Supporting US Foreign Policy in the Post-9/11 World

Policymakers and the Intelligence Community

Richard N. Haass

Policymakers’ lives are dominated by their “in boxes” and the crises of the moment; rarely do they have time to contemplate far into the future. These are, of course, clichés. But clichés become cliché precisely because they contain an element of truth. As a policymaker, I confess that I often feel as though “long term” is later in the week. During the past year, my staff has been deeply involved in the formulation of our response to the attacks of September 11th, the planning for Afghanistan’s post-conflict future, the Middle East peace process, exploring new ways to de-escalate the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, keeping the Northern Ireland peace process on track, revising our approach to the instabilities shaking Latin America from Colombia to Argentina, and a host of other issues.

But to be more than the accumulation of responses to separate crises, a successful foreign policy depends upon bridging the intellectual gap between the imperatives of the present and the potential of the future. In turn, this often depends upon bridging the gap between policymakers and the Intelligence Community. After all, as Robert Bowie—a predecessor of mine as Director of the Policy Planning Staff who later served as a deputy director of the CIA—insightfully defines it, “intelligence” is “knowledge and analysis designed to assist action.” 1 Information and insights that do not “assist action” remain lifeless. Successful intelligence, therefore, requires a mutual understanding between policymakers and the Intelligence Community that is all too often lacking. Policymakers need to ensure that the Community is not working in a vacuum, that analysts know what is on our minds and what questions we need answered. At the same time, members of the Intelligence Community have a responsibility to seek out policymakers, understand their concerns, and tell them what they should be paying attention to. It is important to tell policymakers what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

In the past year, the Intelligence Community has undergone soul-searching from within and intense scrutiny from without. As happened in the late 1940s and the mid-1970s, the Intelligence Community’s mission and very structure are, in the aftermath of September 11th, being reconsidered and reoriented. I do not intend, however, to attempt to identify the “lessons” of the past year and suggest new mechanisms within the Intelligence Community to cope with the demands of our long-term campaign against terrorism. I will leave such matters for others. Instead, I want to step back from the current debates about the future organization of the Intelligence Community to consider basic matters of intellectual outlook and the practice of the intelligence craft that organizational restructuring alone will not touch.

This article is one intelligence consumer’s attempt to help bridge the gaps between the present and the future on the one hand, and policymakers and the Intelligence Community on the other. To begin, I will sketch the main forces that this policymaker sees shaping international relations in what Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the “post-post-Cold War world.” Then I will outline some important questions that will merit serious attention by the Intelligence Community in the years ahead. (I doubt anyone will be surprised that once again a policymaker will offer more questions than answers.) In conclusion, I will add another voice to the calls for a cultural change in the Intelligence Community, one that will encourage its members to seek out rather than shun direct and close engagement with policymakers and their concerns.


The Five Fundamentals

Formulating a strategy for the global campaign against terrorism and implementing it have inevitably drawn the lion’s share of policymakers’ attention since September 11th. Likewise, the Intelligence Community has dramatically shifted resources to the fight against terror. As if these demands were not enough, at the same time, policymakers and the Intelligence Community have confronted a variety of crises and conflicts spanning from the Green Line to the Line of Control, from Colombia to the Caucasus. Our foreign policy, though, should be based upon an appreciation of the fundamental dynamics shaping the international environment—and not just the events of the past twelve months, no matter how significant they may be. Without such understanding, our foreign policy risks becoming merely tactical and temporary rather than strategic and sustainable.

A major challenge as we face pressing decisions of the day, therefore, is to identify the deeper forces at work transforming our strategic landscape. Thankfully, we have insightful analyses—many produced within the Intelligence Community—of the main forces defining our world at the dawn of the twenty-first century.2 While the specific lists may vary in minor respects, I believe there is a growing consensus that five fundamental factors are shaping the future of international relations: globalization, the fate of democratic governance, the changing nature of security, the evolution of our alliances and relations with other major powers, and the future of American power. Each in its own way is highlighted in the terrorist threat and our response to it. I want to discuss each in turn.



