Friday, August 24, 2007


Tigerhawk examines a STRATFOR analysis of CIA failures especially during the Tenet era, selecting this quote: "over the years, the CIA had become driven by process ... getting the wrong answer became tolerable at the CIA, so long as the process was followed. Getting the right answer was unacceptable if it did not follow the process," and adds "that sounds right to me, in part because it precisely reflects my experience in business." And the reason process is so important is that is necessary to assign accountability and reduce risk.

The Sarbanes-Oxley law and other contemporary influences have essentially required American business to elevate the importance of process in virtually everything it does. While the smart people who promote the rule of process say that it ought not interfere with creativity or the taking of risk, the ugly truth is that very few employees are capable of slavish devotion to process, on the one hand, and inspired creativity within the process, on the other. The result is that our large companies are losing the benefit of ineffable intuition and sheer gut judgment at any level below the very top.

Steven Pressfield in his fictional re-creation of the campaigns of Alexander against Darius repeatedly re-examines the question of how it was possible for Alexander's numerically weaker forces to destroy the vast, successful and highly regarded Achaemenid Empire. The Persians, contrary to their depiction in the movies, were neither stupid nor incompetent. On the contrary, they had highly developed systems designed to manage a vast empire. That was the trouble. Alexander's key advantage was that he was unconstrained by any process that did not serve his strategic ends, while the Achaemenids, on the other hand, had traditions to uphold, key constituencies that had to be satisfied: they were bound to a process regardless of its consequences. The routine was an end in itself, as Tigerhawk further quotes:

The CIA under George Tenet didn't search for a strategy for defeating al Qaeda. It didn't take apart al Qaeda, identify its weak point and systematically attack it. Rather it tried to create a process for dealing with terrorism. In trying to build a replicable, definable process, it failed to understand its enemy and therefore never created a strategy.

The importance of staying within bounds is highlighted by a Pajamas Media video discussion between the New York Sun's Eli Lake and New Republic senior editor Michelle Cottle. Both Lake and Cottle attempt to gauge the political damage Senator Hillary Clinton may have caused herself by suggesting that the Iraqi Surge might be partially succeeding. The actual truth or falsity of Clinton's statement was far less important than whether she was contradicting herself or said something which angered a key constituency. As STRATFOR put it, "getting the wrong answer became tolerable ... so long as the process was followed. Getting the right answer was unacceptable if it did not follow the process." You were satisfied as long as the ticket was correctly punched. Never mind if the ticket took you straight to hell.

Of course al-Qaeda, like anyone else who reads the papers, is aware of the process ruts in Washington and probably plan their actions "outside the box". A focus on process, with its emphasis on accountability and predictability, can create a disincentive to throw away the book. This contributes to stability but only until someone comes along capable of ripping up the whole rulebook.


Blogger Johnny said...

Funny you should mention the constraints of "Process", Wretchard.

I was just today describing to a government contractor the ritualistic chain of approvals and documentation I must collect and prepare in order to formalize a minor modification. Mission requirements practically dictate the subversion of regulatory processes in order to avoid spending weeks trying to satisfy them.

Or should I say that regulatory requirements practically dictate the subversion of mission requirements in the "Process" of trying to satisfying them.

8/24/2007 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Just now Hillary is taking a beating from the left wing for suggesting that a terrorist attack might politically benefit the Republicans. One site said "stop it! stop it! stop suggesting that Republicans are better at national security than Democrats! stop it!" Another waxed indignant at the implication, as they saw it, that the Democrats didn't have a strategy for fighting terrorism. It's as if saying it can't be said makes it so; like expecting the procedure to have certain outcomes simply because it's the procedure.

It's the characteristic of every algorithm to get to some places but not to others. And people often forget that fact.

Of course you can find similar examples of inflexibility among conservatives. Their road must always lead to the good even though it sometimes manifestly goes right over the cliff. Sometimes watching politics in Washington is like looking a model train tableau with a station that will never be reached simply because the tracks never go past there. But beware the signboard. Because some people are going to wait for the model train to pass that station forever just because it's listed as a destination.

8/24/2007 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Take a look at Motorola. It invented six sigma but the company is dying on the vine. Process has its place but one always has to keep his eye on the goal.

In his book Robert Baer talks about the failures of the CIA. I don't think it's process per se but a basic ass-covering mentality that took over the agency. Risk-taking, which is really a requirement in that business, became a liability. In part it was because of congressional oversight and the desire of the agency not be seen to make mistakes. Part of it was that when agents were in the field their buddies back at langley were moving up the ladder without them.

It's a sad thing.

8/24/2007 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

"And the reason process is so important is that is necessary to assign accountability and reduce risk."

