NIEs contradict DoD and CENTCOM’s optimistic spin in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nothing will change.
Political-military tectonic plates are locked for another decade of war. The only viable possibility to change this outcome would be a possible external shock. One example? Foreign debt penalties imposed for U.S. fiscal recklessness. Otherwise, it’s done. As for granular merits themselves, George Carver could have taught these new kids on the block a thing or two about his dealings with MACV. Yeah.
Plus, let’s face it. NIEs ain’t what they used to be. In the dimly remembered B.C. (Before Cheney) era, the intelligence product cycle produced a res, a thing, a report, an appraisal, fact, etc. to assist policy makers to choose wisely. The distinction between intelligence and policy used to be — or at least said to be — sacrosanct. Dick Helms and his predecessors often left the room after delivering their assessments to underscore that intelligence was separate from policy-making.
NIEs as the Community consensus were accorded special deference in this regard. Unlike Tenet’s lurid parody in 2002 they’re usually fairly dry documents, deliberately not designed for talking points or AgitProp. In fact, the high art of a true NIE is to parse phrases and verbiage so that no matter what happens, the NIE predicted/warned/advised/suggested. Savage battles might be fought over a footnote. The final document would be a work of bureaucratic zen.
2 years A.C. (After Cheney) and of course all of that is now quaint. Not just NIEs are different. So is the Community. It’s politicized and radicalized in ways it doesn’t even realize, like the proverbial frog in water raised degree by degree. The ramifications cascade down from the NIE-level to day-to-day matters. Few are left from B.C. and the DO’s ranks at the Agency already depleted before then. Today’s remaining survivors (that didn’t badge flip) are obviously still affected – one way or another – by Cheney’s war of annihilation. Who wouldn’t be? Down the line, the new, larger cohorts obviously reflect dilution/diminishment. The realities are struggles for mission, budget and prestige in a still unsettled DNI world. And give them some slack: the intelligence ‘consumers’ are a sorrier lot, especially in the Duma.
President Goldilocks chose the mushy path of middling escalation. That’s his policy choice. He made this situation inevitable. He declared our Gordian Knot cut with an 18 month escalation and drawdown. Absurd at the time. This is how the Stiftung described it:
Obama it seems increasingly clear will embrace his inner Goldilocks Paradigm and cave to the tragically inappropriate and misguided COIN meme peddlers. He will festoon his surrender to CENTCOM manipulation with a compromise troop number and — as we noted before — the political optics of a more agile, pervasive global counter-terrorism focus. But his imprimatur will transform this needless exercise in political expediency into a policy that will echo for decades and only further radicalize and cohere the very anti-Americanism it seeks to ‘pacify’ locally and for jihadists elsewhere.
Recall Kagan rejoiced at success getting Obama to escalate. They (proponents of war) just needed Obama to get some skin in the game. Once he escalated he would be trapped their way.
Obama engendered cynicism runs deep. His fake deadlines and goals barely get mentioned anymore. How easily Petraeus et al. steered Obama and the country into 2015. New post-2008 CENTCOM military construction continues across the Middle East. People know by now how little Obama’s declarations mean. His cynicism. His war.