Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Insurgency Continues

As part of its crack-down against insider "leaks," the CIA is reminding former employees about unauthorized contacts with the media. According to various media accounts, several retired analysts and agents claim to have received letters from their former employer, stating that they could lose their pensions if they speak to the press without permission.

Critics contend that the agency is trying to "intimidate" retirees who have criticized the CIA and Bush Administration policies. A spokesman for the agency describes those accusations as "overblown," noting that former employees who now work for the CIA as consultants or contractors could lose those positions for talking with reporters, but not their pensions.

This latest salvo in the leak scandal highlights another thorny issue within our intelligence community. For years, there has been a "revolving door" at Langley, Ft Meade, Bolling and Bethesda, with retired agency hands frequently signing on as consultants or contractors, often working the same issues or problems they handled as intelligence officers. With their security clearances still valid, they usually have access to the same information they reviewed while working for the agency.

On a positive note, the "revolving door" allows intelligence agencies to take advantage of years of expertise and skill on critical issues. Contractors and consultants can also save money, since the agency isn't on the hook for the health care plan and other fringe benefits paid to active officers.

But in today's "leak culture," the retention of former staffers as contractors and consultants has a clear downside. Consider this e-mail that I just received from a staffer on Capitol Hill, who spoke with an employee at an unnamed "three-letter" intelligence agency. It seems that some of the anti-Bush cabal are using contractor or consultant positions to stir up more trouble on the inside. My contact on the Hill reports:

"I got a call from inside the government. Someone wanted me to let people know that the people who were fired by Goss and/or have left thegovernment to write books have gone to work for intel outside contractors where they have just put on their badges and go right back into the agency and hang around just like before. I am told that they are in the lunch room talking to GS-9s and11s, and 12s to stir up a revolt."

If this report is accurate--and I have no reason to doubt its validity--then Mr. Goss needs to redouble his house-cleaning efforts at Langley, and his fellow agency directors might want to start hanging around the cafeteria as well. No one would deny any employee their right to free speech; but this sounds like an effort to forment rebellion within the agency, and that is not a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. There are clear prohibitions on certain types of political activity by federal employees, and the reported actions of these former officers would appear to fall under that category. I think it's time to start firing some contractors and cancelling consultant deals. These former spooks were hired to do intelligence work--not instigate a palace revolt.

Iran's New Missiles

Reuters is reporting that Iran has received its first batch of BM-25 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) from North Korea. The wire service is basing its account on recent comments from the chief of Israeli military intelligence chief (Major General Amos Yadlin), who told a lecture audience that a small number of BM-25s have arrived in Iran.

As we noted in late January, the BM-25s are former Russian sub-launched ballistic missiles (SS-N-6s), that were "de-nuked," reconditioned and sold to Pyongyang, which is now transferring them to Tehran. Land-based versions of the missile are believed to have a range of 2500-4000 km, allowing Iran to reliably target Israel, along with much of eastern and southern Europe.

We use the word "reliably" because Iran's own efforts at building an intermediate range missile have been largely unsuccessful. Acquiring the BM-25 would give Tehran a ready, intermediate range strike capability, and substantially reduce the time/effort required to develop its own IRBMs. Many analysts believe Tehran could conduct a test launch of an imported BM-25 later this year--while the world community grapples with the issue of Iran's nuclear program, and how to deter it.

Along with its "intimidation" value, the BM-25 offers another advantage to Iran. The original missile (the SS-N-6) was designed to carry a nuclear warhead. As Tehran moves toward development of its first nuclear weapons, there are issues of size and weight to contend with. Fitting an early nuclear warhead on the BM-25 might be easier that trying to mate it to a medium-range missile, like the Shahab-3.

When the German press first reported Iran's suspected purchase of the BM-25, it raised an important question: if Iran was still years away from having the bomb, why was aggressively acquiring a proven nuclear delivery system? Rapid introduction of the BM-25--something that we're still waiting to see--might be an indication that Iran's nuclear efforts are more advanced that we believe, and Tehran will have the bomb sooner than expected.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thanks, Andrea

Probably without realizing it, NBC News talking head Andrea Mitchell has shed additional light on the Mary McCarthy leak scandal. Appearing last night on "Hardball," Ms. Mitchell, erstwhile "trophy wife" of retired Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan (pun intended) lamented that Ms. McCarthy had been fired "only one week" before her scheduled retirement date of 30 April.

According to Mitchell, Ms. McCarthy announced her retirement back on February 7th of this year, revealing her plans to become a family practice attorney, specializing in adoptions (there's got to be a joke in there somewhere). As I understand it, departing CIA employees cease their normal duties soon after the announcement, and enter the agency's career transition program. That would suggest that Ms. McCarthy departed the IG's office in late January or early February. Factoring in the transition program and "terminal leave" (using up remaining vacation time or sick days), that would have carried McCarthy until the end of April.

Let's see...the series on secret CIA prisons first appeared in the Washington Post last November. Assuming that reporter Dana Priest spent some time assembling that package, that means that her research and reporting went back a few months in 2005--the same period when McCarthy was still assigned to the IG office. Could McCarthy have been one of Priest's sources? As we noted yesterday, McCarthy has denied that charge, and the CIA indicates that she was fired for "unauthorized" contact with reporters, and not specifically the prison leak.

That means McCarthy potentially had access to the information. But again, a cautionary note: McCarthy had been attending law school at night for several years, and passed the bar last November. Given the rigors of that exam, I'm guessing that McCarthy took a lot of vacation time last summer and fall, preparing for the bar. That would make her a less likely source for Dana Priest. And, as we observed yesterday, it would make little sense to assign such a sensitive issue to a departing staffer. If McCarthy had any role in the leak, it was probably to confirm the basic facts of the story--the details probably came from other staffers, who have yet to be identified.

There are probably some nervous folks around Langley these days. Mary McCarthy may be less the "tip of the iceberg" than another, smaller berg floating in the CIA ocean. And it looks like the "icebreaker" Porter Goss is taking dead aim at the larger berg that provided the bulk of Dana Priest's story. Full steam ahead.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Latest from Tehran

I don't scan the Tehran Times on a regular basis, so perhaps I missed the want ad. But apparently, the Iranian regime is desperately in need of a public relations person. With the possible exception of the old Taliban government in Afghanistan, I can't think of a single regime that consistenly makes the case for its adversaries, and pratically invites military action. You'd think there'd be someone behind Ahmadinejad or Khamenei, tugging on their coats, and imploring them to go easy on the rhetoric, lest the B-2s come calling.

Consider the latest comments from the "Supreme Leader" Khamenei, stating that Iran is willing share its nuclear technology with other countries. Offically, of course, this means that Tehran will offer "peaceful" nuclear technology to other nations, most likely in the Muslim world. In fact, Khamenei made the comments during the meeting with Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir, no dummy, quickly offered that his impoverished country is considering a nuclear program of its own (to generate electricity, of course). And you can probably guess who's ready and willing to help Khartoum.

If that weren't enough, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator had his own comments for the press, suggesting that even military action would not stop Tehran's research efforts. The Iranian official, Ali Larjani, said bluntly that "if you take harsh measures, we will hide this program." Diplomats and IAEA officials long been speculation that Tehran would take its nuclear program underground if threatened with sanctions or military action. A more likely scenario is that Iran already has some sort of covert program; as demonstrated by North Korea, it is entirely possible to develop nuclear weapons, while creating the illusion of "compliance" with international accords.

With an IAEA report looming, and the vague threat of potential sanctions, you'd think that Iran would be treading lightly these days. But with a virtual guarantee of a Russian or Chinese veto in the security council (and the Europeans dithering), the mullahs have no reason to temper their statements. From their perspective, they have nothing to fear (at least not over the short term). So, they'll keep pressing the envelope, assured that the "world community" remains divided on the nuclear issue, and reasonably confident that the U.S. won't go it alone, with an unpopular war in Iraq, and sagging poll numbers for the incumbent president. In that environment, it's easy to say what you think, with little fear of punitive action. Seventy years ago, a fellow in Germany did the same thing. And we remember how long it took the world to decide that he was actually a threat.

That's probably why we haven't seen that want ad in the Tehran Times.

It Wasn't Me

That's the claim that fired CIA leaker Mary McCarthy is making, through intermediaries.

According to her lawyer, Washington attorney Ty Cobb (who defended a number of Clinton Administration officials who ran afoul of the law), Ms. McCarthy lacked access to the information she is accused of leaking. Moreover, a senior CIA official says that the agency is not asserting thta Ms. McCarthy was fired for passing information on secret terrorist prisons in eastern Europe to the Washington Post. Dana Priest, the WaPo reporter who wrote an exclusive series on the alleged prisons, recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her work.

The McCarthy scandal is growing more curious by the day. First of all, Ms. McCarthy wasted no time getting "lawyered up," hiring a high-priced legal gun with plenty of experience defending members of the Clinton crowd. That's probably a sound tactical move, but it seems a bit premature; to date, Ms. McCarthy has not been arrested, nor are there any indications that she is about to do the perp walk.

In fact, if that CIA "source" is correct, there's probably a decent chance that McCarthy won't face criminal prosecution at all. Unauthorized contact with reporters represents a breach of the confidentiality agreement that McCarthy signed as a condition of her employment. But a public trial could be potentially embarassing--and possibly expose other intel programs and methods--so there's no guarantee that she will face criminal charges for simply talking to the Post. But McCarthy apparently isn't taking any chances--or maybe she, Mr. Cobb (and federal prosecutors in Washington) know something we don't.

