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Democalypse 2016 - The Contenders, the Horse Race - the cynicism and the money

praktik

TRIBE Member
Flynn’s Warped Worldview and Iran
Posted on December 3, 2016, 5:04 PM Daniel Larison

A new article on Michael Flynn’s tenure as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency contains some worrisome details. This may be the most disturbing:

During a tense gathering of senior officials at an off-site retreat, he gave the assembled group a taste of his leadership philosophy, according to one person who attended the meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss classified matters. Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his [bold mine-DL]. The room fell silent, as employees processed the lecture from their new boss.​

Micah Zenko commented on this excerpt:


This would be a bad trait for anyone in a leadership position, since it implies both supreme arrogance and an unwillingness to admit error, but in someone tasked with running an intelligence agency it is even worse. If Flynn assumes he is always right and expects everyone else to conform to his views, he isn’t going to have much success managing the National Security Council or handling disagreements among its members. More important, it seems likely that his analysis of threats will be driven by his ideological assumptions that will cause him to dismiss contrary evidence. Consider the anecdote about his reaction to the 2012 Benghazi attack:

Mr. Flynn saw the Benghazi attack in September 2012 as just one skirmish in this global war. But it was his initial reaction to the event, immediately seeking evidence of an Iranian role, that many saw as emblematic of a conspiratorial bent. Iran, a Shiite nation, has generally eschewed any alliance with Sunni militants like the ones who attacked the American diplomatic compound.

For weeks, he pushed analysts for evidence that the attack might have had a state sponsor — sometimes shouting at them when they didn’t come to the conclusions he wanted. The attack, he told his analysts, was a “black swan” event that required more creative intelligence analysis to decipher.

“To ask employees to look for the .0001 percent chance of something when you have an actual emergency and dead Americans is beyond the pale,” said Joshua Manning, an agency analyst from 2009 to 2013.​

This shows how much of a distorting effect Flynn’s preoccupation with Iran has had on his thinking and his ability to analyze threats. As we have seen in the book he co-wrote with Ledeen, that preoccupation is as strong as ever. Flynn’s apparent certainty that he is always right is married to the warped worldview that I have described several times before. His partnership with Ledeen seems to have been one born of genuine agreement:

The two men connected immediately, sharing a similar worldview and a belief that America was in a world war against Islamist militants allied with Russia, Cuba and North Korea. That worldview is what Mr. Flynn came to be best known for during the presidential campaign, when he argued that the United States faced a singular, overarching threat, and that there was just one accurate way to describe it: “radical Islamic terrorism.”​

All of this suggests that Flynn will give Trump very bad advice informed by a warped view of foreign threats, and he probably won’t want to entertain contrary views and evidence. That seems to promise a dysfunctional policy process distorted by ideological obsessions. That is going to deliver bad and misleading information to the president, who will more than likely defer to what his top adviser recommends.
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Trump and U.S.-China Relations
Posted on December 3, 2016, 8:12 AM Daniel Larison


Doug Bandow chides Trump over the Taiwan call:

In contrast, the Trump phone call serves no obvious purpose. He has no power to act for another seven weeks. There are no critical issues to be settled by the two countries. And his phone conversations with foreign leaders almost uniformly have been vacuous, even embarrassing—just read the transcript of his chat with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His aides said that he and Tsai talked about “the close economic, political, and security ties” between the two governments, which sounds like the usual boilerplate. For that Trump is adding more turbulence to U.S.-China relations?​

Talking to Taiwan’s president was a serious mistake by itself, but if it signals an intention to alter U.S. policy it could be much more dangerous. We can hope that this is an isolated episode, but even if it is it has still done some damage. Taiwan has the most to lose from deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China, and so it does them no favors to provoke Beijing. That is especially true when there was nothing of importance to be said between Tsai and Trump. No U.S. interest is served by needlessly antagonizing another major power, and to provoke them over something that matters greatly to them and much less to us is simply dumb and to no one’s benefit.

