RE: The terrorism meme

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Sun 10 Nov 2002 - 02:20:53 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: The terrorism meme"

    Grant, there are huge and heated arguments going on here in Washington about Iraq, but there is not much effective joining of the key issues among advocates of different PoVs. The Christian fundies are talking to each other, the right-wing hawks are talking to each other, the liberals and internationalists are talking to each other, etc. But there are few effective discussions among and between these groups. The State Department and CIA, where most of our government employees who really know the Middle East are located, are separated by chains of command from the decision-making centers within Congress and the White House. These operate a bit in a vacuum of knowledge, and are mostly tuned to political inputs of political supporters.

    As I indicated in earlier emails, the Christian fundies and right-wingers have done very good jobs of befriending the President, and they are the ones whose phone calls he is returning. The CIA and State experts are quite frustrated by their lack of access, and very concerned with the impacts present administration policies are having on our relationships and interests internationally. This concern is shared by many within the Dep't of Defense, and, increasingly, by the FBI, whose roles internationally are growing. One of the signs of such discord that can be seen by the public are the 'leaks' that are coming out weekly, that contradict the PoV that the President and his advisors are putting out. Some of these leaks even spilled into public attribution, a most unusual thing in Washington: the CIA's assessment of Iraq's WMD status being the most interesting recent such event. Before that, the statements by Brent Scowcroft are also exceptional.

    September 11 unleashed a stunning memetic war, and it has been fascinating to track its effects and evolution here in Washington. Iraq is one of the subjects that has been caught up in this memetic war; it is, if you will, a memetic pawn in a larger and more difficult debate that has yet to be effectively joined. Powell has done a superb job defusing - at least for the time being -- some of the worst consequences of this memetic war. But he has to tread most carefully and play a complex and subtle middle game, so the Secretary of State, who might normally be a leader in making the international relations debate effective (a la John Foster Dulles, Baker and Kissinger [whether one likes the substance of what they did or not]), is keeping his head down.

    What is going on now is an intensely "Washington" game, one being played out essentially behind closed doors, fraught with rumor, interpretive skill, domestic political assessments, and an occasional not-always-welcome dollop of actual understanding of Middle East political and psychological dynamics.

    Cheers, Lawry

    -----Original Message----- From: []On Behalf Of Grant Callaghan Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 5:56 PM To: Subject: Re: The terrorism meme

    > >
    >I'm quite sure we will not repeat our post-USSR-withdrawal Afghan
    >mistake in Iraq; we know where that road leads.
    > >

    I'm glad you're sure. No one in Washington seems to be sure about anything except we have to oust Sadam. Or if they are, they don't seem to be talking about it.


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