Dealing with Dictators: Dilemmas of U.S. Diplomacy and Intelligence Analysis, 1945-1990

By Barnhill, John H. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Dealing with Dictators: Dilemmas of U.S. Diplomacy and Intelligence Analysis, 1945-1990


Barnhill, John H., Air & Space Power Journal


Dealing with Dictators: Dilemmas of U.S. Diplomacy and Intelligence Analysis, 1945-1990 edited by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow. The MIT Press (http://mitpress .mit.edu), 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142-1493, 2007, 243 pages, $54.00 (hardcover), $27.00 (softcover).

This book is a collection of case studies developed for the intelligence and policy course offered between 1986 and 2002 at Harvard University to senior government and military intelligence officials to make them more adept at analyzing situations in which intelligence drives policyand more aware of the cloudy environment in which such decision making occurs. The introductory material explains the nature of the course and defines the decision-making process that it teaches. Then the authors present six case studies- co written by the editors and other professionals. Arranged chronologically, the cases include the collapse of China, the United Nations intervention in the Congo, the removal of the Shah of Iran, the US relationship with Nicaragua's Somozas, the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and the run-up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The studies cover both Democratic and Republican administrations from President Truman to the first President Bush.

The editors claim that the case studies are straight reporting. For the most part, that seems to be the case. There is little opinion or analysis in the text. In the footnotes, however, the authors sometimes cite players whose assessment of a given situation may or may not be fully objective. Overall, the studies avoid bias or Monday-morning quarterbacking- and the avoidance of bias or second-guessing is one of the goals of the program.

The final chapter purports to deliver lessons learned- to apply the paradigm to the cases. It provides a rationale for including each particular case but fails to explain what in each case fails to meet the model.

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