Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘Turf Wars’ Category

Generals in the Political Mine Field

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars on January 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm

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The general nodded absently, as if dismissing his driver. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. This was just getting better by the moment. It was precisely the kind of “serendipitous yet decisive axis of intersecting strategic forces” for which he had long prepared and on the foundation of which he had fashioned his ascent and tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a tenure that was going quite well among his old conservative friends on the Hill. There had been some idle talk of his running for very high office, talk that he had, of course, squelched, and yet at the same time not squelched. No military man could engage in politics, or at least give the appearance of engaging in politics. Many star-studded forebears of his had stepped on career-fatal landmines walking that walk too early and too visibly.

“In two words,” he replied to such hints, exactly as he had also often explained his high national security concept to the Pentagon’s bewitched civilian overseers in Congress. “Be prepared. Simply, be prepared.”

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

It’s not that generals don’t, or perhaps even shouldn’t, get involved in politics. But timing and the right touch are everything.

My fictional General Raymond (Ray) Sanders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose thoughts are illuminated in the above quote from the novel, understands that. Too soon, too obvious, too disrespectful of civilian authority and a general’s political future gets blown up. A bit of patience, a bit of reluctance, and his political star rises.

General Douglas MacArthur tried to have his cake and eat it too in 1948. Rather than resign from the Army, where he was riding high as a hero, and campaign for the Presidency, he played an “if nominated, I will shall run” strategy. He got only crumbs. Thomas E. Dewey got the nomination.

A few years later, MacArthur again blew it while he was in command of the Korean War. He ignored an order from President Harry S. Truman to stop undermining Truman’s strategy by communicating his private wisdom to the Congress. When some of that wisdom was read on the floor of the House, Truman sacked MacArthur, later explaining:

I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.

Lock them up?

MacArthur’s peer and professional rival General Dwight David Eisenhower played the game better–calmly, coolly, and with poise. “Ike” sailed into the White House.

Here in an excerpt from the thoughts of a prominent military scholar on the subject of generals in politics:

The 20th century also witnessed its share of generals vying for the political spotlight. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, hero of the Southwest Pacific campaign in World War II and Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, made no secret of his desire to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1948. He made no headway in the primaries, however, garnering only 11 delegates. The nomination went to Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

Another war hero, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, was still in uniform when he was drafted to run for president as a Republican in 1952, but he retired before accepting the nomination. Ike went on to become a popular two-term president.

Several other general and flag officers have run for president or vice-president since then, but they have all done so as retirees: General Curtis Lemay (vice presidential candidate with Governor George Wallace of Alabama) in 1968, General Alexander Haig (candidate for the Republican nomination) in 1988, Vice Admiral James Stockdale (vice presidential candidate with Ross Perot) in 1992, and General Wesley Clark (candidate for the Democratic nomination) in 2004.

With this long list of senior military leaders competing in the political arena, does the military actually have a tradition of being “apolitical?” If it does, it can be traced back to several prominent military figures, among them General George Washington, General of the Army General William T. Sherman, hero of the Civil War and originator of the “Shermanesque” statement categorically declining consideration for public office, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II. Marshall refused to even vote for fear of compromising his “professional independence and judgment.”

“Generals And Politics,”by Peter R. Mansoor, August 8, 2016

Read about the rest of General Sanders’ political career in Cronatos Hybamper, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

 

 

The Most Intelligent Men in the Washington Play Pen. Or Not.

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

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“Our biggest challenge with implementing the Cronatos system,” Wes McRae, the Director of National Intelligence, quipped at a seemingly casual but well-planned off-the-record moment in a joint briefing that he and the Secretary of Defense gave on Capitol Hill, “Was separating out the workers’ farts from the chemical leaks at the Russian’s special warfare facilities.”

McRae was the iron-fisted paterfamilias of the intelligence community, a giant man with bushy eyebrows and an unflinching gaze. He was given to good wine, fine cigars, black cowboy boots, and the classics of literature and music. Although the DNI post had once been little more than royal eunuch and far less than godfather, Wes McRae had changed that. He had clawed his way to the top of the heap and had the requisite skills—the ability to ruthlessly kick or exquisitely kiss ass, as the strategic moment demanded—to enforce his will through fear, favor, and tactical brown-nosing. As long as half of the secret world loved him and half hated him, he was happy, because he then always had the deciding vote. Lesser aspirants came to learn the pleasures of life in such posts as outer Bolivia, deep Minnesota, and anywhere in Chad.

No one had ever proven that Wes McRae had leaked a single syllable about any elected or appointed member of the civilian government. Everyone, the President included, knew that he could. No one wanted to find out if he would.

The second was a portly, balding man in a dark gray pinstripe suit. He was Manfrey J. Ferbe, director of the CIA. Ferbe held an office that once commanded the heights of the intelligence world, and from those heights a great deal of America’s foreign policy. No one but the President of the United States told the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency what to do or when to do it.

