Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Watched Tinpot Never Boils

Intelligence community veteran, Egypt hand, and "National Interest" blogger Paul Pillar on the bum rap of intelligence failure in Egypt:
[N]o matter how complete is our information about a situation in a foreign country and how astutely we may analyze that situation, it is impossible for anyone to predict the sort of happenings taking place in Egypt today. Those happenings are not the result of some secret conspiracy, detectable with sufficiently energetic collection of information. They are a spontaneous, leaderless eruption. The responsible government agencies should be expected to understand and to convey the potential for such eruptions, but they cannot predict the timing. Although Mubarak's regime has become increasingly sclerotic and repressive over the past decade or so, the potential for an eruption something like the current one has been present ever since I was responsible for the subject in the 1980s. One cannot expect the five U.S. administrations since then to have been in some kind of alert status or to make a series of fresh decisions about Egypt in response to that potential.

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