December 30, 2007
Kenneth Pollack: Incredibly Enough, He's Even Stupider Than You Thought
Here's Kenneth Pollack, writing in his book on Iran called The Persian Puzzle:
Every observer of Iran has a story about the moment he or she had an epiphany about just how different Iran is from any other country in the world. My own came in 1989, when I was a junior military analyst in the Central Intelligence Agency's Iran-Iraq Branch...I set out to write a paper on the likely course of Iranian military rearmament. The year before, the Iranians had suffered a devastating series of defeats at the hands of the Iraqi army...After the war, the Iranians announced that they planned to rebuild their armed forces quickly...We assumed that after the events of 1988, Iran's highest priority would be to eliminate the potential for Iraq to employ its superiority on the ground to blackmail Tehran or seize Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province...
Instead, when we began piercing together the evidence of what the Iranians were up to...[t]hey certainly were not acting the way any other nation facing a serious threat would act...they were buying mostly weaponry intended for naval warfare...In other words, they were not arming to defend themselves against Iraq...they were arming to defend themselves against us, the United States. That was when I first truly understood that Iran was a very different country from most others and that it was a country obsessed with the United States of America.
This is from Web of Deceit by Barry Lando, covering about the same time period that Kenneth Pollack is talking about, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war:
The Reagan administration, in effect, decided to undertake a secret war...Heavily armed U.S. Special Operations helicopters, stealthy, sophisticated killing machines that could operate by day or night, were ordered to the Persian Gulf. Their mission was to destroy any Iranian gunboats they could find. Other small, swift American vessels, posing as commercial ships, lured Iranian naval vessels into international waters to attack them...
Beginning in July 1987, the CIA also began sending covert spy plans and helicopters over Iranian bases. Several engaged in secret bombing runs...In September 1987, a special operations helicopter attacked an Iranian mine-laying ship...
The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency dispatched additional officers to Baghdad...they were planning day-by-day strategic bombing strikes for the Iraqi Air Force...in a twenty-four hour period, U.S. forces sank or demolished a destroyer and a couple of frigates, which represented half the Iranian navy.
If Saddam had not ultimately prevailed, the Pentagon had prepared an even more ambitious strategy: to launch an attack against the Iranian mainland. "The real plans were for a secret war, with the U.S. on the side of Iraq against Iran..." said retired Lieutenant Colonel Roger Charles, who was serving in the office of the secretary of defense at the time. This was confirmed by Admiral James A. "Ace" Lyons, who was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. As he put it, "We were prepared, I would say at the time, to drill them back to the fourth century."
Relatively cooler heads prevailed. According to Richard Armitage, who at the time was assistant secretary of defense, "The decision was made not to completely obliterate Iran...However, had things not gone well in the Gulf, I've no doubt that we would have put those plans into effect."
How incredibly bizarre those Iranians are! Just because the people at the helm of the most powerful military that's existed in world history were seriously discussing how to "drill them back to the fourth century" and "obliterate" them, they actually were worried about it! I guess we'll never be able to understand the filthy wogs.
Anyway, it's standard in government bureaucracies for people to become blithering idiots who have no idea what's going on right in front of their face. So Pollack isn't unusual in that regard. But it takes a special man to use his own blithering idiocy about his own country as justification to believe another country is mysterious and incomprehensible. Kenneth Pollack is that special man.
In his capacity as an expert on the mideast, Pollack has in the past six months written for the New York Times and been on NBC, CNN, Fox and NPR.
Posted at December 30, 2007 02:20 PM
The statement that "the United States is the greatest threat to peace in the world today" is both 1) true and 2) all but incomprehensible to the vast majority of the US population, and to an even higher percentage of US elites. Since "U.S. aggression" is a nonsensical term to these people, the concept of defense against it is even more nonsensical. There's nothing special at all about Kenneth Pollack in that regard.
It's always worthwhile to see another example of it, though, and this is a particularly good one. Thanks for sharing.
this also sets up a nice right-hand/left-hand situation. pollack, "junior military analyst", didn't know the official policy of the united states was regime change, by military means if necessary? damn, nobody tells the CIA anything.
