Saturday, September 3, 2005

William Rehnquist, R.I.P. (1924-2005)

CNN is reporting that the Chief Justice has died at the age of 80.

My thoughts about Rehnquist can be found here. My only addendum is that while there will undoubtedly be a focus on Rehnquist's ideology as a justice, his greatest legacy for the Court might be his management skills -- he was a vast improvement over both Burger and Warren in that capacity.

Earlier this summer, Charles Lane wrote an informative article about Rehnquist for Stanford magazine. I'm sure SCOTUSblog will have more tomorrow.

Comment away.

posted by Dan at 11:28 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

Milton Friedman, meet Robert Reich

Milton Friedman introduced the idea of a "negative income tax" in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. The idea behind it was a way to provide welfare in the most efficient and least welfare-distorting manner possible.

In the New York Times today, Robert Reich drives this point home by looking at the deleterious effects of the alternative policy possibilities -- protectionism and pork-barrel spending:

Oil shocks, hurricanes and housing bubbles aside, consumers who are worried about their jobs and wages will be reluctant to buy goods and services, thereby dampening any recovery. But the new insecurity is undermining our national interest in other, less predictable ways by setting off political resistance to economic change, with negative repercussions that ripple beyond the economy.

Forty years ago, free-trade agreements passed Congress with broad backing because legislators recognized that they helped American consumers and promoted global stability. But as job and wage insecurity have grown, public support for free trade has declined. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which passed by 34 votes in 1993, was a hard sale for the Clinton administration. But the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement, embracing a far smaller and less populous area, was an even harder sale for President Bush. Despite Republican control of Congress, the trade deal cleared the House in July by just two votes, and then only after heavy White House pressure.

The increasing insecurity of ordinary workers also imperils our national defense by handcuffing the Pentagon. It can't shift the defense budget to fighting terrorism because of local fears that well-paying jobs will be lost. Contrast this with the comparative ease by which the Pentagon downshifted from fighting World War II to the cold war, more than 50 years ago. Its recent base-closing recommendations ignited a political firestorm, causing even the apolitical Base Closure and Realignment Commission to retreat. The commission's chairman justified its decision to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, for example, by noting that the base "is the second-largest employer in western New York."

Consider, finally, the pork that's been larded into the federal budget. Republicans may collectively oppose wasteful spending, but as individual legislators they've created more pork than any Congress in history. The new $286 billion transportation act is bloated with 6,371 "special projects" with a price tag some $30 billion more than the White House wanted. The president reassured the nation that it would, at the least, "give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs." The new $12.3 billion energy bill cost twice what the White House sought because it's laden with what Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who ushered it through Congress, defends as measures to create "hundreds of thousands of jobs." According to the conservative watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, pork programs have risen from fewer than 2,000 a year in the mid-1990's to almost 14,000 this year.

Read the whole thing -- Reich proposes a number of policy possibilities, including the expansion of the modern-day equivalent of the negative income tax, the earned income tax credit.

I'm not sure I buy all of Reich's proposed package, but his analysis of the political economy of the status quo is dead on.

posted by Dan at 09:11 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

Attack of the lipstick ninjas

In the Washington Post, Anthony Faiola reports that Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi is pulling out all the stops in the run-up to parliamentary elections in Japan:

Armed to the teeth with blood-red lipstick and a killer smile, Yuriko Koike stormed the streets in a working-class neighborhood here with rapid-fire handshakes and a brigade of young campaign aides wearing hot-pink T-shirts and waving rose-colored flags. One of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's hit squad of female "assassins," the former anchorwoman vowed to take no prisoners in Japan's nationwide elections a week from Sunday.

"This is a ground battle for reform!" Koike, 53, shouted through a bullhorn to her giddy audience. "Let's change Japan!"

Koike joined a star-studded cast of female candidates sent out on the campaign trail this week by Koizumi, who has vowed to resign if his fractured Liberal Democratic Party fails to win control of Japan's lower house on Sept. 11. The women -- now ubiquitously referred to in the national media as Koizumi's assassins -- also include Satsuki Katayama, a model-turned-bureaucrat, and Makiko Fujino, Japanese television's version of Martha Stewart. Their mission: to take out the prime minister's political enemies in the old boys' network that long held sway over the LDP.

