Monday, February 25, 2013

From a CIA Report: Politicians will be Politicians

Here's a link to a fascinating collection of documents at the CIA website, titled: President Nixon and the Role of Intelligence in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. I just came across it today, and don't know if it's new or not. (At least one of the documents I've seen before, or at any rate the reading of it was total deja vu).

The summary at the top of the collection should be hard-wired on the screens of everyone - pundits, politicians, bloggers, journalists and historians - whoever writes about how their experience so far leads them to assume about what's coming next:

This collection highlights the causes and consequences of US Intelligence Community’s (IC) failure to foresee the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the October War or the Yom Kippur War. A coalition of Arab nations led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 6, the day of Yom Kippur. Prior to October 6, the CIA concluded that the Arabs would not attack, so the offensive surprised US policymakers as well as Israel. Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analysts believed that Arab military inferiority would militate against an attack on Israel. DI analysis did not explore the possibility that leaders might go to war--even at the risk of losing--to pursue political objectives. According to an internal postmortem, Agency analysis was impaired by preconceptions about Arab military capabilities, information overload, rational actor modeling and groupthink. (Emphasis mine).
Given the wee overload of tasks on my desk, I don't read more than a tiny sample of the endless fascinating documents in the ISA; I doubt I'll find time to read this entire collection of fascinating documents from someone elses' archives - more's the pity. Still, this one fits directly into one of the themes we've been presenting here on our blog these past few days. On page 1-2 there's a description of how presidential candidate Richard Nixon flew in August 1968 to President Johnson's ranch in Texas to receive an intelligence briefing; according to the recollection of one of the officials who was present, the two men engaged in trying to trump one another in their mastery of the subjects.

Sometimes politicians are called upon to make life-and-death decisions or preside over historical turning points. But often their urge to be politicians is what shines through from the documents.

No comments:

Post a Comment