The past few days have represented a push back against the President’s foreign policy from within the administration as well as a significant change in tone. Three dots present themselves, taken together they represent a significant change in tone, rhetoric, clear push back from Senior Military officials and dark predictions as we, once again, approach 9/11. These, and other recent “leaks” from the military and the intelligence communities represent what appears to be a growing internal disconnect between the administration and those communities.
Dot Number One; Lt. General Michael Flynn, outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in an interview with James Kitfield of Breaking Defense.com used language that must have created some discomfort in the White House as he made a strong argument against the White House’s ongoing contentions that terror was on the decline. Asked about the context of global crises Flynn responded, in part; “What I see each day is the most uncertain, chaotic and confused international environment that I’ve witnessed in my entire career”. (33 years) Asked if Instability will cause crises to escalate he answered; “yes” going on to say that; “the President, I believe, sometimes feels compelled to just do something without first saying ‘Wait! How did this happen? Who made this decision?’”
On the question as to whether we are safer than pre 9/11, Flynn’s answer, during an Aspen Security Conference was, no! Flynn admitted it was a scary thought, going on to point out the growth of terror organizations and the rapid increase in the number of countries that serve as bases of operation. He was asked about a recent statement related to an “ideology of perpetual Jihad”. Flynn agreed responding that “the core ideology and belief system is spreading not shrinking.”
Asked by Kitfield is he ever felt like a “lone voice”, Flynn answered in the affirmative saying; “
I think we collectively felt that way”, as his answer continued the between the lines read was that senior officials simply did not want to hear it.
General Flynn addressed an aggressive, wide ranging, growing threat matrix that did not match the convenient political talking points offered by the administration.
Dot number Two. Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey departing a briefing used some of the strongest rhetoric we’ve seen from this administration. Not so much as a hint of the “man caused disaster” rhetoric related to ISIL, rhetoric that was so prevalent in the early years of the administration. On Syria; “looking at all options”. On the limitations related to airstrikes on ISIS; Secretary Hagel basically fell back on the President’s hard and fast definition of what the limitations were, saying; “the President was very clear on mission creep. And he’s made it very clear that he will not allow that.”
The question was posed regarding an imminent threat from ISIL Hagel was clear; “Well, as to the comment about an imminent threat, I think the evidence is pretty clear … I don’t know any other way to describe it other than barbaric … yes they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.” General Dempsey responding to the same question also made non-typically direct comments: “we’ve gone from a narrow focus on al Qaeda to the recognition that in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and these disenfranchised populations … we see a lack of governance, sanctuary, failed states and declining nationalism … loosely connected groups run from Afghanistan across the Arabian peninsula into Yemen to the Horn of Africa and into North and West Africa.” Dempsey went on to say; “it’s ideological, it’s not political, it’s religious in many cases. So, yes, it’s going to be a very long contest.”
The comment that got the most attention was Hagel saying; “oh, this is beyond anything we’ve seen. so we must prepare for everything and the only way you do that is you take a cold, steely, hard look at it and – and – get ready.”
We’ve not heard anything from the administration to this point in time that was so direct, addressed the religious component of the threat or the growth of the threat. We’ve not heard the administration address the ideology in place. One wonders what Dempsey and Hagel heard in their briefing that preceded meeting with the Press, what motivated such a departure from long standing administration rhetoric?
Dot number three. Lt General Thomas McInerney (ret), appearing on Fox News Saturday disquieted the anchor, Uma Pemmaraju with the serious nature of his tone. McInerney said that in order to address the current threat from ISIS that the U.S.; “should go to DEFCON 1, our highest state of readiness and be prepared as we lead up to 9/11, because we may even see a 9/11/14.”. McInerney went on to address on upcoming book from a major news organization that in his words will be “earth shattering.” McInerney also contended that; ”we may even see a 9/11/14 MH 370 surface again.” McInerney has been a lonely voice in his contention that the missing Malaysian plane ended up in Pakistan and that U.S. intelligence has much more information about MH 370 than we’ve heard about.
If these four gentlemen are to be believed we are: less safe, confused, unsure of the seriousness of our political leadership and generally unaware of the scope of the threats we face! That’s a lot of dots!