That brings us to another obvious point: if McCarthy wasn't the source for the Post series, then other agency employees were clearly involved. In a recent post, we wondered why McCarthy, who was on the verge of retirement, would be entrusted with oversight of one of the agency's most sensitive programs. We also speculated that the "prisons" might have been covered by SAR/SAP access, requiring personnel to be "read into" the program, and limiting the number of individuals who knew about the effort. If that's the case, it would certainly narrow down the number of possible leakers, and all indicators suggest that the probe is continuing. I'm guessing the polygraph operators at Langley have probably been working overtime for the past few weeks. Depending on the results of those exams, Ms. McCarthy may soon have company in the unemployment line--and Ty Cobb may have some additional clients.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The McCarthy File

As we noted previously, the career of fired CIA agent Mary McCarthy apparently suffered a major setback with the end of the Clinton Administration. Until that time, Ms. McCarthy had been on the intelligence equivalent of the career fast-track; in barely a decade, she climbed from obscure analyst at CIA Headquarters to the National Intelligence Officer for Warning (NIO), a feat of bureaucratic advancement that it simply stunning. A protege of legendary CIA officer Charlie Allen (who now runs the intel shop at the Department of Homeland Security), Ms. McCarthy catapulted over hundreds of more senior officers until she reached the apex of her career in the Clinton White House, as Director of Intelligence Programs--hand-picked by none other than National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.

But with the arrival of the Bush team, McCarthy was apparently banished back to Langley, and wound up with a rather mundane posting to boot. According to press accounts, Ms. McCarthy was working in the agency's Inspector General (IG) directorate at the time she was fired. As a member of the IG staff, McCarthy's duties included the investigation of complaints by agency staffers, and helped ensure organizational compliance with the rules, regulations and statutory laws that govern intelligence organizations.

While the work of an IG is important, it is not viewed as a plum assignment, nor a job suitable for someone on the fast-track. The agency won't divulge Ms. McCarthy's specific duties at the time for her firing, but there is no indication that she was serving as the CIA IG, the highest-ranking official within that directorate. If that's the case, then McCarthy must been demoted at some time or the other. A National Intelligence Officer (the job she held in the mid-1990s) is the equivalent of a four-star general, with an Senior Executive Service (SES) grade and salary to match. It is quite likely that Ms. McCarthy was still an SES while working in the IG office, but that assignment represented a substantial demotion from her salad days as an NIO, and as a senior staffer for Bill Clinton.

That begs some obvious questions: first of all, when McCarthy left the Clinton White House, what position did she enter at Langley? Normally, for a "returning" senior civil servant, the agency would attempt to place the individual in a slot commensurate with their past duties and experience. For McCarthy, that would mean re-appointment as a NIO, or at least a Deputy NIO. With her White House and Democratic Party connections, such a posting would seem virtually automatic. But apparently, that didn't happen. That fact alone should raise a few eyebrows in the security establishment, because a former NRO with superb political ties should have easily segued to another high-level assignment, despite the change in administrations.

Which brings us to question #2: what exactly happened that led to McCarthy's posting in the CIA IG? Did she spend the last five years of her career in that backwater, or did she return to an NIO-level job, before being shifted to the IG's office? That distinction is important, because it could provide a possible motivation for her eventual contact with the WaPo. Ms. McCarthy's Democratic Party activism was clearly a factor, but her move from the White House to a bureaucratic dead-end provides another, powerful influence on her decision to leak.

Finally, it would be interesting to know McCarthy's status within the CIA's agency transition program, as it relates to her identifiction and dismissal. Various accounts suggest that McCarthy had already entered the program (designed to prepare departing spooks for retirement or a new career) at the time the agency initiated the investigation. Once again, the timeline is critical. I've never worked for the agency, but I'm told that the transition program becomes you're "full time job" over the last few weeks of your CIA career. In other words, your old duties cease, and you no longer report to your office. If McCarthy was talking to Dana Priest while in the transition program, then her decision to leak was made much earlier--and any materials passed to the WaPo were gathered weeks, perhaps months in advance.

McCarthy's IG role and status in the transition program also raises questions about other possible participants in the leak effort. Here's are some thoughts to support that suppostion. If you're going to leak exceptionally sensitive information, who better than someone about to leave the agency, and retire before they can be discovered? Using McCarthy for the leak would allow others to remain on the inside, and continue provding information to a friendly news media.

The former NIO's planned retirement might also have been intended to provide legal cover for the disclosure effort. The leaker (or perhaps, leakers) apparently reasoned that the agency would be reluctant to prosecute her after she left Langley, to avoid the possible compromise of other intel programs and sources. McCarthy clearly erred in believing that she could get out of Langley before being discovered; but on the legal count, the leaker(s) may be correct. NRO's Andrew McCarthy (no relation) openly wonders why the fired CIA officer hasn't been arrested, while noting noting the possibility that she will never face criminal sanctions.

Did Mary McCarthy have any help? That's an intriguging question. Here are some thoughts that suggest she might not be the only leaker. First, it is clear that the covert prisons were a closely-held secret. That would suggest that they fell under a SAR/SAP (Special Access Required/Special Accees Program), with its own set of security rules, and (possibly) special facilities where only those "read-in" could discuss the program. Correspondingly, only a small number of agency employees knew about the prisons--until Dana Priest published her front-page expose? Was Mary McCarthy among that number? Perhaps, but that raises another important issue: why would the agency assign a departing staffer to handle IG issues relating to one of its most sensitive programs?

Unfortunately, the answers to such questions are in short supply, and it should probably stay that way.

Can we connect the dots between Mary McCarthy and a wider Democratic conspiracy to undermine the Bush Administration? Hard to say, but Mac Ranger makes a compelling case.

Weekend Round-Up

There were a couple of items that caught my eye over the weekend--developments that will almost certainly have ramifications in political and military circles in the weeks to come.

First, there was the announcement that Russia is selling the advanced S-300P air defense system to its neighbor, Belarus. On the surface, that doesn't seem surprising. Among its former republics, Belarus has maintained the closest military ties to Moscow. Last October, Russian officials announced that the two nations would essentially merge their air defense networks, giving Moscow more defensive depth along its western borders. Under that arrangement, using common missile systems, radars and C2 networks certainly makes sense. The sale of the S-300 was hardly unexpected; there had been talk of such a deal for more than six months.

But there may be more to this transaction than meets the eye. According to some reports, Belarus plans to acquire at least a full brigade of S-300s (NATO designator: SA-20). That's more than sufficient to cover the country's airspace, considering that Russian batterys cover portions of Belorussian territory as well. Then, there's the cost factor. A single S-300 battery costs upwards of $300 million, and the Belarus economy is essentially stagnant. In other words, buying a full brigade would seemingly be beyond Minsk's financial reach, unless the Russians have arranged highly favorable terms (such as an arms-for-debt swap), or someone else is helping to finance the purchase.

And who might that someone be? There are persistent reports that Iran is interested in the S-300, which needs a long-range SAM system to replace its aging SA-5s and Chinese-built CSA-1s. With capabilities similar to the U.S. PATRIOT system, the S-300 would be an ideal fit Iran. However, there is no hard proof that Iran has actually made the purchase, despite recurrent rumors in the global arms community. The U.S. has expressed strong concerns about Russian arms sales to Iran, including a recently-concluded deal to provide the TOR-1M (SA-15) short-range SAM system. Needless to say, both the U.S. and Israel would be deeply concerned about Iran's acquisition of a long-range SAM with excellent capabilities against tactical aircraft, standoff platforms, cruise missiles, and theater ballistic missiles.

That's where the Belarus connection may come in. By using Minsk as a middleman, the Russians could quietly transfer the S-300 to Iran, without incurring some of the international wrath that would accompany a direct sale. In return, the Belorussians get a couple of batterys for their air defense network, the rest go to Iran, and Moscow gains a fig leaf of deniability for the transaction.

Another potential destination for any "extra" S-300s might be Syria, but Damascus would be hard-pressed to pay for the purchase. Unfortunately for Damascus, they still owe Russia for arms purchased in the 1990s, and Moscow is probably unwilling to extend credit for customers who can't pay--unless they're willing to provide certain favors in return, a la Belarus.


The other item of note was Saturday's announcement that Russia and Iran have reached a tentative deal for Tehran to conduct uranium enrichment efforts on Russian soil. With the IAEA report on Tehran's nuclear program due to the UNSC on Friday, both Iran and Russia may use the purported "deal" to head off potential sanctions or military action. At a minimum, the two nations will urge the international community to let diplomatic efforts continue, giving Iran more time to perfect its nuclear weapons technology. Sadly, with the threat of a Russian or Chinese veto in the UNSC, the diplomats may get more time for negotiations.

Tehran has been down this path with the Russians before. Their sudden willingness to agree to enrichment efforts in Russia may suggest that a covert program is in place, and capable of producing bomb-grade material at some point, regardless of what happens in Russia.

Re-Casting the Conflict

While much of the chattering class was pre-occupied with the Mary McCarthy scandal, Osama bin Laden was busy releasing a new audio tape. The voice on the tape appears to be that of the fugitive Al-Qaida leader, although some accounts suggest that the tape had been heavily edited, prior to its release on Al-Jazerra.

In his latest message--the first in more than three months--bin Laden appears to shift focus slightly, railing against the west's "War on Islam," and urging his followers to fight a proposed UN peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur Region. He also criticized the U.S. and European suspension of aid to the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority, citing it as "proof" that the west has declared war on Islam.

