Intelligence Doves vs. Hawks

All the commotion between the Trump team and the intelligence community reminds me of the incoming Reagan administration while I was working on NIE 11-12 on Russian military technology. I started under the dovish administration led by Jimmy Carter, with Adm. Stansfield Turner. Under Carter, the military services led by the Defense Intelligence Agency (most recently led by Gen. Flynn) were hawkish, claiming the Soviets had many dangerous new military high tech weapons. I, joined by the CIA, argued that the intelligence did not support such conclusions; they were working on new weapons, but there was so far no indication they would work well enough to deploy in the field. I gradually got some language inserted that downplayed the danger to the US. (I think the last 30 or 40 years have proved me right.)

When Reagan came in with his new CIA chief, Bill Casey, the threat from the Soviet Union (Reagan’s evil empire) got raised again. Turner and his deputy, Adm. Inman, left the CIA. I would like to think that I got the threat watered down a little bit, but who knows?

This change of administrations highlights the animosity permeating the intelligence community during this change of administration. Back then, the Republicans were the hawks worried about the Soviet evil empire. Today, it’s the Democrats who are worried about the Soviets, joined by some Republicans like John McCain and Marco Rubio. In general, though, the sides have changed. The Democrats are afraid of Russia, and the majority of the incoming Republicans are not. Despite Trump’s views, there are still many old Cold Warriors in the Republican Party; so, it is less likely that the Trump administration will be as dovish toward Russia as Carter was, even with Tillerson at State.

 

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