Robert Novak reports on a secret dinner meeting on the west coast with Paul Pillar of the CIA telling a group of private citizens just how dreadfully things are going in Iraq. Who is Paul Pillar and what is he up to?
Pillar is a graduate of Dartmouth (Deacon of Powerline’s roommate) who holds a B. Phil from Oxford and a Ph. D. from Princeton. He joined the CIA in 1977, and in 1983 authored Negotiating Peace, which was reviewed in Foreign Affairs as follows:
Most modern wars have ended not in the surrender of one side but through a bargaining process establishing the terms of armistice or peace. The process has been studied, but never so fully as in this book, which draws on many wars from 1812 on and takes most of its illustrations from the recent conflicts in Korea, Algeria and Vietnam.
See also Barbara Walter’s Committing to Peace (p. 13).
His view of terrorism was summed up in an article he wrote for Security Management online in May 2001, called “Is the Terrorist Threat Misunderstood?,” which argues that most terrorist acts are nickel and dime affairs: Terrorism, especially anti-American terrorism, is here to stay.
Pillar’s 2001/2003 Book
Paul R. Pillar identifies the necessary elements of counterterrorist policy, he examines why the United States is a prime terrorist target, and he reveals why the counterterrorist policies that seem strongest are not always the most effective. Chapter 5 examines the widely varying nature of terrorist groups and the policy tools most appropriately applied to them. Chapter 6 focuses on states that sponsor terrorism (including Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba), along with those that enable it to occur (particularly Greece and Pakistan). Pillar examines ways in which the American public’s perspective toward terrorism can actually constrain counterterrorist policy, and he concludes that terrorism cannot be “defeated” only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled.
One of his Amazon reviewers had this to say:
Mr. Pillar explains the methods for answering the terrorist threat and -contrary to what many may think- he relegates military actions to the last place of the list. This book was written before September 11, 2001, but certainly it helps explain why the attacks took place and sets the path to prevent such acts in the future.
Pillar’s Views in Summer 2004
Pillar’s most recent views, outlined in his article “Counterterrorism after Al Qaeda,” in The Washington Quarterly, are illuminating. I will cite three examples.
(1) Pillar apparently believes that we must alter our policy on Israel to succeed with the Muslim world:
Muslims’ attitudes will be shaped more by deeds than by words, however, which means that U.S. policies toward Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular will be especially influential.
(2) Pillar thinks that Iraq is a failure from a counter-terrorism point of view, whether the reconstruction and democratization go well or not. Here’s the damned if you do, damned if you don’t bit:
Even if the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq go well, the fact that this campaign will not bring an end to anti-U.S. terrorist attacks elsewhere might lead many in the United States to question whether the sacrifices made in the name of fighting terrorists had been worthwhile. With so much attention having been paid to state sponsorship of terrorists, and to one (now eliminated) state sponsor in particular, further appeals to make still more sacrifices to defeat disparate and often nameless groups are apt to confuse many U.S. citizens.
More specifically, an unfavorable outcome in Iraq would mean that the Bush administration could face an increase in skepticism about the credibility of warnings concerning threats to U.S. security, including terrorist threats.
(3) I include this last bit because of its oddness, and the fact that it may be revealing of Pillar’s mindset. He argues that counter-terrorism efforts face a budget squeeze in the years ahead, because of the substantial increases in defense and intelligence spending in recent years. This is not a fellow with a positive fram of mind:
The resources devoted to counterterrorist operations may decline not because of a specific decision to reduce them but because any further reductions in spending for national security would reduce funds available for counterterrorism. Recent surges in both defense spending and budget deficits make some such reductions likely during the next several years. Departmental comptrollers seeking to spread the pain of those budget cuts will inflict pain on counterterrorist programs…
Conclusion: stay out of my foxhole
Paul Pillar has a career interest and preference for negotiations as the way to solve conflicts. From his earliest book, he focused on situations where the outcome was not victory. Time and again, he has said that military solutions are not solutions. With regard to Iraq, whether it goes well or poorly, it goes poorly — if terrorism is the question. Clearly Mr. Pillar is not on board with George Bush’s fundamental premises in the Global War on Terror, so it should be no surprise that he is having secret meetings around the country criticizing US policy. Why does this fellow have a job at the CIA?