What appeared to be missing from this tape was any overt reference to Iraq, and Al-Qaida's fight against U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces. Some analysts have already suggested that bin Laden is trying to re-build support for his cause, since "attacking" Israel is a theme that still resonates well across the Muslim world. There have been recent indications that Al-Qaida is attempting to extend its influence to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and two members of the terrorist organization were recently captured and indicted by the Israelis.

At the same time, there are also indications that Al-Qaida may be exiting Iraq. An on-line magazine affiliated with the terrorist group, published an article back in January, encouraging followers to "attack the Americans elsewhere." More recently, U.S. commanders in Iraq have cited evidence that senior Al-Qaida operatives are leaving the country, although it was unclear if their departure was permanent, or only temporary.

As we've noted before, the battle for Iraq has become a losing proposition for Al-Qaida; the security situation is improving, and the new government is on the path to democracry. Moreover, continuing engagements wth U.S. and coalition security forces have become a major drain on Al-Qaida's limited resources--a problem compounded by the international crack-down on terrorist finances.

While these developments are encouraging, I'm not ready to declare total victory over Al-Qaida in Iraq. Bin Laden will probably leave a residual force in that country to the bitter end, trying to inflict additional U.S. casualties and undermine our resolve. Al-Qaida will lose most of its Iraq-based resources in the process, but that is of little concern to bin Laden. He is clearly shifting his focus to the west, toward "ground" in Gaza, the West Bank and Sudan that he perceives as more fertile. And most importantly, he is making this shift out of weakness, rather than strength.

History will also show that bin bin Laden's "move" is a strategic error of the first magnitude. The Israelis are more than capable of dealing with the Al Qaida threat, and they will apply the same, ruthless tactics that smashed the last Palestinian Intifada. The "occupied territories" will become another graveyard for Al-Qaida. Within 2-3 years, the terrorist leader may be searching for other green pastures.

On the other hand, the environment in Sudan is more hospitable, and this gambit is probably designed to protect key Al-Qaida assets. Despite its formal expulsion from that country in 1996, Al-Qaida still has access to training camps, arms caches and financial resources within Sudan. Bin Laden seems worried that an increased U.N. presence in Darfur would result in more pressure for the Khartoum government to finally end its support for terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida. More than five years into the long war, those are resources that bin Laden can scarcely afford to lose. It is interesting that bin Laden referred to the conflict in those exact terms in his latest video tapes. Early hopes for chasing the infidels from Iraq and Afghanistan were dashed a long time ago, and bin Laden is girding for the long haul. Sounds familiar.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why Secrets Matter

Within a few weeks, fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy will take her place in the pantheon of liberal heroes. Democratic politicians, left-leaning pundits and analysts in the drive-by media will hail her "courage" in exposing secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe, and providing that information to the Washington Post. There will almost certainly be a book and movie deal; I'm sure Joe Wilson's literary agent will be in touch, if he hasn't called already. However, timing for those media events will probably depend on whether Ms. McCarthy spends any time in jail for her "disclosures."

Of course, the real issue in the McCarthy scandal is how much damage her leak caused to national security. CIA officials have already stated that the disclosure caused "significant" damage to intelligence collection and analysis efforts, and strained relations with the countries that allowed the CIA to operate terrorist prisons on their soil. We'll probably never know the real extent of the damage, and that's just as well. As we've stated, on numerous occasions, a democracy must have some secrets, information that is so vital that it must be protected at any cost.

Consider the example of Ultra, the top secret WWII code-breaking operation initiated by the British that (eventually) included the U.S. as well. Ultra allowed the Allies to read virtually all German message traffic; as a result, we often knew what the Germans were going to do in advance. Ultra was, quite literally, the secret that won the war. It was protected at great cost--often measured in lives. During the German "Blitz" of 1940, Ultra revealed that the Luftwaffe was planning a massive bombing raid on the city of Coventry. Winston Churchill could have ordered the evacuation of the city to save lives, but that action might have compromised the existence of Ultra. The city's population remained in place, the Germans carried out their raid, and more than 1,000 British civilians died. But Ultra remained secure, and as a result, thousands of Allied lives were saved over the course of the war.

Playing fast and loose with national secrets carries a steep price. While the media often claims that classified "scoops" don't jeopardize our security, there is ample evidence to the contrary. We wrote about the cumulative impact of intelligence leaks to the press a few months back, noting an intel study that assessed the effects of sensitive disclosures over the past decade. I had a chance to review the study a few years back. I won't go into the details--nor will I reveal the identity of its author--but its revelations were stunning. The "leak" of classified information may cause a media tempest for a few days (and political ramifications for a season), but the ultimate, security impact is measured in compromised programs, blown sources, heightened enemy deception efforts and decreased collection through our intel sources and methods. Today, perhaps more than ever, the unauthorized disclosure of intel information results in the possibility of more surprise attacks down the road. In the most extreme instances, the disclosure of vital secrets could even jeopardize our national survival.

On FNC this morning, an anchor-ette opined that the McCarthy episode (and the potential prosecution of journalists who publish classified information) might have a "chilling" effect on the news media's ability to do its job, and the public's right to know. From my perspective, the leaking of classified information and a reduced ability to predict (and deter) future attacks is even more chilling.

The Leaker

We are learning more about Mary O"Neil McCarthy, the CIA officer who was fired for leaking classified information to the Washington Post. Ms. McCarthy was at least one of the sources for the Post series on secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe, which won a Pulitzer Prize last week.

Ms. McCarthy had been an agency employee for 22 years at the time of her dismissal. She had strong ties to the Clinton Administration; disgraced former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger (of "Secrets Down My Pants" fame) engineered her appointment as Special Assistant to the President for Intelligence Programs in 1998. Before that, she held a similar post at the National Intelligence Council (NIC), and previously served as National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Warning (1994-1996), and the Deputy NIO for Warning (1991-1994).

You'll note that many media accounts describe the leaker as an "analyst," suggesting that she was, at best, a mid-level staffer. That was hardly the case; few analysts make the jump from a regional desk at Langley to the White House. A "National Intelligence Officer" is the equivalent of a four-star general in the military, or a cardinal in the Catholic Church. There are only a handful of NIOs in the intelligence community; they are in charge of intelligence community efforts in a particular area. As a senior officer for Warning, Ms. McCarthy was tasked, essentially, with preventing future Pearl Harbors. Observers will note that McCarthy's tenure in that role coincided with early strikes by Islamofacists against the United States, including the first World Trade Center bombing, and the Khobar Towers attack. It could be argued that Ms. McCarthy's performance in the warning directorate was mediocre, at best--but it clearly didn't affect her rise in a Democratic Administration.

Equally interesting is her meteoric rise within the intelligence community. According to her bio, she joined the CIA as an analyst in 1984. Within seven years, she had rise to a Deputy NIO position, and reached full NIO status by 1994. To reach that level, she literally catapulted over dozens of more senior officers--and I'm guessing that her political connections didn't hurt. By comparison, I know a current NIO, with a resume and academic credentials more impressive than Ms. McCarthy's, who reached the position after more than 20 years of extraordinarily distinguished service. McCarthy's rapid advancement speaks volumes about how the Clinton Administration did business, and sheds new light on the intelligence failures that set the stage for 9-11. We can only wonder how many other political hacks climbed the intel food chain under Clinton--and remain in place to this day.

Aside from her Democratic Party ties (she apparently wrote a check for $2000 to the Kerry campaign in 2004), I also detect the whiff of sour grapes in her motivation for leaking information to the Post. At the time she talked with reporter Dana Priest, Ms. McCarthy was apparently working in the CIA Inspector General's Office. The agency, citing the Privacy Act, hasn't divulged her pay grade or title at the time of her firing, but it seems certain that she was not at the NIO level. After the rarefied air of the Clinton White House, McCarthy had been banished to a relative backwater at Langley, and she was likely upset by the apparent demotion.

A decision on possible criminal charges against the leaker is pending. Mary McCarthy's fall from grace may not be complete.

One final thought: with her firing, McCarthy will likely lose her CIA pension. I wonder if the WaPo will offer her anything through their retirement plan?

Friday, April 21, 2006

We Want Proof

Efforts to reign in Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy suffered a serious, if not fatal setback today. A spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow would support sanctions against Tehran only if it saw "hard evidence" that Iran's nuclear program was "not peaceful."

"We will only be able to talk about sanctions after we have concrete facts confirming that Iran is not exclusively involved in peaceful nuclear activities," said spokesman Mikhail Kamynin, in a statement published by the Itar-Tass news service. Seperately, a Russian national security official said that sanctions "did not figure" in Russia's agenda at this point.

Can we provide that level of proof? At this point, no. Iran claims its current uranium enrichment efforts are aimed at producing fuel for nuclear power plants, not creating the foundation for a nuclear weapon. And that explanation is entirely plausible, if extremely unlikely. That's the great thing about dual-use technology, which encompasses many of the processes used in developing weapons of mass destruction. Today's insecticide factory can be tomorrow's nerve gas plant. And that low-grade enrichment project in Iran could easily mushroom into a large-scale project to produce enough material for a bomb. Of course, at that point, Iran will simply claim that it needs more fuel for a planned "network" of nuclear power plants. And the mullahs' friends in Moscow and Beijing will simply nod their heads in agreement.

Call me an eternal pessimist, but I'd say that foreign ministry spokesman pretty much killed any hopes for a "diplomatic" solution to the Iranian nuclear problem. To get Russian support for sanctions, the UNSC must have unambiguous proof of non-peaceful nuclear efforts. Such evidence would be almost impossible to provide--and the Russians know it. So do we.

