Monday, August 28, 2006


Enemies Within

Byron York eulogizes Plamegate at National Review Online, in the wake of confirmation that then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the anonymous source, who started the Perfect Storm of Washington gossip, insider Beltway politics, and partisan media manipulation.

Retelling the saga with the latest revelations added in, York makes a persuasive case for finding equivalence between Lewis Libby and Richard Armitage:

Certainly it appears that no one committed any crimes by revealing Plame’s identity, and one could argue that the Justice Department should not have gone forward with a wide-ranging investigation after it discovered Novak’s sources. But if Fitzgerald was going to indict Libby, then why not Armitage, too?
The answer may lie in the bitter conflict inside the administration over the war in Iraq that is the backdrop to the entire CIA-leak affair. Armitage’s allies have made it clear that they believe Armitage is a “good” leaker while Rove, Libby, and others in the White House are “bad” leakers. We do not know what CIA and State Department officials told Fitzgerald during the investigation, but we do know that fevered imaginings about the terrible acts of the neocon cabal were not the exclusive province of left-wing blogs; they were also present inside the State Department and CIA. Fitzgerald may have chosen the course that he did — appearing to premise his investigation on the conspiracy theorists’ accusations — because he was pointed in that direction by the White House’s enemies inside and outside the administration.

I think much of Washington’s political elites find discussion of “enemies inside…the administration,” discomfiting, and perhaps unbecoming. That’s too bad, given the ordinarily “Entertainment Tonight” sophistication of much of what passes for politics inside the Beltway.

The President’s enemies within the Administration arguably have done him – and our Nation, truth be told -- far greater harm than his political enemies of the opposition party.

I think opposition to the War in Iraq, and for that matter, against any effort we’ve undertaken in the global war on terror, ultimately reveal these rifts within the Administration. It’s like they want us to fail.

In the wake of 9/11, it’s apparent to anybody with any sense that the bureaucracies of our Intelligence Agencies failed our Nation, utterly. We were hamstrung by layers of bureaucratic constraint, Lilliputian in the specifics, but of incredible strength in its whole.

Conceived, architected, and painstakingly constructed by Bureaucratic elites, the Walls of Separation marked the turf between law enforcement and intelligence gathering, between agencies, between the bureaucracies and their elected but figure-headed Civilian Directors and Secretaries. The CIA. Departments of State and Justice. The FBI. Even the Military.

We can blame Nixon era hangovers and Big Brother paranoia for the constraints, but what may have started with good intentions crippled us for the fight to come. Inaction and avoidance, aided and abetted by malfeasance, and ignorance, the bureaucracies grew in power and permanence.

The 9/11 Commission came, and went, carefully avoiding direct responsibility, but largely exonerating the bureaucracies most responsible for the failures in preparation, threat assessment, and counter-terrorism. By avoiding direct criticism, they likewise avoided holding anyone accountable. A great triumph of the bureaucracy.

If 9/11 shook the core of these bureaucracies, they wasted no time shoring up their foundations. And seeing the target of their enmity for the threat he represented.

President Bush, at many turns since 9/11, has challenged the orthodoxies of these bureaucracies. He sees our enemies for who they are, and in so doing, provides a counterpoint to the bureaucracy.

They fought him agency to agency, they leaked politically damaging information, whether classified or not, they actively sought to benefit his political opponents and seek his defeat in re-election.

For President Bush committed the most unforgivable of all Washington sins: he chose to make decisions, big decisions, based on principles and inner conviction, in the face of bureaucracies who long had grown accustomed to unfettered control of their agencies in spite of political leadership.

With friends like these, who needed enemies?

Unfortunately for the people of America, while the bureaucrats sharpened their knives, our real enemies remain undeterred.

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