The Paul Pillar piece from Foreign Affairs is one of the most aggravating items the Stiftung has read recently. Pendantic and unconsciously retro, it arrives and lands like a wet noodle thrown against a wall, only to slither and slink to the floor.
Pillar begins thusly:
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.So what? News to Mr. Pillar — we know this. We have known this for 3 years.
The problem with Pillar and the rest of the pre-2003 Intelligence Community hunkering down trying to survive is that they cling to the notion of an intelligence product cycle and policy maker resting on a shared value system of liberal democractic (small 'd') empirical rationality. Pillar assumes “this is the way it is supposed to be” like the sun rising in the East.
Pillar does not understand that he and this mindset represents the ultimate enemy of the Administration within the government. Pillar is an iconic stand in for the unconscious Rationalist, assuming that liberal democratic empiricism and belief in rationality is “the way the world works.”
This is an ideological regime. Committed to revolution here at home and abroad. And it is determined to destroy and uproot liberal democratic empiricism to be replaced by Belief, Authority, Hierarchy and Obediance. Welcome Mr. Pillar to the Counter Enlightenment. Why he expects the intelligence community to escape this revolutionary ideology escapes us.
If the Stiftung is harsh on Pillar, it is not that we don't agree with his dry recital of how the intelligence cycle was designed to function in an empirical, rational world. That cycle, while never perfect, represented an idealized state worthy of striving. But we are fighting off an ideological assault on the foundations of our society, Mr. Pillar — this is more than about the intelligence product cycle. To the extent Pillar helps the 4 people left in the world who actually read Foreign Affairs and don't know already what he is saying, it is, as the Kool Kids say, “all good.”
But we as a Nation are long are past the crisis of what he describes. Our issue is how to confront and stop a regime here at home committed to dismantling centuries of commitment to empiricism and rationality. Particularly when the Administration has radicalized and mobilized the dormant and latent irrationality and bigotry of a substantial portion of the Republican base captured by “Movement” adherents. For Pillar to appear in 2006 and tell us the Adminsitration used and uses intelligence for AgitProp deserves a “Hello McFly??!” rap on his forehead.
Count us underwhelmed. Too little, too late.