Isn't it one of those oxymorons like "jumbo shrimp"? "Military intelligence." While it isn't the sort of thing that leads one to guffaw*, President Bush's selection of Air Force General Michael V. Hayden to lead the Central Intelligence Agency is the sort of thing that must give one pause. OK. It's not entirely fair. General Hayden is probably smarter than anyone I know, myself included, by a long shot. I mean, he's a general in the Air Force, and every time I climb on board a plane, I'm instructed as to how to buckle my seatbelt. I'm sure no one tells him how to do that. So let's not quibble about his intelligence. We might wonder about that of some of the people who are behind his nomination. John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, is quoted as telling White House reporters, "To those who raise a question about the fact that Mike Hayden wears the uniform, and proudly so, of the United States Air Force, I would respond, they should look at the qualifications." This is not a question of the man's sartorial taste. Mr. Negroponte went on to say, "And I think they can also be assured that Mike Hayden is a very, very independent-minded person, blunt-spoken, and who I don't think will have any difficulty whatsoever staking out positions that are independent and response to the needs of our civilian intelligence community." Now when I've heard about people who are "independent-minded" and "blunt-spoken" they're always people who tend to swear a lot. I hope that's not what Mr. Negroponte was referring to. But the problem: "our civilian intelligence community." You see, General Hayden just doesn't get dressed up in a uniform because he likes the style. General Hayden is a member of the United States Air Force. As Mr. Negroponte indicates, the CIA is a civilian agency. So why put a military man in charge of it?
Now, while I don't admit to being an expert on this, isn't there something called the "chain of command"? And isn't the Commander-in-Chief—and I don't mean Geena Davis—the person who is at the top of said chain? Wouldn't that arrangement stifle the independence and bluntness? Certainly, I recognize that one shouldn't tell one's boss that he is a jackass under any circumstances (at least assuming that one wants to keep his or her job), but isn't it the case that military personnel are a heck of a lot better as regards taking orders than, well, civilians? Presumably, heading up a big spy agency would lead you to have to do some rather dodgy things every now and then in order to deal with the people who are more than happy to kill those of us in the U.S. (which is why I, for one, am happy that there are people like General Hayden, who has committed himself to protecting our asses), which might not be in line with the thinking of the guy who is at the Top of the Chain. A civilian might have a better mindset vis-à-vis the so-called "workarounds" when it comes to doing something like that; would a military person be that, um, insubordinate?
There are undoubtedly far more secret agencies than we know about. While the CIA is pretty high profile, and, if Alias is true, has cool industrotech offices in L.A., wouldn't it be better if General Hayden left running the civilian agency to, well, a civilian? Perhaps to a tennis bum, like Robert Culp in I Spy. I'm confident that there are plenty of jobs General Hayden could get that would probably be more helpful though less obvious.
*"Compassionate Conservative" might be, however.