Friday, November 25, 2016

General Disarray And Major Problems

The Trump administration's continuing cartoon cavalcade of crap continues as Dana Priest at the New Yorker gets Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn in the harsh spotlight, and it turns out that hey, there are reasons why the guy's nickname is "Mad Dog".

Flynn broke rules he thought were stupid. He once told me about a period he spent assigned to a C.I.A. station in Iraq, when he would sometimes sneak out of the compound without the “insane” required approval from C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. He had technicians secretly install an Internet connection in his Pentagon office, even though it was forbidden. There was also the time he gave classified information to NATO allies without approval, an incident which prompted an investigation, and a warning from superiors. During his stint as Mullen’s intelligence chief, Flynn would often write “This is bullshit!” in the margins of classified papers he was obliged to pass on to his boss, someone who saw these papers told me.

The greatest accomplishment of Flynn’s military career was revolutionizing the way that the clandestine arm of the military, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), undertook the killing and capture of suspected terrorists and insurgents in war zones. Stanley McChrystal, Flynn’s mentor, had tapped him for the job. They were both part of the self-described “Irish mafia” of officers at the Fort Bragg Army base, in North Carolina. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Flynn ordered JSOC commandos to collect and catalogue data from interrogations, captured electronic equipment, pocket trash—anything that could yield useful information. By analyzing these disparate scraps of intelligence, they were able to discover that Al Qaeda was not a hierarchical group after all but a dynamic network of cells and relationships. As I learned while doing research for my book “Top Secret America,” Flynn and McChrystal dramatically increased the pace of jsoc attacks on enemy hideouts by devising a system in which commandos on missions transferred promising data—cell-phone numbers, meeting locations—to analysts, who could then quickly point them to additional targets to hit. Multiple raids a night became common.

McChrystal, who was appointed to run jsoc in 2003, brought Flynn in as his intelligence chief to help him shake up the organization. Flynn was one of the few high-ranking officers who disdained the Army’s culture of conformity. But McChrystal also knew he had to protect Flynn from that same culture. He “boxed him in,” someone who had worked with both men told me last week, by encouraging Flynn to keep his outbursts in check and surrounding him with subordinates who would challenge the unsubstantiated theories he tended to indulge.

In mid-2007, Flynn returned home with three years of JSOC secrets in his head. He had witnessed close-quarters combat and killings. He had helped load the bodies of dead and wounded Seal Team 6 and Delta Force warriors into evacuation helicopters. Like his comrades, he had spent twenty hours a day, seven days a week, focused on killing the enemy. Sometimes women and children were killed, too. He wouldn’t even take a break to attend his son’s wedding, a moment of personal sacrifice he mentions often when reflecting on those days.

In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in charge of all military attach├ęs and defense-intelligence collection around the world. He ran into serious trouble almost immediately. I’ve spoken with some two dozen former colleagues who were close to Flynn then, members of the D.I.A. and the military, and some who worked with him in civilian roles. They all like Flynn personally. But they described how he lurched from one priority to another and had trouble building a loyal team. “He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true, like when he asserted that three-quarters of all new cell phones were bought by Africans or, later, that Iran had killed more Americans than Al Qaeda. In private, his staff tried to dissuade him from repeating these lines.

Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.

Flynn had been on the job just eighteen months when James Clapper told him he had to go. Clapper said that he could stay for another nine months, until his successor was vetted and confirmed, according to two people familiar with their conversation. Flynn was livid.

And now this "unconventional operator" is the expert President Trump will turn to when it comes to dealing with ISIS, Syria, Russia, Turkey, and a whole host of national security issues.  If you were hoping for a cooler head to keep Trump in check with realpolitik, well, he picked the Delta Force version of Dr. Strangelove.

A new war isn't just a possibility under Trump, it'll be nearly guaranteed.

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