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Posts Tagged ‘the Blob’

Beltway ‘Non-Interventionism’ farce – RPI 25 March Update

Posted by M. C. on March 25, 2021

Politico has run an article titled “The Blob abides” supposedly to raise the point that virtually all of President Biden’s foreign policy team have been drawn from the intellectual and moral sewers of Madeline “It was worth it” Albright’s lobbying firm and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s WestExec Advisors firm. These are the monsters responsible for the assault on Yugoslavia more than 20 years ago. The destruction of Syria and rape – literally –  of Libya. The green light for Saudi Arabia to genocide Yemen, and the idiotic support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine to overthrow a hapless but nominally pro-Russian elected president.

Dear Friends:

My good friend and former colleague Jeff Deist, who was Ron Paul’s last Congressional Chief of Staff and is currently President of the Mises Institute, made this very cogent point on Twitter Wednesday: Anyone or any organization still in the Beltway is fighting a battle that’s already over. There is no “public policy” and DC fell decades ago.

The Mises Institute was always right to stay far away from DC, to target intelligent lay audiences rather than politicians or academia, and to focus on economics rather than “policy.”

Old timers view Watergate as the final straw for DC as anything but a feeding trough. That was *50* years ago. Anyone still there has a mortgage to pay, per Nick Naylor in “Thank You for Smoking.” His point was about the brouhaha over the departure of the “woke” anti-Trump fanatic who had been leading the Beltway “official conservative” Heritage Foundation and driving it into obscurity. Heritage has long been irrelevant to anyone interested in limited-government, populist conservatism – and, God forbid, libertarianism – and instead has just been a conduit for corrupt corporate political money-laundering. Of course Jeff was right.

On a personal level, however, Jeff’s is a bitter pill to swallow. Despite the horrors of the military-industrial-statist-authoritarian driven world of Northern Virginia, where we lived and worked for 14 years, I found myself in love with Virginia in most forms. From our farmer near Charlottesville who provided us beyond-organic lamb (and on whose property we, perhaps not coincidentally, discovered several very large “Ron Paul for President” yard signs when we toured his farm in 2010), to the beauty of the Loudoun County Fall Colors Tour, to the rustic and real southern Virginia, there was a world outside the Beltway that was and remains so very appealing.

An old time Virginia codger named, improbably but truthfully, Sandy Beach, came out when we needed to get some bugs sprayed in our house and property in Springfield, VA. He had that old style Virginia accent that you never hear in the Beltway or its immediate (or, increasingly, remote) environs. A very slow, patient drawl, dragged out impossibly – unlike the staccato assault of the hardcore Texas accent that I’ve had in my ears and on my nerves for the past seven+ years. 

Sandy’s accent was strange to us in Northern Virginia because he came from “the trades.” He was a blue collar honest guy who sprayed bugs. And he knew his stuff. 

When we were preparing to move we had to cancel our contract with the bug control company and poor old Sandy Beach took the news hard and personal. I’ll never forget the look on his face upon losing a customer. Imagine that in any other Beltway business. It wasn’t about the money, for Sandy. It was about the relationship and about trust.

Whenever we came into contact with anyone from the greater Beltway who actually worked – blue collar – for a living it was like a different world. A wary world. Because they most likely knew that Northern Virginian recent transplants into government posts would inevitably make their lives worse. They instinctively knew this was a brutal game and the rules were rigged against them.

So the point is that the Sandy Beaches of Virginia and everywhere – numerous as they are – have been kicked in the face by the tyranny of democracy, which dictates if you can drum up 50% plus one you can force the other 49% minus one to do whatever the hell you want them to do.

That is the lesson for all of us. There are two Americas even in the belly of the beast. The Sandy Beaches of the world will never testify before Congress. But they will be endlessly demonized by the enemies of freedom and of our civilization because they are not “woke” to the idea that anyone who disagrees with you must be destroyed, sent to gulag. They only want to kill your bugs.

