The Lost Equilibrium: International Relations in the Post-Soviet Era

By Bettie M. Smolansky; Oles M. Smolansky | Go to book overview

Conclusion: Lessons From a
System in Transition

THE CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS VOLUME HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO “cover the globe” completely (like a certain well-known paint manufacturer), but they have examined the recent history of much of its real estate. What, then, are the lessons to be learned from their case studies?


THE BACKDROP: AN INTELLIGENCE FAILURE

Goodman’s recounting of the failure of the American intelligence apparatus to anticipate, even in the penultimate moment, the incipient disintegration of the Eastern bloc and the subsequent collapse of the “Evil Empire” provides an interesting and instructive backdrop to the regional/national case studies that follow. It demonstrates how a narrow, ideologically driven worldview can cloud our vision, obscuring in some cases our ability to see what is taking place right before our eyes.

In this instance, Goodman details the chain of events by which the American intelligence process became so politicized during the 1980s that the results of much U.S. intelligence-gathering activity were not only rendered useless but, indeed, became counterproductive vis-à-vis helping American foreign policy adapt to the changing world system.

Unfortunately, and perhaps even more importantly, the author suggests that some of the same habits of mind continue to hold sway within key sectors of the U.S. intelligence community to this very day; that is, rather than admit the errors of the recent past and learn from them, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has made a concerted effort to cover its earlier failures by selectively declassifying its more accurate estimates from the previous decade.

In the meantime, this tradition of demonizing perceived enemies and overestimating their abilities has undoubtedly had a negative impact on Washington’s episodic efforts to deal with an

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