.au/amp/www.nbcolympics.com/news/north-south-korean-figure-skating-teams-practice-side-side%3famp?espv=1Peter AUturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:03 PM
"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I've often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. STEM is enormously useful to us but seems to be a risky when implanted in shallow earth.Mark Loganturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:13 PM
These narrow "but deep" thinkers were unable to grasp the nature of the Iraq War for the first couple of years. They thought of it as a rear area security problem, a combat in cities problem, anything but a popular rebellion based on xenophobia and anti-colonialism The IED problem? They spent several billion dollars on trying to find a technology fix and never succeeded. I know because they kept asking me to explain the war to them and then could not understand the answers which were outside their narrow thought. plISLoutthere , 10 February 2018 at 05:19 PM
War College selectees, the national board selected creme de la creme test out as 50% SJs (conformists lacking vision) in Myers-Briggs terms and about 15% NTs (intellectuals). To survive and move upward in a system dominated by SJs, the NTs must pretend to be what they are not. A few succeed. I do not think Mattis is an intellectual merely because he has read a lot. plLong ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that "the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it." I tried to encourage them to "think backwards".turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:24 PM
My favorite example was a Japanese fisherman who recovered valuable ancient Chinese pottery. Everyone knew where an ancient ship had sunk, but the water was too deep to dive down to the wreck. And everyone knew the cargo included these valuable vases. And the fisherman was the first to figure out how to recover them. He attached a line to an octopus, and lowered it in the area, waited awhile, and pulled it up. Low and behold, the octopus had hidden in an ancient Chinese vase. The fisherman was familiar with trapping octopuses, by lowering a ceramic pot (called "takosubo") into the ocean, waiting awhile, then raising the vase with octopus inside. His brilliance was to think backwards, and use an octopus to catch a vase.TVturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:31 PM
By your calculation people like Joe Stilwell and George Patton should not have existed. plAdrestiaked , 10 February 2018 at 05:56 PM
the original GBS were recruited in the 50s to serve in the OSS role with foreign guerrillas behind Soviet lines in th event of war in Europe. Aaron Bank, the founder, recruited several hundred experienced foreign soldiers from the likely countries who wanted to become American. By the time we were in VN these men were a small fraction of GBs but important for their expertise and professionalism. plCol, I think it might help people to think of "the Borg" - as you have defined & applied it - in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID'd the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII.turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger - all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot ... and so it goes.
I note many Borgs... Borgism if you will. An organizational behavior that has emerged out of human nature having difficulty adapting to rapidly accelerating complexity that is just too hard to apprehend in a few generations. If (as many commenters on STT seem to...) one wishes to view this in an ideological or spiritual framework only, they may overlook an important truth - that what we are experiencing is a Battle Among Borgs for control over their own space & domination over the other Borgs. How else would we expect any competitive, powerful interest group to act?
In gov & industry these days, we observe some pretty wild outliers... attached to some wild outcomes. Thus the boring behavior of our political industries bringing forth Trump, our promethean technology sector yielding a Musk (& yes, a Zuckerberg).
I find it hard to take very seriously analysts that define their perspective based primarily upon their superior ideals & opposition to others. Isn't every person, every tribe, team or enterprise a borglet-in-becoming? Everybody Wants to Rule the World ... & Everybody Must Get Stoned... messages about how we are grappling with complexity in our times. I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we've made it this far.
Unfortunately, I would not be amazed if reckless, feckless leaders changed the status quo. I was particularly alarmed hearing Trump in his projection mode; "I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity, without a major event where people pull together, that's hard to do.
But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing." It strikes me that he could be exceptionally willing to risk a Major Event if he felt a form of unity, or self-preservation, was in the offing. I pray (& I do not pray often or easily) that the Generals you have described have enough heart & guts to honor their oath at its most profound level in the event of an Event.babakBarbara Ann -> outthere... , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
As a time traveler from another age, I can only say that for me it means devotion to a set of mores peculiar to a particular profession as opposed to an occupation. plGreat example outthere.
Another springs to mind: James Lovelock (of Gaia hypothesis fame) was once part of the NASA team building the first probe to go to Mars to look for signs of life. Lovelock didn't make any friends when he told NASA they were wasting their time, there was none. When asked how he could be so sure, he explained that the composition of the Martian atmosphere made it impossible. "But Martian life may be able to survive under different conditions" was the retort. Lovelock then went on to explain his view that the evolution of microbial life determined the atmospheric composition on Earth, so should be expected to do the same if life had evolved on Mars. Brilliant backwards thinking which ought to have earned him the Nobel prize IMHO (for Gaia). Lovelock, a classic cross-disciplinary scientist, can't be rewarded with such a box-categorized honor, as his idea doesn't fit well into any one.
Another example of cross-disciplinary brilliance was Bitcoin, which has as much to do with its creator's deep knowledge of Anthropology (why people invented & use money) as his expertise in both Economics and Computer Science.
This is they key to creative thinking in my view - familiarity with different fields yields deeper insights.
Sep 15, 2015 | Zero Hedge
yeah thanks Carly ... HP made bullet-proof products that would last forever..... I still buy HP workstation notebooks, especially now when I can get them for $100 on ebay .... I sold HP products in the 1990s .... we had HP laserjet IIs that companies would run day & night .... virtually no maintenance ... when PCL5 came around then we had LJ IIIs .... and still companies would call for LJ I's, .... 100 pounds of invincible Printing ! .
This kind of product has no place in the World of Planned-Obsolesence .... I'm currently running an 8510w, 8530w, 2530p, Dell 6420 quad i7, hp printers hp scanners, hp pavilion desktops, .... all for less than what a Laserjet II would have cost in 1994, Total.
Not My Real Name
I still have my HP 15C scientific calculator I bought in 1983 to get me through college for my engineering degree. There is nothing better than a hand held calculator that uses Reverse Polish Notation!
HP used to make fantastic products. I remember getting their RPN calculators back in th 80's; built like tanks. Then they decided to "add value" by removing more and more material from their consumer/"prosumer" products until they became unspeakably flimsy. They stopped holding things together with proper fastenings and starting hot melting/gluing it together, so if it died you had to cut it open to have any chance of fixing it.
I still have one of their Laserjet 4100 printers. I expect it to outlast anything they currently produce, and it must be going on 16+ years old now.
Fuck you, HP. You started selling shit and now you're eating through your seed corn. I just wish the "leaders" who did this to you had to pay some kind of penalty greater than getting $25M in a severance package.
+100. The path of HP is everything that is wrong about modern business models. I still have a 5MP laserjet (one of the first), still works great. Also have a number of 42S calculators.....my day-to-day workhorse and several spares. I don't think the present HP could even dream of making these products today.
How well will I profit, as a salesman, if I sell you something that works? How valuable are you, as a customer in my database, if you never come back? Confucious say "Buy another one, and if you can't afford it, f'n finance it!" It's the growing trend. Look at appliances. Nothing works anymore.
Son of Loki
GE to cut Houston jobs as work moves overseas http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2015/09/15/ge-to-cut-houston-job... " Yes we can! "
hey big brother.... if you are curious, there is a damn good android emulator of the HP42S available (Free42). really it is so good that it made me relax about accumulating more spares. still not quite the same as a real calculator. (the 42S, by the way, is the modernization/simplification of the classic HP41, the real hardcord very-programmable, reconfigurable, hackable unit with all the plug-in-modules that came out in the early 80s.)
Imagine working at HP and having to listen to Carly Fiorina bulldoze you...she is like a blow-torch...here are 4 minutes of Carly and Ralph Nader (if you can take it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC4JDwoRHtk
My husband has been a software architect for 30 years at the same company. Never before has he seen the sheer unadulterated panic in the executives. All indices are down and they are planning for the worst. Quality is being sacrificed for " just get some relatively functional piece of shit out the door we can sell". He is fighting because he has always produced a stellar product and refuses to have shit tied to his name ( 90% of competitor benchmarks fail against his projects). They can't afford to lay him off, but the first time in my life I see my husband want to quit...
I've been an engineer for 31 years - our managements's unspoken motto at the place I'm at (large company) is: "release it now, we'll put in the quality later". I try to put in as much as possible before the product is shoved out the door without killing myself doing it.
Do they even make test equipment anymore?
HP test and measurement was spun off many years ago as Agilent. The electronics part of Agilent was spun off as keysight late last year.
HP basically makes computer equipment (PCs, servers, Printers) and software. Part of the problem is that computer hardware has been commodized. Since PCs are cheap and frequent replacements are need, People just by the cheapest models, expecting to toss it in a couple of years and by a newer model (aka the Flat screen TV model). So there is no justification to use quality components. Same is become true with the Server market. Businesses have switched to virtualization and/or cloud systems. So instead of taking a boat load of time to rebuild a crashed server, the VM is just moved to another host.
HP has also adopted the Computer Associates business model (aka Borg). HP buys up new tech companies and sits on the tech and never improves it. It decays and gets replaced with a system from a competitor. It also has a habit of buying outdated tech companies that never generate the revenues HP thinks it will.
When Carly was CEO of HP, she instituted a draconian "pay for performance" plan. She ended up leaving with over $146 Million because she was smart enough not to specify "what type" of performance.
Regarding your statement "All those engineers choosing to pursue other opportunities", we need to realize that tech in general has been very susceptible to the vagaries of government actions. Now the employment problems are due to things like globalization and H1B programs. Some 50 years ago tech - meaning science and engineering - was hit hard as the US space program wound down. Permit me this retrospective:
I graduated from a quite good school with a BS in Physics in 1968. My timing was not all that great, since that was when they stopped granting draft deferments for graduate school. I joined the Air Force, but as an enlisted airman, not an officer. Following basic training, I was sent to learn to operate PCAM operations. That's Punched Card Accounting Machines. Collators. Sorters. Interpreters. Key punches. I was in a class with nine other enlistees. One had just gotten a Masters degree in something. Eight of us had a BS in one thing or another, but all what would now be called STEM fields. The least educated only had an Associate degree. We all enlisted simply to avoid being drafted into the Marines. (Not that there's anything wrong with the Marines, but all of us proclaimed an allergy to energetic lead projectiles and acted accordingly. Going to Canada, as many did, pretty much ensured never getting a job in STEM fields later in life.) So thanks to government action (fighting in VietNam, in this case) a significant portion of educated Americans found themselves diverted from chosen career paths. (In my case, it worked out fine. I learned to program, etc., and spent a total of over 40 years in what is now called IT. I think it was called EDP when I started the trek. Somewhere along the line it became (where I worked) Management Information Systems. MIS. And finally the department became simply Information Technology. I hung an older sign next to the one saying Information Technology. Somehow MIS-Information Technology seemed appropriate.)
Then I got to my first duty assignment. It was about five months after the first moon landing, and the aerospace industry was facing cuts in government aerospace spending. I picked up a copy of an engineering journal in the base library and found an article about job cuts. There was a cartoon with two janitors, buckets at their feet and mops in their hands, standing before a blackboard filled with equations. Once was saying to the other, pointing to one section, "you can see where he made his mistake right here...". It represented two engineers who had been reduced to menial labor after losing their jobs.
So while I resent all the H1Bs coming into the US - I worked with several for the last four years of my IT career, and was not at all impressed - and despise the politicians who allow it, I know that it is not the first time American STEM grads have been put out of jobs en masse. In some ways that old saying applies: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
If you made it this far, thanks for your patience.
Just like Amazon, HP will supposedly make billions in profit analyzing things in the cloud that nobody looks at and has no use to the real economy, but it makes good fodder for Power Point presentations. I am amazed how much daily productivity goes into creating fancy charts for meetings that are meaningless to the actual business of the company.
IT'S ALL BULLSHIT!!!!!
I designed more products in one year for the small company I work for than a $15 billion corporation did throughout their entire design department employing hundreds of people. That is because 90% of their workday is spent preparing crap for meetings and they never really get anything meaningful done.
It took me one week to design a product and send it out for production branded for the company I work for, but it took six months to get the same type of product passed through the multi billion dollar corporation we license for. Because it had to pass through layer after layer of bullshit and through every level of management before it could be signed off. Then a month later somebody would change their mind in middle management and the product would need to be changed and go through the cycle all over again.
Their own bag department made six bags last year, I designed 16. Funny how I out produce a department of six people whose only job is to make bags, yet I only get paid the salary of one.
Maybe I'm just an imbecile for working hard.
You also have to add all the wasted time of employees having to sit through those presentations and the even more wasted time on Ashley Madison
'Computers' cost as much - if not more time than they save, at least in corporate settings. Used to be you'd work up 3 budget projections - expected, worst case and best case, you'd have a meeting, hash it out and decide in a week. Now you have endless alternatives, endless 'tweaking' and changes and decisions take forever, with outrageous amounts of time spent on endless 'analysis' and presentations.
EVERY VP now has an 'Administrative Assistant' whose primary job is to develop PowerPoint presentations for the endless meetings that take up time - without any decisions ever being made.
Computers stop people from thinking. In ages past when you used a slide rule you had to know the order of magnitude of the end result. Now people make a mistake and come up with a ridiculous number and take it at face value because 'the computer' produced it.
Any exec worht anythign knew what a given line in their department or the total should be +or a small amount. I can't count the number of times budgets and analyses were WRONG because someone left off a few lines on a spreadsheet total.
Yes computer modeling for advanced tech and engineering is a help, CAD/CAM is great and many other applications in the tech/scientific world are a great help but letting computers loose in corporate and finance has produced endless waste AND - worsde - thigns like HFT (e.g. 'better' more effective ways to manipulate and cheat markets.
A recent lay off here turned out to be quite embarrassing for Parmalat there was nobody left that knew how to properly run the place they had to rehire many ex employees as consultants-at a costly premium
Consultants don't come at that much of a premium becaue the company doesn't have to pay benefits, vacation, sick days, or payroll taxes, etc. Plus it's really easy and cheap to get rid of consultants.
Obviously, you haven't worked as a consultant. You get paid by the hour. To clean up a mess. 100 hours a week are not uncommon. (What?, is it possible to work 100 hours a week? Yes, it is, but only for about 3 months.)
HP Executives are trying hard to bring the company back to its roots: The ability to fit into one garage...
ALL THAT Meg Whitman needs to do ... is to FIRE EVERYBODY !! Then have all the products made in China, process all the sales orders in Hong Kong, and sub-contract the accounting and tax paperwork to India. Then HP can use all the profits for stock buybacks, except of course for Meg's salary ... which will keep rising astronomically!
That's where education gets you in America.The Government sold out America's manufacturing base to Communist China who holds the debt of the USA.Who would ever guess that right-wing neo-cons(neo-nazis) running the government would sell out to communists just to get the money for war? Very weird.
"Communist"? The Chinese government, like that of the US, never believed in worker ownership of businesses and never believed that the commerical banking system (whether owned by the state, or private corporations which act like a state) should not control money. Both countries believe in centralization of power among a few shareholders, who take the fruits of working people's labor while contributing nothing of value themselves (money being but a token that represents a claim on real capital, not capital itself.)
Management and investors ought to be separate from each other; management should be chosen by workers by universal equal vote, while a complementary investor board should be chosen by investors much as corporate boards are now. Both of these boards should be legally independent but bound organizations; the management board should run the business while the investor board should negotiate with the management board on the terms of equity issuance. No more buybacks, no more layoffs or early retirements, unless workers as a whole see a need for it to maintain the company.
The purpose of investors is to serve the real economy, not the other way round; and in turn, the purpose of the real economy is to serve humanity, not the other way around. Humans should stop being slaves to perpetual growth.
HP is laying off 80,000 workers or almost a third of its workforce, converting its long-term human capital into short-term gains for rich shareholders at an alarming rate. The reason that product quality has declined is due to the planned obsolescence that spurs needless consumerism, which is necessary to prop up our debt-backed monetary system and the capitalist-owned economy that sits on top of it.
HP - that company that sells computers and printers made in China and ink cartridges made in Thailand?
Another company going down the drain because their focus is short term returns with crappy products.They will also bring down any company they buy as well.
HP is microcosm of what Carly will do to the US: carve it like a pumpkin and leave the shell out to bake in the sun for a few weeks. But she'll make sure and poison the seeds too! Don't want anything growing out of that pesky Palm division...
The world is heading for massive deflation. Computers have hit the 14 nano-meter lithography zone, the cost to go from 14nm to say 5nm is very high, and the net benefit to computing power is very low, but lets say we go from 14nm to 5nm over the next 4 years. Going from 5nm to 1nm is not going to net a large boost in computing power and the cost to shrink things down and re-tool will be very high for such an insignificant gain in performance.
What does that mean
- Computers (atleast non-quantum ones) have hit the point where about 80-90% of the potential for the current science has been tap'd
- This means that the consumer is not going to be put in the position where they will have to upgrade to faster systems for atleast another 7-8 years.... (because the new computer wont be that much faster than their existing one).
- If no one is upgrading the only IT sectors of the economy that stand to make any money are software companies (Microsoft, Apple, and other small software developers), most software has not caught up with hardware yet.
- We are obviously heading for massive deflation, consumer spending levels as a % are probably around where they were in the late 70s - mid 80s, this is a very deflationary environment that is being compounded by a high debt burden (most of everyones income is going to service their debts), that signals monetary tightening is going on... people simply don't have enough discretionary income to spend on new toys.
All that to me screams SELL consumer electronics stocks because profits are GOING TO DECLINE , SALES ARE GOING TO DECLINE. There is no way , no amount of buy backs will float the stocks of corporations like HP/Dell/IBM etc... it is inevitable that these stocks will be worth 30% less over the next 5 - 8 years
But what do I know? maybe I am missing something.
In anycase a lot of pressure is being put on HP to do all it can at any cost to boost the stock valuations, because so much of its stock is institution owned, they will strip the wallpaper off the walls and sell it to a recycling plant if it would give them more money to boost stock valuations. That to me signals that most of the people pressuring the board of HP to boost the stock, want them to gut the company as much as they can to boost it some trivial % points so that the majority of shares can be dumped onto muppets.
To me it pretty much also signals something is terribly wrong at HP and no one is talking about it.
Other than die shrinks there really hasn't been a lot going on in the CPU world since Intel abandoned its Netburst architecture and went back to its (Israeli created) Pentium 3 style pipeline. After that they gave up on increasing speed and resorted to selling more cores. Now that wall has been hit, they have been selling "green" and "efficient" nonsense in place of increasing power.
x86 just needs to go, but a lot is invested in it not the least of which is that 1-2 punch of forced, contrived obsolesence carried out in a joint operation with Microsoft. 15 years ago you could watch videos with no problem on your old machine using Windows XP. Fast forward to now and their chief bragging point is still "multitasking" and the ability to process datastreams like video. It's a joke.
The future is not in the current CPU paradigm of instructions per second; it will be in terms of variables per second. It will be more along the lines of what GPU manufacturers are creating with their thousands of "engines" or "processing units" per chip, rather than the 4, 6 or 12 core monsters that Intel is pushing. They have nearly given up on their roadmap to push out to 128 cores as it is. x86 just doesn't work with all that.
Another classic "Let's rape all we can and bail with my golden parachute" corporate leaders setting themselves up. Pile on the string of non-IT CEOs that have been leading the company to ruin. To them it is nothing more than a contest of being even worse than their predecessor. Just look at the billions each has lost before their exit. Compaq, a cluster. Palm Pilot, a dead product they paid millions for and then buried. And many others.
Think the split is going to help? Think again. Rather than taking the opportunity to fix their problems, they have just duplicated and perpetuated them into two separate entities.
HP is a company that is mired in a morass of unmanageable business processes and patchwork of antiquated applications all interconnected to the point they are petrified to try and uncouple them.
Just look at their stock price since January. The insiders know. Want to fix HP? All it would take is a savvy IT based leader with a boatload of common sense. What makes money at HP? Their printers and ink. Not thinking they can provide enterprise solutions to others when they can't even get their own house in order.
I Write Code
Let's not beat around the bush, they're outsourcing, firing Americans and hiring cheap labor elsewhere: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-15/hewlett-packard-to-cut-up-to-30-000-more-jobs-in-restructuring It's also shifting employees to low-cost areas, and hopes to have 60 percent of its workers located in cheaper countries by 2018, Nefkens said.
Carly Fiorina: (LOL, leading a tech company with a degree in medieval history and philosophy) While at ATT she was groomed from the Affirmative Action plan.
Alma Mater: Stanford University (B.A. in medieval history and philosophy); University of Maryland (MBA); Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Patricia Russo: (Lucent) (Dedree in Political Science). Another lady elevated through the AA plan, Russo got her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in political science and history in 1973. She finished the advanced management program at Harvard Business School in 1989
Both ladies steered their corporations to failure.
Clowns on Acid
It is very straightforward. Replace 45,000 US workers with 100,000 offshore workers and you still save millions of USD ! Use the "savings" to buy back stock, then borrow more $$ at ZIRP to buy more stock back.
You guys don't know nuthin'.
HP: one of the worst places you could work. Souless.
Pancho de Villa
Ladies and Gentlemen! Integrity has left the Building!
I worked there for a while and it was total garbage. There are still some great folks around, but they are getting paid less and less, and having to work longer hours for less pay while reporting to God knows who, often a foreigner with crappy engrish skills, yes likely another 'diversity hire'. People with DEEP knowledge, decades and decades, have either gotten unfairly fired or demoted, made to quit, or if they are lucky, taken some early retirement and GTFO (along with their expertise - whoopsie! who knew? unintended consequences are a bitch aren't they? )....
If you look on a site like LinkedIN, it will always say 'We're hiring!'. YES, HP is hiring.....but not YOU, they want Ganesh Balasubramaniamawapbapalooboopawapbamboomtuttifrutti, so that they can work him as modern day slave labor for ultra cheap. We can thank idiot 'leaders' like Meg Pasty Faced Whitman and Bill 'Forced Vaccinations' Gates for lobbying Congress for decades, against the rights of American workers.
Remember that Meg 'Pasty Faced' Whitman is the person who came up with the idea of a 'lights out' datacenter....that's right, it's the concept of putting all of your computers in a building, in racks, in the dark, and maybe hiring an intern to come in once a month and keep them going. This is what she actually believed. Along with her other statement to the HP workforce which says basically that the future of HP is one of total automation.....TRANSLATION: If you are a smart admin, engineer, project manager, architect, sw tester, etc.....we (HP management) think you are an IDIOT and can be replaced by a robot, a foreigner, or any other cheap worker.
Race to the bottom is like they say a space ship approaching a black hole......after a while the laws of physics and common sense, just don't apply anymore.
An era of leadership in computer technology has died, and there is no grave marker, not even a funeral ceremony or eulogy ... Hewlett-Packard, COMPAQ, Digital Equipment Corp, UNIVAC, Sperry-Rand, Data General, Tektronix, ZILOG, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems, etc, etc, etc. So much change in so short a time, leaves your mind dizzy.
Aug 29, 2017 | www.theregister.co.ukBonkers buy-up by bungling billionairess By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 28 Aug 2017 at 18:48 SHARE ▼ The New York Police Department will scrap 36,000 smartphones, thanks to a monumental purchasing cock-up by a billionaire's daughter.
The city spent millions on the phones back in October 2016 as part of its drive to bring the police force into the 21st century. And the woman behind the purchase – Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology, Jessica Tisch – praised them for their ability to quickly send 911 alerts to officers close to an incident.
There was only one problem: Tisch chose Windows-based Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL phones, and Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 8.1 in July.
Even though those two models are eligible to be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile, the NYPD will need to redesign more than a dozen custom apps it created to run on Windows 8.1. And every phone will need to be manually updated to the new operating system. In addition, Microsoft is only promising to support upgraded Windows 10 phones through to June 2019.
In other words, the phones are effectively obsolete and so, according to the New York Post , the police department has decided to scrap them altogether and go with iPhones instead.
That decision has not come as a huge surprise: even when the purchasing decision was made, Windows-based phones held just three percent of the market. In fact, back in 2016 when the program was launched, pretty much everyone applauded the idea of giving cops smartphones but were baffled as to why anyone would go with Windows phones over Android or iOS.Tsk, tsk, Tisch
Well, according to department sources quoted by the New York Post, the procurement disaster was all down to Ms Tisch – who, it turns out, is the daughter of former Loews CEO and billionaire James S Tisch.
"She drove the whole process," one unhappy cop told the paper, name-checking Jessica. "Nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person," he complained. "I don't care if you're Jesus fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts."
Which is a fair point, since we have no hesitation in saying that even an expert panel of one would have concluded that Windows phones were a turn in the wrong direction for a huge police department.
According to other sources, the reason Tisch plumbed for the Lumia was because the NYPD was using Microsoft software on its video surveillance system – a system that Tisch has closely associated herself with and, back in 2012, demonstrated and boasted about to the press, raising eyebrows .
You can see how an inexperienced IT manager might think that it made sense to go with Microsoft all the way. But then that is also why anyone who carries out IT procurement into an area they are not expert on gets a team of people to review all the possibilities before they spend huge sums of money.
"She was in charge. It was her project, no question about that," another department source told the Post.
So why has the notoriously tight-lipped NYPD decided to dump on one of its own? It may be that Ms Tisch put a few noses out of joint with her smartphone plan, first announced in 2014.
At the time, then-police commissioner Bill Bratton specifically identified Tisch as being the driving force for the plan and joked: "She's a terror if she doesn't get her way, so I usually let her get her way. So she's certainly getting her way with this technology."
We have asked the NYPD for confirmation and comment on the decision to scrap the phones. We'll get back if and when they respond.
Aug 28, 2017 | www.theregister.co.ukWhen data disappeared, everyone knew exactly where to point the finger By Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor 25 Aug 2017 at 07:02 SHARE ▼ The Register 's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe.
This week, meet "Craig," who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that hired a new "team leader".
Craig used italics because after meeting his new boss he quickly surmised the title "was an entire contradiction, as he was neither."
One fine day, Craig was given the job of sorting out an email issue at a small family owned legal firm. Craig knew the client well: he'd previously fixed their jammed printers, added new users to the company domain and lots of other mundane stuff.
On this occasion things were a bit more urgent as one of the senior partners had email issues and there was a whiff of data loss in the air. Enter the new team leader, who dispatched Craig to the client with thundered instructions to "JUST GO AND FIX IT!"
Upon arrival, Craig liaised with "Dianne", a worker at the law firm who helped him when he visited.
With Dianne's help Craig quickly figured out that senior partner's .PST file was corrupted. Craig tried his usual tricks but they didn't work, in part because "Outlook was throwing a hissy fit at every opportunity." So he called back to base to consult a colleague, but the phone was answered by the new team leader who insisted on taking control of the situation.
At this point, Craig put the call on speaker so that Dianne could hear it.
Both were treated to the new boss suggesting use of a .PST repair tool, which Craig had already tried.
"I don't care, run it again," was the response, so Craig obeyed and duly reported it had not worked.
"Delete the account and recreate it" was the next instruction, which again was hardly news to Craig and again didn't work.
So the boss got extreme and told Craig to "delete Outlook and Office from the registry."
Craig didn't like that idea and told the team leader so, while shaking his head at Dianne, making lots of bad-idea motions and telling his boss he felt this was not a sensible course of action.
"Just fucking do what I tell you" was the reply. Which got Dianne smiling as she now appreciated Craig's situation and realised the boss had no idea he was on speaker.
Craig protested that this was a dangerous course of action likely to create further problems in an already-unstable system and endanger the client's data.
To which the team leader responded that Craig was a lowly functionary and should do what he was told by his betters.
So Craig did as he was told, deleting any registry entry that mentioned Outlook while watching Dianne start to take notes about the incident.
Of course the glorious leader's idea didn't work and Craig was soon able to show Dianne that the partner's emails had gone, in all probability forever. Which is a bad look anywhere but even worse at a law firm.
Dianne was furious.
Craig was calm. He whipped out a third-party .PST repair tool he favoured, applied it to the backup of the partner's file he'd made just in case things went pear-shaped, and recovered just about all of the at-risk emails.
"Dianne hailed me as a hero," Craig recalls. And not long afterwards he was vindicated when the client sent his employer a letter saying that they'd be fired if the new team leader ever had anything to do with their IT again.
Said leader was gone two months later after other clients complained about his skills and service ethic.
"I was glad to see the back of him because he was an utter dickhead," Craig told us in his email to On-Call.
Has your boss ever asked you to do something dangerous? Write to share your story and it might be your anonymised name getting readers chuckling in a future edition of On-Call. ®
Jul 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
UserFriendly , July 4, 2017 at 7:02 ammaria gostrey , July 4, 2017 at 9:23 am
I'm not sure if the fact that this makes sense to me means I'm a genius or I'm totally off the deep end . but if anyone has time to kill this is interesting and at times funny and informative,
Slavoj Žižek – A plea for bureaucratic socialism (June 2017)
https://youtu.be/2OYSMWJafAIMike , July 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm
zizek was described in the most recent harpers as the "marxist philosopher gadly from slovenia." the specific nature of this description i found amusing, as if harpers needed to differentiate zizek from the "marxist philosopher gadly from albania".
amusing & hopeful, as i ponder a world of public discourse which includes so many "marxist philosopher gadflies" that this sort of description would become commonplace.Left in Wisconsin , July 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm
To be honest, "socialism" was always understood to be the preparation for a LESS bureaucratic society, with some calling that communism, some naming it anarchism, the rest not thinking about it much.