So yes again Jeff is right. But it goes beyond the apocalyptic ruin that was once – and even then corrupt – official conservatism. Who among us with any semblance of a brain has even thought for two seconds about the Heritage Foundation? My last time there was to hear the then-Chief Justice of the Hungarian Supreme Court going on about “shared values” while the then-head of the organization took cat naps. How clueless the European conservatives have always been about the American anti-Left.
  Which in a roundabout way brings me to the main point, a riff on Jeff’s theme. Lenin wrote, “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” That is becoming all the more clear when looking at the Beltway “anti-interventionist” organizations.

Though many were taken in – no doubt by the deep pockets of the funders – by the idea that a Beltway organization was being formed to fight against that which actually brings lifeblood to the Beltway – foreign interventionism – we at the Ron Paul Institute had warned from the very beginning that any organization funded by George “regime change” Soros and the Koch-topus could never in any way be truly against the American empire.

Regular speakers at Ron Paul Institute events like Phil Giraldi, a retired CIA officer with a lifetime experience observing the destruction wreaked by the neocons who would hijack our actual values in favor of their parochial preferences, also sounded the alarm bells.

Alas, all the mainstream press praised the emergence of a Beltway organization ostensibly formed to fight against the endless propaganda of the mainstream press and the animating lifeblood of the Beltway. No one dared question the cognitive dissonance because there was the promise of a paycheck for all the limp scribblers who questioned “excessive” interventionism while at the same time constantly spitting on their finger to test the direction of the prevailing winds.

Which brings us to today. 

Politico has run an article titled “The Blob abides” supposedly to raise the point that virtually all of President Biden’s foreign policy team have been drawn from the intellectual and moral sewers of Madeline “It was worth it” Albright’s lobbying firm and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s WestExec Advisors firm. These are the monsters responsible for the assault on Yugoslavia more than 20 years ago. The destruction of Syria and rape – literally –  of Libya. The green light for Saudi Arabia to genocide Yemen, and the idiotic support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine to overthrow a hapless but nominally pro-Russian elected president.

So who do they quote in the article? The “leader” of anti-Beltway Beltwaytarianism –  the head of the above-named Soros-Koch Hegelian synthesis called the “Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft” – who assures us that that the resurrection of the undead demons of the Obama regime returning to wreak havoc upon the globe once again are just good guys and gals.

Says Trita Parsi, the Quincy director appointed by interventionist Soros to lead the anti-interventionist Beltway movement, regarding Biden’s foreign policy monsters who are literally all retreads from the deepest orifices of Obama’s foreign policy, “They are abundantly competent and very sincere individuals,”

The ignorant animals who cooked up Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, and more are described by so-called non-interventionists as “abundantly competent”?

This is why Jeff is right even despite my emotional attachment to sweet home Virginia. The dialectic is strong. Synthesis means that the “anti-empire” forces actually support empire because it provides jobs and opportunities to marginalize the actual anti-empire forces. We are out in Texas, trying our best. And we are authentic. And we appreciate your support.   Please Donate Now!
Thank you for your support!
Sincerely yours,

Daniel McAdams
Executive Director
Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

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George Washington Tried To Warn Americans About Foreign Policy Today – Original

Posted by M. C. on July 13, 2020

Subvert American democracy and manipulate US foreign policy, and you can loot America’s treasury, turn the US military into your personal bodyguard, and gain Washington’s support for reckless war-mongering.

Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, unkindly characterized the foreign policy establishment in Washington, D.C., as “the Blob.” Although policymakers sometimes disagree on peripheral subjects, membership requires an absolute commitment to U.S. “leadership,” which means a determination to micro-manage the world.

Reliance on persuasion is not enough. Vital is the willingness to bomb, invade, and, if necessary, occupy other nations to impose the Blob’s dictates on other peoples. If foreigners die, as they often do, remember the saying about eggs and omelets oft repeated by communism’s apologists. “Stuff happens” with the best-intentioned policies.

