Friday, March 09, 2007

Could You Remind Me Again... Just Who Is The Enemy?

One of my contacts in the intelligence community just wrote to me: “Saw in today's Early Bird that Liz Sly at the Trib has caught up with what you predicted 3 or was it 5 years ago. The winners in the IQ incursion would be Iran. Your logic was unpleasant and unassailable. It just took a while for the rest to catch up with you.”

Somebody please write in when this article he refers to is available online. Alas, will anyone remember that I stood at the CIA in 2002 and preached a "love offensive" in Iran? A "Nixon-to-China" that would throw the mullahs off balance and help the students and moderates re-take their country? Certainly not guaranteed to succeed, but with no downside cost if it fails. Moreover, no priority in the entire region should have been higher than restoring the longstanding friendship between the Iranian and American peoples. And no country was better poised to become an “island of democracy in the middle east” than the only regional muslim nation that already had a moderately functioning civil society and institutions, only awaiting a velvet revolution to give them real life.

It would have been a jiu jitsu move worthy of Kissinger, with some real chance of improving the world, while ruining the day of all of our three enemies over there, Saddam AND the mullahs AND the Saudihouse. If Condi Rice had even a sliver of Kissinger’s brains....

Where is a prediction registry when you need one? I was laughed at then. And being right does not change opinions. Still, some people are starting to talk the way I did, four years ago. There’s some satisfaction in that.

And now, while we are on this topic, Russ Daggatt is on top of his game. Here’s his latest:

Bush is Still Trying to Figure Out Which Side We're On

At this point, you may be getting really confused. It's really not that complicated:

We were attacked on 9-11 by al Qaeda which was in cahoots with the Taliban, all a bunch of radical Sunni Muslims.
Most of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudis and Saudis provided the money and ideology for al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is our ally.

When we drove al Qaeda and the Taliban out of Afghanistan, they regrouped across the border in Pakistan where they have been more or less unmolested ever since. Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, the technology for which they provided to North Korea, Iran and others. Pakistan is our ally.

Saddam Hussein, a secular Arab nationalist, had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks and brutally repressed racial Islamic fundamentalists. He also was the major rival of the radical Shiite government of Iran next door. He was a close friend of the Bush family foreign policy entourage... until he stopped being controllable and made the mistake of offending neighbors who were even closer Bush family friends.

So, we overthrew Saddam Hussein and... installed a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Iraq. Are we having fun yet?

After 9-11, Iran supported us in our overthrow of their other major rival, the Taliban in Afghanistan (who, you will recall, harbored al Qaeda who attacked us on 9-11). Having overthrown Iran's two major geopolitical rivals, Saddam and the Taliban, we actually managed to make relations with Iran WORSE in the process -- saber-rattling at intervals perfectly timed to drive Iran’s moderates and students back into the mullahs’ arms -- demonstrating political finesse that would have made Machiavelli -- well, Don Rickles -- proud. (Bush called them "evil". Showed them. heh, heh, heh)

In summary, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (which has nuclear weapons), who finance and harbor al Qaeda, are our allies. Iran, which had nothing to do with 9-11 and helped us overthrow the Taliban, is "the enemy." So we overthrew the largest secular Arab government, and Iran's major rival, and installed a pro-Iranian government in Iraq. Because Iran is an existential threat. Which aspires to acquire nuclear weapons (like Pakistan, which is harboring al Qaeda and the Taliban -- and is our ally). Got it yet?

And since Iraq seems to be in the midst of a sectarian civil war between the Sunnis (backed by our Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere) and the Shiites (backed by our existential enemy, Iran), it's clear we need to stay and fight in Iraq on behalf of our existential enemies, the Iranian-backed Shiites.


Well, maybe not so simple. But, fortunately, we have the geopolitical genius of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney figuring this stuff out so we don't have to. All we need to know is that they're fighting "The Enemy" and "The Terrorists" (whoever that happens to be today -- it's classified).

Seymour Hersh has the one MUST READ piece this month, in . I hate to edit it or pull out selective quotes. Read . But the crux of his piece is that the Bush administration has essentially decided to REDIRECT ITS ATTENTION away from radical Sunni jihadists -- i.e., the folks who attacked us on 9/11 -- and instead take sides in the brewing Sunni-Shiite civil war in the Middle East. In fact, he says we've pretty much decided to throw in our lot with the Saudis and buddy up with the al-Qaeda wannabes:

"This time, [a] U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that "they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It's not that we don't want the Salafis to throw bombs; it's who they throw them at -- Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."

But if they created and control it... doesn’t that mean that, back in the summer of 2001...

Ooooog. Now Russ has me depressed. And confused. So let’s simplify. Time for a modified truism.

Fool my leader once, shame on you.
Fool my leader twice, shame on my leader.
Fool my leader a zillion times?
Clearly, my leader is cahoots with you and I am the fool.

Continuing with Hersh: Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.” ...

Of course the inevitable winners out of all this will be the winners of the last 6 years... BOTH the Saudis and the mullah-party in Iran. Do not let Sunni-Shiite violence on the street fool you! That is a deliberately set-up distraction and a quagmire to suck in and destroy the US Army. It has nothing to do with the oil zillionaires in Riyadh and Tehran. Who have no reason whatsoever to wish each other ill will.

There is no conceivable scenario in which they do not both come out ahead, even in the event of some pin-prick air strikes into the heart of Iran!

If that happens, the chief result will be to rally the Iranian people behind the mullahs for an entire generation, completing the core effort of this administration, to snatch defeat out of the very jaws of victory.

All in all, the “Stupidity Theory” for this administration is simply falling apart... the almost-universally held notion that obstinate, dogmatic, microcephalic incompetence is sufficient to explain the steady and relentless demolition of US military readiness, our professional officer corps, our skilled intelligence community, our reserves, our alliances, our world popularity, our budget and fiscal health, our science, our internal social cohesion, and our ability to even PARSE who our enemies are.

The problem with the Stupidity Theory is that it depends upon a statistical impossibility. For even loony, moronic frat-boys should have stumbled into one correct decision in six years, simply by accident. At least one decision that actually benefited the United States of America.