When process is correctly followed, but has a bad result, this statement remains true only in a perverse way. Nobody is accountable and career risk is indeed reduced. By rights, the developers of the failed process should be held accountable. In government bureaucracies that never happens -- the process developers conduct the "lessons learned" post-mortem and find themselves blameless.

8/24/2007 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

One of the best war movies of all time is, IMHO, "Kelly's Heroes" starring Clint Eastwood. An American Sargent learns about a fortune in gold bullion in a bank behind German lines. In going for the gold, the American soldiers become unstoppable because they are totally unconstrained by the need to go through proper "channels".

Compare that to the situation in Iraq, where each time a soldier discharges his weapon he has to file a ream of paperwork.

8/24/2007 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

Too bad life doesn't unfold according to any formal set of recognizable rules. When does theory ever coincide with praxis? Kelly's Heroes is a great analogy for Wretchard's posting 'cause it accurately reflects the cynicism of the election process within the respective parties. Self interest trumps morality every time.

8/24/2007 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

This is such a delightful post.

So many people in one place who can "see" this error which raises the possibility that a solution is possible.

But then, many people see the problem and nothing is done, and yea, it is upon examination for real, discovered it is impossible to fix it.

The entire system must be bypassed or torn down and trashed because the system is the problem. People have to risk their entire careers just to do the simplest of right things.

Benjamin Franklin when questioned about what type of government they had fashioned, replied, (appox.) a Constitutional Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.

Make no mistake about it. Our system is being challenged like never before. The waves of the sea are crashing against us from many different directions at once. They want to sweep over us all in the name of progress.

I pray that we can keep it. Not by our own strength but by relieing on the One who is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him, until that day.

8/24/2007 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The deeper question, Wretchard is WHY process and "accountability" and risk aversion became part and parcel of the Left?

When did RISK become a dirty word for them?

I would suggest this happened when the Left had power, wealth, and sought to above all protect that power and wealth.

Risk aversion, like everything else carried to extremes, is a risk.

It's also of course something you'll see when women have a large share of influence. Women are far more risk-averse than men, for obvious and well founded reasons.

That conservatives or the Right are marginally more willing to roll the dice ought to tell you something. Is "freedom just another word for nothing left to lose?" Or is the Right, less dominated by women, therefore more risk-friendly?

8/24/2007 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

"We Have Met the Enemy, Again
What the Deutsche Bank building tells us about what's wrong with America," by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, August 23, 2007

... It's about New York surely, but the inability to get this building down stands as a broader rebuke to a country that has become so comfortable with indulging its countless legal, personal, political and administrative obsessions that it cannot protect its own people by doing the obvious.

You surely recall what the 9/11 Commission said about the problems that led to that day, and before that the Bremer commission's report on terrorism predicting that the U.S. was at risk for precisely the same reasons--an American system engulfed in proceduralism and legalism. And loving it. That's right, loving it. Our public officials and the attendant factions and community groups are so far gone into their never-never lands of crossing "t's" and dotting "i's" that they barely know how to bring an issue to resolution. In their world, it's never over. Process is life.


The details of this public-policy morass are no exception in the post-9/11 world. They are the norm. The hyper-complex requirements and mindset reflected in the public record over 130 Liberty St. mirror the endless debate and litigation we've also layered into efforts to surveil and prosecute terrorists.

Yes, partisanship plays its part, but intellectual hubris and self-regard plays a larger part. We've got a society that's smarter than ever, but maybe too smart for its own good. Whether the problem before us is national security, the environment or protecting baby, we compulsively drive the system now to develop the most exquisite, complex procedures, which allow us to think ourselves both perfectly safe and ethically perfect.

Procedural perfectionism has been raised to religious status. Normal people now think like lawyers, bureaucrats and administrators, rather than as in the techworld, where the culture values fast mid-course corrections and can-do.

One may ask: The political and commercial forces that produced stasis for 130 Liberty St. may outwardly mourn the deaths. But would any of them pull back from their obsessions now to get the building down fast? I doubt it.

We have met the enemy, and he is still us.

8/24/2007 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

I wrote this a while ago:

The CIA has old horse race bettor’s problem. The odds-on favorite to win is most likely to win and least likely to make you money. The way to make money is to bet against the crowd, but only when you are actually smarter than they are. The same is true in the stock market.

Politicians (now there is a group of outside-the-box-thinkers) are blaming the CIA for overestimating Saddam Hussein and for underestimating Osama. The CIA is like the crowd at the track. They pick the favorites. AND NO CONCEIVABLE GOVERNMENTAL BUREAUCRACY WILL EVER BE ANY DIFFERENT.