Globalization is a basic reality shaping the nature of international relations at all levels. It should be viewed broadly, beyond merely economic exchange. Globalization is the totality and velocity of connections and interactions—be they economic, political, social, cultural—that are sometimes beyond the control or even knowledge of governments and other authorities. It is characterized by the compression of distance and the increasing permeability of traditional boundaries to the rapid flow of goods, services, people, information, and ideas. It is a multifaceted, transnational phenomenon.

Anyone reading The Education of Henry Adams—let alone recent academic analyses of the late nineteenth century—recognizes that globalization is not a new phenomenon. Just consider multinational corporations, transnational religious movements, substantial international capital flows, global pandemics, the emergence of global networks of commerce, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private foundations working to better the lives of working men and women. All these elements of globalization predated not just the end of the Cold War, but the World Wars as well.

Nonetheless, since the end of the Cold War, globalization has unmistakably accelerated and extended its reach. Furthermore, although the nation-state remains the preeminent actor on the international stage, we have also witnessed how globalization has empowered a variety of non-state actors ranging from individual philanthropists and humanitarian NGOs to lone computer hackers and criminal cartels. Indeed, globalization has enabled the emergence of new kinds of global and virtual networks that, in turn, have accelerated further the pace of globalization.


Behind Globalization

The essential drivers behind this wave of globalization are economic, demographic, and technological.

The global capitalist economy remains the most important transnational force in the world today. Global trade and investment, the diffusion of corporate “best practices,” the freeing of labor markets, and the efficiencies achieved by global economies of scale are remaking the world every day. The benefits of the past decade’s expansion of open economies and societies are unmistakable. Market economies promote growth that in turn sustains better education, health, social equality, and quality of life. At the same time, the market economy acts as a disruptive force, demanding institutional and intellectual innovation while unsettling the work patterns of everyday life. And it carries with it the risk of international economic contagion as we saw in the late 1990s and, again, this past year in Latin America. Economist Joseph Schumpeter was right to label capitalism’s dynamic “creative destruction.” Anyone who has invested in the NASDAQ over the past few years will undoubtedly agree.

Those nation-states that are unable or unwilling to integrate themselves into the global system risk isolation and stagnation. North Korea is only the most chilling example of a regime that has intentionally cut its people off from the world and forced them to suffer the horrendous consequences. Other governments are attempting a more subtle and difficult balancing act, hoping to insulate themselves from globalization more selectively through old-fashioned protectionism, targeted restrictions on the flow of information, or similar policies.

Disparities will increase between citizens living in the wealthiest countries that are the most integrated into the international system and those living in the poorest, least integrated ones. Strains within nation-states will also be felt as the effects of globalization spread differently across regions. Those who participate in the modern world will have radically different experiences, qualities of life, and perspectives than those who do not or cannot. Tensions between the two groups of people are inevitable—but how these tensions play out is not.


Demographic Factors

The most basic facts of life and death continue to matter to international relations. Almost all of the population increase in coming years—on the order of 95 percent—will take place in the developing world. The prospects for better jobs tied to the globalized economy will continue to draw people from rural areas; therefore, the developing world’s citizenry will concentrate more and more in urban areas. Soon, for the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s population will live in urban areas, straining state infrastructures and services sometimes to the breaking point. We see these dynamics already at work in megacities like Lagos, Karachi, and Jakarta and countless other cities around the globe. Furthermore, “youth bulges” will often result in widespread unemployment that simultaneously increases instability within the developing world and the pool of migrants eager to escape it. The disenchanted and disenfranchised members of these youth cohorts risk joining the ranks of terrorists, criminal organizations, and other groups that threaten to rend the fabric of societies around the world. At the same time, the developed world—especially Western Europe and Japan—will become grayer with each passing year as its population’s average age creeps upward. Issues of immigration and national identity promise, therefore, to strain fault lines both within countries and between them.

