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Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War. By Robert Jervis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2010

James H. Lebovic
Affiliation:
The George Washington University

Extract

In this important book, Robert Jervis reveals his solid credentials as an intelligence insider. For him, this is not a conflict in roles. He is a social scientist, first, who hopes that the U.S. intelligence community (IC) will learn from its mistakes by adhering to sound social scientific practices. Jervis offers striking comparisons between the IC's failure to predict the overthrow of the Shah of Iran with the events of 1978–79—which the author assessed in a declassified internal review for the Central Intelligence Agency—and the erroneous judgment that Iraq had stockpiled biological and chemical weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear program, which the Bush administration used to justify the 2003 Iraq war. Drawing predominantly from these cases, Jervis argues that critical deficiencies in intelligence result because analysts fail to articulate their assumptions, subject these arguments to appropriate scrutiny, consider rival hypotheses that fit the evidence, test arguments by offering predictions, consider negative and positive evidence when evaluating assertions, and seek information that might disconfirm their existing point of view.

Type
Critical Dialogue
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2010

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