21 July 2010

Ideological Intelligence

I caught a bit of Michael Krasny's program Forum on NPR as I was driving to work this morning and was appalled by the segment, The State of National Intelligence:

He interviewed two guests: John Arquilla, director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School, and Ray McGovern, veteran intelligence analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an alumni unit of intelligence officers seeking integrity in the profession. Together they gave the impression that a significant fraction of the Intelligence Community is like the majority of other folks who live in and around the Washington, D.C. Beltway. They're hard-over liberals.

Now it's great to be politically engaged. But there is a form of engagement on the part of both conservatives and liberals that I think is pathological enough to put in next issue of the psychologists' Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Political Attachment Disorder (PAD). These guys appear to have it.

They both agreed that the root cause of "Islamist" terrorism is American foreign policy, specifically, the use of Predator drones to kill terrorist leaders, and US support for Israel. The only other hypothesis they entertained was a straw man they constructed to represent all viewpoints other than their own: the idea that "drinking the water in Pakistan" turns one into a terrorist. Further, killing terrorist leaders was a "self-licking ice-cream cone," because it just made more people mad, which made them turn terrorist, which meant we could pay contractors to kill them with Predator strikes.

To me, this is a hallmark of PAD-L (Political Attachment Disorder - Liberal). The idea that the root causes of terrorism are much more complex, that these roots go back well over a hundred years, and that the terrorists have an agenda of their own independent of American foreign policy which includes annihilation of the American way of life - is an idea that cannot be discussed. It must be denied, papered over with, "It's not the water."

Now it is perhaps reassuring that we can contain and control Islamofacist terrorism merely by standing down our side of the conflict and throwing Israel under the bus. But it is a false idea. Giving the Islamofacists such a big and easy victory will only encourage them to continue and will actually help their recruiting efforts. It is also racist. It is as if they are saying, "Don't worry. The little brown people don't have their own plans. They are just reacting in an understandable way (however unkind and unthinking) to what we do."

Quite frankly, I respect the Islamofacists too much for that. They may delude themselves into idolatry and blasphemy against Allah, but they are not puppets of our policy. Rather they seek to control our policy and ultimately to destroy us.

A more detailed look into who the Islamofacists are, what they think, and why they think it is here.

But more important than the biases of two ex-members of the US Intelligence Community are the effects of the ideological and methodological divides in that community. The ideological divide is alluded to above. When part of the Intelligence Community is liberal and part conservative, and they are so hard over on their positions that they cannot understand or trust one another, they impair the functioning of the community as a whole. In many cases, the political divide may make it impossible to get an unbiased intelligence estimate, let alone a consensus intelligence estimate that says very much.

The methodological divide is almost as bad. Consider that the Civilian side produces intelligence estimates that are hoped to withstand the scrutiny of history. They are therefore meticulously researched, closely held for long periods of time and carefully hedged (which can sometimes make such estimates non-actionable). Military Intelligence, on the other hand is all about action. The battle is going to take place tomorrow, and we are going to use your estimate, or do without it. Therefore, the quality of your intelligence work is inversely proportional to its lateness. Do the best you can with the time and resources you have, but do it now. After tomorrow your work might be discarded or even declassified, because it no longer has value.

This creates a cultural divide in which the Military and Civilian Intelligence communities don't trust each other and are reluctant to share information. In particular, the Civilian side seems to act as if it views the Military Intelligence agencies as careless in their analyses and lax in their security. This in turn, frustrates the Military side of the house. Now, given that different, but complementary sources and methods may be used by the two sides of the house, any division of the house against itself may undermine its effectiveness.

This is where the Director of National Intelligence comes in. The DNI's job is (or should be) to enforce the "need to share" principle that enables information to be used, and to balance that principle against the "need to know" principle that enables information to be protected. It is not (or should not be) just another layer of bureaucracy.

I could be wrong. I'm not a member of the Intelligence Community. But I've been around.

20 July 2010

Why you are not a Jew

Some Haredi rabbis are grabbing for power in Israel. They are trying to expand the power they have to determine who is and who is not Jewish. This gives them control over who can get Jewish marriages, for example. See

The Diaspora Need Not Apply

Non-Jewish Until Proven Otherwise


You're Jewish - Prove It

I have news for the rabbis behind these naked, self-righteous, self-congratulatory, and bigoted power grabs, and their collaborators in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the Israeli Rabbinical Courts. You have all been cursed by the Blind Chihuahua.

Now these political moves (which may alienate Israel from the Diaspora, which itself is a monumentally bad idea) resemble the kind of power grabs in Christianity that were done at various times by the Papacy, the Inquisition, the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. Except that nobody is getting burned at the stake. Also the power struggle between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, except that nobody is getting ambushed and killed. So, we applaud the perpetrators of this abuse in Israel for keeping their violence restricted to the moral/psychological/spiritual domain, even while we disapprove of their ideas.

And what standing do I have to disapprove? None whatsoever in their eyes. I'm an American Jewish Christian. The kind of person regarded as a Jew by Jew-haters, but a non-Jew by Israeli Law.

10 July 2010

Space, the Final Frontier

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has stated that his "foremost" mission is to achieve better relations with the Muslim world. Gosh, I thought it was space exploration. Silly me.