Streetwise Professor

November 13, 2020

Lying As A Substitute For Victory

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:44 pm

My post on the depravity of the Deep State fell rather short of the mark, I fear. In the sense that it underestimated that depravity.

Case in point, “retiring diplomat James Jeffrey” admits that “his team routinely misled senior leaders about troop levels in Syria”:

“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey said in an interview. The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the roughly two hundred troops Trump initially agreed to leave there in 2019. 

. . . .

Officially, Trump last year agreed to keep several hundred U.S. troops — somewhere between 200 and 400, according to varying reports at the time — stationed in northeast Syria to “secure” oil fields held by the United States’ Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS. It is generally accepted that the actual number is now higher than that — anonymous officials put the number at about 900 today — but the precise figure is classified and remains unknown even, it appears, to members of Trump’s administration keen to end the so-called “forever wars.” 

Jeffrey justifies his deception (and that of every deceiver) as “ultimately a success story” because it denied Assad a victory.

Remind me again why Americans should care about what murderer rules Syria. Because only murderers are on offer, and Assad may actually be the best of the lot.

But this end does not justify the means, even if you think Assad is the worst of a bad lot. Not by a long shot. It contravenes the chain of command. It rationalizes lying to the commander in chief in order to substitute subordinates’ judgment to his. It undermines trust within the government. It is a totally poisonous precedent.

For Syria. The bunghole of the Middle East. We have much bigger fish to fry than that, and a national security establishment that is so corrupt that it believes that such duplicity is justified, and presidents who know that they believe that, will be much less able to deal with such greater threats and issues than one in which honesty and trust were honored in the performance, rather than the promise.

When I was in the Naval Academy, the Honor Code was drilled into our heads. Although a lot of the drilling was just peremptory–thou shalt not lie!–there were attempts to explain why it is so important. The one thing that stuck with me was a constant refrain of one of my Plebe Summer firsties, Midshipman Dubberly. Over and over he would go through scenarios–some admittedly corny–in which people died because somebody lied.

Commanders who must make decisions on which lives hang must know the truth. Lies are corrosive directly and indirectly. A commander who is told falsehoods may make decisions that he wouldn’t if he knew the truth. Indirectly, a commander who knows that his subordinates may well be lying routinely will distrust everyone, and will as a result often discount truthful information–and again make misinformed decisions that cost lives.

Yes. You may think that your superior is an idiot, and will not use the information properly. But that is not your call to make. Because you may be the idiot.

I’m not naive. I know lying and dissembling occur. Hell, at the Academy (all Academies, actually) Honor Code violations happen all the time. But that’s no excuse for doing it, let alone for doing it and bragging about it.

Everyone involved in this should be subject to stern discipline. (Yes: I’m not naive: I know that is and ought are different.) Jeffreys is retiring. Fine. Yank his pension.

Those in the military who participated in this deception should be subjected to UCMJ proceedings.

In many ways, this episode (and others that have occurred in recent years) emphasizes the endemic corruption in the upper ranks of the military. It has become an increasingly acute problem, starting (roughly) about 30 years ago and accelerating in particular under Obama. Many current flag officers (who were promoted or primed for such ranks under Obama) clearly believe that they can substitute their judgment for the CinC.

Some of this rot is rooted in politics. But it is also directly traceable to the decades of futile wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the absence of victories, lies became the substitute. There is no substitute for victory? As if: lies do in a pinch.

Everyone in the military knew and knows about the lies. The fact that they were, and are propagated from the highest ranks validates lying right down the chain of command, and produces cynicism. It also causes a sort of Gresham’s Law effect–the bad/corrupt officers drive out the good.

Something similar happened in Vietnam. Then too lies replaced truth in order to camouflage an inconclusive conflict and the inability–likely due to incompetence–of the leadership to devise a winning strategy. And the lies corrupted the entire military, which was only restored (to a large degree) after painstaking efforts in the 1980s.

And the rock has rolled back down the hill. Further than it was in 1973.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I decided to leave the Navy in 1979 was precisely because I saw a dispirited and dysfunctional service.

It could well be the case that the situation is worse now than it was in say, 1973, when the US left Vietnam. We have been involved in Afghanistan and Iraq for far longer. The strategic rationales are far thinner now than they were in the 60s and 70s. The military has been even more politicized.

So when the likes of James Jeffrey is proud of lying, and brags about it because in his unelected, unaccountable mind the ends justify the means, you know that we are in dire straits.

