walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Published on: May 17, 2013
Benghazigate and Russia/Syria Follow-Up

It’s no fun blogging at moving targets.

Since I tried on May 8 to make the simple point that Gregory Hicks’s testimony was being used for partisan purposes, and hence deflected attention from the Obama Administration’s real, seminal errors on Libya—which date to March 2011, not September 2012—some interesting developments have taken place.

It is now clear, for example, that at the root of the errors made last September was a mostly typical Interagency dysfunction. The Benghazi consulate facility, where Ambassador Stevens happened to be at the wrong time, was a CIA operation in the main. We now know a lot more about the migration of the infamous “talking points” from CIA to State to Susan Rice’s mouth at the UN delegation up in Turtle Bay, and anyone who has ever been either a producer or user of intelligence products can imagine how anything written by a blabbermouthing State Department would be denatured to near nothingness by a CIA trying, naturally and habitually, to say as little as possible.

This is a neat flip on the old adage that a diplomat is someone who thinks twice about saying nothing. These days, and in this case for sure, our diplomats (certainly not to exclude Ambassador Rice) have tended to babble unnecessarily, and it’s the intel types who have best fit the old description.

My main point in that May 8 post still stands, however—and I emphatically stand by it.

I then tried on May 10 to get beneath Russian motives for finally saying “yes” to a Syria peace parley, and in the process I suggested that the current Secretary of State is perhaps the most naïve person to occupy that office since Frank Kellogg. And no sooner did that post go up that word began to spread of an impending SA-300 surface-to-air missile supply from Russia to Syria.

Now, in the post, I said that Putin making Kerry wait for three hours before seeing him was a kind of body language suggesting that the former was deep in a process of snookering the latter.  I tried to discern what form the snookering might take: stall tactic and/or strategic rake-off.  The SA-300 “announcement”, made before Kerry’s seat in Moscow had even cooled off, deepens the impression. It’s a little like kicking someone in the ass as they’re headed out the door. And then the way the Russians orchestrated the Ryan Fogle expulsion, even more so.  So since May 10 we now have a trifecta of evidence that Obama and Kerry are reading a Rocky and Bulwinkle script, except it’s not very funny.

Too bad none of this was known, or had even happened, when I wrote and posted. But then my point would have been so obvious that it might not have been worth making.

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  • Anthony

    Thanks, typical Interagency dysfunction provides more clarity for those of us seeking to get beyond noise without lessening recognition of Administration Middle East incoherence.

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