As people move, so do microbes. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria together cause 25 percent of all deaths worldwide. With an estimated 40 million people already infected, the national security threat posed by HIV/AIDS is no longer theoretical or prospective; it is clear and present today. It is, moreover, rapidly expanding its deadly reach beyond Sub-Saharan Africa. In the last 5 years, for instance, the HIV/AIDS infection rates in Eastern Europe increased 1300 percent. Even relatively low rates of infection will have enormous consequences for high population countries such as China and India. HIV/AIDS is particularly devastating because it often combines with other infectious diseases—notably tuberculosis—in lethal alliances. To make matters worse, drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are becoming more prevalent. Such strains can defeat the most sophisticated antibiotics in modern medicine’s arsenal.

The burden of infectious diseases can strain weak health systems to the breaking point and beyond, with pernicious effects on social, economic, and political stability of regions important to America’s interests. The hardest-hit nations in Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing precipitous declines in life expectancies, some falling over 30 years. Millions of orphans will need to be raised by the poorest societies on earth; many, forced to fend for themselves or exploited by others, will pose a clear source of instability in affected areas. The spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, therefore, will not only pose a health risk, but threaten to destroy societies, devastate economies, and destabilize entire regions. 3


Technological Breakthroughs

The revolution in information and communications technologies has helped integrate the world and its economies as never before. While helping accelerate the economic dynamism of the past decade, these same technologies facilitate the coordination of transnational criminal and terrorist networks. Other technologies also have their own bright and dark sides. Developments in biotechnology, for instance, hold promise for medical and agricultural breakthroughs that will improve all our lives. However, the same trends allow new actors to inflict unprecedented disruption and destruction. At a time of anthrax attacks and terrorist threats to use nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, the specter of weapons of mass destruction has perhaps never been more ominous.


The Dark Side of Globalization

Before September 11th, citizens of the United States tended to view globalization for the most part as a positive phenomenon. Every year more people than ever before benefited from speedy long-distance travel, e‑mail, cellular telephones, faxes, household satellite dishes, and the unprecedented flow of trade, investment, and information. But globalization always did have—and will continue to have—a dark side. The same networks that allow the free flow of commerce and communication can also carry from one continent to another drugs; refugees and illegal immigrants; diseases like HIV/AIDS; financial volatility and contagion; traffic in men, women, and children; and, as we now know all too well, terrorists.

Indeed, international terrorism exemplifies this dark side of globalization as al-Qaida and its cousin terrorist networks twist the benefits and conveniences of our increasingly open, integrated, globalized world to serve their destructive agenda.

The al-Qaida threat does not reside in any one state. Instead, Usama bin Laden is (or was) a man without a country—his al-Qaida network is a multinational enterprise with franchises in 50 or more countries. Its global activities are coordinated by not only personal couriers but also the communication technologies emblematic of our age—cellular and satellite telephones, encrypted e-mail, internet chat rooms, videotapes, and laser disks. Like a skilled publicist, bin Laden has exploited the international media to project his image worldwide. Members of al-Qaida have traveled from continent to continent with the ease of a vacationer or business traveler. In an age marked by unprecedented mobility and immigration, they readily blend into communities wherever they move. They pay their way with funds raised through front businesses, drug trafficking, credit card fraud, extortion, money laundered from covert supporters, and possibly even the manipulation of stock markets. They use ostensibly charitable organizations for funding and recruitment. Money for their operations is transferred surreptitiously through numerous banks and money exchanges around the world—some legitimate and unwitting, others not. And in their hands the cars and airplanes that connect families and businesses become human guided missiles.

Globalization—including its darker potential—is a fact, not a policy option for the United States or anyone else. How we respond to it, though, is a matter of policy. Choices made will help determine whether people profit or find poverty, whether cleavages within and between societies will be ameliorated or exacerbated, and whether new opportunities will be seized or missed. The future of international relations will be shaped to a large extent by how the bright and dark sides of globalization interact and how nations and peoples respond.


