Category Archives: State Department

(S//SI) The UN Security Council: (SIGINT) History Repeats Itself!

SID today

SID today (Signals Intelligence Directorate)

FROM: [REDACTED] , SINIO for Global and Multilateral Issues, and NSA Representative to the U.S. Mission to the UN

Run Date: 10/30/2003

 

(S//SI) Once again SIGINT has made a crucial difference in the U.S.’ ability to shepherd a UN Security Council Resolution through the UNSC. On 16 October the Council unanimously passed UNSCR 1511, which provided a UN mandate for Iraq reconstruction and peacekeeping and opened the way for UN member countries to contribute troops and money to the effort. Passage of the Resolution had been given urgent priority by top U.S. officials (who wanted it in place before a donors’ conference for Iraq on 23-24 October), and its rescue – from what seemed to be certain death just a week before the vote – has been hailed as a triumph of diplomacy and a key turning point for the situation in Iraq.

(TS//SI) However, as with UNSCR 1441 (return of weapons inspectors to Iraq) last November, passage of 1511 was at heart a triumph of SIGINT support. From the Resolution’s initial introduction in the UNSC in early September until the 16 October vote, NSA played a key role in keeping U.S. policy makers in New York and Washington abreast (or ahead) of the many twists and turns in the marathon negotiations. Reporting from across SID (especially from the UN, Chinese, Russian, French, German, Syrian, Pakistani, and Mexican diplomatic shops) provided a window into the planning and intentions of the principal players on the Council – and may have even provided the Secretary of State and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN with the key information needed to ensure the unanimous vote.

(S//SI) Kudos for NSA reporting followed almost immediately after the vote. The U.S. Mission to the UN’s expert adviser on Iraq probably spoke for a number of customers at State and USUN by stating,

“I don’t think any of us should overlook – or underestimate – the critical role [NSA] played in getting us to the finish line. The timely products that you provided to us in a constant stream were critical in shifting the balance, particularly with the Chinese and Russians, and allowed us to make tactical decisions real time with Secretary Powell that had the effect of isolating the French and Germans as we saw the others peel off one by one. For obvious reasons [NSA] doesn’t get the public praise, but they should know how much more effective and more successful they allow us to be. It’s one of the real reasons, beyond luck, that we are the best at what we do.”

(U) Job well done, indeed!

(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet without the consent of S0121

DYNAMIC PAGE — HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108

Countering Information Warfare Act

This Act may be cited as the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016.

2.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that—

(1)

foreign governments, including the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, use disinformation and other propaganda tools to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and key allies and partners;

(2)

the Russian Federation, in particular, has conducted sophisticated and large-scale dis­in­for­ma­tion campaigns that have sought to have a destabilizing effect on United States allies and interests;

(3)

in the last decade disinformation has increasingly become a key feature of the Government of the Russian Federation’s pursuit of political, economic, and military objectives in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Balkans, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe;

(4)

the challenge of countering disinformation extends beyond effective strategic communications and public diplomacy, requiring a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power;

(5)

the United States Government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and

(6)

an important element of this strategy should be to protect and promote a free, healthy, and independent press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation.

3.

Center for Information Analysis and Response

(a)

Establishment

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and other relevant departments and agencies, establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response (in this section referred to as the Center). The purposes of the Center are—

(1)

to lead and coordinate the collection and analysis of information on foreign government information warfare efforts, including information provided by recipients of information access fund grants awarded under subsection (e) and other sources;

(2)

to establish a framework for the integration of critical data and analysis on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into the development of national strategy; and

(3)

to develop, plan, and synchronize, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and other relevant departments and agencies, whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests.

(b)

Functions

The Center shall carry out the following functions:

(1)

Integrating interagency efforts to track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies.

(2)

Collecting, integrating, and analyzing relevant information, including intelligence reporting, data, analysis, and analytics from United States Government agencies, allied nations, think tanks, academic institutions, civil society groups, and other nongovernmental organizations.

(3)

Developing and disseminating fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners.

(4)

Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, and the use of covert or clandestine special operators and agents to influence targeted populations and governments in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.

(5)

Facilitating the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.

(6)

Identifying gaps in United States capabilities in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and recommending necessary enhancements or changes.

(7)

Identifying the countries and populations most susceptible to foreign government propaganda and disinformation.

(8)

Administering the information access fund established pursuant to subsection (e).

(9)

Coordinating with allied and partner nations, particularly those frequently targeted by foreign disinformation operations, and international organizations and entities such as the NATO Center of Excellence on Strategic Communications, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the European External Action Service Task Force on Strategic Communications, in order to amplify the Center’s efforts and avoid duplication.