When does a pattern of absolute purity and perfection finally suffice to make people change their minds? Or to consider an alternative scenario? The possibility that these are NOT stupid men, after all? Ask yourself this... how many MORE coincidentally perfect “blunders” will it take, before you would be willing to ponder even the remote possibility that a new theory is needed? One that is more consistent?

When the single, historic effect of an administration is to demolish Pax Americana, it does not require the author of garish thriller novels to come up with a possible explanation. When the winners of every US policy are the same hostile foreign interest groups, every single time, is it possible to at least ponder an alternative scenario?

Alas, all of the true paranoids, who are mentally equipped to notice such patterns -- the fellows who used to scream at us about “black helicopters” and “Whitewater” -- now seem incapable of noticing the “Blackwater” helicopters that are streaking back and forth, inside America and abroad, portending a new era of private and completely unaccountable mercenary force. Where are some paranoid screamers, when you really need them?

Well, there are some PROFESSIONAL paranoids and pattern recognizers who should be on top of this. Guys at the FBI and CIA and such. But, apparently, they are too busy keeping their heads down.

Shame on all of us.

=== followup ===
There are some sane people out there. New Mexico Governor (and Democratic presidential candidate) Bill Richardson (who negotiated the Clinton administration's Agreed Framework with North Korea back in 1994) had this recent piece in the Washington Post.

And when Director of National Intelligence, John D. Negroponte, took a transfer to the slot of deputy secretary of state, everyone in town recognized it as a fellow getting out of a ship that was not only sinking and on fire but also headed for sharp rocks. The number of clandestine operations around the world that are being financed directly out of the Vice President’s office, bypassing the professionals of the CIA, has reached a level that makes Iran-Contra look like a cooking school.

Which makes me a bit dubious about the latest rumor in circulation. “Speculation is mounting in Washington about the future of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. With the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq and the recent indictment of his former Chief of Staff, Cheney is fast becoming a political liability to the Bush Administration. We predict he will resign in order to give the powerful political position to one of the GOP’s rising stars.”

The article writer concludes that Rudy Giuliani - former Governor of New York State - would be the obvious choice, and let the religious right lump it. A guy with a chance in 08, especially in light of the (debatable) status as a “hero of 9/11.”

Cute. But I doubt it. The VP office is the very center of scores of clandestine operations that are too political to entrust the professional services like the CIA, any one of which will fall apart without a steady hand at the helm, to keep all participants focused and terrified and silent. Cheney is the glue, holding together the entire frankenstein alliance.

Ah, but thank God that Western Civilization has more than one center.


Anonymous said...

Speculation is mounting in Washington about the future of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney...

I called this back before the election as a spring surprise, if you recall. Cheney is unelectable and they have to position someone hand-picked to be the heir apparent for '08. But it won't be his political liability that will be the reason he goes. His health is in the news again, and he will bow out before June or July, giving his replacement 6 to 8 months to look (vice-)presidential. (If you want to get really paranoid, think about the attack in Afghanistan.)

If the VP has too many reins in his hands, then his successor will just have to be somebody who will listen to what he is told. Cheney can continue to pull the strings from his cushy new position, and the new guy gets a shot at the White House.

Whoever it is, it won't be Giuliani. He's too much of a loose cannon. (This may be a good thing. There are hints that Rudy is also very big on a very strong executive.) Given that they've left this so late, they may have overplayed their hand. Thanks to all the jockeying for position by the Dems, it looks like most of the big states are going to move up their primaries. (The fact that California has never had a say in the party nominee has always bugged me.) The Republicans haven't been making as much noise, but they're still going to have to think about pulling someone whose name is already in the arena.


On a different note, check out . This looks like a very nice step towards transparency. I particularly like the feature where you can see who a congressperson votes with most often, least often, most often from the other party, and least often from their own. BUt being able to see and track bills through the whole process, see votes in committee and on the floor, see who proposed what. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great writing Brin, I agree with you! I would shorten the quotes to a bare minimum, I think most people know that information already. Go into just a little more detail in your opinion showing how both radical Suni's and Shia's win by our intervention. Also what motivates Bush to allow it to continue? Friendship with Saudi's? Fear of a cutoff of oil? Need to keep the military industrial complex funded? Fear of public reaction if they retreat?

On a side note; I really enjoy reading this blog so don’t mine and others silence lead you to believe we don’t care about what you are saying, it is quite important.

Brother Doug

Patrick said...

David -
I know you are cautious about your own paranoia (as you should be), but I would like to point out that wikipedia numbers the House of Saud at 25,000 members having about 200 princes. With a large budget and a large population operations going on within could be both informally sanctioned and funded without it becoming official policy. A sort of left and right hand.

And of course this gives them an excuse to avoid really restraining any member who is officially embarrassing. They are family and officials can argue that they cannot be expected to suppress their family.

These are all arguments that strengthen the Saudi end of your conspiracy theory, one that I agree, looks more and more likely every day.

None of this was anything I knew before I began studying the region, so I thought it might be good to restate.

John O'Neill said...

Quick correction: Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York City, not Governor of New York State. On 9/11/2001, George Pataki was Governor of New York State.

RandomSequence said...


Condi does have a sliver of Kissinger's brain - he's been advising the White House since 2002, from before the Iranian offer.

The problem is that Kissinger does not want another Nixon-to-China moment. He was there, at the right time and place, to make it happen, and I don't doubt that he's got the political talent to have made it happen. But the Nixon move did not fend off the Carter election. He's recognized that the enemy is us of his geostrategic balance-of-power (zero-sum) world, and he's fixin' to fix that, I would wager.

Remember, Kissinger thinks that Stalin is the greatest political leader of the 20th century.

Anonymous said...