But some people think it’s hilarious. Better than N20!:

Oh yeah. I’m just doubled over with laughter.

The egregious Mz. Shy–not even an American, mind you–later backtracked, claiming it was all a big misunderstanding!, and besides, anyways, it’s Trump’s fault (of course!):

I called bullshit. She got caught, but won’t own it.

But that’s apropos. She’s lying. She thinks lying is great–as long as they own Trump.

I don’t think it’s great. It’s a sign of how degraded the entire establishment–the worst elite ever, civilian and military–has become.

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  1. That a “diplomat” or military figure would admit this is amazing. Seriously, they are admitting to lying about troop levels. I personally think that this moron is just boasting to bolster his anti-Trump credentials but it is pathetic nonetheless.

    The American people should not tolerate such nonsense.

    Comment by mark — November 13, 2020 @ 8:37 pm

  2. Now that we know the deep state is a ‘thing’, it would be interesting to know more about it – personnel, how it selects recruits, how it operates, how it enforces discipline, and most importantly who it answers to and what its goals are.

    But rather than get any of this information, I suspect we’re just going to get the usual ‘hahaha you’re dreaming nothing to see here’ gaslighting, and then ‘sly’ laughter from insiders whenever one of these unmentionables* admits pulling a fast one on us.

    It used to be, according to the aphorism, that diplomats went abroad to lie for their country. Now, apparently, they stay at home and lie TO their country.

    I once told a tutorial of sleepy undergrads that in my opinion the principal-agent problem was responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s problems. It’s just a rough guess, and I left a 10 per cent buffer to make allowance for other things such as natural stupidity and natural disasters. But after reading this sort of thing I’m tempted to move the estimate closer to 99 per cent.

    [*You know the word I’m thinking of]

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 13, 2020 @ 10:04 pm

  3. A quick addendum – I am really, really sick and tired of being obliged to pay the taxes that fund this criminality.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 13, 2020 @ 10:06 pm

  4. And what is the point of these lies? Even assuming that overthrowing Assad is good thing, American military presence will do nothing serious to achieve this. Assad already won in fact! These bureaucrats are engaging in deception to support useless policies. They are just guided by inertion

    Comment by mmt — November 14, 2020 @ 3:42 am

  5. The manpower, armaments, logistics and annual defence budget should result in an army capable of winning any conflict anywhere in the world as easily as swatting a fly.

    The endless failure to do so indicate that the whole bloated structure is incompetent and unfit for purpose.

    The non-military machinations and treachery of the likes of Kelly, Mattis, McMaster, Vindman (both of them) and Bradley Manning confirms the institutionalised dishonesty from top to bottom.

    Comment by John Lewis — November 14, 2020 @ 5:13 am

  6. As my previous post may be rejected for naming he or is it she who must not be named can I add my utter despair at a so-called army that provides gender reassignment surgery for its fighting ……. things.

    Comment by John Lewis — November 14, 2020 @ 5:16 am

  7. Wow!

    The mods are sensitive about replies to this one!

    Comment by John Lewis — November 14, 2020 @ 5:18 am

  8. I was astonished when saw it at gatewaypundit. They not only NOT hiding their treasonous behavior, but are proud of it.
    Here’s another one that needs to be stripped of all those bright tchotchkes on his chest:

    Comment by Tatyana — November 14, 2020 @ 8:04 am

  9. Things like this and the election in general help open the eyes of millions. Just as no honest and intelligent person can deny that the MSM is a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, the existence of The Deep State can no longer be seriously disputed. We are in a 1989 moment; liberals are rapidly running out of people to lie to.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 8:06 am

  10. On parallels with 1989:

    Yeah, Orlov is a bit of a Team Russia tool, but he’s a useful counterweight to Team America tools. America will rise from the ashes, but we need to be prepared and have a realistic understanding of things.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 8:20 am

  11. I am in (rare) agreement with the prof. Lying to your CinC is a reason to be summoned to court, not a matter to laugh about. This is not a partisan matter.

    For me – and I believe for many people my age – the “original sin” was the disaster that was the Iraq war and the planted stories about WMDs. Who did the lying? The security agencies? Did Bush know it was all BS? FWIW, I think it was Cheney/Rumsfeld that lied to Bush to get what they wanted.