Neither more bureaucracy in the form of cabinet level officers, nor gimmicks like prediction markets, will solve the CIA problem. They can broaden the consensus, but it will still be a consensus. Case in point. The CIA consistently overestimated the economic and military strength of the Soviet Union. The only experts who saw a chink in the Soviet armor were demographers Murray Feshbach and Nicholas Eberstadt.

Cassandra was always right and no one ever believed her. If Cassandra had access to the NYSE, she could have retired rich, but she will never alter the consensus, which she will always oppose. Furthermore, the CIA or any similar bureaucracy will always spit her out because she opposes the consensus ("She is just not a team player").

There you have it, a problem, not a solution. A contradiction in terms, a logical impossibility.

8/24/2007 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger Words Twice said...

“the process developers conduct the "lessons learned" post-mortem and find themselves blameless.”

“WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An internal review of the actions Virginia Tech took in the hours after student Seung-Hui Cho's April shooting spree makes suggestions to boost security but assigns no blame for the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.”

“…the American soldiers become unstoppable because they are totally unconstrained by the need to go through proper "channels"

When I was in Iraq, my guys routinely ignored or found ways to circumvent asinine directives from higher headquarters (to the extent that it was possible). The result was that we had the highest success rate of any of our peers (we were even summoned to HQ to be congratulated personally). If headquarters knew what we did in order to achieve that, they would probably have a damned heart attack.

“Compare that to the situation in Iraq, where each time a soldier discharges his weapon he has to file a ream of paperwork.”

One of the reasons I decided to leave the military after 15 years was the slavish devotion to the process. The leadership keeps spouting catchphrases like “thinking outside the box” and “the strategic corporal”, but it’s just talk. Many of them even believe their own bullshit. It is more like a corporation than a warfighting machine.

These days, the our military likes to prosecute their warfighters for engaging in war. Not only is this damaging to morale, but the enemy has TTPs designed to exploit that. This is a good example of "process".

A big part of the problem is the inherent nature of the military. It does not respond well to suggestions from below, nor is it particularly innovative. They like to re-invent the wheel. They like to shoot the messenger. My belief is that this is rooted in the beloved core of reactionary military tradition that colors all their thinking.

“When did RISK become a dirty word for them?”

When I saw “Operational Risk Management” seeping into the planning process for every damned thing, I knew we were screwed. It is the antithesis of a combat mindset.

8/25/2007 02:01:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

What is it we have to do?

How do we do it?

When does it have to be done by?

What are our resources?

What are our constraints?

How will we know we are successful?

That's all the process you need.

Now, Let's Roll!

8/25/2007 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger sbw said...

Wretchard, you head toward the correct intuition, but need a rewrite. It makes the same mistake Lenin made interpreting Marx. Marx encouraged the dialectic -- process; Lenin iterated the process once, arrived at the answer "hammer", and, in the Soviet Union after that single iteration, everything was a nail.

Process is a tribute to humility -- to the appreciation that decisions are made based on our mental map of reality and not on reality itself. It is a continuous reevaluation based on current results.

Your essay damns process when it should damn its misapplication. We are in a race to teach process as a point of view before society crumbles completely.

8/25/2007 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

"The deeper question, Wretchard is WHY process and 'accountability' and risk aversion became part and parcel of the Left? When did RISK become a dirty word for them? " - whiskey_199

Risk aversion by the Left is attributable to their devotion to equality. Because Lefties don't simply seek equal opportunity, but also require equal outcomes, all risk must be avoided or mitigated.

8/25/2007 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

One example and one irony come to mind when thinking about this. There was a celebrated incident during hurricane Katrina in which one enterprising young man, ignoring the "process", helped himself to a school bus and ultimately rescued a small crowd of people. The people stranded in the SuperDome were all proper followers of the "process".

The irony of the notion that establishing accountability and reducing risk were benefits of process is that, as far as 9/11 is concerned, we got neither. No one has ever been held accountable and it turns out that risk was mitigated not at all.

8/25/2007 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

It's important to understand that Langley is not alone. All these big federal agencies, civilian and not, sit in nearly the same "soup" of rules, incentives and punishments, in a system not designed but accreted. We're dreaming if we think the environment congress sets results in anything better overall. And as much as we like to hold the executive responsible for the operation of the government, they are far from unitary. i.e. they are responsible, but certainly not in control. Just how much can a group of 200 new executives with a 4 or 8 year clock running do in an organization 20,000 times larger?

Consider that at the height of the cold war in the 1960s when we were spending 2-3x what we are spending now, including the GWOT (in % of GDP), the defense budget was less than 10 pages (six for several years running). Now it is in the low thousands of pages.

