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  It's not a bad thing to have intelligence agencies--if one can think of a way to actually get such an agency to act not as the brute force instrument of the ruling government, either by using violence or other methods of intimidation against its internal or external adversaries. Maybe the word "intelligence" is grossly misapplied to these agencies--it implies a thought process that would take advantage of opportunities to do, well, the intelligent thing. Perhaps that is impossible. Which brings me to this.

  Gideon Levy, one of the leading internal critics of the Israeli government and, in particular, its foolish and destructive policy towards the Palestinians and the Arab world in general, has a piece today that looks at the missteps and missed opportunities of the Mossad, which, as most people know, is Israel's external spy agency.

  Levy is a critic of the Mossad's focus on assassinations and covert military action, largely because he says it failed--even when the efforts are not bungled. But, it is not operational failures that bug him the most:

But from the little we know, the main problem at the Mossad is that its activity is mainly focused on dangers, both real and imagined, rather than opportunities. The Arab world for the most part is crying out for a peace agreement with Israel, to be based first and foremost on a settlement with the Palestinians.

Indeed, from WikiLeaks documents, the Arab world appears very troubled by Iran; more than a few Arab leaders view a solution to the Palestinian problem as a means of weakening Iran's influence. There is a not inconsiderable number of forces in the Arab world that are willing to accept Israel as a neighbor, and Israel is outrageously wasting this prospect. This is partly the Mossad's doing. It actually should have worked to pursue these opportunities, even if they involved less hush-hush mysteriousness and glory of the moment.

With its sophisticated methods, the Mossad can not only collect intelligence about prospects for war, but also prospects for peace. With its complex ties with various and sundry countries, it's possible to take advantage not only of another chance to thwart and kill or another attempt to assist a revolution in some shadowy location. Instead it should actually be attempting a revolution here, a revolution in thinking. So that not everything has to be accomplished by force or thuggery and sowing fear. Addressing the Arab League's peace initiative is no less essential than bombing Iran. There are other ways of doing things, even in the Middle East.

  This is, by the way, an affliction we have throughout the world. It is a failure based in large part due to a culture, created and run mainly by men, in which violence and military might--and huge profits from the war machine--are seen as the first and obvious, and weakest, response to disagreement and conflict.

  Now, it is true that "intelligence" agencies are generally a tool used by the rulers. So, you really can't separate the blind and narrow behavior of "intelligence" agencies from the people who set the broader policy of the nation. It would be more accurate, then, to understand that the madness of Israeli policy flows directly from the top.

  But, I would make two points. First, the ruler and the agencies that serve the ruler are not necessarily a master-slave relationship. The "intelligence" agency often has a grip on the system that outlasts an individual ruler--a grip that is often simply about holding on to power and influence.

  In most cases, however, the real problem is that the ruler and the "intelligence" agency incorporate a similar world view. Rather than stepping outside that world view, the ruler and the "intelligence" agency simply reinforce to each other their own outlook. It's inbred.

  So, second, it makes me think that we should start a campaign to demand that all "intelligence" agencies be deemed, by UN resolution and Congressional action, to be renamed "stupid agencies". Until further notice and proof that they deserve better.

Originally posted to Tasini on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 09:00 AM PST.

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