Democracy’s Future

In addition to globalization, the democratic wave that swept the world over the past thirty years is the second major factor shaping today’s international environment. The twentieth century ended with the most democracies in history—119 of 192 countries.4 The spread of democratic institutions in turn has promoted fundamental democratic values such as freedom of the press and expression, the rule of law and equality before the law, respect for private property rights, and a dynamic civil society. Experience proves that individual liberty, free markets, good governance, and international peace are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

In many places, however, democracy has not yet grown deep roots. It remains vulnerable to disappointment and backlash if it does not steadily provide tangible material gains. Too often, we have seen that the precedent of one fair election can be easily overcome in countries lacking a robust democratic political culture and civil society. Tyranny, corruption, and intolerance, in turn, impoverish peoples, corrode civil society, and undermine the foundations for international stability.

Furthermore, the very presence of democratic institutions and values can be seen as a threat by some established social and political orders. Democracy will continue to be opposed and besieged by those that it threatens. We saw this clearly in the intolerant, oppressive rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan and its alliance of aggression with the al-Qaida network.


Recasting Security

The changing nature of security and how we achieve it is the third basic factor defining the international context for our foreign policy. The terrorist attacks of September 11th and our ongoing campaign against terrorism highlight this reality. Our adversaries will not only be nation-states, but, as exemplified by the al-Qaida network, increasingly potent and ambitious non-state actors as well. They are also quick studies; they have undoubtedly learned from our operations in Afghanistan that the United States has both the will and the unmatched military wherewithal to destroy any con-ventional military threat to our security. But this overall conventional dominance will stimulate potential adversaries to develop so-called asymmetrical doctrines and capabilities tailored to deter or neutralize US intervention or inflict massive damage on the homefront. As part of this trend, countering the threats posed by cyber attacks and the proliferation and possible use of weapons of mass destruction will become increasingly important. These are threats of today, not some distant future: We have already suffered attacks with anthrax and foiled at least one “dirty bomb” plot.

As new, expansive notions of “homeland security” attest, traditional conceptions of security are being reconsidered and the boundaries between “foreign” and “domestic” are increasingly blurred. The lines between intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations also promise to be less clear than in the past. The implications of these changes are testing the security structures—both domestic and international—inherited from the past century. One of the greatest challenges ahead, therefore, will be to devise and construct a security architecture appropriate for this age’s transnational threats.


Relations with the Major Powers

This last observation leads naturally to the fourth factor shaping the international environment, namely the future development of our alliances and relations with the other major powers. Our core alliances will be critical to our future success just as they have been in the past. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, we have reaped the rewards of the investments made in our major alliances over the past 50 years. Witness NATO’s unprecedented invocation of Article V of the NATO Treaty, Australia’s invocation of Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty, and how both have matched words with deeds. Europeans and Australians have shed their blood alongside us during the Afghanistan campaign. There is also Japan’s historic support for the campaign against terrorism. And consider our Western Hemispheric neighbors’ invocation of the Rio Treaty and their commitment to combat terrorism in our backyard embodied in the Organization of American States’ new Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, adopted in June 2002.

But these alliances cannot be taken for granted. The challenges of this new era are not those of the Cold War; the threat posed by bin Laden and his ilk is fundamentally different from that posed by Stalin and his. Our core alliances, therefore, must evolve to meet the demands of this new era or they risk falling into irrelevance.

At the same time, as we have seen dramatically since the horrific events of September 11th, we now have the opportunity to recast our relationships with many nations, including Russia, China, and India. The cooperation forged in the war against terrorism highlights how our future relations with these three major powers do not need to be shackled by the memories of past animosities or prickly relations. Indeed, it is not too much to say that we have never had better relations with all three countries at the same time.

Today we do not see a serious danger of a war between any of the great powers. We should never forget what a remarkable change this is. The twentieth century was defined by struggles of power politics among the world’s major nations. When the balance of power broke down, it gave us two world wars. When it held, it gave us a cold war. The true “peace dividend” of this era is our ability to turn our efforts from containment and confrontation to cooperation. Ensuring that this historic development becomes a lasting feature of our world will be a major challenge facing American policymakers.


American Preeminence

The fifth, and final, fundamental factor shaping our world will be what the United States does with its power. The United States will remain into the foreseeable future the world’s preeminent power according to every metric—military, economic, political, and cultural. The recent spate of terrorist attacks against the United States has not altered this basic fact. If anything, they have underscored it. The United States has been targeted for such heinous acts because of its preeminence and all that it symbolizes and means to the world.

