I've been reading two very interesting documents that provide an insight into the worldview of the American intelligence community - the CIA's Strategic Intent (2007) and the National Intelligence Strategy of the United States (2009) that is published by the Directorate of National Intelligence. The latter, charged with coordinating the vast intelligence apparatus of the United States and its myriad heads, agencies and organisations is now run by Admiral Dennis Blair - whom I remember making some eminently sensible appraisals of Asian security at an international forum.
It does seem that India's security establishment and the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) in particular could do with some of the clear-thinking that is presumed upon the authorship of a document of this kind. As I've pointed out in an earlier post, Indians tend to find the very notion of strategy esoteric and treat its mention with incomprehension. More importantly, it is the lack of an open hiring process that stymies the recruitment of young talent into the intelligence services. I was pleasantly surprised then, when I found positions in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) cheerfully advertised on the Ministry of Home Affairs website. Perhaps then, those shuffling bureaucrats in charge of gathering intelligence on external threats to India's national interests could take a leaf out of their sister organisation. I can imagine their skepticism however, India's political culture is uniquely apolitical - fostering the secession of the successful from the political and the public sphere rather than an active engagement. The lumpenisation of national politics, which recieved its most consummate expression in the Samajwadi Party's luddite manifesto of 2009 has made its way to the college campuses with candidates of a distinctly criminal disposition dominating. The young patriotic bourgeoisie that is meant to form the happy hunting ground of intelligence organisations is too alienated and too busy pursuing the capitalist dream at Amity Business School. The ones who do have public-service on their conscience are involved in waging war against the Indian State - be it through the media or the NGO andolans that proliferate in New Delhi and elsewhere. Arundhati Roy has inspired a generation of young Indians. Perhaps it is best to continue the practice of recruiting directly from the Indian Police Service, at least a modicum of nationalist value-consensus is ensured.
A return to American intelligence priorities then, is called for if this is post is to save itself from degenerating into a rant. There is a distinct change of tone between the CIA document and Admiral Blair's DNI document. The former, which was authored in 2007 reflects the prevailing intellectual currents of its time - the rise of India and China thesis. The CIA itself argues that "the rise of China and India and the emergence of new economic “centers” will transform the geopolitical and economic landscape." In the mid to late 2000's security policy discourse turned towards a theme that its still pursuing, the rise of Asia thesis. The argument runs that the West as symbolised first by Imperial Europe and later by the United States was loosing its preeminence in global politics and the locus of power both economic and political was shifting to Asia. This was the end of the Vasco de Gama era. India and China - nations with similar population sizes and GDP growth rates were held up as the examples that proved the theory. The Republican dehyphenation of India and Pakistan, India's inclusion into strategic Asia and the nuclear deal helped matters along.
Dennis Blair's Intelligence Strategy however is very different. India does not find a single mention in the United State's strategic priorities. Iran, North Korea, China and Russia make it to the list of top state-level concerns. There isn't any mention of Pakistan either. Funny, I remember them fighting a war somewhere near there.
More significantly, there is a plausible shift in the language deployed by author(s) of the DNI document. The "Vision" of the US Intelligence Community is one where the practice of intelligence "must be consistent with America's expectations for protection of privacy and civil liberties and respectful of human rights." This is all well and good but when did civil liberities become the preserve of the CIA and the intelligence community? Surely, it is the job of the State Department to conduct public relations? The inclusion of this text hints at a shift in priorities. American liberals - hurt by the string of international condemnation that accompanied George Bush's foreign adventures - are using their time in office to restore, as they see it, America's moral authority. In the process, they forget the real function of strategic policy - the preservation of American hegemony. Ashok Malik is correct in his assesment of Washington 2009 - "The Democrat leadership is intelligent, even cerebral, and often well-intentioned. It is, however, largely representative of the liberal-extreme Left end of the American political spectrum. At its worst, it resembles a coalition of NGO interests and is lacking in what may be called the ‘hard stuff’. The sense of realpolitik, the cold-blooded execution of military and coercive power, the big-picture strategic thinking: There is an absence of these qualities at the Democrat high table."
This paradigm shift however, is not sufficient in explaining India's downfall. The attacks on Bombay in the November of 2008 shattered the myth of India as a potential great power. The wind was taken out of India's geopolitical sails. India is back where it belongs, with Pakistan.