Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"What would I do if I were NSA?" Edition part I.

I.
WHAT IS AN NSA?


A few days ago, the oldman kvetched jokingly that Bush was an evil tyrant intent on taking over the world. Part of that musing included the "The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord" a light hearted look at some suggestions for how to deal with the job of being a cinematic-esque evil genius intent on world domination, and how to avoid common pitfalls to such a career path.

Since that post, a great deal of criticism of Dr. Condoleeza Rice the National Security Adviser (BBC) has emerged especially regarding her testifying before the 911 commission (MSNBC). Despite assurances otherwise, this is undoubtedly a precedent setting event. This is not entirely a bad thing however. As the article notes:

***
Part of the problem, he notes, is that the role of the national security adviser has expanded over time - especially since the Nixon administration, when Henry Kissinger held the position - and become much more public, complicating the rationale that originally supported the adviser's immunity from testimony...

"They are in the foreground, they are issuing orders, making decisions - and giving public statements all the time. And so for the executive branch to take the position that this person can't open his or her mouth without violating executive privilege just seems less and less plausible."

***

If National Security Advisers are out front, giving press briefings, going on talk shows, advocating policies, then they are acting as political officials of the executive branch and deserve a certain degree of public scrutiny. This is not exactly an separation of powers issue since the commission is not an arm of Congress (hat tip to Talking Points Memo).

II.
"IT'S ALIVE!" OR WHO'S TO BLAME,


To put the critcisim of Dr. Rice in perspective, here is a Salon piece from 2000 referring to "Condi" Rice as "Bush's secret weapon". More recently, as Daniel Drezner discusses the National Security Council has fallen into disrepute with blame falling variously to Cheney taking it over, Condi being too weak a NSA to deal with headstrong principals, Bush being asleep at the wheel, etc.

The oldman's reponse to which reason is at fault is "Yes,".

Ultimately the POTUS is responsible as the primary elected executive official. If he's not willing or able for whatever reason to run the national security and foreign policy shop, then it's up to him to select and support an individual who will speak and act on his behalf. Since right now, the division of labor is one part Condeleeza Rice babysitting the Prez and one part Cheney running amok by stepping into the power vacuum then the blame for that falls squarely on GW's shoulders.

For those apologists who suggest a Kerry ticket would be worse as an unknown than another four years of Bush-Cheney, just imagine what things will be like when Rice steps down as she says she wants to, and Colin Powell leaves as he had indicated he probably will in private. Before betting on another four years of Bush, we should ask who is he going to get to replace these two and what the NSC would look like with Cheney and Rumsfeld left unchecked.

If Bush were to either tell Dick to step down on medical grounds "to spend more time with his family," or to stop coming to meetings and play more golf, and replace Rice with someone expected to do the NSA's job, and a moderate like Armitage to replace Powell then I would strongly consider voting for Bush. A few more changes, and that would clinch it for me - especially if he replaced Cheney with somebody like Guiliani as Kelli suggested on Drezner's blog. Even more so if he dumped Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith. Pick Barry McCaffery or even Shinseki for Sec. Def for crying out loud. Somebody. Anybody but a neo-con! (the only exceptions I might take is Robert Kagan or Bill Kristol,).

I am a Republican at heart afterall, but I regard the liklihood of such a last minute Pauline conversion as low. Given how unlikely such a change of heart would be ("I've seen the light! And will be a Pragmatic Republican hence forth, not dividing the nation but appointing competent officials to increase its security and prosperity!") and with the cabinet constructed as it is now, I'd have to say that a Democrat I immensely dislike is better than a Republican likely to run the country into the ground. And truly, I have no love for Kerry.

III.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU DO BETTER?


While we're on the subject of fantasizing about a pragmatic Republican leadership and cabinet, let's continue in this vein and ask just what would the oldman do if he were NSA? Well the first thing would be to hire somebody else to babysit Bush and instead do the NSA's job. What is the NSA's job you ask? To Advise The President On National Security And Foreign Policy, And Carry Out The President's Directives Through Leading The National Security Council. Note, no babysitting in that discussion. The President does not need a friend. The President does not need somebody to "hang with". He can appoint a friend if he feels the need for a buddy. The National Security Adviser's job is forming and executing policies furthering the National Security Interests of the United States of America. That clear enough? Great, let's get to some details now.

