Jeffrey LewisSteve Cambone

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone has been at the center of the Abu Ghraib controversy, basically being accused in Sy Hersh/’s article of running the special access program.

This has led to a minor revival of “how much of a right wing nut is Steve Cambone” stories. For example, Salon carried a quote from a currently serving three-star general who remarked: “If we were being overrun by the enemy and I had only one bullet left, I/’d use it on Cambone.”

I used to work with Steve at CSIS and thought I/’d share my own, meager contribution to this genre. My topic today is a paper Steve wrote at CSIS. His suggestion was that we seriously face the “possibly [sic] the US will find itself in a war against another great power.” (p.2) Suggesting that we ought to prepare, at least in general terms, to fight a “continental sized adversary”, Steve picked out a good one: China. His war plan called for the US to seize and hold “the south coastal regional from Shanghai to Yunnan.” (p.11) . “Toward this end, therefore, the US should seek to deny the central government control over regions/provinces critical to the nation; on the basis of the earlier discussion this would suggest the coastal provinces as the principle target of a military effort …” (p.9)

Yes, he is that crazy.

There are more than 360 million people in the areas Steve wanted to occupy (16 Iraqs, for those keeping score at home). Nevertheless, Steve felt we could fight the war “on terms most advantageous to the US” by “limiting the scope of the conflict” and ensuring that the “US should not allow itself to be drawn into operations in a large number of areas through pursuit of Chinese forces.” I do agree with Steve that 360 million seething Chinese citizens under US occupation would be quite enough and heartily would endorse his recommendation to “avoid deeper entanglement in China” — i.e., with the other 840 million Chinese or, as I like to say, the remaining 30 notional Iraqs.

More difficult to understand, however, is Steve/’s recommendation that the “US ought to seek to limit the number of forces actually committed to combat in China to reduce the overall vulnerability of the force to Chinese offensive action and to limit their liability relative to local populations …” Although I recognize the strange logic to the idea that troops that aren/’t deployed in China can/’t get killed in China, I am not convinced his insight would be appreciated by the poor souls Steve sent to garrison municipalities such as Shanghai (pop. 8.2 million), Guangzhou (3.9 million) or any one of the other dozens of cities in southern China with more than a million people (yes, China has dozens of cities with more than one million people. In fact, 99 of them in 1990).

Re-reading Steve/’s paper, with its sanguine predictions about an occupation of southern China, does seem to shed some light on the Iraq debacle, doesn/’t it?