John Steiner: Celebrating Chalmers Johnson

03 Economy, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Proliferation, 09 Justice, 10 Security, 11 Society, Academia, Advanced Cyber/IO, Analysis, Budgets & Funding, Civil Society, Corporations, Counter-Oppression/Counter-Dictatorship Practices, Cultural Intelligence, Ethics, History, Military, Officers Call, Peace Intelligence, Politics of Science & Science of Politics, Power Behind-the-Scenes/Special Interests, Reform, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Strategy, Waste (materials, food, etc)
John Steiner

Best of TomDispatch: Chalmers Johnson, Dismantling the Empire

Chalmers Johnson (RIP), 7 August 2011


Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire and Ten Steps to Take to Do So

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

. . . . . . . .

Chalmers Johnson

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire (Abridged)

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the “opportunity costs” that go with them — the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture.  Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters — along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth — that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism.

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

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The Impact Today and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson

Steve Clemons

The Washington Note, 21 November 2010

Read full summary….

Phi Beta Iota:  The second article is a stunning review of the intellectual life of Chalmers Johnson, who was among many things a net assessments analyst for Allen Dulles.  He pioneered the study of “State Capitalism” and considered the US to be a greatly under-performing economy for its failure to move away from military unilateralism and toward sustainable development.


Review: The Threat on the Horizon

5 Star, Budget Process & Politics, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Culture, Research, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Information Operations, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, True Cost & Toxicity
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Loch Johnson

5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Reference–Does Not Add Weight to Reform, June 10, 2011

By Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) – See all my reviews

The author of this book, Loch Johnson, is one of two people who also served on the Church Commission-Brit Snider is the other, and he was, at the recommendation of Loch, joined to the Commission by Les Aspin and then appointed Staff Director on his merits. For this reason, what the book does not do is deliberate. The focus on the book is on rendering a historical account of a major endeavor to study the need for reform of the US Intelligence Community.

What the author misses up front is the reality that the Commission was the way in which Senator John Warner (R-VA) and then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney blew up the rather well-crafted efforts of Senator Dave Boren (D-OK) and Representative Dave McCurdy (D-OK-04), each the chairman of their respective Senate and House Intelligence Communities. The National Security Act of 1992 (I summarized the Act for the American Intelligence Journal) was a well-crafted endeavor. It was destroyed because Senator John Warner refused to consider anything that might reduce intelligence budget and personnel in Virginia (both a bloated at all locations), and Secretary Cheney was willing to tell any lie, oppose any good idea, that might reduce the military's growing ownership of secret intelligence. Today, under DNI James Clapper, we have the most expensive and most ineffective intelligence community on the planet-only the vendors of vaporware get rich-the deal is that all retired IC leaders and most IC retirees get to double-dip with their clearances intact-good for them, very bad for the public.

Continue reading “Review: The Threat on the Horizon”

Review (Guest): The Threat on the Horizon–An Inside Account of America’s Search for Security after the Cold War

5 Star, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)
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Loch K. Johnson

5.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunities

April 8, 2011

Retired Reader (New Mexico) – See all my reviews (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

This book The Threat on the Horizon: An Inside Account of America's Search for Security after the Cold War offers a detailed account of the creation and workings of the now nearly forgotten Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence Reform (1995-1996). Its author, Loch Johnson, is a recognized authority on intelligence issues and was on the Commission's staff. This book is in part the result of a promise Johnson made to the Commission's original head, Les Aspin before his death.

Some would dismiss this book as concerning a forgotten footnote in the history of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), but this would be a mistake. This book actually provides a detailed chronicle of the only real effort to introduce comprehensive reform in the IC prior to the 9/11 tragedy. It also explains in some detail why these reforms proved ineffective. Perhaps unintentionally, the book also provides an excellent picture of the structure and culture of the IC principals (CIA, DIA, NGA, and NSA) as well as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) immediately after the end Cold War. The problems of the IC principals in the mid-1990's do much to explain the problems that beset them today and offer a cautionary tale about intelligence reform.