This is a direct product of Congressional interference with the executive and the process bloat our representatives have created. Often encouraged by the guilds on both sides (the permanent bureaucracy) in both congress and the executive.

The FISA court is just another example. The courts have no role in day-to-day oversight in the executive historically. The courts exist to hear the complaint of someone who has been wronged and thinks can prove it. Hearsay is not enough. This is congress abrogating its constitutional responsibility (of representing the peoples' interest) because they are uncomfortable with the burden and would rather have a "process" that results in someone else telling the executive what is ok and not. Involving the courts was, and is now, clearly the wrong thing to do in areas of national security where secrets must be kept (as George Washington clearly understood when he ran his own assets spying on "U.S. persons" where keeping the rumor gathering secret was essential for both the country's friends (who might fall under suspicion) as well as its enemies.

It is hard to resist the urge to follow Jefferson’s advice and start over. Like the Kiwis did.

The Persian history is telling. When someone says that China is now spending 1/10th the U.S. on punitive offense, we need to be able to assess and talk truthfully to ourselves about our own 10x-100x weakness. The bank building in New York city, 40 years to build a new runway in Atlanta, billion dollar (nuclear) power plants (v. France’s 100 million) all of Mr. Gingrich’s horror stories are evident in the (Federal) system of government we have built, and to a lesser extent in some of the largest states. We have become our old enemy, the Soviets, who thought they could plan for and build a process for everything, and come in somewhere close to the productivity of a free market economy driven by a free people who took, were forced to take, individual responsibility for their actions and outcomes. There have been several studies documenting how the soviets rewarded lying to themselves at the highest levels, and this was a large reason for their sudden economic collapse (they simply did not know how bad it was). I fear we know how bad it is and won’t / can’t admit it to ourselves, irrespective of Cassandras like Mr. Gingrich and others.

See also my earlier post.

8/25/2007 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

This particular emphasis on 'process' is entirely normal at this phase of the cultural cycle as described by Strauss & Howe in their seminal work, Generations (1991).

The old Adaptive generation (in our era, those born 1925 to 1943) is always the generation whose leadership defines a period of 'Unravelling,' leading into the 'Crisis.'

The Adaptives (who nearly all were frightened kids in a time of crisis and war) want "peace" more than anything. Their main generational focus is pluralism, social justice, expert-ism, and above all process.

Those cultural attitudes become institutionally entrenched, especially in the courts, until swept away by the force of events unfolding in the Crisis.

It is thus the repeated tragedy of that particular generational cycle that their near-desperate desire for "peace" (which they define as absence of conflict, rather than absence of threat) and "fairness" (equality of outcome, rather than equality of opportunity) ... leads directly to the succeeding Crisis era.

Thus it is that their elderhood comes to be dominated by the very crisis and war they sought so hard to avoid through process and social justice. Frightened, confused, dependent, and convinced to the end that with a little more justice, a better process, or more negotiation ... it all somehow could have been avoided.

8/25/2007 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...


This is one of those times when I concur with your basic premise, but have a big but…

Process and initiative are both basic cogs in an ever improving and competitive enterprise. There is a balance. You need both.

The Clinton Legacy was one that neither respected the military nor the intelligence services. Hence, they would not accept failure and could not accept results unless ‘process was followed’ and ‘accountability could be ascertained’. Both the military and the intelligence services were not critically important assets since they were not immediately aligned to Liberal goals. Basically, these entities never adapted to the peace dividend!!!

Therefore, the view was that they must change incrementally. Thus, process improvement techniques where implemented (TQL) to build a ‘stronger’ military and ‘revamped’ intelligence service. However, under Clinton ‘stronger’ was ‘more streamlined’ and cheaper - and ‘revamped’ was a re-tasking to economic and social research. We were, of course, talking about ‘Peace in Our Time!!!’.

Conversely, after 9/11 we went straight to change and initiative without much regard to process. To me, this was necessary. The processes were not set up to redevelop and restructure the entity. They were there to make it manageable and cheaper in peacetime. However, we are now dealing with the excesses and failures of initiative without measurement. America is now restructuring its processes to match its reality. Hence, the hue and cry about surveillance and counter insurgency surges. The Left is still unconvinced that the military and intelligence services have adapted to the modern world, and the Right cannot prove that they have. We are now readdressing process. It is ugly, but it is necessary.

Here is a very strong positive of the Clinton starvation by process and the ‘W’ process be damned just give me progress initiatives. Now, the military has a much lighter support footprint and understands process improvement techniques. The best example is Rumsfeld’s water spiquet references. Even during wartime he wanted to measure effectiveness and make incremental changes based on those facts. Another example is the recent review of NSA surveillance techniques – and, the reasonable adjustment to the wild-wild west changes that occurred in October of 2001. Why is that important? It is important because we can now change tactics and equipment and training and recruiting and retention – and still measure how the changes affect the whole.

