OpEdNews Op Eds

Panetta Watch 8: James Bond & the Pirates, a CIA Dilemma

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H3 4/10/09

- Advertisement -
There's nothing humorous about modern piracy, in the Indian Ocean, or elsewhere on the high seas. But I've used a whimsical title because, in the popular imagination, nothing recalls the Cold War era of Intelligence more starkly than the fictional semi-hero of Ian Fleming's 1950s novels. And it's that fusty age of traditional secret service that may be unjustly relegated to the historical junk heap as Leon Panetta's CIA - and the entire national security structure of the Obama Administration – mobilizes for a New World Disorder in which archaic ills like piracy might flourish.

I'm all for pruning a bloated Pentagon budget, but there is something about the recent "downsizing" announcement of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (himself a former CIA Director) that bothers me – the underlying assumptions of clairvoyance. Making difficult choices among weapons systems, of course, requires years of planning and implementation and that means decision-makers must have a clear vision of the kinds of military action in which the US might be engaged in the near future. I'm just not certain that vision should be so heavily weighted toward our current threat assessments. In the past, irresistible strategic projections based on momentary needs gave rise to the wry cliché, "fighting the last war", and still bring to mind the brilliant inanity of the Maginot Line. Maybe our current guesses are right. Or maybe not. And if not, how much manpower and scarce treasure may be required to rectify the error?

Foreseeing future threats and enemies and counter-measures is all the more necessary – and the more hazardous – for CIA and the Intelligence Community. It takes time to build espionage networks, just as it takes time to build high-tech fighter planes. Yet CIA has always been, and should continue to be, the most flexible instrument of the national security establishment, the "tail" on the military dog. If and when threats suddenly change, the Agency must be ready, with relatively little lead time, to fight the next war.

The Agency was apparently not ready for the consequences of 9/11. That, however, is not an argument for assuming that the disorderly world of terrorists and pirates in which we now find ourselves will be the inevitable face of things to come.

I have no idea what's being discussed behind locked doors at Langley. But if academic palaver among latter-day think tankers is any guide, political chaos of "failed states", the popular buzz-word of the day, has become a preoccupation of our secret warriors. Harkening back to more structured old-style power politics among great powers is passé. T.E. Lawrence has trumped Double Oh Seven.

That worries me. Developments in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Teheran often worry me – as much, frankly, as terrorism and piracy. And I'm concerned that some sudden resurgence of what was once called the "balance of terror" might find CIA geared up for the wrong war, without the luxury of time to switch gears.
- Advertisement -


There is at least one way in which Mr. Panetta's Agency might plan for maximum "flexible response" in abruptly changing times. It will not be a popular idea among President Obama's progressive admirers, but the very fact that an avowed and savvy liberal Democrat is now Director of CIA might at least remove some of the more odious past trappings from the controversial subject of - Covert Action.

By this I don't mean paramilitary Rambo rambles in the Afghan hinterland, but rather the Truman-era notion of "diplomacy by other means". Not overthrowing governments, but rather influencing governments – and in the case of "failed states", building governments – by unseen quasi-diplomatic maneuvers that will not be broadcast within twelve hours on the Internet.

Some believe as an absolute principle that no lofty ends in world politics justify secret means. I suspect that Director Panetta, Mrs. Clinton and President Obama know the real world too well to share that wondrous naiveté. If I'm right, this may be an ideal moment to quietly begin hard thinking in Washington about a more sophisticated and momentous purpose for CIA than a stern chase of some modern Long John Silver or firing missiles from UAVs at ever-elusive Bad Guys in the Khyber Pass.
- Advertisement -

 

Smith is a diplomatic historian and public policy consultant. After serving briefly as a junior Intelligence officer during the Cold War, in 1972, with the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. as mentor, he wrote the first history of the OSS, the World (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Tesla - Toyota - NUMMI: The Electric Car Reborn?

Senator Dianne Feinstein's Defining Moment

State of Emergency: Why Bill Lockyer Should Be Governor of California

PANETTA TO CIA: A "BRILLIANT" CHOICE?

THE LAST HURRAH OF JERRY BROWN

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
No comments