The women embody Koizumi's strategy of putting a new face on the stodgy, conservative party that has ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era. In a country where only a small percentage of elected officials are female and women are still expected to pour tea for male co-workers and defer to their husbands, Koizumi's "new LDP" is fielding a record 26 women in the upcoming race, more than double last year's number.

More important, Koizumi, 63, chose Koike and eight other well-known, successful women to run in key races. They are opposing the powerful hard-liners whom Koizumi effectively purged from the party after they voted against his bill to privatize Japan's massive postal service, the centerpiece of his plan to reform the world's second-largest economy. Rejection of that bill in August led Koizumi to angrily dissolve the lower house and put his job on the line by calling new elections in which he has vowed "to change or destroy" the LDP....

Koizumi's popularity is soaring ahead of the vote -- particularly among such nontraditional LDP voting groups as younger people and urbanites.

"There's no way around it," said Yasunori Sone, a professor of political science at Keio University in Tokyo. "Koizumi is a political genius. His creation of the assassin candidates has captured the public's imagination."

Indeed, Koizumi's daring approach has surprised a nation used to consensus politics, titillating the press and jolting many Japanese out of their state of political apathy. Public opinion polls indicate heightened interest in the elections.

posted by Dan at 12:44 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, September 2, 2005

Will the Saints go marching back in?

In Slate, Josh Levin mourns the loss of his hometown city:

New Orleans seems more like a scene out of 28 Days Later than a place where people ever lived and worked and raised their families.

A little more than 48 hours after Katrina strafed the city, I'm starting to mourn a place that's not quite dead but seems too stricken to go on living.

Also in Slate, Daniel Gross posits that the national economic effect of Katrina could be more devastating than the 9/11 attacks. Kieran Healy has two posts worth reading about the magnitude of the social disaster.

If there is any comfort that can be taken at this point from Katrina's aftereffects, it's in this story by Michael Phillips and Cynthia Cossen in the Wall Street Journal: cities beset by catastrophic attacks refuse to fade away:

At the close of World War II, American bombers incinerated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons. Within two decades, both cities had been rebuilt, and their populations had surpassed prewar levels.

The lesson, according to economists who have studied the question, is that, while it may take years, cities are resilient and usually bounce back from the worst natural or man-made devastation. "Even nuclear bombs and fire bombing of cities was not enough to change the level and nature of economic activity," says Columbia University economist Donald R. Davis, who studied Japanese reconstruction. "People don't abandon their cities, and indeed industries don't abandon the cities they're in."

Such large-scale disasters are rare, of course, but a look back at four of them in the U.S. -- as New Orleans copes with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- reinforces that conclusion: Americans are loath to surrender their cities despite the threat of an array of biblical plagues.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 12:55 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2005

September's Books of the Month

This month's general interest book is in response to the question I get asked on occasion -- "So what's the University of Chicago really like?" The work that I've seen best capture the spirit of the place is actually a play -- Proof, by David Auburn. The drama won a Pulitzer and some Tonys, and has been made into a movie that will be released this month (click here to see the trailer).

The movie's director, John Madden, was smart enough to shoot the film on location on campus and in Hyde Park, and even in the trailer you get a strong sense of place. Ordinarily I'd say more about it, but I'd rather not give away important plot details (as an aside, kudos to Madden and Miramax for not revealing these details in the trailer).

Proof is quite short, so I'll counterbalance by recommending a mammoth of an international relations book -- S.E. Finer's three-volume The History of Government. Finer -- an Oxford Professor of Government -- decided to write about the development of government from Sumeria to modern times as his retirement project. After surviving a massive heart attack, he devoted the next six years to the project and managed to almost finish it (34 out of 36 chapters). Some polishing by his colleagues and former students led to three volumes that the Economist raved as the best political science book ever when it came out in 1997.

[So you've read it then?--ed. Er, no. But this year I've agreed to join a small book club (only one other member) devoted to tackling this tome over the rest of the academic year. With September upon us, I look forward to cracking the spine -- especially since I just finished Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steeland I'm intrigued about whether Finer will buttress or refute some of Finer's assessments about the ancient world. So, you just finished a 1998 book and are now tackling a 1997 book. You are so cutting edge.--ed.]

posted by Dan at 07:27 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The diplomatic aftereffects of Gaza

According to the Associated Press, Israel is reaping some diplomatic fruit from its Gaza pullout:

The foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, a Muslim country that has long taken a hard line against the Jewish state, met publicly for the first time Thursday, a diplomatic breakthrough that follows Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The meeting in Istanbul was at the initiative of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and was expected to be followed by confidence building measures, such as a relaxation of Pakistan's ban against travel to the Jewish state, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject....

