Thursday 2012-01-12

Running The World by David Rothkopf

Rothkopf wrote a breezy history of the National Security Council over-filled with "relationship" and overt political bias. He has no model with which to evaluate the effectiveness of any particular administration's NSC, so you just get political stories. Which can be entertaining at times, however only because you're imagining what's actually occurring.

This staff (the NSC) was initially envisioned as a tiny advisory team, a few professionals, most perhaps military men, who could help support the president in administering the national security side of the government. Over time -- and this is much of the story of the NSC -- this group has inexorably gained power.
-- The Committee in charge of running the world
When we examine the evolution of the national security apparatus of the US government from 1947 to the present, we discover that no other factor is more central to determining whether we succeed or fail in preserving or advancing our national interests and ideals than the character of the people we put in the positions to lead us.
-- Washington's Choice
( the NSC is appointed without congressional review and runs without congressional oversight )
Truman entered the nation's highest office utterly unprepared for it by his 1944 running mate. The two had met formally only twice between January 1945, when Truman took the oath of office as vice president, and Roosevelt's death in April. Truman was not briefed on the details of the atomic bomb, the Yalta summit, or the secret agreements Roosevelt had reached with with other world leaders before assuming office.
Along with the new president, others in the government had seen the consequences of Roosevelt's management style and determined that something needed to be done so that should the US ever again face similar crises, the system of government would ensure a better process, capturing the views of more of the best minds available before decisions were to be made.
-- Greatness thrust upon them
( FDR and Bush 43 aren't as far apart as one would expect, their histories read kinda like a poli sci student's version of worst parents )
one of the first laws of Washington: "Where you stand depends on where you sit."
-- Greatness thrust upon them
In 1964, not only were the generals who had overthrown Diem themselves overthrown, but by summer's end there were seven governments of South Vietnam. American military strength had doubled again from the end of 1962 and had reached over 22,000 troops.
-- Bound in Lilliput
( Lilliput? Vietnam? With jokes like these, there should be a WhiteHouseElevator twitter account like goldman sachs' )
The good policy paper laid out the issue and then provided a lot of good detailed background and technical background and political background and then it stated assumptions and stated goals so that if people quibbled about those assumptions or goals you could have a debate.
-- America in Decline, The NSC Ascendant
( you'd think that policy papers were invented in the 1970's with Kissinger. when was the first arguably modern policy paper written? )
Carter wrote, "It will always be one of my proudest moments and one of the great achievements in the history of the United States Senate."
-- A superpower in search of itself
( 1977, instead of handing over the Panama Canal to Panama, which we go on to invade 12 years later, Carter should have either punted, or pushed for Panama to become the 51st state. No sense in throwing away cash cows. )
"It all became more of a political issue -- more important to be able to fight the political battles regarding budgets and legislation and so forth. And of course, since the end of the Cold War, it is more of a political issue because it is no longer even clear what national security is."
-- Harold Brown, in A superpower in search of itself
In fact, all told, estimates of criminal prosecutions against Reagan administration officials exceed 130, by far the high for the modern era, and in all likelihood, ever.
-- Morning in America, Twilight in the NSC
( lol, knowing our penchant for excellence, I'm sure the 130 will be surpassed eventually )
(Philip) Zelikow states that because the internal disputes (over Germany's reunification) never leaked into the press, the hostility dissipated and interagency coordination on Germany went on to work smoothly.
-- Across a bright line in history
( or the disputes just weren't big enough to actually matter )
the work that the elder President Bush (41) and his team did in building that international support was vital in helping to pay for (the) first Gulf War and in sending two vital messages that the Bush team felt were central to their vision of the "new world order".
-- Across a bright line in history
( Powell for President in 2000 )
Bob Gates says that the reason the political scientists at Texas A&M don't let him into their classrooms even though he is president of the university is "because I basically tell the kids to throw out their org charts and their textbooks, because I say the thing you really have to understand about Washington, DC, is that at the top level, how things work depends on personality."
-- Across a bright line in history
"First of all, I think it's a question of decision cycles. Decision cycles sped up so much that the way we do business at the State Department is now too slow."
-- Marc Grossman, in A Thumb on the scales