Mike Flynn and the “Howling Waste”
G. Murphy Donovan
The other day, after another a big jihad kill on the Cote d’Azur, the French Prime Minister, lit a virtual firestorm by claiming that France will have to learn to “live with terrorism.” Indeed, Manuel Walls, like Coco Channel in 1941, even invoked sang froid, the oil of aplomb, to calm the troubled watering holes of Nice.
Difficult as it is to defend Minister Wall’s appeasement, if not collaboration, what he said is not much different than the “long war” babble that has characterized the American jihad debate for decades now.
In short, a “long war” today is any conflict with an unnamed enemy; an ideology unexamined, a conflict not declared, an objective not defined, a cost and body count open-ended, and a duration never to be stipulated. One prescient flag officer characterized the last three decades of American strategic thinking about Muslim small wars as “a howling waste.”
The strategic void is not universal. There is a small coterie of senior soldiers who do have a clue, one of which may be Michael Flynn, a member Donald Trump’s kitchen cabinet or national security brain trust.
LTG Michael T. Flynn, USA Ret.
Flynn originally caught the spotlight as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency where he stepped on one of those political correctness landmines. Flynn believes the Islamist menace, as a priority, is more significant than the Russian, Chinese, or Korean threats.
Indeed, Flynn is one of the few professional intelligence officers to cut through the fog of Obama era apologetics and tighten the focus on the war we are fighting, not wars we might fight.
Beyond candor, Flynn, like Stanley McChrystal, probably stepped on another Obama era apologist too; John Kerry, Ash Carter, Jim Clapper, or John Brennan are the usual suspects. Stanley McChrystal, and then Flynn, were bounced from team Obama because they were two, of a very few, to suggest that the American national security crew, including a naïve president, didn’t have a clue about threat prioritization.
Here’s what Flynn understands that team Obama is loath to admit. Threat is a function of two conditions, capability and intentions. Withal, there are two subsets of national security threat, existential and budget.
An existential menace is an active threat; anything that shoots, explodes, or kills. Islamism, terror, Muslim small wars, and jihad are examples. An existential threat is any ideology, culture, or activity that inspires, kills, or draws real blood in real time.
The existential threat of Muslim jihad is crystal clear now by virtue of both declared intentions and barbaric deed. The Islamist kills for tactical effect and strategic purpose. Jihad strategy is, by any fair evaluation of the evidence, “death to America” – by a thousand cuts.
In contrast, budget threats are passive, capability threats; the often imaginary or frequently inflated threats posed by legacy or latent foes. Russia, China, and North Korea are examples.
Existential threats justify the need for immediate action; fiduciary threat assessments are the boilerplate for every DOD budget. Passive threats, like Russia, rationalize the larger military-industrial complex if you will.
Nuclear capability is often confused with existential threat, although nuclear weapons were only used twice and haven’t killed anyone since 1945.
Potential threats like Moscow and Beijing may serve as shell games, diversions, or strawmen too. With enough propaganda about Russian or Chinese antics, the hope is that no one will notice that DOD, the White House, and America are being humiliated in real wars by Muslim priests, migrant malcontents, 5th columnists, semi-literate hash farmers, and hirsute goat wranglers in pickup trucks.
With Islamists, Shia and Sunni, Americans and Europeans are literally at risk, literally being killed. There’s nothing latent or imaginary about a bullet, truck bomb, exploding airliner, or a severed head.
Still, without Russian and Chinese bogymen, the DOD budget is in peril. Combat inside the Beltway these days, in practice, is about institutional and contractor funding, not necessarily better security or safety for Americans. You could do worse than think of Russian and Chinese phantasms as DOD budget Viagra.
Expanding NATO is just one example of feckless defense spending that does little to stop the spread of terror or win any Muslim small war.
The Russian bear and Chinese dragon, whilst not killing Americans, are made to roar and breathe fire in the hope that prols who pay the bills will not notice any severed heads in the Levant or Sharia rodents eating the Gates of Vienna or gnawing their way through civilization in places like Brussels, Paris, Nice, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Minnesota.
In short, unlike John Brennan at CIA and the fruit salad tacticians and Ken Doll strategists at the Pentagon, chaps like Mike Flynn seem willing to recognoze real-world ideological and real-world existential threats.
Flynn gets threat.
The erstwhile Army general argues that imperial Islam and barbaric Muslim jihadists fight under a religion hijacked by politics; again, clear and present dangers, indeed a global menace. Flynn, unlike John Brennan and David Patraeus, does not rationalize jihad either as “ritual cleansing,” minority crime, or “insurgency” with local motives.
For Flynn, Jihad is global problem; a struggle that requires a declared war, alliances other than a Russophobic EU or NATO, and a strategy more potent than apology and appeasement.
Not to put words in his mouth, but General Flynn is probably too polite to say that holding Muslim hands and kissing Arab ass is a piss-poor substitute for intelligent national strategy.
President George W. Bush and Saudi “Ally”
General Flynn seems not to be the guy who worries more about Muslim sensitivities than he does about American lives. Like Donald Trump, Flynn suggests that cooperation with Russia to defeat Islamism might be more prudent and economical than any Cold War remake.
Indeed, new strategy often requires new alliances. Alas, the EU or NATO may be too far gone by now to be effective in the ongoing clash of civilizations. Think of Brexit as an early dose of reality therapy.
Not surprisingly, Flynn was sacked by team Obama for candor. Truth is never a defense when national security is mired in the muck of political correctness. Flynn told Congress that America is not safer today and inferred that the books were being cooked on jihad and Islamism. Flynn is an echo of Stanley McChrystal who was sacked for mocking Joe Biden’s and Richard Holbrooke’s naiveté about the South Asia jihad.
Holbrooke, you may recall, was the State Department egomaniac who mistook the tribes of Afghanistan for the sectarians of Yugoslavia. Holbrooke thought he could jawbone semi-literate Taliban mullahs, anoint them at the baptismal font in Dayton.
It could be speculative at this point, but surely a Trump administration has plans for Mike Flynn. He may not be “in like Flynn,” but he could be the broom for an overdue clean sweep at the Intelligence Community.
Flynn is a pragmatic choice for several reasons beyond resume. He knows the deadwood. He knows where the bodies are buried. He knows the ass kissers and sycophants by name. Surely he has savored the flavor of cooked books. And most significantly, Mike Flynn seems to have the stones to actually speak truth to power for a change.
Truth in the national security community has been AWOL since Saudi Salafists took down the Twin Towers in New York. Guys like Flynn and McChrystal have the potential to resuscitate strategic candor.
If winning is ever to make a comeback, truth is necessary for victory to be sufficient. The elites of Europe and America have lied to themselves and the electorate for too long about Islam. The chickens of Jihad now come home to roost at Christmas parties in California, gay bars in Orlando, the beaches of the Cote d’Azur, and airports everywhere.
Time and the “long war” are not the allies of the naive, the victim, or the timid apologists of Europe or America.