Although as you know I am less conspiracy oriented than you I cannot fault your analysis of the folly of our policy to Iran. Hey, it's not a partisan thing to say that these are people with whom we will have to do business on some level. While I do not see any possible defense of this nonsense, I can at least muster a few scintilla of optimism.
1. It is unlikely that Iran is close enough to nukes that the really bad thing could happen, which is an Isreal/Iran nuclear war. Worst case scenario, there is some time before that could happen.
2. Our foreign policy is so tightly bound up with G.Bush's personna, that a significant reorientation of things can be imagined a couple of days after the inaugeral. And that probably applies to a new president from either party. I think there is hope of a new beginning, if for no other reason because most of the foolishness of our policies has been laid at the door of the Texas White House.
3. I think we have provided the leadership of Iran with bushels of political capital by demonizing them. The fact that they need this suggests to me that their support among the Iranian population may not be that secure. A populace as demographically young as Iran's can turn on a dime.

I am a believer in diplomatic recognition and the exchange of ambassadors....if for no other reason to tell the other side in detail just what you think of them! Of course, Iran should first express a willingness to adhere to the customary respect for embassies...
I do not see us bombing Iran. Isreal, heck in a few years they might vaporize the place. Iranian leaders are smart enough to know this.

Anonymous said...

I am sure the simplest reason Prince Bandar shows up as the evil mastermind behind the foreign policy of the Bush administration is:

pure coincidence

I mean just because a guy has the nick name Bandar Bush it doesn't mean anything. It's just a little alliteration.

I mean sure Bandar tutored W on world affairs. But lets be honest W is not a bright student, so basically he learned if he got confused over something he should just call up Bandar or Uncle Dick and they would explainerize it to him, But that does not mean the exalted Prince Bandar is some kind of Puppet Master controlling the disastrous policies of the Bush administration for his own nefarious ends. No he is just an information resource for the president to use, you know kind of like Google.

And as for the long and very profitable relationship between the Bush family and the Royal family, the Bush family is just being culturally sensitive to the Royal Family by accepting very generous business opportunities that the Royal family presented to them. The Saudi's think it is rude for someone to turn a gift from them so the Bush family were just being good ambassadors for America.

And just the idea that Prince Bandar, when he was Ambassador to the US in the 1980's would use the occasions of his lavish parties to get W (the then current Vice President's alcoholic son) and others to engage in illicit activities and record their actions for later black mail is NOTHING BUT A BASELESS INTERNET RUMOR.

See all you need to do is use Occam's razor, over and over again and you will see the truth ;-)

David Brin said...

Guys, please misspell names. I think you can guess why. My courage is inversely proportional to the amount that I think I am really drawing attention from those guys. In any event, I'd at least expect the OFFER of a bribe (or a blackmailable party) before being poisoned. I mean, would that not be common courtesy? ;-)

TheRadicalModerate said...

Nah, still don't buy it. You still haven't been able to identify who benefits from a diminution of American power in your conspiracy theory.

As you know, I flatly rule out treason. Traitors are really rare and Bush exhibits none of the symptoms. I do not rule out greed or even nepotism/cronyism. But again: Who benefits?

The oil companies aren't. The Chinese are eating their lunch in West Africa and South America--places where they have the largest growth potential. Extra risk is depressing their PE (XOM's PE is approximately half of what it was in 2001 and its earnings growth is about the same as, say, Cisco).

Halliburton's doing quite well. But do you really expect me to believe that Bush would hang the family reputation out to dry for friggin' Halliburton? Please. You're not that loyal to the help.

I suppose you could argue that Bush has gone genuinely, religiously, end-times style, whoop-it-up apocalyptic and he's intentionally making things as bad as possible to hasten the Rapture. Unfortunately, that is completely incompatible with any of the greed/cronyism arguments. End of the world is definitely Bad For Business.

No, I suspect that the real answer is much more prosaic: The top-level US goals for the Middle East changed very rapidly, and Bushco turned out not to be too bright and/or agile in dealing with the change.

In 1985, the top US Middle East objectives were:

1) Keep a large supply of oil flowing from the Persian Gulf at a tolerable price.

2) Prevent the Soviet Union's expansion into the region.

3) Ensure the continued existence of Israel.

You can make a strong case that #3 is actually a derivative of #2, but the special historical circumstances behind Israel makes it deserving of a place on the top line.

It should be noted that the principal strategy for accomplishing #1 and #3 was to play the Sunnis and the Shiites off each other, resulting in the Iran-Iraq war. This scared the bejeezus out of the neutral gulf states and the Saudis and gave us the basing rights we needed to accomplish #2.

Now, fast-forward to 2003. What are the objectives?

1) Keep a large supply of oil flowing from the Persian Gulf at a tolerable price.

2) Render the ideology behind Islamic terrorism impotent as quickly as possible.

3) Ensure the continued existence of Israel.

Two problems: First, #3 has to stand on its own (no more USSR) and it pisses everybody else off that we won't throw Israel under the bus, historical circumstances notwithstanding. Second, nobody in the administration has a clue how to accomplish #2.

Enter the neocons. I come to bury conspiracy theories, not to praise Bushco, so I'll put the most realpolitik face on this I can. They say, "Hey, kids! We know a way that we can improve our basing situation, actually sit astride the oil supply (#1), scare the crap out the Iranians so they have to let go of Hezbollah and concede on their nukes (#3), and set up a nice laboratory to see if we can teach a Middle Eastern country how to play Democracy (#2)! Kinda risky, but hey, what's the down side? We can always go back to playing the Sunnis off the Shiites if things go pear-shaped."

Well, now we know. Yeah, yeah, lots of you knew all along. I was stupid along with them. Granted. My hair shirt's at the cleaners.

Tell me this isn't a more prosaic explanation for everything. Also, please note: If we actually had produced a decent Iraq rather than being monumentally stupid, all 3 objectives would have been immeasurably advanced.

I think that covers everything in the conspiracy theory except for Pakistan, which is easy: We needed an air corridor into Afghanistan. We went to Musharraf and said, "Pervez, baby: How'd you like to be our replacement for the Shah of Iran? If not, we'll be taking a chunk of Baluchistan from you. What's your pleasure?" Note that "friend" doesn't enter into the picture.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Oh, yeah: You cannot engage in a charm offensive with Iran while driving an armored column through Mesopotamia. It's a trifle disingenuous even for normal diplomatic discourse.