    Comment by [email protected] — November 14, 2020 @ 9:02 am

  12. @8

    That’s right, Bush’s government used lies to launch the Iraq war. And who facilitated those lies and supported that war? The Democrat “opposition” and MSM. In other words, the Deep State’s handmaidens. Maybe it helps you sleep better to think it was simply a few individual miscreants (e.g. the boogeyman Cheney) but in reality the rot of the system goes to the core.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 9:22 am

  13. @9 How did the Democrat opposition facilitate the lying that was going on at Cabinet level?

    Not trolling genuinely asking why you say that (that they supported the war I agree, but were they merely relying on false information or complicit?)

    Comment by [email protected] — November 14, 2020 @ 9:32 am

  14. @10

    They (and the media) facilitated the lying by not asking any kind of hard questions about the administration’s claims, which skeptics in the non-mainstream media (the “alt-media” as it was in 2003) were convincingly doing. They completely abdicated their responsibilities to investigate the purported reasons and demand firm evidence for such a serious course of action. They cannot meekly claim that Rumsfeld or Powell gave them bad info, they willingly swallowed it up hook-line-and-sinker. At best, the media lamely saying they just read government press reports they were handed indicates egregious intellectual laziness and vitiates any self-righteous (and self-serving) claims they have to being “independent” watchdogs.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 10:01 am


    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 10:08 am

  16. @11 thanks for the background. I guess in the politically charged climate of the post 9/11 years, you would have to be a very brave politician to not play along. Does not abdicate them but maybe can partly explain it. Kudos to those who asked the tough questions back then! Still, the main responsibility lies with the administration that was in charge at that time.

    Comment by [email protected] — November 14, 2020 @ 10:41 am

  17. @13

    Bush et al. were major war criminals, no question.

    This is the issue with crises, as we’re seeing now (it should be kept in mind that COVID is the Left’s 9-11): states/governments (those are different things, BTW) always try to exploit them to increase their power. No conspiracy theory is needed to explain this, it’s simply a consequence of the nature of the State. Which is why it’s critical to maintain cool heads and not be emotionally cowed into blindly following some “urgent” policy.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 14, 2020 @ 10:53 am

  18. Add a link, lose a comment. Craig? Please? 🙂

    Comment by Pat Frank — November 14, 2020 @ 11:01 pm

  19. Opps. Wrong thread. Never mind. 🙂

    Comment by Pat Frank — November 14, 2020 @ 11:05 pm

  20. Hmm not a great look for either those involved in this deception in the military, or the MSM crowing about it. It does beggar belief that something like this could even occur given the troops presumably would have needed logistical/air support etc, so knowledge of their existence would have been quite widely known. I did comment recently about stuff happening in spite of, rather than because of Trump, given his inability to grapple with (let alone interest in) major strategic/policy issues, coupled with reported inattention and disinterest in reading briefings, a combination which must have been deeply frustrating to many in various arms of government including the military. My view was that they would get on with doing what they had been doing, with perhaps an interpretation of what Trump would likely have instructed, rather than go directly against a publicly stated policy. Crazy.

    Maybe the degree of deepstateyness in the US government amounts to nothing more than this i.e. a few rogue personnel running the odd Ollie North-style off-book programmes, coupled with some people attempting to do the right thing based on what Trump should have said?

    Incidentally I did think the decision to draw down troops to such an extent in Syria was possibly a mistake on the basis that one should never pass up an opportunity to f*ck with your adversaries (to quote Sun Tzu).

    @Ex well if they come calling I’ll be sure to let you. Jobs for the boys and all that.

    Comment by David Mercer — November 15, 2020 @ 8:48 am

  21. Seeing some people sick of paying taxes to fund this sort of stuff. How do we organize and be civilly disobedient? Not paying taxes only works en masse. It’s a Prisoner’s Dilemma problem combined with the Byzantine General’s Problem. If all of us don’t pay, the government collapses. If only one of us doesn’t pay, it doesn’t collapse and we all lose.

    Interesting problem to solve.

    Comment by Jeffrey Carter — November 15, 2020 @ 10:32 pm

  22. Craig, look a bit closer at Jefferys, and what you see is an unreconstructed George W. style neocon, who still thinks, as you once did, that George W’s Iraq war, sold with lies, was a great idea, just poorly executed. He simply has not yet come to the realization, as you did in 2016, that imposing US will on populations that don’t want to conform, is a fool’s game.

    And just you watch, it won’t be long before the George W. style “Never Trump” neocons start migrating back to their natural home in the Republican Party.