(c)

Composition

(1)

Coordinator

The Secretary of State shall appoint a full-time Coordinator to lead the Center.

(2)

Steering committee

(A)

Composition

The Secretary of State shall establish a Steering Committee composed of senior representatives of agencies relevant to the Center’s mission to provide advice to the Secretary on the operations and strategic orientation of the Center and to ensure adequate support for the Center. The Steering Committee shall include the officials set forth in subparagraph (C), one senior representative designated by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

(B)

Meetings

The Steering Committee shall meet not less than every 3 months.

(C)

Chairman and vice chairmen

The Steering Committee shall be chaired by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. A senior, Secretary of State-designated official responsible for digital media programming for foreign audiences and a senior, Secretary of Defense-designated official responsible for information operations shall serve as co-Vice Chairmen.

(D)

Executive secretary

The Coordinator of the Center shall serve as Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee.

(E)

Participation and independence

The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall not compromise the journalistic freedom or integrity of relevant media organizations. Other Federal agencies may be invited to participate in the Steering Committee at the discretion of the Chairman of the Steering Committee and with the consent of the Secretary of State.

(d)

Staff

(1)

In general

The Chairman may, with the consent of the Secretary and without regard to the civil service laws and regulations, appoint and terminate a Director and such other additional personnel as may be necessary to enable the Center to carry out its functions. The employment of the Director shall be subject to confirmation by the Steering Committee.

(2)

Compensation

The Chairman may fix the compensation of the Director and other personnel without regard to chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, relating to classification of positions and General Schedule pay rates, except that the rate of pay for the executive director and other personnel may not exceed the rate payable for level V of the Executive Schedule under section 5316 of that title.

(3)

Detail of government employees

Any Federal Government employee may be detailed to the Center without reimbursement, and such detail shall be without interruption or loss of civil service status or privilege.

(4)

Procurement of temporary and intermittent services

The Chairman may procure temporary and intermittent services under section 3109(b) of title 5, United States Code, at rates for individuals which do not exceed the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay prescribed for level V of the Executive Schedule under section 5316 of that title.

(e)

Information access fund

(1)

Authorization of appropriations

There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 $20,000,000 to support the Center and provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes:

(A)

To support local independent media who are best placed to refute foreign dis­in­for­ma­tion and manipulation in their own communities.

(B)

To collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.

(C)

To analyze tactics, techniques, and procedures of foreign government information warfare with respect to disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.

(D)

To support efforts by the Center to counter efforts by foreign governments to use disinformation, misinformation, and pro­pa­gan­da to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partners.

(2)

Funding availability and limitations

All organizations that apply to receive funds under this subsection must undergo a vetting process in accordance with the relevant existing regulations to ensure their bona fides, capability, and experience, and their compatibility with United States interests and objectives.

4.

Inclusion in Department of State education and cultural exchange programs of foreign students and community leaders from countries and populations susceptible to foreign manipulation

When selecting participants for United States educational and cultural exchange programs, the Secretary of State shall give special consideration to students and community leaders from populations and countries the Secretary deems vulnerable to foreign propaganda and dis­in­for­ma­tion campaigns.

5.

Reports

Not more than one year after the establishment of the Center, the Secretary of State shall submit to Congress a report evaluating the success of the Center in fulfilling the purposes for which it was authorized and outlining steps to improve any areas of deficiency.

6.

Termination of Center and Steering Committee

The Center for Information Analysis and Response and the Steering Committee shall terminate ten years after the date of the enactment of this Act.

Why Benghazi Is Bullshit

The endless Benghazi hearings are total bullshit, per this Foreign Affairs piece. I’m tired enough of this nonsense I’m cut/pasting the bullet points for future reference.

Here are six points of utter B.S. that drive us absolutely head-smacking crazy:

