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In a way, after reading The Sleepwalkers, which is a diplomatic history of the coming of World War I after the assassination of Archdule Franz Ferdinand, I agree on "chaos and incompetence." The book shows, though, very clearly and despite the book's slightly deceptive title, that there were factions on all sides -- who wanted war and fought to achieve it, not least French and Russian factions. In the chaos and incompetence, not that they themselves were especially competent, the pro-war factions won out. The Kagans would have done very well in the Austro-Hungarian context, I am sure.

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Submitted by DCblogger on

As Avedon Carol teaches us, the reason we have the word conspiracy is that sometimes there are conspiracies.

Submitted by lambert on

... see the comment on the Kagans.

However, I was really struck by this paragraph from Orlov:

No doubt, the US would love to counter these moves, but it can't because it doesn't have the talent. Most of the experienced, professional diplomats quit in disgust during Bush Jr.'s reign, when they were forced to continually lie to the whole world about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the diplomatic corps is loaded with incompetents whose only credentials are that they raised lots of money for Obama's election campaigns. At the next changing of the guard they will be replaced with the next crop of amateurs. It is little wonder that they are losing.

But these people are unaccustomed to being defeated, and defeat makes them livid and hysterical, and then they go and wax apoplectic in public, yelling and screeching and spraying saliva.

If you compare the current team at state to Kissinger or James Baker... Not that these two guys weren't evil, Kerry and Kagan and all of 'em are at the checker-playing level. I worry that the market state has so hollowed out basic administrative functions that the State isn't able to maintain its institutional intergrity: ObamaCare and the Snowden theft would make his all of a piece.

And as for chaos, if you buy the idea that we're ruled by sociopaths, well, that's the crazy, isn't it? As in this passage from the Honorable Schoolboy:

'Heavy fighting on all the main highways,' Keller intoned, at near dictation speed. 'Rocket attacks at night, plastics during the day, Lon Nol still thinks he's God and the US Embassy has hot flushes supporting him then trying to throw him out.' He gave statistics, ordnance, casualties, the scale of US aid. He named generals known to be selling American arms to the Khmer Rouge, and generals who ran phantom armies in order to claim the troops' pay, and generals who did both. 'The usual snafu. Bad guys are too weak to take the towns, good guys are too crapped out to take the countryside and nobody wants to fight except the Coms. Students ready to set fire to the place soon as they're no longer exempt from the war, food riots any day now, corruption like there was no tomorrow, no one can live on his salary, fortunes being made and the place bleeding to death. Palace is unreal and the Embassy is a nut-house, more spooks than straight guys and all pretending they've got a secret. Want more?'

'How long do you give it?' 'A week. Ten years.'

I'm not saying conspiracies don't exist, they surely do, as numerous as neutrinos. But they take place in a context of chaos and incompetence, inside and outside.....

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Submitted by DCblogger on

The State Department are all Hillary's people. During the transition the joke was that Obama's supporters got a President and Hillary's supporters got jobs. Obama mostly reappointed Bush's people, except for the State Department, where Hillary made all the picks.

So the Defense Dept are still Bush's people.

Submitted by lambert on

(LeCarre is fiction, but I'm sure the Embassy in Pnonh Penh comes from reportage...)

Also, "A week. Ten years" feels very up to date.