For good measure, Russia has also restated its intentions to deliver the SA-15 surface-to-air missile system to Tehran. That deal (initially reported last December) was confirmed earlier this week, although Iran's air defense system remains riddled with problems (see our recent post "Catching Up.").

With "friends" like the Russians, who needs enemies?

A Step in the Right Direction

Fox News (and other media outlets) are reporting that a CIA officer has been fired for deliberately leaking classified information to the press. The name of the fired officer has not been released, and the agency won't say what type of information was disclosed.

However, one government official described it as a "damaging leak" that deals with operational information. The fired employee apparently admitted his activities after the CIA began investigating media leaks back in January. Agency officials said the officer did not work in its public affairs department and was "not authorized" to speak to the press. CIA and Justice Department officials won't say whether legal actions are being considered against the fired employee.

My reaction to this news can be summed up in a single phrase: it's about time. As this blog has noted (on several occasions), there have been more than 600 investigtions into unauthorized leaks since the mid-1990s. Until now, all of those inquires had something in common--none had resulted in the dismissal of offending employees, or criminal prosecution. Not surprisingly, leakers became emboldened, with new disclosures appearing in the drive-by media on almost a weekly basis.

We've said it before, and it's worth repeating again: in order to survive, a democracy must have some secrets--and it's not up to a disgruntled CIA employee to decide what gets declassified. I'm sure that some observers on the left will claim a double standard: George W. Bush allows Scooter Libby to "leak" information for "political" purposes, while the CIA worker loses his job. But there is a difference. The President has the legal authority to declassify information; a desk analyst at Langley does not. I'm no fan of political leaks by either side, but the President has the weight of the law behind him, and every chief executive has "declassified" information as he has seen fit. On the other hand, rank-and-file employees within the ntelligence community don't have that authority, and they're still bound by non-disclosure agreements.

Today's announcement also suggests that CIA director Porter Goss is making some headway against the agency cabal that has steadfastly opposed the Bush Administration and its national security policies. For years, this group has willingly leaked information to a compliant press, trying to embarass the administration and undermine its policies. But the leak game may be coming to an end--and not a moment too soon.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Flying into Battle

There's an interesting (if misguided) piece in today's Washington Times, written by FNC military analyst (and retired Army Major General Bob Scales). General Scales' thesis is that our defense R&D priorities have been misplaced for a number of years, with the Air Force and the Navy receiving too much money for systems we ostensibly don't need. While I have the utmost respect General Scales, his arguments simply don't hold up.

Scales wonders how many casualties could have been averted if we had developed aero-mechanized maneuver doctrine, first postulated by an Army brigadier general, Huba Wass de Czega. General de Czega envisioned an Army equipped with aerial fighting vehicles that could fly into combat and fight from the air--think of them as airborne armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles. Army studies suggest that such units could rapidly defeat enemy forces, with minimal casualties.

But Scales suggests that development of such technologies have been sidetracked in favor of airpower and related "shock and awe" technologies, used in both Iraq and the Balkans. If you follow Scales's logic, such weapons have produced impressive results, but they are largely useless in the War on Terrorism. Moreover, such weapons are too expensive--siphoning off precious R&D dollars that might have been used in pursuit of aero-mechanized craft for the Army.

It's a familiar argument, and one that sounds rational--at least on paper. Combining the mobility of airpower with the firepower of ground units has long been a dream of military theorists--and it remains just that--a dream. Not too many decades ago, a relatively new contraption called the helicopter was supposed to perform similar functions, and it has, to a certain degree. Today, the Army owns thousands of combat helicopters to perform such functions as troop transport, medevac, surveillance and fire support. True, you really can't fight from a helicopter, but that's just as well. As we discovered in Vietnam and Somalia, helicopters can be extremely vulnerable to ground fire. The same would hold true for those aero-mechanized craft that Scales envisions. Allowing an entire infantry squad to engage the enemy from the air would be revolutionary, but knocking the craft from the sky would require only one terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile or anti-armor weapon.

Scales's complaint about "all those dollars for airpower" is a little bit shopworn to boot. True, a new F-22 costs over $100 million per copy. But fast-forward a few years, to a potential conflict over the Taiwan Strait, or against a re-armed Iran with nuclear weapons. What's the best way to guarantee air supremacy--and pave the way for ensuing ground operations. We can stick with our legacy fighters (F-15s and F-16s), but most of those airframes are already 20 years old, and the new generation of foreign fighters can more than match them in terms of technology, maneuverabilty and weaponry. As we found out during recent exercises with the Indian Air Force, a Russian-built SU-30 Flanker, in the hands of a competent pilot, is indeed a formidable threat. And that threat will only increase in the decades to come.

Instead of hoping we can sustain our technological and tactical edge, why not guarantee it by investing in the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter and various unmanned platforms. If we don't troops fighting future opponents may find themselves without the air protection they've come to rely on. Ask any honest Army or Marine commander: ground operations are a lot easier if you're not worried about being attacked from above.

The "wasting money on airpower crowd" also ignores a couple of salient facts. First of all, there is no assurance that our military forces will not engage in a major regional conflict (MRC) in the future--the type of war that will require aerial supremacy and precision strike. Many future conflicts will resemble current operations in Iraq, but we have to plan, equip and prepare for other contingencies as well. The F-22 may look like a bad idea now, but defending Taiwan, Japan or South Korea against hostile attack--or carrying the fight through dense air defense systems--it may resemble a military bargain.

One final note: the failure to develop aero-mechanized warfare is more a reflection of Army culture, and not an example of Air Force or Navy dominance. In the 1970s and 80s, the Air Force gambled a sizeable chunk of its R&D budget on stealth, with no assurance that it would pay off. The Navy also gambled on the Nimitz-class carriers, the Aegis weapons system and stealthy submarines. Meanwhile, the Army remained over cautious, developing systems that were less adaptive and flexible. Making matters worse, Army leadership went along with force cuts that reduced the number of "boots on the ground." Four active duty divisions were cut during the Clinton years, but there was barely a peep from the Army brass.

The Army's failure to investigate and develop aero-mechanized warfare is not an Air Force or a Navy problem. The real issue lies in an Army culture that is resistant to transformation, incurring the wrath of the current SecDef, and (in some regards) marginally prepared for the challenges of insurgent warfare. As Cassius said to Brutus, "the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves."

Scott Crossfield, R.I.P.

The son-in-law of legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield has confirmed that the aviation pioneer was killed Thursday in the crash of his light plane in northern Georgia. He was 85.

Among other achievements, Crossfield was the first man to fly more than twice the speed of sound, piloting the Douglas Skyrocket to a speed of 1,320 mph in November, 1953. By today's standards, that may not seem particularly impressive, but it's important to remember that the sound barrier (Mach 1) was considered an impenetrable barrier (in some circles) before Chuck Yeager's historic flight in 1947.

While Crossfield was best know as a pilot in the X-15 rocket plane program in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was also an aeronautical engineer who worked on a variety of aircraft and missile programs over his long career. Crossfield is among the handful of aviation legends to receive both the Collier and Harmon Trophies, among other awards.

Crossfield was flying from Alabama to Virginia at the time his plane went down. He died doing something he truly loved. There is sadness in the death of a true aviation legend, but joy at the memory of a man who did so much to advance the science of flight--both in and out of the cockpit.

Catching Up

Iran's plan to buy at least 30 SA-15/TOR-1M air defense systems from Russia is one of the headlines in today's edition of Powerline. However, this blog first reported on the deal last December, and we've been waiting for the first SA-15 fire units to show up in Iran. At the time, we speculated as to whether the air defense deal would ever reach fruition; over the years, the global arms market has been rife with rumors concerning potential Iranian arms deals. Virtually none have panned out; in terms of air and air defense forces, Tehran likes to do things on the cheap, preferring to patch up its aging, U.S. built F-4 fighters and I-HAWK surface-to-air missiles rather than investing billions in new hardware and training.

According to press reports, Iran plans to deploy the mobile SA-15s around high-value targets, including its nuclear facilities. In that assessment proves accurate, it would represent a major upgrade of the short-range air defense assets protecting those sites. Currently, Iran relies primarily on the I-HAWK (maximum range: 21 miles) for short-medium range SAM coverage of key installations and facilities. However, the I-HAWK is a well-known threat, and both the U.S. and Israel have effective measures for negating the system.

By comparison, the SA-15 is a much more modern system, with an advanced radar, electronic countermeasures and missiles, giving it improved capabilities against tactical aircraft, cruise missiles and even precision-guided weapons. But the SA-15 is hardly an unknown threat. The U.S. also has a good handle on its capabilities and weaknesses, so we would not enter a conflict with Iran at a tactical disadvantage against the SA-15. Additionally, the SA-15 system (while quite capable) has a relatively short range, less than half that of the I-HAWK. Parking an SA-15 TELAR (Transporter Erector Launcher and Radar vehicle) next to the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor or the centrifuge building at Natanz would actually decrease the effectiveness of the system. In that mode, they might have some success in knocking down incoming bombs, but attacking aircraft could remain out of their tactical range, lobbing enough PGMs to eventually overwhelm the system. I'm guessing that Iran might place its SA-15s on the outer defense ring around its nuclear sites, attempting to negate the "stand off" advantage for U.S. or coalition aircraft.

