08 May 2007

I'll take sour grapes, with a skosh of schadenfreude

In our last post we referred to an impending Cambridge trip. It ended up being positive and productive for a number of reasons. With the help of a professor friend there, we pounded out an idea for a PhD proposal, attended the Intelligence Seminar and listened to a CIA historian, and sat at the high table at Corpus Christi formal hall.

These intelligence seminars are interesting affairs. All in attendance agree to abide by Chatham House rules. Essentially this means that participants can use the information they learn at these seminars (or any other setting where Chatham House rules are invoked), but cannot reveal the source. As a result, we get some fairly interesting bits of information. Since I've already revealed who the source was, I can't really post what he said, other than to say, that the CIA had more things going on in China and Tibet going on in the last 50 years than I would have ever guessed.

During the seminar he also discussed the gross innacuracies of The Good Shepherd and its treatment of what is supposed to be "the untold story of the beginning of the CIA." Sorry to burst the bubble of all you cloak-and-dagger enthusiasts, but that movie is pure fiction. He (the CIA historian) also referred us to a fantastic story about two CIA operatives who were captured by the Chinese in 1973, imprisoned for 20 years undergoing all sorts of deprivations, and finally released, quietly when relations with China "thawed" under Nixon.

There's another interesting dynamic at these meetings. Most of those in attendance have or are working on PhDs, with a few MA students and undergrads kind of in the periphery. Though the invited speaker is a guest, it is a time honored tradition to put hard questions to these speakers. Having been trained in the self-esteem society that is the American education system, it is always a little shocking to hear just about anyone sitting around the large conference table in the hollowed halls of Corpus Christi College take a CIA historian or whoever to task.

While in this seminar, we met and briefly talked to Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper was an erstwhile assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney when Mr. Cheney was White House Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford and later an assistant to Mr. Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush. Prior to the 2004 Presidential election, Mr. Halper co-authored a book critical of the "neoconservative cabal" inhabiting the halls of power in Washington DC. In his own words, his name was "stricken from dinner party lists in DC." That line sounded like it had been repeated not a few times, with great delight.

Now, we don't want to jump to any hasty conclusions, but the schadenfreude that infects Mr. Halper's voice as he talks about the difficulties of his one time Republican colleagues and friends smacks of sour grapes at not having been invited in to government when the Republicans retook the presidency with George W. Bush in 2000. Mr. Halper now hosts a show over at the BBC.

Mr. Halper pointed out, and we found it funny, that Mark Steyn, probably the most consistently funny political writer we read, "stole" his book name, America Alone. He probably wouldn't be pleased to know that Mr. Steyn's book appears #1 on an Amazon search for "americal alone," while his comes in at #6.

We suggest, therefore, that you read Mr. Steyn's column from yesterdays New York Sun about Nicolas Sarkozy's win in the French presidential election (Congrats, Mr. Sarkozy). Good stuff.

Read also John Fund, from the Opinion Journal, about the same thing.

***Update: Also worth reading, a primer on George Tenet's new "slam dunk" of a best seller by the Weekly Standard's William Kristol. Turns out (thanks Marc) the intel about al-Qaeda in Iraq was even better than we thought. Thanks Mr. Tenet for that "inadvertent truth."

Until next time, enjoy.

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