The “defense” of the call has been that Tsai was the one to call Trump, as if that made the breach of protocol in making contact somehow less irresponsible.

The Post reports this relevant detail:

Yet Tsai’s office later said the call was arranged in advance by both sides.​

If that’s the case, it means that Trump has been getting some very bad advice on these issues, and that doesn’t bode well for China policy once he is in office.
 

Lojack

TRIBE Member
For all the BS fake news stories and the discussion about fake news in the media by Canadian media, I think the best example in Canada has been that Amazon Prime streaming was coming December 1st. All the majors picked it up and it became like broken telephone (started with a statement by Bell, a rumour, eventually morphing into an almost sure thing (see the Star's reporting)). It can and does happen here. And I'm really disappointed.
 
It's the perceived necessity of being the first to report something that's driving part of this problem - with 24 hour news cycles, the accuracy doesn't matter as much as being the first one to carry it, and not giving a shit of verifying or researching the story before putting it out. What happens is speculation starts to drive the story as it unfolds, rather than getting the events as a whole.

As soon as someone "breaks" a story, the pressure is on for the other competitors to report it - and leave the blame to the originator of the story if facts and reporting the events are sketchy or wrong.

Like you said Lojack, it happens here all the time, more than we like to admit, but the U.S. with its tailor made newssources to fit an individual bias and the ferocious hunger the American people have - it's alarming. And it could happen here in enough time.
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Ya so there are some BS stories on fake news happening but also:

- the Wakefield anti vax movement is in its 3rd decade
- people think Sandy Hook is a hoax
- big percentages of GOP voters think Obama is a Muslim
- the flat earth is back


So fake news was a big problem long before this election, and whatever proximate reasons some partisans may have for whining about the problem after the election results.

Your example helps highlight the importance of the problem actually, which we shouldn't undercount because some people are mad at Russia.
 

wickedken

TRIBE Member
For all the BS fake news stories and the discussion about fake news in the media by Canadian media, I think the best example in Canada has been that Amazon Prime streaming was coming December 1st. All the majors picked it up and it became like broken telephone (started with a statement by Bell, a rumour, eventually morphing into an almost sure thing (see the Star's reporting)). It can and does happen here. And I'm really disappointed.
Disappointed to learn that "journalists" don't really do anything beyond regurgitate?
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Like there's people on this board who legit bought into everything: government agent killed who was looking into Clinton emails, spirit cooking, pizzeria pedophiles

This very thread is a testament to the power of "fake news" and the success of some particularly virulent agitprop from the election cycle.
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Disappointed to learn that "journalists" don't really do anything beyond regurgitate?
Well let's not speak too broadly, investigative journalists brought us: the breakthrough on catholic pedophile priests you may have seen in the movie Spotlight, stories from whistleblowers on torture and warrantless mass surveillance.

There's "horse race" media that basically just recount partisan talking points, that's regurgitation.

There's Drudge and Infowars and Breitbart that basically just comment on real news stories and add their own spin, that's regurgitation.

But let's not tar the saintly halo of investigative journalism with THAT brush!
 

tobywan

TRIBE Member
Just thought I'd quickly pop my head in here to see if Hillary was banker backed planted president yet...oh, nope. and she never will. and that's an amazing thing :)
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Just thought I'd quickly pop my head in here to see if Hillary was banker backed planted president yet...oh, nope. and she never will. and that's an amazing thing :)
Thank God the bankers didn't do well out of this election!

Oh, right:

Goldman Sachs poised for return to power in Trump White House

Had Hillary Clinton won the White House, Goldman faced a virtual lock-out from Washington with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders poised to block any major picks from the bank or any other firm on Wall Street.

Now Goldman, whose proximity to the levers of power dates to the early 20th Century and the creation of the Federal Reserve, stands to return to a level of influence unmatched by any other company in America. And Warren and her allies are left throwing darts from the sidelines
 

ndrwrld

TRIBE Member
GS stock raised huge after the Trump win...after he actually trash talked them...then hired one of their VP's .
comedy, at best.
 

ndrwrld

TRIBE Member
Only in America, would the next President look to appoint a surgeon for the job of Housing Secretary.

