Personalities matter

At Cal, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand that I was being taught the Marxist version of history.  All I knew is that my love for history was predicated on the power of personalities, while the history they taught at Cal ignored individuals and focused on mass movements that were described in terms of a Marxist economic narrative.

Would England have had a schism from the Catholic Church without Henry VIII’s lust for Anne Boleyn and his belief that she would give him a son?  I doubt it.  Anne Boleyn’s personality played a part in it too.  Things would have turned out differently if she’d just yielded, as her sister had, and become his mistress.

And how about Elizabeth I’s refusal to marry?  Whether she just didn’t want to share power or had a deeper psychological fear of marriage (death by beheading or childbirth), the fact remains that her single status made for an interesting balance of power during her reign — and handed the monarchy over to the Stuart line.  The Stuart line, of course, led to a stubborn Charles I who refused to yield on his royal prerogatives, triggering a revolution — which could be said to have paved the way for our own Revolution.

My examples are from the era of absolute monarchs.  Modern times are no different, though.  Germany was not a totalitarian dictatorship when Hitler entered politics.  His personality and beliefs transformed it into one, and his paranoia and sheer evil made it one of the worst places on earth.

Speaking of paranoia and evil, would a tyrant other than Stalin have murdered 20 million of his own people?  Do mass movements and Marxist economics create killers (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot), or is there a horrible alchemy that brings such individuals to the fore?  I don’t know.  But I do know that different tyrants would have resulted in different tyrannies, with different targets, and different MOs.

I mention all of this because of the Petraeus affair.  Up until six weeks ago, most of the nation, Left and Right, viewed him as a military visionary and a strong, noble hand at the helm of the CIA.  Now, it turns out that his personal failings, his libido and his arrogance, may have contributed to a web of deceit, as well as systemic corruption and antagonism.  Had he been less egotistical, events before, during, and after the Benghazi affair might have played out quite differently.  That is, if he hadn’t had a Sword of Damocles hanging over his head — one he placed there himself through his unethical conduct — and if he’d had better relations with his own people, he might have had more flexibility in dealing with Benghazi, and more incentive to be honest.

Petraeus resignation Open Thread

That’s some big news.  Three days after the President wins reelection, the head of the CIA, who just happened to be on the Benghazi watch, resigns, citing an affair.  That opens the way to a lot of ideas.

I’ll accept that he was indeed having an affair.  Did he resign because he was being blackmailed?  If so, was he being blackmailed by a foreign entity or was the administration blackmailing him to keep quiet about Benghazi?  And if the latter is true, does the fact that he resigned and that he identified the affair mean that he is escaping the administration’s grip and heading towards being a whistle-blower?

These are lovely conspiracy theories without a scintilla of evidence.  I think you should feel free to spin out your own theories.

Blind intelligence

Has the U.S. ever been so clueless as  it is today with respect to events going on in Egypt?

CIA Director Panetta just admitted that he gets his information on Egyptian events from the media, rather than from his own agency. National Intelligence Director Jim Clapper, meanwhile, pontificates about how the Muslim Brotherhood is a largely secular organization, only to be immediately followed by the rapid back-pedaling of his minions.

So, is it fair to blame the CIA for these massive intelligence failures?

What we are seeing is the successful culmination of the witch hunts that have been directed against the CIA post 9/11 by the Democrat Left and their fellow travelers. Remember AG Eric Holder’s crusade to prosecute CIA personnel when the Obama administration came to power?

Were I in the CIA today, I expect that I would be doing everything that I could to take no risks, make no decisions, and effectively do…nothing! And that’s what we have got for national intelligence…a blind nothing.

No, I don’t blame the CIA or any other intelligence agency for these intelligence failures.

Feel safer now?

Administration declares war on the CIA *UPDATED*

First Nancy Pelosi got into a very public battle with the CIA, one that she abruptly dropped.  Now Eric Holder is starting the same war with his announcement that he has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen CIA terror interrogations.

I’ll ask again what I asked before in connection with Nancy Pelosi:  How smart is it to get into a very public shoving match with the keeper of the secrets?  Even though the CIA has been a bit, well, off when it came to predicting events (such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11) and it’s not supposed to operate within American borders, I have no doubt that CIA operatives know where the bodies are buried at home.

So I have to wonder whether, assuming Holder pursues what CIA people will perceive (rightly so) as a politically motivated witch-hunt, we’ll suddenly start seeing a whole bunch of interesting leaks about transcripts and birth certificates and real estate holdings and affaires, stories that will affect all the people in the Obama administration, starting at the top.

All of which is entirely separate from the even greater concern that the CIA, with a hostile government peering over its shoulder, will completely abandon its responsibilities to the American people, as each individual agent does what it takes to insulate himself (or herself) from becoming a political target.

UPDATE:  I’m not the only one thinking along those lines!