Day By Day

Saturday, July 21, 2007


One of the most admirable of the initiatives undertaken by the Bush administration is their attempt to bring an out of control and largely dysfunctional Beltway bureaucracy to heel. This is a perilous undertaking for any administration because disgruntled bureaucrats have, in the form of a compliant and sensationalistic press corps and opportunistic leaders of the opposition party, a brutally effective weapon that can be wielded against those who would attempt to exercise direction over rogue agencies. Most presidencies, after a few initial and damaging skirmishes with the leakers, pull back and allow the agencies free rein. The Clinton administration, for instance, rapidly abandoned attempts to reform the military once the political costs of doing so were deemed to be too high.

Not so the Bush administration. They have determinedly pursued reform in the military and in the intelligence agencies. The result has been a series of extremely damaging leaks orchestrated by self-appointed VIPs [veteran intelligence professionals] and unrelenting public criticism from "retired" military officers eagerly broadcast by a hostile press.

The Bush administration has taken major hits as a result of their reform efforts, but has doggedly persisted in them with some success. Now Rowan Scarborough has published a book, titled "Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA" detailing how careerists within the agency undermined the military effort in Iraq and frustrated Director Porter Goss' efforts at reform.

Taken together with Tim Wiener's "Legacy of Ashes" the emerging indictment of the CIA is damning. When all is said and done I suspect that the history of the Iraq War will reveal that the major battles took place within the beltway and not in Mesopotamia, and that the major opponents of victory were not so much unscrupulous politicians, but careerist bureaucrats whose behavior at times bordered on treason.