The tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the false
assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal were terrible
reminders that good information is essential to national security.
These failures convinced the American public that their
intelligence system was broken and prompted a radical
reorganization of agencies and personnel, but as Richard K. Betts
argues in this book, critics and politicians have severely
underestimated the obstacles to true reform.
One of the nation's foremost political scientists, Betts draws
on three decades of work within the U.S. intelligence community to
illuminate the paradoxes and problems that frustrate the
intelligence process. Unlike America's efforts to improve its
defenses against natural disasters, strengthening its strategic
assessment capabilities means outwitting crafty enemies who operate
beyond U.S. borders. It also requires looking within to the
organizational and political dynamics of collecting information and
determining its implications for policy.
Combining academic research with personal experience, Betts
outlines strategies for better intelligence gathering and
assessment. He describes how fixing one malfunction can create
another; in what ways expertise can be both a vital tool and a
source of error and misjudgment; the pitfalls of always striving
for accuracy in intelligence, which in some cases can render it
worthless; the danger, though unavoidable, of "politicizing"
intelligence; and the issue of secrecy-when it is excessive, when
it is insufficient, and how limiting privacy can in fact protect
Betts argues that when it comes to intelligence, citizens and
politicians should focus less on consistent solutions and more on
achieving a delicate balance between conflicting requirements. He
also emphasizes the substantial success of the intelligence
community, despite its well-publicized blunders, and highlights
elements of the intelligence process that need preservation and
protection. Many reformers are quick to respond to scandals and
failures without detailed, historical knowledge of how the system
works. Grounding his arguments in extensive theory and policy
analysis, Betts takes a comprehensive and realistic look at how
knowledge and power can work together to face the intelligence
challenges of the twenty-first century.
Subjects: Political Science
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