February 4, 2008


Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., Journals 1952-2000 edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (New York: The Penguin Press, 2007) (Does this entry from April 27, 1967, not sound familiar and current? "We are reaching some sort of crisis on Vietnam. LBJ has evidently decided on a quick and brutal escalation of the war. It was clear in February that he did not wish negotiation until the existing military balance could be turned considerably in our favor; and his clear intention now is to bomb North Vietnam until Hanoi is prepared to sue for peace on terms which will meet Rusk's idea of a satisfactory settlement. More than that, the administration is apparently determined to advance the proposition that dissent is unpatriotic, and has brought General Westmoreland back for this purpose." "The irony is that all of us for years have been defending the presidential prerogative and regarding the Congress as a drag on policy. It is evident now that this delight in a strong presidency was based on the fact that, up to now, all strong Presidents in American history have pursued policies of which one has approved. We are now confronted by the anomaly of a strong President using these arguments to pursue a course which, so far as I can see, can lead only to disaster. It is not hard to assert a congressional role; but, given the structure of the American system, it is very hard to see how the Congress can restrain the presidential drive toward enlargement of the war. Voting against military appropriations is both humanly and politically self-defeating. The only hope is to organize a broad political movement; and even this cannot take effect until, at the very earliest, the 1968 primaries, which may be too late." Id. at 269. My favorite--because I know its truth--entry is from April 4, 1981. "The historians with whom I feel instant sympathy are those like George Bancroft and Henry Adams who abandoned academic life for the world of affairs. I tried during the discussion at the Library [of Congress Council of Scholars in Washington] to define my feelings about pure academic--what is it?--the sense they give of collective unreality? collective complacency? collective pomposity? collective futility? and their jokes are so bad!.... Why does the academic environment, as distinct from the academic discipline, seem t bring out the worst in otherwise decent individuals." Id. at 516.).

Weiner, Tim, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2007) (This is a very interesting, and worthwhile, read. Two passages provide a sense of the core challenges facing American intelligence gathering going forward: “Over the years, the CIA had become less and less willing to hire ‘people that are a little different, people who are eccentric, people who don’t look good in a suit and tie, people who don’t play well in the sandbox with others,’ Bob Gates said. ‘The kinds of tests that we make people pass, psychological, and everything else, make it very hard for somebody who may be brilliant or have extraordinary talents and unique capabilities to get into the agency.’ As a consequence of its cultural myopia, the CIA misread the world. Very few of its officers could read or speak Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, or Farsi—the languages of three billion people, half the planet’s population. Far too few had ever haggled in an Arab bazaar or walked through an African village. The agency was unable to dispatch ‘an Asian-American into North Korea without him being identified as some kid who just walked out of Kansas, or African-Americans to work around the world, or Arab-Americans,’ Gates said.” “In 1982, when Gates was director of central intelligence, he wanted to hire an American citizen raised in Azerbaijan. ‘He spoke Azeri fluently, but he didn’t write English very well,’ he recalled. ‘And so he was rejected because he didn’t pass our English test. And when I was told this, I just went crazy. I said: ‘I’ve got thousands of people here who can write English, but I don’t have anybody here who can speak Azeri. What have you done?’’” Id. at 471-472. “For sixty years tens of thousands of clandestine service officers have gathered only the barest threads of truly important intelligence—and that is the CIA’s deepest secret. Their mission is extraordinarily hard. But we Americans still do not understand the people and the political forces we seek to contain and control. The CIA has yet to become what its creators hoped it would be.” “… Perhaps a decade from now the agency will rise from the ashes, infused with many billions of dollars, inspired by new leadership, invigorated by a new generation. Analysts may see the world clearly. American spies may become capable of espionage against America’s enemies. The CIA someday may serve as its founders intended. We must depend on it. For the war in which we are now engaged may last as long as the cold war, and we will win or lose by virtue of our intelligence.” Id. at 514. Again, an important read which, unfortunately, few American will read.).