Pakistan was encouraged by Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was completed last week, and set up the meeting, Israeli officials said.

``There is no conflict whatsoever between Israel and Pakistan and no logical reason why the two countries could not have a constructive and positive bilateral relationship,'' Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri, informally met Wednesday night at a dinner in Istanbul, Israeli officials said.

Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the Indian subcontinent, has been gradually moving toward conciliation with Israel, despite the influence of a powerful Islamic radical party in Pakistan.

The Pakistani president accepted an invitation to address an interfaith conference this month organized by the Council for World Jewry while he is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

posted by Dan at 07:07 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'm in the mood for.... APSA

Blogging will be erratic for the next couple of days as I wend my way to the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Washington, DC. Lucky me, I have two panels tomorrow and then can truly enjoy the conference.

If you feel the need to get into the APSA mood -- and don't we all feel that way sometimes -- go click on the following:

1. Henry Farrell's dining recommendations for APSA.

2. Marc Lynch's (a.k.a., Abu Aardvark) disquisition from last month on the IR debate between rationalism and constructivism -- and why "constructivism has won, at least in the security policy realm." I would agree with Marc that seemingly non-material factors -- such as nationalism and ideology -- have become more important in international politics as of late. However, Lynch overstates the case in two ways: 1) These factors could merely be intervening variables for material power conditions (much like soft power is a function of hard power); and 2) Saying that non-material factors count doesn't make them as plastic as most (but not all) constructivists believe.

3) My advice to APSA rookies from two years ago. I think it still holds up pretty well.

4) The APSA paper archive -- it's just like going to the conference, without the overpriced morning coffee!! Already, there are 28 papers on blogs archived, but my favorite title is "Blogs and the Bloggers Who Blog Them."


posted by Dan at 11:11 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Racking up those blogging perks

Since I've started blogging, there is no doubt that I've received an increased number of free books. Yesterday I received three -- one on education reform, one on why Europe will run the 21st century, and galleys on why emerging democracies are more war-prone than other kinds of governments.

However, those paled beside the following e-mail:

My name is ------ and on behalf of Simon & Schuster I'm currently helping spread the word about Pamela Anderson's latest work, Star Struck. I noticed that "pop culture" was part of your weblog's repetoire and thought your site's target audience would really get a kick out of this book. Would you be interested in receiving a free copy of a Pam's book in exchange for a piece on your site? Maybe several copies for a contest?

You may want to write a review about the book, hold a book contest, write a small blurb and feature it somewhere on your site, or something along those line (if you come up with another idea, please let me know.) In return for your kindness and help, I will happily send you a copy.

I knew blogging about Anderson's first novel would pay off!! Take that, Michiko Kakutani!!

Readers are invited to think of an appropriate contest.

posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Copter parents at two o'clock!!

When I was teaching at the University of Colorado, I had to deal with a student who wanted me to change his/her class grade from a C+ to a B-. The student's primary argument was not that s/he deserved a better grade for the class, but that his/her GPA had dropped below the minimum required to qualify for CU-Boulder's study abroad programs. Needless to say, this was not a terribly persuasive argument -- not to mention grossly unfair to all the students who had actually earned their B- grades -- so I said no.

I said no several times.

A week after the student's final plea, I received another phone call asking me to reconsider -- from the student's mother. The mother evinced little concern about her child's academic performance -- she just wanted to see her progeny spend a semester in Florence. I was more than a little surprised by the attempt, and got off the phone as quickly as possible.

I haven't had a problem like that with a parent since the start of the millennium, but I tell this story because of Justin Pope's AP story on 'copter parents.' What are these creatures?:

They're called "helicopter parents," for their habit of hovering, hyperinvolved, over their children's lives.

Here at Colgate University, as elsewhere, they have become increasingly bold in recent years, telephoning administrators to complain about their children's housing assignments, roommates and grades.

Recently, one parent demanded to know what Colgate planned to do about subpar plumbing her daughter encountered on a study-abroad trip to China.

"That's just part of how this generation has been raised," said Mark Thompson, head of Colgate's counseling services. "You add a $40,000 price tag for a school like Colgate, and you have high expectations for what you get."