The story of this Commission's efforts to seriously reform the IC demonstrates how by its composition and approach the Commission was more or less bound to fail. Its final recommendations were superficial and would have done nothing to change the moribund cultures and direction of the IC principals even if they had actually been enacted. Indeed as occurred with intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report which were for the most part enacted, their lack of substance would have made them ineffective.

Johnson attributes much of the problems with the Aspin-Brown Commission to the untimely death of Les Aspin in 1995. He has a point; Aspin was willing to invest a good deal of himself in the search for intelligence reform and clearly took the matter very seriously. This attitude was reflected in the way the Commission's Staff went about the detailed work need for the Commission to be effective and in the way Commission itself went about fact gathering. Aspin's successor Harold Brown was as brilliant as Aspin, but clearly did not take the Commission's work as seriously.

By any standards this book is a very important one for those interested in reform of the U.S. Intelligence System and the reasons why such reform has always failed.

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See Also:

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Institutionalized Ineptitude

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Lack Of)

A Science of Intelligence Qua Decision-Support?


Others, notably Dr. Loch Johnson, de facto dean of the intelligence scholars in the English language, have explored both definitions and concepts for a theory of intelligence.  Others, such as Jack Davis, have done much in the area of analytic tradecraft or the “art” of intelligence analysis (to match the “art” in clandestine operations and covert action).

Now the time has come to develop a science of intelligence.  The first casualty must of necessity be the obsession with secret sources and methods, secret agencies, and secret clients.  Intelligence is about decision-support, plain and simple, and the new science of intelligence will be developed along the lines of the services science developed by Dr. Jim Spohrer of IBM, and others.  Dr. Spohrer provided the below in an email exchange today:

(1) “you can have a science of anything, if a community agrees it is important”

(2) “innovations that are based on sciences, not just management and engineering practice, can be advanced more systematically”

(3) “industry cares about innovation acceleration, can academia deliver a science? does the engineering and management exist in practice”

(4) “academia said we can establish a research area to help build the science under the engineering and management practice.”

A round-table is being formed and a new article will result.

Journal: Lobbyists Sodomize Consenting US Congress

03 Economy

Chuck Spinney Recommends

The Baseline Scenario

What happened to the global economy and what we can do about it

Falling Back On Waterloo

with 76 comments

By Simon Johnson, 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and The Next Financial Meltdown

The bank lobbyists have the champagne out – the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have capped the size and leverage of our largest banks – was defeated in the Senate last night, 33-61.  Feeling ascendant, the big banks swarm forward to take on their next foe – the Kanjorski amendment (that would greatly strengthen the power of regulators to break up megabanks), which they plan to gut in the backrooms.

This is overconfidence – because the consensus against them is beginning to shift significantly.  Partly this is the result of great efforts by Senator Ted Kaufman, Senator Sherrod Brown, and their colleagues over recent months and weeks.  Partly this is due to all the people who came on board and pushed hard.

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But, as in many such cases, it is also a question of luck – and timing.

The European sovereign debt crisis is deepening.  And the picture that is worth many thousands of words is the NYT’s graph of interlocking debt within the eurozone.

As far as anyone can ascertain, this is almost all debt held by banks (often then “repo-ing”, or borrowing against it as collateral, at the European Central Bank.)

In other words, the European megabanks – lauded by Senators Dodd, Corker, Warner and others as a model for us to follow – are up to the eyeballs in bad debt.  Their governance has completely failed.  Their regulatory systems have been gutted – on their way to being turned into ash.

None of this would matter, of course, if the eurozone policy elite had its act together and could terminate its current position with minimal losses.  But it cannot – the deer are in the headlights.

Ask everyone this question:  Which are the huge global banks that Senator Dodd, Jamie Dimon, and Larry Summers think we should be emulating?  Surely not the Chinese – their governance failures are profound and complete; this is state banking run amok.  Surely not the British – after all Mervyn King and Adair Turner, the top authorities on those banks, are globally the most articulate officials on how good finance has gone so deeply wrong.  Surely not the Canadians – those myths have been long exploded (and without dissent, in our conversations with the Bank of Canada).