One might be inclined to forgive Blob members if their misguided activism actually benefited the American people. However, all too often the Blob’s policies instead aid other governments and interests. Washington is overrun by the representatives of and lobbyists for other nations, which constantly seek to take control of US policy for their own advantage. The result are foreign interventions in which Americans do the paying and, all too often, the dying for others.

The problem is primarily one of power. Other governments don’t spend a lot of time attempting to take over Montenegro’s foreign policy because, well, who cares? Exactly what would you do after taking over Fiji’s foreign ministry other than enjoy a permanent vacation? Seize control of international relations in Barbados and you might gain a great tax shelter.

Subvert American democracy and manipulate US foreign policy, and you can loot America’s treasury, turn the US military into your personal bodyguard, and gain Washington’s support for reckless war-mongering. And given the natural inclination of key American policymakers to intervene promiscuously abroad for the most frivolous reasons, it’s surprisingly easy for foreign interests to convince Uncle Sam that their causes are somehow “vital” and therefore require America’s attention. Indeed, it is usually easier to persuade Americans than foreign peoples in their home countries to back one or another international misadventure.

The culprits are not just autocratic regimes. Friendly democratic governments are equally ready to conspiratorially whisper in Uncle Sam’s ear. Even nominally classical liberal officials, who believe in limiting their own governments, argue that Americans are obligated to sacrifice wealth and life for everyone else. The mantra seems to be liberty, prosperity, and peace for all – except those living in the superpower tasked by heaven with protecting everyone else’s liberty, prosperity, and peace.

Although the problem has burgeoned in modern times, it is not new. Two centuries ago fans of Greek independence wanted Americans to challenge the Ottoman Empire, a fantastic bit of foolishness. Exactly how to effect an international Balkans rescue was not clear, since the president then commanded no aircraft carriers, air wings, or nuclear-tipped missiles. Still, the issue divided Americans and influenced John Quincy Adams’ famous 1821 Independence Day address.

Warned Adams:

“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”

“The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit…. [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.”

Powerful words, yet Adams was merely following in the footsteps of another great American, George Washington. Obviously, the latter was flawed as a person, general, and president. Nevertheless, his willingness to set a critical precedent by walking away from power left an extraordinary legacy. As did his insistence that the Constitution tasked Congress with deciding when America would go to war. And his warning against turning US policy over to foreign influences.

Concern over obsequious subservience to other governments and interests pervaded his famous 1796 Farewell Address. Applied today, his message indicts most of the policy currently made in the city ironically named after him. He would be appalled by what presidents and Congresses today do, supposedly for America.

Obviously, the US was very different 224 years ago. The new country was fragile, sharing the Western hemisphere with its old colonial master, which still ruled Canada and much of the Caribbean, as well as Spain and France. When later dragged into the maritime fringes of the Napoleonic wars the US could huff and puff but do no more than inconvenience France and Britain. The vastness of the American continent, not overweening national power, again frustrated London when it sought to subjugate its former colonists.

Indeed, when George Washington spoke the disparate states were not yet firmly knit into a nation. Only after the Civil War, when the national government waged four years of brutal combat, which ravaged much of the country and killed upwards of 750,000 people in the name of “union,” did people uniformly say the United States “is” rather than “are.” However, the transformation was much more than rhetorical. The federal system that originally emerged in the name of individual liberty spawned a high tax centralized government that employed one of the world’s largest militaries to kill on a mass scale to enforce the regime’s dictates. The modern American “republic” was born. It acted overseas only inconsistently until World War II, after which imperial America was a constant, adding resonance to George Washington’s message.

Today Washington, D.C.’s elites have almost uniformly decided that Russia is an enemy, irrespective of American behavior that contributed to Moscow’s hostility. And that Ukraine, a country never important for American security, is a de facto military ally, appropriately armed by the US for combat against a nuclear-armed rival. A reelection-minded president seems determined to turn China into a new Cold War adversary, an enemy for all things perhaps for all time. America remains ever entangled in the Middle East, with successive administrations in permanent thrall of Israel and Saudi Arabia, allowing foreign leaders to set US Mideast policy. Indeed, both states have avidly pressed the administration to make their enemy, Iran, America’ enemy. The resulting fixation caused the Trump administration to launch economic war against the rest of the world to essentially prevent everyone on earth from having any commercial dealing of any kind with anyone in Tehran.