While acquisition of the SA-15 is a major upgrade for Iran, it represents something of a bandaid approach to serious air defense problems. Older SAMs will remain a part of the air defense network for years to come, offering only marginal defensive capabilities. And, Tehran's command-and-control system for its air defenses is antiquated in some sectors and prone to problems, including poor communications, limited automation, and saturation. In that environment, those SA-15s may well find themselves operating on their own. The SA-15 is certainly capable of autonomous ops, but without a C2 network, its effectiveness will be reduced.

There is also the question of when the SA-15s will actually show up, and how soon they'll enter operational service in Iran. These days, Russia operates on a "production for pay" system; in other words, you don't get your hardware until the manufacturer has been paid. Tehran has a long history of dragging out payments, which would further delay receipt of the SA-15. In a best case scenario--Iran makes a down payment this week--the hardware wouldn't arrive in Iran for more than a year. Russia does have the option of selling SA-15s from its own military stocks, but in today's arms market, customers generally prefer the newest models with the latest upgrades, rather than acquiring "used" equipment.

If Tehran is serious about modernizing its air defense networks, it would pursue additional upgrades in automation, radars, aircraft and other SAMs, notably the SA-10/20 system. The SA-10/20 is comparable to the U.S. PATRIOT (and actually, superior in some respects). Addition of the SA-10/20 would be a more significant upgrade and fill in some of the medium-to-long range coverage gaps that now exist. But buying the SA-10/20 would be an even more expensive proposition--a single battery (acquisition radar, engagement radar, C2 vans and missile launchers) runs $300-400 million. And Iran would need a number of SA-20s to provide an adequate level of protection.

The SA-15 will represent a major upgrade for Tehran's air defenses. But it's not capable of single-handedly stopping an Allied air offensive against its nuclear sits. And, to be most effective, the system needs some "help," in terms of other SAMs, better surveillance radars and a more effective C2 network. So far, Iran's record in those upgrades is spotty, at best.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

And They Think Rumsfeld's Tough?

In their criticism of Don Rumsfeld, those retired Army and Marine generals (call them the Sad Sack Six--apologies to the late George Baker) apparently have a couple of issues with the defense secretary. First of all, he's a tough, demanding boss--a man his critics describe as abrasive. Secondly, he supposedly won't tolerate dissent or alternative views within the ranks.

The suggestion that Rumsfeld doesn't accept other opinions has been refuted by several retired generals, including former CJCS Chairman, General Richard Meyers, and CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks. Both men note that Rumsfeld has met with senior generals (three and four star flag officers) hundreds of times during his tenure in office, and listed to all points of view. Retired Air Force Lt Gen Tom McInerney (who met with Rumsfeld today) has also observed that many of the critics were "too junior" to have worked for the SecDef directly. Additionally, this blog (among others) have pointed out that many of the Sad Sack Six have personal issues with Rumsfeld, putting their criticism in a slightly different light.

I also find it interesting that many of these retired generals have problems with Rumsfeld's supposedly prickly personality. That's a bit ironic, considering the number of arrogant, abrasive flag officers who have historically populated the senior ranks. Do a poll among those who have served under Generals Zinni, Newbold, Eaton, Batiste, etc., and you'll probably find a few officers and NCOs who would describe them in the same terms they reserve for Rumsfeld. Secretary Pot, meet General Kettle.

Actually, Rumsfeld is mild compared to some of the "old school" firebreathers who ran the military in years past. George Patton, who once ordered his command Chaplain to pray for good weather so his men could "kill more Germans" was no shrinking violet. Nor was the lengendary Marine Corps General "Chesty" Puller. In fact, American military history is filled with military leaders who tolerated no fools, and were as hard on their men as they were on themselves.

As they enjoy the comforts of retirement, Zinni and his fellow Sad Sackers should be thankful that they never worked for Admiral Ernest King, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet during World War II. Saying Admiral King had a bit of a temper is the equivalent of saying that Bill Clinton had an intern problem. King's daughter once described her father as "perfectly even-tempered--he was always in a rage."

As Chief of Naval Operations/CINC of the U.S. Fleet after Pearl Harbor, King cut a wide swath through the Navy and the Washington establishment, rubbing more than a few people the wrong way. Even General Dwight D. Eisenhower--famous for his ability to get along with just about everyone--had a strong dislike for Admiral King. From Eisenhower's WWII diary, here are some of his observations of King and his "management style." Hat tip: Spartacus.

--23rd February, 1942: Admiral King, commander in chief of United States fleet, and directly subordinate to the president, is an arbitrary, stubborn type, with not too much brains and a tendency toward bullying his juniors. But I think he wants to fight, which is vastly encouraging. In a war such as this, when high command invariably involves a president, a prime minister, six chiefs of staff, and a horde of lesser "planners," there has got to be a lot of patience-no one person can be a Napoleon or a Caesar.

--10th March, 1942: One thing that might help win this war is to get someone to shoot King. He's the antithesis of cooperation, a deliberately rude person, which means he's a mental bully. He became Commander in Chief of the fleet some time ago. Today he takes over, also, Stark's job as chief of naval operations. It's a good thing to get rid of the double head in the navy, and of course Stark was just a nice old lady, but this fellow is going to cause a blow-up sooner or later, I'll bet a cookie.

--14th March, 1942: Lest I look at this book sometime and find that I've expressed a distaste for some person, and have put down no reason for my aversion, I record this one story of Admiral King. One day this week General Arnold sent a very important note to King. Through inadvertence, the stenographer in Arnold's office addressed it, on the outside, to "Rear Admiral King." Twenty-four hours later the letter came back, unopened, with an arrow pointing to the "Rear," thus: (Here a long, heavy arrow has been drawn in a diagonal line underneath and pointing to the word "Rear.") And that's the size of man the navy has at its head. He ought to be a big help winning this war.

King also had frequent run-ins with General George C. Marshall (the Army Chief of Staff), and General Douglas MacArthur, among others. With so many high-level enemies, how did King survive? He got results, building the largest, most powerful Navy the world has ever seen. And because King delivered, FDR was more than willing to tolerate an SOB as CNO.

Compared to King, Rumsfeld is a genuine softie.

Good Move

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced a short time ago that he is stepping down from his post. There's no word (yet) on when the resignation will become effective, but my guess is the move will happen very soon. There's already speculation about possible successors, including FNC host Tony Snow, former Pentagon spokesman Victoria Clark, and Dan Senor, former spokesman for Iraq Civil Administrator, Ambassador Paul Bremer.

Fox News is reporting that the White House held discussions with Snow about the press secretary job earlier this week, so McClellan's departure has apparently been in the works for a while. Personally, I think Senor might be the best candidate (among those being mentioned for the job). He did a solid job in Iraq, under very trying conditions. Clark, on the other hand, received middling marks for her job at the Pentagon, and there's no reason to believe she'd be more effective at the White House. Snow, IMO, is too nice a guy for the spokesman's job.

But any of these individuals would be an improvement over McClellan. As we've noted previously, McClellan often appeared flustered and ineffective in White House briefings. Additionally, McClellan and senior aide Dan Barlett have done a lousy job in developing (and implementing) an effective communications plan. Today's drive-by media/24 hours news cycle dictates an aggressive information campaign that keeps the press on its heels. Unfortunately, the Bush White House has falled silent at inopportune times. For most of last year, the administration let its critics set the debate on Iraq, resulting in plummeting approval ratings for the President. The Administration has proven it can counter-punch, but those efforts have only been sporadic.

Admittedly, being a press secretary in a Republican White House is perhaps the most thankless job in Washington. But a number of spokesmen--including McClellan's predecessor, Ari Fleischer--have proven able to hold their own with a hostile press corps. McClellan never demonstrated that ability; indeed, he often had that "deer in a headlight" look as he sparred with reporters in the briefing room.

Good luck in your retirement, Scott. And while you're at it, take Dan Bartlett with you--his head needs to roll as well. New Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has been on the job less than a week, but I think he's on the right track. Some of the "right" folks are beginning to leave the White House.

Say What?

Diplomacy, it's been said, has a language all its own. Official statements and communiques must be carefully nuanced, to avoid upsetting anyone, or endangering on-going talks and negotiations.

Case in point: yesterday's State Department response to that deadly terrorist bombing in Israel. Here are the facts: the attack killed at least 9 Israelis, making it the bloodiest strike in almost two years. Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, claimed responsibility for the attack. And, not long after the bombing, the new, Hamas-dominated Palestinian government endorsed the attack as an act of "self defense."

Against that backdrop, how did our State Deparment react? While acknowledging Israel's right to defend itself, Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the new Olmert government should "consider the effect on peace prospects" as it weighs a potential response.

As Fox News notes, the comments are almost identical to previous U.S. government statements that have followed terrorist attacks in Israel. But that doesn't make them any less nauseating--and incomprehensible. With terrorist organizations now running the show in Gaza and the West Bank, does anyone at Foggy Bottom have any realistic hopes for a negotiated settlement? Hamas--like Islamic Jihad--won't even acknowledge Israel's right to existence. That's hardly the foundation for serious diplomacy, or any type of lasting peace. Yet, our State Department continues to issue carefully balanced statements, appealing to all sides.

I'm guessing that our admonition to "consider the consequences" won't go very far in Tel Aviv. Nor should it. Olmert's predecessor (Ariel Sharon) won the previous intifada by using the carrot and the stick. But he only offered a carrot after relentlessly tracking eliminating terrorists (including one was that taken out in his wheel chair), and taking the steps necessary to ensure Israel's security. Israeli (and American) voters should hope thta Olmert follows the same policies.

