Sunday, July 22, 2012

The State Department and the Muslim Brotherhood

I see the press is reporting a dust-up over Michelle Bachmann's criticism of the influence of Huma Abedin (aka Mrs. Anthony Weiner) at State. Bachmann and others wrote a letter that seems to imply that the recent State slant in favor of the Muslim Bortherhood can be at least partially attributed to the influence that Huma Abedin, one of Clinton's chief aides, has over her boss.

My own best guess, based on 34 years at State, is that the answer is "yes and no."

I think it is a valid question to look into the process of giving Huma Abedin a security clearance. Having gone through the clearance process many, many times, I can assure you that it is a notoriously sloppy and uneven  one.  Certainly Huma Abedin has some issues which a security clearance investigation would need to take seriously. She, for example, lived much of her life in Saudi Arabia and her mother continues to live there. There are allegations that some of her close relatives, including her late father and her Pakistani mother had or have some sort of connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.  I have no idea whether that is true. On the other hand, in her favor, I guess, Abedin has married outside of her faith, to a rather goofy almost Woody Allen-esque half-Jewish politician, no less, and does not seem to be a particularly devout or radical Muslim.

I have no idea how seriously Huma Abedin was investigated before she received a top secret clearance. Given, however, her powerful Washington connections, including her long relationship with the Clintons and with the Democratic machine in Washington and New York, it is probably not unfair to assume that the investigation was slanted in her favor from the start. That does not mean it did not reach a proper conclusion, just that it was unlikely, absent some glaring piece of evidence, to reach any other.

As far I can recollect, I have met Abedin twice, and both times very briefly. In both meetings the only topics of discussion were some technical details about travel by Hillary Clinton to Latin America, and a proposed speech at the Organization of American States (OAS).  Abedin made no particular impression on me; she seemed just another one of the many "high powered" female aides that seem to surround Hillary Clinton and control both access and information to her.  She was pleasant and certainly did not have the faux-intellectual pretensions and arrogance of Clinton's Counselor Cheryl Mills. She merely had limited to no knowledge about Latin American issues, said nothing about the substantive issues, and appeared only concerned about her boss's image and schedule. In other words, she was just another overpaid and typical SecState aide.

While Bachmann, et al, are on to something about the lean towards the Muslim Brotherhood, I think the issue is considerably more serious and more difficult than the possible political leanings of one aide, even a close one.  I have written before about the dominant culture at State, and the general vacuousness and downright ignorance of our current Secretary of State.

A prominent feature of the State Department culture is to suppress bad news. Events must be interpreted, defined, and spun in the most positive way possible before the information moves up the ladder of command. At each step in that ladder, the information is further massaged, reshaped, and bleached; the Secretary must never get bad news, unless there is a solution, or a "deliverable" ready to go. If you send unvarnished, unprocessed, non-massaged bad news to your boss, the reaction is, "Hmm? So it seems, Mr. S. Pants, that you have lost control of your portfolio. Is that true? Are you unable to manage your issues?" People who worked for Stalin would recognize the environment -- well, except for the firing squads.

The Obama-Clinton foreign policy vis-a-vis Egypt and the removal of Mubarak has proven an unmitigated disaster. It is only comparable to Carter's mishandling of the Shah in Iran, and in the long run, might have equally dire consequences. My erstwhile colleagues at State, who so gleefully embraced the "Arab Spring," rooted for the protestors in Tahir Square, and promoted the distancing of the United States from our one true ally in the region, Israel, are now scrambling to "fix things." The best way to "fix" a problem is to deny that it exists; to define the issue in a way that is not at all a problem, but an opportunity!  The removal of Hosni Mubarak has led to what anyone with two-cents worth of brains knew would happen: the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the best organized and hardest working group in Egypt has filled the vacuum. It is perfectly willing to use the instruments of liberal democracy to take power and turn Egypt into another mad Muslim theocracy. For now, the MB must limit itself to the instruments and quasi-language of "liberal democracy" because it fears the Egyptian military, which is not fooled by the MB. The military know that today's MB is just a craftier and even more dangerous version of the old MB.