The bureaucratic period was a transition, with the bureaus acting to inform the public of their rights and responsibilities, and protecting those rights during a period when capitalist and reactionary nationalist ideologies would still be prevalent among the populations. It would be a setup of new assumptions, the new unquestionables, that government was to protect, like capitalism is protected now. The problem is not the bureaus, but the power they give the the fearless leaders. Responsabilisation, s'il vous plait.
Žižek is provocative, in presentation a 60s radical a la Jerry Rubin, and loves to overstate his cases, so whatever he writes is sure to be "funny". The little communism in him is affected by his understanding of Slovenia's bad economic performance during the late stage of Titoism, and with a little German/US/English/Vatican help, that was quickly, if bloodily, settled.Mike , July 4, 2017 at 3:03 pm
The point he is making in the talk is that there can be no revolution without being able to ensure that the water system, schools, hospitals, etc. function as people expect. He is criticizing the notion that fundamental change can be achieved merely by putting lots of people in the streets, that the larger the size of the protests, the closer we are to fundamental change.
And of course he is absolutely right. Here in the U.S., the vast majority of my left-ish friends have one of two mindsets. Either:
a) everything depends on electing Bernie, or the next Bernie, or some better Bernie; or
b) that view is incredibly naive; what we need to do is organize all the time (even when elections are far off!) and we need to get a lot of little Bernies elected.
The faith in democracy is touching, I guess. But the notion that having (some) politicians on our side is the extent of our strategy is a sign of how far away we are. How many accountants, bankers, engineers, etc. do we have on our side compared to how many we would need? Do we have any? I've been ranting of late that the other side has literally millions of economists on their side and we have, what, maybe 1000? Who mostly don't agree with each other? But you can probably run a society without economists. You can't without engineers.
His talking points do come under some criticism in the comments from that web page (ignore the comments on his nervous tics – the medium is NOT the message), but he is absolutely right that we must replace the administrative roles under capitalism with a similarly effective system under socialism. My point is that this must be accompanied by a maniacal attempt at restructuring the administrative function, placing it under watch 24/7/365 (sorry, CIA haters, but we will have to use that role to watch the fox-house) even to the point of immediate recall and ankle-bracelets. Any bureaucratic position must be controlled as if a drug gang offered to help you fight off another drug gang, and had taken over your living room. How to do that without debilitating the system itself is the question anarchists repeat, and socialists answer very weakly.
As to your point on Bernie vs. "small Bernies" , I agree totally. This political system has developed corruption to the "point of know return" (my Kansas religion in summary), and cannot be changed incrementally, despite the strongest wishes of the peaceful and partial "Left" that has no unity and has too many bought "leaders" to be effective. A system that has made legitimate opposition illegal has made illegitimate opposition necessary. This, and the sudden turn of events that can occur during crises, will rule our future.
My gut feeling is that uprisings of a local or at most regional level will occur. They will be brutally put down, and maybe something will grow from that, or we are headed for a King or Queen. But the growth of opposition will be from the bottom, not the liberal-ish and reformist "Left" as it is now. If not that, then nothing.
May 24, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Michael N. Moore , says: February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pmIn my opinion the most under-reported event of the Iraq war was the suicide of military Ethicist Colonel Ted Westhusing. It was reported at the end of a Frank Rich column that appeared in the NY Times of 10-21-2007:Michael N. Moore , says: February 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm
"The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq."
"Colonel Westhusing's death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book "Blood Money." Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America's engagement in Iraq as a suicide note."
" 'I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,' Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. 'I am sullied.' "As per the request of James Canning for more information on Col. Ted Westhusing, please see:thefatefullightning , says: June 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Or the book "Blood Money" by T. Christian Miller"The tiny pink candies at the bottom of the urinals are reserved for Field Grade and Above." --sign over the urinals in the "O" Club at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, 1965.Terrence Zehrer , says: July 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm
Now that sentiment, is Officer-on-Officer. The same dynamic tension exists throughout all Branches and ranks.
My background includes a Combat Infantry Badge and a record of having made Spec Four , two times. If you don't know what that means, stop reading here.
I feel that no one should be promoted E-5 or O-4, if they are to command men in battle, unless they have had that life experience themselves. It becomes virgins instructing on sexual etiquette.
Within the ranks, there exists a disdain for officers, in general. Some officers overcome this by their actions, but the vast majority cement that assessment the same way.
What makes the thing run is the few officers who are superior human beings, and the NCOs who are of that same tribe. And there is a love there, from top to bottom and bottom to top, a brotherhood of warriors which the civilian population will forever try to discern, parse and examine to their lasting frustration and ignorance.
It is the spirit of this nation [Liberty, e pluribus unum and In God We Trust ] that is the binding filament of it all. The civilians responsible for the welfare of the armed services need to be more fully aware of that spirit and they need to bring it into the air-conditioned offices they inhabit when they make decisions about men who know sacrifice.But the Pentagon is excellent at what it does – extort money from the US taxpayer. I call it treason.
"Massive military budgets erode the economic foundation on which true national security is dependent."
– Dwight Eisenhower
Feb 01, 2013 | www.theamericanconservative.comIt was tragic that the career of General David Petraeus was brought down by a mere affair. It should have ended several years earlier as a consequence of his failure as our commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus, like every other theater commander in that war except Stanley McChrystal, could have been replaced by a concrete block and nothing would have changed. They all kept doing the same things while expecting a different result.
Thomas Ricks's recent book The Generals has reintroduced into the defense debate a vital factor the press and politicians collude in ignoring: military incompetence. It was a major theme of the Military Reform Movement of the 1970s and '80s. During those years, a friend of mine who was an aide to a Marine Corps commandant asked his boss how many Marine generals, of whom there were then 60-some, could competently fight a battle. The commandant came up with six. And the Marine Corps is the best of our services.
Military incompetence does not begin at the rank of brigadier general. An old French proverb says that the problem with the generals is that we select them from among the colonels. Nonetheless, military competence-the ability to see quickly what to do in a military situation and make it happen-is more rare at the general officer level. A curious aspect of our promotion system is that the higher the rank, the smaller the percentage of our competent officers.
Why is military incompetence so widespread at the higher levels of America's armed forces? Speaking from my own observations over almost 40 years, I can identify two factors. First, nowhere does our vast, multi-billion dollar military-education system teach military judgment. Second, above the rank of Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force captain, military ability plays essentially no role in determining who gets promoted. (It has been so long since our Navy fought another navy that, apart from the aviators, military competence does not seem to be a consideration at any level.)
Almost never do our military schools, academies, and colleges put students in situations where they have to think through how to fight a battle or a campaign, then get critiqued not on their answer but the way they think. Nor does American military training offer much free play, where the enemy can do whatever he wants and critique draws out why one side won and the other lost. Instead, training exercises are scripted as if we are training an opera company. The schools teach a combination of staff process and sophomore-level college courses in government and international relations. No one is taught how to be a commander in combat. One Army lieutenant colonel recently wrote me that he got angry when he figured out that nothing he needs to know to command would be taught to him in any Army school.
The promotion system reinforces professional ignorance. Above the company grades, military ability does not count in determining who gets promoted. At the rank of major, officers are supposed to accept that the "real world" is the internal world of budget and promotion politics, not war. Those who "don't get it" have ever smaller chances of making general. This represents corruption of the worst kind, corruption of institutional purpose. Its result is generals and admirals who are in effect Soviet industrial managers in ever worse-looking suits. They know little and care less about their intended product, military victory. Their expertise is in acquiring resources and playing the military courtier.
May 24, 2017 | www.dcdave.com
What with all the glorification of our "heroes" in uniform, a glorification that seems to grow in inverse proportion to the real need for them, a person could begin to feel afraid to utter aloud the sort of jokes that people used to make. For instance, you might feel the need to look over your shoulder before you repeat the old George Carlin observation that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron.
The growing military hype and the sort of military intelligence with which I became all too familiar in my two years of service, 1966-1968, came together on this Veterans Day weekend. The picture of the U.S. Navy's finest engaged in the Sisyphean task of mopping dew off the basketball court that had been laid on the deck of the USS Yorktown said it all. That was in coastal South Carolina on Friday night, November 9, in what was to have been a big military advertisement to kick off the weekend. The same fiasco played itself out on the deck of the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Florida, except that the college basketball players there put themselves in harm's way for an entire half, attempting to play on the virtual skating rink that the very predictable condensation had made of the surface.
... ... ...
Now think about it a minute. These are the people to whom we have given the authority to make life and death, godlike, decisions, over thousands of their subordinates and millions of people in less fortunate foreign lands. As you will see toward the end of this article, their manifest failings have had some rather serious consequences-that could have been much worse-in an episode in Korea in the 1960s that is revealed in full here for the first time.
... ... ...
Before we were to do our one dry run we had a planning meeting, presided over by the lieutenant colonel from Eighth Army Headquarters in charge of the operation, at which the action plan was handed out. Right off the bat we noticed a problem. Each of the teams was identified with a number. We were team four. Each of the islands was also assigned a number, one through four, and they were called "sites." Our team four was to go to site one, team three was to go to site two, and so on.
We wanted badly to suggest that it might be a better idea to match up the sites and the team designations, so that team one went to site one, etc., but we were told that we would have an opportunity to make suggestions for the final action plan after we had done our dry run, so we held our fire.
... ... ...
"We're implementing the action plan," said he, or words to that effect. "Move out immediately."
Patting myself on the back for the decision I had made, and in a state of rather high excitement, I pulled out the phone number of the contact in the Kimpo engineer battalion to make sure that there would be boats for us when we got to our destination.
It's a good thing the phone worked-the military phones were something of a hit-or-miss thing at that time in Korea-considering his response. "We haven't had any move-out order," he responded to me.
I immediately got back on the phone to the Eighth Army lieutenant to ask him what was up.
"Hold that first order," he said. "We've decided to give it a little more time."
Now I was thinking that it was an especially good thing that I had not taken the "immediately" part of his move-out order too literally, and I was really glad I had gotten that boatman's phone number. Considering the weather conditions, "high and dry" doesn't precisely describe the position we would have found ourselves in at the evacuation site without the boats and without even a need for them, but it comes close.
Having heard many reports of predicted river flooding on the news where the levels expected are based upon levels already recorded upstream, I inquired of the lieutenant as to the basis on which the final decision would be made. I remember his response as though it were yesterday:
"Colonel 'Geronimo' is down looking at the river."
As it turned out, no one drowned because some would-be rescue helicopter had landed at Site 3 instead of the correct Site 2 because he had received an emergency radio call from Ground 3, and we never suffered from the lack of manpower that the Korean Army might have provided at our site. None of the islands flooded that day-or that year-and the "hold" on that first call from the Eighth Army lieutenant continued into perpetuity.
... ... ...
November 15, 2012
Apr 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.comRC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Tom aka Rusty... Reply Thursday, April 06, 2017 at 07:54 AM [In his "Little Red Book" the machinations of self-serving bureaucrats was one of Chainman Mao's biggest pet peeves. ]
"Bureaucracy" Becomes a Four-Letter Word
by William H. Starbuck
From the October 2005 Issue
There's a long-standing tension in organizations between innovation and bureaucracy. Excessive layers of management and byzantine processes often shoulder the blame when a promising idea fails to make it to market or a nimble start-up thwarts a mature competitor.
That tension can be traced back at least 340 years, to an inadvertent collaboration between two government officials in France. In 1665, with the French economy in turmoil, King Louis XIV appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his comptroller general of finance. Colbert prosecuted corrupt officials and reorganized commerce and industry according to the economic principles known as mercantilism. To assure the populace that the government would act fairly in monetary disputes, he demanded that officials abide by certain rules and apply them uniformly to everyone.
Then, in 1751, Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay became France's administrator of commerce. Gournay was outraged by what Colbert had put in place and railed against the multitude of government regulations he believed were suppressing business activity. To describe a government run by insensitive creators and enforcers of rules, who neither understood nor cared about the consequences of their actions, he coined the term bureaucratie. Translation: "government by desks."
[There are democratic solutions to the dilemma posed by bureaucracies, but there are no republican solutions for it. Important to note, that both the little "d" in democratic and the little "r" in republican are profoundly significant to solving the dilemma of bureaucracy, or not.
Mao's brand of communism was too paranoid, paternal, and hierarchal to work any better than a common ordinary garden variety republic. It seemed like Mao actually wanted to be more democratic in governing and in the work place but could not really bring himself to do it as he was a neurotically compulsive micromanager just as any dictator would need to be.
In capitalism the inherent maladies of bureaucracies serve to discourage lower echelons and keep them in their place without directly associating the blame for hierarchal authoritarianism with top executives. That is to say that bureaucratic dysfunction plays a key role in the essential function of the petite bourgeoisie to maintain the bourgeois capitalist system. OTOH, bureaucratic dysfunction plays a similar key role in all hierarchal authoritarian systems.
... ... ...
Feb 26, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
Demian : Jan 6, 2015 6:33:36 PM | 27@Ghubar Shabih #23:"Never ascribe to bad faith what can be explained by incompetence."Yuri Orlov wrote an interesting post about organizational incompetence. To quote the paper he bases his post on:Functional stupidity is organizationally-supported lack of reflexivity, substantive reasoning, and justification. It entails a refusal to use intellectual resources outside a narrow and "safe" terrain . It can provide a sense of certainty that allows organizations to function smoothly. This can save the organization and its members from the frictions provoked by doubt and reflection. Functional stupidity contributes to maintaining and strengthening organizational order. It can also motivate people, help them to cultivate their careers, and subordinate them to socially acceptable forms of management and leadership. Such positive outcomes can further reinforce functional stupidity.But clearly the destructive effects of US foreign policy are often deliberately malevolent. Orlov also has a post about that :By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. " Poison all the wells " is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.
Nov 19, 2016 | www.theguardian.com
For one thing, many vested interests don't want the Democratic party to change. Most of the money it raises ends up in the pockets of political consultants, pollsters, strategists, lawyers, advertising consultants and advertisers themselves, many of whom have become rich off the current arrangement. They naturally want to keep it.
For another, the Democratic party apparatus is ingrown and entrenched. Like any old bureaucracy, it only knows how to do what it has done for years. Its state and quadrennial national conventions are opportunities for insiders to meet old friends and for aspiring politicians to make contacts among the rich and powerful. Insiders and the rich aren't going to happily relinquish their power and perquisites, and hand them to outsiders and the non-rich.
Most Americans who call themselves Democrats never hear from the Democratic party except when it asks for money, typically through mass mailings and recorded telephone calls in the months leading up to an election. The vast majority of Democrats don't know the name of the chair of the Democratic National Committee or of their state committee. Almost no registered Democrats have any idea how to go about electing their state Democratic chair or vice-chair, and, hence, almost none have any influence over whom the next chair of the Democratic National Committee may be.
I have been a Democrat for 50 years – I have even served in two Democratic administrations in Washington, including a stint in the cabinet and have run for the Democratic nomination for governor in one state – yet I have never voted for the chair or vice-chair of my state Democratic party. That means I, too, have had absolutely no say over who the chair of the Democratic National Committee will be. To tell you the truth, I haven't cared. And that's part of the problem.
Nor, for that matter, has Barack Obama cared. He basically ignored the Democratic National Committee during his presidency, starting his own organization called Organizing for America. It was originally intended to marshal grass-roots support for the major initiatives he sought to achieve during his presidency, but morphed into a fund-raising machine of its own.
Finally, the party chairmanship has become a part-time sinecure for politicians on their way up or down, not a full-time position for a professional organizer. In 2011, Tim Kaine (who subsequently became Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 election) left the chairmanship to run, successfully, for the Senate from Virginia.
The chair then went to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who had co-chaired Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. This generated allegations in the 2016 race that the Democratic National Committee was siding with Clinton against Bernie Sanders – allegations substantiated by leaks of emails from the DNC.
So what we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism.
Aug 08, 2005 | fastcompany.com
In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job -- and how can we fix it?From: Issue 97 | August 2005 | Page 40 | By: Keith H. Hammonds | Illustrations by: Gary Baseman
Because let's face it: After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming "strategic partners" with a "seat at the table" where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren't nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.
I don't care for Las Vegas. And if it's not clear already, I don't like HR, either, which is why I'm here. The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil -- and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change. HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential -- the key driver, in theory, of business performance -- and also the one that most consistently underdelivers. And I am here to find out why.
Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming -- and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications -- when we can understand them at all -- so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?
It's no wonder that we hate HR. In a 2005 survey by consultancy Hay Group, just 40% of employees commended their companies for retaining high-quality workers. Just 41% agreed that performance evaluations were fair. Only 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they had few opportunities for advancement -- and that they didn't know, in any case, what was required to move up. Most telling, only about half of workers below the manager level believed their companies took a genuine interest in their well-being.
None of this is explained immediately in Vegas. These HR folks, from employers across the nation, are neither evil courtiers nor thoughtless automatons. They are mostly smart, engaging people who seem genuinely interested in doing their jobs better. They speak convincingly about employee development and cultural transformation. And, over drinks, they spin some pretty funny yarns of employee weirdness. (Like the one about the guy who threatened to sue his wife's company for "enabling" her affair with a coworker. Then there was the mentally disabled worker and the hooker -- well, no, never mind. . . .)
But then the facade cracks. It happens at an afternoon presentation called "From Technicians to Consultants: How to Transform Your HR Staff into Strategic Business Partners." The speaker, Julie Muckler, is senior vice president of human resources at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. She is an enthusiastic woman with a broad smile and 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson & Johnson and General Tire. She has degrees in consumer economics and human resources and organizational development.
And I have no idea what she's talking about. There is mention of "internal action learning" and "being more planful in my approach." PowerPoint slides outline Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's initiatives in performance management, organization design, and horizontal-solutions teams. Muckler describes leveraging internal resources and involving external resources -- and she leaves her audience dazed. That evening, even the human-resources pros confide they didn't understand much of it, either.
This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources -- finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment -- just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.
Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company -- but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.
1. HR people aren't the sharpest tacks in the box. We'll be blunt: If you are an ambitious young thing newly graduated from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to join the human-resources dance. (At the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation's top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so.) Says a management professor at one leading school: "The best and the brightest don't go into HR."
Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes -- but not businesspeople. "HR doesn't tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses," says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They've fared poorly in meatier roles -- but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot.
Others enter the field by choice and with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. They like working with people, and they want to be helpful -- noble motives that thoroughly tick off some HR thinkers. "When people have come to me and said, 'I want to work with people,' I say, 'Good, go be a social worker,' " says Arnold Kanarick, who has headed human resources at the Limited and, until recently, at Bear Stearns. "HR isn't about being a do-gooder. It's about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm."
The really scary news is that the gulf between capabilities and job requirements appears to be widening. As business and legal demands on the function intensify, staffers' educational qualifications haven't kept pace. In fact, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a considerably smaller proportion of HR professionals today have some education beyond a bachelor's degree than in 1990.
And here's one more slice of telling SHRM data: When HR professionals were asked about the worth of various academic courses toward a "successful career in HR," 83% said that classes in interpersonal communications skills had "extremely high value." Employment law and business ethics followed, at 71% and 66%, respectively. Where was change management? At 35%. Strategic management? 32%. Finance? Um, that was just 2%.
The truth? Most human-resources managers aren't particularly interested in, or equipped for, doing business. And in a business, that's sort of a problem. As guardians of a company's talent, HR has to understand how people serve corporate objectives. Instead, "business acumen is the single biggest factor that HR professionals in the U.S. lack today," says Anthony J. Rucci, executive vice president at Cardinal Health Inc., a big health-care supply distributor.
Rucci is consistently mentioned by academics, consultants, and other HR leaders as an executive who actually does know business. At Baxter International, he ran both HR and corporate strategy. Before that, at Sears, he led a study of results at 800 stores over five years to assess the connection between employee commitment, customer loyalty, and profitability.
As far as Rucci is concerned, there are three questions that any decent HR person in the world should be able to answer. First, who is your company's core customer? "Have you talked to one lately? Do you know what challenges they face?" Second, who is the competition? "What do they do well and not well?" And most important, who are we? "What is a realistic assessment of what we do well and not so well vis a vis the customer and the competition?"
Does your HR pro know the answers?
2. HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value. Why? Because it's easier -- and easier to measure. Dave Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan, recalls meeting with the chairman and top HR people from a big bank. "The training person said that 80% of employees have done at least 40 hours in classes. The chairman said, 'Congratulations.' I said, 'You're talking about the activities you're doing. The question is, What are you delivering?' "
That sort of stuff drives Ulrich nuts. Over 20 years, he has become the HR trade's best-known guru (see "The Once and Future Consultant," page 48) and a leading proponent of the push to take on more-strategic roles within corporations. But human-resources managers, he acknowledges, typically undermine that effort by investing more importance in activities than in outcomes. "You're only effective if you add value," Ulrich says. "That means you're not measured by what you do but by what you deliver." By that, he refers not just to the value delivered to employees and line managers, but the benefits that accrue to investors and customers, as well.
So here's a true story: A talented young marketing exec accepts a job offer with Time Warner out of business school. She interviews for openings in several departments -- then is told by HR that only one is interested in her. In fact, she learns later, they all had been. She had been railroaded into the job, under the supervision of a widely reviled manager, because no one inside the company would take it.
You make the call: Did HR do its job? On the one hand, it filled the empty slot. "It did what was organizationally expedient," says the woman now. "Getting someone who wouldn't kick and scream about this role probably made sense to them. But I just felt angry." She left Time Warner after just a year. (A Time Warner spokesperson declined to comment on the incident.)
Part of the problem is that Time Warner's metrics likely will never catch the real cost of its HR department's action. Human resources can readily provide the number of people it hired, the percentage of performance evaluations completed, and the extent to which employees are satisfied or not with their benefits. But only rarely does it link any of those metrics to business performance.
John W. Boudreau, a professor at the University of Southern California's Center for Effective Organizations, likens the failing to shortcomings of the finance function before DuPont figured out how to calculate return on investment in 1912. In HR, he says, "we don't have anywhere near that kind of logical sophistication in the way of people or talent. So the decisions that get made about that resource are far less sophisticated, reliable, and consistent."
Cardinal Health's Rucci is trying to fix that. Cardinal regularly asks its employees 12 questions designed to measure engagement. Among them: Do they understand the company's strategy? Do they see the connection between that and their jobs? Are they proud to tell people where they work? Rucci correlates the results to those of a survey of 2,000 customers, as well as monthly sales data and brand-awareness scores.
"So I don't know if our HR processes are having an impact" per se, Rucci says. "But I know absolutely that employee-engagement scores have an impact on our business," accounting for between 1% and 10% of earnings, depending on the business and the employee's role. "Cardinal may not anytime soon get invited by the Conference Board to explain our world-class best practices in any area of HR -- and I couldn't care less. The real question is, Is the business effective and successful?"
3. HR isn't working for you. Want to know why you go through that asinine performance appraisal every year, really? Markle, who admits to having administered countless numbers of them over the years, is pleased to confirm your suspicions. Companies, he says "are doing it to protect themselves against their own employees," he says. "They put a piece of paper between you and employees, so if you ever have a confrontation, you can go to the file and say, 'Here, I've documented this problem.' "
There's a good reason for this defensive stance, of course. In the last two generations, government has created an immense thicket of labor regulations. Equal Employment Opportunity; Fair Labor Standards; Occupational Safety and Health; Family and Medical Leave; and the ever-popular ERISA. These are complex, serious issues requiring technical expertise, and HR has to apply reasonable caution.
But "it's easy to get sucked down into that," says Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. "There's a tension created by HR's role as protector of corporate assets -- making sure it doesn't run afoul of the rules. That puts you in the position of saying no a lot, of playing the bad cop. You have to step out of that, see the broad possibilities, and take a more open-minded approach. You need to understand where the exceptions to broad policies can be made."
Typically, HR people can't, or won't. Instead, they pursue standardization and uniformity in the face of a workforce that is heterogeneous and complex. A manager at a large capital leasing company complains that corporate HR is trying to eliminate most vice-president titles there -- even though veeps are a dime a dozen in the finance industry. Why? Because in the company's commercial business, vice president is a rank reserved for the top officers. In its drive for bureaucratic "fairness," HR is actually threatening the reputation, and so the effectiveness, of the company's finance professionals.
The urge for one-size-fits-all, says one professor who studies the field, "is partly about compliance, but mostly because it's just easier." Bureaucrats everywhere abhor exceptions -- not just because they open up the company to charges of bias but because they require more than rote solutions. They're time-consuming and expensive to manage. Make one exception, HR fears, and the floodgates will open.
There's a contradiction here, of course: Making exceptions should be exactly what human resources does, all the time -- not because it's nice for employees, but because it drives the business. Employers keep their best people by acknowledging and rewarding their distinctive performance, not by treating them the same as everyone else. "If I'm running a business, I can tell you who's really helping to drive the business forward," says Dennis Ackley, an employee communication consultant. "HR should have the same view. We should send the message that we value our high-performing employees and we're focused on rewarding and retaining them."
Instead, human-resources departments benchmark salaries, function by function and job by job, against industry standards, keeping pay -- even that of the stars -- within a narrow band determined by competitors. They bounce performance appraisals back to managers who rate their employees too highly, unwilling to acknowledge accomplishments that would merit much more than the 4% companywide increase.
Human resources, in other words, forfeits long-term value for short-term cost efficiency. A simple test: Who does your company's vice president of human resources report to? If it's the CFO -- and chances are good it is -- then HR is headed in the wrong direction. "That's a model that cannot work," says one top HR exec who has been there. "A financial person is concerned with taking money out of the organization. HR should be concerned with putting investments in."
4. The corner office doesn't get HR (and vice versa). I'm at another rockin' party: a few dozen midlevel human-resources managers at a hotel restaurant in Mahwah, New Jersey. It is not glam in any way. (I've got to get a better travel agent.) But it is telling, in a hopeful way. Hunter Douglas, a $2.1 billion manufacturer of window coverings, has brought its HR staff here from across the United States to celebrate their accomplishments.
The company's top brass is on hand. Marvin B. Hopkins, president and CEO of North American operations, lays on the praise: "I feel fantastic about your achievements," he says. "Our business is about people. Hiring, training, and empathizing with employees is extremely important. When someone is fired or leaves, we've failed in some way. People have to feel they have a place at the company, a sense of ownership."
So, yeah, it's corporate-speak in a drab exurban office park. But you know what? The human-resources managers from Tupelo and Dallas are totally pumped up. They've been flown into headquarters, they've had their picture taken with the boss, and they're seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway that afternoon on the company's dime.
Can your HR department say it has the ear of top management? Probably not. "Sometimes," says Ulrich, "line managers just have this legacy of HR in their minds, and they can't get rid of it. I felt really badly for one HR guy. The chairman wanted someone to plan company picnics and manage the union, and every time this guy tried to be strategic, he got shot down."
Say what? Execs don't think HR matters? What about all that happy talk about employees being their most important asset? Well, that turns out to have been a small misunderstanding. In the 1990s, a group of British academics examined the relationship between what companies (among them, the UK units of Hewlett-Packard and Citibank) said about their human assets and how they actually behaved. The results were, perhaps, inevitable.
In their rhetoric, human-resources organizations embraced the language of a "soft" approach, speaking of training, development, and commitment. But "the underlying principle was invariably restricted to the improvements of bottom-line performance," the authors wrote in the resulting book, Strategic Human Resource Management (Oxford University Press, 1999). "Even if the rhetoric of HRM is soft, the reality is almost always 'hard,' with the interests of the organization prevailing over those of the individual."
In the best of worlds, says London Business School professor Lynda Gratton, one of the study's authors, "the reality should be some combination of hard and soft." That's what's going on at Hunter Douglas. Human resources can address the needs of employees because it has proven its business mettle -- and vice versa. Betty Lou Smith, the company's vice president of corporate HR, began investigating the connection between employee turnover and product quality. Divisions with the highest turnover rates, she found, were also those with damaged-goods rates of 5% or higher. And extraordinarily, 70% of employees were leaving the company within six months of being hired.
Smith's staffers learned that new employees were leaving for a variety of reasons: They didn't feel respected, they didn't have input in decisions, but mostly, they felt a lack of connection when they were first hired. "We gave them a 10-minute orientation, then they were out on the floor," Smith says. She addressed the weakness by creating a mentoring program that matched new hires with experienced workers. The latter were suspicious at first, but eventually, the mentor positions (with spiffy shirts and caps) came to be seen as prestigious. The six-month turnover rate dropped dramatically, to 16%. Attendance and productivity -- and the damaged-goods rate -- improved.
