Intelligence, Policy, and the War

The most serious problem with U.S. intelligence today is that its relationship with the policymaking process is broken and badly needs repair. In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community’s own work was politicized. As the national intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, I witnessed all of these disturbing developments.

                      —- PAUL R. PILLAR

Concluding a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency, Paul Pillar served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

In a piece published by The Council on Foreign Relations Mr. Pillar goes on to say:

A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept “in his box,” and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors — namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war — or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades.

The intelligence community’s former senior analyst for the Middle East writes that, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration disregarded the community’s expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

This is a poignant, revealing report on the dysfunctional relationship between the intelligence community and the administration and should be read.

It might be helpful to know that, founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is a non-profit and nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to improving the understanding of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs through the free exchange of ideas. Its 3,400 members include nearly all past and present Presidents, Secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury, other senior U.S. government officials, renowned scholars, and major leaders of business, media, human rights, and other non-governmental groups.

Click the headline for the full report.

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