Saturday, June 23, 2012

ROMNEY DISSES HISPANICS; LEAKS OF SECRETS DO NO HARM

Romney Disses Hispanics: Children of Illegal Immigrants Penalized on Path to Citizenship

Romney disrespected many Hispanics when he took a hard line against illegal immigrants. In the Republican primaries, he condemned benefits for them and their children, and endorsed “self-deportation.” Now, as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate, he continues the disrespect. Recently, he did so with a proposal responding to Obama’s decision not to deport those who came to America as children of illegal immigrants. Aside from vague assurances about long-term solutions and “civil” and “bipartisan” approaches, Romney suggested that he would support citizenship for these children if they first served in the military.

This proposal, clearly intended to serve political purposes, fails to make moral or practical sense because Romney is playing politics with it. He cannot appear to his conservative base to give anything to those illegally resident, so he requires something of them. He proposes to penalize Hispanic children who are innocent of any illegal act. Punishing the children of lawbreakers would be morally unacceptable under most conditions. For Romney, political expediency trumps ordinary moral standards.

Even so, given Republican claims that illegal Hispanic immigrants displace American citizens from jobs, Romney’s proposal is counter-productive. If Romney were able to implement it—he often talks as if he, if he were president, can effect things without benefit of Congress; that is, he talks as if he were a corporate executive, not a president—he would require 800,000 Hispanics to enter the military services. If the military services could absorb these recruits, they would displace many American citizens for whom voluntary military service is a chance for a career or self-improvement before post-military education and employment. Ironically, Romney’s proposal would deny many in his conservative base the opportunity for military service.

And the proposal is impractical. The military services would be unable to absorb so many recruits. First, need fewer new recruits. Reductions in force will continue to take place as foreign wars wind down. Re-enlistments will be high when unemployment is high in an unsteady, slowly recovering economy. Second, as with any population, many of these Hispanics would be disqualified from duty. The disqualifications are numerous and include educational, intellectual, or physical deficits; occupational exemption; health or handicap; or other reason. Some would serve, some would not; if not all, why any?

Romney’s proposal calls into question his mastery of the issues and his competence as a manager. Illegal immigration by large numbers of Hispanics is not a new issue, and many presidential and congressional proposals have addressed it. Romney has had time to educate himself on the issue and to analyze and evaluate proposals addressing it. But he has not done so, apparently not even his proposal, as its numerous flaws indicate.

Worse, this failure suggests that he cannot manage a staff to do its job of preparing him on an issue which everyone understands is a complex, sensitive, and important one. If he cannot manage a staff to prepare him on this long-standing issue of some urgency to his campaign, he probably cannot manage a staff to prepare him on any other issue, much less those with short fuses, in his presidency.

Thus, as this disrespectful, ill-conceived proposal suggests, Romney makes snap decisions to serve tactical political needs, not to make them on the basis of a strategy, a policy, or principles. Indeed, his flip-flopping between his views as governor and his views in the current campaign, and between his views in the primaries and in the presidential race, suggest a propensity to make politically impromptu decisions—not the hallmark of an informed, competent manager.



Leaks of Classified Information Are Threats in Politics, not to National Security

In the context of expressions of outrage at recent security leaks, let me make a few remarks having little to do with the possible politics involved, except to say, that, one, presidents and other administration officials of both parties leak classified information as a matter of political expediency and, two, such leaks do virtually no damage to national security. Indeed, senatorial blowhards of both parties now decrying such leaks are players in the political game of leaks only to show how much they really, really, care about the security of the United States of America. Let me answer the question “why” so little damage results, which no one seems to have asked.

Let me begin by disclosing a “SECRET” which had White House distribution during the Vietnam War. The definition of “SECRET” information indicates the seriousness of this disclosure: information the disclosure of which would threaten “serious damage” to the security of the United States. My “SECRET”: “The U Dong VC battalion attended a wedding.” Someone classified this message which contained no military information, identified neither a source nor a site of collection, and revealed no method of collection. When this cable crossed my desk and was my only information for the day’s intelligence briefing, my only question was whether the U.S. was thereby invited to send a wedding gift! Bet Lyndon and Lady Bird stayed up all night trying to decide on a suitable gift before giving up and turning the issue over to Dean Rusk at the State Department!

At most, the disclosure, if known to the VC, would have told them that someone somewhere knew about a wedding which some of its VC forces attended. Imagine their dismay to learn that people were gossiping about a public event! Imagine their response to learning that our knowledge of this gossip jeopardized our troops!

Most of what I saw in my time in military intelligence—excuse the oxymoron—at both Army and field levels was drivel. At the Army level, much highly classified material was available in the public media; the only difference between open publication and classified material was acknowledgment of government knowledge of the facts. At the field level, much of the classified material was just drivel masquerading as something important or as evidence of work being done. The old joke, told to newbies with a straight face by experienced analysts, was that they could tell the difference between CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET, and between SECRET and TOP SECRET, but not between TOP SECRET and UNCLASSIFIED.

In the case of drone or cyber attacks, our enemies either know or suspect but, in either case, anticipate such attacks. Al Qaeda did not have direct knowledge of NSA’s ability to tap cell phones anywhere in the world, but it acted as if it did and thus relied on couriers—the source of “actionable intelligence” which resulted in Bin Laden’s detection and death. Does anyone really think that the Al Qaeda and the Pakistanis do not know that drones are attacking them? Does anyone really think that Iranians smart enough to develop a nuclear program and to bury its facilities underground do not imagine that their enemies might use cyber attacks to impair their efforts? Really, does a belief in American exceptionalism imply a belief that all others are too stupid to know what is or could be happening to them? In short, the primary non-security purpose of much classified information is to keep the American people ignorant of what its government is doing in its name and to thereby exclude them from expressing their views through their elected representatives in its decision-making process.

But no one should conclude that all classified information is devoid of sense or seriousness, and without great value. From both my military and my defense consulting experience, I know that some is truly critical. But a government official never leaks such critical information to the press. Instead, what he or she leaks is information of political importance, without bearing on national security. Of course, he or she may sell critical information bearing on national security to an adversary, but, if so, he or she does not want that information made public, not only to avoid arrest, but also to increase its value to the buyer. For part of that value to the buyer is that the government does not know that its critical secrets have been compromised.

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