"We don't wait to hear from top management," Smith says. "You can't just sit in the corner and look at benefits. We have to know what the issues in our business are. HR has to step up and assume responsibility, not wait for management to knock on our door."
But most HR people do.
H unter Douglas gives us a glimmer of hope -- of the possibility that HR can be done right. And surely, even within ineffective human-resources organizations, there are great individual HR managers -- trustworthy, caring people with their ears to the ground, who are sensitive to cultural nuance yet also understand the business and how people fit in. Professionals who move voluntarily into HR from line positions can prove especially adroit, bringing a profit-and-loss sensibility and strong management skills.
At Yahoo, Libby Sartain, chief people officer, is building a group that may prove to be the truly effective human-resources department that employees and executives imagine. In this, Sartain enjoys two advantages. First, she arrived with a reputation as a creative maverick, won in her 13 years running HR at Southwest Airlines. And second, she had license from the top to do whatever it took to create a world-class organization.
Sartain doesn't just have a "seat at the table" at Yahoo; she actually helped build the table, instituting a weekly operations meeting that she coordinates with COO Dan Rosensweig. Talent is always at the top of the agenda -- and at the end of each meeting, the executive team mulls individual development decisions on key staffers.
That meeting, Sartain says, "sends a strong message to everyone at Yahoo that we can't do anything without HR." It also signals to HR staffers that they're responsible for more than shuffling papers and getting in the way. "We view human resources as the caretaker of the largest investment of the company," Sartain says. "If you're not nurturing that investment and watching it grow, you're not doing your job."
Yahoo, say some experts and peers at other organizations, is among a few companies -- among them Cardinal Health, Procter & Gamble, Pitney Bowes, Goldman Sachs, and General Electric -- that truly are bringing human resources into the realm of business strategy. But they are indeed the few. USC professor Edward E. Lawler III says that last year HR professionals reported spending 23% of their time "being a strategic business partner" -- no more than they reported in 1995. And line managers, he found, said HR is far less involved in strategy than HR thinks it is. "Despite great huffing and puffing about strategy," Lawler says, "there's still a long way to go." (Indeed. When I asked one midlevel HR person exactly how she was involved in business strategy for her division, she excitedly described organizing a monthly lunch for her vice president with employees.)
What's driving the strategy disconnect? London Business School's Gratton spends a lot of time training human-resources professionals to create more impact. She sees two problems: Many HR people, she says, bring strong technical expertise to the party but no "point of view about the future and how organizations are going to change." And second, "it's very difficult to align HR strategy to business strategy, because business strategy changes very fast, and it's hard to fiddle around with a compensation strategy or benefits to keep up." More than simply understanding strategy, Gratton says, truly effective executives "need to be operating out of a set of principles and personal values." And few actually do.
In the meantime, economic natural selection is, in a way, taking care of the problem for us. Some 94% of large employers surveyed this year by Hewitt Associates reported they were outsourcing at least one human-resources activity. By 2008, according to the survey, many plan to expand outsourcing to include activities such as learning and development, payroll, recruiting, health and welfare, and global mobility.
Which is to say, they will farm out pretty much everything HR does. The happy rhetoric from the HR world says this is all for the best: Outsourcing the administrative minutiae, after all, would allow human-resources professionals to focus on more important stuff that's central to the business. You know, being strategic partners.
The problem, if you're an HR person, is this: The tasks companies are outsourcing -- the administrivia -- tend to be what you're good at. And what's left isn't exactly your strong suit. Human resources is crippled by what Jay Jamrog, executive director of the Human Resource Institute, calls "educated incapacity: You're smart, and you know the way you're working today isn't going to hold 10 years from now. But you can't move to that level. You're stuck."
That's where human resources is today. Stuck. "This is a unique organization in the company," says USC's Boudreau. "It discovers things about the business through the lens of people and talent. That's an opportunity for competitive advantage." In most companies, that opportunity is utterly wasted.
And that's why I don't like HR.
Keith H. Hammonds is Fast Company's deputy editor.
Sep 15, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Satyajit Das, a former banker. His latest book is 'A Banquet of Consequences ' (published in North America as The Age of Stagnation to avoid confusion as a cookbook). He is also the author of Extreme Money and Traders, Guns & Money
Electorates believe that business leaders are qualified for and likely to be effective in politics. Yet, with some notable exceptions, business people have rarely had successful political careers.
The assumption is that corporate vision, leadership skills, administrative skills and a proven record of wealth creation will translate into political success. It presupposes personal qualities such drive, ambition and ruthlessness. The allure is also grounded in the romantic belief that outsiders can fix all that is wrong with the political process. The faith is misplaced.
First, the required skills are different.
Successful business leaders generally serve a technical apprenticeship in the business, industry or a related profession giving them familiarity with the firm's activities. Political success requires party fealty, calculating partisanship, managing coalitions and networking. It requires a capacity to engage in the retail electoral process, such as inspirational public speaking and an easy familiarity with voters in a wide variety of settings. It requires formidable powers of fund raising to finance campaigns. Where individuals shift from business to politics in mid or later life, he or she is at a significant disadvantage to career political operatives who have had years to build the necessary relationships and organisation to support political aspirations.
Second, the scope of the task is different. A nation is typically larger than a business. The range of issues is broader, encompassing economics, finance, welfare, health, social policy as well as defence and international relations. Few chief executives will, during a single day, have to consider budgetary or economic issues, health policy, gender matters, privacy concerns, manage involvement in a foreign conflict in between meeting and greeting a range of visitors varying from schoolchildren to foreign dignitaries as well as attending to party political matters.
Political leaders must also manage for the entire population rather than the narrow interest of investors. They must take into account the effect of decisions on a wide range of constituencies including many implacably opposed to their positions.
Third, business objectives, such as profit maximisation, are narrow, well defined and constant. Political objectives are amorphous and ideological. The emphasis is on living standards, security and social justice. Priorities between conflicting objectives shift constantly. The benefits of decisions by governments in infrastructure, education and welfare are frequently difficult to measure and frequently will not emerge for a long time.
Business decisions rarely focus on the societal impact. Firms can reduce workforce, shift production overseas, seek subsidies or legally minimise taxes. Politicians must deal with the side effects of individual profit maximisation decisions such as closed factories, reduced employment, welfare and retraining costs, security implications as well as social breakdown and inequality or exclusion.
Fourth, the operating environment is different. Businesses usually operate within relatively defined product-market structures. In contrast, governments operate in a complex environment shaped by domestic and foreign factors, many of which they do not control or influence. Government actions require co-operation across different layers of government or countries. Businesses can withdraw from certain activities, while government do not have the same option.
Fifth, within boundaries set by laws and regulations, business leaders enjoy great freedom and power to implement their policies. Boards of directors and shareholders exercise limited control, usually setting broad financial parameters. They do not intervene in individual decisions. Most important government actions require legislative or parliamentary support. Unlike commercial operations, government face restrictions, such as separation of powers, restraints on executive or governmental action and international obligations.
Business leaders have unrivalled authority over their organisation based on threats (termination) or rewards (remuneration or promotion). Political leaders cannot fire legislators. They face significant barriers in rewarding or replacing public servants. Policy implementation requires negotiations and consensus. It requires overcoming opposition from opposing politicians, factions within one's own party, supporters, funders and the bureaucracy. It requires overcoming passively resistance from legislators and public servants who can simply outlast the current incumbent, whose tenure is likely to be shorter than their own.
The lack of clear goals, unrivalled authority and multiple and shifting power centres means that political power is more limited than assumed Many Presidents of the United States, regarded as the most powerful position on earth, have found that they had little ability to implement their agendas.
Sixth, unless they choose to be, business leaders are rarely public figures outside business circles. Politicians cannot avoid constant public attention. Modern political debate and discourse has become increasingly tabloid in tone, with unprecedented levels of invective and ridicule. There is no separation of the public and the personal. Business leaders frequently find the focus on personal matters as well as the tone of criticism discomforting.
There are commonalities. Both fields attract a particular type of individual. In addition, paraphrasing John Ruskin, successful political and business leaders not only know what must be done but actually do what must be done and do it when it must be done. A further commonality is the ultimate fate of leaders generally. Enoch Powell, himself a long-serving Member of the British Parliament, once remarked that all political lives end in failure. It is also true of most business leaders.PlutoniumKun, September 15, 2016 at 4:27 amPhilU, September 15, 2016 at 4:40 am
I think the key difference between successful politicians and business people is patience. When you look at the careers of successful politicians, you can often see many years of pure relentless grind going into a few years of glory in a senior position. Endless committee meetings, rubber chicken dinners, being nice to people you loath, the inevitable humiliation of losing elections. Most business leaders simply lose patience after a few years after they go into politics.
Much the same seems to apply to military leaders, although off the top of my head I can think of more successful examples of the latter than of business people (Eisenhower and De Gaulle come to mind). Berlusconi comes to mind as a 'successful' politician and businessman, but then Italy does seem to be an outlier in some respects.
One key difference I think between 'good' politicians and 'good' businesspeople is in making decisions. Good businesspeople are decisive. Good politicians never make a decision until they absolutely have to.Yves Smith Post author, September 15, 2016 at 5:03 am
This is clearly a consequence of 'The government is like a household' misinformation campaign, which I think is really conceptualized as 'government is like a small business.' So why not get a businessman to run the thing?Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:06 am
Interesting point. It also comes out of 30+ years of demonization of government as being less well run than business, when IMHO the problems of government are 1. the result of scale (think of how well run GM and Citigroup were in the mid 200s…and both are better now that they have downsized and shaped up) and 2. inevitable given that you do not want government employees making stuff as they go, i.e., overruling the legislature and courts. The latter point is that some rigidity is part of how government works, and it's necessary to protect citizens.Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:09 am
Adam Smith on the businessmen you shouldn't trust:
"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."
What they knew in the 18th century, we have forgotten today, but nothing has changed.
He wouldn't like today's lobbyists.KYrocky , September 15, 2016 at 8:28 am
Neoclassical economics hid the work of the Classical Economists and the difference between "earned" and "unearned" income.
Once you hide this it is easy to make it look as though the interests of business and the wealthy are the same.
We lowered taxes on the wealthy to remove free and subsidised services for those at the bottom. These costs now have to be covered by business through wages. All known and thoroughly studied in the 18th and 19th Centuries, they even came up with solutions.
There should not really be any tax on "earned" income, all tax should fall on "unearned" income to subside the productive side of the economy with low cost housing and services.
This allows lower wages and an internationally competitive economy.
"The Labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers."
Adam Smith saw landlords, usurers (bankers) and Government taxes as equally parasitic, all raising the cost of doing business.
He sees the lazy people at the top living off "unearned" income from their land and capital.
He sees the trickle up of Capitalism:
1) Those with excess capital collect rent and interest.
2) Those with insufficient capital pay rent and interest.
He differentiates between "earned" and "unearned" income.
The UK dream is to emulate the idle, rich rentier with a BTL portfolio, living off "unearned" income extracted from the "earned" income of generation rent, whilst doing as little as possible and enjoying a life of luxury and leisure.Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:14 am
"…who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." Adam Smith just described the modern Republican Party and movement Conservatives.Norb , September 15, 2016 at 7:27 am
We have seen left wing revolutions before; we are now dealing with a right wing revolution.
Left wing revolutions usually involve much violence and eventually lead to tyranny, as any means are deemed acceptable to implement the one true solution and the new ideology. Pol Pot was the most extreme example where he decided to return to year zero by wiping out the bourgeoisie in Cambodia. When the dust has settled the revolution just leads to a new elite who maintain their ideology with force and brutality.
When Francis Fukuyama talked of the end of history, a new year zero was envisaged, this one based on a right wing ideology. A right wing revolution that could take place globally and was not confined to individual nations like left wing revolutions.
Its theories had already been tested in South America and Indonesia where extreme brutality was employed to implement their one true solution and the new ideology. The children of the US elite were the storm troopers of this ideology and they headed out from their elite US universities to bring this new ideology to developing nations.
"The Chicago Boys" headed out from the University of Chicago to bring the new way to South American nations and "The Berkley Mafia" headed out from the University of Berkeley, California to bring the new way to Indonesia.
Any means were deemed acceptable to implement the one true solution and the new ideology, e.g. torture, terror, death squads, snatching people off the streets and making them disappear permanently. Any left wing resistance had to be quashed by whatever means necessary.
Their revolutions always massively increased inequality, a few at the top became fabulously wealthy and extreme and widespread poverty became prevalent at the bottom. Mixing with the people at the top, the elite US storm troopers deemed their revolutions a huge success. This ideology was ready to roll out across the world.
Under this new ideology, the UK dream is to emulate the idle, rich rentier with a BTL portfolio, living off "unearned" income extracted from the "earned" income of generation rent, whilst doing as little as possible and enjoying a life of luxury and leisure.KPL , September 15, 2016 at 9:14 am
Obfuscating the relationship between free markets and the role of government is coming to an end. So much failure and misdirection cannot hide forever. The cognitive dissonance set up in society is unsustainable- people don't like to feel or experience crazy.
Markets are stronger and healthier when backed by functioning government. Defining what good government is and demanding it is required today. That is the revolutionary force, finally turning back the negative campaign against government and demanding good government- fighting for it.
Fighting fraud and corruption follows these same lines. Reading about the various forms of fraud and corruption here at NC daily provides the framework to address the problem. The real work begins convincing fellow citizens to not accept the criminality- the new normal. It is sometimes distressing seeing the reaction of fellow citizens to these crimes not as outrage, but more along the lines of begrudging admiration for the criminals. The subtile conditioning of the population to accept criminality needs a countervailing force.
Modern mass media projects a false picture of the world. The meme they push is that violence and corruption are so pervasive in the world, vast resources must be expended addressing the problem, and when these efforts fail, settle for apathy and avoidance. The creation of the Businessman/Politician is the perfect vehicle to move this agenda forward.
Politics controlling and driving business decisions must be reestablished, not the other way around- business driving politics and society. That truly is the distinction between authoritarianism and democracy. Small authoritarians are tolerable in society- large ones not so much.Robert Hahl , September 15, 2016 at 9:41 am
Bang on. Especially being a political leader in a democracy is too tough and I am surprised that people want the job given the landmine they have to navigate and the compromises you have to make on a daily basis. Similarity is closest when you compare a benevolent dictator and a successful businessman, something like how Lee Kuan Yew ran Singapore.RobC , September 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm
"Enoch Powell…once remarked that all political lives end in failure. It is also true of most business leaders." But that is also what they say about love. No good end can come of it.shinola , September 15, 2016 at 12:28 pm
There is a mistaken assumption here that business people are responsible for their own or their organization's success. Or even that they're qualified as business people. The higher up the business ladder you go, the more it is other people making the important decisions, even deciding what you think, do and say.
In this way it's similar to politics. It's likely that neither the successful business person nor the politician is qualified for their roles, that nobody can be. Also their roles are essentially to be authorities, and likewise nobody is truly qualified nor has the justification or legitimacy for authority.Robert Coutinho , September 15, 2016 at 2:07 pm
This bit of convenient fiction caught my eye: "Political leaders must also manage for the entire population rather than the narrow interest of investors."
Perhaps political leaders should do this but, as has been recently shown, there is no basis in reality that this is any kind of requirement (as in "must").
Perhaps his use of "must" in this case is talking about the intrinsic requirement. In other words, even if they are managing negatively for some and positively for others, they are managing for all.
- Zachary Smith August 15, 2016 3:26 pm
To likbez August 15, 2016
There is a new essay at Consortium News which describes the issue we're talking about.
It's worth a look.
- likbez August 16, 2016 5:23 pm
to Zachary Smith August 15, 2016 3:26 pm
This term "Normalized Deviance" reminds me Dixon's study of military incompetence which deepened the traditional observation that peacetime armies and wartime armies prefer (and promote) very different types of officers. Actually it is sycophants and "yes men" who are promoted at peace time, especially "kiss up, kick down" type.
They gradually pervert the organization and when war strikes commit blunders.
The same process occurs within three letter agencies, which degenerate into propaganda arms of White House. Some observers claim that this process started at full force in CIA under Bush I and State Department under Clinton.
consortiumnews.comAugust 29, 2011
Exclusive: The gross manipulation of CIA analysis under George W. Bush pushed a new generation of "yes men" into the agency's top ranks. Now one of those aspiring bureaucrats will be Gen. David Petraeus's right-hand man, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. (Also, at end of article, see special comments from several CIA insiders.)
As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to take the helm at CIA in September, he can expect unswerving loyalty from his likely deputy, Michael Morell, who has been acting director since July when Leon Panetta left to become Secretary of Defense.
Like many senior CIA officials in recent years, Morell's record is checkered, at best. He held key jobs in intelligence analysis over the past decade as the CIA often served as a handmaiden to the war propagandists.
As for Michael Morell, as with many other successful CIA careerists, his strongest suit seemed to be pleasing his boss and not antagonizing the White House. If past is precedent, his loyalty will be to Petraeus, not necessarily to the truth.
Forgive me if my thinking about loyalty to the facts seems "obsolete" or "quaint" or if it seems unfair to expect CIA analysts to put their careers on the line when politicians and ideologues are misleading the nation to war but those were the principles that analysts of my generation tried to uphold.
The recent tendency at CIA to give politicians what they want to hear rather than the hard truth is not healthy for the Republic that we were all sworn to serve.
And, if Petraeus's own past is precedent, loyalty to the four-star general will not always be synonymous with loyalty to the truth.
Burnishing an Image
However, you will get no indication of this troubling reality from the flattering, but thin, feature about Michael Morell, "Mr. Insider Will Guide Petraeus at the CIA," by Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 26.
Gorman is normally a solid reporter; but either she did not perform due diligence and let herself be snookered, or her editors stepped in to ensure her story was consonant with the image Petraeus and the Establishment wish to create for Morell.
Before her "rare" interview with Morell, Gorman should have taken a close look at former CIA Director George Tenet's memoir, At the Center of the Storm, to learn what Tenet says about Morell's record during the last decade's dark days of misleading and dishonest intelligence.
In Tenet's personal account of the CIA's failures around 9/11 and the Iraq War, Morell Tenet's former executive assistant is generally treated kindly, but Tenet puts Morell at the center of two key fiascoes: he "coordinated the CIA review" of Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous Feb. 5, 2003 address to the United Nations and he served as the regular CIA briefer to President George W. Bush.
Putting Access Before Honesty
So, Morell was there as Bush blew off early CIA warnings about the possibility of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden being "determined to strike in the US" and while Bush and his neoconservative inner circle were concocting intelligence to justify invading Iraq.
Tenet credits Morell with suggesting to analysts that they prepare a report on the terrorist threat, which became the President's Daily Brief that was handed to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush brushed aside the warning with a reported comment to the CIA briefer, "all right, you've covered your ass," and went off fishing.
Though Tenet said Morell got along well with Bush, it appears the President didn't pay much heed to any CIA information coming from Morell, at least not anything that went against what Bush wanted to hear nor did Morell seem to risk offending the President by pushing these contrary points.
After the Aug. 6 PDB was delivered, Tenet wrote that he needed to follow it up, and did so with a trip to Crawford 11 days later, when Tenet remembers Bush driving him around in a pickup truck as Tenet made "small talk about the flora and fauna."
Morell also was the CIA briefer with Bush in Florida on the morning of 9/11 when news arrived about the attacks on New York City's Twin Towers. Later, Bush told Morell "that if we [the CIA] learned anything definitive about the attack, he wanted to be the first to know," Tenet wrote, adding:
"Wiry, youthful looking, and extremely bright, Mike speaks in staccato-like bursts that get to the bottom line very quickly. He and George Bush had hit it off almost immediately. In a crisis like this, Mike was the perfect guy for us to have by the commander-in-chief's side."
However, it appears Morell was not willing to risk his rapport with Bush by challenging the President's desire to pivot from retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan to a full-scale invasion of Iraq based on false and misleading intelligence.
Tenet also described Morell's role in organizing the review of the "intelligence" that went into Powell's speech, which let slip the dogs of war by presenting a thoroughly deceptive account of the Iraqi threat, what Powell later called a "blot" on his record.
Though the CIA embraced many of Powell's misleading assertions, Tenet recounted one exchange in which Morell stood up to John Hannah, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, regarding Iraq's alleged efforts to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger.
"Hannah asked Mike Morell, who was coordinating the review of the speech for CIA, why the Niger uranium story wasn't in the latest draft," Tenet wrote. "'Because we don't believe it,' Mike told him. 'I thought you did,' Hannah said. After much wrangling and precious time lost in explaining our doubts, Hannah understood why we believed it was inappropriate for Colin to use the Niger material in his speech."
Despite that one pushback, the CIA analysts mostly bent to pressures coming from the White House for an alarmist treatment of allegations about the "weapons of mass destruction," which turned out not to be in Iraq.
Of the CIA's finished intelligence product, it was reportedly the PDB delivered by Morell that most exaggerated the danger.
Not Mistaken, Dishonest
It is sad to have to recall that this was not "erroneous," but rather fraudulent intelligence. Announcing on June 5, 2008, the bipartisan conclusions from a five-year study by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller described the intelligence conjured up to "justify" war on Iraq as "uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent."
Rockefeller's comments call to mind what Tenet told his British counterpart, Sir Richard Dearlove, on July 20, 2002, after former Prime Minister Tony Blair sent Dearlove to the CIA to get the latest scoop on how the U.S. planned to "justify" the attack on Iraq.
According to the official British minutes of a cabinet-level planning session chaired by Blair on July 23, 2002, at 10 Downing Street, Tenet made clear to Dearlove that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" to bring "regime change" to Iraq.
Could it be that Tenet would let the British in on this dirty little secret and keep George W. Bush's personal briefer, Michael Morell, in the dark? Seems unlikely.
But even if Morell were not fully informed about the high-level scheme for war, would he have been with his prized relationship with the President the most appropriate senior official to "coordinate the CIA review" of Powell's speech?
The 'Sinister Nexus'
In the Wall Street Journal feature, reporter Gorman was assured of something else about Morell's role in preparing the intelligence on Iraq. According to Gorman, "His [Morell's] team didn't handle the analysis that erroneously concluded the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction." I guess that depends on your definition of "team."
But what about alleged ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the second bogus issue used to "justify" attacking Iraq? There Morell seemed to be on better ground, telling Gorman that his "team" had concluded that there had been earlier contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda, but there were no links to al-Qaeda operations at the time.
Still, Morell didn't seem to have pressed this point very hard while coordinating the CIA's review of Powell's UN speech. If Morell had, one has to wonder why Powell was fed, and swallowed, the line about a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network?"
ABC's Brian Ross shot down that canard just hours after Powell spoke. Citing a BBC report from London, Ross noted that British intelligence had concluded there was no evidence to support the theory that al-Qaeda and Iraq were working together.
Virtually all intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, after sifting through thousands of reports, had long since come to that same conclusion.
Did Secretary Powell have to learn about the Iraq/al-Qaeda disconnect from the BBC? Later, Powell was livid at having been led down the garden path by the likes of Tenet, Tenet's pandering deputy John McLaughlin, and Morell, a Tenet protĂ©gĂ©.
Tenet and McLaughlin were also co-liars-in-chief regarding those mobile biological weapons factories, a yarn spun by the infamous source called "Curveball." In his memoir, Tenet doesn't describe Morell's role in promoting, or at least acquiescing in depicting, the charlatan "Curveball" as a reliable intelligence source for a key portion of Powell's speech.
And, if you think it's unfair to expect CIA bureaucrats to risk their careers by challenging the political desires of the White House, it's worth noting the one major exception to the CIA's sorry record during George W. Bush's presidency and how honest CIA analysts helped prevent another unnecessary war.
After former chief of State Department intelligence Tom Fingar was put in charge of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), a thoroughly professional NIE in late 2007 concluded unanimously and "with high confidence" that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in mid-2003.
President Bush's own memoir leaves no doubt that this Estimate played a huge role in spiking White House plans for war on Iran. It's a pity that the Estimate on Iran should be an exception to the rule.
Much to Be Humble About
Yet, in the Wall Street Journal feature, Michael Morell lectures Gorman on the basics and the limits of intelligence analysis.
"We end up having bits of information that have a multitude of possible explanations," said Morell. "You've got to be really humble about the business we're in."
Well, yes indeed. The WSJ also ran a sidebar with a list of the following CIA failures and Morell's facile potions for cures:
–2001, Sept. 11 attacks: A failure of both intelligence collection and analysis. Lesson: A need to better penetrate U.S. adversaries.
–2003, Iraq weapons of mass destruction: Analysts erroneously concluded Iraq had WMDs. Lesson: Analysts must describe confidence levels in conclusions, consider alternate explanations.
–2009, Bombing of CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan: Doubts about the asset-turned-suicide-bomber didn't get to the right people. Lesson: Share information with the people who most need it.
Is this Morell fellow on the ball, or what?
Let's address these one by one:
–9/11 need not have happened if Tenet and his protĂ©gĂ©s simply shared the information needed by the FBI and others. See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com's " Did Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Info ?" Or, Tenet and Morell might have risked their cozy relationship with Bush by challenging his casual dismissal of the existing multiple warnings.
–The WMD not in Iraq? How about promoting and rewarding honest analysts; no "fixing" allowed. Face down White House pressure. We used to do it all the time. We used to have career protection for doing it.
–On the tragedy at Khost? Well, how about some basic training in tradecraft, including rudimentary security precautions.
And speaking of rudimentary security precautions: Morell bragged to Gorman that he had recently flown to Kabul to brief Petraeus, carrying a blue briefing book emblazoned with the CIA seal and detailing the CIA's every critical program, organization and operation.
"It was the most highly classified guide that I've ever seen in my life" was Petraeus's wow-response.
The appropriate reaction, in my professional view, would have been to fire Morell on the spot for recklessness. He should know better. They down aircraft, blow up motorcades and shoot people in Afghanistan, you know. Is it really such a great idea to carry a briefing book with the CIA's most sensitive secrets into that environment?
Moreover, bragging about this cavalier approach to protecting sensitive documents sends shivers down the backs of foreign intelligence officers, adding to their reluctance to share delicate information with us.
Loosening Leashes on Dogs of War
There is ironic serendipity in the fact that the WSJ feature on Morell appeared on Aug. 26, exactly nine years after the fraudulent speech given by Vice President Dick Cheney before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville.
And just four days before the nation's bookstores host In My Time , Cheney's apologia pro vita sua . (The advance promotion includes his personal warning that the book will have "heads exploding" all over Washington.)
There are huge lessons in what happened and what did not happen immediately after Cheney's Aug. 26, 2002, thinly disguised call for an attack on Iraq, and how those who recognized the lies could not summon enough courage to try to stop the juggernaut toward war.
The Fawning Corporate Media and the cowering careerists at CIA were among the main culprits. But there were others who, if they have a conscience and are honest with themselves, may still be finding it difficult to look in the mirror nine years later.
In his August 2002 speech, Cheney launched the virulent propaganda campaign for an aggressive war against Iraq, telling the audience in Nashville:
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."
This was no innocent mistake by the Vice President; it was a bald-faced lie, a falsehood that opened the gates to a hellish conflict that has ripped apart Iraq, bringing untold death and destruction.
Nine years later it is well worth recalling this lie on behalf of the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, the many more wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, and the five million displaced from their homes.
Let it be widely understood that on Aug. 26, 2002, Dick Cheney set the meretricious terms of reference for war.
Hear No Evil, Speak No Truth
Sitting on the same stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored at the VFW convention. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear Cheney's depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew.
Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.
"There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD. … I heard a case being made to go to war," Zinni told Meet the Press three and a half years later .
Zinni is normally a straight shooter with a good bit of courage. And so, the question lingers: why did he not go public when he first heard Cheney's lie?
What seems operative here, I fear, is an all-too-familiar conundrum at senior levels where people have been conditioned not to rock the boat, not to risk their standing within the Washington Establishment.
Almost always, the results are bad. I would bet a tidy sum that Zinni regrets having let his reaction be shaped, as it apparently was, by a misguided kind of professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions.
After all, he was one of the very few credible senior officials who might have prevented a war of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II branded the "supreme international crime."
Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney's words. Then-CIA Director George Tenet said Cheney's speech took him completely by surprise.
In his memoir, Tenet wrote, "I had the impression that the president wasn't any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it." But like Br'er Fox, Tenet didn't say nothing.
Tenet claims he didn't even check it all out with either Cheney or Bush after Cheney's speech. Yet, could Cheney's twisting of the data not have been anticipated? Indeed, weren't Tenet and his CIA in on the determination to make a case for war?
In a way, that conclusion is a no-brainer. As mentioned above, just five weeks before Cheney's speech, Tenet himself had explained to his British counterpart that the President had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Cheney simply was unveiling the war rationale to the public. Several weeks later, when Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Bob Graham insisted on a National Intelligence Estimate before any vote in Congress, Tenet told his folks to prepare one that dovetailed with Cheney's unsupported rhetoric.
