The Best Defense

Crumpton's greatest hits: North Koreans and porn, Wolfowitz stoned on Iraq, and British spies not as good as they think

There are many memorable lines in Henry Crumpton's new book The Art of Intelligence. Here are some of them:

--"I never met a North Korean diplomat who did not want porn, either for personal use or resale."

--His take on working with the FBI: "This was a tribe that valued oral stories and history. I came from a tribe that treasured the written intelligence report."

--Another difference between the FBI and the CIA was size: "The FBI's New York field officer had more agents than the CIA had operations officers -- for the entire planet."

--On British intelligence: "The British were good, but not as good as they thought or acted. One issue was their failure to realize the growing radical threat within their own borders."

--His reaction to the insistence of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's that the 9/11 attacks had to have been sponsored by a state, and probably by Iraq: "What is he smoking?" 

--One reason we bungled the Iraq war: "Unlike in Afghanistan, we launched a war against the country of Iraq while utterly ignoring our most important ally -- the Iraqi people."  

--An approach to personnel that likely will warm the hearts of Butch Bracknell, Andrew Person, and others who think our current personnel policies screwed up our current wars: "John and I wanted the officers providing HQS support to the field eventually to be assigned to the field themselves. We intentionally devised the personnel system for maximum service to the field. Our ops guys in HQS were supporting our ops guys in the field, and soon their roles would be reversed."

--The message the widow of CIA officer Mike Spann brought to him after Spann was killed during the invasion of Afghanistan: "Mike died doing exactly what he wanted. I am so proud of him. The mission is so important. You cannot waver. You must finish the job. You must not relent." 

Full disclosures: I've never met the guy, but I share a publisher with Mr. Crumpton. And I hope my next book, out this fall, does as well as his -- which I hear is soon to be listed by the New York Times as the no. 2 bestseller in hardcover & electronic nonfiction.


The Best Defense

My new rule for understanding Iraq

There's an old camping rule: Gather as much firewood as you think you will need that night, and then double it, because that's how much you will really need.

I suspect the same rule applies to Iraq in terms of how long it takes for political developments to occur: In Iraq, everything -- good or bad -- takes at least twice as long as you expect, and even longer than you feared. (This thought inspired by watching Kirkuk and Mosul lately. Fallujah, too.)

As for shelling the Green Zone, which happened the other day -- well, that seems almost nostalgic to me.