For years, officials here responded to such calls by biting their lips and making an effort to keep parents happy.

But at freshman orientation here last week, parents heard a different message: Helicopter parenting has gotten out of hand, and it undermines non-classroom lessons on problem-solving, seeking help and compromising that should be part of a college education.

Those lessons can't be learned if the response to every difficulty is a call to mom and dad for help.

"We noticed what everybody else noticed. We have a generation of parents that are heavily involved in their students' lives, and it causes all sorts of problems," said Dean Adam Weinberg.

College should be "a time when you go from living in someone else's house to becoming a functioning, autonomous person," Weinberg added.

Read the whole thing. I'm not completely unsympathetic to the parental position -- on the list of parental sins, being "heavily involved" in their childrens' lives is far down the queue. Plus, when parents are spending the kind of money for higher education they are spending now, a little monitoring of one's investment is to be expected.

That said, wheedling for better grades on behalf of their children would seem to cross the line. In Clueless, at least the father had the good sense to make his daughter Cher argue her own case.

posted by Dan at 08:41 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

In praise of mild hypocrisy in foreign policy

The Economist's Global Agenda has a story about negotiations over UN reform. It appears the U.S. would like to make some changes:

If there was still any question that America is taking a new line with the United Nations, the answer now seems clear. Next month, 175 world leaders will gather in New York to consider a raft of reforms for the world body. But just weeks before the summit is to begin, America has asked for extensive changes to the draft “outcome document” that many other negotiators felt was almost finished. Many detect the hand of John Bolton, America’s controversial new ambassador to the UN, who offered the proposed changes on Wednesday August 24th. But Mr Bolton is probably more symptom than cause—George Bush sent him to the UN as a signal that business-as-usual would no longer be acceptable.

There is talk of crisis in many of the media reports about America’s proposed changes. The Washington Post reported that 750 such edits had been made to the draft “outcome document”. In truth, the majority of these are nitpicking wording changes that have little effect on the content. But some of them would change the declaration considerably, particularly regarding development efforts and intervention to stop human-rights catastrophes....

The superpower’s critics note that it has once again lined up with a rogue's gallery of badly behaved states to oppose a human-rights agreement: in this case Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Iran and Syria. But even the vaguer American version of "responsibility to protect" would be the first-ever clear international agreement that outside countries should be willing to act to stop atrocities in a country whose government cannot or will not stop them itself. This could form the political basis for a future intervention, possibly even military intervention, should the Security Council be presented with, say, Darfur or its successors.

So the atmosphere is not as bad as some of the more breathless talk of crisis indicates. Nonetheless, America has annoyed many with some seemingly needless niggling points—cutting “respect for nature” from a legally meaningless laundry-list of the world’s basic values, for example. Critics say that the deletion is emblematic: America is taking an overly lawyerly approach to a non-binding political document on which all have made compromises. An American spokesman responds that “mumbo-jumbo” does no one any good, and that America may support a shorter statement instead of the current 36-page draft.

Time is now limited. A document must be substantially complete before national leaders show up on September 14th, and there remains procedural wrangling about which countries (approximately 30) should be in a core group negotiating these last-minute changes. Diplomats are firing up their coffee pots, preparing to work through nights and weekends. It will be a long and harrowing two weeks. But everyone agrees that the UN needs reform. Failure to achieve consensus in September would be a sadly wasted opportunity for all concerned.

Read the whole thing to see the substantive points of difference.

Here's the thing that bothers me: the Bush administration can make a credible case for many of the substantive changes. By throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, however, and by doing so at such a late hour in the negotiations, the U.S. winds up alienating more countries than it needs to. This is one of those examples where good diplomacy can grease the wheels to advance U.S. interests -- and instrad there's going to be trouble.

Part of the problem, ironically, is that the Bush administration takes these international agreements way too seriously. Early in the administration many commentators praised the Bushies for being forthright about rejecting agreements they had no intention of honoring.

There's such a thing as going too far in the rejection of hypocrisy, however. Think of small hypocrisies as the international equivalent of pork-barrel politics. Sometimes you agree to an empty platitude in return for tangible progress on some issue.

The danger for any administration is that the platitude takes on a life of its own. This happens, however, less frequently than the administration thinks it does.

