Friday, August 01, 2003


Interesting comments from a recently retired USAF officer on the nature of the Defense Department under Secretary Rumsfeld.

Some of it isn't pretty.
If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of "intelligence" found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the office of the secretary of defense. I can identify three prevailing themes.

• Functional isolation of the professional corps. Civil service and active-duty military professionals were noticeably uninvolved in key areas of interest to Under Secretary for Policy Douglas Feith, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. In terms of Israel and Iraq, all primary staff work was conducted by political appointees. These personnel may be exceptionally qualified. But the human resource depth made possible through broad-based teamwork with the professional policy and intelligence corps was never established and apparently never wanted.

• Cross-agency cliques: Much has been written about the role of the founding members of the Project for a New American Century, the Center for Security Policy and the American Enterprise Institute and their new positions in the Bush administration. Certainly, appointees sharing particular viewpoints are expected to congregate, and that an overwhelming number of these appointees have such organizational ties is neither conspiratorial nor unusual. What is unusual is the way this network operates solely with its membership across the various agencies -- in particular the State Department, the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President.

I personally witnessed several cases of staff officers being told not to contact their counterparts at State or the National Security Council because that particular decision would be processed through a different channel.

• Groupthink. Defined as "reasoning or decision-making by a group, often characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view," groupthink was, and probably remains, the predominant characteristic of Pentagon Middle East policy development. The result of groupthink is the elevation of opinion into a kind of accepted "fact," and uncritical acceptance of extremely narrow and isolated points of view.

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