Again, everything flows from one incredibly stupid decision.

David Brin said...

RM... exactly what “symptoms of treason” are you talking about? We have had several major types of traitor since the bad old days of the Rosenbergs. Ever since Vietnam, ALL of our apparent traitors seem to have come from the right end of the spectrum.

Aldrich Ames, Hanssen, the Walkers... all were smug, amoral, decadent, self-deceiving... and exactly which of these traits do you claim to see missing from you know who?

The other style of traitor has been the blackmail victims like the Moscow embassy marine guards. And yes, the list of traits that I just recited can be said to apply to them, as well.

“You still haven't been able to identify who benefits from a diminution of American power in your conspiracy theory.“

Gurggle thrash and moan. There are plenty of powers on this planet who despise the enlightenment and everything it stands for. There are tons of those INSIDE America. Now imagine how such folk feel when they are feudalists, religious fanatics, macho misogynists who despise liberated women, and deeply vengeful over a thousand years of perceived slights, oppression, colonialism and crusades.

Hell, even FELLOW members of the Enlightenment, like the French, want “diminution of American power. So do our top customers, the Chinese. But there is a locale where this hatred is perfect. It is absolute. It is taught in every textbook to every school child in every single grade.

And no, not a single “face value” rationalization offered by the neocons makes even a gnat’s wing of sense. If the goal was to create “islands of democracy” in the middle east you would start where there already was at least a shred of democratic thinking, in smaller experiments, where large local populations would be happy to see us. Lebanon. Jordan. Or, if done in a brilliant jiu jitsu move, Iran, with its tradition of elections and a civil society.

The one place on Earth you would NOT do this exercise in “nation building” is Iraq, repeating every mistake of Vietnam AS IF FROM A COOKBOOK RECIPE.

It is that perfection, as if someone said “what was the worst mistake America ever made... and now let’s get them to repeat it...”

The mind-boggling difference in the rationalizations given for Iraq, from direct and outright lies about WMD and terror links to this outrageously absurd story that neocons actually want to engage in “nation building” (har!) shows that none of the rationalizations has any relation whatsoever to our mission there, which is to enflame the muslim world and unite it against us, WHILE destroying the US military and dividing America against itself.

In fact, you have answered NONE of the alignments. The only anomaly is our relative success in afghanistan. It continues to boggle and amaze. Some very smart guys were involved in that. American competence is not dead, it is just being mangled and mismanaged. The only argument is whether that much cometence could be that badly mismanaged, except as part of a plan.

RandomSequence said...


Charm offensive: Iran did send an offer during our invasion, when everything was going our way. That's when you close the deal - when the buyer thinks he has no credit, and you're giving him a deal by even talking with him.

My full-blown, tinfoil hat conspiracy, my nightmare with cold-sweats:

This has nothing to do with short-term advantage. This is a game by the top 0.1%, who are looking at geopolitical dominance, and not just trading stocks. They actually do believe in global warming, they do worry that the Chinese are going to start selling dollars (I read today that they're opening up a dollar-denominated investment fund), they don't see US industry recovering, and they do believe in peak oil.

They're the ultimate pessimists. So they're selling their interest in the current system; getting out while the getting is good. By collapsing the system now while they still have their hands on wheel, they hope to come out on top in the aftermath. They're not trying to build something better, which what your assumption about rational self-interest assumes. They just want to guarantee themselves a good position in the aftermath.

Imagine that its 476, and Odoacer is approaching Rome. You are a powerful Roman duke in the surrounding countryside. The empire appears to be falling. You can fight and try to rebuild it, or step out of the way, let Romulus Augustus be deposed, and steal some lands in the ensuing disorder. It's not exactly treason...

Don Quijote said...

I think there is hope of a new beginning, if for no other reason because most of the foolishness of our policies has been laid at the door of the Texas White House.


How far would you trust a country that elected an incompetent like Shrub to be it's President?

Iraq Strategy?

Simple, take over country, control the Oil Fields, open & close Oil spigots at will so that we can reward or punish our competitors (gee, I wonder why they didn't want to help us), build a bunch of nice big Military bases from which we could threaten Iran and Saudi Arabia. Simple basic strategy, they just forgot to take into account that they are a bunch of Infidels occupying a country in which they can't even read the street signs, understand the language or any of the basic of the local culture.

As for Afghanistan things are going so well that it's back to being the largest Opium producer in the world, and Karzai barely controls Kabul, other than that things are working out just fine.

As for Iran, we could probably have peace with them, but for that to happen we would have to admit to having overthrown their duly elected government, imposed our very own puppet to rule them with the help of one of the most vicious and brutal secret polices in world trained by us.

Hank Fox said...

Iran had already elected a secularist President, before the dimwit in the White House opened his stupid mouth and named them part of the "Axis of Evil."

With just a few words, BUSH gave power to the Islamists.

TheRadicalModerate said...

RS, first let me take some scissors to your faraday cage: The people you're describing here never bet one way. They hedge all positions. The evidence will not support a hedged conspiracy theory.


Now, David. Innuendo is inappropriate for this discussion. You're asserting that Bush is an agent for the Saudis. Almost everybody else in the inner circle would have to be agents too, or somebody would have blown the whistle. But Bush would have to be in on it.

Why would he do this?

Power? Uh, he's the most powerful man in the world. Why would he align himself with a dynasty that has about a 99% chance of being swept violently out of power some time in the next 15 years?

Money? What would the price be that would make it worthwhile? He's pretty rich already. How would he launder that much, post-presidency, without the press being all over him?

Religion? So, he's an Islamic mole masquerading as an evangelical Christian? You don't spend a lot of time in Texas, do you?

Blackmail? OK, I'll try the tinfoil hat on for this one. (Jaunty! Love the waveguide earflaps, too.) But then, how do you get the inner circle to cooperate? They're all being blackmailed?

It's just silly.