That was true until Wes McRae was appointed to the theoretically higher post of Director of National Intelligence, charged with coordinating the work of all of the intelligence agencies. Generations of CIA directors had just ignored any nominal superior, including the DNI. But McRae succeeded where previous DNIs had failed. He wrestled the agency into limping submission to his superior authority as top dog of everything that even hinted at intelligence.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

If you write a novel that touches on the geopolitics of the United States, it’s fun to feature the preening cuckoos at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The two excerpts above reflect the struggle between the Director of National Intelligence and the subordinate agencies.

Well, daggone it! No sooner did I write Cronatos Hybamper than a wee-wee match broke out in the real world spook play pen. Guess I was ahead of the curve.

[Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn] … has called President Obama a “liar,” declared the U.S. justice system “corrupt” and insisted that he was pushed out of his assignment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his views on radical Islam. The claim has left former superiors seething, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to current and former officials who said Flynn was removed because of management problems.

Dana Priest and Greg Miller, “He was one of the most respected intel officers of his generation. Now he’s leading ‘Lock her up’ chants,” The Washington Post, August 15,2016.

You can read the rest of the future here.

L’État est-nous

In Corruption, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Obama, Political Satire, politics, Putin, Russia, The So-called "News Media", Trump, Turf Wars, Washington Bureaucracy on December 25, 2016 at 9:35 pm

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Only hours before the dawn of Inauguration Day, a terrorist’s bomb exploded. It was concealed deep within the freshly landscaped and re-turfed lawn of the most-sought after garden party of the entire inaugural season. The blast murdered the President-elect, his wife, and a fair number of functionaries, auxiliaries, hangers-on, media stars, waitpersons, passersby, and other ordinary innocents who had the misfortune to be within 50 yards of the massive infernal device at the terrible moment that it exploded. Secondary explosions from an elaborate outdoor heating apparatus—installed for the celebratory event (cleverly themed “Ain’t It Just a Beach?”)—unfortunately added greatly to the carnage and impeded rescue efforts.

There were surprisingly few of the usual calls from Congressional leaders for an oversight investigation into the U.S. Secret Service, which was responsible for protecting the President-elect, or the CIA, which is responsible for knowing what’s up in the world. Some observers attributed this lack of interest to the fact that it was not yet clear which of the limping, internally fractured political parties would benefit from such an abrasive drumhead inquiry. Others pointed out that there was no need to rush. The campaign was over. Politics was not. Neither the Secret Service nor the CIA were going anywhere. Fault for the terror attack could be determined and blame apportioned later, at a moment more propitious to one or the other (or conceivably even both) political parties.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident

By Tom Diaz

Every empire has its metropole, its seat of power, culture, and correct reason. Paris. Moscow. Rome. The Vatican City. Washington, D.C.

The Metropolitan state of mind betrays itself in an insular universe of small things, The curled lip. The condescending smile. The shared outrage at the audacity of non-conformity, at the cheeky impudence of the rustic, bark-covered thought. The incorrect thought today is as shocking and repulsive as the wrong spoon at the table of Louis XV.

In short, “the State is us.”

Or, “them,” depending on where one stands.

In times past, the metropolitan cultural and intellectual hive consisted principally of royalty, attendant nobility, a priestly class, and symbiotic entrepreneurs who simultaneously sucked at the royal teat and fed the monarchy its royal jelly.

Royalty today does not look much the way it did in, say, the 19th century. Where it proclaims itself to be royalty today it is in fact a sad, faded, perpetual dress-up costume party thrown at the considerable expense of the tax-paying, besotted commoners–see, e.g., Britain, Spain, and so forth. Where it pretends not to be royalty, it is often every bit as ruthless and arbitrary as Catherine the Great, George III, or The Sun King. Their majesties simply do not wear party dress costumes, or, if they do, they are tailored in a simpler way, and they more often wear sunglasses (see, e.g., any recent Chinese Premier).

Admittedly, there is still a vast difference between the iron-fisted rule of Putin’s “men of steel” and Barack Hussein Obama’s rule by fiat (executive order) and UN resolution.

But what both the Russian and American–indeed all–empires have in common is the Establishment, the apparatchiks, the bureaucratic careerists, and the careerist politicians. The “leaders” of the Congress, the lobbyists, the media-in-residence, and the captains of the military-industrial complex, who are still busy teat-sucking and jelly-feeding.

Every now and then, the climate changes, a horrific storm sweeps the Metropole. This sets up a horrible screeching sound as the incumbent hive rallies to protect its honey and the invading killer bees storm in to seize and loot the inner cells. A Putin or a Trump ascends to the throne.

All would appear, superficially, to be lost. But the hive will settle down. Drones will switch sides without apparent effort. Leaders will strike compromises with former evil–this is after all how they survived politics long enough to become “leaders.” The rabble with the pitchforks will eventually tire of it all and go home.

The Metropole will return to Normalcy. Or “Greatness,” depending on where you stand.

Putting aside the fancy dress of plot, this is what Cronatos Hybamper is about.

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