This Week on the Right | Tom Barry
What’s New | Office of Special Plans, Team B, PNACers in Government, National Strategy Information Center, Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy
Analysis | Right Web’s Intelligence Reformers, Will Dubya Dump Dick?
“Basic Instincts,” Not the Truth
Iraq War Product of Neocon Philosophy of Intelligence
By Tom Barry
(Excerpted from the first of a series of investigative reports on the influence of a web of right-wing organizations and individuals–chiefly associated with the Project for the New American Century–in setting radical new directions in U.S. foreign and military policy. Entire report can be found at: /analysis/2004/0402pi.php .)
In a maddening and bizarre twist of the Iraq invasion scam, the neocons are attempting (and may likely succeed) to have the U.S. intelligence apparatus overhauled–not so that it provides more fact-based intelligence to policymakers but to further decentralize intelligence gathering and to further politicize intelligence.
Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, argues that what counts in intelligence is not so much correct information but basic instincts. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed on the findings of weapons inspector David Kay and the Iraq Survey Team, Schmitt acknowledges that the Bush administration was wrong in making the case that Iraq had an ongoing program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, Schmitt, a longtime critic of the CIA, says that “our basic instincts were sound.” What’s more, he contends, we would risk the country’s security if we backed down now in what President Bush this week called “the war against weapons of mass destruction.”
In other words, our instincts about the intent rather than the actual capacity of countries such as Iran and North Korea should be the true guide for future foreign policy. This is what intelligence reformers and hawks like Schmitt call “strategic intelligence.”
Echoing Schmitt, Frank Gaffney, a protégé of Richard Perle and director of the militarist Center for Security Policy, also seized on the Kay Report as an opportunity to bash the CIA. Gaffney, who recommended that Kay be named new director of central intelligence, has called for the dismissal of CIA director George Tenet. As a moderate conservative and part of the circle of realpolitikers close to the president’s father, Tenet has long been considered by neocons as an obstacle to their designs for reshaping the U.S. intelligence community.
Perle, like Gaffney and Schmitt, believes that the Iraq invasion was the right policy even if the administration’s arguments for the war were based on faulty intelligence. In fact, he uses the Kay Report to underscore his long-running contention that “our intelligence in the gulf has been woefully inadequate”–in a reprise of his past attacks on the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department’s intelligence operations for underestimating threats and having an Arabist prejudice.
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist close neocon political camps both inside and outside the Bush administration, also jumped into the right’s slash-and-burn campaign against the CIA. Like Schmitt, Brooks is an advocate of “strategic intelligence.” He charges that the main problem with U.S. intelligence is not that it cannot get the facts right but that its intelligence gathering “has factored out all those insights that may be the product of an individual’s intuition and imagination.” At the CIA, contends, Brooks, “scientism [is] in full bloom.” Brooks describes scientism as an old-school approach whereby intelligence is obtained through a scientific method that sidelines policy analysis and psychological assessments of foreign regimes as well as a Dostoyevsky-like understanding of the forces of good and evil, crime and punishment.
Setting the Agenda for New Intelligence Paradigm
Two longtime advocates of the type of flexible intelligence operation put in motion by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith are Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt, senior associates at the National Strategy Information Center (NSIC) in the 1990s. In 1996 the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence, a project of the NSIC, produced a report entitled The Future of U.S. Intelligence, whose recommendations prefigured the new forays into intelligence operations by the Pentagon and the vice president’s office. Coauthored by Shulsky and Schmitt, the report argued that the intelligence community should adopt a new methodology aimed at “obtaining information others try to keep secret and penetrating below the ‘surface’ impression created by publicly available information to determine whether an adversary is deceiving us or denying us key information.”
The document recommended the establishment of “competing analytic centers” with “different points of view” that could “provide policymakers better protection against new ‘Pearl Harbors,’ i.e., against being surprised.” Rather than a narrow focus on information collection, “intelligence analysis must … make it more relevant to policymakers by emphasizing the forces that shape a given situation,” the authors contend.
The study’s overall conclusion was that the “future of intelligence” depended on building a new model that would offer “greater flexibility in the collection process” and produce the “big picture” of security threats. Ultimately, Shulsky and Schmitt concluded, the purpose of analysis is to help the policymaker shape the future, not predict it. Intelligence analysis should go beyond simply identifying security threats and assessing the military capabilities of a present or future enemy or a competitor nation; it should be “opportunity analysis” that anticipates chances to advance U.S. interests.
(Tom Barry is Policy Director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC), online at: www.irc-online.org.)
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> The Office of Special Plans was the embodiment of the right’s notion of