Let's move on to the 1984-style Oceania/Eurasia/Eastasia scenario, which you also implied. (I think you implied that--there was a certain entanglement of states going on there for a while.) Again, cui bono? Bush's inner circle? They're all going to be out of power!!! Even if a Republican gets elected prez, there is absolutely no way that Congress doesn't stay mostly Dem. Or are you expecting a coup?

Come on.

One last question: Somewhere in this thread, you said:


I admit that it is less likely than the alternative, that we are led by towering, anencephalic, grabby, insatiable, sadistic, dogmatic, delusional, kleptocratic, hate-drenched, moronic, neo-feudal frat-boy hypocrites.

Has your position changed? If so, why?

David Brin said...

Just because I officially deny something, that does not mean that I am incapable of being ornery and contrary and playing devil's advocate for a position that - while a minority and secondary theory - nevertheless is undeservedly ignored in today's society.

The odds are vastly greater for this highly plausible minority hypothesis to be true, than manifest in the fraction of attention it has received.

Indeed, since you will ONLY find it here, I am in the awkward position of having to draw attention to it, even if I think that the almost universally-held theory seems slightly more likely.

After all, what if I am wrong? What if instead of 60:40 one way it turns out to be the other way around? The staggering importance of this possibility is so great THAT WE SHOULD ALL DRAW ATTENTION TO IT! If only to ensure that society's T Cells and agents of protection give it the attention it deserves!

TheRadicalModerate said...

Sounds a little bit like how one develops an auto-immune disease...

Kelsey Gower said...

Are you suggesting, RM, that people who are too overprotective against conspiracy scenarios will end up destroying themselves? Or at the very least overlook real dangers?

That actually might explain cults...

Tony Fisk said...

...repeating every mistake of Vietnam AS IF FROM A COOKBOOK RECIPE.

If certain folk believe that they can re-create the magic by following the recipe then I, for one, wouldn't want to disillusion them. (although I wish they hadn't tried!)

Actually, I think the worst mistake has yet to be repeated: placing the blame on the (ahem!) 'demoralised drug-ridden rabble' that came home last time. I don't believe the mistake is about to be repeated either. Too many eyes, this time around!

RM wrote:
Sounds a little bit like how one develops an auto-immune disease...

Actually, auto-immune dieases are more likely to arise when the T-cells aren't given enough to do: a bit of healthy dirt and paranoid conspiracy theories keeps them on their toes, and out of the tin foil!

Anyway, just to flip the analogy, isn't the very notion of a 'Kingdom's Candidate' enough to make you break out in a rash?

I think David is right to give the scenario an airing.

So what if it's moonshine viewed through Kool-aid? The man is a writer of fiction, and makes his living from tall tales.

If it's not, the meme needs to get embedded in the hippocampi of a few intelligence officers, where it can lay ready to be triggered by some otherwise innocuous piece of information in a report that crosses their desk.

Meanwhile, they'll have had a good read!

Anonymous said...

I can easily understand the Bush "incompetency" in trying to dismantle the state. It's Norquist "starve the beast" in action where you trash the state so badly that there is no hope for us progressives to push a forward agenda, since we'll be too busy cleaning up messes.

The circles that Bush moves in gain power as the state loses it. They are not about individuals gaining power - they are about seizing the fragments of power as it is bled away from the state. Think privitization - the markets don't liberate, but rather state monopolies wind up in a few well-connected hands.

To extend the conspiracy theory, we'd need an analogue to US military power. How could moneyed elites benefit from the inability/unwillingness to intervene overseas? Turn things over to paid mercenaries that lack the constraints of the UCMJ? Turn on overseas enforcement of kleptocratic regimes from a few UN peace-keepers to guys that would make the KGB blush?

Maybe the goal is to convince US policy-makers to do things the British way - get the locals to do all the dirty work of exploitation for a minimal cut?

I'm just throwing out questions. If your conspiracy theory leads to a vacuum (which looks very plausible) - one must ask what Phase II is?

David Brin said...

Phase II?

Depends on which "hat" you want me to wear. The most entertaining and garishly paranoid hat?

In that case, somehow get your hands on a novel called JITTERBUG by Mike McQuay

Woozle said...

A list of threats to civilization, presented for your approval (corrections and additions welcome). Especially please let me know if I'm missing any major Brin riffs.

randomsequence's paranoid conspiracy theory resonates most strongly for me. Has it been said before and I just missed it, or is this a somewhat new take on the situation?

Also, Blogger is totally not showing the word-verification image on Firefox. (Using Opera to post this.) Will complain when I get a chance... anyone else having problems?

Kelsey Gower said...

Strange, I can see the word verification image alright on my Firfox browser.

Unknown said...

David, you wrote "So do our top customers, the Chinese."

Just offering a factual correction -- according to the CIA World Factbook, your largest partner is that friendly country just to the north: Canada.

Exports - partners: Canada 23.4%, Mexico 13.3%, Japan 6.1%, China 4.6%, UK 4.3% (2005)
Imports - partners: Canada 16.9%, China 15%, Mexico 10%, Japan 8.2%, Germany 5% (2005)

You're in good company with this mistake -- most US politicians make it too. (Whether this is company you want to be seen with I'll leave to you...)

sociotard said...

I think it's that whole "51st state" thing. People don't list Canada when talking about foreign relations matters like who our biggest partner is.

It's wrong, I know.

Anonymous said...

Holy. ####ing. Shit.

Pardon my language, but it is warranted.

We have achieved full parody status as a nation:

Halliburton to move corporate HQ to Dubai.

Well, I guess we know where Cheney will be living in a few years.

Tony Fisk said...

I was getting the problem you describe, and it has been described on the blogspot status. The simplest workaround is to restart Firefox. It worked for me. Good luck!

Stefan, since you're stoked over Halliburton's plans, how do you spell 'hypocrite'? Newt Gingrich has admitted to having an extra-marital affair during the Starr chamber witch-hunt. Now, can you imagine the furore if that had happened under Clinton?

...hmmm! come to think of it, I suppose it did!!

reason said...

