One can hardly turn on the television or log onto the internet these days without hearing some fresh criticism of President Trump and his national security policy from the former Director of Central Intelligence, John Brennan. It is perhaps worth taking a look then, for a moment at least, at Brennan's credentials and his record of public service. If he is to hold himself out as an authority on intelligence and defense, after all, he ought to be able to substantiate his bona fides as an expert in that regard.
First, we should note that Mr. Brennan is not now, nor has he ever been a member of the Clandestine Service in CIA. He is not and never was a spy. He was never an operator of any kind. He never recruited a source. He never ran an operation.
Brennan joined the CIA in 1980 as an analyst, someone who sits behind a desk at Headquarters and writes reports. He functioned in that capacity, with one short stint at the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, until he transitioned to being what amounts to a staff aide and a bureaucrat. He worked desk jobs at Headquarters until he was appointed as Chief of Station in Riyadh by Bill Clinton, a highly controversial appointment, because it is the primary job of a Chief of Station to run operations, and Mr. Brennan knew nothing about that trade. Mr. Brennan was named Chief of Staff largely because he had developed a personal relationship with President Clinton while providing him daily intelligence briefings.
While Mr. Brennan was Chief in Riyadh the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were bombed and 19 American servicemen were killed. The attack was a complete surprise. No warning intelligence was provided by Mr. Brennan's office in advance of the attack. It is worth noting that afterward the practice of appointing non-operational personnel to positions as Chief of Station, briefly adopted by Bill Clinton, was subsequently just as quickly abandoned.
After leaving Riyadh Mr. Brennan returned home to a succession of bureaucratic assignments. These included being chief of staff to the Director of Central Intelligence and serving as the CIA's Executive Director, a position, which is focused purely on administrative and logistical responsibilities and has no operational component whatsoever.
Brennan left CIA in 2005 and went into private industry. When he returned to government service, after serving as an advisor to then candidate Barack Obama, Brennan held a variety of staff positions inside the White House focused on homeland security and counterterrorism. He was named to head CIA by President Obama in 2013 and served in that capacity until 2017.
On Mr. Brennan's watch as a key advisor to President Obama inside the White House and as head of CIA, the United States experienced an almost unparalleled series of foreign policy disasters.
In 2011 President Obama announced a sudden drawdown of US forces in Iraq, which had, after years of bloody fighting crushed a Sunni insurgency, ended a civil war and stabilized that nation. The result was a bloodbath and the ignition of a second Sunni insurgency that tore Iraq apart all over again.
In 2012 President Obama famously dismissed the Islamic State as a "JV" organization, which posed no serious threat to American national security. While we stood by, ISIS took over a massive portion of the land mass of both Syria and Iraq, established an Islamic caliphate and exploded into a worldwide terrorist threat. It took years of protracted warfare to crush the caliphate, and ISIS remains a dangerous organization capable of mounting attacks across the planet.
From 1979 until the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, successive American administrations pursued a policy of containment in regard to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Brennan was one of the key national security personnel in an administration that dismantled that policy and let Iran out of the box. The result has been disaster. Iraq is a veritable puppet state of Iran. Lebanon is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hezbollah. Yemen is in flames. Iranian troops are sitting on Israel's borders, and Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets and missiles capable of hitting every square inch of Israeli territory.
In 2014 the Russians invaded and annexed the Crimea, a large portion of the landmass of the sovereign nation of Crimea. The Obama administration watched and did nothing. The Russians also started a proxy war against what remained of Ukraine, and President Obama and his key advisors refused to offer any meaningful assistance to this threatened, pro-Western nation.
Over a period of years while President Obama was in office, the Chinese declared the South China Sea to be part of their territorial waters and constructed a series of fortified artificial islands to make that claim a reality. The Obama Administration expressed disapproval from the sidelines and otherwise did absolutely nothing to hinder Chinese efforts. The South China Sea is one of the world's most strategic waterways, and Chinese control over it threatens the political and economic stability of a number of key US allies.
Mr. Brennan presents himself in his almost daily television appearances as a seasoned, apolitical intelligence professional with a record of success and keen judgments. He is nothing of the sort. For decades now, he has been a political animal, climbing the ladder in Washington based on associations with key Democratic politicians. Along the way he has become linked with some of the most horrendous foreign policy and national security decisions made in US history. His is a record of failure not success. The higher he has climbed, the more influence he has commanded, the greater the debacles have been.
Mr. Brennan clearly disapproves of President Trump's national security policy. It remains to be seen how all of the current administration's decisions will play out. Based on the record, though, if Brennan thinks President Trump is headed in the wrong direction then maybe we should be encouraged. Maybe the President is on to something.