By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity & Dr. Justin Frank
July 27, 2007
Editor’s Note: As the nation and the world face 18 more months of George W. Bush’s presidency, a chilling prospect is that Bush – confronted with more defeats and reversals – might just “lose it” and undertake even more reckless military adventures.
In this special memorandum, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) collaborated with psychiatrist Justin Frank, author of Bush on the Couch, to assess the potential dangers and possible countermeasures available to constrain Bush:
Recent events have put a great deal more pressure on President George W. Bush, who has shown little regard for the constitutional system bequeathed to us by the Founders. Having bragged about being commander in chief of the “first war of the 21st century,” one he began under false pretenses, success in Iraq is now a pipedream.
The “new” strategy of surging troops in Baghdad has simply wasted more lives and bought some time for the president. His strategy boils down to keeping as many of our soldiers engaged as possible, in order to stave off definitive defeat in Iraq before January 2009.
Bush is commander in chief, but Congress must approve funding for the war, and its patience is running out. The war – and the polls – are going so badly that it is no longer a sure thing that the administration will be able to fund continuance of the war.
There is an outside chance Congress will succeed in forcing a pullout starting in the next several months. What would the president likely do in reaction to that slap in the face?
What would he do if the Resistance succeeded in mounting a large attack on U.S. facilities in the Green Zone or elsewhere in Iraq? How would he react if Israel mounted a preemptive attack on the nuclear-related facilities in Iran and wider war ensued?
The answers to such questions depend on a host of factors for which intelligence analysts use a variety of tools. One such tool involves applying the principles of psychoanalysis to acquire insights into the minds of key leaders, with an eye to facilitating predictions as to how they might react in certain circumstances.
For U.S. intelligence, this common-law marriage of psychoanalysis and intelligence work dates back to the early 1940s, when CIA’s forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services commissioned two studies of Adolf Hitler.
We call such assessments “at-a-distance leader personality assessments.” Many were quite useful. VIPS found the 2004 book Bush on the Couch, by Washington psychiatrist Justin Frank, MD, a very helpful assessment in this genre. We now have two more years of experience of observing Bush closely.
As we watched the pressure build on President Bush, looked toward the additional challenges we expect him to face over the next 18 months, and pondered his tendency to disregard the law and the Constitution, we felt very much in need of professional help in trying to estimate what kinds of decisions he is likely to make.
Dr. Frank, it turned out, had been thinking along the same lines, when we asked to meet with him just three weeks ago. What follows is a collaborative Frank-VIPS effort, with the psychological insights volunteered by Dr. Frank, who shares the imperative we feel to draw on all disciplines to assess what courses of action President George W. Bush is likely to decide upon in reacting to reverse after reverse in the coming months.
Parental discretion advised. The outlook is not only somber but potentially violent—and includes all manner of threats born of George W. Bush’s mental state (as well as the unusual relationship he has with his vice president).
Things are going to hell in a hand basket for this administration, and Bush/Cheney have shown a willingness to act in extra-Constitutional ways, as they see fit.
While Bush and his advisers make a fetish of it, he is nonetheless commander in chief of the armed forces and the question becomes how he might feel justified in using them and is there still any restraining force—any checks on the increasing power of the executive in our three-branch government.
We have a president whose psychological makeup inclines him to do as he pleases. Because Congress has been cowed, and the judiciary stacked with loyalists, he has gotten away with it—so far.
But the polls show growing discontent among the people, especially over the war in Iraq. Congress, too, is starting to challenge the executive, as it should—but slowly, slower than it should. The way things are moving, there is infinite opportunity to diddle and dodge—in effect conducting business pretty much as usual over the next 18 months.
Could Start Another War…
Meanwhile, the president may well feel free to start another war, with little reference to the Congress or the UN, against Iran.
The commander of CENTO forces, Admiral William Fallon is quoted as having said we “will not go to war with Iran on my watch.” Tough words; but should the president order an attack on Iran, chances are Fallon and others will do what they are accustomed to doing, salute smartly and carry out orders, UNLESS they show more regard for the U.S. Constitution than the president does.
There is an orderly remedy written into the Constitution aimed at preventing a president from usurping the power of the people and acting like a king; the process, of course, is impeachment.
The usual focus on impeachment is on abuses of the past, and a compelling case can surely be made. We believe an equally compelling incentive can be seen in looking toward the next 18 months.
In this paper, we are primarily concerned about what future misadventures are likely if this administration is not somehow held to account; that is, if Bush and Cheney are not removed from office.
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