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The Shadow Government

Wednesday, January 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Foreign Policy has launched an overhauled web site, and one of the features is a blog devoted to center-right analysis of the world and the incoming Administration’s foreign policy, The Shadow Government.

Here are the bios of the contributors. Most of these are not familiar names, but each contributor is an experienced, thoughtful foreign policy professional. This is a very good idea, and I’ll see which of them are willing to do interviews on a regular basis.

Other bloggers at the new site: the estimable Tom Ricks and Dan Drezner.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder reports that Dennis Ross will handle Iran for the new Administration, Richard Holbroke Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, and Richard Haass the Middle East.

All three are experienced professional diplomats, and as with the rest of the president-elect’s national security appointments, reflect a much more serious foreign policy than the presidential campaign implied. The president-elect won’t be headed to unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad any time soon.

As noted below, conservatives concerned with the national security of the United States have much to be thankful for in the early peopling of the new Administration’s senior foreign policy-related posts.

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Netanyahu On Gaza

Wednesday, January 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Benjamin Netanyahu writes in this morning’s WSJ. Closing graphs:

The goal of this mission should be clear: To end the current round of missile attacks and to remove the threat of such attacks in the future. The only cease-fire or diplomatic initiative that should be accepted is one that achieves this dual objective.

If our enemies assumed that the Israeli public would be divided on the eve of an election, they were wrong. When it comes to exercising our most basic right of self-defense, there is no opposition and no coalition. We stand united against Hamas because we know that only by defeating Hamas can we provide security for our people and hope for a future peace.

We fight to defend ourselves, but in so doing we are also fighting a fanatical ideology that seeks to reverse the course of history and throw the civilized world back into a new dark age. The struggle between militant Islam and modernity — whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza — will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

Read the whole thing. I have been trying to book Netanyahu for a few days, and will continue coverage of Israel’s battle with Hamas on today’s program with the more of the serious analysts of the war. Yesterday’s interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is here, and with Robert Kaplan is here.

In Defense of the Panetta Pick

Tuesday, January 6, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA is an amazing though controversial book. I am listening to it again, and recommend the interview I conducted with Weiner from September 2007 as an intro to the book, and as background to the discussion of the selection of Leon Panetta to lead the CIA. Many fans of the CIA blasted Weiner’s book as a one-sided assault on a crucial arm of our national security infrastructure that passed far too quickly over the Agency’s many successes. Others argued that because of the nature of the CIA, the public, and even serious historians like Weiner, will only know about the organization’s failures.

I think the book is an invaluable contribution to the public’s understanding of how the CIA works, and whether or not Weiner got everything right, the lesson is that the CIA has often gotten things wrong and to the great detriment of the country. The intelligence professionals who work there are by-and-large extraordinary public servants, and their patriotism and courage is never adequately conveyed, but their jobs require a near perfection that it is impossible to expect much less demand.

The job of the DCIA is enormously important, and has often been filled by individuals with no background in intelligence or even national security. Sometimes it has been filled by people with such backgrounds but with very little in the way of senior executive experience. Weiner’s book makes clear that a good DCIA will have one essential attribute –access to the president. No matter how experienced in intelligence or management, a DCIA who stays at Langley without ever or even often getting to the president to present the Agency’s findings, warnings and recommendations will be a failed DCIA.

In Panetta’s favor is the likelihood of access and his experience managing the White House under Clinton. Panetta is widely regarded as very smart as well, and widely liked across both parties. Though a liberal, the experience of having skippered a White House staff will have schooled Panetta in the art of getting to the president when it must happen and in the ways of winning internal Executive Branch dust-ups. The Congressional background didn’t help Porter Goss much, but perhaps it will help Panetta keep the budget cutters away.

Panetta’s a patriot, an experienced Washington hand, and close to the president-elect. As with many of the other early appointments on the incoming national security team, conservatives should be asking themselves if they ought not to be thanking their stars that the new team appears very realistic about the world they are being called on to lead and the enemies they will be facing.

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

The Weiner interview and many others with key authors of books central to understanding the national security of the United States are contained in my recent The War Against the West. When I interviewed Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald yesterday and learned he had never read The Looming Tower, I thought to myself that this explains part of his naivete about Hamas –he hasn’t done the basic reading. People who want to understand the war in which we are engaged have to work at it by reading books like Weiner’s, Lawrence Wright’s and the many other titles that are extraordinary efforts at reporting and analysis.

And if you won’t read the books, at least read the conversations with their authors.

The War Against the West

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