In recent written and oral presentations, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and longtime intelligence expert John Bolton, cautioned the present administration to keep its inside knowledge of the hand Russia is playing, using an old poker analogy, “closer to the vest.”
Bolton argued that before Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the administration released a great deal of analyses about Russia’s ability and desires regarding Ukraine. They thought this might deter a Russian attack by making known to the public the extent of U.S. knowledge about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans. The administration continues to tell all they know as the war began and continues.
But this approach has failed miserably and done nothing to diminish Russia’s barbaric behavior. Shouldn’t this plan to tell the public everything now be scrapped? Sensible people would think so, but the Biden administration and its supporters have continued to add speculation on top of speculation without any evidence that publicizing the information has any positive impact.
Simply sharing intelligence with our allies and maintaining secrecy would help unite NATO and be a far more effective foreign affairs strategy. That they do not follow this approach makes one wonders if there are some financial motivations on the part of the administration’s crony capitalist friends. And, of course, mainstream media, always protecting the Democrats, never reported on the cost involved with our actions or other possible motivations.
Bolton admitted that revealing sensitive intelligence to the public can be a good idea when there is a serious strategy with reasonable objectives to advance U.S. interests. Bolton calls this statecraft, which can be an aspect of intelligence gathering, or simply put, the use of data, analysis, and advocacy to advance U.S. national security objectives.
Few people recognize how intelligence is a truly valuable commodity, not easily acquired without considerable risk. In this sense, spy-type movies can indeed be very realistic. Publicizing critical intelligence information “promiscuously,” as Bolton has said, can seriously endanger sources and methods. It can also prove embarrassing when not accurate, which would seem to be the case concerning the inclination for a Russian attack on Ukraine. One wonders how the administration got it so wrong. Does it reflect larger failures in information gathering by our intelligence community?
Different intelligence units within our government have different policy cultures, and this includes different positions on publicizing intelligence. While the State Department enjoys describing how clever they are, career intelligence personnel, Bolton says, can generally make “Silent Cal Coolidge seem chatty.”
Policy folks in the present executive branch mostly come from extremely liberal academia and think tanks which typically consider our opposition across the world as reasonable and not too different from us. These overconfident and inept policy wonks naively believe that our opponents are ready to find common solutions to international problems. Bolton says they believe that if only all nations had the same information we have, they would behave responsibly.
This does not sound like Putin or Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping. Bolton, during his stay in the United Nations, quoted Putin saying on more than one occasion, “You have your logic, we have ours; let’s see who prevails.”
The gross failure of the Biden administration to recognize that the sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a disaster also made them look dangerously irresponsible and indeed clueless. Contrary to claims that Afghanistan’s government and military could survive Taliban attacks, they swiftly collapsed.
Determined to prevent yet more perceptions of incompetence, Bolton says that the administration tried to show that, unlike the situation in Afghanistan, they knew what they were doing with Ukraine. They said they were completely on top of events this time. But, as usual, they flopped again and, aside from telling us that Putin was poorly briefed by timid subordinates, which was correct, continued to share inaccurate information again.
Damaging articles on U.S. information-sharing with Ukraine told Russia what we were sharing with Kyiv. While clearly, the administration did not want to escalate the war, sharing information that we planned to contribute over a dozen Polish fighter planes was extremely helpful to Russian strategists.
It is a real mystery how this administration could have been so wrong on every aspect of the conflict in Ukraine. We were told it would be a few days before Ukraine forces capitulated and Russia occupied the capital city of Kyiv.
Bolton has said the administration is now worried about Russian successes, and so leaked the idea that we would eventually support guerrilla operations. When we offered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky safe passage from Kyiv, it showed no confidence in Ukraine’s survivability. China surely noted these intelligence failures.
Biden’s intelligence strategy mistakes in Ukraine look much like his failures in Afghanistan. Fortunately, the U.S. intelligence community is now finally reviewing its performance. They have much to do and much to change.
For years, it has been a priority to bring the Cold War strategies of old up to date, but no progress has been made. If Congress is looking for bipartisan reform projects, this clearly fits the bill. Congressional battles over “organization charts and personnel — all self-inflicted wounds — have to stop,” says Bolton. Writing in the Washington Post on May 25, he said, “We knew how to do this once; try doing what worked 50 years ago.”
Former Wisconsin Senator Robert Kasten will be our guest this weekend on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY at America Out Loud Talk Radio at both 11 am and 8 pm on Saturday, July 2, and Sunday, July 3, to discuss U.S. Intelligence and its impact on the Mid-Term elections.
Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris
Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.