Sadly, my former colleagues did. And where was Michael Morell in this process? Clearly, he did nothing to destroy his career or put himself too much on the outs at the White House.
The Sales Job
When Bush's senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day 2002, the next five weeks were devoted to selling the war, a major "new product" that, as then-White House chief of staff Andy Card explained, one shouldn't introduce in the month of August.
Card, too, apparently had no idea that Cheney would jump the gun as "fixer-in-chief." At that point, the Tenets, McLaughlins and Morells of this world fell right into line.
After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowed him to play a supporting role in advertising bogus claims about aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agents.
The hyped and bogus intelligence succeeded in scaring Congress into voting for war on Oct. 10 and 11, 2002.
In my view, it strains credulity to think that Michael Morell was unaware of the fraudulent nature of this campaign. Yet, like all too many others, he mostly kept quiet, and he got promoted. That's how it works in Washington these days.
This kind of malleability regarding twisting facts to support war has worked well for Petraeus, too.
Today, there is little chance Petraeus can be unaware of Morell's pedigree. Given Petraeus's own experience in climbing the career ladder, the general may even harbor an admiration for Morell's extraordinary willingness to please.
The two will make a fine pair for Official Washington, though not for those "quaint" folks who put a high premium on integrity.
As for Dick Cheney who was once given the well-deserved sobriquet "Vice President for Torture" in a Washington Post editorial, I just wish he would disappear so he would stop bringing out the worst in everyone.
I found my own feelings mirrored in a plaintive comment from a good friend who prays a lot. She said, "I keep praying for Dick Cheney, especially when he goes into the hospital. But he always comes out again."
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a PDB briefer of Vice President George H.W. Bush and the Secretaries of State and Defense during President Ronald Reagan's first term, and earlier in his career chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) .
Note: I sent a draft of the above article to former colleagues, intelligence officers who served in CIA more recently than I and left after clocking many years at very senior levels. The comments I received from them turned out to be so germane and incisive that I include them below for those wanting a better feel for what really goes on.
The first is from a recently retired Senior Intelligence Service officer.
You make a good case that Morell isn't going to be the objective, unpoliticized deputy that Petraeus is going to need. He may be what Petraeus wants, but not what he needs to do a good job.
You make the case that, like McLaughlin, he's going to give the veneer of an analyst's integrity to decision making without any of the burdens (integrity, nonpoliticization, tradecraft, etc.) that make the analyst imprimatur meaningful. Like McLaughlin, he seems eager to play handmaiden to a predetermined agenda.
In fact, the case you make, correctly, is that Morell is the quintessential intelligence community bureaucrat who has survived and prospered by subscribing to a particular worldview and steering clear of the alternatives declared off-limits by the U.S. right wing.
A couple of more specific comments:
–Your use of the word "loyalty": Morell will be loyal to his boss i.e., he will not upset him the way McLaughlin was loyal to Tenet. That ignores, of course, that the deputy's job is to protect his boss from himself and from his own biases.
McLaughlin's "loyalty" to Tenet wound up screwing Tenet, and Morell's "loyalty" to Petraeus is going to do the same. A man like Petraeus shows up with HUGE blind spots, and Morell rather than help him see into those blind spots almost certainly will reinforce them.
Your use of the word "loyalty" conveys that it's a virus that will harm Petraeus. And that's what it is.
The "winds blowing from the White House" requires a little elaboration. Just as Panetta was captured, so has this White House been via the person of CIA veteran John Brennan on site. Brennan, of course, is the fellow who could not get confirmed as director because of his well known past history, so he's running things from the White House.
The number of Obama flip-flops on intelligence issues has been stunning. The "winds," you might say, have been blowing from CIA's own Tenet protĂ©gĂ© Brennan.
I personally would say Morell, like McLaughlin, knows and accepts that the operations people and their rightwing allies in the Admin, at the Pentagon, and in the Congress (and there are many!) set the direction the wind blows; Morell will always urge his boss to tack accordingly.
In fact, the parallels with McLaughlin are strong, an analysis directorate fellow of modest capabilities, desperate for acceptance by the operations people and the rightwing downtown, jettisoning tradecraft and going with the flow.
The Gorman piece in the WSJ was disgraceful cooptation in action. The fact that she could list his many failures as "lessons learned" was amazing. It's as if the rightwing were signaling to Petreaus not to judge Morell by his repeated failures and repeated inaction; judge him by our right-wing love for him.
On the many failures, I don't have first-hand knowledge of Morell's role in the historic intelligence cook-job of WMD and the fateful State of the Union lies about yellow cake; all I know is that Alan Foley was the designated representative in that coordination.
But your sourcing of Tenet on that is compelling, and I think your sanity-check on Morell's performance is fair.
–Words like "wow-response" are also fair, and effective. The "wow" factor is used to shock and awe people to squeeze them into the tiny space in which conformity is expected and challenges rejected.
For me, particularly with a weak Administration with no policy bearings like this one, the problem is that operations are done for operations' sake sans policy, sans review.
I'm reading Joby Warrick's book, and his worship of targeters is somewhat jarring when there's no discussion of the number of innocent people killed and no discussion of why this is an "intelligence" vice military mission. We know why, but his readers don't making such worship rather cynical.
You're probably right that it "strains credulity" that Morell didn't know how fraudulent the whole National Intelligence Estimate on WMD in Iraq was. I just don't know, however, whether he was able intellectually to see what was going on.
He was so close to power and so close to their mindset and so eager to stay in their good graces that he may have believed all the horse manure.
Wrapped up as he was, he may not have fully appreciated the thing was especially because key elements of the intelligence community funneling info to him were also true-believers, as were those in charge of community analysis.
Who could ever have been giving Morell an alternative view? The most senior people were all true-believers. It was very much frowned upon to ask real questions.
So how could a man of Morell's background and capabilities ask them? If you preferred not to say outright that Morell was guilty of fraud, you could be somewhat more charitable and put it this way: He was surrounded by true-believers and didn't have the fortitude or candlepower, or even perceived space, to question the bogus intelligence he was involved in validating.
Not a good harbinger for the future.
The second comment (on the remarks above) is from Larry C Johnson, former CIA intelligence officer.
Your observations provide important context. The lies that paved the road to war in Iraq are being revived this week as part of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.
We have not learned a damned thing. Meanwhile, Iraq remains a deadly place for the various Iraq factions and our actions have completely disrupted the balance of power in the Middle East. Of course, neither the media nor the majority of the pundits want to focus on that.
And a brief but important point made by first commenter in reaction:
And cranking up for Iran?
Comment from Mary McCarthy, former Senior Intelligence Service officer and White House official.
You asked if I knew Morell and what he is like. I do; you nailed it.
The only moment of discomfort is when you use Tenet as a compass point for the actual truth. Because, of course, Tenet often has his own version of the facts.Nancy Abler, August 29, 2011 at 11:08 am
My comment is actually a question. What political person or group was most instrumental in changing the inherent integrity of the CIA to a politically obeisant CIA? And when?
- J. C. Murphy August 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm There is a daily compilation of news articles that appears on one of the DoD websites. I won't mention the name, but many of you are probably familiar with it. It's not classified information. I am a â€śnon-combatantâ€ť, but I view it my duty to know what is actually going on. When you wear the 'chicken', that's kind of obligatory. Since I kind of assume that it's a â€ścookedâ€ť reading list, I check it out every day at lunch-time. Then, I go home in the evening and read what they say about the same stories on Alternet, TruthOut, TruthDig, CrooksandLiars, TheDailyBail, WhatReallyHappened, TheRealNews, etc.
When I read Gorman's article, I almost fell out of my chair. Especially the part about the â€śBlue Bookâ€ť, a hard copy of every significant intelligence initiative we have. And I swear to God, the first thing that went through my mind was, â€śI can't wait to hear what Ray McGovern has to say about thisâ€ť. I hope that blue book had a close encounter with the nearest 'industrial strength' shredder. Better yet, the biohazardous waste incinerator at the nearest U.S. Military health facility.
Ray, you're the best. Godspeed-
- Ethan Allen August 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm Though I have taken issue with Mr. McGovern on several occasions, this take on the professional veracity of Michael Morell reflects an improved awareness of honest candor and informed opinion. The concurrence of Mary McCarthy and "the retired Senior Intelligence Officer" mentioned are reassuring endorsements.
I found this excerpt to be a particularly interesting observation:
"Almost always, the results are bad. I would bet a tidy sum that Zinni regrets having let his reaction be shaped, as it apparently was, by a misguided kind of professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions."
It is this very "..slavish adherence to classification restrictions." that seems to continue to plague many of those who continue to be paid, even in ostensible retirement, with public largess; but none-the-less hold such nefarious pledges to secrecy in higher regard than their oath to the Constitution and the people it is designed to support and protect.
- Meremark August 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm –
Ray, good man, my two senses:
Saying, "The hyped and bogus intelligence [ foisted by media-mania in 'only' 5 weeks after Labor Day, 2002 ] succeeded in scaring Congress into voting for war on Oct. 10 and 11, 2002," does shortchange, bypass, and omit quite a bunch of conducts of equal or more importance (than 'hype and bogosity') that SCARED Congress to fear, panic, and comply at being commanded orders to self-destructively rubberstamp plans prepared for military invasion of Iraq.
On first reading I mistook the year and thought the statement said 'between Labor Day and mid-October 2001' falsified intelligence scared Congress to make blind endorsement (of the PATRIOT Act) for Bush Admin 'throw-weight' - which truly happened then, (false claims fooled Congress), but such a brief description (as I misread it) applied to those dates in 2001, the year before, would be ignoring the scaring (and scarring) effect of the anthrax letters mailed to Congress.
Anyway, it is all of-a-piece according to my estimation. Bush losing (to Clinton) in 1992 begat (Bush's) vendetta viciousness which begat a militaristic making of foreign policy which begat (Bush conceiving and appointing) a panel the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to hop on a hype of Defense Quadrennial Review which begat a seeded "new Pearl Harbor" bearing for compartmentalized planners to steer toward in unison, and in parallel, which begat installing proxy Bush Junior as 'cover' misdirection overshadowing surreptitious operations which begat the inside-job obtaining in nine-eleven op which begat paralytic mortification of Congress which begat Patriot Act passage which begat destabilizing and off-balancing Middle East incusions which begat stovepipes (of 'war reporters') for massmedia distribution of the hype and bogosity scheduled to come "after August", 2002, which begat Executive war-crimes powers rubberstamped by Congress which begat oil confiscation from devastating Iraq and decapitating the House of Hussein … "to get him back," vengefully, "to finish the job" (and incidentally silence a partner confided privy in years-earlier crimes against humanity). ( Three men can keep a secret, if two are dead – Ben Franklin) In result: rule the world and control all its petroleum. or the other way 'round.
If any segment of that plan in operation, 1993-2003, had failed then EVERYthing planned to follow on from the juncture (of the failure) would have NONE of it have happened. Most critically, if Junior had not been made Cover-Up Controller (POTUS) then nine-eleven op would not have happened. (Or if nine-eleven op had failed or been exposed truly, then taking over Iraq (oil production) would not have happened.
Overall, my first comment is to the point that Congress's going along (obedience) for ceding war-power Authority, by its Oct. 2002 demented actions, was a longer psychological breaking-down procedure than only a 6-week public relations saturation-campaign of 'bad intelligence.'
My second point is to crack your optimistic rose-colored glasses, Ray, through which you see the institution (of a 'secret' intelligence community, namely the CIA) as an intrinsic 'good' or good 'thing' permanently, and, transiently, the human-natured agents of the institution as individually good or bad cases, assets, apples … and if all the bad apples were taken or kept out of the institutional barrel, the provided fruits of such a cultivated institution would be good (natured) without doubt. I claim that the Tenets and McLaughlins and Morells and all the 'bad' apple-shining agents you may care to name, if they were to be cast out and departed from the intelligence community, what remained - in its very precept and principles, its conceived raison d'etre - was and evermore is inHERently 'bad' or a 'bad' thing … malevolent, malignant, a malady, undemocratic, anti-American.
Not only is the institution of the CIA with its elite secrets and secret elites unjustified, true Justice should would and could (obviate), sanction, and sentence condemnation on its immoral purpose, motives, and practice. I kinda got this view (I share) of 'it' (discounting ordinary citizens' sensibility as unable to handle the truths of a certain privileged secret illicit and irrighteous 'license-to-kill') from Harry Truman; (versus Allen Dulles).
Put all surveillance apertures, including orbiting-satellite views, including visual and every spectrum scanned, on the internet … as public money provides. Thus, then, all the malevolent agents and reagents in the world are objectively the seen , not the subjectively-serving seers .
Ray, you can't make supremacism right in the CIA and USG by removing its wrongs in a process of elimination to reach its core value. You can't domesticate an antisocial tiger by changing or cleansing its stripes.
One small note to end on for your consideration, Ray, regarding your uncertainty whether the President is riding the tiger or the tiger is riding the President, ("… Obama flip-flops on intelligence issues ???"). Consider the findings of investigation into Obama's biographic lineage, childhood, formative rearing, and deliverance achieved. Evidence (strongly and strangely suppressed) appears for conviction that he is but one specimen (the most prominent) of the MK-ULTRA human(life) experimentation, 1951-2011, making and made a (Legendary) 'manchurian candidate.' Made in USA branded brain.
Evidenced in the original, although behind a subscription-required paywall yet soon a published book, appears here:
and appears in essential excerpt, here:
Answer to Nancy Abler , 11:08 am, questions of what person most instrumentally corrupted the integrity of the CIA?, and (maybe) when? how?
The most explanation I have read is Chapter 16 of George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, here:
A schizophrenic 'Team B' element was infiltrated into the original integrity of the CIA, (billed as 'Team A'), as and soon after Bush served as Director, 1976. He is, after all, who made the CIA what it is today, who presided at the ceremony of the cornerstone for the (second) Headquarters Building and so recognized by namesake on the bronze plaque by the front door.
The corroborating correlation I most notice is that nine-eleven is the commemorative founding date of the CIA, 1947.
May 12, 2016 | Zero Hedge
A shockingly frank new book from an anonymous Democratic congressman turns yet another set of conspiracy theories into consirpacy facts as he spills the beans on the ugly reality behind the scenes in Washington. While little will surprise any regular readers, the selected quotes offered by "The Confessions Of Congressman X" book cover sheet read like they were ripped from the script of House of Cards... and yet are oh so believable...
A devastating inside look at the dark side of Congress as revealed by one of its own! No wonder Congressman X wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. His admissions are deeply disturbing...
"Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that's lavished upon them."
"My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything."
"Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don't know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it'll cost."
The book also takes shots at voters as disconnected idiots who let Congress abuse its power through sheer incompetence...
" Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works."
"It's far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification."
And, as The Daily Mail so elqouently notes, the take-away message is one of resigned depression about how Congress sacrifices America's future on the altar of its collective ego...
"We spend money we don't have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation."
"It's about getting credit now, lookin' good for the upcoming election."
Simply put, it's everything that is enraging Americans about their government's dysfunction and why Trump is getting so much attention.
Best line in the God Father. "Their Saps, They fight for other people". Sounds like pop talking. God damn right that's Pop talking. Come here you.
"My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything."
The only function of a bureaucracy is to perpetuate the bureaucracy.
The shining city on a hill is chock full of assholes like this. They've run out of other people's money for this purpose so bad, generations to come are screwed. Unless of course they are all stamped away and their bullshit repudiated.
The scummiest scum of humans go into politics.
"and why Trump is getting so much attention."
No, that is perilously false.
Trump is getting so much attention because the citizenry doesn't know how the govt was designed to work, and is looking for a "leader" to fix things up.
I've been pecking away for years that the attention must be on Congress. No takers here at ZH either, for the most part.
Again... a finally corrupt and defunct Congress is what must be dealt with post haste, and a "Trump" or any other will not be the answer to changing the trajectory.
The power lies in Congress, by design, appropriately so, as it most closely represents the will of the People. And therein lies the eleventh-hour problem.
I've said it time and again. Just today I posted "our entire system is based on subjective financial asset valuations to support the needs of today with no consideration of tomorrow". Politicians and their money grubbing corporate assholes thought of future generations don't transcend beyond their own line of sight. We do not have a government or system for the people. We have a government who's sole purpose is to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. Burn the fucker down
This book will be exposed as a hoax. It is doubtless a compilation of quotes from multiple Congrees-critters over the years. I doubt any of these assholes would risk exposure in this manner. They don't have the guts.
May 15, 2015 | Foreign Policy Journal
Kinzer's The Brothers is an excellent source of information concerning the development of U.S. foreign policy during the Twentieth Century.The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret War Stephen Kinzer. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 2013.
Stephen Kinzer is a masterful storyteller, creating an historical record that is readily accessible to all levels of readers. Besides writing history-or more importantly, rewriting history correctly-he is able to draw out the personal characteristics of the people involved, creating lively anecdotal stories that carry the reader through the overall narrative.
His book, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret War, delves into the personal beliefs and perspectives of the Dulles brothers and those associated with them. From that he creates a picture of the nature of U.S. foreign policy as shaped by and being embodied by the brothers and the various Presidents and other corporate and political wheeler and dealers they interacted with over a span of fifty years:
"If they were shortsighted, open to violence, and blind to the subtle realities of the world, it was because these qualities help define American foreign policy and the United States itself…..they embodied the national ethos….They were pure products of the United States."
The historical narrative is clearly presented, the ties to corporations, their employment with powerful law firms, the power they gained within the political system such that after the Second World War they became the two most powerful figures in U.S. politics and foreign affairs. Apart from the basic historical record, the most intriguing aspect is the different natures of the brothers, and the basic similarity that few people gave very much credence to their abilities for deep thought.
They came from a relatively rigid Christian upbringing. John Foster retained the dourness of that upbringing through his life, while his younger brother Allen proved to be a dilettante and womanizer. Their concept of freedom
"was above all economic: a country whose leaders respected private enterprise and welcomed multinational business was a free country."
The other component of freedom was religion,
"Countries that encouraged religious devotion, and that were led by men on good terms with Christian clerics, were to them free countries….These two criteria…they conjured an explanation of why they condemned some dictatorships but not others."
This doctrinaire system of thought did not allow for much in the way of critical thinking skills. Sir Alexander Cadogan, Britain's undersecretary to the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, "wrote in his diary, "J.F.D. the wooliest type of useless pontificating American….Heaven help us!" Eden himself "considered Foster a narrow minded ideologue…always ready to go on a rampage….Churchill agreed. After one of their meetings he remarked,
"Foster Dulles is the only case I know of a bull who carries his own china shop around with him."
It was not just the British. American political scientist Ole Holsti found that Foster dealt with "discrepant information" by "discrediting the source" and "reinterpreting the new information so as to be consistent with his belief system; searching for other information. The advice of subordinates was neither actively sought nor, when tendered, was it often of great weight." Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said that Allen "was a frivolous man" who would "make these decisions which involved people's lives, and never would really think them through."
From a privileged upbringing with many family contacts in both the political and corporate world, the brothers had little trouble maneuvering through the intricacies of the global power structures they encountered. They were steeped in the ethos of pioneers and missionaries," and
"spent decades promoting the business and strategic interests of the United States….they were vessels of American history."
That history spans half a century. It starts with the Versailles peace talks and ends only with the death of Foster in 1959 and the senescence and increasing senility of Allen during that same time period. Its major impact occurred after World War II, with John Foster becoming Secretary of State with President Eisenhower, while Allen worked himself into founding leader of the FBI.
From both these positions, one of great public power (wielded with much secrecy) and the other with great covert power, they steered the course of U.S. history through the early days of the Cold War. Their rabid anti-communism, combining their religious and corporate beliefs, shaped the world as we know it today.
Kinzer leads the reader through the "Six Monsters", the foreign leaders who became the most public targets of the Eisenhower/Dulles administration: Mossadegh (Iran), Jacabo Arbenz (Guatemala), Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Sukarno (Indonesia ), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), and Castro (Cuba). The ongoing repercussions and blowback from these actions continue to shape our world today.
The last three of these had other impacts. UN Secretary Dag Hammarskjold was involved with Sukarno and Lumumba, and was killed by CIA backed covert action in the Congo. The assassination of John F. Kennedy has several possible claimants, of which his interactions with Sukarno and Castro are the most telling. Significantly, Allen Dulles was appointed to the Warren Commission by President Johnson as it had "some foreign complications, CIA, and other things." Allen "systematically used his influence to keep the commission safely within bounds, the importance of which only he could appreciate."
Kinzer's The Brothers is an excellent source of information concerning the development of U.S. foreign policy during the Twentieth Century. A reader will develop a much stronger understanding of our current geopolitical crisis with this as a background source. It provides not just the historical data behind the events, but more importantly it examines the mindset of the U.S. administration and the people who are both shaped by it and are shaping it:
"The story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America. It illuminates and helps explain the modern history of the United States and the world."
(1) See The Incubus of Intervention-Conflicting Indonesian Strategies of John F. Kennedy and Allen Dulles. Greg Poulgrain. Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Selangor, Malaysia. (Click here to read Jim Miles' review of Incubus of Intervention.)
First in a three-part series.
Hillary Clinton has always been an old-style Midwestern Republican in the Illinois style; one severely infected with Methodism, unlike the more populist variants from Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Her first known political enterprise was in the 1960 presidential election, the squeaker where the state of Illinois notoriously put Kennedy over the top, courtesy of Mayor Daley, Sam Giancana and Judith Exner. Hillary was a Nixon supporter. She took it on herself to probe allegations of vote fraud. From the leafy middle-class suburbs of Chicago's west side, she journeyed to the tenements of the south side, a voter list in her hand. She went to an address recorded as the domicile of hundreds of Democratic voters and duly found an empty lot. She rushed back to campaign headquarters, agog with her discovery, only to be told that Nixon was throwing in the towel.
The way Hillary Clinton tells it in her Living History (an autobiography convincingly demolished by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta in their Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, an interesting and well researched account ) she went straight from the Nixon camp to the cause of Martin Luther King Jr., and never swerved from that commitment. Not so. Like many Illinois Republicans, she did have a fascination for the Civil Rights movement and spent some time on the south side, mainly in African Methodist churches under the guidance of Don Jones, a teacher at her high school. It was Jones who took her to hear King speak at Chicago's Orchestra Hall and later introduced her to the Civil Rights leader.
Gerth and Van Natta eschew psychological theorizing, but it seems clear that the dominant influence in Hillary life was her father, a fairly successful, albeit tightwad Welsh draper, supplying Hilton hotels and other chains. From this irritable patriarch Hillary kept secret a marked penchant throughout her life her outings with Jones and her encounter with King. Her public persona was that of a Goldwater Girl. She battled for Goldwater through the 1964 debacle and arrived at Wellesley in the fall of 1965 with enough Goldwaterite ambition to become president of the Young Republicans as a freshman.
The setting of Hillary's political compass came in the late Sixties. The fraught year of 1968 saw the Goldwater girl getting a high-level internship in the House Republican Conference with Gerald Ford and Melvin Laird, without an ounce of the Goldwater libertarian pizzazz. Hillary says the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy, plus the war in Vietnam, hit her hard. The impact was not of the intensity that prompted many of her generation to become radicals. She left the suburb of Park Ridge and rushed to Miami to the Republican Convention where she fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting Frank Sinatra and John Wayne and devoted her energies to saving the Party from her former icon, Nixon, by working for Nelson Rockefeller.
Nixon triumphed, and Hillary returned to Chicago in time for the Democratic Convention where she paid an afternoon's visit to Grant Park. By now a proclaimed supporter of Gene McCarthy, she was appalled, not by the spectacle of McCarthy's young supporters being beaten senseless by Daley's cops, but by the protesters' tactics, which she concluded were not viable. Like her future husband, Hillary was always concerned with maintaining viability within the system.
After the convention Hillary embarked on her yearlong senior thesis, on the topic of the Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky. She has successfully persuaded Wellesley to keep this under lock and key, but Gerth and Van Natta got hold of a copy. So far from being an exaltation of radical organizing, Hillary's assessment of Alinsky was hostile, charging him with excessive radicalism. Her preferential option was to
seek minor advances within the terms of the system. She did not share these conclusions with Alinsky who had given her generous access during the preparation of her thesis and a job offer thereafter, which she declined.
What first set Hillary in the national spotlight was her commencement address at Wellesley, the first time any student had been given this opportunity. Dean Acheson's granddaughter insisted to the president of Wellesley that youth be given its say, and the president picked Hillary as youth's tribune. Her somewhat incoherent speech included some flicks at the official commencement speaker, Senator Edward Brooke, the black Massachusetts senator, for failing to mention the Civil Rights movement or the war. Wellesley's president, still fuming at this discourtesy, saw Hillary skinny-dipping in Lake Waban that evening and told a security guard to steal her clothes.
The militant summer of 1969 saw Hillary cleaning fish in Valdez, Alaska, and in the fall she was at Yale being stalked by Bill Clinton in the library. The first real anti-war protests at Yale came with the shooting of the students at Kent State. Hillary saw the ensuing national student upheaval as, once again, a culpable failure to work within the system. "I advocated engagement, not disruption."
She finally consented to go on a date with Bill Clinton, and they agreed to visit a Rothko exhibit at the Yale art gallery. At the time of their scheduled rendez-vous with art, the gallery was closed because the museum's workers were on strike. The two had no inhibitions about crossing a picket line. Bill worked as a scab in the museum, doing janitorial work for the morning, getting as reward a free tour with Hillary in the afternoon.
In the meantime, Hillary was forging long-term alliances with such future stars of the Clinton age as Marian Wright Edelman and her husband Peter, and also with one of the prime political fixers of the Nineties, Vernon Jordan. It was Hillary who introduced Bill to these people, as well as to Senator Fritz Mondale and his staffers.
If any one person gave Hillary her start in liberal Democratic politics, it was Marian Wright Edelman who took Hillary with her when she started the Children's Defense Fund. The two were inseparable for the next twenty-five years. In her autobiography, published in 2003, Hillary lists the 400 people who have most influenced her. Marion Wright Edelman doesn't make the cut. Neither to forget nor to forgive. Peter Edelman was one of three Clinton appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services who quit when Clinton signed the Welfare reform bill, which was about as far from any "defense" of children as one could possibly imagine.
Hillary was on Mondale's staff for the summer of '71, investigating worker abuses in the sugarcane plantations of southern Florida, as close to slavery as anywhere in the U.S.A. Life's ironies: Hillary raised not a cheep of protest when one of the prime plantation families, the Fanjuls, called in their chips (laid down in the form of big campaign contributions to Clinton) and insisted that Clinton tell Vice President Gore to abandon his calls for the Everglades to be restored, thus taking water Fanjul was appropriating for his operation.
From 1971 on, Bill and Hillary were a political couple. In 1972, they went down to Texas and spent some months working for the McGovern campaign, swiftly becoming disillusioned with what they regarded as an exercise in futile ultraliberalism. They planned to rescue the Democratic Party from this fate by the strategy they have followed ever since: the pro-corporate, hawkish neoliberal recipes that have become institutionalized in the Democratic Leadership Council, of which Bill Clinton and Al Gore were founding members.
In 1973, Bill and Hillary went off on a European vacation, during which they laid out their 20-year project designed to culminate with Bill's election as president. Inflamed with this vision, Bill proposed marriage in front of Wordsworth's cottage in the Lake District. Hillary declined, the first of twelve similar refusals over the next year. Bill went off to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to seek political office. Hillary, for whom Arkansas remained an unappetizing prospect, eagerly accepted, in December '73, majority counsel John Doar's invitation to work for the House committee preparing the impeachment of Richard Nixon. She spent the next months listening to Nixon's tapes. Her main assignment was to prepare an organizational chart of the Nixon White House. It bore an eerie resemblance to the twilit labyrinth of the Clinton White House 18 years later.
Hillary had an offer to become the in-house counsel of the Children's Defense Fund and seemed set to become a high-flying public interest Washington lawyer. There was one impediment. She failed the D.C. bar exam. She passed the Arkansas bar exam. In August of 1974, she finally moved to Little Rock and married Bill in 1975 at a ceremony presided over by the Rev. Vic Nixon. They honeymooned in Acapulco with her entire family, including her two brothers' girlfriends, all staying in the same suite.
After Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1976, Hillary joined the Rose Law Firm, the first woman partner in an outfit almost as old as the Republic. It was all corporate business, and the firm's prime clients were the state's business heavyweights Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Jackson Stevens Investments, Worthen Bank and the timber company Weyerhaeuser, the state's largest landowner.
Two early cases (of a total of five that Hillary actually tried) charted her course. The first concerned the successful effort of Acorn a public interest group doing community organizing to force the utilities to lower electric rates on residential consumers and raise on industrial users. Hillary represented the utilities in a challenge to this progressive law, the classic right-wing claim, arguing that the measure represented an unconstitutional "taking" of property rights. She carried the day for the utilities.