UPDATE: David A. Schwartz has a piece in the Weekly Standard explaining why the existing reform proposal falls short of the mark. Schwartz was a member of the 2001 U.S. delegation to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, so he's worth reading on this point. [On the other hand, the 2001 delegation did not cover itself with glory -- the U.S. lost its seat on the commission, while China, Sudan, Syria and Cuba were elected.--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:50 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Open hurricane porn thread

CROW-EATING UPDATE: The post below was written 24 hours before the waters of Lake Ponchatrain broke through the levee, devastated New Orleans, and video footage came in on damage to the Mississippi Gulf coast. I must concur with James Joyner that the coverage of this hurricane was not overhyped in the end, and at this point is a rather trivial issue compared to the damage at hand.

I maintain that my general point stands on extreme weather coverage, but not with this case. Whether there is a "weatherman crying wolf" phenomenon taking place is also worthy of further thought.

Click over to FEMA's list of charities to help out those affected -- or even better, Glenn Reynolds' list of charities

Comment away on Hurricane Katrina -- or even better, the coverage of it. If this report is any indication, the original estimates of potential damage appear to have been overstated (though the New Orleans Times-Picayune has a different take). This is of small comfort to rural residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but better news for oil traders -- who appear to have panicked and then reassessed -- as well as consumers.

This overestimation would be consistent with the growing problem of hurricane porn:

This kind of coverage was understandable with regard to a titanic bastard of a storm like Allison [a 2003 hurricane--DD], but it was only the latest in the local networks' long-standing pattern of milking every possible bit of fear and suspense out of viewers at the approach of tropical weather systems. It hardly seems to matter that computer models are roughly as accurate as a Ouija board while a storm is more than 48 hours out, or that storms like Allison are rare beasts indeed, for these days our doughty weatherpersons breathlessly report every developing tropical depression as if the End Times were upon us. Coverage increases in intensity until the tension is almost to much to take.

I call it "hurricane porn."

First, there's the foreplay, which (unlike in actual pornography) can take several days. It starts with Doppler radar and satellite images that grow progressively larger and, dare I say it, more tumescent as the system approaches the coast. Cloud cover grows and the winds pick up, and most TV stations will have reporters positioned along the coast in areas projected to be in the storm's path. These hardy souls eye the camera with come hither looks of dire urgency (I wish I could find screen captures of local ABC reporter Jessica Willey standing on a pier in Galveston during Claudette's rainy approach wearing a soaked-through white blouse - more than ratings were rising that evening, let me tell you). The anticipation continues to build in this fashion until landfall, which is where you get...

Hot hurricane action: water crashes furiously over the sea wall, palm trees whip back and forth in an orgiastic frenzy and street signs waggle suggestively in the wind. Meanwhile, the rhythmically swaying area street lights almost seem to keep the beat for the omnipresent frenzy. This is the period where one sees the most pervasive coverage. TV stations will often interrupt regular programming in order to cut to live shots of their other reporters, who can be found "braving" the storm by standing right in the middle of the heaviest wind and rains. Speaking only for myself, I'd have a lot more respect for a newsperson who did their report from a bar, sipping a beer and leading off with, "You know, you'd have to be a real idiot to be outside on a night like this..." Maybe someday.

Fortunately, the actual hurricane footage can only last so long, as most systems weaken rapidly once they make landfall. This is why television stations are so desperate for that money shot. You'll know it when you see it: a roof flying off a department store and disintegrating, or one of those aforementioned reporters getting blown into a ditch. If the networks are really lucky, they'll get film of a fireman rescuing a baby from a rooftop, or a woman pulled from her car just before it's covered by rising floodwaters. After something like that, you can't help but feel spent.

Once the storm has blown inland, you can finally bask in the afterglow: blue sky shots of boats beached thirty feet above the tide line, hapless shmoes sweeping water out of their bedrooms, and the weatherman telling us it "could've been worse." That's when you light a cigarette and compare property damage with your neighbors.

I'm waiting for the NOAA to extend hurricane season by a month and a half so it can include May and November sweeps.

I think this blogger actually underestimates the problem -- it's not just local news, it's the cable nets as well. See Michelle Catalano for more.

