Jewish World Review June 8, 2004 / 19 Sivan, 5764

John C. Bersia

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U.S. intelligence agencies must increase awareness in order to grow


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Outgoing CIA chief George Tenet's departure encourages Americans to begin thinking — with a long-term perspective — about the broad question of "intelligence" and its importance to the future of the United States, from solid spy work to visionary foreign-policy goals to world-savvy citizens.

Careful consideration should guide the selection of the next director of Central Intelligence, not political pressure or an artificial deadline. I have no personal favorite to recommend but would prefer a politically neutral director - or at least one with true bipartisan credentials - who might stay in the position for more than a few years.

The office also must acquire a mandate that lives up to its name, one that would allow stronger stewardship of the entire intelligence community - from promoting interagency cooperation to securing the right balance of human and technical intelligence capabilities.

In addition, I would like to see a director who endeavors more vigorously to enlighten Americans about the workings of the intelligence community. Former President Dwight Eisenhower once famously allowed as how success in clandestine circles could not be advertised and failure could not be explained. That situation leaves the intelligence community more open to criticism than commendation. But surely a creative director could lift the cloak of secrecy a bit, without endangering national security, and show the immense and impressive capabilities that the U.S. intelligence community puts to constructive use every day.

Further, federal agencies that deal with national-security issues, including the intelligence community, should give long-term planning greater emphasis. It is well and good that such planning takes place at the Defense Department, the State Department and certain other agencies. However, unless those agencies integrate their efforts more effectively, current and evolving threats will stand a better chance of evading this country's defenses.

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I was pondering that very issue at a recent high-level U.S. government briefing in Washington, when I heard Richard Armitage - the deputy secretary of state and a seasoned official who has been mentioned as a potential Tenet successor - indicate that he knew nothing about al-Qaida before the mid-1990s. The group dates to the late 1980s. In a subsequent session, Cofer Black, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, discussed his extensive experience with al-Qaida during his tenure at the CIA in the early 1990s.

Clearly, U.S. officials must aim for more precise and widely shared assessments, especially regarding transnational, revolutionary, ideological forces such as al-Qaida that demonstrate staying power over many years.

Indeed, such an effort would complement visionary foreign-policy initiatives, which the United States could use more than ever in today's rapidly changing, antagonistic and often chaotic world. An "intelligent" foreign policy for the future should focus on at least three priorities:

_The war against terrorism. Bush recently likened that conflict to the struggle in World War II, which originated from another transnational, revolutionary, ideological force in the form of Nazi Germany. For that matter, the Cold War belongs in the same category. Americans must not fail to grasp that the terror war will necessarily and dramatically shape the U.S. global role for years to come

_Human rights. The United States should have elevated that issue to a top priority long ago, because it underscores so much about America's purpose and promise. The appropriate focus on human rights would be consistent and devoid of double standards.

_Economic opportunity. Just as Americans deserve a chance to improve their well-being and quality of life, so does the rest of the world. It is neither fair nor right for Americans and a handful of the planet's population to prosper while the majority languishes or realizes minimal benefits from the advances of globalization.

Finally, to propel both visionary foreign policies and deliver the essential talent to bolster the intelligence community, America must develop a globally "intelligent" corps - similar to the young people who answered the nation's appeal in droves after Sputnik underscored U.S. shortcomings in the 1950s. Now, as then, science and technology matter. But so does training in cultures, foreign languages, history and international studies. Without those skills, Americans cannot hope to understand, much less handle, global challenges.

The nation's broad "intelligence" capabilities will not expand without awareness, commitment, resources and, most important, a long-term perspective. Opportunity beckons as more high-level heads roll

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John C. Bersia, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing for the Orlando Sentinel in 2000, is also the special assistant to the president for global perspectives and a professor at the University of Central Florida. Comment by clicking here.

Up

05/20/04: Societies, markets will survive, thrive
05/04/04: With terror on the rise worldwide, America can't afford to be isolationists
11/18/03: U.S. now has right view on China
10/14/03: Reinstitute mandatory smallpox vaccinations as biodefense precaution?
08/05/03: It's time to be realistic on new age of terrorism


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