Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Intelligence Reform has finally arrived!!!
The big push from the bill came from the Sept 11 commission and its final report which recommended a national intelligence director. The flaws they found with pre-9-11 intelligence was lack of coordination, lack of communication, and lack of accountability. So, this reform package is supposed to fix all that.

Will it?

I'm sure how I come down on this yet-- in part because there is a lot of stuff in the reform bill that won't be really clear until they start to put it into practice. But, the institutional history of USFP tells to be cautious of how this works.

But there is an interesting thing going on here, the swing from centralization to decentralization to new entity in charge....
On the one hand, centralization and authority have a somewhat strong record in government. Look at the success of Goldwater -Nichols in the Pentagon. It gave power to the regional combattant commanders (ie, Norman Schwartzkopf, Tommy Franks, John Abizad) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Colin Powell, Richard Meyers) and took power away from the Service Chiefs. It cut down interservice rivalry and it improved "jointness" in operations. In theory, the new National Intelligence Director should be able to do that--- coordinate the massive intelligence bureaucracy, get all the "National Technical Means" (spy satelites) doled out to the appropriate targets and such.

A) there are doubts as to how much authority this new director will actually have.
The key to centralized authority working is that the authority is actually centralized. The Chairman of the JCS has so much power because G-N makes him the sole military advisor to the President. No one else can make an end run. Same way with the Commanders--they are all powerful, and can run thier war without having to worry about anything.

B) I'm not so sure that centralization is all good--some comeptition might be a good thing. And here, the unique nature of intelligence (versus military operations) matters. Intelligence---good intelligence--is an intellectual product and guesswork. The problem isn't so much collecting information than it is knowing how to make sense, how to connect the dots, with the information you have. In an operation, centralized authority can make a process work. In creating an idea (and intelligence is someone's idea of what is going on), competition helps you to make your idea better and it allows choices between ideas. One of the greatest hurdles to "getting it right" are the conceptual blinders that analysts have. Its the problem of never thinking to look at something. If you have a lot of brains knocking heads on an issue, you allow the possibility of multiple perspectives. Centralization, especially in a political environment where the Bureaucracy is encouraged to follow and support the Administration's views, can just as easily lead to groupthink, and that might be worse than what we have now.

So, how will this all shake out? Who knows......
but one thing is sure-- i now need go revise the syllabus for next semester !!!!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The ever-so-exciting world politics textbook we have this term loves to divide the world of politics into 2 parts, security and political economy. We are in the midst of the economics part-- but I rather prefer to integrate the two. In the real world, all of this is linked.

And so today I woke up listening to this excellent story by Tom Gjelten on NPR.
The story is about the economic constraints on Defense and Foreign policy-- how budget deficits, the decline of the dollar, and the price of oil are all constraining the US's ability to engage in foreign policies that require a massive mobilization of resources. Quite simply, we can't because its too expensive. Even a hegemon has its limits. What I love about this bit of reporting is that it shows the links between politics, economics, security, and international relations. Though we study these things individually, they all come to play together.
Its complex, fascinating, and what makes this stuff so interesting.

and its a great story, worth listening to.

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