The folks at State, meanwhile, are busy defining away the problem. The MB's rise to prominence is not a problem! They have shown themselves willing to participate in the electoral process, haven't they?  The head of the MB speaks English and has studied in the US! We can razzle-dazzle him with a visit by our celebrity SecState! The only problem in Egypt is that the conservative military officers are bound and determined to limit the scope of democratic change. We can promote democracy AND get in good with the MB! And you, Madame Secretary, who can resist your charm, your political skills? Those stuffy ol' military officers will just melt with your impeccable pro-democracy logic (and threats), and the MB will realize that we are their friends! It's a win-win!

That State culture, combined with an empty-headed, conceited, celebrity SecState is a formula for disaster. Add in a presumably knowledgable sounding Huma Abedin, who might possibly be inclined in the direction of the MB, and has the Secretary's ear, and we have what we have: the most dangerous situation in the Middle East in over 40 years.

State needs a radical redo, from top to bottom.

10 comments:

  1. Looks like alot of defining, spinning and fixing are getting ready to be blown smooth away. It always amazes me that the players (smartest of the smartest) of these things think they have it ALL under control. We'll see and soon.

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  2. Mr Diplomad: You make a case in this post and in many of yours in the past that the State Department Culture oftentimes (almost always?) produces results which are counter productive to the best interests of the US. Assuming that Romney were to be elected, how would you recommend he go about curing that problem? You have a great blog which I follow regularly and recommend to others.

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  3. I'm with Anonymous on this. Lives there such a person on earth whom you consider possesses the wherewithal and testosterone required to undertake the thankless task of herding the cats making up the DOS?

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  4. "There are allegations that some of her close relatives, including her late father and her Pakistani mother had or have some sort of connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. I have no idea whether that is true. On the other hand, in her favor, I guess, Abedin has married outside of her faith, to a rather goofy almost Woody Allen-esque half-Jewish politician, no less, and does not seem to be a particularly devout or radical Muslim."

    The allegations against Huma Abedin's mother, Saleha Abedin, are solid: she's a leader in the female wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Andrew Bostum has done a comprehensive examination of her at his site: http://goo.gl/uEd2f

    I've no idea what Huma Abedin's views on Islam, sharia, and jihad are, nor what influence she may wield over Lady Macbeth ...er... Secretary Clinton, but I think Reps. Bachmann, Gohmert, and others were well within reason to ask questions.

    Paranoid thought: Huma Abedin married a Jew and appears fairly secular. What if she's a deep-cover plant, a la Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White? The Muslim Brotherhood's long-term goal is the destruction of Western Civilization from within (c.f., the Holy Land Foundation trial), so planting an agent of influence years in advance, just in case she lands a plum position, wouldn't be out of line.

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  5. I say "screw the Middle East" stand by Israel and go all out developing our own natural resources.

    Europe depends heavily on ME oil, let them deal with the mess.

    However, the US needs to make it very clear to Europe the US will stand by Israel.

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  6. Who could take on the destructive culture of the State Dept.? I say Rep. Allen West for Sec. of State in the Romney Admin.

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  7. As a diplobrat of the 50's I see that nothing much has changed. I question the need for a Department of State. Give each despot, tyrant and dictator a red, white and blue cell phone with the White house on the speed dialler. Save Enough money to buy a bunch of drones. Then if they use the phone, send a drone after them.
    Death from the Sky diplomacy.

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  8. The long leftists march through the institutions of the USA has not only staffed them with people who anti-American but also with ignorant twats who are delusional about their intellectual capacity. Now the cover from the press is going away as Alternative Media hoses the forts of feces that they hide behind away.

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  9. What Mrs. Clinton thought as she was being pelted with tomatoes and shoes by Egyptian citizens remains to be said.
    What Mrs. Pelosie thought as she donned a head scarf to meet with Mr. Assad a few years ago and then declared him a reformer (20,000 dead to date) is really beyond me.
    The ineptitude of our gov't continues to amaze.
    I don't have the answers but I think a normal man on the street could do a better job with our money.

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  10. Well, I spent only six years in the State Department, but even in that short time I came to understand that they're spin doctors par excellence.

    Still, I left impressed by the integrity and capability of many members of our Foreign Service. Unfortunately, due to our political system (which, for all its faults, is still better than any other that's been tried), State often ends up as good people being led by donkeys.

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