Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on Panetta and Petraeus

I don't know about you, but I find Obama's appointments of Leon Panetta as Defense Secretary and Gen. David Petraeus as CIA Director to be both odd and objectionable.

First, what is this with the 'you can do anything' nature of the Panetta appointment?  Congressman, Clinton's White House Chief of Staff, CIA Director and now Defense Secretary under Obama.  I mean, c'mon!  Isn't there something to be said for having had some prior experience in these agencies?  Panetta is 73, for god's sake.  Oh, but he was an Army Lieutenant for two years in the 60's (probably a JAG)!  Whooooooo!!! 

How much clout can such a person have in the huge bureaucracy liked the Pentagon?  Frankly, I doubt very little.  They will know that he doesn't have a true grasp of the place (which must take years to develop), and so they'll defer to him on a superficial basis, but in terms of any real and wise change, how will that happen?  Unlikely.  At least Robert Gates was seen as a true professional.

And as for Petraeus at CIA...what the heck?  Why place a fairly controversial Army general and Special Forces expert at the head of a civilian agency that is supposed to (primarily) collect intelligence?  The trend toward the 'militarization' of the CIA is very bad.  It will only increase the tendency to use the agency for covert operations overseas, rather than objective intelligence gathering.  And frankly, you can't run a civilian bureaucracy like the CIA as you would run a military organization, without distorting and corrupting its original mission.  Anyway, putting Petraeus at CIA kills two birds with one stone for Obama:  he keeps a certified warrior/killer busy doing what he loves, and he also keeps Petraeus from running for President at least until Obama is done.

I can hear it now: "Carl, you don't know the first thing about the Pentagon or the CIA!"  You're right there.  These are just my common sense reactions, from a distance.  But I've come to learn that sometimes those are better than all the insider knowledge in the world.  When most everyone else in Washington, the media, and the country, was gung-ho about the Iraq invasion, I opposed it, based on little else but common sense and my natural anti-war orientation.  And, of course, I was right, according to today's conventional wisdom.  And when most experts seemed to think our economy was in great shape before 2008, I was for several years warning about a housing bubble and huge levels of debt which weren't sustainable.  And again, I was right (and I wish I weren't, actually). 

I'm not tooting my horn here (although a little 'I told you so' eases the blood pressure), just telling you that sometimes common sense and some distance gives you a better perspective than anything else.  C'mon, you can do it too!  Be skeptical, don't believe everything the media tells you, and certainly don't believe what the government tells you.  (The truth-tellers up there in Washington are very few and far between--and they're called 'whistle blowers'...or Ron Paul.)  THINK FOR YOURSELF.

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