As for our State Department, just once I'd like to hear this sort of statement in the wake of a terrorist attack against Israel, or another U.S. ally:

"The United States government abhors yesterday's violence and loss of life in Israel. Our toughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Regarding those who perpetuated this act, the U.S. stands with the government of Israel and supports all efforts to track these terrorists down and kill them. We will offer any assistance necessary to facilitate that process. The U.S. government remains committed to the elimination of terrorist groups around the world, and the liberation of those enslaved by terrorist oppression and violence."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Raising Caine

Theater-goers and military drama buffs, take note: The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial returns to Broadway on 14 May, for a limited summer engagement.

The latest revival of Herman Wouk's landmark World War II drama comes 52 years after its Broadway debut, and will feature some familiar faces. Former Friends star David Schwimmer leads the cast as Marine lawyer Barney Greenwald, assigned to defend the officers of the U.S.S. Caine, on charges of staging a mutiny.

While the Caine and its story are fiction, writer Herman Wouk based his mutiny on a real-life event: a 1944 typhoon that devastated a U.S. naval fleet (commanded by Admiral William Halsey). With his ship about to capsize at the height of the storm, the Caine's executive officer (Lt Steve Mayrk) relieves the martinet Captain (Lt Cmdr Phillip Queeg) from command to save the vessel and its crew. To save his client (Mayrk) from the gallows, Greenwald must reveal Queeg's neurotic behavior on the witness stand, destroying the captain's credibility, career and reputation in a legendary courtroom showdown. Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a successful Hollywood film version of the book, and of course, the stage play, have made "Queeg," his frantic search for "stolen" strawberries, and his nervous rolling of steel marbles synonmyous with military incompetence.

Joining Schwimmer in the cast is Tim Daly (best know for his long stint on the sitcom Wings) as Navy prosecutor Lt John Challee; Broadway veteran Zeljko Ivanek as Lt Cmdr Queeg, Joe Sikora as Mayrk and Geoffrey Nauffts in the pivotal role of Lt Thomas Keefer, the aspiring novelist who proves to be the real "author" of the Caine Mutiny.

While Wouk's play remains riveting, this production clearly has some big shoes to fill. Henry Fonda starred as Greenwald in the original Broadway version, although I'd argue that he was miscast in the role. The film adaptation is unforgettable--the best military "legal thriller" of all time, with an all-star cast: Humphrey Bogart as Capt Queeg, Van Johnson as Mayrk, Jose Ferrer (in a star-making turn) as Barney Greenwald, and Fred MacMurray--playing effectively against his "good guy" stereotype--as the duplicitous, calculating Keefer. While the film is longer than the play--and covers far more dramatic territory--it remains the benchmark for any production involving the U.S.S. Caine.

In fact, my only complaint with the movie--and most stage versions--is that the cast members are too old. In Wouk's novel, Lt Cmdr Queeg (Annapolis class of '36) is about 30; the rest of the wardroom in their early 20s. Bogart tackled the role of Queeg--one his finest film performances--at the age of 54; the other actors (MacMurray, Johnson, Ferrer) were also at least 10 years too old for their roles. The same holds true for the new Broadway production; perhaps one day, an enterprising theater company will stage a version with a more youthful cast, closer to what Wouk originally had in mind.

The new production is currently in previews, and I haven't heard any advance buzz on the show. Still, I have high hopes for the new stage version, in part because the director and cast seem willing to play it straight, and avoid any comparisons between the Caine and the current situation in Iraq. Director Jerry Zaks (better know for his Broadway comedies and musicals) said, in a recent interview, that anyone comparing the play to the Iraqi conflict would be "on thin ice." That would be a refreshing change for Broadway, which seems to demand a political angle in almost any production.

Still, I'm guessing that current Times critic Ben Brantley and columnist Frank Rich will give it the old college try, using their forums to draw strained parallels between hapless Capt Queeg and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Memo to Ben and Frank: Wouk's play speaks for itself--don't read too much into this one. Sit back, shut up and enjoy the show.

False Bravado

Let the record show that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be the next Hitler, but he is certainly not the next Napoleon. His recent pronouncements regarding the Iranian military are little more than false bravado, designed to paper over glaring deficiencies in Tehran's armed forces. Recalling General Norman Schwarzkopf's assessment of Saddam Hussein, it is apparent that the Iranian leader is not a military strategist, a tactician, nor is he schooled in the operational art. But obviously, that didn't stop him from offering a swaggering description of Iran's military capabilities.

In a brief speech before an Armed Forces Day parade in Tehran, Ahmadinejad described the Iranian Army as "one of the most powerful armies in the world, which will powerfully defend the country's political borders and the nation." He vowed that Iran's military would "cut off the hands of any aggressor," and "make any aggressor regret it."

Admittedly, it's not the job of any national leader to discuss weaknesses or shortcomings within his military. But it would be helpful to know "which" Iranian Army Ahmadinejad was talking about. As we've noted on numerous occasions, there are actually two armies in the Iranian military, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Regular Army. While the Revolutionary Guards have grown under Iran's theocratic government, the regular army has withered. It has a lower priority for new equipment and facilities, and suffers severe shortges of trained personnel, modern armor, artillery and communications equipment.

The Revolutionary Guards are better equipped, but their leadership is suspect. In an organization where political and religious "reliability" are paramount, many senior RG officers are little more than hacks who owe their loyalty to the mullahs in Tehran. The cadre of western-trained officers who once led the Iranian military (and helped save it from destruction in the Iran-Iraq War) are largely gone, the result of retirements and purges.

Beyond that, Iran remains poorly prepared to defend against a massive, coalition air and missile campaign against its nuclear facilities (Hat Tip: Blogospherical Ruminations). Tehran's air defense system is particularly suspect; its early warning radar network has significant coverage gaps below 10,000 ft, and its surface-to-air missile defenses consist mostly of 1970s-era U.S., Russian and British systems, including the I-HAWK, SA-5, SA-6 and RAPIER. In some cases (RAPIER) attacking aircraft can simply fly above the threat; with the other systems, current jamming programs are more than capable of defeating the threat. Compounding the problem, some Iranian SAMs (notably the SA-5) operate from fixed sites that are well-known and can be easily targeted. The I-HAWK and SA-6 are more mobile, but unfortunately for Iran, their SAM crews don't practice those skills on a consistent basis, and their camoflague skills are marginal, at best.

Command-and-control of Iran's air defenses is also problematic, despite the recent addition of Chinese-built equipment. There is little coordination between the Revolutionary Guards and the regular Air Force, resulting in missed tracks and (on some occasions) near-fratricide incidents. Against a massive air and missile attack, Iran's centralized air defense command and control would be quickly over-whelmed, forcing local SAM and AAA batterys into an autonomous mode, sometimes described as the "spray [the skies with lead] and pray" method of air defense. As we saw in Iraq and Serbia, de-centralized air defenses are more vulnerable to suppression, and far less likely to bring down an attacking aircraft or missile.

Iran's fighter force also has its problems. Despite recent acquisitions of Russian and Chinese aircraft, the interceptor squadrons still rely heavily on aging U.S.-built F-4E Phantoms (Iran also has a small number of F-14 Tomcats, but their operational reliability is doubt). Iranian fighter crews are no match for their U.S. (or Israeli) counterparts, and they have virtually no hope of detecting or engaging low-observable platforms. The same holds true for Iran's ground-based air defenses.

Against a U.S-led aerial onslaught, Iran would attempt to fight asymmetrically, relying on its naval forces to restrict navigation through the Strait of Hormuz, while employing ballistic missiles and rockets to attack U.S./Allied bases in the rear area. Ahmadinejad probably has no qualms about using chemical, bio, or (eventually) nuclear weapons against an American or Israeli target in the region, although the nuclear option is probably 2-4 years away--at the outside--and the accuracy of chem/bio delivery platforms is also in doubt.

Bottom line: organizing martyr "corps" and parading unguided, short-range missiles may impress the western media, but it does little to improve the combat capabilities of Iran's military forces. Tehran is making some progress in terms of acquiring better equipment and expanding its exercise program, but Ahmadinejad has done little to address the shortfalls in air and air defense forces. To have any hope of countering U.S.-led air and missile attacks, he would have to spend billions on "double-digit (SA-10/20) SAMs, modernize command and control systems, and rebuild his air force around more capable airframes, such as the SU-27/30 FLANKER. But acquiring hardware is merely the first step in the process; successful integration and crew training take years (and billions more in investment). So far, Iran appears unwilling to make that investment and as a result, it would be unable to stop an air campaign aimed at its nuclear program. And no amount of false bravado can hide that fact.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Principled Stand

I haven't done a Google search, but out there somewhere, a liberal pundit has probably praised those retired generals for their "principled" stand against defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The obvious retort to that argument is that principles--and criticism--are easy, once you've retired and your pension is intact.

Of course, a few military officers have taken a stand while still in uniform--and many have paid the price. The legendary Lt Col David Hackworth took his critique of the Vietnam War on ABC-TV in 1970, and his Army career ended a short time later. Even in retirement, "Hack" remained a major influence on NCOs and junior officers, some of whom eventually reached the flag ranks. Today, the organization he founded (Soldiers for the Truth) helps perpetuate Hackworth's vision of a military that is properly focused on the right training, readiness and equipment for the men and women we send in harm's way.

Before Hackworth, there other officers went public with their convictions. Before World War II, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was court-martialed, largely for saying that the U.S. needed an independent air arm, and proving that aircraft would make battleships obsolete. In the early 1950s, Douglas MacArthur's tour as Allied commander in Korea came to an end after he clashed with President Harry Truman over the proposed bombing of targets in China, which had entered the war on the North Korean side.