We have changed, We are changing, And, we are improving.

I would hate to be the other guy!!!

8/25/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Fat Man -
“the Bremer commission's report on terrorism predicting that the U.S. was at risk for precisely the same reasons--an American system engulfed in proceduralism and legalism. And loving it.”

I think a reorientation of this issue is required to properly examine it.

Take for example that OBL may have expected us to get bogged down into “process, proceduralims and legalism” as he rallied Islamists through spectacular attacks. But we jumped outside the box and virtually declared war on an activity: “terrorism”. Why’d we do that when we could have been expected to just followed the old procedure of legally going after people like OBL that can hide anywhere or after pseudo organizations like al-Queda that can morph into anything. He may have expected that, but he apparently failed to understand that because our procedure failed, we’d change it. Se we declared war on an activity, held supporting organizations for that activity responsible and even included supporting states - Iraq, at least for awhile.

What happened here goes back to change management theory, that organizations only undertake radical changes in response to unmet goals. A “process” may be wasteful, oppressive, counterproductive etc..., but until it manifests itself as the cause of organizational failures (i.e. a government failing to provide security) to those empowered to change it, nothing will be done.

Now that may sound like a big, “So what”, but it really is the easy to lose focus for understanding and reforming any system, more so than this “process/performance” introspection. People drift back and forth between following and breaking the rules for all the reasons mentioned and more, and that’s a fine discussion, but whatever conclusions are reached with whatever possible benefits, it’s not going to motivate system change until there is a goal failure. Again, radical change only comes after organizations fail to meet their goals.

9-11 was 6 years ago, and the CIA’s arguably batting a thousand. It appears that the reforms and additional money applied enabled the CIA to meet its goal of providing our beefed up forces the intelligence needed to secure the US. So no matter how inefficient or dysfunctional the CIA is internally, don’t expect it to change as long as the pressure of unmet goals is removed.

8/25/2007 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger mds said...

If we take a step back from the trees, can we see that this forest is a product of Enlightenment thinking? A mode of thinking and looking at the world that wants to systematize, categorize, organize - so that human beings can move on to even greater things. Yeah, it's great and we wouldn't want to have missed living in its light. But it clearly has its limitations; not all things - and especially not human nature - are amenable to this systematizing impulse.

8/25/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger flavius_maximus said...


This article, which I stumbled across on lucianne, is directly on point to your query: COURAGE AND COWARDICE: THE CASE OF WORDSMITH INTELLECTUALS

8/25/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Boyd's OODA Loop comes into play. America is possibly in worse shape that I thought. That last comment by boghie brings up another big "but". Is the Coalition adapting faster than the adversary? The “other guy” is taking more risks and using proven methods of assymetrical/4GW tactics. I believe I can perceive “his” strategy. Can the U.S. Congress? Can the Executive Branch?

The comment about a soldier having to deal with reams of paper work when he discharges his weapon is cogent. It is a good example of how Coalition OODA Loop is slowed way down compared to the adversary's OODA Loop.

Initiative and risk taking in the field by Coalition Forces is necessary to speed up Coalition OODA Loop. USAF should be the ones filling out reams of paperwork for all the counterproductive collateral damage and fratricide caused by their crappy high altitude and high speed bombing runs!

There are wise warriors worth studying who need to be listened to. They are mavericks within America's government and armed forces. They are mavericks who retired below the customary pay grade/rank because they are mavericks. Three good examples are Colonels John Boyd, David Hackworth and William Lind.

I cite an old Arab proverb:
Those who know not and know not that they know not but think they know are fools. Shun them.
Those who know not and know they know not are simple. Teach them.
Those who know and know not that they know are asleep. Wake them.
Those who know and show they know they know are wise. Follow them.

I am not a prophet. Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is the last according to the Holy Quran. However, I see a vision of a possible future for America, Europe and Israel unfolding. It is possible that instead of fighting a bunch of “criminals”, America is fighting the Army of Islam. It is possible there truly is a clash of civilizations.

Imagine an “Army of Islam” with Special Forces instead of the conventional order of battle, for example: Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban, alQueda, Moro Liberation Front. This Army’s strategy and tactics have worked in their turf, Dar al Islam, since the dawn of Islam.

This “Islamic Army” utilizes unconventional and asymmetrical methods to slowly achieve its’ aims by weakening the will and changing the minds of the governments of its’ enemy nations, particularly America and Israel. Two of these methods are insurgent warfare and demographic warfare. For example, the “Palestinians” outbreed the Israelis and slowly bleed Israel with low casualty attacks. Note this strategy is also being utilized in Europe. The goal is segregation into Dar al Harb (Land of War) and Dar al Islam (Land of Islam).