As regards Fr. Merkel, she is still a bit of an unknown quantity. For a politician, she is remarkably uncynical. But she doesn't really have a strong power base so I wonder what she will end up acchieving.

Anonymous said...

Something VERY disturbing...

From Hyperpartisan watch:
Federal investigations of politicians holding national office:
Democrats: 36
Republicans: 30

Federal investigations of politicians holding lower offices:
Democrats: 262
Republicans: 37
Independents: 10

"We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest....[Conversely] because the investigations of state-wide and federal elected officials and candidates occurred within the radar of the national press, there was little room for nefarious, out-of-line investigations for political purposes on the part of the Bush Justice Department."

sociotard said...

I thought I'd post an amusing game for those interested in politics: Fantasy Congress

Form or join a league, then draft congresspeople. Points are based on how effective they are at getting legislation through.

Danthelawyer said...

I've read the whole comment threat, and I still don't see who benefits.

Long ago, Matthew Yglesias posted an essay suggesting (as a joke) that Bush is an Iranian mole.
Your piece seems to propose this as a serious theory. But I'm not sure, because you don't say it explicitly.

Is it just a war on the Enlightenment? That can't really account for what's gone on.

I'm really looking forward to seeing whether, and if so, how, serious you really are.

David Brin said...

It is not my job to be "serious". I am trained as a scientist and hence I know just how murky the world of policy and history and conspiracy theories can be. As a physicist, I would be ashamed to "hold" an explicit and exclusive theory about things that are so uncertain and potentially unprovable.

Indeed, I believe that one of the plagues destroying clear thinking today is the zealous eagerness with which millions leap upon one model of the positical/social world and thenceforth throw away their minds, ignoring all evidence to the contrary and inflating all "supporting" evidence out of all proportion.

My job, one that I execute in fiction and nonfiction, is the same as that of an intelligence officer. It is to point out inconvenient correlations, possibilities, plausibilities and alternative scenarios to those that seem to have been accepted far too readily... the delusion of the right that WMDs or terrorism or "nation building" ever had a gnat's-behind to do with motivating the Iraq War. Or the equally unsupported and idiotic Roger Moore notion that it was all about going over there and "getting Iraq's oil."

If I see correlations that support an alternative hypothesis... one that may be less likely than the standard model, but not MUCH less likely... then shall I sit on it? When clearly it merits discussion, in the open, alongside the "outrageously stupid, dogmatic, immoral/klepto frat boys" theory?

Frankly, I find your confusion... confusing! Exactly what is hard to understand about one group wanting to destroy another group that they deeply hate and despise? That they despise for religious, social, political, ethnic, historical and a myriad other reasons? A system that threatens to liberate their women, their slaves, their lower classes and (very soon, please God) may find ways to make the oil much less valuable?

Why was this so easy for the mind to wrap itself around, back when we had adversaries like the Nazis and the KGB... but it seems unfathomable today, even despite the events of 9/11 and more than a hundred others, before or since?

I do, truly, perceive THAT it is hard to grasp. Obviously that must be the case, since I see no signs that our intelligence services even grok the possibility. These professionals appear to actually believe that there are "liberal elements" in that desert House, "moderate" elements who are striving (out of friendship to us) to control a movement that those same elements have succored and subsidized and trained and engendered with every fiber of their beings.

I find it rather boggling, that these professionals display a near-perfect inability to even conceive alternative possibilities. Let alone trying on for size the POSSIBILITY that these "moderate" elements might really mean some of the not-so-moderate things that that they have actually said aloud, in their own language, or that they pour into the textbooks that they teach to their young.

I am not claiming that I know anything for sure. Perhaps the Oxford graduate playboys really are decadent and shallow and trying to be our friends. But personally, I respect them more than that. They are scions of not one, but two bona fide geniuses, who founded both sides of their mighty clan. All reports suggest that they are brilliant, dedicated and very, very far from decadent (at least by their own standards.) The genius appears to be hereditary, and by some older ways of looking at the world, perhaps that may be seen as justification for a destiny that is very great, indeed.

I do know this. If our professionals are really as stupid and unaware as they currently seem, then I haven't a clue how to prevent this from going to another, and very painful, phase. One in which Pax Americana has been gelded and brought low.

What I DO know is what will happen after that. The same thing that always happens when we are knocked on our asses.

We'll get up. And we will surprise those who thought they had us pegged.

Anonymous said...


From the article quoted in the linked article:

"83 percent were investigations of Democrats, 16 percent were Republicans....the study concludes that Democrat office holders are 67 percent more likely to be investigated"

Urk! Innumeracy! 83-16=67 - but Democrats were actually 83/16 = 5.2x or 420% more likely to be investigated! I'm pretty sure that wasn't the fault of the original study...

I can't find a good link to the original study - did they look at the same statistics for previous presidents, to show that Bush is especially egregious? (It'd be really funny if it turned out that the same ratio held under Clinton - i.e. if it were simply that local Democrats are simply 5x as likely to be corrupt... :-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis of hit movie "300":

Sparta? No. This is madness

Unknown said...


That's an odds ratio, not a probability difference.

total investigations: 83+16 = 99

p(democrat)= 83/99
p(republican)= 16/99

p(democrat) - p(republican) =~ 67.7%

p(democrat) / p(republican) =~ 5.2

So, in this case "67% more likely to be investigated" and "has 5.2 times the odds of being investigated" are equivalent, though it's up to the journalist which one carries the best message.

Tony Fisk said...

Halliburton to move corporate HQ to Dubai.

...A system that threatens to liberate their women, their slaves, their lower classes and (very soon, please God) may find ways to make the oil much less valuable?

Which makes this report (original here) a case of strange bedfellows!:
MIT will partner with Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company to establish the UAE's first ever research institution dedicated to graduate research in sustainability and renewable energy.

Sarah Rich has noted the coincidence as well.

(it's a cover!)

sociotard said...

Just a few things I thought posters here might find interesting.