The second case found Hillary representing the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Arkansas in a lawsuit filed by a disabled former employee who had been denied full retirement benefits by the company. In earlier years, Hillary had worked at the Children's Defense Fund on behalf of abused employees and disabled children. Only months earlier, while still a member of the Washington, D.C., public interest community, she had publicly ripped Joseph Califano for becoming the Coca Cola company's public counsel. "You sold us out, you, you sold us out!" she screamed publicly at Califano. Working now for Coca Cola, Hillary prevailed
July 7, 2005 | Amazon.com
Luc REYNAERT on July 7, 2005
In the US and Great-Britain top officers of large corporations formed in the 1970s a semi-autonomous network which Michael Useem calls the 'Inner Circle'. It is a sort of institutionalized capitalism with a classwide alongside a corporate logic and permits a centralized mobilization of corporate resources.
This select group of business leaders assume a leading role in the support of political candidates, in consultations with the highest levels of the national administrations, in public defense of the free enterprise system and in the governance of foundations and universities.
One of its main goals is the promotion of a better political climate for big business through philanthropy (image building via generous support of cultural programs), issue (not product) advertising and political financing.
The reasons behind the constitution of this 'Inner Circle' were the declining power of the individual companies and declining profitability together with, more specifically in GB, the threat of labor socialism (nationalizations and worker participation in corporate governance) and in the US, government intervention.
A main issue was also the desire to control the power of the media, which in the US were considered far too liberal.
The interventions of this 'Inner Circle' were (and are) extremely successful. President R. Reagan and Prime Minister M. Thatcher were partly products of business mobilizations. They lowered taxation, reduced government (except military) spending, lifted controls on business and installed cutbacks on unemployment benefits and welfare.
On the media front, the influence of corporate America is highly enhanced, directly through media mergers, and indirectly through the high corporate advertising budgets.
This is an eminent study based on excellent research.
March 27, 2015 | Consortiumnews
Exclusive: The "f-word" for "fascist" keeps cropping up in discussing aggressive U.S. and Israeli "exceptionalism," but there's a distinction from the "n-word" for "Nazi." This new form of ignoring international law fits more with an older form of German authoritarianism favored by neocon icon Leo Strauss, says retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.
With the Likud Party electoral victory in Israel, the Republican Party is on a roll, having won two major elections in a row. The first was winning control of the U.S. Congress last fall. The second is the victory by the Republicans' de facto party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's recent election. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts together a coalition with other parties "in the national camp," as he describes them, meaning the ultra-nationalist parties of Israel, it will be a coalition that today's Republicans would feel right at home in.
The common thread linking Republicans and Netanyahu's "national camp" is a belief of each in their own country's "exceptionalism," with a consequent right of military intervention wherever and whenever their "Commander in Chief" orders it, as well as the need for oppressive laws to suppress dissent.
Leo Strauss, an intellectual bridge between Germany's inter-war Conservative Revolutionaries and today's American neoconservatives.
William Kristol, neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, would agree. Celebrating Netanyahu's victory, Kristol told the New York Times, "It will strengthen the hawkish types in the Republican Party." Kristol added that Netanyahu would win the GOP's nomination, if he could run, because "Republican primary voters are at least as hawkish as the Israeli public."
The loser in both the Israeli and U.S. elections was the rule of law and real democracy, not the sham democracy presented for public relations purposes in both counties. In both countries today, money controls elections, and as Michael Glennon has written in National Security and Double Government, real power is in the hands of the national security apparatus.
Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership role in the U.S. Congress was on full display to the world when he accepted House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address Congress. Showing their eagerness to be part of any political coalition being formed under Netanyahu's leadership, many Congressional Democrats also showed their support by attending the speech.
It was left to Israeli Uri Avnery to best capture the spirit of Netanyahu's enthusiastic ideological supporters in Congress. Avnery wrote that he was reminded of something when seeing "Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval."
Where had he heard that type of shouting before? Then it came to him: "It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval."
He added, "the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout 'Heil' but something unintelligible." Nevertheless, "the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking."
Right-wing Politics in Pre-Nazi Germany
While Avnery's analogy of how Congress responded to its de facto leader was apt, it isn't necessary to go to the extreme example that he uses to analogize today's right-wing U.S. and Israeli parties and policy to an earlier German precedent. Instead, it is sufficient to note how similar the right-wing parties of Israel and the U.S. of today are to what was known in 1920s Weimar Germany as the Conservative Revolutionary Movement.
This "movement" did not include the Nazis but instead the Nazis were political competitors with the party which largely represented Conservative Revolutionary ideas: the German National People's Party (DNVP).
The institution to which the Conservative Revolutionaries saw as best representing German "values," the Reichswehr, the German Army, was also opposed by the Nazis as "competitors" to Ernst Rohm's Brownshirts. But the Conservative Revolutionary Movement, the DNVP, and the German Army could all be characterized as "proto-fascist," if not Fascist. In fact, when the Nazis took over Germany, it was with the support of many of the proto-fascists making up the Conservative Revolutionary Movement, as well as those with the DNVP and the Reichswehr.
Consequently, many of the Reichstag members that Uri Avnery refers to above as listening raptly and jumping up and shouting their approval of "The Leader" were not Nazis. The Nazis had failed to obtain an absolute majority on their own and needed the votes of the "national camp," primarily the German National People's Party (DNVP), for a Reichstag majority.
The DNVP members would have been cheering The Leader right alongside Nazi members of the Reichstag. DNVP members also voted along with Nazi members in passing the Enabling Act of 1933, which abolished constitutional liberties and dissolved the Reichstag.
Not enough has been written on the German Conservative Revolutionary Movement , the DNVP and the Reichswehr because they have too often been seen as victims of the Nazis themselves or, at worst, mere precursors.
The DNVP was the political party which best represented the viewpoint of the German Conservative Revolutionary Movement. The Reichswehr itself, as described in The Nemesis of Power by John W. Wheeler-Bennett, has been called a "state within a state," much like the intelligence and security services of the U.S. and Israel are today, wielding extraordinary powers.
The Reichswehr was militaristic and anti-democratic in its purest form and indeed was "fascist" in the term's classic definition of "an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization." Mussolini merely modeled much of his hyper-militaristic political movement on the martial values of the Reichswehr.
German Army officers even had authority to punish civilians for failing to show "proper respect." In its essence, the viewpoint of the DNVP and the Conservative Revolutionaries was virtually identical to today's Republican Party along with those Democrats who align with them on national security issues.
These groups have in common a worshipful attitude toward the military as best embodying those martial virtues that are central to fascism. Sister parties, though they may all prefer to be seen as "brothers in arms," would be Netanyahu's "national camp" parties.
German Conservative Revolutionary Movement
The Conservative Revolutionary Movement began within the German Right after World War I with a number of writers advocating a nationalist ideology but one in keeping with modern times and not restricted by traditional Prussian conservatism.
It must be noted that Prussian conservatism, standing for militaristic ideas traditional to Prussia, was the antithesis of traditional American conservatism, which professed to stand for upholding the classical liberal ideas of government embedded in the U.S. Constitution.
Inherent to those U.S. constitutional ideas was antipathy toward militarism and militaristic rule of any sort, though Native Americans have good cause to disagree. (In fact, stories of the American conquest of Native Americans with its solution of placing them on reservations were particularly popular in Germany early in the Twentieth Century including with Adolf Hitler).
Historians have noted that when the German Army went to war in World War I, the soldiers and officers carried with them "a shared sense of German superiority and the imagined bestiality of the enemy." This was manifested particularly harshly upon the citizens of Belgium in 1914 with the German occupation. Later, after their experience in the trenches, the Reichswehr was nearly as harsh in suppressing domestic dissent in Germany after the war.
According to Richard Wolin, in The Seduction of Unreason, Ernst Troeltsch, a German Protestant theologian, "realized that in the course of World War I the ethos of Germanocentrism, as embodied in the 'ideas of 1914,' had assumed a heightened stridency." Under the peace of the Versailles Treaty, "instead of muting the idiom of German exceptionalism that Troeltsch viewed with such mistrust, it seemed only to fan its flames."
This belief in German "exceptionalism" was the common belief of German Conservative Revolutionaries, the DNVP and the Reichswehr. For Republicans of today and those who share their ideological belief, substitute "American" for "German" Exceptionalism and you have the identical ideology.
"Exceptionalism" in the sense of a nation can be understood in two ways. One is a belief in the nation's superiority to others. The other way is the belief that the "exceptional" nation stands above the law, similar to the claim made by dictators in declaring martial law or a state of emergency. The U.S. and Israel exhibit both forms of this belief.
The belief in German Exceptionalism was the starting point, not the ending point, for the Conservative Revolutionaries just as it is with today's Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton or Sen. Lindsey Graham. This Exceptionalist ideology gives the nation the right to interfere in other country's internal affairs for whatever reason the "exceptional" country deems necessary, such as desiring more living space for their population, fearing the potential of some future security threat, or even just by denying the "exceptional" country access within its borders - or a "denial of access threat" as the U.S. government terms it.
The fundamental ideas of the Conservative Revolutionaries have been described as vehement opposition to the Weimar Republic (identifying it with the lost war and the Versailles Treaty) and political "liberalism" (as opposed to Prussia's traditional authoritarianism).
This "liberalism," which offended the Conservative Revolutionaries, was democracy and individual rights against state power. Instead, the Conservative Revolutionaries envisaged a new reich of enormous strength and unity. They rejected the view that political action should be guided by rational criteria. They idealized violence for its own sake.
That idealization of violence would have meant "state" violence in the form of military expansionism and suppression of "enemies," domestic and foreign, by right-thinking Germans.
The Conservative Revolutionaries called for a "primacy of politics" which was to be "a reassertion of an expansion in foreign policy and repression against the trade unions at home." This "primacy of politics" for the Conservative Revolutionaries meant the erasure of a distinction between war and politics.
Citing Hannah Arendt, Jeffrey Herf, a professor of modern European history, wrote: "The explicit implications of the primacy of politics in the conservative revolution were totalitarian. From now on there were to be no limits to ideological politics. The utilitarian and humanistic considerations of nineteenth-century liberalism were to be abandoned in order to establish a state of constant dynamism and movement." That sounds a lot like the "creative destruction" that neoconservative theorist Michael Ledeen is so fond of.
Herf wrote in 1984 that Conservative Revolutionaries were characterized as "the intellectual advance guard of the rightist revolution that was to be effected in 1933," which, although contemptuous of Hitler, "did much to pave his road to power."
Unlike the Nazis, their belief in German superiority was based in historical traditions and ideas, not biological racism. Nevertheless, some saw German Jews as the "enemy" of Germany for being "incompatible with a united nation."
It is one of the bitterest of ironies that Israel as a "Jewish nation" has adopted similar attitudes toward its Arab citizens. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently proclaimed: "Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe."
Within Israel, these "Conservative Revolutionary" ideas were manifested in one of their founding political parties, Herut, whose founders came out of the same central European political milieu of interwar Europe and from which Netanyahu's Likud party is descended.
Author Ernst Junger was the most important contributor to the celebration of war by the Conservative Revolutionaries and was an influence and an enabler of the Nazis coming to power. He serialized his celebration of war and his belief in its "redeeming" qualities in a number of popular books with "war porn" titles such as, in English, The Storm of Steel, The Battle as an Inner Experience, and Fire and Blood.
The title of a collection of Junger essays in 1930, Krieg und Krieger (War and the Warriors) captures the spirit of America in the Twenty-first Century as much as it did the German spirit in 1930. While members of the U.S. military once went by terms such as soldier, sailor and marine, now they are routinely generically called "Warriors," especially by the highest ranks, a term never before used to describe what were once "citizen soldiers."
Putting a book with a "Warrior" title out on the shelf in a Barnes and Noble would almost guarantee a best-seller, even when competing with all the U.S. SEALS' reminiscences and American sniper stories. But German philosopher Walter Benjamin understood the meaning of Junger's Krieg und Krieger, explaining it in the appropriately titled Theories of German Fascism.
Fundamental to Junger's celebration of war was a metaphysical belief in "totale Mobilmachung" or total mobilization to describe the functioning of a society that fully grasps the meaning of war. With World War I, Junger saw the battlefield as the scene of struggle "for life and death," pushing all historical and political considerations aside. But he saw in the war the fact that "in it the genius of war permeated the spirit of progress."
According to Jeffrey Herf in Reactionary Modernism, Junger saw total mobilization as "a worldwide trend toward state-directed mobilization in which individual freedom would be sacrificed to the demands of authoritarian planning." Welcoming this, Junger believed "that different currents of energy were coalescing into one powerful torrent. The era of total mobilization would bring about an 'unleashing' (Entfesselung) of a nevertheless disciplined life."
In practical terms, Junger's metaphysical view of war meant that Germany had lost World War I because its economic and technological mobilization had only been partial and not total. He lamented that Germany had been unable to place the "spirit of the age" in the service of nationalism. Consequently, he believed that "bourgeois legality," which placed restrictions on the powers of the authoritarian state, "must be abolished in order to liberate technological advance."
Today, total mobilization for the U.S. begins with the Republicans' budgeting efforts to strip away funding for domestic civilian uses and shifting it to military and intelligence spending. Army veteran, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, exemplifies this belief in "total mobilization" of society with his calls for dramatically increased military spending and his belief that "We must again show the U.S. is willing and prepared to [get into] a war in the first place" by making clear that potential "aggressors will pay an unspeakable price if they challenge the United States."
That is the true purpose of Twenty-first Century Republican economics: total mobilization of the economy for war. Just as defeated German generals and the Conservative Revolutionaries believed that Germany lost World War I because their economy and nation was only "partially mobilized," so too did many American Vietnam War-era generals and right-wing politicians believe the same of the Vietnam War. Retired Gen. David Petraeus and today's neoconservatives have made similar arguments about President Barack Obama's failure to sustain the Iraq War. [See, for instance, this fawning Washington Post interview with Petraeus.]
What all these militarists failed to understand is that, according to Clausewitz, when a war's costs exceed its benefits, the sound strategy is to end the costly war. The Germans failed to understand this in World War II and the Soviet Union in their Afghan War.
Paradoxically in the Vietnam War, it was the anti-war movement that enhanced U.S. strength by bringing that wasteful war to an end, not the American militarists who would have continued it to a bitter end of economic collapse. We are now seeing a similar debate about whether to continue and expand U.S. military operations across the Middle East.
While Ernst Junger was the celebrant and the publicist for total mobilization of society for endless war, including the need for authoritarian government, Carl Schmitt was the ideological theoretician, both legally and politically, who helped bring about the totalitarian and militaristic society. Except when it happened, it came under different ownership than what they had hoped and planned for.
Contrary to Schmitt's latter-day apologists and/or advocates, who include prominent law professors teaching at Harvard and the University of Chicago, his legal writings weren't about preserving the Weimar Republic against its totalitarian enemies, the Communists and Nazis. Rather, he worked on behalf of a rival fascist faction, members of the German Army General Staff. He acted as a legal adviser to General Kurt von Schleicher, who in turn advised President Paul von Hindenburg, former Chief of the German General Staff during World War I.
German historian Eberhard Kolb observed, "from the mid-1920s onwards the Army leaders had developed and propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat)."
When General Schleicher helped bring about the political fall of Reichswehr Commander in Chief, General von Seekt, it was a "triumph of the 'modern' faction within the Reichswehr who favored a total war ideology and wanted Germany to become a dictatorship that would wage total war upon the other nations of Europe," according to Kolb.
When Hitler and the Nazis outmaneuvered the Army politically, Schmitt, as well as most other Conservative Revolutionaries, went over to the Nazis.
Reading Schmitt gives one a greater understanding of the Conservative Revolutionary's call for a "primacy of politics," explained previously as "a reassertion of an expansion in foreign policy."
Schmitt said: "A world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated, a completely pacified globe, would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics. It is conceivable that such a world might contain many very interesting antitheses and contrasts, competitions and intrigues of every kind, but there would not be a meaningful antithesis whereby men could be required to sacrifice life, authorized to shed blood, and kill other human beings. For the definition of the political, it is here even irrelevant whether such a world without politics is desirable as an ideal situation."
As evident in this statement, to Schmitt, the norm isn't peace, nor is peace even desirable, but rather perpetual war is the natural and preferable condition.
This dream of a Martial State is not isolated to German history. A Republican aligned neoconservative, Thomas Sowell, expressed the same longing in 2007 in a National Review article, "Don't Get Weak." Sowell wrote; "When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can't help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup."
Leo Strauss, Conservative Revolutionaries and Republicans
Political philosopher Leo Strauss had yearned for the glorious German Conservative Revolution but was despondent when it took the form of the Nazi Third Reich, from which he was excluded because he was Jewish regardless of his fascist ideology.
He wrote to a German Jewish friend, Karl Loewith: "the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l'homme [inalienable rights of man] to protest against the shabby abomination."
Strauss was in agreement politically with Schmitt, and they were close friends.
Professor Alan Gilbert of Denver University has written: "As a Jew, Strauss was forbidden from following Schmitt and [German philosopher Martin] Heidegger into the Nazi party. 'But he was a man of the Right. Like some other Zionists, those who admired Mussolini for instance, Strauss' principles, as the 1933 letter relates, were 'fascist, authoritarian, imperial.'"
Strauss was intelligent enough when he arrived in the U.S. to disguise and channel his fascist thought by going back to like-minded "ancient" philosophers and thereby presenting fascism as part of our "western heritage," just as the current neocon classicist Victor Davis Hanson does.
Needless to say, fascism is built on the belief in a dictator, as was Sparta and the Roman Empire and as propounded by Socrates and Plato, so turning to the thought of ancient philosophers and historians makes a good "cover" for fascist thought.
Leo Strauss must be seen as the Godfather of the modern Republican Party's political ideology. His legacy continues now through the innumerable "Neoconservative Revolutionary" front groups with cover names frequently invoking "democracy" or "security," such as Sen. Lindsey Graham's "Security Through Strength."
Typifying the Straussian neoconservative revolutionary whose hunger for military aggression can never be satiated would be former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame and practitioner of the "big lie," who returned to government under President George W. Bush to push the Iraq War and is currently promoting a U.S. war against Iran.
In a classic example of "projection," Abrams writes that "Ideology is the raison d'etre of Iran's regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world." That can as truthfully be said of his own Neoconservative Revolutionary ideology and its adherents.
That ideology explains Bill Kristol's crowing over Netanyahu's victory and claiming Netanyahu as the Republicans' de facto leader. For years, the U.S. and Israel under Netanyahu have had nearly identical foreign policy approaches though they are at the moment in some disagreement because President Obama has resisted war with Iran while Netanyahu is essentially demanding it.
But at a deeper level the two countries share a common outlook, calling for continuous military interventionism outside each country's borders with increased exercise of authority by the military and other security services within their borders. This is no accident. It can be traced back to joint right-wing extremist efforts in both countries with American neoconservatives playing key roles.
The best example of this joint effort was when U.S. neocons joined with the right-wing, Likud-connected Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in 1996 to publish their joint plan for continuous military interventionism in the Mideast in "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which envisioned "regime change" instead of negotiations. [See Consortiumnews.com's "How Israel Outfoxed U.S. Presidents."]
While ostensibly written for Netanyahu's political campaign, "A Clean Break" became the blueprint for subsequent war policies advocated by the Project for the New American Century, founded by neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The chief contribution of the American neocons in this strategy was to marshal U.S. military resources to do the heavy lifting in attacking Israel's neighbors beginning with Iraq.
With these policy preferences goes a belief inside each country's political parties, across the spectrum but particularly on the Right, that Israel and the United States each stand apart from all other nations as "Exceptional." This is continuously repeated to ensure imprinting it in the population's consciousness in the tradition of fascist states through history.
It is believed today in both the U.S. and Israel, just as the German Conservative Revolutionaries believed it in the 1920s and 1930s of their homeland, Germany, and then carried on by the Nazis until 1945.
Israeli Herut Party
The Knesset website describes the original Herut party (1948-1988) as the main opposition party (against the early domination by the Labor Party). Herut was the most right-wing party in the years before the Likud party came into being and absorbed Herut into a coalition. Its expansionist slogan was "To the banks to the Jordan River" and it refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Jordan. Economically, Herut supported private enterprise and a reduction of government intervention.
In "A Clean Break," the authors were advising Netanyahu to reclaim the belligerent and expansionist principles of the Herut party.
Herut was founded in 1948 by Menachem Begin, the leader of the right-wing militant group Irgun, which was widely regarded as a terrorist organization responsible for killing Palestinians and cleansing them from land claimed by Israel, including the infamous Deir Yassin massacre.
Herut's nature as a party and movement was best explained in a critical letter to the New York Times on Dec. 4, 1948, signed by over two dozen prominent Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt.
The letter read: "Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the 'Freedom Party' (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.
"It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine. (…) It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. …
"Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future."
According to author Joseph Heller, Herut was a one-issue party intent on expanding Israel's borders. That Netanyahu has never set aside Herut's ideology can be gleaned from his book last revised in 2000, A Durable Peace. There, Netanyahu praises Herut's predecessors – the Irgun paramilitary and Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, a self-declared "terrorist" group. He also marginalizes their Israeli adversary of the time, the Hagana under Israel's primary founder and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Regardless of methods used, the Stern Gang was indisputably "fascist," even receiving military training from Fascist Italy. One does not need to speculate as to its ideological influences.
According to Colin Shindler, writing in Triumph of Military Zionism: Nationalism and the Origins of the Israeli Right, "Stern devotedly believed that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' so he approached Nazi Germany. With German armies at the gates of Palestine, he offered co-operation and an alliance with a new totalitarian Hebrew republic."
Netanyahu in his recent election campaign would seem to have re-embraced his fascist origins, both with its racism and his declaration that as long as he was prime minister he would block a Palestinian state and would continue building Jewish settlements on what international law recognizes as Palestinian land.
In other words, maintaining a state of war on the Palestinian people with a military occupation and governing by military rule, while continuing to make further territorial gains with the IDF acting as shock troops for the settlers.
Why Does This Matter?
Sun-Tzu famously wrote "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
When we allow our "Conservative Revolutionaries" (or neoconservative militarists or proto-fascists or whatever term best describes them) to make foreign policy, the United States loses legitimacy in the world as a "rule of law" state. Instead, we present a "fascist" justification for our wars which is blatantly illicit.
As the American political establishment has become so enamored with war and the "warriors" who fight them, it has become child's play for our militarists to manipulate the U.S. into wars or foreign aggression through promiscuous economic sanctions or inciting and arming foreign groups to destabilize the countries that we target.
No better example for this can be shown than the role that America's First Family of Militarism, the Kagans, plays in pushing total war mobilization of the U.S. economy and inciting war, at the expense of civilian and domestic needs, as Robert Parry wrote.
This can be seen with Robert Kagan invoking the martial virtue of "courage" in demanding greater military spending by our elected officials and a greater wealth transfer to the Military Industrial Complex which funds the various war advocacy projects that he and his family are involved with.
Kagan recently wrote: "Those who propose to lead the United States in the coming years, Republicans and Democrats, need to show what kind of political courage they have, right now, when the crucial budget decisions are being made."
But as Parry pointed out, showing "courage," "in Kagan's view – is to ladle ever more billions into the Military-Industrial Complex, thus putting money where the Republican mouths are regarding the need to 'defend Ukraine' and resist 'a bad nuclear deal with Iran.'" But Parry noted that if it weren't for Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, Kagan's spouse, the Ukraine crisis might not exist.
What must certainly be seen as neo-fascist under any system of government but especially under a nominal "constitutional republic" as the U.S. claims to be, is Sen. Lindsey Graham's threat that the first thing he would do if elected President of the United States would be to use the military to detain members of Congress, keeping them in session in Washington, until all so-called "defense cuts" are restored to the budget.
In Graham's words, "I wouldn't let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We're not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts."
And he would have that power according to former Vice President Dick Cheney's "unitary executive theory" of Presidential power, originally formulated by Carl Schmitt and adopted by Republican attorneys and incorporated into government under the Bush-Cheney administration. Sen. Tom Cotton and other Republicans would no doubt support such an abuse of power if it meant increasing military spending.
But even more dangerous for the U.S. as well as other nations in the world is that one day, our militarists' constant incitement and provocation to war is going to "payoff," and the U.S. will be in a real war with an enemy with nuclear weapons, like the one Victoria Nuland is creating on Russia's border.
Today's American "Conservative Revolutionary" lust for war was summed up by prominent neoconservative Richard Perle, a co-author of "A Clean Break." Echoing the views on war from Ernst Junger and Carl Schmitt, Perle once explained U.S. strategy in the neoconservative view, according to John Pilger:
"There will be no stages," he said. "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there . . . If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now."
That goal was the same fantasy professed by German Conservative Revolutionaries and it led directly to a wartime defeat never imagined by Germany before, with all the "collateral damage" along the way that always results from "total war."
Rather than continuing with this "strategy," driven by our own modern Conservative Revolutionaries and entailing the eventual bankrupting or destruction of the nation, it might be more prudent for Americans to demand that we go back to the original national security strategy of the United States, as expressed by early presidents as avoiding "foreign entanglements" and start abiding by the republican goals expressed by the Preamble to the Constitution:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in November 2012. His most recent assignment was defense counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions. In the course of that assignment, he researched and reviewed the complete records of military commissions held during the Civil War and stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
45 comments for "Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism"
tateishiMarch 27, 2015 at 12:38 pm
Good article. Often people forget that Germany is a very aggressive war mongers, sending soldiers to many areas, and actually it started Yugoslavian war together with the US. It also has many people who believe that they are Aryans, Hitler's imaginary race, though there are real Aryans peaceful one in the mountains of Iran, etc.
Lutz BarzMarch 28, 2015 at 5:23 am
The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.
Lutz BarzMarch 28, 2015 at 5:24 am
The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.
Lutz BarzMarch 28, 2015 at 5:24 am
The Brits and French were far more militarily aggressive than the late comers Germany. The sun never set in British bayonets imposed on peaceful people globally. Over 3 million died in Bengal in the early 40s thanks to British indifference on feeding her own first [though she could source wheat from Canada and Bengal from Australia-this was not done]. Post WW1 into 1919 600+ Germans esp the young and old were dying of starvation courtesy of a British blockade still in place after the armistice. As for terrible Germany invading Belgium the Kaiser never protested about the British occupation of Ireland and it's bloody suppression. Then there is/was Palestine. One could go on. Every country has it's neanderthal conservatives. And Prussia was far more progressive during the early 19th century schooling its citizens and being part of the German Enlightenment. But as we know history is written by those who dominate militarily.
Lutz BarzMarch 28, 2015 at 5:25 am
Lutz BarzMarch 28, 2015 at 5:25 am
SteveMarch 29, 2015 at 11:07 am
A very strange comment from a presumed Iranian especially. Germany is not aggressive at all since WW2, which was a result of much aggression by several nations starting with Japan and Italy. German soldiers have gone almost nowhere since then, a limited deployment in Afghanistan being the main case. Germany did not start the "Yugoslavian war" at all, which was begun by Serbia attacking Slovenia and Croatia after they voted and declared independence. Aryanism is very rare in Germany today, and far more belligerent language comes out of Iran than Germany, Iran having swapped Aryanism for Islamism to little if any benefit.
As for the article itself, it makes the common error of imputing excessive influence to a limited era of German militarism, whilst ignoring the far more globally influential records of Western colonial and Communist militaristic imperialism, as well as Italian Fascism which was the more influential model for many amenable to such ideas, with its aggressive colonial and corporatist notions, and successful attainment of power a decade before Hitler's.
firstname.lastname@example.orgMarch 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm
Yea, but lesson is that USA is the continuation and revival of nazi ideology carrying its propound ideology of "exceptionalism". The neo conservative hawkish holding the belief that USA has the right to interfere in others countries internal affairs, that USA is above the law, that USA is predestinated by providence to spread its civilization and more others imperialists beliefs.
F. G. SanfordMarch 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm
Concur. A common slogan of the political opposition in the 1930's was, "Fascism Means War!" It was true then, and it's still true today. The Major speaks the truth. I hope someone is listening.
bobzzMarch 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm
This piece tracks well with Charles Derber's, Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good. Hitler was rabid on the subject of morality (i.e., favored it). He was well received by many professional theologians, and the church generally swung in line. Not enough of the Barmen's Confession. This is another parallel with America and Israel and a major contributor to exceptionalism.
JohnMarch 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm
Very true. The relationship of fascism and warmongering was described by Aristotle as the tactics of the tyrant over a democracy: fascist leaders must promote war and internal policing because it is the sole basis of their demand for power: they must create, provoke, or invent foreign enemies to demand power as "protectors" and accuse their opponents of disloyalty. They must appeal to the bully-boys as their militant wing, so they produce pseudo-philosophies of dominance.
