The Spy Who Came in From the Cold War

This week’s visit to Pravda gives us this brief discussion of the recent announcement by new CIA Director/Bush political officer Porter Goss of a “new approach” to the CIA’s work of intelligence gathering. Goss has apparently renewed his subscription to the magazine Duh!, and concluded that (wait for it) North Korea and Iran present the most serious threats to American interests, and therefore, will be the focus of the agency’s intelligence efforts.
Goss, who was a CIA clandestine operative back in the 60’s, before later becoming a Congressman and loyal foot-soldier for Newt Gingrich and the more outlandish excesses of the Republicans a a loyal cheerleader for the Emperor, now wants to bring in “new approaches” to the agencies operations, new approaches which even Goss acknowledges will put our agents at grave danger.
This is all very interesting. After the events of 9-11-01, and the unbelievable (or, all too believable) failures of intelligence leading to the run-up to the Iraq Adventure, and other intelligence failures, the current perception of America’s spook services is, well, less than ideal. In Goss’s day back in the 60’s, what’s interesting is that while the agency was probably no less incompetent than it is now (think “Bay of Pigs”), because of, oh, the fact that somehow the world didn’t get blown up (which took a lot more plain old good luck than most would care to admit) and James Bond movies, the CIA was perceived as remarkably competent and efficient.
Well, here we are. Let me lay out the world score-board, for those who haven’t figured it out (just some highlights; we needn’t concern ourselves with the second divisions and how other smaller clubs are faring.) The United States’ entire combat capacity is now engaged, thanks to Iraq. And even in Iraq, we are being held to a rather bloody draw by “insurgents” who are not (apparently) backed by any specific government (except our “ally” Saudi Arabia), and probably need hundreds of thousands of additional troops who, of course, we do not have. Another “ally”, Pakistan, thanks to its Dr. Khan, who really is the living embodiment of a Bond villain, is proliferating nuclear weapons technology for cash all over the place, and his efforts have brought most fruition to the aforementioned North Korea and Iran, though there are others.
In North Korea, notwithstanding over 30,000 American troops stationed on the border (and hundreds of thousands of South Korean troops), any likely military option would result in serious casualties to allies South Korea and Japan, and of course, unknown results given that China (our principal financier these days) is considered a North Korean ally (its only one, actually). The President is engaging in multi-party regional talks, which seem to… not be going anywhere too good… Oh– did I mention North Korea also has ballistic missiles which can probably reach Alaska, and maybe the West Coast?
In Iran, nuclear programs proceed apace. The Iranians, of course, are a country we haven’t talked to in 25 years. They merrily support Hizbollah and some of the nastiest prick terrorists on the planet (though as far as we know, Shia Iran doesn’t like Sunni Al Qaeda very much… as far as we know…) Their mullah leaders are also unpredictable and potentially irrational, though they ARE at least, greedy bastards, and probably therefore, don’t want to commit suicide. Israel, with its own arsenal of perhaps a couple of hundred nuclear devices at Dimona (in the Negev) regards Iran (rightly) as an existential threat (unlike Iraq, despite Neocon fantasies that Iraq presented the threat). Lately, we have been talking about military action against Iran. Such talk is not credible. (See above, re: entirely committed to Iraq).
Our good buddies in Russia, btw, who are also “battling terrorism” (the ineivitable results of their brutal actions in Chechnya), are also active in helping Iran develop its nuclear program.
Other countries out there that (thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Khan) that likely are developing nuclear weapons at some stage include South Korea, Brazil, and Nigeria. There are others.
Again: our ability to respond diplomatically is somewhat compromised because (1) straight diplomacy will probably not be well received, as we are led by people whose incompetence can only be described as criminal, and anyone in the diplomatic or intelligence systems who might have been competent (George Tenet, Colin Powell, et al.) is being flushed out in favor of loyalist yes-persons (Porter Goss, Condoleezza Rice, et al.); (2) we lack a credible military threat to back up our diplomacy (a point which Senator Kerry failed to make during his recent disastrously bad campaign; he should have acknowledged that his Iraq vote was a huge mistake because it gave the President a green light to divert our already overcommitted military to an irrelevant theater, and give far freer reign to the two actually dangerous members of the Axis of Evil TM- Iran and North Korea- to advance their nuclear programs); and (3) we lack even the financial ability to buy our way to peace.
This last option, of course is alternatively known as “appeasement”, but is much maligned for no good reason. Everything from “Club Med for Dictators” to the sort of “economic development assistance” we have previously offered to North Korea and Europe seems to be offering to Iran could work, at least for a while. With enough money, for example, we can buy North Korea’s nuclear program: we can literally be its only and best customer (reducing the load on our current nuke factory in Texas), and buy ourselves verification in the process. We could probably do the same thing in Iran, and bring Iran in to help us stabilize the Shia areas of Iraq (while we keep their activities there under our scrutiny). Of course, besides money, things like this take half a brain. We have neither under the deficit happy Bush Administration.
Look for Goss’s new spooks to try to do more with less.
We’ve been blessed with a great deal of luck before. Maybe we’ll keep the streak going, even if naysayers like me think there is a point we have long exceeded where you push your luck too far. The American people certainly vote that way; as always, I’ll acknowledge that I might be the one out of touch. Might be. I’m kind of hoping I am.