Thursday, May 19, 2005

Preventing Surprise Attacks

Excel web sharing - spreadsheet collaboration over the Internet made easy with BadBlueThe crew at Powerline noted Richard Posner's book, "Preventing Surprise Attacks." If you're at all concerned with the ramifications of the 9/11 Report and the subsequent rush to reorganize the intelligence community, it appears chock full of valuable insights.

Reviewers have pointed to its astounding clarity. Shouldn't the commission have studied other surprise attacks before coming to a variety of sweeping conclusions, including centralization of the U.S. intelligence apparatus?

For example, the Arab nations surprised Israel in the Yom Kippur War. An Israeli commission determined, after the fact, that the reason for the surprise was lack of decentralization in its intelligence services. The 9/11 Commission, on the other hand, determined the surprise of 9/11 was due to not enough centralization. The fact that there are divergent views on this matter is not surprising. What is surprising is that the 9/11 Commission failed to even investigate them.

In other words, Posner recognizes that the Commission's study was superficial and its organizational emphasis weak.

The commission, followed by Congress, exaggerated the benefits of centralizing control over intelligence; neglected the relevant scholarship dealing with surprise attacks, organization theory, the principles of intelligence, and the experience of foreign nations, some of which have a longer history of fighting terrorism than the United States; and as a result ignored the psychological, economic, historical, sociological, and comparative dimensions of the issue of intelligence reform.

Luckily, Posner posits, all is not lost. One outcome of the inevitable politicking related to intelligence reform: the actual reorganization parameters were left vacuous and vague, leaving it up to the President to shape any new intelligence structure.

Richard Posner: Preventing Surprise Attacks

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