The dangers of insularity and the perils of group think

24 Mar

One of the dangers of insularity: It’s always easier to spot it after the fact, or for outsiders to spot it. The people directly afflicted never seem to see it.

A Canadian news media analysis, INDEPTH: IRAQ United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: report on pre-Iraq war intelligence, calls up the dangers of insularity.

According to the article, the  U.S. intelligence community suffered from “collective group think” leading up to the Iraq war, causing it to interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusive proof of WMD programs. While making a decision based on sketchy evidence might be acceptable in business from time to time – for example, public relations practitioners sometimes have to respond with little evidence, and physicians often rely heavily on their prior diagnostic experience – it has no place in high-level diplomacy and military strategy.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence developed more than 100 conclusions in its report on intelligence failures in Iraq, eight of which are singled out in this news report. Conclusion 5 blames analytic and collection failures on intelligence community managers who did not adequately supervise the work of their analysts and collectors. Geez! If managers won’t challenge the assumptions of employees, who will? This conclusion dovetails nicely with the article we just read on product-development teams: You need skeptics and questioners on your team.

The events behind this article are the basis for the new Matt Damon vehicle Green Zone, which depicts the immediate aftermath of this intelligence failure, when WMDs were nowhere to be found in Iraq. (Sadly, Green Zone is not a great flick, although Damon’s always good. Should we be concerned that the top Google results for Green Zone are for the movie?)

This article reminds me why I want to read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City soon, which provides an inside view of life in Baghdad’s Green Zone. I hope we never fail this colossally again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: