Wednesday, 8 January 2014

History Repeating Itself?

Some days I recall things from some time back - odd things.  Things you wouldn't think were particularly memorable.  Mostly trivial junk that used to stand me a few quid better off in a pub quiz, but didn't endear me to family when games like Trivial Pursuit were being played. 

Some of that came back to me yesterday when I was having a  post Christmas & New Year surf around the Internet and came across this story over at Townhall.  In the story, former US Secretary of Defense who has served under most Presidents since Nixon (Clinton aside) has slammed the current administration for allowing politics to dominate foreign and defence policy in a book he has penned.  Now we all know politics dominates these all the time, but this seems particularly damning in the article gives the impression that the politics were so dominant that genuine military experience in the room was marginalised at best.

The article took me back to a book I read some years ago called Why America Slept by Gerald Posner.  In the book, Posner charts the path to September 11th and tells how the signs were there all the time as well as charting the failure of the Clinton administration to act when they had the chance to have Bin Laden effectively handed to them.

Unfortunately I don't have the book to hand, but one of the stand out sections for me described how security briefings had little to do with security and more about how they played out in the press.  Security officials commented on their surprise to find that on numerous times discussing national security issues was often dominated by the thoughts and musings of individuals such as Clinton's press and spin team.  The overriding concern was how action or non action would play out in the media as opposed to what was right for security or foreign policy purposes.  There's a wonderful observation in which this "spin" conversation was interrupted by a security official who made a key observation about the specific issue being discussed.  Within that he described the disdainfully detached look the the spin team gave this observer for having the temerity to ruin their wonderful train of thought before returning to their original conversation without acknowledging the security official's viewpoint.

Posner's book also tells of how Clinton in his obsession with polling seemed to show how he wasn't required to actually take tough action, only give the impression of doing so.  Like the situation Gates seems to describe in the Townhall piece, Clinton too seemed to let the politics of perception dominate to the point he would be prepared to compromise US security.

The Townhall article also gives a sense of disdain for the military within this administration.  That too was something I recall reading about during Clinton's time.  Not necessarily by the President but I certainly recall that being said of his coterie.

My point?  Well - recalling where Posner concluded this culture and subsequent inertia ended up on September 11th, I'm just wondering if history is repeating itself?

1 comment:

  1. he wasn't required to actually take tough action, only give the impression of doing so

    As the CFR like it.