The United States will thus continue to affect the shape of international relations and their trajectory more than any other country. The decisions we make or fail to make, what we do or do not do, and what we say or do not say, will have widespread repercussions. This is a fact, not a boast. We must strive for suitably well-informed and well-reasoned decisions to match our power.


A More Integrated World

Considering these five fundamentals together, we see that American foreign policy is at an historic turning point. As exemplified by the threat of inter-national terrorism, in the post-9/11 world transnational challenges will be on a par with—and sometimes even more important than—traditional security considerations.

American foreign policy is being reoriented to cope with the complexities of this era defined by the intersection of traditional and transnational security concerns. The best way to describe this new approach is as a process of integration in which the United States seeks to include other countries, organizations, and peoples into arrangements that will sustain a world consistent with interests and values embraced by the United States and many other governments and peoples, thereby promoting peace, prosperity, and justice as widely as possible. Integration of new partners into our efforts will help us with the traditional challenges of maintaining peace in divided regions as well as with transnational threats such as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the spread of infectious disease. It will also help us seize the opportunities of this era, including bringing into the globalized world those who have previously been left out.

We are doing this by persuading more and more govern-ments and—on a broader level—people to sign on to certain key ideas as to how the world should operate for mutual benefit. Integration is about bringing nations together and then building frameworks for cooperation and, where feasible, institutions that reinforce and sustain such frameworks.

We see this process of integration unfolding in the war against terrorism, where we are establishing both new norms and new frameworks for cooperation in the fight against a common foe. With American leadership, for instance, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1373 requiring all UN members to freeze terrorist financing, improve border security, clamp down on the recruitment of terrorists, share information, and deny terrorists any support or safe haven. Meanwhile, we have expanded our cooperation with countries and organizations around the world to make sure that these obligations are met. While much work remains, we have begun weaving a new international fabric that will help protect us from the worst elements of this era.


From Global to Local

While it is imperative to have an overarching policy framework that comprehends the fundamental factors shaping our world, in practice, foreign policy typically is local. In other words, foreign policy is not designed to deal with different forces separately or on a global scale, but rather with how they come together and interact to create concrete problems or opportunities in specific regions and countries.

We see this in our global campaign against terrorism, where the campaign really comprises a series of coordinated but nonetheless distinct operations taking place simultaneously on many fronts—diplomatic, economic, intelligence, law enforcement, and military.

Accordingly, I would like to suggest briefly, moving region by region, what basic questions US policymakers will need to have answered in the years ahead.

We should start with our neighborhood, the Western Hemisphere. With our two most important trading partners lying to our north and south, the Western Hemisphere’s importance to our economic well-being is obvious. But our regional neighborhood’s importance can be captured another way: imagine for a moment the impact on the United States and on US foreign policy if we confronted a hemisphere that was a cauldron of instability. Just remember how demanding the task of coping with instability in one small Caribbean country—Haiti—has been over the past decade. The health of our hemisphere is therefore both essential to our domestic well-being and a prerequisite for action abroad.

Here we have seen the promise of economic integration in NAFTA, along with the remarkable success of democracy as demonstrated by the recent elections in Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua. But we are also witnessing in the northern Andes, as well as in parts of Central America and the Caribbean, how the dark side of globalization can threaten democratic rule, increase uncontrolled immigration, and multiply the spread of illegal drugs and terrorist-criminal syndicates. Argentina’s and Brazil’s economic woes might spread economic contagion and, equally important, undermine faith in economic openness—the so-called “Washington consensus”—as the best route to prosperity and freedom. Confidence in basic institutions seems to be faltering in the midst of the current economic slowdown throughout the region. What will come of an increasingly divided Venezuela? Will Colombia be the exception or the trendsetter for the region? Wither Argentina and the commitment to the “Washington consensus?” What will it take for us to complete negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement and solidify market economies from Chile to Canada? And what new security architecture will be needed to help preserve the peace in this hemisphere?

