Bureau of intelligence and research and Washington politics
Beck, Catherine Anne
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At times, the Intelligence Community struggles with a reputation for inaccuracy. In two critical moments in American history, the Intelligence Community as a whole failed to predict the United States’ defeat in Vietnam, and recently, wrongly supported a war in Iraq based on inaccurate intelligence. What is rarely acknowledged is that the State Department’s intelligence “branch,” the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), has been a dissenting voice in both cases. How, then, was INR accurate in its predictions when other members of the Intelligence Community were not? Why was the Intelligence Community not convinced by INR’s reports? INR’s courage in asserting unpopular views in these two cases is impressive; however, the fact that the most accurate of the intelligence agencies is the most ignored reveals that when bureaucratic politics and the Intelligence Community mix, it can be hazardous to American foreign policy, and can have serious future consequences.