Under Democrats and Republicans alike the federal government views nations that resist its dictates as adversaries at best, appropriate targets of criticism, always, sanctions, often, and even bombs and invasions, occasionally. No wonder foreign governments lobby hard to be designated as allies, partners, and special relationships. Many of these ties have become essentially permanent, unshakeable even when supposed friends act like enemies and supposed enemies are incapable of hurting America. US foreign policy increasingly has been captured and manipulated for the benefit of other governments and interests.

George Washington recognized the problem even in his day, after revolutionary France sought to win America’s support against Great Britain. He warned: “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Michele Flournoy: Queen of the Blob | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on July 9, 2020

One of the unelected leaches that have more power and influence than your representative or senator.

This how the elite, Ivy League-educated technocrats profit while the nation’s real interests take a back seat.

Michele Flournoy in 2015 CNAS/Flickr

Jonathan Guyer, managing editor of The American Prospect, has an unbelievably well-reported piece on the making of a Washington national security consultancy, starring two high placed Obama-era officials and one of the Imperial City’s more successful denizens—Michele Flournoy.

Flournoy may not be a household name anywhere but the Beltway, but when she met Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda (Chiefs of staff to UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter respectively) she was already trading lucratively on her stints in two Democratic administrations. In fact, according to Guyer, by 2017 she was pulling nearly a half a million dollars a year a year wearing a number of hats: senior advisor for Boston Consulting Group (where she helped increase their defense contracts to $32 million by 2016), founder and CEO of the Democratic leaning Center for a New American Security, senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a member of various corporate boards.

Hungry to get their own consulting business going after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss in 2016, according to Guyer, Aguirre and Chadda approached Flournoy for her starpower inside the Blob. Flournoy did not want “to have a firm with her name on it alone,” so they sought and added Tony Blinken, former Under Secretary of State and “right hand man” to Joe Biden for 20 years. WestExec Advisors, named after the street alongside the West Wing of the White House, was born. “The name WestExec Advisors trades on its founders’ recent knowledge of the highest echelons of decision-making,” writes Guyer. “It also suggests they’ll be walking down WestExec toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue someday soon.”

Soon the firm was raking in corporate contracts and the high sums that go with it. They weren’t lobbying per se (wink, wink) but their names and connections provided the grease on the skids their clients needed to make things happen in Washington. They shrewdly partnered with a private equity group and a Google affiliate. Before long, Guyer says, they did not need to market: CEO’s were telling other CEO’s to give them a call. More:

The founders told executives they would share their “passion” for helping new companies navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning Pentagon contracts. They told giant defense contractors how to explain cutting-edge technologies to visitors from Congress. Their approach worked, and clients began to sign up.

One was an airline, another a global transportation company, a third a company that makes drones that can almost instantly scan an entire building’s interior. WestExec would only divulge that it began working with “Fortune 100 types,” including large U.S. tech; financial services, including global-asset managers; aerospace and defense; emerging U.S. tech; and nonprofits.

The Prospect can confirm that one of those clients is the Israeli artificial-intelligence company Windward. 

To say that the Flournoy helped WestExec establish itself as one of the most successful of the Beltway’s defense and national security consultancies is an understatement. For sure, Flournoy has often been underestimated—she is not flamboyant, nor glamorous, and is absolutely unrecognizable outside of the Washington market because she doesn’t do media (though she is popular on the think tank conference circuit). She’s a technocrat—smart and efficient and highly bred for Washington’s finely tuned managerial class. She is a courtier for sure, but she is no sop. She has staying power, quietly forging relationships with the right people and not trying too hard to make a name or express ideas that might conflict with doctrine. She no doubt learned much in two stints in the Pentagon, which typically chews up the less capable, greedier, more narcissistic neophytes (not to mention idealists). She’s not exactly known as a visionary, however, and one has to wonder which hat she is wearing when she expounds on current defense threats, like this piece about beefing up the Pentagon budget to confront China.