Wired articl about Soldier Augmentation research at Darpa
It's not quite what Mr. Brin predicted in Postman, but Darpa always seems to be up to something interesting. This article focused on heat transfer gloves that greatly improve endurance and resistance to extreme temperatures. It also mentioned sudden oxygen deprivation using Hydrogen Sulfide to induce suspended animation in soldiers who've lost up to 60% of their blood (no human tests on this one yet, but the mice tests have gone well).

Newspaper reveals list of conceal and carry permits in virginia
This guy bought a list of conceal and carry permits, complete with addresses from the police for $100 (this was legal). He then published it online for easy perusal by anyone (the list has since been taken down).

Now, this should be interesting for discussion, since most here believe in open societies and accountability. However, this seems to be going too far, and has the potential for real problems. I'll post a few comments I've seen made for examples.

"I've moved twice to get away from a violent ex. Now I have to move again. I really appreciate you publishing my address. Gee, thanks."

"I wonder how that reporter would feel if we published his kid’s ages, the schools they attend and their home addresses. After all it’s all technically public information."

"Hey, who needs to circumvent gun control laws when someone has published a list which tells you where guns are likely to be. Just be certain that no one is home when you go on your little home invasion shopping trip, if you want to ransack a house and look for a weapon."
'Hey, a shopping list! Now I know where to go to steal a gun for my next crime. Thanks Yellow Book!'

Should limits be placed on how easy it is to look up informantion of this kind? I mean, I still believe this kind of information should be collected and filed away. Actually, now I wonder: can I get the local police department to reveal an inventory list of what they currently stock in their weapons locker? Heh, maybe I'll have to try it out tomorrow and find out.

reason said...

you are wrong - the chance of being investigated is much lower than that (wrong denominator). We are actually not given enough information to make a complete calculation but given that one is a politician and making the not unreasonable assumption that the total number of D & R politicians is approximately equal, the likelihood of being investigated as a Democrat is 5 times as high. The 67% figure is the difference in the chance that a randomly selectled investigation involves a D as against a R. (And is a not a figure that would normally be used in comparing groups). It is like saying that the (unknown) suspect has a x% chance of being a black given the normal ratio of arrests.

B.C. said...

"The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge," the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton's 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. "I drew a line in my mind that said, 'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials."

If you could prove that Bush perjured himself, right-wing America would go ballistic. It's not about the affair per se, it's about lying. Criminally and unequivocably, which the "lies" about WMD were not. I can still respect Gingrich under these circumstances, and note that he's coming clean about it himself and not just getting caught. We're none of us perfect.


reason said...


Some are obviously more imperfect than others. But you can't be serious about the right wing - when has Republicans lying ever worried them. Perjury under oath, now that is another matter of course but Republicans never take oaths do they.

Unknown said...

@reason, ok, here's a better analysis:


Using Bayes' rule:

p(i|d) = p(d|i)p(i)/p(d)
p(i|r) = p(r|i)p(i)/p(r)

Odds ratio:

p(i|d)/p(i|r) = (83/16) * p(d)/p(r)

Probability increase:

(assuming equal numbers of r and d)

p(i|d) - p(i|r) = p(i)(.84 - .16)

I don't know p(i), but it should be calculable, empirically (and, yes, it's much lower than 67%).

Unknown said...


p(i|d) - p(i|r) = p(i)(.84 - .16)/2

David Brin said...

Max, that sophistry has got to win top prize of the month. Right wing America would do NOTHING is Bush perjured himself in front of a judge... while dangling a naked child in front of an octopus. Because this line is a pure rationalization and they would simply find another one.

Dig it, Clinton's "perjury" was disposed of quickly when the judge thre the original question out as an illegal question! What are the chances that the right would ignore that convenient out, if the guy involved were Bush?

Let's see "Who me, some nookie in the hallway? Uh, never!"

THAT is far worse than relentless firehose tsunamis of relentlessly shameful lying about matters of PUBLIC POLICY and LIFE and DEATH?

Bush and Cheney and Powell lie to the entire world and to the American people, in order to get us to waste a trillion dollars, ten thousand of our own lives, half a million foreign lives, destroy our alliances, our readiness, our world trust...


Sorry, wrong. They WERE perpetrated under oath. An oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

Want an equivalent sophistry?

FDR signed to order creating the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Hitler never signed any order establishing Auschwitz. Aha! Therefore FDR is by far the worse war criminal!

Dig it. After the outrageously bilious culture war that Gingrich et al put us through in the 90s, declaring the Clinton Administration to be the "most corrupt" in US history ALL THEY EVER GOT ON HIM WAS A FIB ABOUT NOOKIE IN A HALLWAY.

And not just him. For the 1st time in US history, not a SINGLE member of an administration went to jail or was even indicted for malfeasance in the performance of public office. Not one, despite Bush efforts that dragged FBI agents to trawl file cabinets instead of searching for terrorists, before 9/11. (Outright treason.)

Fact. The Clinton was the most HONEST administration in all of US history... followed by the most overwhelmingly corrupt of all time. The blatant facts support this.

It is getting amusing, watching the right squirm insanely for rationalizations, covering their eyes and ears and shouting "Nah! Nah! Monica!" The sad thing is that Newt coulda been somebody, instead of a boor and hupocrite and laughingstock.

Rob said...

Another IMHO tremendous post by Greenwald today (3/14).

Link to Salon, just click through the ad.

All about the continuing "education" of the decider-in-chief, this instance being a luncheon honoring neocon author Andrew Roberts. Greenwald's article is chock-full of insights such as this:

"The most critical priority [of the neocon "educators"] is to convince the President to continue to ignore the will of the American people and to maintain full-fledged loyalty to the neoconservative agenda, no matter how unpopular it becomes.

To do this, they have convinced the President that he has tapped into a much higher authority than the American people -- namely, God-mandated, objective morality -- and as long as he adheres to that (which is achieved by continuing his militaristic policies in the Middle East, whereby he is fighting Evil and defending Good), God and history will vindicate him..."

Just go read it. There is no hope for Enlightenment values as long as this bunch is in control of any aspect of the government.

B.C. said...

