zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Deep Understanding

Deep Understanding

Michael Tanji points to this report by RAND to explain why the IC isn’t demonstrating any.

Part of the problem, I will hazard is a guess, is legacy security and pesonnel policies. “Deep understanding” of cultural-political variables of foreign societies requires a mix of academic historical, linguistic and social science expertise coupled with extensive “in-country” experience. Ideally, in the same analyst but failing that at least within the same analytical team. Aside from the collector-analyst division which could stand some erasure, many of the most useful sort of moldable, raw, talent – children of native speakers and Americans with extensive experience living overseas – have a difficult time getting through the clearance process.

Then, once these folks are in, cultivation of a strategic perspective – which includes synthesis, intuition and imagination and a long time horizon alongside analysis – have to become a priority over narrow analytical-reductionism and a “presentist” mindset. We have guys who do the latter already, they’re called journalists and the best of them do it very well. The IC should be playing at another level.

2 Responses to “Deep Understanding”

  1. Fabius Maximus Says:

    How strange that the IC cannot understand or forecast events in the wilder corners of the world!  The CIA’s middle-brow academic types, civil servants to whom strong emotions are foreign, for whom security is both a right and the highest necesity — should have a better field for those for whom power is the primary goal, spilling rivers of blood a thrill, obedience to God trumps even life, and/or loyalty to clan trumps individual needs.

    Perhaps another re-org will do the job, or new job titles.  Better carpets?  New software?

    The latter will work, if installed in their heads.

  2. zen Says:

    We’re at the teetering point that the Ming dynasty went through when the examinations that produced Mandarins began to reward reverential memorization and ritual form over novel application of established principles

Switch to our mobile site