Swopa at Needlenose blog has argued that the structure of the Interim government is botched. Additionally, Talking Points Memo among many sources has documented how we have appointed corrupt ineffective schemers to run Iraq, furthermore Iraqis regard the appointed IGC members as useless and corrupt puppets.

So besides putting a lot more time in on the escalating Taiwanese Crisis (Oldman1787), getting more money to Russian nukes (GAO) to get them off the market, focusing on directly targeting Alqueda and bin Ladin, the oldman would do the following regarding the Interim Authority in Iraq:

IV.
The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became NSA #2


Let's first assume we really picked just the wrong guys. My notion is to pick a representative "Senate" or "house of lords" with 100 members from all native parts of Iraqi society - the tribes, a few clerics, high standing women, that's roughly proportional to the demographics of Iraqs (a few Turkmen, etc.).

Their job would be to act as a legislature. Then they set up a series of elections to elect a "house of reps" or "house of commons". The house of commons picks a Prime minister and forms a government by coalition - let's say 60% required.

Veto power would reside in a separate President, with 2/3rd majority in both parts of the bicameral legislature to overcome it. Initially, the appointed head of the US occupation would stand in for the President temporarily.

After the house of commons becomes elected, then they devise an electoral system for the upper house. Then the upper house elects by 2/3rds majority the President.

Then the US head of occupation steps aside.

In the meantime, the US head and eventually PM would propose legislation that would govern Iraq. It's probably the most stable and fair way to do things. It's the elections in the upper house that would be tricky, how to keep it representative. Perhaps like the house of lords, it could remain by fiat or appointment for some time as a hedge against demogogery.

The house of commons would be entirely responsible for writing the constitution, and passing most long term laws. The ruling coalition (60% say) would form the government, and run the bueracracy.

This proposal draws from features in our own government, the British system, and democracies around the world. It includes direct election of representatives, probably on a provincial basis, and the formation of the bureaucratic heads of government based on a coalition system. Party affiliation would not be necessary however, so it wouldn't be how the house of commons was elected. Perhaps a national party electoral system for the upper house or Senate would be appropriate since this would guarantee eventual proportional representation.

The Prime Minister as the head executive figure would be powerful and capable of introducing legislation, but he would be constrained by the formal head of state the President whom the 2/3rds consensus figure in the Senate would guarentee that he would be a moderating force. With the veto requiring two thirds majority in both houses to overcome, this would put the scotch to a Shia theocratic state as long as the minorities stuck together. Indeed, playing the the moderates versus the hardliners among the Shias, the Kurds and Sunnis could get their agendas passed.

The rest of the parlimentarian and legislature rules, as well as sticky questions about Federalism and localism can probably be hashed out through the "House of Commons" and then ratified by 2/3rd majority in the "Senate" or "House of Lords". Hence a Constitution could be formed by the people, for the people, and with the people of Iraq so that it should not perish from this earth. This would be better than the unrepresentative botched job piece of drek that has no popular legitimacy that we currently call the "basic law" or interim Constution (via Needlenose) currently in place.

So that's the first thing (technically second since the first thing I'd do is get someone else to be Bush's buddy) I'd do if I were NSA!

This goes against the grain, since the old Imperial saying goes "Never ask for a job; never refuse one." but heh, this isn't Britain, this is America and certainly the oldman could do a better job than the one Rice has done so far as NSA so Bush White House, consider this the first page of the oldman's application / petittion for the job!

Fire Rice! (and retire Cheney) and hire the Oldman instead!

Do you think that's so farfetched? This is the Bush Admin's idea: Pick a PM but without the support apparatus and using the botched Constitution. Whatever their degrees and credentials, the Bush people haven't delivered the goods.

As for the IGC, we put these fools on the IGC in power, and we need negotiate nothing with them. Better to dissolve them and institute a new body with some genuine representativeness and a phased handover of sovereignty than put into place measures that will produce a corrupt ineffective body of stooges whose inevitable crimes we will be blamed for!!!

The Bush Administration truly has no better ideas, so I figure if we're gonna have any chance at surviving this at all, I volunteer myself to either be NSA or be put in charge of fixing Iraq.

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