But what does it all mean? Flournoy has been at the forefront of strategy and policy in two administrations marked by overseas interventions (Clinton from 1993 to 2000) and Obama (2009 to 2012). All of her aforementioned qualities have helped her to personally succeed and profit—especially now, no doubt helping weapons contractors get deals on the Hill, as Guyer susses out in his piece, not to mention how well-placed she would be for an incoming Biden Administration. But has it been in the best interest of the country? I think not. For this, she is queen of the Blob.

But elite is as elite does. She went from Beverly Hills High School to Harvard to Oxford, and then back to Harvard, before landing a political appointment in the Clinton Administration. In between government perches, she did consulting and started CNAS in hopes of creating a shadow national security council for Hillary Clinton. When Clinton didn’t get the nomination, Flournoy and her colleagues supported Obama and helped populate his administration, supporting the military surge in Afghanistan and prolonging the war. She was called the “mastermind” behind Obama’s Afghan strategy, which we now know was a failure, an effort at futility and prolonging the inevitable. In fact, we know now that most of the war establishment was lying through its teeth. But that hasn’t stopped her from getting clients. They pay for her influence, not her ability to win wars.

Queen of the Blob, Queen of Business as Usual—a business, as we well know from Guyer’s excellent reporting, that pays off bigtime. But it has never paid off for the rest of America. But really, why should she care? She was never really with “us” to begin with.


about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, executive editor, has been writing for TAC since 2007, focusing on national security, foreign policy, civil liberties and domestic politics. She served for 15 years as a Washington bureau reporter for, and at WTOP News in Washington from 2013-2017 as a writer, digital editor and social media strategist. She has also worked as a beat reporter at Bridge News financial wire (now part of Reuters) and Homeland Security Today, and as a regular contributor at A native Nutmegger, she got her start in Connecticut newspapers, but now resides with her family in Arlington, Va.

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The Blob Attacks: Gaslighting or Just Gasbagging? | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on May 4, 2020

“In Defense of the Blob” is filled with so many straw men, lies, and misdirections that the only takeaway is that we must have hit one hell of a nerve this time. The authors’ peculiar attempt to gaslight their critics, suggesting that we are seeing things that aren’t there, is weak. Like: 

Blob theorists view the establishment as a club of like-minded elite insiders who control everything, take care of one another, and brush off challenges to conventional wisdom. In reality, the United States actually has a healthy marketplace of foreign policy ideas. Discussion over American foreign policy is loud, contentious, diverse, and generally pragmatic—and as a result, the nation gets the opportunity to learn from its mistakes, build on its successes, and improve its performance over time.

No, no, and no. As a reporter in this ecosystem for more years than I care to admit, I can say with absolute certainty the reality is the opposite.

After a 75-year-run of failure, the foreign policy elite is on the wane, with some clearly taking it harder than others.

It’s always fun to see the Washington foreign policy and Nat-Sec establishment get up on its hind legs at their critics. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does it’s usually when someone has touched a raw nerve, penetrating the bubble, if only momentarily. One time that comes to mind is when TAC’s Andrew Bacevich—he’s really good at this—called out elite bubble denizens Peter Feaver and Hal Brands for what he said was “close to being a McCarthyite smear” against realist thinkers in a Commentary piece entitled, “Saving Realism from the So-Called Realists.”

The two men (Feaver cut his teeth in George W. Bush’s National Security Council during the height of the Iraq War; Brands is an academic with a perch at the neoconservative AEI) implored TAC to publish a response, writing: “The stakes of debates about American grand strategy are high, and so it is entirely proper that these debates be conducted with passion and intensity. But it is equally vital that they be conducted without resort to the sort of baseless ad hominem attacks that impede intellectual discourse rather than encouraging it.”