Looking to our traditional allies in Europe and Japan, we see a different set of challenges. On a daily basis we see evidence of both Europe and Japan acting more assertively in the international arena. On the other hand, both face significant institutional challenges that could preoccupy them—Europe in its deepening and expanding the European Union, and Japan in its need for basic political and economic reform. Europe and Japan also have to confront the aging of their populations with its wide-ranging implications. How will the interaction of these forces affect our alliance relations with Europe and Japan, and their ability to act on the world stage? Will they become content in their prosperity and look increasingly inward, as the Dutch did after the seventeenth century? Or will we be able to adapt existing institutions like NATO and forge new partnerships designed to look outward, and thereby face together both the transnational challenges and opportunities of this era and such traditional security challenges as working to bring peace and stability to the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula?

Russia has weathered the recent global economic slowdown better than most and it now has a measure of domestic stability. However, the economic, political, social, demographic, and environmental legacies of seventy years of communist rule risk shackling Russia to its past well into the twenty-first century. Since September 11th, we have made great strides in redefining our relationship, as evidenced by our cooperation in the war against terrorism, Russia’s willingness to countenance a US military presence in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Treaty of Moscow, and the creation of the NATO-Russia Council in May 2002. But can we capitalize on this momentum and make it self-sustaining? Will Russia be able to integrate itself successfully into the international order—for instance, by joining the World Trade Organization—and thereby funda-mentally alter the trajectory of its development? Will Russia’s demographic, economic, and geopolitical decline be reversed or is it systemic?

China and India count among their citizens one out of every three people on the face of the earth. They will, therefore, inevitably have much to say about the future of humanity. China and India face similar challenges. Both are vast multi-ethnic countries conscious of their own rich history; both are searching for international status commensurate with their size. They are rising powers, who have experienced remarkable economic growth as they have opened their economies. In both cases, the war against terrorism has offered new forms of cooperation with the United States and the international community. At the same time, their development has been uneven, with some regions falling significantly behind those better integrated into the globalized economic order. And both populations’ shear size will continue to strain their environment as well as the capacities of state institutions. How will India and China manage their future development internally and internationally? Will they integrate themselves more fully into the globalized international system and expand cooperation with others to confront this era’s distinctive transnational challenges?

In answering this question, one must also take into account the basic differences in China’s and India’s situations, both internal and international. India is an established, vibrant, multi-party democracy whose openness promises to smooth its development. The Chinese leadership to date has attempted to promote development through economic freedom without corresponding political reform. Will the new generation of Chinese leaders continue to be able to square this circle or will they have to slow economic development to avoid real political reform? On the other hand, unlike China, India faces the immediate risk of military conflict with a neighbor, Pakistan. In the coming years, therefore, India is much more likely to be distracted from both internal development and a broader international agenda by the prospects of and preparations for war. So, while China’s relationship with Taiwan must be managed, a more immediate question is how the conflict between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan can be stabilized and moved toward de-escalation, if not resolution.

Finally, in Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia, states often lack robust civil societies, democratic institutions, and integration into the global order. At the same time, they confront demographic shocks posed by urbanization, youth bulges, and, especially in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their economic development is oftentimes limited by dependence upon the exploitation of natural resources. The continued importance of fossil fuels and other natural resources to the international economy ensures the strategic significance of these regions. Countries in these regions will remain the most vulnerable to collapse of central state authority, criminal and political violence, and recruitment for terrorist activities. How can the states of these regions withstand the challenges of globalization and integrate themselves into the international order? How can we, along with our partners, encourage them to move toward better governance, prosperity, and stability? What will be the implications of their possible failure?


Challenges of Assessment Today

I will not attempt to answer these questions. I will leave that to the members of the Intelligence Community.