But one of the most principled stands by a military officer has been largely forgotten. Had his advice been followed, one of the greatest disasters in American history could have been prevented, and thousands of lives saved.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson reached the apex of his Navy career, with appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. But Richardson soon ran afoul of his superiors, namely the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold "Betty" Stark and President Franklin Roosevelt. The President wanted to keep the Pacific Fleet--normally based on the U.S. West Coast--at Pearl Harbor. Richardson refused, noting that his ships were short of trained personnel, the waters around Hawaii ill-suited for training, and, in its forward location, the fleet was vulnerable to a potential suprise attack by Japanese forces. Richardson liked Pearl Harbor to a "g--d---ed mousetrap."

Throughout 1940, tensions escalated between Richardson, Admiral Stark and FDR. The Pacific commander was summoned to Washington for meetings on at least two occasions, to discuss a more permanent basing of the fleet in Hawaii. Richardson remained adamant; the move to Pearl Harbor was too risky and as long as he was CINCPAC, he would not support it. An on-line manuscript from the University of North Texas History Department recounts Admiral Richardson's battles with his superiors:

"...Richardson continued to warn the president and the Navy leaders about the tenuous situation at Pearl Harbor. He explained again that the battleships would have to return to the west coast Navy yards to weld up their port holes, take up the fire hazardous teakwood decks, load their wartime ammunition allowance and accomplish other war preparational duties needed to fight. Possibly unknown to him and others, dispatches and decoded messages were in Washington being studied. Richardson was especially disturbed when he was forced by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. “Betty” Stark, to cease daily long-range reconnaissance patrols.

However, Richardson’s brash and to-the-point discussion with Roosevelt in October led to his release as fleet commander on Sunday, January 19, 1941. He did not expect it. Admiral Stark had told him the duty would last another year. Richardson’s flag secretary Dyer brought the message to the golf course. Richardson simply commented after reading the orders, “My God. They can’t do that to me.”

FDR had neatly solved the "Richardson problem" by removing the admiral from command. For a successor, the President reached far down the list of eligible naval officers and selected Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who took command of the Pacific Fleet on February 1, 1941. Ironically, Kimmel shared Richardson's misgivings about Pearl Harbor, but as the newly-appointed CINCPAC, he was less inclined to press the issue with Admiral Stark and the President. Just over 10 months after Kimmel assumed command, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Richardson's warnings about a surprise attack--and potential disaster--were proven correct.

Today (ironically), Admiral Richardson is little more than a footnote to history. He published a slim volume of memoirs (On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor) in 1958, but said little publicly about his battles with FDR, and his refusal to compromise the security of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Richardson passed away in 1974, at the age of 95.

Richardson did the right thing--offering sage advice and counsel to his superiors, without regard for how it might affect his career. Admiral Richardson put his position on the line, and paid for the courage of his convictions. He lost the job that every U.S. Navy officer aspires to, but was vindicated by the judgment of history. Long after we forget the second-guessing of General Zinni and the other retired flag officers, we should remember the example of Admiral Richardson, who was willing to stand for his principles (and pay the price) while still in uniform.


In its latest verbal barrage, Tehran claims that it is testing a new centrifuge, that would allow it to enrich uranium faster, and (presumably) develop a nuclear weapon sooner. But that assertion is difficult to verify; as with other elements of the Iranian nuclear program, the centrifuge issue is a question of numbers--and it's unclear if Tehran has the numbers to back up its claims.

In a speech to students last week, Iranian President Mamoud Ahmadinejad claimed that his country is now testing a type P-2 centrifuge, which reportedly has four times the capacity of the P-1 models now in operation. Tehran has displayed drawings of the P-2 in the past; it is believed that they obtained designs from the centrifuge from Pakistan's A.Q. Kahn proliferation network. However, there is no indication that the larger centrifuges have entered operational service. IAEA inspectors paid a visit to the Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz over the weekend; the centrifuges at that complex are believed to be the older, P-1 variety.

The global community is understandably nervous about Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Oil is now at $70 a barrel, and worries about potential conflict in the Gulf Region are likely to drive the price higher. Precious metals are also higher, largely on growing concerns about the Iranian nuclear issue.

But a little perspective is also in order. Enriching enough uranium to produce a working nuclear weapon is very much a numbers game. Want a bomb fast? Then you'll need a cascade of centrifuges--the more, the better. Based on the best information I can find, the cascade observed in Natanz over the weekend had only 164 centrifuges, and the output is at a level of about 3.5%--high enough to produce fuel for a nuclear power reactor, but not sufficient for short-term weapons development. For that type of work, an output level of 90%--or higher--is optimum. To develop sufficient material for a bomb over say, the next year, you need a huge cascade of roughly 54,000 centrifuges.

And you don't jump from a relatively small cascade to a huge array overnight. Over the weekend, I had an e-mail exchange with a former weapons inspector, with extensive experience on the Iraqi nuclear issue, and some insight into the Iranian program. The former inspector believes that Iran will have to operate a small-scale cascade for at least 6-12 months before ramping up production. Obviously, the availabilty of P-2 centrifuges would help, but there is no evidence that Iran has the larger models in quantity (yet).

This former inspector also opined that Iran may have only a limited supply of the parts required for building centrifuges, estimating that Tehran might be able to assemble another 1-2,000 over the next year. Even if those are the larger P-2 models (and that's a stretch), it's still a long way from the 50,000 needed for fast-track, weapons-scale enrichment efforts (with the P-1), or the 12-13,000 needed, if the P-2 models are used. Beyond that, Iran still has the issues of output and quality to contend with.

A cautionary note: I am not trying to underestimate the menace posed by Iran's nuclear program. But Tehran still has significant technical and logistical barriers to overcome to reach the production levels needed to build a bomb. When will they overcome those hurdles? That's the $64,000 question, but given current levels of activity, Iran's progression along the enrichment track would probably produce a weapon in the 2009-2010 timeframe, and not in 2006 or 2007.

Having said that, we must emphasize (again) that there are significant gaps regarding what we actually know about Iran's nuclear program. The lack of P-2 centrifuges at Natanz may suggest that those models are being used (or will be used) in a parallel program at a covert facility. If the secret effort is more advanced/producing enriched uranium on a larger scale, Iran could have the material for a bomb before 2009 or 2010. As we've noted on numerous occasions, the possibility of a "dual track" nuclear program in Iran cannot be dismissed.

Late last week, a senior Israeli official stated that the west had missed the opportunity to head off Iran's nuclear program. I'm not sure the window of opportunity has closed completely, but it is closing, and our time for decisive action is probably measured in months--not years.

Happy Punish the Achievers Day

That should be the actual name for April 15th (or, as is the case this year, April 17th). There's nothing like the feeling that comes from paying taxes all year, then having Uncle Sam reach back into your wallet for another bite on Tax Day. Mrs. Spook and Your Humble Correspondent wrote our annual check to the Tax Man over the weekend, and it went in the mail this morning. I asked the clerk behind the counter if I could send it Fourth Class Bulk Mail, but alas, it didn't weigh enough (Memo to the IRS: keep adding to the tax code, and soon enough, we'll have enough forms and schedules to send it in as an overweight, mass-mailing item).

Along with death, taxes are supposedly inevitable. Let me add a couple of additional things to the list. Tune into your late, local news tonight, and you'll see some boob reporter (or reporter-ette), standing in front of the post office, covering the "crush" of last-minute filers. The "other" popular angle for the chattering class is comparing our tax bill to that of foreign countries. And, hey, sure enough, MSN Money already has that one covered, comparing our supposedly "light" tax obligations to that of the socialist Nirvana, Sweden.

The point is, I don't live in Sweden, don't plan to live there, and I don't like the idea of Uncle Sam confiscating a sizeable chunk of my income for various entitlement boondoggles. According to my calculations, about 20% of my income goes for federal taxes, Social Security, and Medicare. With military retiree health care, I'll never qualify for Medicare, so my annual "contribution" (to use the Clinton Administration's favorite term for taxes) is money down the crapper. There's also chance that I'll never collect my Social Security, either by dying to young, the system going belly up, or Congress imposing some sort of means test (mark my words, it's coming). So, you might say that much of my annual tax payment is going to support someone else.

And, of course, it doesn't stop with the feds. A good friend of mine has compiled this list of taxes. Take a look, and see how many you pay:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Airport Tax
Alcohol Rates 2004 - state excise tax rates for liquor, wine, and beer.
Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax (To da MOON and Just added 75 Cents per Pack -- Holy Bank Robbers Batman!)
Cigarette Rates 2005 - state excise tax rates per pack of cigarettes.
City Income Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Court Fines (indirect taxes)
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline Tax: Local, State and Federal Gas Taxes Consume 45.9 Cents Per Gallon on Average (Ohio = 46.4 cents per gallon; Michigan = 52.4 cents per gallon; NY = 62.9 cents per gallon) The Tax Foundation - Local, State and Federal Gas Taxes Consume ...
Head Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money)
Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
LEVIES -- Ohio is the Mother of All Levies!
Liquor Tax
Local Income Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Septic Permit Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
Sales Tax Rates 2004 - comparison of state and local retail sales taxes.
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and nonrecurring charges tax
Telephone State and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax
Tobacco Tax Rate: Effective July 1, 2004
Cigarette tax rate - .10 per (10 cents) individual stick or $2.00 per pack of 20.
Other Tobacco Products - Cigars, non-cigarette smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco tax rate is 32% of the wholesale price which is the price charged by the manufacturer including the federal taxes before any discounts.
Toll Bridge Taxes
Toll Tunnel Taxes
Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
Trailer registration tax (can you believe IT -- Trailer TAX!)
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

A few more happy thought as you write you checks to the IRS (hat tip to Chief Buddy):

- The wealthiest one percent of taxpayers pay 33.89% of all federal income taxes
- The top ten percent pay 64.89%
- The top 50% of income earners pay 96.03%

If you fall into the Top 50%--and particularly, the Top 10%, you have my sympathy. If you fall in the bottom half, enjoy the ride.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Just to be Clear

Iran's nut-job President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at it again. Last fall, you'll recall, the Iranian leader said that Israel "must be wiped off the map," a remark that brought outrage and condemnation from the international community. He also questioned whether the Holocaust actually happened.