    Comment by rkka — November 16, 2020 @ 7:32 am

  23. @13

    “thanks for the background. I guess in the politically charged climate of the post 9/11 years, you would have to be a very brave politician to not play along. Does not abdicate them but maybe can partly explain it. Kudos to those who asked the tough questions back then! Still, the main responsibility lies with the administration that was in charge at that time.”

    In 2002, the administration fostered the atmosphere of the Nurnburg Rally, the major print & electronic media were chanting the administration line in unison, and most members of the ‘opposition’ party in the House & Senate were falling over themselves to line up behind George W.

    To me, the credibility of precisely none of these institutions has recovered in the least.

    Comment by rkka — November 16, 2020 @ 7:39 am

  24. @ 17

    “Incidentally I did think the decision to draw down troops to such an extent in Syria was possibly a mistake on the basis that one should never pass up an opportunity to f*ck with your adversaries (to quote Sun Tzu)”

    The only people Jeffreys’ policy really fucks with is Syrians. What did they ever do to you?

    I mean, Assad was even an anti-Socialist economic reformer, and spent far more time in the west than with Russia, until 2012.

    Comment by rkka — November 16, 2020 @ 8:23 am

  25. what is the purpose of those forces, it’s not really about islamic state, their forces are more arrayed in west africa and other places, it’s more about protecting al queda, the late al masri, (pbuh) was traveling from iran to syria, he was married to the wife of a nusra front commander, mabruk, who bit the dirt in 2016, at least this what we infer, there isn’t really good information on what he has been doing since 2015 when he was freed from iran, as part of a exchange with a diplomat

    Comment by miguel cervantes — November 16, 2020 @ 10:32 am

  26. From the Khanate of Airstrip One:

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 17, 2020 @ 8:07 am

  27. Is there anyone creepier than Gavin Newsome?

    I can’t think of a better example of how deranged the inbreeding of the US political class has become.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 17, 2020 @ 5:19 pm

  28. @ 21 “The only people Jeffreys’ policy really fucks with is Syrians. What did they ever do to you?”

    Myopic comment. The country is replete with your/our adversaries – Iran, Russia, AQ, Turkey (ish). Lots of fun to be had (e.g. brawling with Russian conscripts) at minimal risk, camping out just over the Iraqi border. What’s not to like?

    Comment by David Mercer — November 18, 2020 @ 7:03 am

  29. Heroic Danes:

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 18, 2020 @ 7:21 am

  30. Is this place now a proxy sandbox for british subjects to get into bar fights re: OUR life?

    Achtung-achtung: there WERE WMD in Iraq. If they were not found doesn’t mean they were not there- merely that they were removed in time& remember those unexplained Russian caravans to Syria? And that we (US) killed Russian military and tracks on the way there?
    The II Iraq war was not only justified, it was the only solution to keep you breathing, you ignorant ungrateful cowards. Now bugger off.

    Comment by Tatyana — November 18, 2020 @ 7:42 am

  31. @ Tatyana – epic snowflakery and batshittery in that post. Well done, although you could try posting to the correct thread.

    Maybe you ought to find another safe space if you can’t stand the sight of uncomfortable words on a screen?

    Comment by David Mercer — November 18, 2020 @ 10:57 am

  32. mercer, why are you still here? do you understand english or you want me to tell you off in russian?

    Comment by Tatyana — November 18, 2020 @ 12:18 pm

  33. Tatyana is hilarious. I want what she is having.

    Tell us about the unexplained Russian caravans to Syria! and tell me how we (US) killed Russian military and tracks on the way there? there where? Why did you kill the tracks? what?

    Comment by [email protected] — November 18, 2020 @ 5:14 pm

  34. and just to clarify, woud Saddam have killed us all – the entire United States – if the U.S. hadn’t marched in? is that what would have happened? I genuinely want to understand what you are trying to say!

    Comment by [email protected] — November 18, 2020 @ 5:17 pm

  35. @John Lewis. It’s the filter. Not the mod. The mod has been working on other stuff 😛

    Comment by cpirrong — November 18, 2020 @ 7:16 pm

  36. Libtard@34:
    here’s a life lesson for you. If you genuinely want to understand an opponent, don’t start with offending him.
    But as you’re a libtard with tongue flapping in the wind and a rotting mash you call a brain, I suspect a lesson will be lost on you.

