Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Man in Blue has got my vote

Today is the day for General Michael Hayden to face the firing squad, so to speak. I, of course, have an opinion on this matter, and for my few readers, I’ll make it a short one.

It is a very difficult world we live in, and it always has been. 9/11 was a kind of wake up call for many, and, to quote Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, Surprise,” they became painfully aware that there are many people who just don’t like Americans! Imagine that! We, as a country, have always felt that we live a gifted life and that because we all believe our country to be the best, all other countries must feel the same way. After 9/11, it seems that many Americans longed for the idyllic days of the Cold War when we knew our enemy and they had a face. We could understand the manner in which the Soviets operated, because their machinations and motivations were similar to ours. With enemies from the Middle East, we don’t quite understand their motivation, because our religion, and by this I mean Protestantism (refer to William James’ lectures and also Max Weber) which helped to build our country, is not the movement that binds us; theirs binds them and is so ingrained in their culture that it is their divine right to wage war against their enemies. Without digressing into a deeper theological discussion, I can sufficiently say that our country that has embraced other issues and made them more important than the ties that bind us together – Nationalism. There is a point that is attempting to be made here, found in this Washington Post article:

The liberal group Americans United is running an ad on cable television stations that criticizes the programs and urges viewers to "tell the president to go after the terrorists, not innocent Americans."

You tell me if, just by looking at someone if you can tell the difference between the innocent Americans and the terrorists. This shibboleth of “freedom for all” needs to be reexamined, because the terrorists who high jacked the planes on 9/11 lived in communities and adopted the tone of “innocent American”, all the while plotting against the country in which they had sought temporary residence. This has all been said before, but it is points such as these that will cause some to doubt, or deny, their support of someone who they supported previously. Or, as the Post reports, “…recent revelations about the nature of Hayden's highly classified world -- in the Air Force, at the NSA and most recently in the office of the director of national intelligence -- are forcing lawmakers to reexamine a man many of them have known for years.”

I admit that I am not a close, personal friend of General Hayden’s. But I will tell you that I served with him in Germany where, as a one-star, he was the J-2. I worked in the Office of the DCINC, which made General Hayden a frequent visitor to my office. I can play at being a sycophant, but I’m not one, and even if the common opinion in an office is that someone is a stand-up kind of guy, I believe that I can make my own assessments and judge their worth. Being an enlisted Marine, the treatment by officers, especially flag officers, could be different towards me than how they treated their fellow officers. So I can say, unequivocally, that General Hayden was liked and respected by all, from the most junior airman to the most senior flag officer at that command. He is a good leader. I’m not the only one who knows this. My friend Pony, with whom I worked in the same office (and who is a retired Naval officer), said, “It really puts the politicians in perspective when they start to bash a genuinely good person to only further themselves. Most of them should go away and be replaced by others with integrity.” I’m sure if you checked with any servicemember who served with General Hayden, their answer would be the same as Pony’s. And mine.

And to attempt to defend General Hayden from the onslaught of ill will which usually accompanies these nominations, for whatever political reason politicians have, my former boss wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal where it was published on May 11. And because I don’t have a subscription, I have to reprint it here. And yes, I should summarize, but I’m sure my few readers will allow me this concession:

Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2006
Pg. 16
A Hayden Symphony At The CIA
By Charles G. Boyd