  • Benghazi was the greatest cover-up in history. Sen. James Inhofe claims that this relatively small terrorist attack in eastern Libya is one of the greatest cover-ups in U.S. history. Really? Worse than hiding the sale of 120 Hawk surface-to-air missiles and 1,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the ayatollahs in Iran in exchange for hostages held by the terrorist group Hezbollah, then funneling the profits from that sale illegally to Nicaraguan contra guerrillas behind Congress’s back? Some people need to read a book.
  • Benghazi was one of the worst incidents of terrorism. Former Vice President Dick Cheney overstated the significance of the attack as “one of worst incidents I can recall in my career.” I guess he forgot about 9/11 (2,977 dead), the Iraq War (4,886 dead), the war in Afghanistan (2,326 dead and counting), the Oklahoma City (168 dead) and Beirut barracks (241 dead) bombings, and the Pan Am flight 103 bombing (178 Americans dead). That’s almost 11,000 Americans killed… plus the four in Benghazi.
  • Americans were deliberately left to die. This conspiracy theory is so absolutely reprehensible that it does not bear dignifying with a response. Speaking the words dishonors the memory of the dead. That’s how it is in a Tom Clancy war novel, but not in the real world where adults can differentiate the two concepts.
  • The anti-Islam video had something to do with the attack. On the day of the attack, one of us (Malcolm Nance) was leaving Abu Dhabi for Benghazi and Tripoli to conduct a security assessment that was canceled as news of massive protests in Cairo culminated with the U.S. Embassy compound being stormed. News networks Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya showed the Muslim world aflame with disgust over the insulting video Innocence of Muslims. From within the punchbowl, everything around us looked like punch. It was not until much later that we learned the terrorist group used the outrage of the video as a mask to conduct a preplanned attack. That’s the nature of terrorism. We could go into the squabble over the talking points, but you can read more about that here.
  • The CIA’s Quick Reaction Force was ordered to “stand down.” This has been proved false by no less than the House Intelligence Committee and six other congressional investigations. No such order was given. The local CIA commander told his security contractors to not rush into the consulate site until local militia support and heavy weapons could be found. Even with that reasonable caution, the QRF was on-site 24 minutes after the first radio call for help. That is a near-miraculous and instantaneous response.
  • The Department of Defense could have changed the laws of space and time. Air Force bombers and National Missions Force personnel deployed to Sicily arrived well after the attack ended and after survivors had left Benghazi and were out of danger. Many pundits believe that if the president had snapped his fingers, fighter jets would have miraculously appeared over Benghazi, with adequate fuel, bombs, intelligence, and targets to stop.

What Did Obama Really Say at West Point? (via LobeLog)

President Obama At West Point 28 May 2014

President Obama At West Point 28 May 2014

What Did Obama Really Say at West Point? by Robert E. Hunter appeared on LobeLog today. The author, Robert E. Hunter, not to be confused with this genius, has served as ambassador to NATO, taught at National Defense University, and otherwise has a sterling resume of diplomacy and statecraft.

This is only the second time in eighteen months that I have simply reproduced what someone else has written. I’m marking the bits I find notable in bold.

A supertanker sails a long way, they say, between the moment the helmsman sets a new course and the vessel fully responds.

This was the task President Barack Obama took on this week, as he sought to set a new course for the U.S. ship of state in international waters.

What he said today in his commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York was nothing less than turning the wheel hard over for U.S. foreign policy.

Even though, as commander-in-chief, he is the nation’s chief helmsman, it will be some time before the U.S. supertanker responds, and even then not necessarily on the new course Obama is trying to set. The balance of his presidency will show how well he can succeed.

To extend the metaphor, Obama must also navigate between the Scylla of critics who want the United States to continue military power as its principal tool of destiny, and the Charybdis of those who would like to see war abolished in favor of other, non-lethal instruments.

He has no lack of critics. Even before the last third of his speech, one leading U.S. news channel cut to an attack by one of Obama’s conservative Congressional adversaries. Another was ready to take Obama on while he was still shaking the hands of newly commissioned army second lieutenants.

What is the president’s sin in the eyes of these naysayers?

Obama understands that the world has changed since the end of the Cold War, which saw the collapse of Soviet internal and external empires and European communism; the diffusion of power; the rise of new economic competitors and globalization in general; and a shift from state monopoly of violence to what are euphemistically called “non-state actors.”

In fact, speaking in politically defensive-mode, Obama went to great lengths — perhaps too great — to argue that the U.S. “remains the one indispensable nation” and, tempting the lessons of history, that this “will likely be true for the century to come.”

He also paid the politically necessary homage to U.S. exceptionalism — “I believe in [it] with every fiber of my being” — but then usefully redefined it in terms of support for the rule of law and recognition that “more lasting peace…can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.”

In trying to defang critics who argue that Obama does not care for the use of military force, it was no accident that he spoke at West Point.

It was no accident that he visited with US troops in Afghanistan this week; and no accident that he will travel to Omaha Beach in Normandy next week for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

To be fair to critics who argue that Obama is less enamored of the use of force than many of his predecessors, they have a point, at least in analyzing his proclivities.

Indeed, if his approach to the outside world can be reduced to a single phrase — as is so often true of presidents — it would be “no useless wars.”