Dr. Brin,

That's interesting about the judge dismissing perjury charges based on the illegality of the question. If I'd known that it would have changed my attitude about the whole impeachment proceedings.

Reason, my impression is that the right-wing constituency doesn't care about charges of "lying" because the "lies" in question are only lies in the judgment of the left. (Like WMD in Iraq.) Plus the fact that they reflexively tune out the left. People I know do get concerned about actual falsehoods and crimes.


B.C. said...

Except... I'm having trouble finding a source for your legal argument about perjury. doesn't mention anything about the illegality of the question although it mentions other defenses, and neither does Wikipedia. It seems unfair for you to characterize reaction to the alleged perjury as hypocritical when the alleged defense is obscure and unpublicized.


David Brin said...

Replace that with "reflexively tune out reality."

Anyone who can make up excuses to perceive the WMD episode as anything other than outright and highly treasonous lying, is a genius of delusion. I can tell you this, the entire intelligence community considers all of these guys pathological liars.

Um... suppose they were sincere and sent us to war... that is W... A... R... based upon an innocent mistake... does not that kind of astoundingly incompetent delusional mistake DISQUALIFY someone from being considered a wise "decider" of public policy? Like the way the same team subsidized and coddled Saddam for ages, then left him in power when he was in the palm of our hand.

When does an endless litany of either lies or "honest mistakes" make a group less qualified to "decide" than a guy who did everything RIGHT for eight years... but blurted out a fib about his personal life, when being asked an illegal question during a cosmically unjustified and hypocritical witch hunt?

(We now know that 75% of the men hounding Clinton for moral faults were DEMONSTABLY and OVERWHELMINGLY less moral in their personal lives. Oh, the hypocrisy is as amazing as the delusional psychosis that lets decent american citizens concoct such rationalizations.

Big C said...

Regarding accusations of Clinton's perjury, this has been discussed before here. Here's what I posted previously when David commented on this before (Text I wrote is in italics, text I quoted is in bold; See the full thread here):

"Well, maybe David's characterization is a bit of hyperbole, but the question was ruled immaterial. From a report that is part of the text of the House Bill impeaching Clinton:

'[Footnote] 40A lie under oath becomes a criminal offense only when it is `material' to the proceeding in which it is given. Courts have held a statement to be material if it `has a natural tendency to influence, or was capable of influencing, the decision of the tribunal in making a [particular] determination. Proof of actual reliance on the statement is not required; the Government need only make a reasonable showing of its potential effects.' United States v. Barrett, 111 F.3d 947, 953 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (internal quotation omitted) (brackets in original); see also United States v. Moore, 613 F.2d 1029, 1037-38 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (same); United States v. Icardi, 140 F. Supp. 383, 388 (D.D.C. 1956) (same).


'In evaluating the Majority's charge, the rulings made by Judge Wright in the Jones case must be considered. These are directly relevant to the question whether the President's allegedly false statements could possibly be characterized as violations of the federal law cited by the Referral and relied upon by the Majority. Judge Wright's order excluding evidence concerning Ms. Lewinsky, and her order granting the President's summary judgment motion, clearly establish that any alleged misleading statements by the President concerning his indisputably consensual and non-harassing relationship with Ms. Lewinsky were simply not material matters.'

"Well, I'm no lawyer, but it seems that David's characterization is a bit of an overstatement. The question wasn't "illegal," "improper," or "out of order," but it wasn't relevant to the Paula Jones case, and it was ruled immaterial. Accordingly, the perjury charge would be moot.

"Of course, this doesn't make Clinton's behavior any less dishonest or reprehensible, but it does appear to support the core of David's assertion, just not the hyperbole."

Does this answer your question?

B.C. said...

Big C,

Yes, I think so. I wonder if this isn't part of the reason why 20% of Republican Senators voted to acquit--they would have heard all the legal arguments even if the rank and file didn't. On the other hand, one of the failings of the American justice system is that a defense doesn't generally get considered if your attorney doesn't make a point of it, and this was buried in a footnote.


-Max Wilson

B.C. said...

Let me be extra-clear about this: I'm not a big fan of lying, but we're dealing with a politician here. An ethical transgression by a sitting President is, in fact, less reprehensible than a criminal act. Or rather, criminal acts are so reprehensible as to cross the line. I've acknowledged elsewhere that if Condi rejected a peace offer from Iran and then lied about having received one, that would also be an impeachable offense (even though not technically criminal). It crosses the line.


Anonymous said...

As long as we are dealing with paranoid nightmares, mine is that a group fascist sympathizing American and British businessmen and bureaucrats -the type that thought we should have been fighting Stalin, not Hitler- met in 1945, realized their cause was going down, and decided on a plan for revenge. They already had considerable influence in their countries, and would coordinate so that they would either completely take over their institutions, or undermine them to the point where neither the US or Britain could accomplish what those nations accomplished in World War II. And their descendents continue to work for this goal.

I will be the first to say that there is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever. It just happens to be my personal nightmare.

reason said...

With regard to a change in VP, I don't think any of the likely candidates would want the job, they will want to keep as much distance between them and this administration as possible. But in my more paranoid moments there is a possible contender - the Treasury Secretary. I couldn't understand why he took the thankless job - but if they offered him the VP job and a shot at the presidency - he is ambitious!

Anonymous said...

When the Clintons stole the FBI files they used information on members of congress to blackmail them. Newt is a prime example. The Clintons shut him down and others with extensive info.

Bill Clinton was only one of two presidents to be KICKED out of office. Hillary was by his side. Every lie, dirty trick, blackmail and murder was done on their watch. Funny how many people were murdered. How many Secret Service agaents were taken out of the white house? Their bag man steal info fron the national archives in his undewear and socks.

Folks the Clintons should be in jail not running for office. The Communist Chinese love the Clintons. Look at all the money the Chinese give them and look at all the people who "go away" or are in jail surrounding the Chinese money. I think they call this treason. The Clintons will be just like Putin an ex KGB agent whu just so happens to have 40 BILLION dollars. The Clintons will make it all on chicken futures, white water real estate, travel kickbacks and money from the Chinese.