Hrumph. It is not surprising now that both Feaver and Brands (joined by William Inboden, also in Bush’s wartime NSC), are at it again, this time with a longer treatise in Foreign Affairs, entitled, “In Defense of the Blob.”  The last four years have been rough for the establishment. President Trump, after running on a platform of getting out of endless wars, is a Jacksonian who refuses to hide his contempt for this entrenched policy class and all of their attending courtiers and courtesans, most of whom are leftovers from the Obama, Bush and even Clinton Administrations. Their “accumulated” knowledge means nothing to this president, as he has plowed his own mercurial course in North Korea, Syria, Iran and the Middle East.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s rip in the Washington Blob’s time-space-continuum has allowed realists and restrainers to quantum leap into the space like no other administration before. Suddenly, conservatives of all stripes are talking TAC’s language. Money is pouring into colleges and think tanks now, all with the goal of pursuing approaches outside the status quo of hyper-militarization and American hegemony. The wars have been largely maligned as failures of the two previous administrations and their “experts.” The Quincy Institute, populated by scholars from both the Right and Left, has risen up to directly challenge the idea of a necessary militarized “liberal world order” to secure peace across the globe.

“In Defense of the Blob” is filled with so many straw men, lies, and misdirections that the only takeaway is that we must have hit one hell of a nerve this time. The authors’ peculiar attempt to gaslight their critics, suggesting that we are seeing things that aren’t there, is weak. Like:

Blob theorists view the establishment as a club of like-minded elite insiders who control everything, take care of one another, and brush off challenges to conventional wisdom. In reality, the United States actually has a healthy marketplace of foreign policy ideas. Discussion over American foreign policy is loud, contentious, diverse, and generally pragmatic—and as a result, the nation gets the opportunity to learn from its mistakes, build on its successes, and improve its performance over time.

No, no, and no. As a reporter in this ecosystem for more years than I care to admit, I can say with absolute certainty the reality is the opposite. The major policy think tanks in Washington are rife with three sources of funding: government, private defense companies, and very wealthy neoliberal and neoconservative foundations (think Carnegie on the left, Scaife on the right). The National Security and “Grand Strategy” programs at elite schools are no different. They all have one thing in common: the status quo. As a result, the output is hardly dynamic, it’s little more than dogmatic, conventional thinking about world problems that keep bureaucrats in jobs and always meddling, the military amped up with more hammers and nails to hit, and politicians (and attending administrative class) favorable to either or both of these goals in Washington, preferably in power.

This is a closed club that offers only gradations of diversity just like Democrats and Republicans during the war: No one argued about “liberating” Iraq, only about the tactics. That was why it was so easy for Hillary Clinton’s Nat Sec team in-waiting to create the Center for a New American Security in 2008 and transition to an Obama think tank shop in 2009. Plug and play one for the other, counterinsurgency under Bush? Meh. Under Obama? Let’s do this! They all had a plan for staying in Afghanistan, and they made sure we were, until this day.

This doesn’t even include the orbit of research centers like RAND and the Center for Naval Analysis, which actually get government funding to churn out reports and white papers, teach officer classes, lead war gaming, and put on conferences. Do you really think they call for less funding, killing programs, eliminating lily pads, or egads, pulling out of entrenched strategic relationships that might not make sense anymore? Never. The same players get the contracts and produce just what the government wants to hear, so they can get more money. If they don’t get contracts they don’t survive. It’s how the swamp works.

As for it being a cabal? This ecosystem—the Blob—is a revolving door of sameness, a multigenerational in-crowd of status-driven groupthink inhabiting a deep state that is both physical and of the mind. It’s a lifestyle, and a class. To get anywhere in it, you not only have to have the right pedigree, but the right way of thinking. Ask anyone who has attempted to break in with the “wrong credentials,” or marched off the reservation in the early years of Iraq only to be flung to the professional margins. Conference panels, sanctioned academic journals, all run by the same crowd. Check the Council on Foreign Relations yearbook, you’ll catch the drift. You can be a neocon, you can be a “humanitarian” interventionist, but a skeptic of American exceptionalism and its role in leading the post-WWII international system? Ghosted.

