Thursday, January 11, 2007

We're in big trouble.

Have a look at The Washington Note, whose latest begins like this:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

If this is true, we're in very big trouble. Or, if the rumor was sparked by an order 'only' authorizing clandestine operations (or, worse, bombardment) as a form of provocation, this is serious stuff. But even if it's not at all true in any way, we're in pretty big trouble, as the spread of this rumor means we've reached a point in our politics when sober, quite moderate, people like Steve Clemons are starting at shadows.

I can only remember one time that felt like this: when Nixon was in the last weeks of his Presidency, and people -- including the then-Secretary of Defense-- got worried that Nixon might try to start a war to distract the country from his troubles, or even stage some sort of coup. People in DC even began to speculate as to what military forces could be assembled as a counterweight in the event that Nixon, rumored to be drunk and unstable, chose to subvert the Constitution.

According to reports published after Nixon resigned, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger even went as far to tell some of the highest-ranking military officers to inform him if any 'extraordinary orders' went out from the White House and to refrain from carrying out any orders which came from the White House outside the normal military channels. (An action, incidentally, of dubious formal legality on the part of both James Schlesinger and his generals.)

Those were not good times.

Any time there is serious speculation by ordinarily sober people that the President has launched a secret war against one -- or two! -- countries, well, those are not good times either.

I think this is true whoever you think is at fault -- the administration for being Hell-bent for lunacy, or the DC Democrats (or if you prefer the DC Establishment), for being a bunch of strategic cowards. Whenever the level of trust within the governing class has so broken down, we are in for hard times indeed.

And if, as Clemons's article suggests, the White House is launching a new secret war (or two), then we're far worse off than we were in 1974, for who in the modern White House would cast him or herself as our modern James Schlesinger?


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