That injunction has surely colored his successful withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the end of a U.S. combat role in Afghanistan at the end of this year (though he intends to leave some 9,800 troops behind, assuming that the new Afghan president agrees, as the likely winner has said he will do).

In fact, given that the 2003 invasion of Iraq remains one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history, and that no good U.S. national security interest has been served by our staying in Afghanistan as long as we have, Obama deserves credit for quieting most of his domestic critics as he has slowly extricated the US from both military ventures.

Obama used his speech to justify the US blocking itself from being sucked into the military conflict in Syria, a stance supported by most Americans, if not the Washington commentariat.

He has also emphasized the U.S. choice of diplomacy over military power in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program — though he also said, “we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

While he characterized Russian policy “toward former Soviet states” as “aggression,” and implied the same about Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, Obama did, however, project an ambiguous position, preferring to define the range of debate while leaving his own choices unclear.

Instead, the president laid out standards for judging.

On the one hand, “the United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake; or when the security of our allies in in danger.”

Even so, we have to ask “tough questions about whether our actions are proportional and effective and just.”

In other circumstances, the “threshold for military action must be higher,” and we should seek allies and partners.

Then, in his one sally into alternatives — otherwise a notable lacuna in the speech — “We must broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development.”

Obama also tried to put the best face he could on what has so far been Russian president Vladimir Putin’s tactical victory in Ukraine (though, in all likelihood, a long-term Russian strategic defeat), by stressing all the things that the US and others did to soften the blow.

The best parts of President Obama’s speech — at least, let us hope, the most lasting — dealt with longer-running problems facing humankind: the importance of democracy and human rights; the empowering of civil society; the fight against extremism, the promotion of useful international institutions; the need to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention; and, as a unifying theme, the role of US leadership in all these areas and more.

Yet he made only a passing reference to climate change, supposedly a hallmark of his agenda.

What was lacking, unfortunately, was “connective tissue” in terms of process, especially the need to relate regional apples and oranges to one another.

While renewing the U.S. priority on countering terrorism, Obama failed to identify its sources in the Middle East or discuss the risks of regional conflict “…as the Syrian civil war spills across borders.”

He did not propose means for resolving the new Russian challenge to George H.W. Bush’s goal of a “Europe whole and free” and at peace, or indicate that the U.S. would stop ignoring the continent.

Nor did he even mention recent Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts championed by U.S. Secretary of John State Kerry, or introduce what is supposedly a keystone of his foreign policy, the “pivot” or “rebalancing” to Asia.

In the final analysis, the test of President Obama’s foreign policy for the balance of his term will depend on whether he will finally begin integrating different elements of his approach; relate different instruments of power and influence to one another; upgrade strategic thinking in his administration; and place resources where the new world he conjures requires.

Obama’s only money item today was to ask Congress to spend $5 billion more on counter-terrorism. Instead, these funds should just be taken from a Pentagon budget still out of balance with his goals.

The president should instead be directing money to non-military areas, beginning with diplomacy and development, which can enable him to meet the goals he usefully set forth today.

At West Point, President Obama made a good start. But the U.S. “Supertanker-of-State” cannot be set firmly on a new course without a coherent set of strategies or at a low cost.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony in West Point, New York on May 28, 2014. Credit: Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Fincham

President Obama didn’t specifically say Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review, but Secretary of State John Kerry launched the 2014 effort on April 22nd – Earth day. The symbolism does not escape those of us who watch such things closely.

USS Bataan & Escorts To Libya, Rigged For Evacuation

USS Bataan

USS Bataan

The USS Bataan home ported in Norfolk, Virginia, is on its way to Libya, per the 27 May 2014 NightWatch. The Bataan is the first LHD purpose built to house women as well as men, with room for 450 total. The ship’s complement is 1,200 and it can carry about 1,900 Marines. Only a thousand Marines are aboard, leaving plenty of room for passengers.

This Wasp class assault ship has a well deck that can hold up to three LCACs. Only 15% of the world’s coastline is accessible to the traditional landing craft we’ve been using since World War II, while the LCAC can safely access about 70% of all coastline.

Landing Craft, Air Cushion

Landing Craft Air Cushion

Amphibious assault ships can carry a mix of helicopters, the V-22 Osprey, and the A/V-8B Harrier. Rebels reputedly captured Libya’s last surviving Foxtrot class submarine in Benghazi during the 2011 revolution, but there is no evidence that Libya has actual put any of their original complement of six boats to sea since 1984. The point is that anti-submarine patrol needs are low, the ship will have escorts that carry ASW helicopters, and the Bataan could be carrying as many as 20 of the Osprey or 40 helicopters.