This is possibly the “Grand Strategy” of Muslim warriors. Has America a Grand Strategy? Pax America is one I read about. I have come to believe America will come to ruin if that “Imperial” goal is pursued. This “Pax America” strategy could make America a pariah in the world.

I have come to believe because of my studies since answering the call of Islam that there are mass migrations in our future and realignment of borders. I believe the shortsightedness of America and her citizens shall be the cause of her doom. I believe America’s future could be the future of a third world state and her Constitution rendered meaningless. The same could be true of America’s Coalition Allies.

Again, I ask the question: Can America and the Coalition speed up their OODA Loop? The jury is still out and their future still in doubt.

Salaam eleikum.

Note: Colonel John Boyd, USAF, developed the concept of the OODA (Observation/ Orientation/ Decision/ Action) Loop. Is the USAF listening? Is the Pentagon listening?

8/25/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Hey, Marzouq ... Aleikum salaam.

Before anyone decides it might be profitable to play 'Cowboys and Muzzies' here in America, they might want to chat with the last group of folks who tried that: Apaches, Comanches, Kiowa, and so on.

They survive today only because they learned to behave.

You (or your friends) wanna be Muslims in America? Fine. You wanna try to convince someone else to become a Muslim? Fine.

The moment you try to do any of that by force or through intimidation ... I'll kill your sorry ass the first chance I get.

"There is no compulsion in religion" Sura 2:256 Get it? Got it? Good.


8/25/2007 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Marzouq the Redneck Muslim
“Again, I ask the question: Can America and the Coalition speed up their OODA Loop? The jury is still out and their future still in doubt.”

Just to clear up a possible misconception, to OODA loop only determins the winner if all else is equal. “Army of Islam Special Forces” with evil ethics, disfuntional and unpopular politics, severe funding problems and the inability to organize beyond a few dozen without being attacked from the air does not automaticly win just because their underdeveloped grass roots force can adaplt a little faster than the “shortsighted” Amerian military.

8/25/2007 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk said...

Fat Man,

"The only experts who saw a chink in the Soviet armor were demographers Murray Feshbach and Nicholas Eberstadt."

Well, there was also Possony, Pournelle, and Kane, though I suppose they aren't considered experts by some people with an axe to grind (not meaning to include you in that set, of course.)

8/25/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...


Good to see you here. Notice the slant of my post?

Kansas Bart,

Point noted and understood. In that case home turf advantage is America's.

Best all and Salaam eleikum!

8/25/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger dla said...

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote... Frightened, confused, dependent, and convinced to the end that with a little more justice, a better process, or more negotiation ... it all somehow could have been avoided.

Great post. Nicely describes why the Clinton approach could never succeed and why a "GWB" was inevitable. Kindof a Chamberlin to Churchill transition. Does anyone remember who led after Churchill? Of course not, nor will anyone care who leads after GWB. GWB has done the heavy-lifting.

Marzouq the Redneck Muslim wrote... This “Islamic Army” utilizes unconventional and asymmetrical methods to slowly achieve its’ aims by weakening the will and changing the minds of the governments of its’ enemy nations, particularly America and Israel.

Wow, what a fantasy. If I assume that Islam hit rock bottom in 1918 with the final destruction of the Ottoman empire, then the last 90 years has seen the west, especially America zoom even further ahead of Islam. Perhaps Islam is seeing a tiny resurgence, but only because of popping out more babies. Islam is falling further and further behind intellectually. I'm not sure the effectiveness of your stone-age Islamic army - America's been kicking Islam's butt since Jefferson.

8/25/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

And let us not forget VP Al Gore’s “Reinventing Government Initiative” which mandated a 30% across the board reduction in Federal Govt Civilian manpower WITHOUT offering any corresponding reduction in rules, regulations and general nonsense. This was applied in classic Washingtonian fashion, via the “Peanut Butter Spread” – which absolved those in DC from any responsibility for either figuring out the most efficient way to do the cuts or any blame for the negative impacts.

Given this kind of attitude – and the promotion of Demming’s “Statistical Process Quality Control” in the DoD and ISO 9000 Process requirements within other Fed Govt Civilian Agencies – well, you can see how this had to happen.

8/25/2007 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Process is absolutely essential. This is what the US Constitution is all about. Traditions of compromise and adherence to the rule-of-law are what holds civilization together. The Army has its own process, and a very strict one.

The solution to our social problems is not merely how we move about within our system of processes. It has a great deal to do with how we choose our processes. How does intelligence and virtue squeeze the toothpaste toward the top of the tube.

