While Middle East leaders exhibit a high level of distrust towards Western countries’ officials, the nefarious intent they ascribe to these same western leaders is flawed. In their minds, the west has been conducting a multi year strategy to deliberately destabilize targeted more secular governing, middle east states, in order to expose these same states to continuing conflict for the next 50 years. The goal would be for the west to take over ravaged territories to benefit those states which are friendlier with the west, such as Saudi Arabia (Sunni). Then in return, the west would have easier access to the valuable resource of oil. In addition, while middle east factions are embroiled in never ending civil wars, the middle east countries end up being less focused on harming US allies and friends in the region.
I do not believe for one second that the US purposely set out to cause continuous conflict and chaos with no end in sight, in select Middle East countries. This would not be consistent with our values. What is a much more likely scenario is that US and other western entities were strategizing to expand democracy throughout the middle east. In order to do this, the western powers needed to take advantage of an opportunity and a conducive environment to accomplish this task such as the 2011 Arab uprising throughout the middle east. The west convinced themselves that once democracy took hold to where these same countries became more prosperous and accountable to their citizenry, then they would become more inclined to work with the west.At no time did the west truly comprehend that there were Islamic hard line revolutionary groups also marking time until they perceived a chance to seize power. Having hardliners take charge in these middle east regions was not in the western powers’ best interests, as these same Islamic groups are not disposed to play well with the west. While the 2011 Arab Uprising with probable CIA support, did result in escalating long term conflict and chaos in middle east regions, the US and other western partners’ actions were well intended. Unfortunately, the US tactics were based on faulty intelligence and an unbelievable level of ignorance about the culture, thinking and histories of these countries and their peoples. The current middle east debacle is the result of unintended consequences and it is a perfect example of the saying: “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Still, it is important to understand the middle east perspective and the reasoning behind their distaste for western politics. The territories of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen are examples of an increase in conflict subsequent to the 2011 “Arab Uprising” followed by the ouster of heads of the more secularly run states which were then replaced by more hard line, conservative Islamic politicians.
The author David E. Sanger, writes about his discussion on these issues with Michael Morell, a 33 year, ex CIA high level operator in a 5/13/15 NY Times article. Mr. Morell rebuts in part the above Middle East leaders’ thinking that we deliberately set out to cause continuous civil conflict, throughout the middle east and the following are some excerpts from this interview:
“Mr. (Michael) Morell twice took over as acting C.I.A. director, first when Leon E. Panetta was appointed secretary of defense and then when retired Gen. David H. Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer, a relationship that included his handing her classified notes of his time as America’s best-known military commander.”
Mr. Morell paints a picture of an agency that was struggling, largely unsuccessfully, to understand dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa when the Arab Spring broke out in late 2011 in Tunisia. The agency’s analysts failed to see the forces of revolution coming — and then failed again, he writes, when they told Mr. Obama that the uprisings would undercut Al Qaeda by showing there was a democratic pathway to change.
“There is no good explanation for our not being able to see the pressures growing to dangerous levels across the region,” he writes. The agency had again relied too heavily “on a handful of strong leaders in the countries of concern to help us understand what was going on in the Arab street,” he says, and those leaders themselves were clueless.
Moreover, an agency that has always overvalued secretly gathered intelligence and undervalued “open source” material “was not doing enough to mine the wealth of information available through social media,” he writes. “We thought and told policy makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage Al Qaeda by undermining the group’s narrative,” he writes.
Instead, weak governments in Egypt, and the absence of governance from Libya to Yemen, were “a boon to Islamic extremists across both the Middle East and North Africa.”
The popular conservative radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt published a post on 5/16/15 based on an interview he had with Michael Morell about his book, “The Great War Of Our Time.” The following are a couple excerpts from the interview:
(Hugh Hewitt’s words) “Mr. Morell is gentle about most of the politicians he dealt with — he expresses admiration for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, though he accuses former Vice President Dick Cheney of deliberately implying a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq that the C.I.A. had concluded probably did not exist. But when it comes to the events leading up to the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, he is critical of his own agency.”
(Michael Morell) “You know, and that’s true of almost everybody that we’re talking about here, and I would even put Senator Feinstein in that camp. I think that every single person that I worked with, senior level person, senior policy makers, politicians, presidents, vice presidents, that everybody wanted to do the right thing for the country… One of the reasons I wrote the book is because I wanted people to know that CIA, at least, is an organization that gets many, many, many things right, but it gets some things wrong, like any organization. You know, we’re not perfect, but we’re not horrible..And when something doesn’t go right, it’s not because somebody screwed up on purpose…It’s just because the world is the way the world is.”
NPR’s Rachel Martin did an interview with this same Michael Morell on 5/10/15. It’s a good example of how the CIA could get things wrong and then reap the consequences from the errors. Here are some excerpts:
MARTIN: “Starting with a big one – the flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program that led to the Iraq War. You write in the book that groupthink was part of the problem; others in government have suggested as much. Can you walk us through how that happens, especially in an agency that prides itself on being independent thinkers?”
MORELL: “In the sense of groupthink that I talked about, it was everyone who looked at this issue came to the same conclusion – that he had chemical weapons, that he had a biological weapons production capability and that he was restarting his nuclear weapons program, which we all knew that he once had stopped. So everybody thought it. There were no outliers. There was nobody to raise a question, right. And that’s where the groupthink comes in.”
MARTIN: “But you yourself even had questions in the process. Small details, sentences in reports that you thought I don’t think that’s right, but I’m not going to say anything.”
MORELL: “Right. And that was at the end of the process really. That was when we were prepping Secretary Powell to go out and really tell this story to the American people and to the world that data points we used in the argument didn’t seem to be holding up under the pretty intense questioning by the secretary. But I didn’t say anything because I thought there was a larger set of data there to support it.”
MARTIN: “You write in the book an explicit apology to Colin Powell, the secretary of state at the time, who made the case for war in front of the United Nations. Why did you feel compelled to apologize?”
MORELL: “Because obviously the work of the agency did not meet our high standards, did not meet the standards that the president sets for us, that the American people expect of us. Secretary Powell, in particular, put his own reputation on the line. And so I thought it particularly important that I say something to him directly.”
MARTIN: “Have you ever issued that apology in person, perchance or on the phone?”
MORELL: “I did not issue it in person. I did give the secretary an advance copy of that chapter. He read it. He called me, and he thanked me.”