Just finished a piece which will run next week for my news organization. I love writing. It is relaxing and fun. Writing allows me to organize my thoughts. It is also a means for later evaluation and reflection on my opinion. Was I right or did I err in my thoughts? What adjustments can be made to bring both greater clarity and honesty in future writing?
Enjoy this latest attempt I have made to understand my own thoughts regarding my nation, our intelligence agencies, and their role in foreign policy:
We do not know what is going on behind closed doors. The White House is a gated community. And this is the manner in which it functions best: A gate with the word “trust” emblazoned across it.
But our President is sending out a few public signals. With a Twitter following which has climbed to greater than twenty million, surely more than a few journalists attempt to read the tea leaves. With short-burst messages which generally make an appearance in a series of 2-3 sequential early morning Tweets, Mr. Trump adeptly deploys a social media platform to give hints regarding administrative posture.
What seems glaringly apparent is the war of words regarding our intelligence peacock. Referring to our officers and operatives as “Nazi Germany” (with reference to the Christopher Steele dossier leak) provides the usual Trumpenesque speech. Shock-and-awe. And encased in the skull from which the vocal cords receive their instructions resides a decent cerebral cortex.
We need our intelligence sector. The due diligence is what keeps America safe. Intelligence is a product which moves from raw to refined. American taxpayers pay dearly for the refining process. This product is also shared with foreign member states with whom we maintain special relationships. We pay for it. You get it as a freebie.
But President Trump is, perhaps, bringing a pivotal consideration – one which has been lacking in recent years. Our intelligence agencies are production centers. But they are not the sole owners of product utility. This utility belongs within the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. Perhaps the burning issue which needs to be addressed is thus: An increased dependency upon intelligence data to formulate foreign policy has changed the way America does business in the world. And in some regards it has frayed our foreign policy.
At the end of the day, foreign policy should not succumb to the demands made by the intelligence sector. Foreign policy should set sail on the wings of diplomacy with a keen eye which guides the ship of state through all storms. The Department of State should set the tone. Our foreign policy posture should be one of goodwill toward the people with the necessary firm handshake extended to national leadership. The State Department leads. The agencies watch the State Department’s back.
Decades of increased reliance on intelligence to guide diplomacy has placed us in the category of the neighbor which nobody wants to see coming. We have somewhat become the Neighborhood Watch on steroids. This “pride in ownership” of the intelligence sector has taken us to places where we belong, but also to locales where we were never meant to be. At the end of the day, foreign policy should lie firmly within the purview of the Department of State. This is my humble belief.
Signals intelligence allow us the eye-of-a-fly. Compound information is provided via complex operational grids. On simple scale we have our steadily populating drone arsenal with capabilities which are glimpsed by the public with educational films such as, “Eye in the Sky”. We get a view of a drone bird and a drone locust perched inside the walls of a home. One day soon we will populate the space with drone fruit flies and gnats. That fly buzzing around your slice of papaya might be sizing you up from a research lab in Nevada.
Cyber warfare capabilities must be hardened. To lapse behind any other nation within this operational arena will open our nation to unimaginable crises scenarios. So things must continue along with rapidity and our agencies must continue to function at the highest levels.
With a plethora of information nets at their fingertips, armies of botnets, and digital petri dishes growing out our most lethal viruses, our intelligence agencies remain eager to retain their market share. Information is power. And information presents as one of the most powerful currencies available for global considerations in a dangerous world. America has 17 (it is rumored to now be 18) powerful Panzer divisions. This Wehrmacht is not really that which the POTUS referred to when tweeting about our agencies and comparing them to Nazi Germany. Our Wehrmacht is incredibly more formidable. And for that, many of us remain both grateful and a bit reticent.
The President did make a stop – in delivery man fashion – to Langley on his first full day in office. Today (January21st) he had this to say: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.” Hearty cheers and loud applause ensued. But it just might also be that Mr. Trump wished to send a visual reminder that he is the boss. Trump has a unique style of decimating and then building up. He cuts opponents down in public manner. And then he makes darn sure the same eat out of his hand in public manner. C.I.A. employees may be heartened by the President’s words. But then again, those big hands. With a singular and unique authority, it is he who can both beckon and dismiss.
Will our President come to appreciate the unique gifts of the gods which reside within the talent pools which make up our security net? I believe that he will. From what I can see reflected from the pool – the brief and occasional glimpses afforded a journalist with her contacts – Americans should retain gratitude toward all who have taken the oath. But is it possible that Donald J. Trump will allow foreign policy initiatives to transition smoothly to the international stage with a lesser consideration toward intelligence briefings? Will the interdependency be slightly decreased? And will the Department of State wield greater power to deploy initiatives without an intelligence lid? Time will tell. But I foresee a formidable American President who will rely heavily upon his inner circle for counsel. And I imagine we will see some slight readjustment from an interface to a tandem role for our intelligence agencies regarding foreign policy.