Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hersh On CIA Vs DIA Over Syria Policy

Seymour Hersh has surfaced after some time with a serious article in the London Review of Books entitled "Military to Military" about debates within the US ruling establishment over policy towards Syria, with the title referring to levels of assitance from the US military to the Syrian military. He recounts in great detail recent history of US policy debates over how to deal with events in Syria.  It turns out that there has been one of the worst splits within the ruling leadership over what to do, with in particular the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey (out in 2014), and the Directorof  the Defense Intelligence Intelligence Agency (DIA)  from 2002-2014, Michael Flynn, and the Obama administration along with the CIA.

Basically Obama and the CIA were following in a weaker form the neocon/GOP/Hillary position that the US should try to bring down Bashar El-Assad and support the "moderates" in Syria to bring him down, while Dempsey and Flynn at the DIA disagreed with this, and, accordign to Hersh, basically said the US should support Assad and cooperate with Russia in Syria to crush all the Wahhabist/Salafist opposition, whether al-Qaeda affiliated or Daesh/IS/ISIS/ISIL. In the end, being 2014, Dempsey and Flynn lost and were removed, although more recently the US military has been secretly to some degree aiding the Syrian military against Daesh, hence the title of the article, "Military to Military."

There is much of great interest in this article, including some things that are questionable or biased, but this is a discussion that little of the MSM has talked about except in more general terms.  And the notoriously stupid VSP elite is ignoring it completely, even if some of the more knowledgeable are in on it. But it is not for the public to be involved with.  In Hersh's account, his big focus is Obama vs the Pentagon, with the Pentagon right, and Obama awfully removing Dempster and Flynn, who are obviously (or maybe just maybe) right, with the US now gradually realizing they were right, even as the GOP (except maybe Rand Paul and at moments of all people, Trump), neocons, and Hillary, and VSPs in general, who still mealy mouth about how the US must find those wonderful "moderates."

All this is just fine, but I  want to focus on what even Hersh did not highlight, the serious story in this story. One sign of what is up is that Hersh never quotes anybody from the CIA or those in the admin who disagree with Flynn and Dempster, who are clearly the main sources of his article (although Hersh is very diligent and checks many sources, but there is nobody on the other side in this article). So, the real story here is that we have just had probably the biggest institutional fight within the US intelligence establishment in a lothng time, unsurprisingly unreported, with even the guy reporting it not quite getting it.  The non-DOD CIA has just beaten the DOD DIA in a very serious fight, even though probably the losers were right, which the winners may have figured out by now.

To get to the individuals, Dempster was up for standard rotation retirement, so his disappearance is not a big deal, although the removal of Flynn at the DIA was not so regular.  Anyway, Hersh makes a big deal about especially the removal of Flynn, who apparently made lots of noise and really made it into the big fight, arguing from quite a few years ago that the US failed to fight Daesh/ISIS because it wanted to bring down Assad.  According to him about two years ago there was a really serious showdown, which he and Dempsey and the DOD lost, over supporting or bringing down Assad, and Obama supported bringing down Assad, going along with the CIA/neocon/VSP, etc., me adding those last three.  The funny thing, given how central to all of this it all is, Hersh really says little about the CIA role in this, which is central to the whole business.

The big story here is that there has been a really serious fight within the US intelligence establishment, publicly approved budget according to Wiki about $68 billion for the officially recognized 16 agencies.  So now we get  down to it.  A quarter of a century ago the allocations were that the most secret of the DOD ops got the highest amounts, the NSA and the more secret NRO got about three times as much as the CIA. Now the CIA gets more than them or any other DOD entity.
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The DIA was long the second sister of the CIA, the DOD's attempt to reproduce the CIA.  Now the really serious issue is that the CIA is not what it was and Flynn's DIA has been what the CIA used to be.  The expansion of the budget of the CIA, now well ahead of all the DOD intel agencies, even the still super secret secret National Reconaissance Organization (NRO),  is due to its having acquired a its own "Special Ops"army, not in the DOD, which the CIA is not in.  Prior to 9/11/01 CIA did analysis and their Ops did the usual movie stuff.  But now they have their own military not under the control of the Secretary of Defense., and they now have the largest budget of any of the 16 officially rcognized intel agencies by the US government.

So, CIA has been supporting and arming the "moderates" in Syrian who are at best now affiliated with al-Qaeda against Daesh/ISIS.  They have the money and they have the "boots on the ground,"wsuchich we suppoedly do not have and now that Lindsey Graham is out of the race no presidential candidate in the US claims to support.  Looks like to me that  if it is CIA it is not "boots on the ground," but if it is others, well, although I shall back off this by recognizing that some of the more secrte DOD ops are almost certainly part of these non-books on the ground books on the ground.

 The higher level buraurcratic battle here seems to be have been the Pentagon intel against the non-DOD intel, in short, the DIA against the CIA, and Hersh has revealed how bad this argument over policy and ultimately funds has been in recent years.  Hersh hints that in the face of Daesh/ISIS these differences have become less important at the higher levels of decision-making.

I add a few oddly related items.  such as that at earlier today it was reported that Iran turned over to Russia the vast majority of its enriched uranium, thereby fulfilling the most central portion from their side of the recently internationally agreed to deal.

This point now is at a much lower level. So, among the GOP candidates there has been this list of people who are supposedly "moderate, reasonable."  High on this list although now very  low in the polls and probably not worth this critical comment is Kasich, Governor of Ohio.  I grant that he has more than any of these GOP candidates real experience, and an old friend of mine has favored him for decades, but I have found in the last GOP debate a fatal flaw. Nobody has commented on it because he is nowhere, but in the last GOP debate he took the most extreme position about Iran of any of them, relevant to this post. He declared that the biggest thing was to go after Iran, more important than getting Daesh/ISIS. 

But today Iran turned over its highly enriched uranium to the Russians, making it clear that Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is  for real against so many commentaries on US media.

Barkley Rosser

PS:  I have been posting a lot recently because I shall be a week from now disappearing from cyberspace as well as not making the ASSA/AEA meetings in San Francisco coming up, which I was planning to attend not only for professional reasons but to see my grandchildren who live there. But I shall not be there, and I extend to all my friends who will be there my best regards and a happy new year. I shall not be there because I shall have open heart valve replacement surgery on January 5th, 2016.  So, I shall not be at the meetings, and extend my best regards to all who will attend who were expecting to see me there.  


Jack said...

Barkley, Best wishes in regards to January 5th and a speedy recovery.

And heaven help us all, the spooks have taken over our foreign policy. Something like the fox guarding the hen house.

Unknown said...

Barkley that was a hell of a "oh BTW".

Get better. No, get well. We still got some fights ahead of us.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Thank, folks. Will do my best.

Thornton Hall said...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

The analysis reads like horrible news. But during the Cold War was anyone in the intelligence community anywhere close to right? Isn't it progress that the people losing the argument are right?

The arguments in the Cold War spook world were both won and lost by people who thought Communism had to be either contained or destroyed lest it end our way of life. But whether you were on the side of containment or destruction, the underlying premise was the same. And it was total bullshit.