More U.S. Intelligence Community Warning Failures Are Likely As Long As The Intelligence Community Can’t Or, Won’t — Factor In A Weak POTUS – Into Their Warning Calculus
There is much discussion in the past few days regarding Obama administration officials and others who publicly stated their surprise at the speed with with Yemen’s government collapsed; leading some pundits and others to mention intelligence failure. But, I would argue that these pundits and others are looking through a flawed prism when seeking the true reason why this administration has been continually surprised — from Putin’s invasion of the Crimea. to the rise of the Islamic State, to the disintegration of Yemen.
It is the inability, or refusal of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), and this current administration, to factor a weak, feckless and disengaged POTUS– into their analysis of the adversary’s thinking — that is the ‘intelligence’ failure here.
Whether or not you were in favor of military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians — which later proved to be more complex and nuanced than first believed, — POTUS Obama’s failure to follow through on his ‘Red Line,’ emboldened our adversaries, and disappointed our allies. Many, if not most, have lost faith that this POTUS has any strong beliefs when it comes to foreign policy. Our friends no longer trust us, and our adversaries no longer fear us.
The Intelligence Community must factor in a weak/feckless POTUS when assessing the likelihood of what an adversary might, or might not do. I submit, that if the Intelligence Community would take into account what an adversary might or might not do — with the conceptual understanding that the adversary does not believe the U.S. under this POTUS — has the strength to fully confront them — that, they might find they are no longer all that surprised.
POTUS Obama’s new request to use military force against the Islamic State is a case in point. It is a self-inflicted, unforced error, in that it telegraphs to the Islamic State and others, that we are in this fight as long as we don’t have to commit or deploy ground forces against them. In other words, we’re in this fight to a point…but, according to the POTUS and National Security Adviser Rice, “this isn’t isn’t an existential threat,” and, we won’t commit to using ground troops — because we are not ‘all in this fight.’ Even if we choose to not commit major ground combat troops to defeat and destroy the Islamic State,ruling out that option upfront, shows weakness to the adversary. The adversary gets a vote. As someone long ago said, “you cannot vanquish your enemies, by telegraphing your punches.”
A weak POTUS, and a conditionally committed United States, encourages our peers, near-peers, adversaries, to continually test our commitments around the world — whether it be China and North Korea in the Pacific, Putin in Ukraine, and the Islamic State in the Middle East and North Africa.
Certain steps can be taken, such as more Red Teaming, war-gaming, exercises, etc. that can make such strategic oversight and ‘intelligence failure’ less likely; but, these kind of efforts cannot overcome the widespread foreign perception and belief that this POTUS is disengaged and principally predisposed to lead from behind — or, not at all.
The Intelligence Community can warn the senior national security leadership — as at least the Defense Intelligence Agency did with respect to Iraq and the Islamic State [both recently retired Director LTG. Michael Flynn, and now DIA’s new Director, LTG. Vince Stewart] . – when it thinks some faulty and wishful thinking may be diverging from what their intelligence analysis is saying. But, fundamentally, the Intelligence Community cannot do anything when powerfully motivated senior leaders find the distortions more attractive than dealing with reality.
Until the Intelligence Community comes to terms in assessing how the adversary has sized up this POTUS and his national security team — and found both he and they — wanting — the administration, and their supporters, are likely to continue to be blind to the impact that a weak and disengaged U.S. has on the adversaries calculus to do something we strongly oppose, or did not anticipate/expect. And, unless and until they do so — there will be more intelligence warning failures to come. V/R, RCP, Editor, Founder, Fortunas Corner blog.