Donald Trump picks Ben Carson — who called himself a ‘fish out of water’ — to lead U.S. housing, urban policy.

Quick, i need a black guy to run the hoods, who we got ?
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Amazing piece!

A FLAWED FOCUS ON AMERICAN LEADERSHIP
BEN DENISON
SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

When a surprising event occurs that threatens U.S. interests, many are quick to blame Washington’s lack of leadership and deride the administration for failing to anticipate and prevent the crisis. Recent examples from the continuing conflict in Syria, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and even the attempted coup in Turkey, all illustrate how this is a regular impulse for the foreign policy punditry class. This impulse, while comforting to some, fails to consider the interests and agency of the other countries involved in the crisis. Instead of turning to detailed analysis and tracing the international context of a crisis, often we are bombarded with an abundance of concerns about a lack of American leadership. It is easy to look at a situation where the interests of the United States are harmed and blame the current administration for it. Unfortunately, for those who demand an increase in American leadership, the United States does not get final say in all global political matters. Rather, the United States has to negotiate around the interests and goals of other actors in the international system.

The emphasis on American leadership is emblematic of a larger problem in some international affairs commentary, namely an overreliance upon what is called “monadic analysis.” Monadic analysis is a form of analysis that only focuses on a single country or actor. For example, one type of monadic analysis of the Russian annexation of Crimeawould focus only on what the United States failed to do to prevent Russian action. A monadic analysis of Crimea could also focus solely on dysfunction inside Russia without any other reference to Ukraine or the United States. However, the focus on the United States and a supposed lack of leadership is the most troubling form of monadic analysis that has taken root in popular op-ed pages and columns. Over-reliance on monadic reasoning leads to dangerous analysis on all sides of the political spectrum, often prompting commentators to advocate for expansive foreign policy goals without consideration of the conditions and actions under which a positive outcome is feasible.

Why One-Sided Analysis is a Problem

Why is monadic analysis sometimes a problem? Monadic analysis focuses on a single unit when describing an event in question, and does not pay attention to other units that interact and impact the choices of the unit in question. With the Russia-Ukraine crisis example, monadic analysis only considers what steps American policymakers can try to resolve the crisis, but does not consider the Kremlin response and whether American action is sufficient to deter further Russian incursion. Under monadic analysis, the preferred U.S. outcome appears more feasible than it really is because it assumes other countries will not respond in kind to American action, thereby hindering American goals. In such an analytic process, considerations of other countries’ political goals, internal dynamics, and military force calculations are ignored. Instead, only characteristics inside the U.S. decision space are considered relevant for determining the outcome.

The major problem with this form of monadic analysis is that it oversimplifies the complexity of international relations. Every country in the international system is part of a network of relationships with other units, and how the countries interact with each other often determines outcomes more so than individual characteristics of any country, America included. Every country has their own national interests, their own goals, and their own resolve, and increased U.S. leadership does not axiomatically overcome these differing interests.

The monadic view creates a blind spot where only the United States matters when discussing international crises, and any failure is directed back to U.S. leadership without thinking about the asymmetry in interests that might exist. Focusing on leadership and other non-tangible characteristics does not improve the foreign policy posture of the United States. Greater leadership or resolve alone may force other countries to operate without agency or against their own interests.

Consider two examples: In case A, increased U.S. action and resolve could affect an international outcome regardless of actions by another actor. In case B, greater American pressure has a lessened impact on the crisis as another country has their own interests or is more willing to escalate to a higher level of conflict than the United States. In case A, increased threats and action by the United States is enough to overcome any resistance or plans by any other country. The number of cases where the United States can achieve their policy goals through sheer will and increased determination are quite low, especially in the face of increased domestic turmoil and internal political issues that can drive foreign policy in other countries. Rather, much more often increased determination and capabilities help set the stage for the beginning of crises that fall in case B scenarios. While it is more comforting to think we are more often facing case A, case B is far more prevalent.

