Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Technocratic Elite

Incompetent. Hates representative government. Deeply corrupt. 

tl;dr highlights:
  • His agency somehow missed one of the epochal events of the twentieth century: the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the information was available in advance for anyone willing to listen, and it didn't require believing President Gorbachev. In 1985, I attended an unclassified symposium on the Soviet Union that was held in Annapolis, Maryland. One of the experts was Murray Feshbach, then a demographer for the US Census Bureau. Rather than interpreting the state of Soviet power from satellite photographs of missile fields or shipyards, he looked at available data about life expectancy at birth, fertility rates, infant mortality, nutrition, and so on, and the implication was – for me at least – that the USSR was a walking corpse, that it could not sustain itself as a superpower for much longer. That's it – no hocus pocus with moles in the Kremlin, no SDI, no death rays, no training of insurgent armies. Just hard, objective data laid out by an unbiased researcher. Gates's criticism of Biden for being wrong about everything in foreign policy is ironic considering his own demonstrable complicity in deliberately exaggerated Soviet threat assessments. 
  • Gates also allowed that America is after all an "indispensable nation." That phrase is revealing. Certain types of operatives in Washington, particularly in the national security field, are careful to project an apolitical, non-ideological persona. Their preferred pose is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well-considered advice based on profound expertise. That is nonsense. They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. When Gates endorsed the notion of America as an indispensable nation, he was expressing the ideology of American Exceptionalism: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world, to use coercive diplomacy, boots on the ground, and moral relativism when it comes to adherence to international law. A simple examination of Gates's past should have revealed the deeply political nature of his activities, not to mention sordid affairs like Iran-Contra. 
  •  Bush nominated Gates for another try to become CIA director. But this sparked a revolt among CIA career staff, and several current or former agency employees testified or submitted affidavits about Gates's past intelligence distortions. One agency alumnus, Harold P. Ford, testified that Gates's behavior went "beyond professional bounds." One would have thought Congress would still be resistant to his confirmation, given that the Iran-Contra special prosecutor hadn't yet wrapped up the case. But the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, David L. Boren of Oklahoma (like Bush, a Yale alumnus and a fellow Skull and Bones initiate) brushed aside all the inconvenient evidence. Boren's chief of staff was George J. Tenet, who would be CIA director under another Bush presidency. The fix was in, and Bush, who went on to pardon all the convicted conspirators of Iran-Contra on his way out the Oval Office door, was not about to be denied the confirmation of someone who had rendered such invaluable past service. Or someone who knew so much.  In between the two Bush presidencies, Gates became – quelle surprise! – dean of the newly-minted George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Later he was president of that university. This is not the place to exhaustively examine the subject, but Gates's tenure at Texas A&M is another example of the corrosive effect of the revolving door between political operatives in government and the American university system.