Fascism must at times be clarified in meaning to avoid limitation to specific historical instances, and it should be understood in those instances, but in is actually a very simple and universal attitude. It is nothing but the behavior and propaganda of bully boys. They are selfish, ignorant, hypocritical and malicious youths and abusive husbands and fathers, who glory in their small circle of the intimidated and push everyone around as a principal life skill. Those who extend that circle by operating small businesses, or as military or police officers, create and approve rationalizations of special rights. There is no real "exceptionalism" belief or philosophy of national/religious/ethnic superiority, it is just outright propaganda for bullying. They are quite stupid, and yet quickly pick up the methods of fascism, so it is not worth much analysis.
JohnMarch 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm
I should add that the resurgence of fascism and its strength in the US and Israel is due to its association with economic concentrations. In business, the spoils go not to the inventor or ingenious professional as claimed in business propaganda: the spoils go to the bully-boy. Those who rise to the top in the corporate world are not the brilliant professionals or the effective managers who shine at lower levels. The path upwards is limited to those who come out on top wars between groups in collusion, who are without exception scheming bully-boys. There is no other way to the top. Only the methods are different from politics. So only bully-boys have great economic power.
In the US, economic concentrations did not exist when the Constitution was written, so it provides no protection at all for the institutions of democracy from economic power. Economic powers controlled elections and the press in the 19th century, so there has been no way to even debate the issue, and now that control is almost absolute. Those are the powers obtainable only by bully-boys, the predominant fascists of Nazi Germany and the US, and no doubt Israel. So the US has been loosely controlled by fascism for a long time, and that control is nearly total now. Only the propaganda to rationalize this changes to sell the policies to the intimidated.
RandyMarch 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm
War is inevitable.. You simply cannot deny this and anyone who does is just dreaming… The world cannot live in some perpetual peace forever, what will happen when oil, water, and even living space runs out? Will you watch your family starve to death while the people over in the next town are eating to their hearts content?
As much as you want to deny it, Hitler had it right. Peace is only attainable through war, and can only be won for your own people. There cannot be world peace, and the events of today proves it. Hitler and Japan was defeated more than 50 years ago, where is the peace? There will come a day where money will be worthless, the only currency will be strength, only those rich in this currency will survive. How nature intended it to be.
Hitler knew this, and was preparing his own country, the rest of the world took the Banker path, and look where that led us.
Zachary SmithMarch 27, 2015 at 3:08 pm
The world cannot live in some perpetual peace forever, what will happen when oil, water, and even living space runs out?
Has it occurred to you that oil is only one of the many energy sources, and that the amount of water on Earth is basically a fixed quantity? Living space? Consider contraception combined with incentives, and disincentives for having babies galore.
Can't help but notice you didn't mention Global Warming as a gnawing problem. Why?
Finally, WHY is this site a magnet for the Hitler Fan Club?
RandyMarch 27, 2015 at 3:52 pm
The idea is that resources run out, right? I wasn't going to list everything. There is not a infinite amount of resources in this world, you can continue living in your fairy tale world if you'd like but I will not.
Even the soil that we grow food in will one day become unusable if it is abused like it is today. Global warming is a result of your delusion of world peace. Nature hits back when you delay and ignore up its rule for to long.. There would be no Global Warming problem i
Zachary SmithMarch 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm
Global warming is a result of your delusion of world peace.
As I suspected.
No doubt wind turbines kill the cute birdies.
And contraception is some sort of sin.
JohnMarch 27, 2015 at 3:36 pm
Randy, be careful to avoid traps here:
1. Wars will continue in history, but that is not a justification for doing wrong.
2. When groups are in conflict, good leadership avoids war because it causes great wrongs. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, usually due to bad leadership. But of course that does not justify unnecessary war.
3. Peace is not obtained by war. Sometimes it results from a successful defense against wrongful war, sometimes it is only the peace after a wrongful war succeeds. Those who prefer peace want to avoid unnecessary war. They are not afraid of necessary defense.
4. Those who want to keep the US from unnecessary wars know more about the world's cultures and problems and solutions than those who always think of war as a solution. They know that our security depends upon making friends among a wild variety of cultures at different stages of development. That is done by helping the unfortunate even when we disagree with them, and we can't expect much from them in return. Wars mainly make us enemies, and those who promote wars conceal those failures. That's what this site is about.
holycowimeanzebraMarch 27, 2015 at 10:53 pm
Gee, we couldn't just talk like adults about the importance of having fewer children? War and killing is the only method of human population control?
holycowimeanzebraMarch 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm
Gee, we couldn't just talk like adults about the importance of having fewer children? War and killing is the only method of human population control?
zhu bajieMarch 30, 2015 at 1:03 am
Nonsense. War is caused by fighting.
war, slavery and general ignorance are "inevitable" so long as people are mentally enslaved enough to tolerate them…the only thing inevitable about life is death…the rest is all subject to at least some measure of control, whether those are called political, religious or scientific..belief in such nonsense as above guarantees the continued master race-self chosen people-ism the article's writer is trying to contend with, call attention to and end..hitler was right about some things and wrong about most, like obama, bush, clinton, reagan and all other "leaders" of the status quo.
frank scottMarch 30, 2015 at 11:17 pm
death is inevitable but the rest of life is subject to control by concerned, thoughtful and informed humans..war is inevitable only if the opposite type of humans continue and if they do it may be that all of us will lose continuity, fulfilling their dreadfully negative religious belief..the article seems to be at least trying to locate sources for some of the diseased madness that prevails but talk of "inevitable" war is an example of the disease.
Gregory KruseMarch 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm
Mr. Pierce appears to be a good example of a person who "knows himself, and knows his enemy", for indeed the Kagans and Cheneys of these times are enemies of the people. Unfortunately, most of the people don't know it yet, and in fact don't know themselves. It is absolutely dumbfounding to hear strains of Fox News coming from the mouths of otherwise seemingly decent and intelligent people who have the facility to think for themselves, but find it easier to parrot a TV station. I rue the fact that history and what served for political education in my youth led me to believe that there were no real enemies of democracy anymore. Reading back now through the history of Europe after the War of 1812 in Russia until WWI, I have come to appreciate the strength of fascist sentiment and passion, and I fairly tremble at the thought of the possible rise of another Otto von Bismark or Adolph Hitler in what we think of as "modern" times. There is only one ray of hope for me and that is the writing of such as Pierce, Parry, and some others scattered about the internet. It isn't clear to me that people will wake up and perceive the path we are on and in dreadful fear force a change of direction, but if not, we will learn again what it is to suffer unimaginable horror.
Zachary SmithMarch 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm
It is absolutely dumbfounding to hear strains of Fox News coming from the mouths of otherwise seemingly decent and intelligent people who have the facility to think for themselves, but find it easier to parrot a TV station.
Dumbfounding is right!
Sometime back I was astonished to hear a relative at least as bright as myself (and educated at the same University) tell me that Fox was the ONLY news source which could be trusted. She'd moved from Indiana to the deep South years ago and sort-of "gone native". It was an ordeal to remain calm and use lip-glue.
Theodora CrawfordMarch 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm
Excellent discussion and worth the challenge of a thought-provoking and complex argument about governance and war. Today's environment is frightening with so much negative opinion, an absurd sense of US "exceptionalism" and unthinking faith in the power of war (clinched by a nuclear option as last resort).
Alas, we have the government we deserve.
AbeMarch 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm
In 1926, German political theorist Carl Schmitt wrote his most famous paper, "Der Begriff des Politischen" ("The Concept of the Political"), in which he developed his theory of "the political".
For Schmitt, "the political" is not equal to any other domain, such as the economic, but instead is the most essential to identity. As the essence of politics, "the political" is distinct from party politics.
According to Schmitt, while churches are predominant in religion or society is predominant in economics, the state is predominant in politics. Yet for Schmitt the political was not an autonomous domain equivalent to the other domains, but rather the existential basis that would determine any other domain should it reach the point of politics (e.g. religion ceases to be merely theological when it makes a clear distinction between the "friend" and the "enemy").
Schmitt, in perhaps his best-known formulation, bases his conceptual realm of state sovereignty and autonomy upon the distinction between friend and enemy. This distinction is to be determined "existentially," which is to say that the enemy is whoever is "in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible." (Schmitt, 1996, p. 27)
For Schmitt, such an enemy need not even be based on nationality: so long as the conflict is potentially intense enough to become a violent one between political entities, the actual substance of enmity may be anything.
Although there have been divergent interpretations concerning Schmitt's work, there is broad agreement that "The Concept of the Political" is an attempt to achieve state unity by defining the content of politics as opposition to the "other" (that is to say, an enemy, a stranger. This applies to any person or entity that represents a serious threat or conflict to one's own interests.) In addition, the prominence of the state stands as a neutral force over potentially fractious civil society, whose various antagonisms must not be allowed to reach the level of the political, lest civil war result.
Leo Strauss, a political Zionist and follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, had a position at the Academy of Jewish Research in Berlin. Strauss wrote to Schmitt in 1932 and summarized Schmitt's political theology thus: "[B]ecause man is by nature evil, he therefore needs dominion. But dominion can be established, that is, men can be unified only in a unity against – against other men. Every association of men is necessarily a separation from other men… the political thus understood is not the constitutive principle of the state, of order, but a condition of the state."
With a letter of recommendation from Schmitt, Strauss received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin work, in France, on a study of Hobbes. Schmitt went on to become a figure of influence in the new Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.
On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. The SA and SS led torchlight parades throughout Berlin. Germans who opposed Nazism failed to unite against it, and Hitler soon moved to consolidate absolute power.
Following the 27 February Reichstag fire, the Nazis began to suspend civil liberties and eliminate political opposition. The Communists were excluded from the Reichstag. At the March 1933 elections, again no single party secured a majority. Hitler required the vote of the Centre Party and Conservatives in the Reichstag to obtain the powers he desired. He called on Reichstag members to vote for the Enabling Act on 24 March 1933.
Hitler was granted plenary powers "temporarily" by the passage of the Enabling Act. The law gave him the freedom to act without parliamentary consent and even without constitutional limitations.
Schmitt joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1933. Within days of joining the party, Schmitt was party to the burning of books by Jewish authors, rejoicing in the burning of "un-German" and "anti-German" material, and calling for a much more extensive purge, to include works by authors influenced by Jewish ideas.[
In July 1933, Schmitt was appointed State Councillor for Prussia (Preußischer Staatsrat) by Hermann Göring and became the president of the Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen ("Union of National-Socialist Jurists") in November. He also replaced Hermann Heller as professor at the University of Berlin (a position he held until the end of World War II).
Schmitt presented his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the Führer state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas. Half a year later, in June 1934, Schmitt was appointed editor-in-chief of the Nazi news organ for lawyers, the Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung ("German Jurists' Journal").
In July 1934, he published "The Leader Protects the Law (Der Führer schützt das Recht)", a justification of the political murders of the Night of the Long Knives with the authority of Hitler as the "highest form of administrative justice (höchste Form administrativer Justiz)".
Schmitt presented himself as a radical anti-semite and also was the chairman of a law teachers' convention in Berlin in October 1936, where he demanded that German law be cleansed of the "Jewish spirit (jüdischem Geist)", going so far as to demand that all publications by Jewish scientists should henceforth be marked with a small symbol.
Nevertheless, in December 1936, the SS publication Das schwarze Korps accused Schmitt of being an opportunist, and called his anti-semitism a mere pretense, citing earlier statements in which he criticized the Nazis' racial theories. After this, Schmitt resigned from his position as "Reichsfachgruppenleiter" (Reich Professional Group Leader), although he retained his post as a professor in Berlin, and his post as "Preußischer Staatsrat".
After World War II, Schmitt refused every attempt at de-nazification, which effectively barred him from positions in academia. Despite being isolated from the mainstream of the scholarly and political community, he continued his studies especially of international law from the 1950s on.
In 1962, Schmitt gave lectures in Francoist Spain, two of them giving rise to the publication, the following year, of Theory of the Partisan, in which he qualified the Spanish civil war as a "war of national liberation" against "international Communism."
Schmitt regarded the partisan as a specific and significant phenomenon that, in the latter half of the twentieth century, indicated the emergence of a new theory of warfare.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the most simple formulation of Schmitt's friend-enemy distinction was enunciated by this intellectual giant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sfNROmn7bc
In that Schmittian fulmination known as the Bush Doctrine, the "partisan" is transformed into the "terrorist," no longer "internal" but a truly "global" enemy to be destroyed wherever found.
As further codified by the Obama Doctrine: the decider has the right.
The world-ordering, planet-appropriating doctrine of American exceptionalism has no space in its Grossraum (great space) concept for a "Eurasia."
The very enunciation of a "Eurasian" political sphere is a "terrorist" act, and all those associated with such "lunacy" are "enemies" to be annihilated.
JohnMarch 28, 2015 at 12:50 am
Junger was not so pro-war when he lost his son in WW11.
JohnMarch 28, 2015 at 12:50 am
Junger was not so pro-war when he lost his son in WW11.
DatoMarch 28, 2015 at 6:28 am
Just as defeated German generals and the Conservative Revolutionaries believed that Germany lost World War I because their economy and nation was only "partially mobilized
One would like to know wherein lay the premises of such a belief. Indeed, the general staff of the Reich laid out plans and performed actions for a "total war", and the effects, once the war ended, were hard to oversee: Not only were there scant resources and only barely functioning capital infrastructure left after the war, people were actually dying of hunger in the streets (made worse by the entente's continuing blockade even into 1915). Maybe all the information was hard to come back then.
From "Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism" by Astore and Showalter, p 40ff:
The war, Hindenburg noted, had become a colossal Materialschlacht, or material struggle, waged by modern industrial juggernauts. The western front in particular witnessed organized destruction on a scale theretofore thought impossible. Staggered by the sheer wastage of modern war, all combatants sought with varying degrees of success to mobilize their economies. The so-called Hindenburg Program was Germany's concerted attempt to mobilize fully, if somewhat belatedly, for total war. Improving the efficiency of economic mobilization was certainly a worthwhile goal. Hindenburg's, and especially Ludendorff's, key mistake was to presume that an economy could be commanded like an army. The end result was a conflict of effciencies. What was best for the army in the short term was not necessarily best for the long-term health of the economy. Furthermore, as economic means were mobilized to the fullest, the sacrifices required and incurred by modern warfare's destructive industrialism drove Germany, as well as the Entente powers, to inflate strategic goals to justify national sacrifice. Extreme economic mobilization encouraged grandiose political and territorial demands, ruling out opportunities for a compromise peace, which Hindenburg and Ludendorff rejected anyway. Under their leadership, imperial Germany became a machine for waging war and little else. And Hindenburg and Ludendorff emerged as Germany's most committed merchants of death.
Nothing in Hindenburg's background prepared him for the task of overseeing an economic mobilization. Thus, he left details to the technocrat Ludendorff. Aided by Lieutenant Colonel Max Bauer, Ludendorff embarked on a crash program to centralize and streamline the economy. Fifteen separate district commands in Germany needed centralizing if economic mobilization was to be rationalized; rivalries among federal, state, and local agencies needed to be curtailed. As enacted, the Hindenburg Program sought to maximize war-related production by transforming Germany into a garrison state with a command economy. Coordinating the massive effort was the Kriegsamt, or War Office, headed by General Wilhelm Groener.
Yet, Ludendorff's insistence on setting unachievable production goals led to serious dislocations in the national economy. Shell production was to be doubled, artillery and machine gun production trebled, all in a matter of months. The German economy, relying largely on its own internal resources, could not bear the strain of striving for production goals unconstrained by economic, material, and manpower realities. The release of hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from military duty back to the factories, which led to short-term increases in the production of armaments, did not solve critical and systemic shortages of labor. Large-scale deportation and impressment of Belgian workers was a stopgap that only further alienated world opinion, notably in the United States. In the aggregate, the high level of autonomy enjoyed by the military contributed to wasteful duplications of effort and patterns of bureaucratization that eventually defied even the Germans' gift for paperwork.
Brad OwenMarch 28, 2015 at 6:36 am
Excellent article. I still think the Financial Oligarchy, which currently holds the "Imperium" in City-of-London/Wall Street jointly, are the financial enablers of these "Conservative Revolutionaries". One of the main tasks of an Empire is to PREVENT any rival power structure (such as a legitimate Republic taking root within a colony, becoming a powerful nation-state, and becoming most attractive to the other subjugated colonies…the ONLY basis for U.S. "exceptionalism", and our one unforgivable "sin" in the, now covert, British Empire) from arising within its' Realm. The witless conservative revolutionaries are enabled by the Financier/Emperors (think of Grand daddy Prescott; bagman for the NAZIs) PRECISELY because they will lead to "the eventual bankrupting and destruction of the Nation", as Major Pierce says, thus being rid of a dangerous Republic within their Empire. These policies and wars are meant to destroy US, here, in America, and lead us, and the World, FAR AWAY from the wisdom of our Preamble. BTW, Kaiser's Germany, and Dr. Sun Yat Sen, were influenced by "Lincoln's economists" Henry Carey and Friedrich Liszt…the "republican infection" was spread far and wide, after Lincoln's victory in his proxy war with the British and French empires (The Russian Empire, as always, was USA's quiet ally in that war).
Peter LoebMarch 28, 2015 at 6:45 am
The history of fascism is helpful, It remains that it is a common tendency of liberals/
progressives to believe in the illusion that one person, one party exchanged for another
will transform a society (any society).
As Naseer Aruri documents in his incisive book, DISHONEST BROKER, that the US has collaborated with Zionism for decades, Both US political parties have been complicit. This
has been the case for 35 years prior to the current Administration and certainly was the
case going back as far as Harry Truman.(Aruri's brief book was written just prior to
the election of Obama.)
Netanyahu's supposed "shock" to Washington is that his blatant racism and opposition to
the "peaceful negotiations" of two so-called "sovereign" nations made such good PR. One commenter observed that it was like asking the lamb to "negotiate" with the wolf. Aruri
repeats that the US, which has always supported the oppressor(Israel), could act as"mediator" thus excluding international law altogether. (Aruri blames in equal measure PLO's Arafat who agreed to "occupation by consent" (Aruri).
Netanyahu blew the US "cover" for just a second. The next Democratic leadership if it is
Hillary Clinton as President or Chuck Schumer as Democratic leader has never been
noted for any sympathy for Palestinians aka "the inferior race" (Israelis). Both Clinton and
Schumer have represented New York State in the US Senate. Both want to elect more members of their party (Democratic) and to use the dollars of wealthy US Jews in accomplishing this.
The voices of the hundreds of thousands who lose their jobs as disposeable (except in
campaign rehetoric) have less and less meaning. The very rich are the beneficiaries and they lay off thousands of workers and managers to move to low wage and more compliant
location with high tech ease.
From my perspective, the only means to delay this is economic. On the one hand it is
BDS but on a larger field it is the weakness of the US economy and others of the West.
Recalling that it was WW II that "solved" the Great Depression and not the ineffective programs of FDR's "New Deal" (See Gabriel Kolko, MAIN CURRENTS IN MODERN AMERICAN
HISTORY). Todd E. Pierce does not mention the so-called global "revolution" but as the
French have phrased it "La revolution se mange" (" The revolution eats itself") Everyone
wants someone else to fight their battles for them at no cost to themselves.
Pierce does not evaluate the power relationships weakening virtually all governments
today. Inequality has eaten us up (we have eaten ouselves!).
-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA
mugglesMarch 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm
Extremely good essay today by Todd Pierce. Very impressive scholarship and insight, particularly in the light of his impressive military career.
Many good comments posted also, despite the inevitable odor of anti Semitism found in some, always the case when "Germany" is part of the topic. "Bankers", etc. Much easier to stereotype than to think.
Yes, France and Britain were also hyper militaristic in the 19th century, far more than Germany, which of course wasn't united until the very end of that century, which meant that while some German states were quite active militarily in the period (Prussia) it didn't act as a "nation" as it did later in the 20th century.
France lost most of the militarist ideology after two crushing defeats in the World Wars and post colonial failures. Britain maintained that outlook despite the World Wars but the wars devastated the economic ability and imperial reach which had sustained that view, despite the persistent Churchill worship. Thatcher's defense of the tiny Falklands was merely an almost comic echo of times past. Still, today in many British intellectual circles (if not in actually participating in the armed forces) military worship continues.
Germany today has now lost most of its taste for war. Instead it leads Europe economically. Butter rather than guns.
Pierce's essay highlights the sinister influence of Leo Strauss, something that libertarian historian-economist Murray Rothbard warned about several decades ago as well. As Godfather of the neocons, Strauss is the intellectual architect of today's bloodlust American political establishment. His being Jewish was the only thing which kept him from being a full fledged Hitlerite.
So neocons, many themselves Jewish (though many not) are mere slightly less crazy fascists as were the interwar German nationalists who easily jumped into the Nazi bed when the cult of personality overwhelmed the German rightwing.
There has long been a cult of war worship, going back to ancient times. The fact that warfare brings death and disease and horrible injury doesn't matter. The fact that it destroys wealth and human prosperity and harmony is ignored. Individuals are crushed to the greater "good" of arms against whatever enemy can be found. Sociopaths and psychopaths use militarism as the path to "greatness."
That much of the American "right" is in the thrall of the pseudo fascist neocon ideology of Straussian war worship as the path to "security" and "national greatness" should be the red blinking "danger-danger!" light for every thinking American.
Thanks Mr. Pierce.
Steve NaidamastMarch 28, 2015 at 3:07 pm
I have not thoroughly read this article but will do so after I print it out.
However I would like to add that though there were quite a few people in 190s Germany that were proponents of warfare there is a slow but increasing amount of research that is beginning to show that Adolph Hitler was not the war-monger western historians have made him out to be. In addition, after the advent of war in 1939, up through 1941, Hitler was making peace overtures to the west, which Britain continuously ignored and rejected.
This too was done up through 1915 by Germany in World War I, which Britain also
As recent research is beginning to show, it was not Germany who was itching for
war in 1939 but in fact Britain and Poland. And war is what they eventually got and
very much to Britain's and Poland's demise as the former lost her empire and the latter was
swallowed up by Soviet Russia.
Coleen RowleyMarch 28, 2015 at 6:26 pm
Great article showing how history repeats! But most of your points, with the exception of Boehner's invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress and more Democrats than Republicans backing Obama's negotiation strategy with Iran, apply as much to the Democrat as Republican Party leadership. I think I even read where Robert Kagan may back Hillary Clinton whilst his fellow PNAC founder William Kristol will back Bush or whatever Republican wins the nomination. The neocon ideology seems to be fully in control of both parties.
Thank you Coleen for your comment. I share your concern that a Clinton/Bush race will be one in the same. I'm desperately hoping we get neither as candidates because it will mean "business as usual".
hisoricusMarch 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm
One of the most startling things I've found in reading "Nazi propaganda" is their dead-on accurate prediction of America's coming role as a primary threat to world peace, in its rulers' quest for total global domination. The United States was routinely mocked in the German press as the phony "democracy of dollars" controlled by the plutocrats of Wall Street – gosh, how'd they ever get a wacky idea like that, huh?
Hitler clearly stated in Mein Kampf "we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."
Hitler attempted to rapidly build Germany into a global power that would be capable of fending off the twin threats of capitalist imperialism from the west and totalitarian communism from the east – but these forces were too strong: the "new Germany" never had a chance of survival. Eighty million Germans faced a billion-strong British empire that was determined to destroy all economic rivals, and had centuries of experience in mass murder and destruction in the Third World. Add to this the 320 million people of a communist USSR and a capitalist USA whose elites could agree on only one thing, that Germany's astoundingly successful experiment in national socialism must first be annihilated and then its true character erased from history.
Today the German government's cruel treatment of Jews – who made up one half of one percent of Germany's population, by the way – is all that most people know of National Socialism, which is rather like remembering America's Founders only as the brutal slaveholders and Indian killers that they were.
Ask yourself: how is it evenly remotely possible that the second German war could be the only time in our history that our leaders did not lie to us about why we were supposed to hate and butcher a people who had done us no harm?
Monster from the IdMarch 28, 2015 at 9:44 pm
Hoooo boy, the delusion is strong in this one…
richard vajsMarch 29, 2015 at 8:54 am
One good thing about the "coming together" of the fascist Republican Party and the fascist Israeli Likud Party – it will make for a unified target. As I've heard military drill instructors advise, "You people need to spread out – one hand grenade would get you all!". I look forward to no separation between the two and the tossing of that grenade.
Coleen RowleyMarch 29, 2015 at 10:34 am
First I need to make clear I'm against bombing. Anyone. I'm in the "war is not the answer; war is a crime; war is waste; war is a lie; war is hell camp. I think individuals are justified in valid "self defense" but not the nation-state or ethnic-religious type tribalism that Carl Schmitt apparently referred to as the "political" groupings that justify and benefit from "pre-emptive" wars of aggression. It IS a slippery slope but still we must stick to principles.
But with that said, the Likud-inspired AIPAC and other Israeli fronts were very much aware of your drill sergeant's advice, Richard. The Israel lobbyists were highly effective in the past, in contrast to other political lobbies (who generally favored one party or the other), simply because they did "spread out" and were able to infiltrate both Republican and Democratic parties (as well as their corresponding "think tanks") so as to better control the whole US government.
The Boehner invite of Netanyahu, Republican Militarist Senator Cotton's letter and the exposing of AIPAC's forcing of Democratic congresspersons to now oppose their own Party Leader, Obama, in order to launch war on Iran, could be significant in ending that control of both parties by splitting the parties. Bush's former UN Ambassador and top neocon John Bolton's outright and explicit call for bombing Iran in the NYT helps pull off the mask and expose what the neocons are after. Middle of the road Democratic congresspeople, almost all of whom are normally are hard-pressed to not vote and give AIPAC anything it wants, may find it easier to publically explain how they cannot in good conscience vote this one time, for the Israel Lobby and what the terrible new war it wants.
And my guess is the reason Kristol and Kagan would be splitting their support, if that does materialize, Kristol for Bush and Kagan for Clinton, would be exactly in line with your old drill sergeant's advice.
SolonMarch 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm
re: "Avnery's analogy of how Congress responded to its de facto leader was apt"
The analogy could not be less apt.
The German leaders were in their own nation, addressing the concerns of their own people, concerns including the debasement of their culture, the debasement of their money, high unemployment, challenges in finding food, riots and mob violence incited by Communist and Bolshevic subversives, and chaos in their political system. Promises were made to the German people by their leaders to solve their problems, a plan was laid out and most of the promises were kept: within 4 years, Germans were employed, the economy was revitalized with public works spending, and the people's morale was unified around German cultural values. Several of their international problems were settled without violence, as the people demanded and the NSDAP government promised.
On the other hand, the leader of a foreign state stood before a representative body in which only 16% of the people have any confidence. He told this body that their leader should not be trusted, and they cheered.
The representatives of the people pledged their fealty to this leader of a foreign state and promised to send him more taxpayer money to kill more of the people whose lands and homes the foreign state is stealing. None of the concerns of the American people - for jobs, for relief from high food prices, for adequate treatment of 50,000 military persons wounded in wars fought at the behest of the same foreign leader - none of those concerns were addressed by the cheering crowd.
This author suffers from Hitler Derangement Syndrome: his thinking is so suffused with the relentlessly propagandized notion that Hitler and NSDAP are the embodiment of evil that his analysis is forced and his judgments flawed.
An assessment of the full panoply of facts and evidence will reveal that it was not Hitler and NSDAP but the forebears of the same man who sought to - and came pretty close to succeeding in subverting the US political system.
The German people under NSDAP leadership were reclaiming their government and culture, and for that they cheered.
Their resistance to the ideology that Strauss and his cohort sought to impose on Germans was an affront to the pro to-neocons, and so they organized with warmongering British and manipulative American leaders to destroy Germany and incinerate the German people in what C E Hughes called the first use of weapons of mass destruction as a means of terror against a civilian population.
zhu bajieMarch 30, 2015 at 1:23 am
The comparison is interesting, but it a comparison between Japanese Militarism and the US permanent war regime would also be enlightening. Neither the US nor Japan have or had a charismatic orator, a Mussolini or a Hitler.
zhu bajieMarch 30, 2015 at 1:58 am
Re "exceptiohnalism," Lewis' _The American Adam_ should be read. The idea that Americans can do no wrong has been around since the early days of the Republic.
Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell, J.D.March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm
Re: "It was left to Israeli Uri Avnery to best capture the spirit of Netanyahu's enthusiastic ideological supporters in Congress."
I disagree with that sentence, albeit it's a judgment call. But I don't think Avnery is even in the running. The best capture of that I've seen is Noy Alooshe's masterful video remix of the event itself. .
hbmMarch 31, 2015 at 3:06 am
You don't get Nazis without Ashkenazis.
Why should Neocons be at all surprising?
RobApril 2, 2015 at 10:58 am
I enjoyed the article, but I cannot agree that Netanyahu is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Rather, he is a prop in the ongoing drama known as "Republicans doing everything in their power to oppose and embarrass President Obama and the Democrats."
