Con Tract: the theory behind neocon self-deception.
Historians may someday have convincing answers to the question of why U.S. intelligence under George W. Bush so wildly overestimated the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and/or of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people. Weapons of mass destruction can be high explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, but exclude the means of transporting or programs. Until that day, however, curious minds might want to consult an obscure essay, "Leo Strauss Leo Strauss (September 20, 1899 – October 18, 1973), was a German-born Jewish-American political philosopher who specialized in the study of classical political philosophy. and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)," published a few years ago by Gary Schmitt Gary James Schmitt (b.?) is a Neocon best known to be executive director of the PNAC from 1998 to 2005. He is now a resident scholar and director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on Advanced Strategic Studies. Bio
Dr. and Abram Shulsky Abram Shulsky is a noted U.S. government intelligence analyst, serving most recently as Director of the Office of Special Plans, heading its Iranian Directorate. Background . Schmitt is with the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is an American neoconservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., co-founded as "a non-profit educational organization" by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in early 1997. . Shulsky, of the RAND Corp. when the essay was written, is now director of the Department of Defense Office of Special Plans. OSP (Online Service Provider) See online service.
OSP - Optical Signal Processor is the infamous alternative intelligence agency created in the immediate aftermath of September 11 by Pentagon hardliners who believed that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies had missed or were soft-peddling evidence of Saddam's WMD WMD
white muscle disease. programs and links to al Qaeda. As director of OSP, Shulsky was at the center of administration efforts to weave together bits of intelligence to match their rock-solid belief that Saddam was an imminent and omnipresent om·ni·pres·ent
Present everywhere simultaneously.
[Medieval Latin omnipres threat. The essay provides fascinating insight into what these folks were thinking--and into their circle's almost literary obsession with finding potential hidden meanings in the words and actions of rogue regimes.
In the essay--which appeared in a 1999 dusty academic tome, Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime, Shulsky and Schmitt attempt to discern what the late political philosopher Leo Strauss would have said about the modes of thinking that dominate conventional U.S. intelligence analysis. Strauss was a mentor to many of the leading neoconservative ne·o·con·ser·va·tism also ne·o-con·ser·va·tism
An intellectual and political movement in favor of political, economic, and social conservatism that arose in opposition to the perceived liberalism of the 1960s: lights, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz Paul Dundes Wolfowitz (born December 22, 1943) is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, working on issues of international economic development, Africa and public-private partnerships. , who helped create OSP. Shulsky was a student of Strauss at the University of Chicago in the 1960s; Schmitt did his Ph.D. work them in the 1970s after Strauss had died but was still a leading influence. They argue that Strauss would have attacked the prevailing trend in U.S. intelligence analysis known as the "social-scientific method," an approach advanced by Sherman Kent, a former Yale history professor and member of the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services Office of Strategic Services (OSS), U.S. agency created (1942) during World War II under the jurisdiction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the purpose of obtaining information about enemy nations and of sabotaging their war potential and morale. Headed by William J. (the predecessor to the C.I.A.). Kent's method, say the authors, urged U.S. intelligence analysts to operate more like social scientists, conducting systematic research and analysis to predict the future behavior of adversaries. But, according to the authors, this method assumes that those foes act according to universal principles. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , you can guess the enemy's next move going by what you would do in his position--as if the two of you are engaged in a giant game of chess.
This strategy, say the authors, grew out of the generally liberal mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. that dominated both Washington and academic life in the years after World War II--"[a] 'universalistic' outlook," say the authors, "which believes ... that others aspire to an American way of life; the 'melting pot' tradition, which suggests that, despite superficial differences ... people are fundamentally alike and want the same things."
Shulsky and Schmitt argue that such a belief system foolishly disregards the most important lesson from Strauss's teachings: that the nature of the regime or government under analysis means everything in trying to predict its intentions. Rogue regimes and dictatorships, they argue, operate under totally different value systems and principles than do democracies like the United States. Tyrannies warp the very souls of those who live under and serve them. In fundamental ways, this makes subjects of tyrannies not like us. "Because of the importance of the regime, it would be foolish to expect to be able to deduce theories of political behavior
Central to understanding" the behavior of rogue regimes, Shulsky and Schmitt posit, is these regimes' use of deception. Tyrannies am built on foundations of ties, and those who live under them must, for survival, speak in code, even when speaking the truth. The words and behavior of dictators and their henchmen, therefore, mask hidden meanings; they cannot be understood at face value. Rather than grasp this difference, they argue, conventional intelligence experts have adopted a flawed analytical strategy called mirror-imaging--"i.e., imagining that the country one is studying is fundamentally similar to one's own and hence can be understood in the same terms."