Pollack's so crooked he can't even lie straight, strictly for squares.
And Uncle Festus shouldn't be so confident about equating carnage and damage with winning wars.
This seems to be another example of the famous (false) dichotomy of "lying or stupid?" I've no doubt Pollack is an idiot, but I see no evidence here he isn't simply being disingenuous and relying on the fact that most people don't know anything about that part of history.
I'm reminded of the famous quote regarding the danger inherent in believing your own publicity. I imagine that's just one of the occupational hazards of taking reality to task morning noon and night.
and, what Caruso said.
Only idiots, time servers,careerists can survive and prosper in Government bureaucracies of all kinds.Pollock is one such nutter.
This seems to be another example of the famous (false) dichotomy of "lying or stupid?"
I don't think he's lying. As Jonathan has shown, time and again, even total monsters tend to believe their own propaganda.
It's what John Caruso said: the inability to imagine the United States as an aggressor nation, as a "rogue state."
Is that stupidity? Not really. It's a delusion, held on to in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I'd call it a form of willful blindness, but that would be an insult to the blind.
Pollack is like a man who imagines himself the King of Prussia, insists that others address him as such, has a uniform fashioned for himself, and thinks that anyone who doesn't recognize his kingly status is crazy.
Only in Pollack's case, his delusion has brought him a secure job and national prominence, because his delusion is useful to the powerful, who also share in the delusion.
This view of delusion seems anchored in perception of a particular reality being accurate.
Let me put this differently: suppose you are incapable of imagining the United States doing anything that is wrong. Others can imagine the U.S. being an agressor, a "rogue state", but you cannot. This has nothing to do with the question of whether the U.S. is acting a rogue state at the moment because you are incapable of imagining the U.S. ever acting as a rogue state.
Supposing you have this disability, similar to the inability to see certain colors or to hear sounds above a certain frequency, how will it affect your life? Your career prospects?
Obviously, this "disability" will open all sorts of doors to you. You could work for the State Department or the CIA or for any branch of the military, and rise quite high in the ranks. You could write for the New York Times or the Washington Post, or, assuming you can obtain the necessary academic credentials, you could find employment in one of our many fine foreign-policy think-tanks.
But if you don't "suffer" from this disability, you can expect problems in any of the above career paths. You won't be able to "get with the program" with sufficient enthusiasm, you will ask inconvenient questions, you being looked on with suspicion. Over the course of a lifetime, your loss in earnings potential will be considerable.
So, when you consider all this, does it make sense to describe Kenneth Pollack, with his secure job, his nice house in Georgetown, his kids (if he has any) headed off to ivy-league schools, as "stupid"?
Obviously, this "disability" will open all sorts of doors to you. You could work for the State Department or the CIA or for any branch of the military, and rise quite high in the ranks.
I'm not getting it. Does this mean that anybody that works for state, CIA, and military would need this disability to progress to higher and higher ranks?
Mind you, I would find it much simpler to assume that people write stuff like that because it's the equivalent of shoving your head up the bosses ass in order to get ahead and in their circles it's not looked upon negatively. I think all those agencies (state, military, intelligence) have successful people that are capable, and have the right mindset of honest service, and they are not willing to burrow their heads up someone's smelly ass just to ingratiate themselves and springboard forward to land in a think-tank. But I don't find Pollack's writings delusional (or even stupid), as much as self-serving and unprincipled. He's a scumbag of the first order, and to call him stupid or delusional excuses a history of obvious scumbaggery, and I, for one, won't have that noble word watered down for the likes of him.
Now, I'm not saying that there aren't batshit crazy people of Bolton's ilk out there. There certainly are -- but they're easier to discern than the opportunists. Why? Because the well educated opportunists are given unusual leeway -- in my estimation, mainly based on their education and social position by others of similar social strata.
I'm not getting it. Does this mean that anybody that works for state, CIA, and military would need this disability to progress to higher and higher ranks?
Of course not. But suppose we could do a controlled experiment: two people of equal ability and background, one with "Pollack's disease", the other without. Wouldn't the person who could push the American agenda without the tiniest pang of conscience, without the least bit of doubt, be more likely to prosper in those organizations?
It's the same in all organizations. The Wal-Mart executive who really believes that Wal-Mart is a force for good in the world (Just look at the millions of people we've employed! And the billions we've saved our customers!) will do his job with more enthusiasm and, in the long run, rise higher in the organization.
In the world of the State Department, CIA and military, this doesn't necessarily translate into: "I'll lie about those Iraqi WMD so we can have a war and Halliburton can get rich!". It just means that America is Good, therefore the best thing for everyone is for America to get its way, and furthermore, people who stand in the way of us getting our way must be Bad.
Are there principled people in the government? Of course there are. But there are not people in the government who question the basic mission of advancing American interests, and the belief that what's good for America is good for the world. If they did question that, they wouldn't be in the government for long.
Thanks for the recommendation. I've just started Lando's book.
The Qur'anic basis of Jon's beliefs on the question, from the book "The Cow," the first lengthy book in the Quran:
"5 Verily, those who misbelieve, it is the same to them if ye warn them or if ye warn them not, they will not believe. 6 God has set a seal upon their hearts and on their hearing; and on their eyes is dimness, and for them is grievous woe. ... 8 They would deceive God and those who do believe; but they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive. 9 In their hearts is a sickness, and God has made them still more sick, and for them is grievous woe because they lied. 10 And when it is said to them, ‘Do not evil in the earth,’ they say, ‘We do but what is right.’ 11 Are not they the evildoers? And yet they do not perceive."
I used this translation because it used "God" instead of "Allah," which is just the Arabic word for "God," crazy. In my wanderings, came across this cute project, which I'd not seen: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/
I should add that I'd forgotten that Pollack is married to Andrea Koppel. I met her once and she certainly backs Jon's view as to the nature of the evil/stupidity ratio we're talking about here.
Does Pollack believe the particular lies he retails? Is he knave or a fool? I lean toward knave myself. He can tell obvious porkies with a straight face because he has an overarching purpose, as one of thousands in Libby's cluster of aspens; a final goal that not only permits but licences all the little Leo-lies told in order to pave the way.
The 'America can do no wrong' mindset crops up in the most unexpected places. I had a discussion years ago with a friendly American about legal systems and he, while quite prepared to critically consider American behaviour in all sorts of other contexts, had this blind spot about the legal architecture of his country and he was unwilling to concede that any other country's arrangements were superior.
I don't see Pollack's intellectual crimes as indicative of this sort of 'in the bubble' patriotic thinking at all. He knows what he is doing, and if his actions are animated by a love of nation, I would be surprised if that nation turned out to be America.
'The statement that "the United States is the greatest threat to peace in the world today" is both 1) true and 2) all but incomprehensible to the vast majority of the US population, and to an even higher percentage of US elites. Since "U.S. aggression" is a nonsensical term to these people, the concept of defense against it is even more nonsensical. There's nothing special at all about Kenneth Pollack in that regard.'
I don't think Pollack and those like him are part of this mass delusion; I think they stand outside it, and utilise it. Depend on it in fact.
'Only in Pollack's case, his delusion has brought him a secure job and national prominence, because his delusion is useful to the powerful, who also share in the delusion.'
I would insert the word 'apparent' between 'his' and 'delusion'. Pretending to have the disability can, if you are a good enough actor, or your underlying motivations are powerful enough, be just as career-enhancing as actually having it.
'You could write for the New York Times or the Washington Post, or, assuming you can obtain the necessary academic credentials, you could find employment in one of our many fine foreign-policy think-tanks'
There is another type of 'disability' that qualifies you for those sinecures. Bill Kristol has it worse than anyone, and blow me down if he hasn't just washed up on the upper decks of the Grey Lady.
The two disabilities in fact have dovetailed quite nicely for sufferers in recent years, and having both was handsomely rewarded, but that time is coming to an end, you feel, and those with an eye for the main chance will have to choose one or the other. 'Advancing America's interests' is going to be hard sell for at least one of them, which is why Kristol joins the heavy artillery, the industrial strength persuasion machine at the Times.
Of course, not having contracted either of these diabilities, a la Ron Paul, is still unfortunately a guarantee of official irrelevance.