Peering into the Future

Courtesy Reuters


As the Soviet Union, Germany and the Middle East have recently reminded us, no one knows the future. Yet, consciously or not, foreign policy makers constantly make predictions. Will a foreign leader act rationally? Will an allied country be reliable? The consequences of wrong guesses can be catastrophic, so policymakers turn to national intelligence for help. Despite the end of the Cold War, the need for good intelligence estimates continues.

Intelligence analysts sift through reams of information, trying to sort the accurate from the erroneous, and when not enough facts are available, estimating what the picture would look like if all the facts were available. Current intelligence, intelligence about current events, is mainly reportorial and interpretive: "Saddam Hussein lambasted the U.S. government again yesterday. He seems to be trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Paris." While the line often blurs, estimative

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