Former Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center: American Policy in the Middle East is Failing Because the U.S. Doesn't Believe in Democracy → Washingtons Blog
Former Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center: American Policy in the Middle East is Failing Because the U.S. Doesn't Believe in Democracy - Washingtons Blog

Monday, January 31, 2011

Former Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center: American Policy in the Middle East is Failing Because the U.S. Doesn't Believe in Democracy

Robert Grenier - a 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, and Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006 - writes today:

Events in the Middle East have slipped away from us. Having long since opted in favour of political stability over the risks and uncertainties of democracy, having told ourselves that the people of the region are not ready to shoulder the burdens of freedom, having stressed that the necessary underpinnings of self-government go well beyond mere elections, suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny.


Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress the protesters' desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the wobbling, repressive governments in the region to "respect civil society", and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform.

They urge calm and restraint. One listens in vain, however, for a ringing endorsement of freedom, or for a statement of encouragement to those willing to risk everything to assert their rights and their human dignity - values which the US nominally regards as universal.


There are two things which must be stressed in this regard.

The first is the extent to which successive US administrations have consistently betrayed a lack of faith in the efficacy of America's democratic creed, the extent to which the US government has denied the essentially moderating influence of democratic accountability to the people, whether in Algeria in 1992 or in Palestine in 2006.

The failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests in peace and stability.


The US's entire frame of reference in the region is hopelessly outdated, and no longer has meaning: As if the street protesters in Tunis and Cairo could possibly care what the US thinks or says; as if the political and economic reform which president Obama stubbornly urges on Mubarak while Cairo burns could possibly satisfy those risking their lives to overcome nearly three decades of his repression; as if the two-state solution in Palestine for which the US has so thoroughly compromised itself, and for whose support the US administration still praises Mubarak, has even the slightest hope of realisation; as if the exercise in brutal and demeaning collective punishment inflicted upon Gaza, and for whose enforcement the US, again, still credits Mubarak could possibly produce a decent or just outcome; as if the US refusal to deal with Hezbollah as anything but a terrorist organisation bore any relation to current political realities in the Levant.

Machiavelli once wrote that princes should see to it that they are either respected or feared; what they must avoid at all cost is to be despised. To have made itself despised as irrelevant: That is the legacy of US faithlessness and wilful blindness in the Middle East.

For background on the America's lack of belief in democracy, see this.

The fact that the former head of counter-terrorism laments America's failure to support democracy in the Middle East proves once again that U.S. policy is not justified by terror concerns.

As I've repeatedly pointed out, stopping terrorism has never been the primary goal of America's policy towards the Middle East. For example, as I noted last year:
Starting right after 9/11 -- at the latest -- the goal has always been to create "regime change" and instability in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and other countries. As American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:
Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith's recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith's account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country's top military leaders.
Feith's book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing "new regimes" in a series of states...
General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].
When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them."
The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to "disrupt, damage or destroy" their military capacities - not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.

As Porter writes:

After the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa [in 1998] by al-Qaeda operatives, State Department counter-terrorism official Michael Sheehan proposed supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against bin Laden's sponsor, the Taliban regime. However, senior US military leaders "refused to consider it", according to a 2004 account by Richard H Shultz, Junior, a military specialist at Tufts University.
A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a "small price to pay for being a superpower".
And recall that former U.S. National Security Adviser (and top foreign policy advisor) Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is "a mythical historical narrative".Indeed, one of the country's top counter-terrorism experts, former number 2 counter-terrorism expert at the State Department (Terry Arnold - who I've interviewed twice), has repeatedly pointed out that bombing civilians in Afghanistan is creating many more terrorists than it is removing.
In fact, the top security experts - conservative hawks and liberal doves alike - agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

I guess Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, a high-level National Security Council officer and others must all have been joking when they said that the Iraq war was really about oil.

And see this.