I want to highlight, however, that these questions share a common character. They do not center upon predicting certain events, such as the onset of a financial crisis, a country’s negotiating position, or a surprise attack. Nor do they center upon identifying and detailing certain trends, like the rate of China’s GNP growth or the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS. Answering such questions will continue to be critical, especially for the formulation of our foreign policy at the more tactical level of planning specific military operations, conducting negotiations, or preventing terrorist attacks. No one doubts, for example, that the preeminent concern of our Intelligence Community is helping to prevent another September 11th. Yet the broader, strategic questions of the sort outlined above tend to center upon the complex dynamics of how different factors—traditional and transnational—interact. The Intelligence Community, therefore, must come to grips with these complexities, and communicate them in a way to “assist action,” even as it continues to provide policymakers with the more tactical intelligence they demand.

The Intelligence Community will not fulfill its responsibilities if its efforts stop with simply the identification and analysis of these complex dynamics on a national, regional, and global scale. Policymakers need to comprehend not only these dynamics, but also how others will see—or not see—them, and how they may act in light of them. This demands a fine-tuned understanding of the relevant actors, their organizations, and their decisionmaking processes and capabilities. As Ernest May argues in his classic Knowing One’s Enemies, this sort of assessment in the first half of the twentieth century focused on nation-states’ military and material capabilities and the decisionmaking proclivities of their leadership. Assessment became more difficult between the two world wars in proportion to the growth in the size and complexity of the government apparatus of the major powers, the replacement of homogeneous ruling classes with more diverse leaders, and the increase in relevant information to analyze.5

Against this historical backdrop, we can easily see how the task confronting intelligence analysts at the dawn of the twenty-first century is more demanding than only a few decades ago. With the end of the Cold War, and the lack of a great power as a military adversary, we find ourselves needing to better understand not just possible opponents, but also the thinking and likely behavior of friends, neutrals, and potential partners across a full spectrum of issues. Furthermore, assessments can no longer focus primarily upon governments, but must also include non-state actors of all stripes, whether Médecin Sans Frontières, CNN, IBM, or al-Qaida. The structure and leadership of these organizations can be even more difficult to analyze than national governments’ decisionmaking processes. Finally, the volume and flow of potentially relevant information has increased seemingly at an exponential rate.

While I am a great believer in having only one hand hold the pen writing a report, comprehending the complexities of this global era will require bringing together different types of expertise in novel ways. If not involved in the writing of a particular analysis, diverse groups of area studies experts, economists, demographers, scientists, military experts, and other specialists should be involved in the framing of the research program as well as in reviewing its final product. This requires tapping talent from both inside and outside the Intelligence Community to help us appreciate the spectrum of possible futures. The establishment of the National Intelligence Council’s Global Expertise Reserve Program is a great initiative in this vein. And the Intelligence Community is continuing to hone new techniques, such as scenario building, for investigating complex phenomena. Still, many intelligence analyses go unread and thus fail to “assist action.”


Producing Results

This brings me to my final point. Robert Bowie often said that the purpose of our work in government “is not merely to produce literature, but to produce results.”6 The Intelligence Community produces good literature, but in order to produce results, analysts have to get much closer to the policymakers. This is not so much a matter of bureaucratic structure or organization as it is of practice and professional culture.

I appreciate the tradition in the Intelligence Community that insists that analysis should be insulated from policymaking in order to prevent politicization. But, in my experience, an even greater danger to intelligence analysis is irrelevancy. The Intelligence Community’s product can be less relevant than it should be because analysts do not understand what is really on the policymaker’s mind, so they address the wrong questions— or, when they have the right questions, their intelligence fails to have the impact that it should because their answers do not reach the policymaker in a timely fashion or digestible form.

In order to help produce results in our foreign policy, therefore, intelligence analysts must overcome at least some of their scruples and organizational culture. Analysts must constantly, persistently, and, if need be, annoyingly press to get close to policymakers and peer over their shoulders to see what is on their agenda. And when they see that something critical is missing from that agenda—when policymakers are neglecting an issue that analysts know to be relevant and significant—then analysts must impress upon policymakers why they should pay attention to it.

This is especially true with analyses having a long-term or over-the-horizon focus. Typically, policymakers have a hard time seeing how their current decisions relate to longer-term developments, so they tend to ignore or discount the long term. Analysts must help the policymaker avoid this mistake. To produce results, their analyses of the sort of complex, long-term questions suggested here must connect the dots, pointing out to the policymaker why and how long-term trends and their dynamics matter—and why and how what he or she does today can shape these developments.

