By Fareed Zakaria
“If the White House and the Department of Defense really want the United States to focus more on the Asia-Pacific region, as they claim to, then it makes sense to shift resources toward maritime forces,” writes Cindy Williams in Foreign Affairs. “Wars in that region are more likely to be fought at sea than on land. Moreover, if the United States is planning to avoid future stability and counterinsurgency operations, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, which require large numbers of boots on the ground over multiple rotations, then the military will need considerably fewer ground forces. Hagel suggested as much when he reported on the SCMR in July 2013.”
“Yet Hagel may find it difficult to deliver on that recommendation. At least since the 1970s, the Department of Defense has allocated budgets among the armed services according to the same formula every year, with the shares of the budget awarded to the army, the navy, the air force, and the Marine Corps rarely varying by more than one percent from year to year. Changing the mix of forces will be politically daunting.”
“Ironically, the more important the intelligence target, the less experience those analyzing the intelligence actually have,” writes Peter Galbraith in The Guardian. “One reason U.S. intelligence on Iraq was so dramatically wrong before the 2003 war is that the analysts had never been there and therefore had no feel for the country. Intercepts only tell you so much, but because the U.S. government pays so much to get this information, it has a weight in the policy-making process that is often unwarranted.”
“I experienced this firsthand as U.S. ambassador to Croatia during the Croatia and Bosnia wars. At critical junctures in these wars, the CIA misestimated Croatian intentions and capabilities. In making their assessments, CIA analysts relied heavily on the NSA's electronic intercepts, as well as paid spies and other intelligence sources. Of course, I saw this information but I also relied on what Croatian leaders told me and on what I observed on the ground. But because the U.S. government paid billions for its intelligence, I had a hard time persuading Washington that the intelligence was wrong, even when it deviated from common sense.”
“Iraq’s poisonous political culture is eroding the democratic institutions established under the occupation. True, a constitution exists, but Iraq isn’t a constitutional state; parliament passes legislation, but the rule of law is selective; elections are merely a game to divide the spoils between corrupt elites; and the government gets massive profits from oil exports, but fails to provide basic services, while nearly a quarter of Iraqis live in poverty,” argue Ramzy Mardini and Emma Sky in The New York Times.
“An internal balance of power has failed to emerge. Instead, Iraq’s political system favors the prime minister over the legislature, the judiciary and the rest of the political class, and the central government over the regional and provincial governments.”