Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thomas Fingar cleans the Augean Stables?

I gather these remarks and Q&A by Dr. Thomas Fingar are causing some people to do one of the things he strove to avoid: “bludgeon opponents on issues.”

To put this matter in perspective, the organization that Dr. Finger represents is the one who got it wrong about 9/11 and gave President Bush bad information about Iraq’s WMDs. Fingar seems to have been promoted to clean out these Augean stables. He writes,

“When I accepted this job three and a half years ago, one of my highest priorities was to restore confidence, customer confidence, congressional confidence, the self-confidence of the analysts in our community. We’ve been pretty badly battered, not just by the experiences of 9/11 and the Iraq WMD estimate, but by the way in which the tar brush was so liberally applied to tens of thousands of people who had not been involved in the production of the estimate or involved directly in 9/11-related activities. Morale was pretty low. The gang that can’t shoot straight, the keystone cops, couldn’t connect the dots.

Much of Fingar’s presentation has to do with seeking support so that the next administration won’t try to clean out these stables once again. Incremental changes are okay with Fingar but not anything too extensive.

In terms of strategic thinking, I already encountered most of what Fingar says – from reading various authorities in books and articles. If that was all he provided then we are spending far too much money on his organization. Most of the people I read were operating with no staff at all. But I assume his most useful tasks pertain to events, potential threats, etc that occur day to day. And he didn’t talk much about them.

One set of predictions I’m surprised Fingar made “it is not a good time to live in the Southwest because it runs out of water and looks like the Dust Bowl. It is not a good time to be along the Atlantic seaboard, particularly in the South because of the projected increase and intensity and severity and frequency of severe weather – more hurricanes, more serious storms, and so forth. And kind of practical problems – I think the number is 63 military installations that are in danger of being flooded by storm surges. The number of nuclear power plants that are so similarly vulnerable is almost as high.”

Fingar seems quite up to date on Global Warming theories. I grew up hearing that the least reliable people in the world were weather predictors. I had one relative move away 25 or so years ago because California was going to drop into the sea. Well, sooner or later some of these guys are going to be right. In the meantime I am not planning to move out of Southern California.

What Fingar says about Iran is interesting, not because I haven’t heard it before, I have; but because his presentation suggests that the people he has been presenting this stuff to might believe him. We have controlled the actual making of weapons for the time being; so we’re probably not going to bomb Iran in the next couple of years.

Fingar says some things I’ve read from several sources that are worth repeating: “ . . . over the next 15 years, the West, Europe, in particular, Russia, and the honorary West, Japan, and, oh, by the way, China, which isn’t in the West, have very, very, significant aging of their populations. It is happening in Europe and Japan, Spain, Italy, in particular very, very rapidly, way below replacement levels. China’s decades of one-child policy begins to kick in. And by 2015, 2025, you are looking at a dependency ratio of young productive people to seniors. It begins to approach one to three. That is a pretty heavy burden on economic growth. How do the Europeans sustain the social safety net? . . . Normal answer . . . immigration. Where is it going to come from? Oh, yeah, the ill-educated, the sick, the poor, the benighted. And they are going to go into countries or try to go into countries like most of Europe and Japan that are sort of, on a good day, highly chauvinistic. The doors are not open.

“If you are not born Hungarian of Hungarian parents, you are not Hungarian. And to multiply that example, a tremendous cultural shift here to provide proper care for the senior citizens, maintain economic productivity and growth, provide troops, and preserve the homogeneity of the country. You can’t get there from here. And that is going to happen over the next decade-and-a half. The United states in this actually comes off pretty well –both climate change and demographics – because of our receptivity to immigration. We are just about alone in terms of the highly developed countries that will continue to have demographic growth sufficient to ensure continued economic growth.”

The poorness of the writing of this document doesn’t fill me with confidence about this intelligence agency of ours. They may not be as far from the Keystone Cops as Fingar suggests.

Lawrence Helm

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