From the perspective of journalism, this Mark Perry piece in Foreign Policy isn’t exactly out of bounds, but there’s chalk on its spikes. It’s about a “red team” intelligence group in U.S. Central Command wrote a deliberately provocative piece thinking through the implications of U.S. military strategy in the Middle East not having anything to do with Hamas and Hezbollah. Those sorts of intellectual provocations are what red cells are for — to challenge leaders’ assumption. At several points in the story, though, Perry treats the red cell’s perspective as the command’s perspective. “CENTCOM’s implicit criticism…” Well, no, stop right there: it’s not CENTCOM’s implicit criticism; it’s the red cell’s implicit criticism.

That said, it does appear from Perry’s report that the command has a certain lack of patience with the pieties and restrictions of the Washington debate on the Middle East. Consider:

In the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said that those on board the Mavi Marmara, the scene of the May 31 showdown between Israeli commandos and largely Turkish activists, had ties to “agents of international terror, international Islam, Hamas, al Qaeda and others.” The same senior officer wasn’t impressed. “Putting Hizballah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in the same sentence, as if they are all the same, is just stupid,” he said. “I don’t know any intelligence officer at CENTCOM who buys that.” Another mid-level SOCOM [Special Operations Command] officer echoed these views: “As the U.S. strategy in the war on terrorism evolves, military planners have come to realize that they are all motivated by different factors, and we need to address this if we are going to effectively prosecute a successful campaign in the Middle East.”

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the officers in SOCOM and CENTCOM aren’t willing to lobotomize themselves. After all, it’s an inevitable consequence of placing Gen. Petraeus, a commander who achieved secular sainthood by challenging received pieties, in command. Subordinates tend to follow their commander’s intent, and that has a tendency to be holistic.

Abe Foxman, we clearly have your next targets. Why don’t you try to hector them until they agree to insult their own intelligence?