Our political disagreements are often obtuse for the simple reason that it is difficult to discern motives. Do disputants put the interests of the country ahead of partisan and personal concerns? Moreover, disagreements about intelligence issues are doubly hard to parse, since -- despite leaks and rampant gossip -- most of what goes on inside the Central Intelligence Agency remains opaque even to high-paid journalists and other Washington sophisticates. And so, amid partisan positioning and an imposing ignorance, is the scene set for the already dismaying dispute over the president's nomination of Michael Hayden to be CIA director.
The arguments (to use a generous term) being made against Gen. Hayden are so without merit or even serious content that one cannot help but suspect partisan stratagems at work. Of these, three are most common.
First, the contention that Michael Hayden is a kind of intelligence technocrat, knowledgeable only in signal intelligence, is pure canard. A liberal-arts man, Gen. Hayden has a masters degree in history, and was the broad-based senior intelligence official for the Air Force and the U.S. European Command before entering the technical domain of the National Security Agency. He worked on the National Security Council staff, in the U.N. Command and U.S. Forces Korea, and in these positions was a senior level consumer of intelligence as well as an earlier producer of it. Those who make such accusations do not know him or, more broadly, what they are talking about.
Some complain, secondly, that Gen. Hayden was somehow complicit in the domestic eavesdropping undertaken by the NSA at the president's direction. Gen. Hayden's sin in this case seems to stem from his calm and rational defense of an embattled president's heretofore secret program. No legal infractions attended anyone's behavior in what was, and remains, a policy response to a clear and present threat. Moreover, if Gen. Hayden had objected -- having been assured by the attorney general, the Department of Justice, the White House counsel and the NSA general counsel that the program was legal -- his position would have been unprofessional and ill-advised.
Third, there is the objection that Gen. Hayden is, well, a general -- a military man -- as if that automatically disqualifies him for the job. Since the National Security Act of 1947 created the CIA, four military officers have held the director's job -- plus two more who directed the postwar predecessor to the CIA. So there is ample precedent for Gen. Hayden's nomination. But the complaint here is not so much about precedent as the presumption that Gen. Hayden would docilely do the bidding of the bureaucratic imperium represented by the present secretary of defense. To believe this is to ignore his professional history.
Gen. Hayden was the only high-ranking active-duty general to testify against Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's desires as the National Intelligence Directorate was debated by Congress in 2004. He did so, he believed, in the interests of a more rational template for oversight, and control of those intelligence agencies now under the Defense Department whose customers are multidepartmental. Gen. Hayden was a man of convictions with the courage to defend them when he was a lieutenant colonel, and has lost neither of those characteristics as he ascended into the senior ranks of his profession.
Most important, the best guarantee against coercion of the CIA director by any cabinet-level official -- or president -- may be stated in one word: professionalism. And Michael Hayden, as I have observed for nearly 20 years, is a professional par excellence.
Those who wish to harm the president seem intent on using Gen. Hayden as a bank shot into the Oval Office. This is a great shame, and stands to be an important missed opportunity, for the confirmation process -- were it to focus truly on the national interest -- could do a great deal of good at this time of tumult in the intelligence community.
There has been, for a long time, a tendency on the part of some presidents to select CIA directors who were amateurs in the craft. Their political or ideological leanings have sometimes been a more important factor in their appointment than their knowledge and capabilities in the arcane world of intelligence. With those chosen for such reasons comes a weakened ability to resist pressure to marshal intelligence in ways tailored to support the policy objectives of a president: pressure to give the president what he wants rather than what he needs. It is fair, I believe, to claim that the intelligence failures of recent years were a long time in the making, and that they were failures not so much of the institution but of a flawed intelligence leadership selection process.
"Amateur" is not, by definition, a swear word; we have had, on occasion, some very talented non-professional directors of Central Intelligence. But there is no substitute for the professional knowledge and ethos at the top that legitimate and protect the intelligence function from a host of political pressures and insinuations.
Gen. Hayden's confirmation hearings should, first of all, result in his confirmation. But beyond that, the hearings could do the country an important service if they were to consider a more thoroughgoing reform -- modeling the key intelligence positions in the U.S. government on that of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, or of the Joint Chiefs, whose term does not run parallel to that of the president, and whose professional credentials are critical elements in his selection. More than anything else the Congress can do, such a reform would help restore the professionalism that is crucial to the intelligence function in a democracy. That would be no bank shot, but a slam-dunk for national security.
Gen. Boyd, USAF (Ret.), is president and CEO of Business Executives for National Security, a national, nonpartisan organization based in Washington.

When you work closely with someone, even if you are in the outer ring of the circle, as I was, you can still ascertain whether or not your boss is a good man or not (or woman, sorry, don't want to be sexist). General Boyd is a good man, one for whom I would do anything. And he knows that politicians have their own agendas, and they will take someone who they trusted in one position and bash their nomination, sometimes just for the sake of being contrary. Or in the name of National Security.

I was excited to see General Hayden’s nomination and I hope all goes well. I can only hope that someone who I feel is a good, intelligent man makes it through these hearings and goes on to become the next Director of the CIA. My vote is for the man in blue, even though my uniform was green.

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