Ahmadinejab apparently thinks a few people missed comments the first time around, so he repeated them today, in an Iranian-sponsored conference on the issue of Palestine. For openers, he stated that Israel is "headed for annihilation." Then, he turned it up a notch or two, announcing that "Palestine will be freed soon." Let the record show that Mr. Ahmadinejad's definition of Palestine includes not only the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel as well.

The Iranian President likened "the Zionist regime" to a "rotted tree" that can be blown away in a single storm. And, for good measure, he against questioned the veracity of Holocaust and described Israel as a "permanent threat" to the Middle East.

After his earlier announcement that Iran had successfully enriched uranium, Ahmadinejab must be feeling his oats. Such rehtoric is a bit remarkable, considering that Israel has at least 200 nuclear weapons that could be used against the Iranian regime, while Iran is still at least a couple of years away from acquiring the bomb.

But there is a method to Ahmadinejad's madness. First of all, he genuinely believes what he says, and so do his followers. Besides, as Fidel Castro has proved for 40 years, there's nothing like an external bogeyman to keep the public's minds off such depressing issues as double-digit unemployment and non-existent economic growth. Beyond that, Ahmadinejad is hedging that neither the U.S. nor Israeli is prepared to strike (yet), and he has little to fear from the IAEA or the UNSC. Initial reports from Tehran indicate that IAEA Director Mohammed El-Baradei was quite coordial in his initial talks with Iranian leaders. There is no reason to believe that El-Baradei will "lay down the lay" during his visit, and it's even less likely that the UNSC will take decisive action after it receives the next IAEA report on 28 April.

In 1936, another madman judged--correctly--that the west was unprepared to move against him. So he articulated his plan and went about fulfilling it, while the British and the French hemmed, hawed, and pinnedl their hopes on futile diplomatic efforts. Seventy years later, Ahmadinejad sees the western democracies in a similar funk, and he also plans to take full advantage of it. In fact, the situations are so distressingly similiar that I'm waiting for a latter-day Chamberlain to fly to Tehran, emerge with a scrap of paper, and "declare peace in our time."

Now, go home and have a good sleep.

The Generals' Revolt

Retired Army Major General John Batiste says there is "no coordinated effort" to get Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fired. Batiste is one of at least six retired flag officers who have spoken out against Rumsfeld in recent days, but he calls those statements "absolutely coincidental." Yeah, right. In military terms, we'd refer to that statement as "disinformation," or an effort at denial and deception.

Let's see...half-a-dozen retired generals are all over the media for the past month or so, stating that Rummy must go, and it's a mere coincidence? Sorry, General Batiste, I'm not buying it, and you can skip the sales pitch for that bridge in Brooklyn and those ocean-front lots in Arizona. The MSM may be willing to buy your story (since it advances their anti-war message), but many of us can see through your little charade.

First of all, the flag officer community in a particular branch of the armed services is a very tight-knit, insular bunch. Many generals have known each other since they were captains or lieutenants; they've served in field units together, worked in the Pentagon together, and risen through the ranks together, often providing support and cover for members of their particular clique. In many respects, advancing to the flag level in the U.S. military is a bit like climbing the ladder in the PRC Politburo; promising candidates are identified and screened years in advance, then their careers are carefully managed so they can rise to the top.

That sounds a bit sinister (and on occasion, it is), but the system generally works. As a general rule (no pun intended) , only the best and brightest wind up with stars on their shoulders, and that's the way it should be. I am not doubting the loyalty (or professional competency) of any of the officers who have criticized Rumsfeld. But describing their sudden flurry of criticism as "coincidental" is pure bunk. Retired flag officers are a prototypical "good old boy" (and girl) network; they communicate frequently, share ideas, and they certainly know how the game in Washington is played, right down to a well-timed media offensive.

I'm sure that these officers are justifiably concerned about the situation in Iraq. But that does not mean that the retired generals were motivated only by "professional" concerns. Do a little digging, and you'll find most have some sort of personal beef with both Secretary Rumsfeld and/or the Bush Administration. In the regard, criticism of the war effort (and its leadership) provides an opportunity to settle old scores, with the assistance of a willing press.

Consider the example of retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni. General Zinni, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, has been a long-time critic of Bush Administration policies in the Middle East and the war effort. During the early years of the Bush Administration, General Zinni was a special U.S. envoy to the Middle East, charged with mediating talks between Israel and the Palestinians. But Zinni proved to be an ineffective negotiator, and displayed a slightly lopsided approach in dealing with the two sides. On his first trip to the region as an envoy, Zinni criticized Israel for building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, while demanding to know that the Sharon government was "prepared to do" if the Palestinians offered a cease fire. Needless to say, Zinni's tone didn't exactly endear him--or his efforts--to the Israelis.

After leaving the administration, General Zinni elevated his rhetoric, telling CBS's 60 Minutes that the U.S. went to war in Iraq to strengthen Israel. He also attributed failures in Iraq to the policies developed by administration neo-cons--many of whom are Jewish. Israeli Insider magazine labeled Zinni's remarks as anti-Semitic--a charge that the former general rejects. I'm not prepared to label General Zinni as an anti-Semite, but his assertion about the alleged influence of Jewish influences and officials is disturbing, and unworthy of a former Middle East envoy.

A more recent Rumsfeld critic is another retired Marine officer, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, former Operations Director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Newbold now says he opposed the war, despite his position as J-3 for the JCS--a job that gave him great influence over U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Newbold says his opposition to the Iraq invasion--and plans for the operation--were "well known" within the Pentagon. But apparently, his opposition was not enough for General Newbold to resign over principle. In fact, one Donald Rumsfeld attended Newbold's retirement dinner in 2004.

At that dinner, Pentagon insiders report, a tape was played from a 2001 press conference conducted by Newbold. During that session, held shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, Newbold announced that the Taliban had been crushed--or something to that effect. Problem was, major combat operations were still underway, so the Pentagon (and the White House) had to backtrack and cover Newbold's gaffe. By 2004, it was a running joke, but in the early days of the Afghan War, it was a serious mistake. I'm guessing that Newbold's mistake earned the ire of Mr. Rumsfeld, and soured relations between the two men. And not surprisingly, Newbold never earned his fourth star.

Another Rumsfeld critic is retired Army General Major General Paul Eaton, who has described the defense secretary as "incompetent." But General Eaton also has some spots on his resume, notably his 2003-2004 tour as chief of the U.S. training mission in Iraq. Admittedly, General Eaton faced a tough assignment, but as Big Lizards reminds us, his tenure was characterized by uneven training efforts and some embarassing moments--notably, Iraqi units breaking under fire. Eaton was eventually replaced by Lieutenant General David Paetraeus, who turned the program around, and oversaw the training of more than 80 Iraqi battalions during his tenure.

Retired Army Major General John Riggs has his own issues with Rumsfeld. In 2004, Riggs was accused of contracting improprieties, and given 24 hours to retire from the Army. We wrote a column sympathetic to General Riggs, noting that he had been vocal in his concerns about Army units being "over-stressed" by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suggesting that his criticism may have been an underlying cause for his dismissal. It is also worth noting that General Rigg's abrupt retirement came with a reduction in grade from Lieutenant General (three stars) to Major General (two stars) with a substantial reduction in retirement pay. General Riggs's forced retirement still requires clarification (in our opinion), but there's no doubt that Mr. Rumsfeld was instrumental in that event, and it did nothing to foster friendly relations between the two men.

Riggs was also a protege of former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, who retired early after announcing that the occupation of Iraq would require "several hundred thousand troops." Opponents of the war claim that events in Iraq prove that Shinseki, Riggs, and other uniformed critics were right--but they ignore an equally salient fact: virtually all of these officers were in senior positions in the mid-to-late 1990s, when the Clinton Administration cut four divisions from the active Army. Did any of these generals oppose that move, realizing that it would mean "fewer boots on the ground" in a future conflict? Ironically, some of these generals--including Shinseki and Riggs--seemed willing to trade troops for the next generation of super weapons, like the Comanche helicopter and Crusader self-propelled gun--both cancelled by Rumsfeld as being too expensive. Now in retirement, these former flag officers are eager to claim that the military is "stretched thin" in Iraq, but none have acknowledged their role in creating today's "undersized" force structure.

Finally, officers like Shinseki, Riggs, Eaton (and others) are, in Rumsfeld's view, symbolic of an ossified Army leadership corps, that he has been fighting for the past five years. When Rumsfeld returned to the Pentagon, he discovered that the Army was well behind the other services in "transforming" itself for the 21st century. He also found Army leadership was reluctant to accept change--so much so, that when he was looking for a new Army Chief of Staff, he recalled an officer (General Peter Schoomaker) from retirement for the job. Rumsfeld's selection was viewed as a slap at the current generation of Army three and four-star generals. Now, three years after the invasion of Iraq, some of those generals are having their revenge, using criticism of the war as convenient cover.