Readers are invited to submit the most.... er.... pornographic moment of coverage they've seen to date.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds believe that Katrina was worth the hype. And several commenters have pointed out that the blanket coverage probably saved lives in convincing people to get the heck out of the Big Easy. Valid arguments.... except I've been so inured to prior hurricane porn that it's now tough for me to distinguish between a genuine menace to mankind vs. some weathermen breathlessly claiming that some tropical depression could be huge.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Alas, I spoke too soon about New Orleans.

posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (7)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Regarding the CIA's latest self-assessment

Amy Zegart -- who is writing a book on intelligence reform and is's official go-to source on this issue -- e-mailed me her thoughts on the CIA's latest effort at self-criticism:

Say it ain't so.

The CIA has just finished an internal review of 9/11, and may be gearing up for disciplinary action against some former big wigs, including CIA Director George Tenet, Jim Pavitt, who headed the agency's spy branch, and Cofer Black, who used to run the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. I can hear the drums and chants already : "Hold them accountable!"

Let us leave aside for a moment the irony that the fate of these men now rests in the hands of Porter Goss, the current CIA chief who chaired the House Intelligence Committee before 9/11 -- and who was "shocked shocked" to discover so many failures in the agency he was so vigilantly overseeing. Let us also leave aside the fact that these guys don't exactly come across as the most sympathetic figures, slam dunking their way to presidential medals and all. The fact is that holding a few people responsible for the failures of 9/11 is comforting but dangerous. Comforting because it makes us feel safer that there's someone to blame. Dangerous because it leads us to believe that if only a few individuals had done their jobs better, 9/11 could have been averted. The reality is much worse: yes, individuals made mistakes. But it was the system that failed us. And until we fix these systemic problems, nobody should be sleeping well at night.

Case in point: why didn't the CIA watchlist Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, 2 of the 9/11 hijackers that first came to the attention of agency officials back in January 2000, when they attended a terrorist meeting described by one intelligence official as "the al Qaeda convention"? The simplest answer: keeping track of foreign terrorists had never been standard practice or a high priority. For more than 40 years, the Cold War had dominated both the thinking and operation of the CIA and the other agencies of the US intelligence community. When the Cold War ended and the threat changed, US intelligence agencies were slow to change with it. Before 9/11, in fact, there were no formal training programs or well honed processes for identifying dangerous terrorists and warning other US government agencies about them before they reached the US. CIA officers let Mihdhar and Hazmi into the country not because they failed at their jobs, but because they never considered watchlisting to be a part of their jobs.

CIA leadership could only do so much to fix these kinds of problems because they were decades old and built into the structure, fabric and thinking of the intelligence community. Tenet, for example, actually did try to improve longer-term, strategic analysis in the CIA's counterterrorism center before 9/11, but his efforts were doomed before they ever began. Three reasons explain why:

1) Location. When the Counterterrorism Center was created in 1986, it was housed in the Directorate of Operations, the CIA's spy branch, rather than inside the agency's analytic division. For analysts, this was like operating behind enemy lines. The Directorate of Operations was home for people who ran spies, stole secrets, and conducted clandestine operations, not for egghead analysts who sat in cubicles piecing together information about distant threats. Location ensured that the Counterterrorism Center would give short shrift to strategic analysis from day one.

2) Culture. Nowhere was the "need to know" and aversion to information sharing more deeply rooted than inside the clandestine Directorate of Operations. Clandestine officials for decades had viewed analysts with suspicion, even disdain. So deep was the divide between them and analysts that when the Counterterrorism Center was first created, clandestine officers assigned there requested additional safes and procedures to keep their information out of the hands of analysts working alongside them.

3) Career incentives. For analysts, the fast track to promotion required focusing on current intelligence and staying close to home. During the 1990s, the rise of 24 hour news cycles put so much pressure on analysts to provide current information, many joked that the CIA had become "CNN with secrets." For a savvy career minded analyst, the only thing worse than getting assigned to do longer term strategic analysis was getting assigned to do longer term strategic analysis outside the CIA's analytic branch--precisely what Tenet was trying to do in 2000 and 2001. Little wonder he found strategic analysis in counter-terrorism so weak, and why he struggled with such little success to fix it. After 9/11, the congressional intelligence committees found that on average, counter-terrorism analysts had less than half the experience of analysts in the rest of the CIA. Ironically, career incentives meant that the unit most in need of experienced analysts did not have them.

Tenet and company may not deserve any medals. But let's not kid ourselves: searching for a few bad apples will not fix what's wrong in US intelligence.

posted by Dan at 10:56 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)