    Comment by Tatyana — November 19, 2020 @ 6:23 am

  37. Ha don’t be so easily offended. I genuinely want to hear your theory.

    Comment by [email protected] — November 19, 2020 @ 7:08 am

  38. @30 Tatyana

    That’s solid indication that he’s a troll/plant: he can’t keep his bullshit straight.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 19, 2020 @ 7:15 am

  39. Dieselboom, I think we had a very civil discussion early in this thread.

    Comment by [email protected] — November 19, 2020 @ 9:13 am

  40. @38 libte

    I wasn’t referring to you, I was talking about Mercer, who claims to be from the UK but frequently slips in saying “we” when discussing the US.

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 19, 2020 @ 10:12 am

  41. @libte – I must confess I’d never heard that particular conspiracy before. My working assumption was that the WMD had been spirited away by Soros-funded, time-travelling mercenaries from Benghazi who’d been trained by Christopher Steele in the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. Was I wrong? And to think Saddam was literally on the brink of destroying the whole of western civilisation. Scary stuff.

    What is also amusing is that the person who was critical of the US intervention in Iraq was her poster boy Pat Frank. Mind you she(?) was probably too angry to spot that. Oopsy.

    @diesel: Wrong…again! And please don’t tell me you too subscribe to Tatyana’s WMD “theory”?

    Comment by David Mercer — November 19, 2020 @ 1:13 pm

  42. @40 Mercer

    You’re free to look up-thread to infer my position on the Iraq War. (And it’s not really relevant to the comment you’re replying to.)

    Comment by Dieselboom! — November 19, 2020 @ 2:19 pm

  43. I think that Craig and company have the story a bit twisted. Jeffrey did admit to understating troop levels in Syria, and he was a signatory to a never-Trump open letter before the 2016 election, but at the same time he also lauded Trump’s neo-Scowcroftian foreign policy in the Middle East and said that the Biden administration should follow it–pro-“stability” neo-realism–over either Obama or Bush’s more “visionary” strategies.

    His main claim was that he and others were able to talk Trump out of total withdrawal; the exact numbers were a secondary issue: ““When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.””

    Jeffrey in no way is pushing some alleged neocon imperial agenda; rather he favors keeping ISIS and Iran and all the other mutually antagonistic bad actors from overthrowing the existing regimes and creating spillover problems:

    “Jeffrey now says that Trump’s “modest” and transactional approach to the Middle East has yielded a more stable region than either of his predecessors’ more transformational policies. President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech heralding the seismic U.S. intervention into Iraq and President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo proclaiming a “new beginning” with the Muslim world represent an approach to the Middle East that “made things worse” and “weakened us,” Jeffrey said. Trump’s administration, he said, has looked at the Middle East through a geostrategic lens and kept its focus on Iran, Russia, and China, while keeping the metastatic “disease” of Islamist terror in check.

    Jeffrey believes Trump has achieved a kind of political and military “stalemate” in a number of different cold and hot conflicts, producing a situation that is about the best any administration could hope for in such a messy, volatile region.”

    And he even takes on complaints about Trump allowing Iran too much sway in Iraq:
    “In Iraq, Jeffrey credits the Trump administration with maintaining relations with the central government and constraining Iranian influence in Baghdad.

    “Stalemale and blocking advances and containing is not a bad thing,” Jeffrey said. “That’s what powerful countries — France, Britain, the United States — failed to do in the 1930s, and then they discovered they had to fight for their lives in really important places like Paris and the South China Sea and North Africa.”

    “That’s the nature of realpolitik and great power foreign policy.””

    Finally, Jeffrey even defends Trump’s much-criticized public shots at allies:
    “Jeffrey’s is an unorthodox view of Trump’s foreign policy, to be sure. It comes at a moment when most mainstream national security professionals of both parties — including some former members of Trump’s own administration — are openly condemning the president’s handling of America’s military and diplomatic affairs. In particular, critics say the 45th president has damaged American alliances, perhaps irreversibly, with his combative Twitter account and occasionally punitive foreign policy. In one key example, Trump announced a troop withdrawal from Germany because Berlin wasn’t meeting defense spending benchmarks.

    Jeffrey said there’s no question that Trump has demanded a lot of U.S. allies, both in Europe and the Middle East. But he rolls his eyes at the notion that U.S. alliances will crumble under the pressure from the United States to do things like pay more for their own national defense or do more to push back on Iran.

    Far from undermining Middle East allies, Jeffrey said, Trump has sought “to build up our alliance system and basically stop nagging at them, show that Washington has their back including their domestic situations — they can do pretty much what they want, but they’re going to have to step up and do things.””

    Comment by SRP — November 30, 2020 @ 9:41 pm

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