Whatever we may think of this public hawk/private dove phenomenon, there was at the time at least one major exception to it among claimants on the policymakers' attention. That exception was the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. INR's products were signed, dated, published, and widely distributed in official circles at home and abroad. They were readily available to any government official cleared to read them. Those responsible for writing and issuing them were not anonymous, but identifiable and accountable.The Mouse That Roared - State Department Intelligence in the Vietnam War
As this study of its research memoranda shows, INR's analysis on Vietnam stood out as tenaciously pessimistic from 1963 on, whether the question was the viability of the successive Saigon regimes, the Pentagon's statistical underestimation of enemy strength, the ultimate ineffectiveness of bombing the North, the persistence of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, or the danger of Chinese intervention. Indeed INR consistently saw no realistic escape from a policy trapped inside an iron triangle; (1) the chronic instability in the South, (2) Chinese intervention if US provocation overstepped a threshold in the North, and (3) the North's determination to persevere despite escalating punishment from the air. While INR respected the proprieties separating intelligence from policy and therefore stopped short of explicit policy advice, the policy implications of INR's analysis were obvious.
The INR Study covers much more ground than can be covered here. It is clear from that study, as well as this examination, that INR was quite prolific at its work. Analyst for analyst, and dollar for dollar, INR was possibly the most effective agency in the intelligence community. One of the greats of U.S. intelligence in the Vietnam era, George V. Allen, who served with Army intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, years later accosted Lou Sarris to tell him, "I just want you to know, you guys were great!"State Department Intelligence and Research Predicted 1973 Arab-Israeli War
When the war broke out on October 6, it surprised high-level officials in the Nixon administration. Yet, in a paper written the previous May, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) had estimated that there was a "better than even bet" that war would occur "by autumn." Not one other office in the U.S. government had made such an estimate, and the Israelis themselves had dismissed the possibility of war. Although this example of INR's acuity has been known about for years, the document itself was surprisingly elusive and is being published for the first time here and on the National Security Archive website.Tiny Agency's Iraq Analysis Is Better Than Big Rivals'
But INR's success story suggests that small is sometimes beautiful. Because it is little, INR tries to maintain an elite reputation. And because it is intimately connected with State Department policymakers, it never loses sight of what the consumers of intelligence actually want: sound judgment.Analyze This
INR is that rare agency that has been shrinking over time. Its workforce has dropped from more than 1,600 people in 1945, when it inherited the responsibilities of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, to a bit over 300 by 1961. It has stayed at roughly that level ever since -- a bureaucratic "steady state" that is almost unheard of in the nation's capital.
Indeed, on the whole question of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, INR came consistently closer to the truth than did other agencies. The intelligence community's collective analysis on this issue was assembled by CIA Director Tenet in a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a document that contains the consensus of all the government's intelligence agencies: the CIA, FBI, NSA, and intelligence groups at State, Energy, and Defense, among others. The 2002 estimate included the crux of the case that the Bush administration would present to the American public and the world in arguing for war. And the document's conclusion--that Iraq was three to five years away from being capable of building nuclear weapons--convinced many Democrats and other skeptics that a war in Iraq might be justified. But when INR received a draft of the estimate, it balked, believing that other intelligence agencies had vastly overestimated the status and capability of Iraq's nuclear program. INR thought the whole report was flawed; rather than including minor objections to specific statements, it took its name off of the estimate and detailed its objections in one long endnote. Of course, when American soldiers and U.N. inspectors combed through Iraq in the wake of the U.S. military conquest, what they found--and didn't find--confirmed INR's suspicions. The rest of the intelligence community had gotten it wrong again.
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