Comments Posted By andy
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Tell, me how many Democrats think we can achieve an end-state in this conflict that at least partially meets the criteria laid out by GWB? Practically none. The rhetoric of the Democratic party is that we have already lost. That's borne out by the fact that the Democrats have ZERO alternatives for an alternative end-state or really any viable alternative plan to Bush's surge. Oh wait, they do have an alternative - it's called "Strategic redeployment" which basically means withdrawal. You don't think it's ironic that Murtha is not even willing to bring the "strategic redeployment" plan that he wrote up for a binding vote?

So, if you think the war is lost and you think the current plan will not work (and in fact make things worse, which is what some have charged) and you have no alternative plan and you have not even discussed alternative end-states, then what is the moral policy option? End the war as soon as possible, which is basically what the Democrats want. The problem is, the Democrats, even Murtha, realize such a motion would be political suicide - even you can admit that. This non-binding resolution is so obviously based in political expediency it's sickening.

I would have much more respect for the Democrats if they voted on a binding resolution, or offered an alternative - either in strategy or goal. If the non-binding resolution had basically stated, "Mr. President, we don't think you're doing a good job in Iraq and if you are unable to improve the situation in a years time, we intend to consider defunding the conflict to hasten its end" I could respect it.

But this resolution is the worst possible outcome. It hurts (some would say torpedoes) the President's current surge strategy before it even starts (and the Democrats are not willing to admit that the increased level of troops is only a part of what's changed. The actions our troops will take on the ground are significantly different than what's occurred over the past year). Consider what it says about to the troops in combat. In essence, it says that what you're doing is hopeless and pointless. How do you think that makes troops on dangerous and deadly missions feel? It must be comforting to them to know that if they die the majority party thinks it will be in vain but is willing to do nothing substantive to prevent it.

Sorry, but no matter how you look at it, it's a cold, politically calculated move. And the "complex reality of the war" you talk about is bullshit. Yes the war is very complex, but the essential political question is not.

Comment Posted By Andy On 15.02.2007 @ 13:37


Not sure I agree with everything here.

The show basically shows torture as a an expedient and effective method to gain information. While I would agree that professional interrogators who interrogate full time would not be swayed by the show, soldiers in lower echelon's might be. Often, at the point of capture, a detainee will be subject to tactical interrogation by personnel who aren't as well trained as the primary interrogators are. These are sometimes called field interrogations. You can imagine a unit that has just lost soldiers to an IED and they capture the trigger man. The QRF is inbound and they need to know quickly if there are other IEDs. In the chaos of the battlefield where emotions are high and the risk is great, even well-trained soldiers can make mistakes in judgment and choose what they view as the best, most expedient method. Not saying that it happens frequently, but I'm sure it does. Our training has improved greatly at all levels since the war began when it became obvious we had a serious training deficiency service-wide.

So while I agree that the depictions in the show do not have a large effect, I think it's equally silly to say they have no effect at all.

Secondly, I agree with Finnegan that portraying Jack so cool, calm, deliberate and methodical in his torture scenes validates it more in the mind of views. If he was a raving maniac then viewers, imo, would be more likely to see him as flawed and deranged. But jack often makes it look as if he's "just doing a job" which gives a sense of normalcy, at least to me.

To the unprofessional, unschooled, or layman, I think TV depictions have a great effect. I can use television and movie depictions of intelligence capabilities as an example. I had people in the military, not intelligence professionals, but operators, who would ask me why his mission didn't have 24 hour full-motion video satellite coverage. I had to give him a basic lesson in orbital physics and why it was impossible for a satellite to hover over California. I've had dozens of similar situations during my time in, and those were military people, who have a better understanding of intelligence support to military operations than an uninitiated civilian would. This effect carries over into blogs when I read people who have no idea what they're talking about call the intelligence community incompetent because they don't agent penetrations at every level in Iran or North Korea. It's frustrating, but understandable since intelligence work on TV is always portrayed as just a simple matter of sending in a super agent, or pulling up the information on a computer screen.

So I have to admit I don't watch the show anymore. As someone who knows what real intelligence work entails, it's frustrating to watch your profession portrayed in such an unrealistic manner. Some of my friends who are former SEALS feel the same way about the awful Charlie Sheen movie "Navy SEALS" among others. Hollywood is getting better though, "Blackhawk down" while not perfect, was pretty good.

Comment Posted By Andy On 10.02.2007 @ 11:14


"They feel betray more by some journalist than they do by the administration who put them in harms way in such a mendacious and careless manner?"

Yes they do, isn't that obvious based on the reaction? Why do you think that people in the military don't blame the administration for their friend's deaths? I'll leave it to you to figure out the true answer to both questions, but Arkin's claim that it's because we we're all essentially brainwashed, stupid or blindly loyal is not it. Here's a clue for you though: Military people are mission and success oriented.

Most in the military would disagree with your characterization of "mendacious and careless" as well.

