The Corner

What Happened to Not Mixing Politics With Intelligence?

Here’s a paper written by one of the intelligence analysts that Bolton clashed with, Fulton Armstrong. There is some sound stuff in here about how intelligence analysts should behave, but this passage gives a pretty good idea of where he is coming from:

Should analysts accept the point of view of narrow interest groups as valid expressions of national interest, when an administration appears to endorse them?

On Cuba, senior and mid-level policymakers have barely concealed in the past the fact that a relatively small constituency is the most intense promoter of the “pressure cooker” approach of maintaining the economic embargo, isolating Havana internationally, and promoting internal upheaval. One past Coordinator for Cuban Affairs at the State Department would answer challenges to the government’s policy, in open forum, with the answer, “Cuba is first and foremost a domestic political matter.” You do not have to be a cynic to see a link between Cuba policy, Florida elections, and campaign finances. Most observers judge that the chance is extremely slim that explosive change on the island—the sectoral interest—would result in stability and democracy—the national interest. But that view continues to underpin the inter-pretation of our national interests in Cuba.

He doesn’t say so directly, but the strong implication is that if an administration accepts the “narrow” view on a question–in this case a tough-on-Cuba line–analysts shouldn’t really accept it. That’s certainly the way Armstorng behaved, waging a mini-war against Bolton on Cuba in the press and Capitol Hill. The thrust of the Democrats’ position on this is that intelligence analysts should be able to do whatever they please, including undermining policymakers, without policymakers doing anything about it. That’s no way to run a government obviously, and it would have been a travesty if Bolton HADN’T pushed back against the likes of Fulton Armstrong.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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