Shulsky and Schmitt have a point: Mirror-imaging is indeed a problem at the C.I.A. But nevertheless, much of their critique belabors a straw man. Mirror-imaging, though a real problem, is not a strategy which anyone at the C.I.A. or elsewhere in the intelligence community defends. Rather, it's an error that analysts are trained to amid, but too often commit anyway. In 1998, for instance, the C.I.A. was caught flat-footed when India resumed testing nuclear weapons, a move that sparked a renewed arms race with neighboring Pakistan. The C.I.A. conducted an inquiry into its own failure and concluded that agency analysts could easily have foreseen the move. In the previous election, Hindu nationalist politicians had publicly promised to resume nuclear testing; but when they won, C.I.A. analysts simply presumed that they would act like their American counterparts and not follow through on their more-reckless campaign pledges (see "The C.I.A.'s Weakest Link," by Loch Johnson, July/August 2001). On the eve On the Eve (Накануне in Russian) is the third novel by famous Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, best known for his short stories and the novel Fathers and Sons. of the detonations, the Indian government assured Western diplomats that they were not going to resume testing, and the agency chose to believe them. This deception, by democratic India, underscores another weakness in Shulsky and Schmitt's critique: Tyrannies don't exactly have a monopoly on deception.
The neocon ne·o·con
A neoconservative: "The neocons and hard-liners have long felt that no Soviet leader could be trusted" New York Times. policy intellectuals who came to power in the Bush administration were convinced that Saddam's denials that he had reconstituted his nuclear or other WMD programs were an elaborate smokescreen. But unlike many other analysts, the neocons refused to be "fooled" by a general lack of hard evidence to this effect or that he had made alliances with Osama bin Laden Osama bin Laden: see bin Laden, Osama. . Instead, they imputed Attributed vicariously.
In the legal sense, the term imputed is used to describe an action, fact, or quality, the knowledge of which is charged to an individual based upon the actions of another for whom the individual is responsible rather than on the individual's to stray bits of intelligence data--a reported meeting with a terrorist here, an aluminum tube there--an almost mystical significance, seeing each as evidence of Saddam's boundless capacity for deceit.
Were the neocons fooling themselves? Or were they aware of the thinness of the evidence but willing to use it deceitfully to convince the public--and perhaps the president himself--to support the invasion? The neocons' harshest critics believe the latter. They note, for instance, that Shulsky's Special Plans office was borne out of the same Pentagon department where Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith once set up the equally mysterious "Office of Strategic Influence," to send out disinformation dis·in·for·ma·tion
1. Deliberately misleading information announced publicly or leaked by a government or especially by an intelligence agency in order to influence public opinion or the government in another nation: to the enemy. That enterprise was quickly dismantled once lawmakers got wind of the fact that such an office could also--perhaps inadvertently--disseminate disinformation to the American public.
Critics also point to passages in Strauss's own writings which they say countenance deception, even against the public, if committed by the select few who are wise enough to truly understand the national interest. Whether Strauss himself actually advocated this view is debatable; Shulsky and Schmitt don't make the argument in their essay. But they do credit their mentor with an acceptance of the inevitability of deception that seems, in retrospect, rather suggestive. "Strauss's view certainly alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception," the authors write. "Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception."
In the end, the neocons' cynicism about Saddam may prove to have been right, but in ways contrary to what they believed. As Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). reported in August, U.S. weapons inspectors in Iraq are investigating the possibility that Saddam, eager to project an image of strength to enemies within and outside the country, sent defectors to the West with bogus stories about the creation and maintenance of weapons stockpiles and programs that he didn't, in fact, have. "We were prisoners of our own beliefs," a senior U.S. weapons expert told Drogin. "We said Saddam Hussein was a master of denial and deception. Then when we couldn't find anything, we said that proved it, instead of questioning our own assumptions."
The imprisonment-by-assumption thesis might also explain another mystery historians will have to sort out: how the neocons managed to convince themselves and many others that controlling post-Saddam Iraq would be a cakewalk because virtually all Iraqis would welcome invading G.I.s as liberators. Talk about mirror-imaging!
In a revealing moment of lightness in the essay, Shulsky and Schmitt affectionately compare their late mentor Strauss to the world-weary, disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. , but deeply wise figure from a world, not of deception, but of avowed a·vow
tr.v. a·vowed, a·vow·ing, a·vows
1. To acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly; confess: avow guilt. See Synonyms at acknowledge.
2. To state positively. fiction protagonist of the John Le Carre Noun 1. John le Carre - English writer of novels of espionage (born in 1931)
David John Moore Cornwell, le Carre spy novel series, George Smiley. "In his gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines Between the lines can refer to:
But the novels of Le Carre may reveal more about what would take place in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans than the essay's authors could have recognized. Drawn to conclusions based on their obsessive conviction that rogue regimes like Saddam's must harbor "hidden meanings," that they must be "hiding something," the authors nevertheless fail to maintain the intellectual discipline necessary to reach the correct conclusion about what precisely it was that Saddam was hiding. Indeed, the Iraq intelligence debacle swirling around Shulsky's OSP seems to fit some of Le Carre's enduring revelations about the espionage business: that intelligence is almost always politicized, and that the ideological assumptions and personal obsessions that drive people in the spook world can be as disabling as the secrets and disinformation with which their enemies set about to deceive them.
Laura Rozen writes on national security issues in Washington, D.C.