Litany Unending

Sometime last summer I finally got around to buying Legacy of Ashes, a fairly exhaustive, though not neutral, history of the CIA. I purchased the book from a bookstore in Grand Central Station before taking a train to some random town upstate so that I could spend the day sitting in a park staring at the Hudson and reading. I never finished the book. Although well written, the book was too repetitive.

Legacy of Ashes was too repetitive because the United States does the same damn thing over and over again. Instead of allowing the CIA to be a neutral collector of facts towards allowing Presidents to make informed foreign policy choices, the most important original mission of the organization, the CIA has been used as a weapon against other nations and always wielded ideologically; any evidence that the CIA may posses that would tend to undermine the rationale for the various pre-determined and immutable arguments that one administration or another would make for covert or conventional action against another nation is ignored. The CIA is constantly called upon to help various administrations enact policy that the CIA itself thinks will not work.

Insofar as the military is an organization that does what the President tells them to as opposed to trying to use fact as a counterweight against whatever apocalyptic visions may transfix whomever resides in the White House, it is entirely consistent of President Obama to nominate a General to lead the CIA. Perhaps, as the Post says, the influence of the military has increased within the CIA, and it is true that Petraeus' nomination shows, again, hypocrites to be hypocrites, but in nominating Petraeus, Obama is making tradition explicit, not breaking it.

Of course, that tradition is the tradition of destructive and heartbreaking interventions into the Southern Hemisphere, the tradition of playing chicken with nuclear weapons while pretending the Soviet Union wasn't collapsing, the tradition of strangling any democratic movement that would challenge American regional hegemony. Ultimately, it is the tradition that expanded and is now destroying American prosperity. Whatever excitement you feel when thinking about the death of our corrupt and corrupting empire, just remember that, when it dies, it won't be the killers who suffer.

No comments: