Are you down with OSP. Yeah, you know me.
August 5, 2003 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Team B (from Outer Space) Gordon Mitchell, author of Strategic Deception, has recently penned a paper that investigates the process by which decisions about the quality of American intelligence are made. He highlights the role of Team B, a group of far-right conservatives who routinely debated against Team A, usually consisting of mid-level intelligence analysts. These debates were a commonplace during the cold war, and through a series of enthymemetic narratives that altered the conditions of proof, Team B was able to successfully beat Team A (time and time again) and move foreign policy further and further to the right. The cold war ended, and Team B ended with it. But now Team B is back in the form of the OSP, and the same movements are happening, this time challenging and compromising moderate foreign policy, including the more moderate portions of the Bush Doctrine. Is this structural device possibly to blame for the Iraq intel snafu, rather than some overt desire to lie and deceive? Your thoughts?
posted by hank_14 (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
With the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under siege after bruising congressional hearings on botched covert operations, and the Ford administration’s conciliatory policy of détente with the Soviet Union becoming a lightning rod for criticism from right-wing hawks, Ford reshuffled his cabinet on November 3, 1975, appointing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney as Chief of Staff, and George H.W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).

Lordee, but those names look familiar.
posted by SpecialK at 5:51 AM on August 5, 2003

My god, I actually feel somewhat bad for the CIA.

Great analysis. Christ, if we become a nation that has battles on friggin' hunches (which is what I spec when they mention soft data), then we are in for a world of hurt.
posted by Dagobert at 6:29 AM on August 5, 2003

Assuming I'm not the only one who didn't know what enthymemetic narratives were:

Enthymeme \En"thy*meme\, n. [Gr. ?, fr. ? to keep in mind, consider; ? in + ? mind, soul.] (Logic) An argument consisting of only two propositions, an antecedent and consequent deduced from it; a syllogism with one premise omitted; as, We are dependent; therefore we should be humble. Here the major proposition is suppressed. The complete syllogism would be, Dependent creatures should be humble; we are dependent creatures; therefore we should be humble.
posted by ssmith at 6:30 AM on August 5, 2003

Wolfowitz was on Team B too....
posted by gen at 6:56 AM on August 5, 2003

Link is now blocked, redirection limit exceeded. Anyone got a copy to post elsewhere?
posted by nofundy at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2003

works for me.
posted by goethean at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2003

nofundy --
posted by SpecialK at 7:59 AM on August 5, 2003

The kid that wrote the paper deserves an "A." Solid work.

However, it is a paper. It is now posted on the Internet. A few hundred people will read it today. Then it will go away. The problem that it so clearly outlines will not.

What can we, lowly 'Netizens, do to turn this serendipidous link (great post, hank_14) into real action? E-mail the paper to our representatives in congress? To Sen. Joseph Biden? How do we turn the criticism in this paper into accomplishment? I feel a little powerless here.
posted by tomharpel at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2003

I've known Gordon Mitchell for a while now, and I can say he's a very serious scholar (though he does look pretty damn young for his age), so he won't be abandoning the project any time soon, even if the page eventually gets abandoned. He's been looking at how military technology and intelligence has played out in public understanding for a while now, and I really would recommend Strategic Deception, a book length study of claims regarding ballistic missile defense.

As to your questions, I think Biden may be the way to go. He's quick, telegenic, and impressive in his ability to discuss issues on television without the usual pandering simplifications. That's the legislative route. The other option, I think, would be a series of coordinated FOIA requests regarding how the OSP makes decisions and a subsequent place to publicize whatever information garnered by those requests. Any lawyers out there who would know how to do this sort of thing?
posted by hank_14 at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2003

Thanks a bunch SpecialK.

My Mozilla bounced back and forth between 2 redirects several times until I got the "exceeded" message.

Gone to read....
posted by nofundy at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2003

"Is this structural device possibly to blame for the Iraq intel snafu, rather than some overt desire to lie and deceive? Your thoughts?"

Well - every human on the face of the Earth employs, at some level, enthymemetic narratives and it can be close to impossible sometimes to dig deep enough to expose the implicit assumptions which feed those pernicious things.

One of the enthymemes underlying US behavior during the Cold War - assumptions which greatly overstated the military capabilities of the USSR - was partly due, some historians have argued, to the (secret) importation (under Allen Dulles, contravening Truman's direct order) of ex-Nazi intelligence officers - under Richard Gehlen, the SS intel head of Eastern Europe during the war - who overstated the Soviet Union's post WW2 military strength in order (the argument goes) to make themselves - by way of their intel knowledge of Eastern Europe gained during the war - indispensable. In short, they were chiefly interested in saving their skins, in avoiding the Nuremburg Trials; and so they lied, as necessary, to do so.

The currently ascendant Bush administration Neocon axis - Rumsfeld/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Bolton/Feith/Perle (and so on) has strong ties to 1) the defense industry and the privatized defense services industry (Halliburton, Bechtel, etc) 2) The oil and coal industries and 3) The Israeli far right.

One could call these allegiances enthymemetic, I suppose, but can an enthymemetic assumption be conscious? Regardless of any current debating ascendancy of "Team B" over "Team A", "Rebuilding America's Defenses" - as a document and a manifesto (published in 2000 by PNAC) - was under development for the entire 8 years of the Clinton Administrations, and quite outside the official debating framework discussed in the link (as far as I am aware).

In short - even though I'd grant that there are many enthymemetic assumptions which skew the vetting of Intel - I don't think that that tendency was so much in force during the cooking of the Iraq intel. Colin Powell (no liberal, this man) came right out and declared much of the "Intel" he was supposed to cite, as evidence of Iraq's WMD threat, to be crap. And in the context of PNAC's "project" (which dovetails nicely with Zbigniew Brzezinski's "Grand Chessboard" strategy [ "THE GRAND CHESSBOARD - American Primacy And It's Geostrategic Imperatives," Zbigniew Brzezinski, Basic Books, 1997. ] , to blame the cooked Intel on Iraq merely on bad assumptions would to be to focus on the trees while missing the forest.
posted by troutfishing at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2003

One point that appears missing from my (albeit cursory) reading of this:
Does Team B being wrong about the Soviet potential in the 70s and 80s, and apparently being wrong about Iraq now, mean that Team A was right?

Put another way, what did Team A think? It would be interesting to find out if the alternative made more sense. It's not enough to say Team B had the wrong idea; you've got to present a better idea in its place. Team B could have been the best of two bad options. That there is no mention of Team A's findings/suggestions is curious.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2003

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