Comment Posted By Andy On 2.02.2007 @ 19:45

Thank you Rick for your words and link to John's post at Op-for. Like many veterans, I'm still speechless at the sheer ignorant audacity of Arkin's post and John expresses my feelings very well. To see that such ignorance comes from someone who actually did serve in the military is particularly troubling. I can't really say anymore as I'm still seething. I lost a friend in this war, but I don't think even I'm able to fathom the feeling of betrayal and rage Arkin's comments have engendered in those who've seen themselves and friends bloodied and broken in front of their own eyes.

Comment Posted By Andy On 1.02.2007 @ 22:22


Just to add to what Drongo said, 90% or so of Iran's oil exports are shipped from the Kharq Island oil terminal in the northern Persian Gulf. That could easily be destroyed, but such an act would be an open act of warfare and lead to a cascade of escalation and bloody conflict.

Put yourself in Iran's shoes - if a country came along and destroyed our capacity to produce a large portion of our GDP, then you can bet your ass we'd be goin to war. You can bet that doing the same to Iran would have the opposite of the intended effect on the Iranian people. They'd be pissed at the US and justifiably so as such an attack would significantly affect their basic economic livelihood.

Comment Posted By Andy On 31.01.2007 @ 17:17


Interesting post, as always. It seems to me that containment is the default policy that carries the fewest foreseeable downsides. Of the three obvious choices, it is the least unpalatable.

I think your comparison to Eastern Europe is particularly interesting, though obviously there are significant differences between the Cold War environment and our relationship with Iran.

I've actually been doing quite a bit of reading on coercion and influence theory of late and recently ran across this Rand report:

Although geared toward terrorism, it has some applicability to influence campaigns in general. One of the case studies the report discusses is our support to the Polish Underground during the Cold War. A quote:

Instead of relying exclusively on external messages produced by media outlets, such as the Voice of America, the U.S. government also provided support to local, clandestine, dissident media enterprises—termed samizdat. One of these enterprises was the Polish Underground, which printed dissident books, newspapers, and pamphlets off small presses hidden throughout urban areas. By supporting the samizdat, the U.S. government could advance its anticommunist message without the liability of the message being perceived as coming from an untrustworthy outsider.

It's difficult to see how the US could coordinate something similar inside Iran without an official presence (like an embassy) though. Still, influence and coercion theory can provide some ideas and methods to exploit Iran's political, economic and social weaknesses. Sadly, the Bush Administration's policy toward Iran has been pretty one-dimensional with the exception of the EU-3. It should be obvious that simple threats will not cause policy changes inside Iran.

Comment Posted By Andy On 31.01.2007 @ 14:04


OMG! 1954! You're old!

Just kidding!

Happy Birthday Rick!

Comment Posted By Andy On 25.01.2007 @ 11:05



If you read this site at all for the last year, you'd probably know that I'm a former member of the intelligence community. I don't know how or why you make the jump from Iran's program to Iraq's, but you seem to point out that since the Intelligence Community (which is much, much, much more than just the CIA) was wrong on Iraq then they must be wrong on Iran as well. Intelligence, by its very nature, is inexact and is perceived to have a rate of inaccuracy that is uncomfortably high. Given the fact that intelligence failures are more often made public and bandied about than successes are, it's not surprising that the general public gets the impression that the IC is purposely biased or incompetent or both.

In the intelligence world there is an important distinction between evidence and proof. Rarely is an analyst afforded the latter, so judgments are made on incomplete, contradictory and even inaccurate evidence. Often, intelligence analysts have to make judgments but are careful to caveat what we do and don't know. Unfortunately, policy people (like Presidents)view such nuance as simply CYA by the IC. Policy people, naturally, want perfect information and a black-and-white answer on questions like whether a nation has WMD's or not. They are continually frustrated when the IC cannot answer a question definitively.

Iraq was a classic case of this conflict that I'm sure will be studied by intelligence professionals for years to come, but the problems with Iraqi WMD intelligence go way beyond policy-intel squabbles. A combination of factors led to the mistaken judgment that Iraq had current stockpiles of WMD's which I'll briefly cover in a minute. What is certain is that Iraq did have WMD programs. There is an important distinction there. People like you are always quick to point to the lack of actual weapons but conveniently ignore that Iraq's programs were in hibernation and the regime had every intent of reconstituting them once sanctions were lifted. The argument over capability vs actual weapons is an important one and is an issue that applies to Iran as well.