While monadic analysis, especially in situations similar to case A, is beneficial at times, relying exclusively upon monadic analysis to think about policy options once a crisis begins often leads to sub-optimal policy proposals. Establishing what capabilities and interests the United States or other countries possess before a crisis emerges is an important analytical step. However once the crisis begins, other countries and actors often have a more direct or definitive say in the final outcome, making the dynamic analysis an important step in identifying and refining policy options.

The Benefits of Dynamic Analysis

In many cases, a more constructive form of analysis can be extremely beneficial if it not only examines the qualities of the United States but also how the interests of the United States interact with the interests and capabilities of other countries. Why? Analysis between two countries (called dyadic analysis), or an even greater number of countries (systemic analysis), can help us understand how their interactions might play out given a potential conflict.

Dynamic analysis encourages discussion of actionable, tangible steps the United States can take during an international crisis. When analysts and policymakers focus on the dynamic interactions between various actors, the debate over potential solutions is often elevated and illustrates the complexity of many international crises. Focusing on this type of analysis, when the United States is facing a potential lengthy crisis, is a more productive venture. Weighing potential policy options against the interests and likely responses of other countries, rather than simply deriding any action by another country as a failure, produces a more productive national debate. Discussing the competing interests among various other actors helps create a clear baseline for determining whether U.S. involvement in a crisis is advantageous or not.

Dynamic analysis has an additional benefit: it can help determine whether positive outcomes are attainable in certain contexts. For example, when deciding about the proper response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, dynamic analysis prompts the United States to consider whether its own interests in Ukraine and Eastern Europe outweigh the likely interests and reactions of Russia, Ukraine, and other regional actors. And if the United States’ interests do not outweigh the interests of Russia, then contemplating whether it is truly worth engaging in armed conflict in light of this imbalance of interests is important. Instead of discussing whether the United States needs greater leadership to force Russia out of Crimea, a discussion of competing interests, goals, and capabilities allows for commentators to recommend tangible policy options. When discussions center on the balance of interests and the likely responses by others in a given conflict, the international affairs discussion, the relevant policy space for the United States, is expanded and the debate is improved.

The characteristics and capabilities of other countries help define the policy options available to the United States. Without consideration of the constraints placed on the United States given other countries’ interests, policy discussions stagnate and are often unproductive. Greater American leadership, or other monadic qualities, does not remove Russia’s or another country’s interests, military capabilities, or their ability to respond in kind. The United States cannot axiomatically achieve anything they set their mind to. The dynamic nature of the international system and the interests of other actors in the system constrain the policy options available to the United States. While at times less optimistic about the ability for the United States to resolve some crises, dynamic analysis that places a premium on tangible policy steps and realistic outcomes improves our discourse on international affairs.

Striving for Better Commentary

Sadly, op-eds and campaign speeches that call for greater American leadership will continue to resonate with their relatively simplistic monadic analysis. The idea that if America tries hard enough, we can stop any conflict, win any negotiation, and achieve any goal regardless of the interests of other nations is a comforting notion that appeals to many readers. Fortunately, the number of smart outlets and commentators that do focus on dynamic analysis and consider the complex arena the United States operates in continues to grow, providing needed analysis for international affairs. However, we should all strive to remind those who invoke monadic analysis inappropriately and the language of American leadership that the interests of other states constrain and limit the policy options available to the United States. Other actors have a say in international affairs, and greater American leadership does not take that away.



Ben Denison is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, specifically focusing on International Relations. His research focuses on of the causes and consequences of military occupation and other forms of foreign rule.
 

wickedken

TRIBE Member
Only in America, would the next President look to appoint a surgeon for the job of Housing Secretary.

Donald Trump picks Ben Carson — who called himself a ‘fish out of water’ — to lead U.S. housing, urban policy.

Quick, i need a black guy to run the hoods, who we got ?
lol
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Laura Ingraham is being discussed as a potential secretary of state - Laura Ingraham!!

The mind reels. The inmates have really taken over the asylum!
 
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