March 5th, 2014

Why did the intelligence community fail to predict Putin’s actions in Ukraine?

Why was our intelligence community caught flat-footed about Putin’s moves? That’s a question being asked on Capitol Hill, and in Politico.

One answer is, “No, it wasn’t.” That one was given by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz, who both made statements to the effect that the intelligence community “included warnings of possible scenarios for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine.” I have to say that James Clapper has a bit of a general credibility problem regarding statements to the American public about intelligence. And a warning of a “possible scenario” does not include whether this was considered a distant possibility or a likely one.

The Politico article goes on to mention a bunch of liberal MSM pundits who failed to predict it. Gee, is that some sort of surprise? The tone was set by our president and his entire administration, followed slavishly by most liberal journalists, who have spent a great deal of time and effort saying what a pussycat Putin is, and ridiculing as outdated (Obama to Romney: “the 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back”) anyone who might say otherwise. This began in 2008 with mockery of Sarah Palin, and reached a crescendo with Romney during the 2012 campaign.

To take any other scenario seriously would mean giving credence to those troglodytes Palin and Romney, agreeing with them instead of mocking them, and admitting that the world hadn’t turned into the fantasyland that suited Obama’s, Democrats’, and the MSM’s own rhetorical and political purposes.

The Politico article seems to be blurring the distinction between the intelligence community’s predictions and the predictions of people such as The New Yorker’s David Remnick, who may be in some ways “intelligent” but are not part of that community. But maybe Politico actually has a point, because expectations and mental set help to determine what can be seen and noticed. If the intelligence community is following the lead of the administration, its mental set may be such that it doesn’t see what it might otherwise see. Or, if Clapper and Ebitz are telling the truth and the intelligence community did see this coming (and I’m not at all certain they are), then the intelligence community can say whatever it wants, but if the administration has other ideas it doesn’t much matter what intelligence says. The administration can ignore them.

12 Responses to “Why did the intelligence community fail to predict Putin’s actions in Ukraine?”

  1. artfldgr Says:

    Funny thing….

    if they ARE predicted, then people act, and the occurance is prevented from the kind of thing it could be

    if its NOT predicted, then there is no opposition, the others are emboldened to continue, etc.

    there is nothing to wonder..

    its a variation of this question:
    Why, when looking for something, I always find it in the last place i look?

    easy… once you find it, you stop looking. the only way to make the question untrue, is to find your car keys, then keep lookinf for your car keys

    liberals are very silly people.
    and as arte johnson would say
    and stupid…

  2. Matt_SE Says:

    Which reminds one of how the intelligence community couldn’t see the Boston bombers or the Ft. Hood shootings, even though there was some-to-a lot of warning in each case.
    Not so much a case of “can’t” see it as “won’t” see it.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    There are rumors (no idea how credible they may be) that the CIA was involved in agitating the unrest that led to the ouster of Yanukovych and, that what precipitated the CIA’s facilitation of that unrest was Yanukovych siding with Putin rather than the EU.

    If true, a CIA invested in the imaginary world view of the Obama administration may well have calculated that ‘pussy-cat’ Putin would roll over and take it.

    Whether true or not apparently Putin thinks that Western interests are involved in the Ukrainian unrest. That may be political distraction, paranoia (dictators are prone to it) or he may know things of which we do not know.

  4. Ray Says:

    I’ll bet money that the DIA told the Pentagon brass that Putin would not let anything threaten the Russian naval base in the Crimea.

  5. artfldgr Says:

    Geoffry of Britain: yes, rumors, created by the state

    Russian television has also wheeled out “Vladislav,” a supposed Russian veteran of the radical Pravy Sektor paramilitary group who claims he saw armed foreign mercenaries – including 60 from the US and up to 50 from Germany – at the demonstrations in Kiev. He has also claimed his former comrades in the radical group are raiding the houses of pro-Yanukovych officials an searching for documents at the behest of US intelligence.

    dont take a genius to realize that to do this you have to be ready months in advance… but the appearances are of a force that can instantly respond..

    But it is clear who has more fire power – and more money.

    The Russians, in their distinctively-patterned green camouflage uniform sport brand new AK-74s, modern helmets, slick eye-protection goggles and high tech communications equipment.

    The Ukrainians, in a blotchy olive-green and black fatigues, carry battered, hand-me-down Kalashnikovs, wear a motley mix of Soviet-era and modern gear, and are backed by a single, ageing, armoured fighting vehicle.