Once the regime fell, you may remember there was a lot of confusion throughout 2003 about what happened to the WMD's. It took us so long to find the truth because the Iraqi's didn't know for sure either. In fact, in interviews with senior Iraqi military and government officials after the war, most believed that Iraq probably did have weapons and some were surprised we did not find them. I'd encourage you to read the entire Iraqi Perspectives Project report ( as it provides a very clear pictures of the regime's inner workings as well as explains the conflicting evidence on Iraqi WMD's. Although I can't provide direct quotes here since the PDF won't allow you to copy-and-paste text, read pages 91-95. That provides the best explanation for why the IC made the misjudgments it did. Looking back on it now, it's difficult to see how analysts could have come to any other conclusion. Where the IC did make a mistake was regarding the certainty of WMD's. The "slam dunk" comment is a case-in-point. No professional intelligence analyst would every say such a thing. Tenet was never a professionally trained analyst, just look at his biography. He's a policy/politics guy, not an analyst.

In any event, the discussion on this post is about Iran, not Iraq. Let's talk about that evidence vs proof thing for a minute. Iran has a proven nuclear program. There is a lot of evidence they desire and are working toward a nuclear weapon capability. Can that be proved? No, and it's unlikely it will be. A "Zimmermann telegram" level of intelligence confirmation is unlikely. So, we have to make a judgment based on the evidence. Right now none of the evidence is incontrovertible, but taken as a whole, I think it's reasonable to posit that Iran does have the desire to either have weapons or the capability to weaponize in a short amount of time. Want to see some of that evidence? Take a look at the unresolved issues in the IAEA's latest report ( Why is Iran building the reactor at Arak? ( Why is Iran neglecting it's energy sector, which could provide energy independence long before nuclear will, while spending billions on nuclear infrastructure? Why is Iran putting most of its money in it's nuclear program into the fuel production cycle and not reactors. The Iranians will have poured billions into an extensive fuel production capability in order to fuel one reactor - Bushehr. The Iranians have plans for additional reactors but no agreements have been signed to say nothing of breaking ground. This situation is akin to me buying my own refinery and gas station in order to keep my Honda fueled. Logically, if the Iranians were so desperate for nuclear energy, they'd spend their money on reactors first and buy the fuel on the open market and THEN develop a fuel infrastructure. They're doing it ass-backwards. Why?

I could go on and on. The Iranian deception and obfuscation about their activities are legendary. We have Libya and Khaddafi to thank for disclosing the AQ Khan program and Iran's clandestine activities.

In short, the circumstantial evidence is compelling but not conclusive. It's compelling enough for even France to take action, even if it's only diplomatic. That says something. So what's your answer Jonathan besides cheap potshots?

Comment Posted By Andy On 13.01.2007 @ 16:20


In addition to the problems you cite, the Iranian's have not yet demonstrated the capability to make the cascade feedstock (Uranium Hexafluoride gas (UF6)) sufficiently pure. The stock the Iranians successfully fed into their 164 centrifuge cascade was high-quality Chinese stock imported a few years ago. They have a limited amount of Chinese stock since we successfully pressured the Chinese not to give them anymore. The Iranian feed stock contains impurities which cause cascade crashes. In fact, after the successful test using the Chinese feed stock, the Iranians tried some of their own and partially crashed the cascade.

The reason purity is so critical is that centrifuges spin at about 80-100k RPM, or about 10 times faster than a hard disk drive. At those speeds, even a small level of impurity in the stock will throw the centrifuges (which are 3-6ft in length) out of balance and then BAD things happen.

Until the Iranian's resolve their UF6 purity issues, they'd be fools to feed anymore of their stock into any cascade, clandestine or otherwise. I haven't seen any info on how Iran is progressing with this problem in the last few months, but I haven't looked all that hard either.

And like you say, the Iranians have other technical hurdles to surmount - probably ones they don't even know about yet. That is one reason why the IC's estimates are longer than figures commonly cited by the "attack Iran now" crowd. It could be 3 years if everything goes perfectly. What are the chances of that happening? This is the same problem with the IC's ballistic missile capability assessments back in the mid-1990's. They were roundly criticized by the "neocons," including Rumsfeld, but it turns out the IC had it right all along.

Comment Posted By Andy On 12.01.2007 @ 17:43


I'm no great lover of GWB, but the strain of the office is unmistakable. Some of the people here who spew such hatred at the man I bet would be ecstatic if he dropped dead from the strain. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it - President Dick Cheney.

I actually met GWB about a year ago and I was shocked to see him in person. He looked so much older and more tired than he looks on TV (also shorter, btw). He shook my hand, made a nice comment about my kids and moved on. They say the office ages people, and with respect to GWB, I don't think there's any doubt.

Whatever one can say about the policies and mistakes of the Bush administration, I've always felt that he was a true believer in what he was doing. Unlike Clinton, who's policies seemed to shift with the tides, Bush has never been afraid to go for what he believes in. Tossing out the ISG report and going with his own plan is but one example. Even though it's bitten him in the ass many times, I can respect that kind of attitude because at least it's clear where he stands unlike the typical politician who has conflicting talking points depending on the audience or they shift their views to whatever will get them elected. The other side of that coin is that I believe he really does personally feel the impact of the mistakes he's made. The tear in that picture is genuine in my view.

Comment Posted By Andy On 12.01.2007 @ 14:51

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