With atrocities committed on a daily basis by Islamic State around the world, either by the terrorist group itself or others swearing allegiance to it, one cannot forget President Barack Obama’s infamous January 2014 assessment.
“If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
What received little focus since Obama offered such a naïve assessment is the intelligence environment fostering it. It is one to which Hillary Clinton, serving as secretary of state, and Susan Rice, serving as Obama’s national security advisor since 2013, have both contributed.
In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a protester holds a placard depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil town, Idlib province, northern Syria, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN)
Turning the spotlight on that environment first requires returning to Obama’s Los Angeles Lakers analogy.
If Obama were coaching the Lakers basketball team today, his focus would be on maximizing team performance. Obviously, Lakers’ owners are interested in one thing and one thing only—winning. Whether it is done with an all-black team, an all-white team or a mix thereof is unimportant. Diversity be damned; the goal is an NBA championship—and, if Coach Obama failed to deliver due to contrary motivations he harbored, he would be fired.
A popular sports blogger has already predicted what the most likely starting five players will be for the post-2016 Lakers. That line-up is all-black.
That said, it is interesting to reflect on comments last May by Rice, who happens to be black, speaking at Florida International University. She criticized the fact national security agencies are too “white, male and Yale.”
Rice reported that minorities compose less than 20 percent of senior diplomats and less than 15 percent of senior military officers and senior intelligence officials. She said such agencies need to better reflect the diversity of America, arguing a dominatingly white line-up creates a “groupthink” environment. Better minority representation, she suggested, would shatter such groupthink.
Playing the race card, Rice labeled those opposing such diversity as “haters” who should be ignored. She warned, “Those voices can be loud. They can be intimidating. They can make us feel like we don’t belong. Let fear be their problem, not yours. Shake it off.”
It is worrisome Rice—encouraged by Obama—suggests priority on placement in the national intelligence arena be given to diversity, without concerns about qualifications.
We are talking about the nation’s security being at risk. Intelligence analyst placement should never be driven with an eye on diversity. The only eye focused on it should be a blind one. Selection has to be based purely on those best qualified to produce. The Lakers would never field anything less; nor should the intelligence community.
It is interesting Rice suggests a white line-up fosters groupthink that fails to question assumptions and thus yield better outcomes. Some of Obama’s former Cabinet members would disagree the president is even open to any debate on issues.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reported Obama always thinks he is the smartest person in the room. The result has been he surrounds himself—much as the late dictator Saddam Hussein did—with “yes” advisors who fully support his decisions.
Another former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (one who quickly incurred Obama’s wrath and had to resign) agrees. Hagel’s refusal to release Guantanamo detainees at a faster pace became a sore point with the president. He accuses the White House of “politically motivated micromanagement” geared to implement Obama’s supposed wisdoms.
Undoubtedly, in January 2014, it was the smartest man in the room who therefore assessed Islamic State was only a jayvee team.
Hillary Clinton also contributed to an ineffective intelligence environment as secretary of state.
The Department of State’s International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) has long existed as an independent sounding board for the secretary on national security matters. Membership is reserved for experts able to obtain appropriate security clearances to advise the secretary on such matters.
It raised eyebrows, therefore, when Rajiv K. Fernando—a financial trader with absolutely no security expertise and lacking necessary clearances—was put on the ISAB by Clinton in July 2011—as a nuclear weapons expert.
Clinton demanded Fernando’s security screening be expedited—a similar demand she made years earlier on behalf of her deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin. Based on Abedin’s considerable ties to the Muslim Brotherhood—an organization Congress now seeks to designate as a terrorist group—her background should have been closely scrutinized.
But, due to Clinton’s demand, it was not.
As ABC News began investigating the matter, it obtained emails ordering Clinton staffers to “stall for 24 hours” (after which Fernando resigned) and “protect the name” of the secretary.
The investigation was triggered by concerned ISAB members questioning Fernando’s credentials as a nuclear weapons expert. One member told ABC, “We had no idea who he was.”
Although Fernando’s membership was short lived, it is unconscionable—at a time discussions with Iran necessitated the critical advice of nuclear weapons experts—Clinton was willing to add someone with none to the ISAB. It is no wonder, with Obama possibly having relied on other nuclear weapons non-experts, such a grossly one-sided nuclear deal favoring Iran was negotiated.
At one point in the investigation, an ABC reporter was threatened with arrest for simply asking Fernando about his appointment during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
During secretary of state confirmation hearing, Clinton promised no Clinton Foundation donor would receive special treatment. Yet, it turns out, Fernando was just such a donor. He is credited with donating between $1-$5 million to the Foundation and tens of thousands to Hillary’s various campaigns.
It has come to light Fernando desperately wanted the appointment, promising to make Hillary “look good” if he got it.
Apparently, just like Obama sought the company of yes advisors, Hillary shared a similar groupthink mentality. It kind of puts the lie to Rice’s assertion of fostering an environment in which assumptions are questioned.
Sadly, the Obama brain trust has done nothing to foster a healthy intelligence-assessing environment. One only wonders if the Lakers’ starting five could have done a better job.
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