  1. To what extent this arab uprising spreads, who can tell?
    I find it interesting, however, that whereas so many point to Tunisia, none point to Iran and the abortive rebellion there last year. It seems all but forgotten, yet to think it did not send out those embers of anger, discontent, and inspiration would be a mistake. Clearly the example of these people taking to the streets and facing their own death or beating has sent clear tremors throughout the world.
    Aside from the Tunisian demonstrator who set himself ablaze, there was an incident in India recently involving an Americna Buddhist. There have been others besides, and this in itself is surely a sign that the world as we know it is going through a transformation.
    Another comparison only occassionally made is that with the Soviet Bloc in 1989, yet there is no other clearer precendent but that one.
    The United States is weak. It is bankrupt. It is teetering on the edge of utter ruin both financially and politically. All it has left is it's military, and if the armed forces of Egypt and Tunisia are any example, even that mighty army will find itself overwhelmed by the irresistable course of events.
    Fact or fiction, some might want to pause to reach for their Bibles and re-acquaint themselves with the "last days". There are eiree similarities too obvious to ignore.

  2. Based on the events in my lifetime, the U.S. itself doesn't believe in democracy. How many votes should a corporation get?

  3. For the longest time, America has looked out for her best interests when it comes to foreign relations - and sometimes not supporting democracy in other countries is a by-product. So what do you do when your oil supply is mostly held hostage by oppressive regimes? You run the risk of getting your energy needs cut off if you support any type of coup or uprising. Adding insult to injury, America has kept itself from drilling its own oil at the exact same time. Least to say, we truly have a bunch of morons running the show in DC.

  4. Just as during the Soviet collapse, and the decline of all Empires throughout history, the US is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    The curtain has been peeled back on US economics. It isn't actually advanced, just sophisticated fraud. Much of the transactional justification for many of these puppets ("we must maintain order until we can grow the economy to support a more democratic and representative system") falls on its face. In reality much of their economic policy is exploitation that benefits the US and the regime, but prevents broad-based economic and social development. That's become clear to people now.

  5. Americans take inexpensive food and Democracy for granted; they can’t imagine spending 40% of their income (if they had a job) just for food. The problem of food is not because there is not enough food in the world, but speculation on how much people will pay for it. Who benefited from Egypt’s trillions in oil revenues?

    I think that the desire for Democracy, “government for and by the People”, Freedom and Liberty from oppressors is an innate natural desire of all family oriented human beings and that battle (between Good and Evil) has been going on from the first recordings of history (occidental and oriental) to the present day.

    Really, as common humans, we all just want to be equal and share in the same opportunities that are given to others and share fair distribution of Laws and resources that are common to us all.

    Who needs a dishonest shyster to lie to us, as they steal from us and our children’s children, as they enslave us to them or kill us? The ageless battle goes on between Good and Evil.

    What is honorable and has integrity, is a Democratic government that is fair and honest, whose elected members are sworn into “TRUST”, to act in the People’s wellbeing as their only best interest in servitude to the highest honor privileged to them—Open, Democratic (honest) Public Elected Office.

    Government Free from corruption! Corruption is Treason to the People and is the highest crime against Democracy and is punishable by Death. Hell, Treason is the highest crime in Communism and is punishable by Death.

    Democracy is the great equalizer, the conduit of humanity to make the universal natural human instinct of Good into a world reality; and why not? In America, we have a Democratic choice between Good and Evil, we need only to make the choice and act to make it right!

    Democracy, with self determination and Independence with thought for the wellbeing and the caring for ourselves and the rest of the humans in the world will be the salvation of mankind and for our continuing existence, as specie, as one Free World, into the future. Go Global with Freedom and Democracy!
    To exist as human specie into the future, there must be benevolent humans in control, not insensitive Totalitarian despots to enslave us and lock us down as uneducated animals. Totalitarians are ancient Evil and spread corruption and must be brought to Justice as criminals in a modern peaceful society for us all to survive. There is enough room and food in the world, there is just not enough Justice and respect for humanity.

    Democracy has something to offer for the continuation of mankind, Totalitarian despots and their regimes have only Tyranny, Slavery and Misery to offer to the common person. Bring the despots to Justice and imprison them, not the People.


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