The worst element of the Feaver/Brands/Inboden protest is not so much their pathetic attempt to suggest that sure, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya “were misconceived and mishandled,” but they were “no worse” than failures in the preceding decades, like the “bloody stalemate in Korea,” or “catastrophic war in Vietnam.” (This completely denies that the same consensus thinking has been leading our global and military policies for the last 75 years, therefore the same people who blundered us into Vietnam were also responsible for backing the contras in Nicaragua, and then blowing up wedding parties in Pakistan three decades later).

No, the worst is the straw man they present when they suggest that “scrapping professionalism for amateurism would be a disaster.” No one has ever suggested that was on offer. If anything, there has been every attempt, by TAC and the aforementioned new movements, to shift new voices—academics, military strategists, politicians, policy wonks and journalists—who represent fresh, outside thinking into the forefront, at the levers of power, to make a difference. People like Andrew Bacevich, Stephen Walt, Doug Macgregor, Chris Preble, Mike Desch, are hardly lightweights, but to the Borg, they are antibodies, therefore amateurs.

But Bacevich, Walt, et. al,  did not keep their mouths shut or try to obfuscate the truth during 18 years of failure in Afghanistan. That was left to the friends and colleagues of our esteemed Feaver, Brands, and Inboden. They cannot deny the Blob’s sins because it’s all in black & white in the Afghanistan Papers. That’s what has really hit a nerve, the raw exposure. Still, they cry, the Blob is “not the problem,” but the “solution.” We think not. And we think they protest too much.

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The Blob Strikes Back | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on October 26, 2019

Reflexively taking the side of Ukraine does not serve American interests any more than trying to pummel it for political favors.

by Hunter DeRensis

President Donald Trump campaigned and was elected on a platform of improved relations with Russia. Yet, three years after his election, no real improvement has materialized and, if anything, they have deteriorated. Why?

One reason is that those who seek to repair the damage caused by a thirty-year deterioration in trust and cooperation face an uphill battle against what recently has been given the colloquial name, “the Blob.” The term, coined by Obama White House staffer Ben Rhodes, refers to the foreign-policy establishment, mostly located in Washington, DC and constantly focused on the putative decline of American influence abroad. It has been distinguished by its unwillingness, or inability, to reconsider or reprioritize national interests that were first defined after World War II, and then continued, by and large, on auto-pilot after the end of the Cold War. Now Trump is taking a wrecking ball to this world order. But a self-anointed mandarin class or, if you prefer, deep state, that has largely operated unmolested until the advent of Trump now appears to believe that it can foil, or even subvert, the policies of a president it deems unfit for office, a development that should worry Democrats and Republicans alike.

Another reason is that Trump himself has been largely indifferent to who assumes positions in his administration, calculating that by sheer force of will he, and he alone, can be the decider. In September, Trump referred to his search for a fresh national security adviser in the following terms: “It’s great because it’s a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump, and it’s very easy, actually, to work with me. You know why it’s easy? Because I make all the decisions. They don’t have to work.” This insouciant approach has now boomeranged on Trump.

Enter William B. Taylor, Jr. Taylor has been the U.S. Chargé d ‘Affaires Ukraine since June of this year (having previously held the position of ambassador 2006–2009), and yesterday he testified behind-closed-doors as part of the House impeachment inquiry into Trump. Taylor, as his testimony made clear, was able to observe first-hand many of the Trump administration’s ham-fisted moves to extract, in one form another, concessions from Ukraine. But however clumsy and counterproductive Trump’s moves may have been, Taylor offered an overly simplistic survey of events in the region. Indeed, his Manichean introductory and concluding remarks suggested that he views Russia as an inveterate enemy of America and Ukraine as a white knight.