The Hoplite Phalanx was a set of procedures with certain capacities, predictable features of performance. It suited the Greek mindset and its virtues were multiplied by natural selection. Those groups who could make it work best, who had the most rigid adherence to the essential requirements of the phalanx, were most likely to succeed as groups. It is a very highly structured meme with a big payoff, and it depended completely on process, particularly the rule: let no man break ranks.

Call it tradition, protocol or algorithm. Whatever you call it, it matters when people do things reliably according to some strong set of rules. People who violate these rules are occasionally right, but more often wrong. The rules, sometimes fortunately, change gradually over time. The direction of this change depends on the requirements of the society, the insight of the thought leaders, the zeitgeist, pure chance and occasionally, the imposition of a single individual's will and insight, as perhaps in the case of Ronald Reagan.

That's what this blog is all about. Isn't it? How should people act, according to what rules? How should we think about our pressing problems in order to understand what strategies, policies and procedures should be introduced or revived. We're talking about social, governmental and personal rules of action. Content is always debatable without danger to the structure, but the internal rules-of-engagement need to be agreed upon.

You can argue with the specifics. Process in the CIA is too demanding, too complex, certainly too self-serving, but it has reasons and history. One of the vital procedures we need to include in our process is Method X, which will somehow enhance the application of intelligence, idealism and decency to the secretive procedures of insider power stuggles and self-serving bureaucracy. We need government to stop stabbing itself in the back and shooting itself in the foot. How are we going to do that? Distributing awareness of reality and pursuing the truth are among the first requirements for injecting intelligence into the process. These are among the great strengths of the Internet of course, and IMO this one is one of the best on those metrics. I understand that the rules here allow me to express an alternative point of view as long as I'm constructive and reasonably polite. I think that's a very good tradition/rule/process/procedure, but rare.

8/25/2007 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Does the end justify the means. The verdict of the 20th century was no.

But of course if there is no end then the means is pointless. Or if the end is pointless then the means won't be much better. Or if the end doesn't actually address the reality of the day -- then the means is a great bridge to...

If you don't know where you're going any direction will get you there.

I have read in other threads that its better to do something and make mistakes than to do nothing.

Typically intelligence doesn't make policy. For example, during the clinton years -- as I understand it -- the policy was to treat obl like a dru g criminal not a war criminal.

That would have meant that his efforts were not really in the CIA's jurisdiction.

8/25/2007 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Randy --

I don't believe it is about equality. Since the Left is comprised mostly of wealthy elitists who never practice equality. Except the nomenklatura type "dictatorship of the proletariat."

Rather risk taking benefits the low-born, unconnected man, the Wright Brothers not the Smithsonian director and Harvard Professor. Thomas Edison not wealthy WASPs.

When lots of risk-taking happens, be sure that the organization is young, concerned with success not sinecure, and there is little to no expectation of continued presence in an organization, and thus empire building and protection of position.

Where few examples of risk taking occur, it's because the organization has been modified to near-hereditary positions, and empire building. A career rather than short-term service. This is why the OSS, with no expectation of any career in the organization, was so successful and innovative. And why the CIA has been a place to build a career no different than the DMV.

Marzouk -- well of course, razzia-style operations will succeed for a while. Until the red lines are crossed (by loss of US cities or losses approaching that with the foreseable loss of cities). Then, the solution is simply to wipe out all Muslims. Everywhere. Already America has the capacity but hardly the interest or will to do so. Unlike the Romans or Byzantines who had the will and interest but not the capacity. Sadly I see both sides marching towards that horrific end. Don't discount the ability of a huge crisis to create a new organization focused on result and risk taking not process.

8/25/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Seems we really need to ask this QUESTION:

If the CIA and DoS were dismantled and disbanded, would we see a difference in the performance of the State? And if there were to be a difference, would it be for the worse or for the better?

8/25/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Here is a humorous look at it:


"CIA: U.S. Nearly Out of Americans to Blame for 9/11"

By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief,

(2007-08-22) — A recently released two-year old analysis shows that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under George Tenet lacked an overall strategy for fighting al Qaeda, and missed key opportunities to thwart the 9/11 terror plot.

As America approaches the sixth anniversary of the attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people, this latest report shows the country may be perilously close to running out of Americans to blame for the events of September 11, 2001.
“We’re in the second and third rounds of blaming George Tenet,” said one anti-terror expert. “Perhaps when we run out of U.S. citizens to blame, we’ll direct our attention toward Islamic extremists who appear to play some kind of role, not only in 9/11, but in the slaughter of thousands of unarmed civilians each year.”