There were eight attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts between 2002 and 2012. The Obama administration has been beset by claims of incompetence in the handling the Benghazi attack, despite the Republican dominated House cutting the State Department budget 18% the prior year. The other seven attacks all occurred during the Bush administration.

That Benghazi remained in the news for more than two Sunday’s worth of talk shows is the work of Groundswell, an effort by wealthy conservatives to regain some measure of control over the doings of the Tea Party. They were exposed last summer but the Benghazi smear and a related effort against the IRS continue to limp along.

Libya’s Reversal is a problem for the whole region. Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia have all closed their borders to contain extremists while the Hifter government rounds them up.

The Obama administration is seeing the events unfolding in Libya as both a threat and an opportunity. They have to dispatch ships and troops, but a string of bold rescue operations five months before the U.S. election will leave anyone trying to promote the Benghazi smear in the uncomfortable position of having to discredit recent Marine Corps & Navy successes.

“Why do you hate our troops?” would be the very first thing out of my mouth to anyone from the fringe right who even tried such a maneuver, then I’d ask them about their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, as it would be easy to make the case that rapid, muscular extraction like back in 1967 was done so the new Libyan government could mop up extremists without them holding western hostages.

Global Aircraft Carrier Infographic

Some weeks ago I wrote Carriers Of The Pacific, a comparison of the U.S. fleet vs. other countries, prompted by the U.S. “pivot to the east”.

One Chart Shows The Magnitude Of U.S. Naval Dominance provides an infographic that makes things crystal clear. Two thirds of all carriers belong to the U.S. Seven of the other twelve belong to our NATO allies, three of the others belong to nations with whom we have good diplomatic relations.

Global Carrier Comparison

Global Carrier Comparison

Thirty one carriers in good working order belong to NATO, three are in the hands of nations that have good relations with NATO, leaving just two in the hands of others. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov is functional, China has not fully commissioned its sister ship, which they’ve named Liaoning.

Japan, also a U.S. ally, is currently building two ships they refer to as “helicopter destroyers”, vessels the U.S. navy would call assault ships. We have twelve of them in the 40,000 ton displacement range, Japan’s ships will be half that size.

During World War II the U.S. built 24 Essex class carriers, all of which survived the conflict, and two of our three Yorktown class ships were lost, leaving only our most decorated ship, U.S.S. Enterprise CV-6 to finish the war. We had 120 lesser ships, most numerous were the fifty Casablanca class escort carriers.

The Cold War has been over for twenty years. We have two thirds of the world’s aircraft carriers, three times more than all of our allies combined. Our only plausible geopolitical rivals have one operational carrier and one that is being slowly commissioned. Our finances, our environment, and our energy supplies can not support maintaining a fleet ready for two wars when we have no plausible geopolitical rival that could start a conflict where they would be required.

The United States has global commitments which we can and should honor, but continuing to maintain a massive fleet when there is no foreseeable purpose for it does not enhance our security, it takes resources away from preventative measures best executed by the State Department and USAID

Budget Comparison: State Department vs Black Ops

Black Ops Budget

Black Ops Budget

Usually when we get information about black programs it’s the result of two or more errors on the part of Congressmen. One will give a budget for a certain area, another will describe black ops as a percentage of that number, and then we get the actual figure. This time thanks to Edward Snowden we get a 178 page report that ended up in the hands of the Washington Post.

That figure of $52.6 billion is eye catching, since it’s roughly equal to that of the State Department’s whole operating budget. Also interesting that it’s doubled in the last eight years, while Congress forced an 18% cut on the State Department in 2011. This has been widely viewed as a method to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s presidential chances in 2016, no matter what the cost to the U.S. might be in the mean time.

I’ve written about the State Department Witch Hunt over Benghazi, which we recently learned to be an effort by the far right fringe to disrupt and discredit the Obama administration, again without regard to what harm they might be doing to overall U.S. interests.

The executive branch faces a crapflood of, well … crap and our emaciated State Department faces an intractable problem in the Mideast, but the inability to get on top of issues has left the whole region sliding towards chaos. If you’re an end of days nut that might seem like a good thing, but most Americans would prefer that we not get dragged into another quagmire.

I am disheartened by what I see. Winning elections matters little when a disloyal fringe abuse any gap they find in our government’s checks and balances, dragging us one step closer to collapse with each passing day. Our isolationist tendencies are finally starting to kick in and that ought to be followed by some attention to economic development here at home, but if we end up with some regional conflagration in the Mideast we’ll be forced to do something on the basis of longstanding alliances. This will be a triple down on the misadventures of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s being made to happen against the will of the majority of the American people.