    Though it was a nice bit of timing to also have a new nuclear missile test last night…

    but i notice…
    if it has real potential substance into a uncomfortable area, it wont be really discussed. at best its fringed as we walk around on the edges of the doily, following its tracings, and NEVER breaking the boundaries.

    i gave up trying to inform and help..
    waste of time given the way its discussed.

    i can point out tons of other things but why bother?

    i have the phil ochs pleasures of the harbor attitude now… (evne more so that i am trading again)

    the only song that covers the murder of kitty genovese, and the wrong facts..

    but it does fit the proper attitude

    you know how it is, the gab fests are so much fun, we would hate to blow them with substance or anything other than their point to self pleasure, tickling the brain…

    Oh, look outside the window
    There’s a woman being grabbed
    They’ve dragged her to the bushes
    And now she’s being stabbed

    Maybe we should call the cops
    And try to stop the pain
    But Monopoly is so much fun
    I’d hate to blow the game

    And I’m sure
    It wouldn’t interest anybody
    Outside of a small circle of friends

    Ridin’ down the highway
    Yes, my back is gettin’ stiff
    Thirteen cars are piled up
    They’re hangin’ on a cliff

    Now maybe we should pull them back
    With our towin’ chain
    But we gotta move and we might get sued
    And it looks like it’s gonna rain

    And I’m sure
    It wouldn’t interest anybody
    Outside of a small circle of friends

    Sweatin’ in the ghetto
    With the colored and the poor
    The rats have joined the babies
    Who are sleepin’ on the floor

    Now wouldn’t it be a riot
    If they really blew their tops?
    But they got too much already
    And besides we’ve got the cops

    And I’m sure
    It wouldn’t interest anybody
    Outside of a small circle of friends

    [edited for length by n-n]

  6. artfldgr Says:

    Op-eds from all over the legacy press this week helped explained why. Through the rose tinted lenses of a media community deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told, lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine.

    War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy.

    Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit.

    The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, as Ukraine’s territory, population and military are much larger.

    Invasion would harm Russia’s international standing.

    Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi.

    Putin would rather let the new government in Kiev humiliate itself with incompetence than give it an enemy to rally against.

    Crimea’s Tartars and other anti-Russian ethnic minorities wouldn’t stand for it.

    there are literally hundreds of more “throw underwear at the wall and see which explaination sticks” search for an answer..

  7. T Says:

    (H/T Instapundit) The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, also has an interesting take on the failure of Obama’s foreign policy over at patheos.

  8. Ymarsakar Says:

    Most of the human analysts and sig int was focused on penetrating Congress, the SC, Tea Party, and so forth. The foreign intelligence branch, the human intelligence resources, were mostly either purged due to the alliance with Islamic Jihad or focused on our allies, Japan, Israel, Merkel, Britain.

  9. Paul in Boston Says:

    To answer the title’s question, because they are now large self-protective bureaucracies that act to further their own interests and only act secondarily to perform their mission.

    I was in East Germany for a week in 1981. It was a pest hole as far as everyone from the West was concerned but the people from further east, especially the Russians, thought it was paradise. I found this rather remarkable and wondered how much longer those societies could last before collapsing. From my very limited exposure it seemed to me that we were dealing with nuclear armed Third World countries over there.

    The CIA and the other agencies were telling people that the Soviet block was strong and US politicians, especially the libs, were pushing coexistence very hard. How they missed what was so obvious to a tourist with no experience has always mystified me. Senator Daniel Moynihan ripped the spy agencies to shreds for their poor performance after the collapse of Communism. They were already calcified, arrogant, and self absorbed even then.

  10. blert Says:


    The CIA is a Democrat stronghold. It always has been. That’s why the Pentagon wanted — and created — its own DIA.

    Not only is the CIA to the left — it’s only slightly less left than the Soviets.

    That’s why the Dunham family fit right in… and having FM Davis as a pal was not a problem.

    For all of the early post-war era, the CIA looked upon the contest as being between the American Left and the Soviet Left. Such group think came naturally to an organization that recruited so narrowly: Ivy. (Yale and Harvard both being wildly over-represented in the top ranks.)

    To admit that the USSR was as fouled up as it was was to also admit that the larger vision of Progressivism was errant.

    In a sea of double-think and double-speak, it was easy to push the notion out of mind.

    One might say that the players were engaged in ‘method syping’ — the counter-point to method acting.

    As parodied in “Team America” the ideal agent is an actor who has studies foreign languages and cultures. Lame deceits and even lamer acting made for heroic exploits — particularly ‘on stage.’

    Selling sincerity was parodied as the apex achievement of the hero.

    The CIA and Hollywood were fused at the hip. (And the hipster, too.)

  11. parker Says:

    Clapper has no credibility just like everyone else on team obama. That anyone, in government or the MSM, has been ‘caught by surprise’ that Putin would react in a forceful manner to EU-USA pulling Ukraine into their sphere of influence is astounding. Even that bimbo snowbilly Palin saw this coming 6 years ago from her front porch in Alaska. 😉

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    It’s obviously because one can see Russia from Alaska, it makes for easier communications.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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