In his opening statement, Taylor emphasized that Ukraine is a strategic partner of the United States that is “important for the security of our country as well as Europe,” as well as a country that is “under armed attack from Russia.” Well, yes. But this sweeping description occludes more than it reveals. Foreign policy is rarely a morality play and the fairy-tale that Taylor presented was more redolent of a post–Cold War cold warrior who, like too many of his colleagues at the foreign desk, are committed to retrograde thinking, than of an official offering an incisive look at a complex and troubled region. It is not as though Ukraine, where Taylor served as ambassador during the George W. Bush administration, has ever been free from the plague of corruption or murky machinations by local competing factions. Reflexively taking the side of Ukraine does not serve American interests any more than trying to pummel it for political favors. The testimony of Taylor and other State Department witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee is a case in point.

“The four U.S. diplomats [Taylor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, former special representative Kurt Volker, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George P. Kent] are all wedded to a policy maximally supportive of Ukraine’s ‘Revolution of Dignity’ and all that implies. That is the policy we arrived at in the previous administration, for better or worse, and it continues to be the ‘official’ policy given strong bipartisan support in Congress,” explains John Marshall Evans, a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who previously served as ambassador to Armenia. Evans adds that Taylor “did a great job running the assistance programs for the former USSR. Everyone respected him highly, and liked him.”

The narrative in the lengthy opening statement by Taylor, however, tends to obfuscate the reality of the turmoil in Ukraine, where street protests in 2014, at least partially cheered on by the Obama administration, most notably Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, toppled the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia responded swiftly by annexing the Crimean Peninsula, where a military base has been located for decades.

Taylor emphasized that in the aftermath of these dramatic events, he favored the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine, which the Obama administration demurred on. President Barack Obama was cautious about committing to Ukraine—and the visible presence of neo-Nazi, white supremacist militias did not help.

During his testimony, Taylor recounted that on a visit to eastern Ukraine, “Ambassador Volker and I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance.” What goes unmentioned is that many of the dead are Eastern Ukrainians with deep language and cultural connections to Russia, who acted upon secessionist impulses only after the emergence of the new regime in Kiev.

A New York Times article yesterday described Taylor as a “model diplomat,” and used favorable quotes only from those associated from the same doctrinaire foreign-policy establishment. Even the phrase “model diplomat” was provided by Strobe Talbott, President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state (and former roommate at Oxford) who was the architect of the post–Cold War NATO expansion which kickstarted the trend of souring relations with Russia.

The New York Times also published, in the fall of 2018, an anonymous op-ed from a “senior official in the Trump administration” who wrote that he and others were “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” with the premier example given as Russian-American relations. Now this figure, who apparently remains ensconced in the Trump administration that he or she so reviles, is about to publish a “tell all” book about the administration next month, still anonymously.

“President Trump obviously wants better relations with Moscow, but Ukraine is an obstacle to that, and he has the entire Blob against him. It is not a crime to advocate for a change of policy, or, if one is president, to change the policy, but Trump probably hasn’t a clue how to do that correctly, so he sought to work around the existing structures, which must frustrate him,” Evans observes.

Others take an outright critical view of Taylor and Co. “Taylor’s testimony shows he believes that the constitutionally elected head of the executive branch is supposed to serve unelected officials like himself. He personifies what Obama administration officials characterized as ‘the blob,’” says Daniel McCarthy, a columnist for SpectatorUSA.

Will anything change now that the fight between Trump and the permanent bureaucracy is now in the open? On Tuesday night, Vice President Mike Pence told Laura Ingraham, host of Fox’s The Ingraham Angle, “There is no question when President Trump said we were going to drain the swamp, but an awful lot of the swamp has been caught up in the State Department bureaucracy and we’re just going to keep fighting it. And we are going to fight it with the truth.” For his part, Evans thinks that there is a modicum of hope for improved relations with Moscow. “Taylor will have to resign now,” he says. “We might even see a moderation of the uncritical support for Ukraine, as some of the ugly underside starts to emerge, although anti-Russian sentiment is the mother’s milk of Congress.”

Hunter DeRensis is a reporter at the National Interest.



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