And surely you are not proposing that the continental European banks are a model of anything other than ineptness, blind herding, and the transition from being “too big to fail” to “so big that even when you save them, you get an economic catastrophe”?

To the victors last night in the Senate: congratulations – your opponents have fallen back.  Your generals are known to be invincible, your forces are the best, and your resources are without limit.

And so we wait for you again, on a gentle slope and behind a ridge – appropriately enough with our backs to Brussels.  Welcome to Waterloo.

Journal: Afghanistan-Pakistan Rabbit Hole

Chuck Spinney

This is IMPORTANT.  Chuck

Down the AfPak Rabbit Hole

The village of Marjah is a meaningless strategic backwater. So why are the Pentagon and the press telling us the battle there was a huge victory?


The release of Tim Burton's new blockbuster movie, Alice in Wonderland, is days away. The timing could not be more appropriate. Lewis Carroll's ironically opium-inspired tale of a rational person caught up inside a mad world with its own bizarre but consistent internal (il)logic has now surpassed Vietnam as the best paradigm to understand the war in Afghanistan.

Continue reading “Journal: Afghanistan-Pakistan Rabbit Hole”

Event Report: 20 Nov 09 NYC Counterinsurgency–America’s Strategic Burden Featuring Nagl, Kilcullen, Sheehan, Bergen, Coll Among Others


COIN20 Trip Report
COIN20 Trip Report

21 November 2009

Memorandum of Transmittal by Robert David STEELE Vivas

Subject:  Counterinsurgency Conference Overview

Mr. Jason Liszkiewicz, Executive Director of the Earth Intelligence Network (EIN) and resident in NYC, attended the 20 November 2009 conference on counterinsurgency (speakers identified on page two), and provided me with the notes on pages 3-9.  Below is my own exploitation of these notes.

IGNORANT US POLICYMAKERS.  We have policymakers with crippling illusions about how the world is—worst ever—people in policy positions do not understand the problems they are making policy on—Congress is unsophisticated about Afghanistan; Washington-area decision-makers vastly misunderstand the enemy—Taliban is a super-bug  adapting super-fast.  This is NOT about Al Qaeda having a home base.  Congress lacks next of kin engaged.

CORRUPT AFGHAN OFFICIALS. Afghan government officials own 32% of the Palm Islands in Dubai—election was “industrial-strength fraud”—tsunami of cash (US, Saudi, others) drives corruption.  NOTE:  No Afghans on any of the panels.

US LACKS AREA KNOWLEDGE & STRATEGY. We really do not “get” the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India  context, detail, etcetera.  US “strategy” of “ten cities” is a mirror of the Soviet strategy before defeat.  Doctrine is not a substitute for Strategy.  Water (Indus River) is central to Pakistan-India relationship (Kashmir is about water).  Question NOT being asked: how do we do this without a US ground presence?  “Cheap coat of paint” approach to challenges.  “Tactics without strategy is noise before defeat.”  Saudi money, Pakistan-Taliban axis will outlast US money and US ground presence.

COUNTERINSURGENCY MANUAL LACKING. Counterinsurgency manual is not realistic and warps policy debate—the reality of poppy crops is not in the manual, not in the “strategy/doctrine”

UN, AID, NGO OOB NOT WORKNG. UN not working, its role not thought out, shortfalls in specialized everything.  Local corruption and family-political angling for contracts lead to some IED’s intended to block or redirect contract funds.  AID  giving contracts to Americans, not Afghans.  US has no ability to create ministries from scratch.  Civilian capabilities non-existent or not understood by military when they do show up.  No inter-agency planning in part because the civilians have no idea why they are there or what they should do.

LOST IN TRANSLATION. Continue to lack Pashto translators.   More Pashto speakers within NYPD than in all US forces across Afghanistan

EXIT OPPORTUNITIES. Afghan Army most respected institution in country, best fighters but worst policemen.  US ground presence makes things worse.  Solutions have to be Afghan.  Afghan population wants sovereignty and independence.  US troops simply surviving, not campaigning.

On page 10 I provide the “Lessons Learned” from my 1992 study of USMC operations.