I have long advocated that those public figures who agitate for war should be sent into the battlefield along with all able bodied members of their families. That would quickly put an end to chicken hawk warmongers. The exception would be Charles Krauthammer, who is paralyzed in his lower extremities. That man should be sent into battle in his wheelchair.
October 28, 2014 | Tufts Now
Elected officials are no longer in charge of our national security-and that is undermining our democracy, says the Fletcher School's Michael Glennon
"We are clearly on the path to autocracy," says Michael Glennon. "There's no question that if we continue on that path, [the] Congress, the courts and the presidency will ultimately end up . . . as institutional museum pieces." Photo: Kelvin Ma
Michael Glennon knew of the book, and had cited it in his classes many times, but he had never gotten around to reading the thing from cover to cover. Last year he did, jolted page after page with its illuminating message for our time.
The book was The English Constitution, an analysis by 19th-century journalist Walter Bagehot that laid bare the dual nature of British governance. It suggested that one part of government was for popular consumption, and another more hidden part was for real, consumed with getting things done in the world. As he read, Glennon, a professor of international law at the Fletcher School, where he also teaches constitutional law, saw distinct parallels with the current American political scene.
He decided to explore the similarities in a 30-page paper that he sent around to a number of his friends, asking them to validate or refute his argument. As it happens, Glennon's friends were an extraordinarily well-informed bunch, mostly seasoned operatives in the CIA, the U.S. State Department and the military. "Look," he told them. "I'm thinking of writing a book. Tell me if this is wrong." Every single one responded, "What you have here is exactly right."
Expanded from that original brief paper, Glennon's book National Security and Double Government (Oxford University Press) takes our political system to task, arguing that the people running our government are not our visible elected officials but high-level-and unaccountable-bureaucrats nestled atop government agencies.
Glennon's informed critique of the American political system comes from a place of deep regard. Glennon says he can remember driving into Washington, D.C., in the late spring of 1973, at the time of the Senate Watergate hearings, straight from law school at the University of Minnesota, to take his first job as assistant legislative counsel to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his 20s, he worked in government, culminating in his position as legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Sen. Frank Church from 1977 to 1980. Since entering academic life in the early 1980s, Glennon has been a frequent consultant to government agencies of all stripes, as well as a regular commentator on media outlets such as NPR's All Things Considered, the Today show and Nightline.
In his new book, an inescapable sadness underlies the narrative. "I feel a great sense of loss," Glennon admits. "I devoted my life to these [democratic] institutions, and it's not easy to see how to throw the current trends into reverse." Tufts Now spoke with Glennon recently to learn more of his perspective.
Tufts Now: You've been both an insider and an outsider with regard to government affairs. What led you to write this book?
Michael Glennon: I was struck by the strange continuity in national security policy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Obama, as a candidate, had been eloquent and forceful in criticizing many aspects of the Bush administration's national security policies, from drone strikes to Guantanamo to surveillance by the National Security Agency-the NSA-to covert operations. Yet as president, it turned out that he made very, very few changes in these policies. So I thought it was useful to explain the reason for that.
Were you surprised by the continuity?
I was surprised by the extent of it. I knew fundamentally from my own experience that changing national policies is like trying to change the course of an aircraft carrier. These policies in many ways were set long ago, and the national security bureaucracy tends to favor the status quo. Still, I thought that a president like Obama would, with the political wind in his sails and with so much public and congressional support for what he was criticizing, be more successful in fulfilling his promises.
You use the phrase "double government," coined by Walter Bagehot in the 1860s. What did he mean by that?
Walter Bagehot was one of the founders of the Economist magazine. He developed the theory of "double government," which in a nutshell is this. He said Britain had developed two sets of institutions. First came "dignified" institutions, the monarchy and the House of Lords, which were for show and which the public believed ran the government. But in fact, he suggested, this was an illusion.
These dignified institutions generate legitimacy, but it was a second set of institutions, which he called Britain's "efficient" institutions, that actually ran the government behind the scenes. These institutions were the House of Commons, the Cabinet and the prime minister. This split allowed Britain to move quietly from a monarchy to what Bagehot called a "concealed republic."
The thesis of my book is that the United States has also drifted into a form of double government, and that we have our own set of "dignified" institutions-Congress, the presidency and the courts. But when it comes to national security policy, these entities have become largely for show. National security policy is now formulated primarily by a second group of officials, namely the several hundred individuals who manage the agencies of the military, intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracy responsible for protecting the nation's security.
What are some components of this arrangement?
The NSA, the FBI, the Pentagon and elements of the State Department, certainly; generally speaking, law enforcement, intelligence and the military entities of the government. It's a diverse group, an amorphous group, with no leader and no formal structure, that has come to dominate the formation of American national security policy to the point that Congress, the presidency and the courts all defer to it.
You call this group the "Trumanite network" in your book. What's the link to Harry Truman?
It was in Truman's administration that the National Security Act of 1947 was enacted. This established the CIA and the National Security Council and centralized the command of the U.S. military. It was during the Truman administration as well that the National Security Agency [NSA] was set up, in 1952, although that was a secret and didn't come to light for many years thereafter.
In contrast to the Trumanites you set the "Madisonians." How would you describe them?
The Madisonian institutions are the three constitutionally established branches of the federal government: Congress, the judiciary and the president. They are perceived by the public as the entities responsible for the formulation of national security policy, but that belief is largely mistaken.
The idea is driven by regular exceptions. You can always point to specific instances in which, say, the president personally ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden or Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution. But these are exceptions. The norm is that as a general matter, these three branches defer to the Trumanite network, and that's truer all the time.
So the trend is toward increased power on the Trumanite side of the ledger.
If that's true, why has there not been a greater outcry from the public, the media-all the observers we have?
I think the principal reason is that even sophisticated students of government operate under a very serious misunderstanding. They believe that the political system is self-correcting. They believe the framers set up a system of government setting power against power, and ambition against ambition, and that an equilibrium would be reached, and that any abuse of power would be checked, and arbitrary power would be prevented.
That is correct as far as it goes, but the reality is that's only half the picture. The other half is that Madison and his colleagues believed that for equilibrium to occur, we would have an informed and engaged citizenry. Lacking that, the entire system corrupts, because individuals are elected to office who do not resist encroachments on the power of their branches of government, and the whole equilibrium breaks down.
What role, if any, have the media played?
The media have pretty much been enablers. Although there are a handful of investigative journalists who have done a heroic job of uncovering many of the abuses, they are the exception, for a number of reasons. Number one, the media are a business and have a bottom line. It takes a huge amount of money to fund an investigative journalist who goes about finding sources over a period of years. Very few newspapers or television concerns have those sorts of deep pockets.
Second, access for the press is everything. There is huge incentive to pull punches, and you don't get interviews with top-ranking officials at the NSA or CIA if you're going to offer hard-hitting questions. Look, for example, at the infamous 60 Minutes puff piece on the NSA, a really tragic example of how an otherwise respectable institution can sell its soul and act like an annex of the NSA in order to get some people it wants on the TV screen.
What is the role of terror in this environment?
The whole transfer of power from the Madisonian institutions to the Trumanite network has been fueled by a sense of emergency deriving from crisis, deriving from fear. It's fear of terrorism more than anything else that causes the American people to increasingly be willing to dispense with constitutional safeguards to ensure their safety.
Madison believed that government has two great objects. One object of a constitution is to enable the government to protect the people, specifically from external attacks. The other great object of a constitution is to protect the people from the government. The better able the government is to protect the people from external threats, the greater the threat posed by the government to the people.
You've been involved with the U.S. government for 40 years. How has your view of government changed?
Double government was certainly a factor in the 1970s, but it was challenged for the first time thanks to the activism stemming from the civil rights movement, Vietnam and Watergate. As a result, there were individuals in Congress-Democrats and Republicans like William Fulbright, Frank Church, Jacob Javits, Charles Mathias and many others-who were willing to stand up and insist upon adherence to constitutionally ordained principles. That led to a wave of activism and to the enactment of a number of pieces of reform legislation.
But there is no final victory in Washington. Those reforms have gradually been eaten away and turned aside. I think today we are in many ways right back where we were in the early 1970s. NSA surveillance is an example of that. The Church Committee uncovered something called Operation Shamrock, in which the NSA had assembled a watch list of antiwar and civil rights activists based upon domestic surveillance. Church warned at the time that NSA capabilities were so awesome that if they were ever turned inward on the American people, this nation would cross an abyss from which there is no return. The question is whether we have recently crossed that abyss.
To what degree are we still a functioning democracy? I'm sure you know that President Jimmy Carter told a German reporter last year that he thought we no longer qualified as a democracy because of our domestic surveillance.
We are clearly on the path to autocracy, and you can argue about how far we are down that path. But there's no question that if we continue on that path, America's constitutionally established institutions-Congress, the courts and the presidency-will ultimately end up like Britain's House of Lords and monarchy, namely as institutional museum pieces.
Bruce Morgan can be reached at email@example.com.
Dec 2, 2014 | anduskyregister.com
My favorite nonfiction book this year is "National Security and Double Government" by Michael J. Glennon, which argues that the president and Congress are largely figureheads in setting U.S. national security policy.
Glennon's book suggests that U.S. foreign and security policy is formed by "Trumanites," a network of several hundred top bureaucrats. They're named after Harry S. Truman, whose administration saw the passage of the National Security Act of 1947 and the creation of the National Security Agency. The elected officials who are supposed to make the decisions are dubbed "Madisonians," after President James Madison.
The Madisonians do have power, and they make important decisions. President Barack Obama made the decision to carry out the raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, Glennon notes. No one will know whether Al Gore would have invaded Iraq. But Glennon argues that very little in American foreign policy actually changed when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush at the White House.
As an example, Glennon's book is quite devastating in describing how prominent Madisonians reacted when James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was caught lying to Congress about whether it collects data on "millions" of Americans. (Leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency in fact attempts to collect the phone records of all Americans.) Sen. Dianne Feinstein knew the statement was false and said nothing, Glennon writes. Obama knew or should have known the statement was false and also was silent, "allowing the falsehood to stand for months until leaks publicly revealed the testimony to be false," he writes. "Obama, finally caught by surprise, insisted that he 'welcomed' the debate that ensued, and his administration commenced active efforts to arrest the NSA employee whose disclosures had triggered it." Glennon's heavily-footnoted book then documents the misleading statements Obama made about the matter.
Glennon is not a campus radical or a conspiracy theorist blogging in his parents' basement. He's professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Before he entered academia, he had a legal career that included a stint as legal counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has written several books, and his opinion pieces have appeared in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," among other newspapers. He kindly agreed to take our questions about his new book:Sandusky Register: Did the election of President Barack Obama, and the subsequent disappointment of many who thought he would change U.S. national security policy, spur your book, or had you already had it in mind for years?
Glennon: Both. I had noticed for years that U.S. national security changed little from one administration to the next, but the continuity was so striking mid-way into the Obama administration that I thought it was time to address the question directly. Hence the book.
Sandusky Register: Your book suggests that elections in the U.S. have little effect on national security policy - most of the decisions are made by a network of several hundred national security bureaucrats, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office or the seats in Congress. Do politicians in Washington privately admit that this is true?
Glennon: I've spoken with many members of what I call the "Trumanite network" who do acknowledge that reality - it's hard to deny, really, though few will say so publicly - but members of Congress and federal judges have too much at stake to pull back the curtains. As I describe in the book, public deference depends upon the illusion that the public institutions of our government are actually in charge, and their legitimacy would suffer if they were brutally honest about how much power they have transferred to the Trumanites.
Sandusky Register: Drawing upon "The English Constitution" by Walter Bagehot, you refer to the politicians who are supposed to be in charge as "the Madisonians" (after James Madison) and the national security bureaucrats who actually govern as "the Trumanites" (after Harry Truman's National Security Act of 1947). Is it a misnomer to refer to the Trumanites as a "secret government," as some do?
Glennon: The Trumanites surely operate in secrecy; most of their work is highly classified because the security threats have to be addressed out of the public eye, for the most part. But the Trumanite network itself exists in plain view, and has been readily visible for some time. So it's a mistake to think of it as a "deep state" or "shadow government" to the extent that those terms imply some nefarious conspiracy. There has been no such thing.
Sandusky Register: The U.S. Senate just defeated an NSA reform bill, and even supporters admitted it would not have brought major change. Does this fit your book's suggestion that reform from the "Madisonians" is going to be a difficult enterprise?
Glennon: The bill was mostly cosmetic and would not have addressed the deeper sources of double government. Its defeat can be attributed to a number of factors, one of which surely is the power of the Trumanite network. But in the interest of complete accuracy, it's useful to think of the phenomenon of double government as something like climate change: not every bad storm or hot day is caused directly and exclusively by the dynamic of global warming. The theory of double government merely predicts that, over time, national security policy as a whole will be largely continuous. Individual elements of that policy could change.
Sandusky Register: I've noticed you haven't been invited to appear on national TV yet, or on NPR's "Fresh Air," although your thesis would seem to be controversial and interesting. Are there institutional reasons why your book isn't getting a huge amount of publicity, or is it just hard to get an academic press book out there?
Glennon: Some good books never get reviewed and some bad books do. Lots of it just seems to be luck and happenstance. I tried to write it for informed lay readers; time will tell whether they pick it up.
My other author interviews are archived. Professor Glennon also was interviewed by the Boston Globe. He also appeared on the Scott Horton Show.
Sandusky Register reporter Tom Jackson reviews and recommends local and national reading opportunities. You can read the other blog posts and follow this blog on Twitter.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:40pm
Tom, thanks. That will go on my reading list - right now I'm into "Why We Lost (in Iraq and Afghanistan)" by Gen. Dan Bolger.
And for influence on security policy, don't forget the Neo-cons and their Israeli partners.
We're spending trillions on the military and becoming ever less secure - they are bankrupting the country.
November 7, 2014 | fletcherforum.org
Professor Michael Glennon on the Rise of the American System of Double Government
In his latest book, National Security and Double Government, Professor Michael Glennon challenges common understandings of American government institutions and provides daunting insights into the nature of the U.S. national security apparatus. Glennon claims that the "Trumanite network," consisting of managers of the military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, guides and often makes key decisions on U.S. national security policy. He highlights the lack of oversight, accountability, and the mutually beneficial relationship between the public-facing "Madisonian" actors, such as the President and Congress, and this classified "Trumanite" network. The Fletcher Forum Editorial team sat down with Michael Glennon, Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School, to talk about his book and discuss the future of American democracy.
FLETCHER FORUM: How did your experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and your continued work with the government inform your book?
GLENNON: When I worked for the Committee I was struck by the large number of Ford administration officials who continued on into the Carter administration. Many of these officials held significant policy-making roles in the realm of national security. I was also struck by the many programs and policies that also carried over from the earlier administration. Most of these related to classified intelligence and law enforcement activities. As a result the public believed that in many areas, things had changed much more than they actually had. What I was observing in closed meetings and in classified documents was not the civics-book model that the public had internalized. The courts, Congress, and even presidential appointees exercised much less influence over national security policy-making than people commonly believed. And the 1976 presidential election had had much less impact than people had expected. So it was pretty clear the data didn't fit the conventional tri-partite, separation-of-powers paradigm, but I wasn't sure what a more accurate paradigm would look like, or even whether there was one.
FLETCHER FORUM: When did you start thinking about this topic? How did you formulate this thesis and how did we get to this point?
GLENNON: Two years ago, I was struck again by the strange inalterability of U.S. national security policy. Before winning the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama had campaigned forcefully and eloquently against many elements of the Bush administration's national security policy. Yet rendition, military detention without trial or counsel, drone strikes, NSA surveillance, whistleblower prosecutions, non-prosecution of water-boarders, reliance on the state secrets privilege, covert operations, Guantanamo-you name it, virtually nothing changed. Obviously something more was going on than what the defenders of those policies claimed-which was that all those policies somehow happened to be the most rational response among all competing alternatives. The fact is that each of these policies presents questions on which reasonable people can differ-as indeed Obama himself had, as a Senator and as a candidate for the presidency. The epiphany occurred when I pulled a little book off the shelf and read it in amazement one rainy Sunday afternoon-Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution.
FLETCHER FORUM: What are some components of this double government in the U.S. today? What are the key institutions and players?
GLENNON: Bagehot's objective was to explain how the British government operated in the 1860s. He suggested that it had in effect split into two separate sets of institutions. The "dignified" institutions consisted of the monarchy and House of Lords. The British people believed that the dignified institutions ran the government. This belief was essential to foster the legitimacy needed for public deference and obedience. But that belief was an illusion. In fact, the government was run by the "efficient" institutions-the House of Commons, the prime minister, and the cabinet-which operated behind-the-scenes, largely removed from public view. Gradually and quietly, these efficient institutions had moved Britain away from a monarchy to become what Bagehot described as a "concealed republic." My book's thesis is that in the realm of national security, the United States also has unwittingly drifted into a system of double government-but that it is moving in the opposite direction, away from democracy, toward autocracy. With occasional exceptions, the dignified institutions of the judiciary, Congress, and the presidency are all on the road to becoming hollowed-out museum pieces, while the managers of the military, law enforcement, and intelligence community more and more come to dominate national security policy-making.
FLETCHER FORUM: You identify the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American public as the root problem, and argue that reform must come from the people. How can this actually work in practice? Is there any hope that change is possible?
GLENNON: It's a bit simplistic to focus exclusively upon the public's "pervasive civic ignorance" (a term used by former Supreme Court Justice David Souter). As I point out in the book, the American people are anything but stupid. And while it's true that they're not terribly engaged or informed on national security policy, their ignorance is in many ways rational. Americans are very busy people and it doesn't make much sense to expend a lot of effort learning about policies you can't change. So we're in a dilemma: because the dignified institutions can't empower themselves by drawing upon powers that they lack, energy must come from the outside, from the people-yet as the electorate becomes increasingly uninformed and disengaged, the efficient institutions have all the more incentive to go off on their own. It's telling and rather sad that the American public has become so reliant upon the government to come up with solutions to its problems that the public is utterly at loose ends to know where or how to begin to devise its own remedy. Learned Hand was right: liberty "lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."
FLETCHER FORUM: Does a lame duck President have a different relationship with the Trumanite Network? If President Obama were to read your book and ask for advice on changing the system, what would you tell him?
GLENNON: I'd suggest that he demonstrate to the American people that the book's thesis is wrong. He could do that by changing the national security policies that he led the American people to believe would be changed. Among other things: (1) fire officials who lie to Congress and the American people, beginning with John Brennan and James Clapper, (2) appoint a special prosecutor to deal with the CIA's spying on the Senate intelligence committee and Clapper's false statements to it, (3) stop blocking publication of the Senate intelligence committee's torture report, (4) stop invoking the state secrets privilege to obstruct judicial challenges to abusive counter-terrorism activities, (5) halt the bombing of Syria until Congress authorizes it, and (6) stop prosecuting and humiliating whistleblowers who spark public debates he claims to welcome.
FLETCHER FORUM: Are there any potential 2016 Presidential candidates that could challenge the Trumanite Network?
FLETCHER FORUM: Do you have any other recommended reading on this subject?
GLENNON: The English Constitution, by Walter Bagehot; President Eisenhower's farewell address; The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills; Why Leaders Lie, by John J. Mearsheimer; The Arrogance of Power, by J. William Fulbright; Top Secret America, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin; the final report of the Church committee (S. Rep. No. 94-755, 1976); On Democracy, by Robert A. Dahl; The New American Militarism, by Andrew Bacevich; Groupthink, by Irving Janus
Mal Warwick on December 22, 2014Who makes national security decisions? Not who you think!
Why does Barack Obama's performance on national security issues in the White House contrast so strongly with his announced intentions as a candidate in 2008? After all, not only has Obama continued most of the Bush policies he decried when he ran for the presidency, he has doubled down on government surveillance, drone strikes, and other critical programs.
Michael J. Glennon set out to answer this question in his unsettling new book, National Security and Double Government. And he clearly dislikes what he found.
The answer, Glennon discovered, is that the US government is divided between the three official branches of the government, on the one hand - the "Madisonian" institutions incorporated into the Constitution - and the several hundred unelected officials who do the real work of a constellation of military and intelligence agencies, on the other hand. These officials, called "Trumanites" in Glennon's parlance for having grown out of the national security infrastructure established under Harry Truman, make the real decisions in the area of national security. (To wage the Cold War, Truman created the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Defense, the CIA, the NSA, and the National Security Council.) "The United States has, in short," Glennon writes, "moved beyond a mere imperial presidency to a bifurcated system - a structure of double government - in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of U.S. national security policy. . . . The perception of threat, crisis, and emergency has been the seminal phenomenon that has created and nurtures America's double government." If Al Qaeda hadn't existed, the Trumanite network would have had to create it - and, Glennon seems to imply, might well have done so.
The Trumanites wield their power with practiced efficiency, using secrecy, exaggerated threats, peer pressure to conform, and the ability to mask the identity of the key decision-maker as their principal tools.
Michael J. Glennon comes to this task with unexcelled credentials. A professor of international law at Tufts and former legal counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee, he came face to face on a daily basis with the "Trumanites" he writes about. National Security and Double Government is exhaustively researched and documented: notes constitute two-thirds of this deeply disturbing little book.
The more I learn about how politics and government actually work - and I've learned a fair amount in my 73 years - the more pessimistic I become about the prospects for democracy in America. In some ways, this book is the most worrisome I've read over the years, because it implies that there is no reason whatsoever to think that things can ever get better. In other words, to borrow a phrase from the Borg on Star Trek, "resistance is futile." That's a helluva takeaway, isn't it?
On reflection, what comes most vividly to mind is a comment from the late Chalmers Johnson on a conference call in which I participated several years ago. Johnson, formerly a consultant to the CIA and a professor at two campuses of the University of California (Berkeley and later San Diego), was the author of many books, including three that awakened me to many of the issues Michael Glennon examines: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis. Johnson, who was then nearly 80 and in declining health, was asked by a student what he would recommend for young Americans who want to combat the menace of the military-industrial complex. "Move to Vancouver," he said.
The mounting evidence notwithstanding, I just hope it hasn't come to that.
Tom Hunter on November 22, 2014Incredible Rosetta Stone book that Explains Why the US Government is Impervious to Change
This work is of huge importance. It explains the phenomenon that myself and many other informed voters have seen--namely--how the policies of the United States government seem impervious to change no matter the flavor of administration. I found myself baffled and chagrined that President Obama, who I cheerfully voted for twice (and still would prefer over the alternatives) failed to end many of the practices that I abhor, such as the free reign of the NSA, the continual increase in defense budgets and the willingness to keep laws that are clearly against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, be they Progressives or otherwise.
This incredible book acts as a Rosetta Stone that explains why nothing ever changes. Highly recommended.
Zero Hedge/The Web of Debt blog
"The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. . . . You have owners."
- George Carlin, The American Dream
According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America's political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.
"Making the world safe for democracy" was President Woodrow Wilson's rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?
The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that "all men are created equal" – that all people have "certain inalienable rights," including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" – is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters' collective will no longer prevails.
In Greece, the left-wing populist Syriza Party came out of nowhere to take the presidential election by storm; and in Spain, the populist Podemos Party appears poised to do the same. But for over a century, no third-party candidate has had any chance of winning a US presidential election. We have a two-party winner-take-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.
In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.
When governments of any size need to borrow money, the megabanks in a position to supply it can generally dictate the terms. Even in Greece, where the populist Syriza Party managed to prevail in January, the anti-austerity platform of the new government is being throttled by the moneylenders who have the government in a chokehold.
How did we lose our democracy? Were the Founding Fathers remiss in leaving something out of the Constitution? Or have we simply gotten too big to be governed by majority vote?
Democracy's Rise and Fall
The stages of the capture of democracy by big money are traced in a paper called "The Collapse of Democratic Nation States" by theologian and environmentalist Dr. John Cobb. Going back several centuries, he points to the rise of private banking, which usurped the power to create money from governments:
The influence of money was greatly enhanced by the emergence of private banking. The banks are able to create money and so to lend amounts far in excess of their actual wealth. This control of money-creation . . . has given banks overwhelming control over human affairs. In the United States, Wall Street makes most of the truly important decisions that are directly attributed to Washington.
Today the vast majority of the money supply in Western countries is created by private bankers. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England's money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown. When King William needed money to fight a war, he had to borrow. The government as borrower then became servant of the lender.
In America, however, the colonists defied the Bank of England and issued their own paper scrip; and they thrived. When King George forbade that practice, the colonists rebelled.
They won the Revolution but lost the power to create their own money supply, when they opted for gold rather than paper money as their official means of exchange. Gold was in limited supply and was controlled by the bankers, who surreptitiously expanded the money supply by issuing multiple banknotes against a limited supply of gold.
This was the system euphemistically called "fractional reserve" banking, meaning only a fraction of the gold necessary to back the banks' privately-issued notes was actually held in their vaults. These notes were lent at interest, putting citizens and the government in debt to bankers who created the notes with a printing press. It was something the government could have done itself debt-free, and the American colonies had done with great success until England went to war to stop them.
President Abraham Lincoln revived the colonists' paper money system when he issued the Treasury notes called "Greenbacks" that helped the Union win the Civil War. But Lincoln was assassinated, and the Greenback issues were discontinued.
In every presidential election between 1872 and 1896, there was a third national party running on a platform of financial reform. Typically organized under the auspices of labor or farmer organizations, these were parties of the people rather than the banks. They included the Populist Party, the Greenback and Greenback Labor Parties, the Labor Reform Party, the Antimonopolist Party, and the Union Labor Party. They advocated expanding the national currency to meet the needs of trade, reform of the banking system, and democratic control of the financial system.
The Populist movement of the 1890s represented the last serious challenge to the bankers' monopoly over the right to create the nation's money. According to monetary historian Murray Rothbard, politics after the turn of the century became a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties sometimes changed hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players.
In All the Presidents' Bankers, Nomi Prins names six banking giants and associated banking families that have dominated politics for over a century. No popular third party candidates have a real chance of prevailing, because they have to compete with two entrenched parties funded by these massively powerful Wall Street banks.
Democracy Succumbs to Globalization
In an earlier era, notes Dr. Cobb, wealthy landowners were able to control democracies by restricting government participation to the propertied class. When those restrictions were removed, big money controlled elections by other means:First, running for office became expensive, so that those who seek office require wealthy sponsors to whom they are then beholden. Second, the great majority of voters have little independent knowledge of those for whom they vote or of the issues to be dealt with. Their judgments are, accordingly, dependent on what they learn from the mass media. These media, in turn, are controlled by moneyed interests.
Control of the media and financial leverage over elected officials then enabled those other curbs on democracy we know today, including high barriers to ballot placement for third parties and their elimination from presidential debates, vote suppression, registration restrictions, identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, computer voting, and secrecy in government.
The final blow to democracy, says Dr. Cobb, was "globalization" – an expanding global market that overrides national interests:[T]oday's global economy is fully transnational. The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments. . . . Thus transnational corporations inherently work to undermine nation states, whether they are democratic or not.
The most glaring example today is the secret twelve-country trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If it goes through, the TPP will dramatically expand the power of multinational corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge and supersede domestic laws, including environmental, labor, health and other protections.
Looking at Alternatives
Some critics ask whether our system of making decisions by a mass popular vote easily manipulated by the paid-for media is the most effective way of governing on behalf of the people. In an interesting Ted Talk, political scientist Eric Li makes a compelling case for the system of "meritocracy" that has been quite successful in China.
In America Beyond Capitalism, Prof. Gar Alperovitz argues that the US is simply too big to operate as a democracy at the national level. Excluding Canada and Australia, which have large empty landmasses, the United States is larger geographically than all the other advanced industrial countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) combined. He proposes what he calls "The Pluralist Commonwealth": a system anchored in the reconstruction of communities and the democratization of wealth. It involves plural forms of cooperative and common ownership beginning with decentralization and moving to higher levels of regional and national coordination when necessary. He is co-chair along with James Gustav Speth of an initiative called The Next System Project, which seeks to help open a far-ranging discussion of how to move beyond the failing traditional political-economic systems of both left and Right..
Dr. Alperovitz quotes Prof. Donald Livingston, who asked in 2002:
What value is there in continuing to prop up a union of this monstrous size? . . . [T]here are ample resources in the American federal tradition to justify states' and local communities' recalling, out of their own sovereignty, powers they have allowed the central government to usurp.
Taking Back Our Power
If governments are recalling their sovereign powers, they might start with the power to create money, which was usurped by private interests while the people were asleep at the wheel. State and local governments are not allowed to print their own currencies; but they can own banks, and all depository banks create money when they make loans, as the Bank of England recently acknowledged.
The federal government could take back the power to create the national money supply by issuing its own Treasury notes as Abraham Lincoln did. Alternatively, it could issue some very large denomination coins as authorized in the Constitution; or it could nationalize the central bank and use quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, education, job creation, and social services, responding to the needs of the people rather than the banks.