Intelligence analysts should also resist allowing fears of losing influence with a policymaker lead them to check their analytic swing. If analysts do not use their access to give unvarnished assessments for fear of jeopardizing access, then what is the purpose of the access to begin with? Policymakers tend to appreciate timely candor because it is always better to confront an unpleasant development sooner rather than later, if only to have more time to formulate a response to it. Policymakers may vent at insightful messengers bearing unwelcome news, but they rarely kill them because they recognize their value.

Finally, intelligence analysts must understand that policymakers usually will not call for them to deliver a message. Since they will not come looking, analysts must go in search of them. As my good friend Bob Blackwill, currently US ambassador to India, once said in this regard, “Take the initiative to establish ties. This is an essential obligation of intelligence managers, because policy officials will rarely seek them out.”7 (This is especially true with transnational issues that do not easily fit into existing bureaucratic or intellectual cubbyholes.) Intelligence analysts must understand that to devote 99 percent of their effort to conducting and writing a study and only 1 percent to marketing it is both foolish and a disservice to policymakers. To produce results, they have to market their work relentlessly. If analysts have something to say, they should not only say it, but press to say it directly to the policymakers most involved in the issue.

There is no denying that this is a tall order. But it is not impossible. There are many successful examples of this sort of collaboration and exchange between intelligence analysts and policymakers. For example, the release of the NIC’s report The Global Infectious Disease Threat in 2000 helped to transform policymakers’ understanding of the issue, and also recast broader policy debates about the nature of national security in this globalized era.8 More recently, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Carl Ford, the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR) has begun implementing a series of changes in accord with what I am advocating. Borrowing military language, Ford has instituted a “J-2” approach where INR office directors and analysts participate in the daily meetings of the Secretary of State’s “regional commanders”— the Department’s functional and regional bureaus. INR is thus better able to tailor its analyses to policymakers’ questions and judge what policymakers need by way of context and over-the-horizon assessments. INR has also taken the bold step of setting aside its traditional primary intelligence product, the Secretary’s Morning Intelligence Summary, in favor of more detailed, in-depth analyses called INR Assessments. I for one can vouch that these new intelligence products constitute a considerable step forward. But more needs to be done throughout the Intelligence Community.

In closing, I want to suggest a rule of thumb that all intelligence analysts should try to follow. I call it the “Riedel Rule” after Bruce Riedel, a CIA analyst with whom I worked during the first Bush administration. Bruce once told me that he did not feel he was doing the job of marketing his analyses unless he got at least two parking tickets in downtown Washington a month. In this era, the Intelligence Community has to be earning more parking tickets. This may be bad for the wallet of individual analysts, but good for their relationship with policymakers in this post-9/11 world.



1 Quoted in Ernest R. May, “Introduction,” Knowing One’s Enemies: Intelligence Assessment Before the Two World Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 3.

2 Notable examples include: National Intelligence Council, NIC 2000-02, Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernmental Experts (December 2000); and CIA, Directorate of Intelligence, OTI IA 2001-045, Long-Term Global Demographic Trends: Reshaping the Geopolitical Landscape (July 2001).

3 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organization, AIDS Epidemic Update, December 2001 (Geneva: UNAIDS, 2001); UNICEF, UNAIDS, and WHO, Coordinates 2002: Charting Progress Against AIDS, TB and Malaria (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002).

4 Freedom House, Democracy’s Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20th Century (New York, NY: Freedom House, 1999).

5 May, pp. 503-542.

6 “Planning in the Department,” Foreign Service Journal, vol. 38, no. 3 (March 1961), p. 22.

7 Jack Davis, “A Policymaker’s Perspective on Intelligence Analysis,” Studies in Intelligence, vol. 38, no. 5, 1995.

8 National Intelligence Council, NIE 99-17D, The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States (January 2000).



Ambassador Richard N. Haass is the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Department of State.



Historical Document
Posted: Apr 14, 2007 07:45 PM
Last Updated: Jun 27, 2008 07:12 AM