The source acknowledged, however, that such a shift in focus is unlikely before the 2008 presidential elections

See: CIA: U.S. Nearly Out of Americans to Blame for 9/11


See: comments

8/25/2007 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

OMG Wretchard! Belmont Club. History and History in the Making.

How was it that you invoked Alexander the Great in your commentary but did not entitle your thread "Process: AKA, The Gordian Knot."

Alexander's solved the puzzle by cutting the knot, and Zeus approved. And Alexander went on to succeed against all his adversaries.

Ok. Ok. You're not Zeus. I got that.

But the lesson is that the Persians were tied up in knots like our CIA is today.

That is what you are implying. Why didn't you state it as such? I am astonished that after 33 responses, NOBODY has made mention of this ancient metaphor.

No doubt the majority reading my comment think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. No effin wonder the West is in decline.

8/25/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...


See: 8/25/2007 05:58:00 PM!!

8/25/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger R. Reid said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/25/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

This is one of those discussions that set this site apart from most and keeps me coming back. Even the people I disagree with use well reasoned arguments.

Intelligence services are an extension of the military. They are there to detect and prepare against threats. That is why politics has no place in the intelligence community. Politicians make lousy combatants because politics is defined as compromise. You win some points but concede others to find a political solution. In war there is but one goal- to win. Politicians are too concerned with appearance. In war, it is better to win ugly than lose gracefully. That is why, as noted in a previous post, the warriors on the ground sometimes circumvent procedure to achieve an objective.

Also, a perfect example of how process works in opposition to invention is the up-armoring or re-invention of the vehicles in Iraq. Would congress have budgeted the redesigning of the HMMWVs and 7 Tons if the enemy had not used roadside bombs so effectively? Was the military given an unlimited budget to fund any kind of weapon or equipment that could combat any conceivable threat, real or imagined? Of course not, that is a never-ending task and unreasonable. Even if they had, the enemy, not having that vulnerability to attack, would have sought out another. And yet they lambasted the military for not anticipating this threat. This illustrates their thinking and unwillingness to accept reality or any responsibility for the outcome. I would have respected them more if they had said to the American people, “We are sorry your sons and daughters died in the service of their country. We have identified the vulnerabilities of our vehicles and we are assisting the military in designing vehicles that are less vulnerable.” Instead, they blamed the military for the same lack of forethought, however unreasonable it was, they themselves suffered.

8/25/2007 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Risk aversion in government isn't merely about rules or a lack thereof. It is much easier to take risks if you can trust people around you, whereas focusing on process makes perfect sense if your worst enemy is within your agency (or a rival bureaucracy in Washington).

Who is the enemy to our government officials? Is it al-Qaeda or is it some rival faction in Washington?

Focusing on process instead of defeating an outside enemy makes perfect sense to a courtier when the principal threat to his life comes from palace intrigue.

8/26/2007 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Arnie said...

JAG OFFICERS IN THE WAY,15202,87045,00.html

8/26/2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

There's one other point that should be made. Intelligence is a funny business, in that its primary purpose (to gather information about one's nation's enemies, real and potential) is not reflected in its primary imperative (to do nothing to risk exposing yourself or your operations, lest it tarnish your employer's image and/or get your fellow operatives killed).

What exactly is the main purpose of the CIA's process? Is it to collect the best possible intelligence, or merely to keep its employees from (however inadvertently) proverbially talking about Fight Club? Only if it's the former can we call the process a failure. If it's the latter, it becomes a case of either a necessary evil or dreadfully misplaced priorities, depending on your PoV.

8/26/2007 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

Apparently many of the unit commanders are having a hard time accepting the risk of unprotected COP basing with the intention of "blending" with the populace, and are busy fortifying them to try and "protect their troops", which isolates them and increases their risk. But risk-aversion is a stubborn beast.

It is observed in economics decision-making studies that people are more averse to losing $X than they are eager to gain $X. So they make "irrational" decisions despite even obvious odds and probabilities.

8/27/2007 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

it's risk prioritizing, isn't it? The risk of pooching a projection or analysis is feared less than the risk of standing out from the consensus and getting reamed or sidelined by the resident powers.

8/27/2007 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

“It is observed in economics decision-making studies that people are more averse to losing $X than they are eager to gain $X. So they make "irrational" decisions despite even obvious odds and probabilities.”

This is the same phenomena I described above, that radical organizational change is only undertaken after failing to reach goals, not to pursue opportunities.

Losing $X = Failing to reach goals
Gaining $X = Pursuing opportunities

8/27/2007 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Iraq, CIA, and State
Jed Babbin
Nation Building, Defensive Occupations, and Failure.
HT 'Rat

8/27/2007 05:53:00 PM  

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