The freedom to vote carries little weight without economic freedom – the freedom to work and to have food, shelter, education, medical care and a decent retirement. President Franklin Roosevelt maintained that we need an Economic Bill of Rights. If our elected representatives were not beholden to the moneylenders, they might be able both to pass such a bill and to come up with the money to fund it.
Mar 15, 2015 | The Guardian
robertinjapan 14 Mar 2015 00:52
A man came to Russia's Spy Agency and said: - I'm a spy and I want to surrender. - Who's spy are you? - I'm an American/British spy. - Well, then you ought to go to room #5.
So he went to room #5 and said: - I'm an American/British spy and I want to surrender. - Do you have any firearms? - Yes, I do. -
Then you have to go to room #7. He came to room #7 and said: - I'm an American/British spy, I want to surrender and I have a weapon. -
Go to room #10. He came to room #10 and said: - I'm a spy, I want to surrender and I have a weapon. - Do you have a communication device? - Yes, I do. -
Then go to room #20. He comes to room #20 and says: - I'm a spy, I want to surrender, I have a weapon and a communication device. - Do you have an assignment? - Yes. - Well, then go and do it - don't interrupt people's work!
corstopitum musubi 13 Mar 2015 23:18
But if MI6 is recruiting Russian speakers they probably envisage sending them to Yemen. It's the Arabists who'll end up in Moscow. It's tradition you know. Like sending troops trained in mountain warfare to invade Walcheren island which is below sea level.
Writing in the same iconoclastic spirit he brought to Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Canadian writer Saul offers a damning indictment of what he terms corporatism, today's dominant ideology. While the corporatist state maintains a veneer of democracy, it squelches opposition to dominant corporate interests by controlling elected officials through lobbying and by using propaganda and rhetoric to obscure facts and deter communication among citizens.
Corporatism, asserts Saul, creates conformists who behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies, not responsible citizens. Moreover, today's managerial-technocratic elite, while glorifying free markets, technology, computers and globalization, is, in Saul's opinion, narrowly self-serving and unable to cope with economic stagnation.
His prescriptions include eliminating private-sector financing from electoral politics, renewing citizen participation in public affairs, massive creation of public-service jobs and a humanist education to replace narrow specialization. His erudite, often profound analysis challenges conservatives and liberals alike with its sweeping critique of Western culture, society and economic organization.
LeeBoy (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)
A coup d'etat in slow motion?, August 12, 2005
A key premise of the book is that a life worth living, the so-called examined life, the fully aware life cannot take place without individuals in the society being fully conscious - or without seeking the kind of self-knowledge that readily can be translated into action.
Saul maintains that we have a "new religion," the blind pursuit of self-interest. It is led by an ideology of "corporatism," which has deformed the American ideal of a life worth living into one devoid of a concept of the common public good. Through it, one of America's most noble ideas, that of "rugged individualism" has been sullied, distorted and transformed into an ideology of selfishness; an ideology that has so manipulated our reality that our the language and knowledge, usually placed in the service of actions and designed to improve our way of life, has become useless.
The corporate compartmentalization of, and distortion of public knowledge, and the accompanying enforced conformity has so confused us and has so muted our voices that knowledge no longer has any effect on our consciousness nor on our actions. Individual selfishness as "modeled" by corporate self-interest has hi-jacked Western civilization as we have come to know it.
The book describes how corporatism has accomplished this feat: It has used its own ideology of self-interest (and the promise of certainty that all ideologies promote) to render us passive and conformist in areas that matter and non-conformist in those that do not. This new pseudo or false individualism has the effect of immobilizing and disarming our civilization intellectually and thus renders it unconscious.
The most important way it does this is by denying and undermining the legitimacy of the individual as the primary unit and defender of, as well as the center of gravity of the public good. The public good becomes deformed by, and subordinate to, and equated with the narrow pursuit of corporate self-interests, as most often defined by the pursuit of profits and associated corporate perks. The hedonistic model of the corporate life is projected on to society writ large as the only life worth living.
The impetus for placing corporate interests (and the corporate model of our humanity) at center stage in the drama of Western Civilization, seems to have come about through the misconception that rugged individualism, democracy and our current understanding of the public good were once defined by, depend on, and proceed directly from, the pursuit of economic interests. This is a misconception because in actual fact exactly the reverse is true: It was notions of the public good as defined by democracy and individualism that gave rise to economic interests, and not the other way around.
Moreover, economic models have been so spectacularly wrong and unsuccessful, that they could not have survived without an ideology that renders the public unconscious. Saul suggests that even the best economic models amount to little more than passive tinkering. The fact that we have come to rely on them -- even though we know they are seriously flawed and have little or no basis in reality -- is compelling evidence of our lack of memory and thus, of our lack of collective consciousness.
According to the author, it is the proper use of knowledge and memory that renders us conscious (and thus by extension, also renders us human). The misuse of knowledge and memory through corporate and technological, manipulation, specialization and compartmentalization is just a deeper form of collective denial.
Said differently, (corporate generated) specialization creates its own illusions. When knowledge actually becomes confused and is sufficiently narrowed, compartmentalization promotes the illusion that knowledge is multiplied when in fact it has shrunken. It leaves the impression that more rather than less knowledge is being created. It promotes the illusion that truth is only what the specialist can measure; that "managing is doing," (and more importantly that a managerial class is important and necessary). Finally, it creates the illusion that the ideology, which promotes corporatism, produces certainty (the main job of any ideology).
These illusions all have facilitated the corporate takeover of what would otherwise be seen as, the public interest. By doing so, the legitimacy of the individual as the center of gravity of the public good is crowded out, undermined and denied.
Thus the management elite, (with their suitcases full of money to buy off our elected representatives) like a cancer, is let loose on society. It lives within its own insulated cocoon creating an artificially interiorized sense of its own importance, wellbeing and its own distorted vision of civilization as a whole. Insulated from within, the management elite is free to grow without bounds, without accountability, and in complete disregard for the reality "out there," and always only to satisfy and service its own selfish needs. Truth is not in the world "out there" but is in what the professionals can measure and whatever is reported to these insulated elites. The deeper the insulated managerial class retreats into its own interiorized illusions of reality, the more confused language becomes and the less likely knowledge can be translated into actions that will effect the wider reality, and thus the public good.
In its pursuit to deny the legitimacy of the public good and to replace it with corporate econometric models of reality, Saul has traced the history of this process and gives many examples of how it works: through media propaganda, films, ads, music, sports and style-and always through insinuations of what is considered proper thought and ways of behaving.
One of the better examples he gives is how unemployment keeps getting redefined downward with no relation to the reality of the labor market but mostly to suit the needs of the neo-cons (the courtiers of the corporate elites). Or how, even as companies are losing money and are laying-off large numbers of ordinary workers, the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites continue to rise - often even until the very day the companies actually go bust.
Another example given is how through the process of globalization, that by the year 2020 the U.S. will be fully reduced to a Third World country. We are told that our future standard of living will depend entirely on globalization. Here globalization (like its companion concept, productivity) is a synonym for pegging workers' wage rates to the lowest wages available worldwide. It is never mentioned in such discussions that the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites will actually rise significantly as this "mother of all least common denominators economic formulas" is being applied to the lower end of the economic class scale. Taken to its logical conclusion, the salary of U.S. workers will equal those of Chinese peasants by 2020; and the corporate elites all will be filthy rich like Sam Walton. This "Wal-Martization" of America is already well in train.
Why are we so susceptible to being manipulated by corporate generated ideology and power? Saul gives an answer: We have an addictive weakness for large illusions that are tied to power and that can simplify our worldview by promising emotional certainty. The examples he gives are none other than the great religions themselves, and their spin-offs of Marxism, fascism and most of the autocratic governments of the past, including Hitler's Third Reich.
The roads to serfdom, or to fascism or communism (or pick your own ism) all intersect at the same ideology reference points: they begin as enforced social and political orthodoxy and conformity: first fashion and style; then the social enforcement of ways of thinking; and then patriotism is made into a religious-like requirement; after which rights and free speech are suppressed in the name of national security or loyalty to the state. One-by-one laws are suspended and then arbitrary arrests and disappearances begin; and finally the country is rendered completely passive and unconscious - compressed into a pseudo-patriotic religious trance.
In the modern era, this progression is by now all too familiar: It leads directly to the de-legitimatization of the citizen as the primary defender of the public good. This just as inevitably leads to handing over power to those whose self-interests are larger than their dedication to the preservation of the public good or even to the preservation and defense of the state itself.
The citizen then ceases to be able to determine what is, and is not real. He becomes immobilized like a child, unable to judge what is in his own best interests -- let alone what is in the best interest of the public good or the state. He is then forced to sing for his dinner and to dance to the corporate tune for any sense of wellbeing or self-worth. The "public good" becomes completely subordinate to the "corporate good."
What Saul admonishes us about is already imminently clear: that the kind of society we have is determined by where the true source of legitimacy lies. Today legitimacy in America -- that is its power, organization, and influence -- lies not in the vote and in stylized but impotent public citizen participation, but in the hands of the lobbyists, the technocrats, and the anti-democratic and anti-patriotic corporate vampires.
Saul did not need to tell us that all the serious decisions are now made in the back rooms without consulting the people. The best "the people" can hope for (and indeed what they yearn for) is that the decisions made over their heads will at least retain a semblance of emotional ideological purity.
While the corporate robber barons sneak out the back door to their off-shore tax havens (with the nations valuables in tow), the public good has been distorted and transformed into little more than "What I have" or into bumper sticker sized emotionalisms: the advancement of creative design and the right to post the Ten Commandments on the court house steps, abortion and gun rights, anti-Affirmative Action, states rights, etc. Because of its lack of consciousness, Americans have lost the ability to conceptualize a common good larger than their own immediate individual narrowly defined self-interests.
How do we get out of this coup d'etat in slow motion? Saul's answer is that we must change the dynamics of the process but he gives few specifics on how this can be done. This a great and very sobering read. Five stars.
Joyce (Bonham, Texas)
Makes the complex understandable, November 29, 2012
Saul has unusual skill in making complex entanglements understandable, colorful, and often humorous. His satire is biting. His irony is satisfying. His writing is dense with fresh insights about difficult subjects, so reading him is challenging at times but worth the effort. In this book, Saul explores how the dictatorship of reason unbalanced by other human qualities (common sense, ethics, intuition, creativity, memory) leads to the rational but antidemocratic structures of corporatism. He lays out the historical roots of corporatist doctrines (going back to Plato) and how they are so woven into our social fabric that they threaten the practice of democracy. He notes how our civilization is blinded to its true character by sentiment and ideology and argues that while Fascism was defeated in World War II, its corporatist doctrines are powerfully influencing our society today.
For Saul, one central aspect of the corporatist doctrine is its hijacking of the term "individualism," defining it as self-absorption or selfishness. Both Left and Right positions are based upon that definition. The Left agrees with the Right that individualism is selfishness, only it wants individual rights to be equally distributed and more fair. Whereas Saul talks about individualism thus:
"Rights are a protection from society. But only by fulfilling their obligations to society can the individual give meaning to that protection. . . Real individualism then is the obligation to act as a citizen."
"The very essence of corporatism is minding your own business. And the very essence of individualism is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style of life. It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being persistently annoying to others as well as being stubborn and repetitive."
And further still:
"Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty, and silence are so admired and rewarded."
Saul discusses the role that four economic pillars play in either accentuating or reducing our unconscious state as citizens: (1) the marketplace, (2) technology, (3) globalization, and (4) money markets.
Here is my summary of his lessons on these four.
- The danger of using the marketplace as our guide is that we are limiting ourselves to the narrow and short-term interests of exclusion. If we wish to lead society we must calculate inclusive costs.
- Business schools (following the "scientific management" Frederick Taylor brought to Harvard) treat men and women as mechanisms to be managed along with machines. And we are lining up students behind machines, educating them in isolation when what is really needed is to show them how they can function together in society.
- Trade cannot in and of itself solve societal problems. The main effect of globalization has been to shift the tax burden from large corporations onto the middle class. Adam Smith's repeated admonition has been ignored. It is: high wages are essential to growth and prosperity.
- Money is not a value in itself. Money in money markets is not available for taxation, and it doesn't really exist. It is pure speculation. We must see what is truly of value to society and reward those things.
This is only a bit of the clarity Saul's book gives us as citizens about what we are dealing with, empowering us with weaponry to overcome the Fascistic creation of corporatism.
Christopher (Seattle, Washington, USA)
A roundhouse shot at corporatist, group-think American life, March 19, 2002
"Are we truly living in a corporatist society that uses democracy as little more than a pressure release valve?"
Not satisfied with hurtling the literary hand-grenade of the 1990's, "Voltaire's Bastards", into the midst of our oblivious Western society, John Ralston Saul has now equipped his metaphorical sniper rifle, and in his crosshairs is the 'deviant class' which has destabilized our American dream. In "The Unconscious Civilization", Saul targets `corporatist' groups, the special interests (both economic and social) which have lulled citizens into replacing their own thoughts with those of factions who magically (and absurdly) claim to represent their beliefs and dreams.
"One of the difficulties faced by citizens today is making sense of what is presented as material for public debate, but is actually no more than the formalized propaganda of interest groups. It is very rare now in public debate to hear from someone who is not the official voice of an organization."
Characteristic of Saul's previous work, "The Unconscious Civilization" is a firm, wind-knocking shot to the gut. But luckily for you, your opponent is also teaching you how to fight. Hear him shout: `Stand up, slothful citizen. Your constitution is failing.'
"The statistics of our crisis are clear and unforgiving. Yet they pass us by--in newspapers, on television, in conversations--as if they were not reality. Or rather, as if we were unable to convert knowledge into action."
Do you feel protected by the Internet, by the millions of voices which you feel will conglomerate to represent you? So how's it working for you so far? Sure we have information, but what the hell good is it doing for the spirit of our nation?
"Knowledge is more effectively used today to justify wrong being done than to prevent it. This raises an important question about the role of freedom of speech. We have a great deal of it. But if it has little practical effect on reality, then it is not really freedom of speech. Without utility, speech is just decorative."
In this work, Saul scopes out the corporatist mindset, the coalescence of many minds into one body with only one voice (corpus from Latin, meaning body), which has invaded business, politics, and civil society alike. The result is chilling, for when we rise to speak, we find our individual words have different meanings to each of these bodies. As a consequence, we are learning to speak less.
"In a corporatist society there is no serious need for traditional censorship or burning, although there are regular cases. It is as if our language itself is responsible for our inability to identify and act upon reality."
We may be blind to the corporatist processes, but we should be able to fairly see their results. In politics: 38% voter turnout rates, lowest political convention viewership, the quashing of third-party voices; in business: the plastering of disclaimers, sloganeering, and that opaque wall of business-speak between every salesman and their customer; in civil society: the inability to progress in conversation without soundbites, and the number of people who flat-out don't want to talk to you.
This partition of words has not obstructed John Ralston Saul, though. An advocate of "aggressive common sense", Saul portrays himself correctly as a classic liberal, defender and klaxon for the citizen, neither champion nor foe of the marketplace.
"The market does not lead, balance, or encourage democracy. However, properly regulated it is the most effective way to conduct business."
"Every important characteristic of both individualism and democracy has preceded the key economic events of our millennium. What's more, it was these characteristics that made most of the economic events possible, not vice-versa."
John Ralston Saul's work consists of five chapters loosely based off a series of 1995 lectures at the University of Toronto. Like "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul here is discursive and entertaining; each chapter is a new dive into an invigorating Arctic lake of realization. Chapter One, "The Great Leap Backwards" launches the assault. The remaining chapters focus on reconstruction... their titles: "From Propaganda to Language", "From Corporatism to Democracy", "From Managers and Speculators to Growth", "From Ideology Towards Equilibrium".
Moderately mistitled (resulting in a one-point demerit in the overall review score), a more appropriate title for this book would have been "The Corporatist Civilization". A true attack on the `unconscious' among us would have been welcome, though Saul does meander briefly into this realm, with a few sections that fit cozily into the overall thesis:
"Perhaps the difficulty with the psychoanalytic movement is that from the beginning it has sent out a contradictory message: Learn to know yourself--your unconscious, the greater unconscious. This will help you to deal with reality. On the other hand, you are in the grip of great primeval forces--unknown and unseen--and even if you do know and see them, it is they who must dominate."
One-quarter the size of "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul this time out initiates a concise attack: on utopias, ideology, technocracy, demagoguery, and group mentality... all of which direct the individual to replace their view of the world with that of an `official spokesman', eerily reversing the vector of our society towards a fascist state. An insightful read; terse, but somewhat condensed and abstract at places. The trade-offs are more than acceptable, though. Steel yourself for a barrage of Truth.
Lacks The Big Picture, July 3, 2000
John Ralston Saul is considered one of the great humanist essayists of this time. That is true but he is also very much a man of our times, with both the advantages and disadvantages of the current Weltanschauung. I bought this book after having read some rather rave reviews and had high expectations. I can't say that I have got anything from this book that I didn't already have or suspect. He's reinforced some of my opinions without adding to my empherical knowledge to back them. The concept of the individual, individualism if you will, is dominant today, representing a narrow and superficial deformation of the Western idea. Market Capitalism does not guarantee democracy; you can have poor democracies and prosperous dictatorships. Today we are in an unconscious process of masochistic suicide destroying the very substance of our public institutions, institutions which were the products of decades of thought and democratic debate, all in the pursuit of making things more `effective', more `business-like'. . . So according to Saul, and on target IMHO, but what does this all mean? What can we draw from these intermediate conclusions?
He then goes on to describe the crisis that grips the West, which he dates from 1973. Bureaucratic thinking and rationalization continue to manipulate our perceptions, dominate and drive our existence, controlled by what he describes as `Corporatism'. He states,
"the corporatist movement was born in the nineteenth century as an alternative to democracy. It proposed the legitimacy of groups over that of the individual citizen." Pp16-17
Napoleon, Hegel and Bismarck helped the process along by emphasizing rule by elites and adherence to the state. This was all only a lead up to the great
"new all-powerful clockmaker god - the marketplace - and his archangel, technology. Trade is the marketplace's miraculous cure for all that ails us. . . I would suggest that Marxism, fascism and the marketplace strongly resemble each other. They are all corporatist, managerial and hooked on technology as their own particular golden calf." Pp19-20
...Weber warned of the dangers of bureaucracy, of how capitalism mated with ever increasing rationalization and technological innovation would become a very difficult beast to control. He also warned against the subversion of democratic institutions by powerful non-democratic groups with oligarchic tendencies. Saul's view on the triumph of rationalism is also, by the way, influenced by Weber. So instead of damning Weber he should be thanking him. Here we see the tendency so common among US (and Canadian) intellectuals today of putting the blame for their perceived crisis on foreign thinkers (usually German or French) who have some how lead the well-intentioned, but all too trusting North Americans astray. Alan Bloom, on the right, was guilty of the same thing in his The Closing of the American Mind. In all, this tendency represents a mixing up of cause and effect. If you want to look for a foreign culpret, how about the English Utilitarians who put morally accepted self-interest and quest for profit in the service of individual gain above anything else? An attitude that has since then been enthusisatically and uncritically accepted by the mass of American intellectuals.
What is Saul's solution? Persistent public commitment by the citizenry can turn the tables on corporatism. But how, given the power that Saul says the elites have to manipulate and control all the spheres of our existence? What of their ability to define "freedom" in wholly consumerist terms, making it a mere matter of material choice? As long as the US Constitution allows for majority rule, the public will have the last say, but how to mobilize the public, how to educate them as to defending their best interests when the reigns of mass communication are in the hands of the corporatists? How do we make the interests of society take priority over the interests of profit? The moral dilemma in all this is ignored by Saul who distrusts anyone who even mentions it. Unable to follow Nietzsche's lead he stumbles. Nietzsche, alas a foreigner, was also primarily a moralist. Morals are important since they shape the way that we adjust to the struggle for our very existence in an ever more competitive world. While a sense of the spiritual is necessary, the vast bulk of our actions, the reality we must deal with in our every day lives, is economic due to the pervasive market system which is the very air we breathe. It is therefore very much man-made, synthetic, something that has been grafted onto society, not a component of it. Morals are as necessary now as when we lived in small farming communities, since it is by working together, by accepting each others' strengths and weaknesses, by learning to control our own impulses and irrational drives and by accepting the inate worth of each person that we insure not only our own but the survival of our species in the coming hard winter. A, "myth-building" exercise you say, but is it any more a myth than that of "the Market corrects itself and all we need do is trust in it"?
Since the end of the 18th Century we in the West have lost almost every remnant of our pre-Capitalist past. We have forgotten our entire community or social or human-to-human history, we are unable to recall when an action did not infer some sort of self-benefit. We fail to see that the so-called Third World is as we were two hundred years ago. It is not a question of scientific or technological or commercial progress, in the most human sense, but of the maturing and decay of an ideological-based social system.
Saul's main drawback is that he lacks the indepth knowledge of the numerous disciplines necessary for this very complex subject. That and `distance' since he approaches the problem with far too many preconceptions. A much better book in a related subject is Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. His history of the market economy provides much of the background necessary to illuminate our current situation. Few if any thinkers today have the breadth of knowledge to provide the big picture of our current post-modern situation. Men like Max Weber, who had a encyclopedic knowledge of several wide fields of study no longer walk the earth. Still a much more refined, yet wide view which would include a fuller understanding of social economics, history, political science, sociology, theology and philosophy is necessary in order to get a grip on the tendencies which are slowly eating away our society and threaten to turn us all into what Max Weber described as "a culture of specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart".
Herbert L Calhoun
Wake up and Smell the Oil Wal-Mart Shoppers, August 10, 2005
If the doubling, in less than a year, of the price of oil for no discernable reason (with no end in sight), and with absolutely no reaction from us or our government is not evidence that something is terribly wrong with our collective mind. Then surely an order of magnitude increase in the cost of medical care and prescription drugs, and the quintupling of our health insurance (for those of us who have any), should be.
Or, one might have imagined that the juxtaposition of soaring corporate profits (in these very same areas) with an effective reduction in "actual wages" everywhere else, would also have shaken us from our deep collective slumber?
Or maybe the fact that we have been led into yet another war for no defensible reasons and without either an exit strategy or a fighting plan -- a war whose justifications and rationale keeps changing with each increased attack from the terrorists as our national debt continues to soar -- would have shaken us out of our passivity.
While our government's response to the needs of the "rank-and-file" is increasingly non-existent, or completely ineffectual, and the "managerial class" continues to rob us blind as they laugh all the way to the bank; we are obsessed with the risk of breast implants, abortion rights, hanging the Ten Commandments in the public square, reality shows (that are anything but real), Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, and how to continue to win at the game of "Democrats and Republicans (or liberals and conservatives, or Blacks versus Whites, or males versus females, or pick your own senseless emotional dichotomy)."
But the very best evidence yet of our lack of consciousness and proof that our society is being thrown under the bus while we watch in horror with our eyes wide open, is when the most devastating critique of our own slothfulness is also the sanest, most compassionate and most eloquent.
Saul in this trenchant sanity check of the society that leads the Western World realizes that the time for vitriol and shouting has long since passed. That is why with eloquence, understated passion and with measured but devastating logic and reason (that quality he so distrusts), he has issued a broadside at the foundation stone of what ails our society most: Rampant and immoral Corporatism.
And even though in the end, his prescription for how we are to extricate ourselves from this dilemma is unconvincing, he has laid the necessary groundwork for serious thinking to begin. If "the people" in Western Democracies are ever to regain control of their minds, and then eventually their societies; Saul's ideas in this small volume must inevitably be contended with.
Saul is a modern secular prophet!, March 28, 1999
You can add the name John Ralston Saul to those of Noam Chomsky, Ivan Illich, Franz Fanon (and who else?) on your list of the key late 20th century 'global conspiracy theorists' - people who are visionary seers/prophets who have unorthodox views and make outrageous pronouncements on this and that, but with whom you have to broadly agree. Because they operate outside the conventions of fixed ideologies, they're able to see the broader picture, and see more deeply into the nature of things.
The Unconscious Civilization - the 1995 Massey Lectures - was written in an oral style by Canadian freelance intellectual, essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul.
His thesis is disarmingly simple: in the long line of history's totalitarianisms, we can now add undemocratic 'corporatism'.
Our society, he argues, is only superficially based on the individual and democracy.
The American Conservative
Off and on for about 20 years, I had the honor of working with the greatest military theorist America ever produced, Col. John Boyd, USAF. As a junior officer, Boyd developed the energy-management tactics now used by every fighter pilot in the world. Later, he influenced the designs of the F-15 and F-16, saving the former from becoming the turkey we are now buying in the F-35 and making the latter the best fighter aircraft on the planet. His magnum opus, a 12-hour briefing titled "Patterns of Conflict," remains a vast mine of military wisdom, one unlikely to be exhausted in this century.
Boyd is best known for coming up with the OODA Loop or Boyd Cycle. He posited that all conflict is composed of repeated, time-competitive cycles of observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. The most important element is orientation: whoever can orient more quickly to a rapidly changing situation acquires a decisive advantage because his slower opponent's actions are too late and therefore irrelevant-as he desperately seeks convergence, he gets ever increasing divergence. At some point, he realizes he can do nothing that works. That usually leads him either to panic or to give up, often while still physically largely intact.
The OODA Loop explains how and why Third Generation maneuver warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg method, works. It describes exactly what happened to the French in 1940, when Germany defeated what was considered the strongest army on earth in six weeks with only about 27,000 German dead, trifling casualties by World War I standards. The French actually had more and better tanks than the Germans.
It is also a partial explanation for our repeated defeats by Fourth Generation non-state entities. Our many layers of headquarters, large staffs, and centralized decision-making give us a slow OODA Loop compared to opponents whose small size and decentralized command enable a fast one. A Marine officer stationed with our counter-drug traffic effort in Bolivia told me the traffickers went through the Loop 12 times in the time it took us to go through it once. I mentioned that to Colonel Boyd, and he replied, "Then we're not even in the game."
Another of Boyd's contributions to military theory explains more of our failure in recent conflicts. To the traditional levels of war-tactical, operational, and strategic-Boyd added three new ones: physical, mental, and moral. It is useful to think of these as forming a nine-box grid, with tactical, operational, and strategic on one axis and physical, mental, and moral on the other. Our armed forces focus on the single box defined by tactical and physical, where we are vastly superior. But non-state forces focus on the strategic and the moral, where they are often stronger, in part because they represent David confronting Goliath. In war, a higher level trumps a lower, so our repeated victories at the tactical, physical level are negated by our enemies' successes on the strategic and moral levels, and we lose.
Boyd had a reservoir of comments he repeated regularly, one of which was, "A lot of people in Washington talk about strategy. Most of them can spell the word, but that's all they know of it." The establishment's insistence on an offensive grand strategy, where we attempt to force secular liberal democracy down the throats of every people on earth, is a major reason for our involvement and defeat in Fourth Generation conflicts. A defensive grand strategy, which is what this country followed successfully through most of its history, would permit us to fold our enemies back on themselves, something Boyd recommended. With us out of the picture, their internal fissures, such as those between Sunni and Shiites in the Islamic world, would become their focus. But as usual, Boyd was right: virtually no one in Washington can understand the advantages of a defensive grand strategy.
Being involved in every conflict on earth is useful if the real game is boosting the Pentagon's budget rather than serving our national interests. Here too Boyd had a favorite line. He often said, "It is not true the Pentagon has no strategy. It has a strategy, and once you understand what that strategy is, everything the Pentagon does makes sense. The strategy is, don't interrupt the money flow, add to it."
Perhaps Boyd's most frequently uttered warning was, "All closed systems collapse." Both our military and our policy-making civilian elite live in closed systems. Because Second Generation war reduces everything to putting firepower on targets, when we fail against Fourth Generation opponents, the military's only answer is to put more firepower on more targets. Ideas about other ways of waging war are ignored because they do not fit the closed Second Generation paradigm. Meanwhile, Washington cannot consider alternatives to our current foreign policy or grand strategy because anyone who proposes one is immediately exiled from the establishment, as was Boyd himself. It says something about our current condition that the greatest military theorist we ever produced retired as a colonel. At John's funeral in Arlington, which I attended, most of the people in uniform were junior Marine officers. His own service, the Air Force, was barely represented.
John's work was often elegant, but in person he was always the direct, and sometimes crude, fighter pilot. Boyd's favorite, inelegant phrase for defeating one of his many opponents in the Pentagon was "giving him the whole enchilada right up the poop chute." That is what history will shortly give this country if we continue to allow closed systems to lead us. Boyd's work, which is best summarized in Frans Osinga's book Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, could put us on a different course. But learning from Boyd would require open systems in Washington. Perhaps after the establishment collapses, Boyd can help us pick up the pieces.
William S. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook and director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.