Gregory Clark (Vice President, Akita International University)
I appreciate Chadwick Smith's thoughtful comments (http://www.glocom.org/debates/20040730_smith_non/) on my earlier article about the performance of Western - mainly US and UK - intelligence agencies over Iraq (http://www.glocom.org/debates/20040722_clark_iraq/). In that article I noted that while economic policy and advice is often put in the hands of impartial, non-political bodies, we do not find the same approach to foreign policy.
In response, I would make three points. One is that even in economic policy, while everyone agrees that economic growth is good, there are often serious differences of opinion over the policy needed for that growth. For example, an increase in interest rates will slow immediate growth. But it will be advocated by an impartial central bank or Federal Board in the interests of longer term growth.
In foreign policy there is also agreement that the goal is longterm peace and stability. But almost all would have agreed that something needed to be done about the distasteful regime in Iraq. Some may feel that invading Iraq was appropriate, and some might feel that it would have been better to adopt measures to isolate the regime impose sanction for bad behavior.
In making that decision impartial experts with access to information would have done better than the politicians.
My second point is that even in economic affairs there is quite a deal of classified information, particularly on interest rates or economic indicators. And it often can much more easily be used for personal advantage than foreign policy information. But few fear that the impartial experts receiving that information will misuse it.
But the main point which I wanted to make, and with which Chadwick Smith seems to agree, is that something has to be done about the way most of the allegedly impartial institutes and other non-government bodies involved with foreign affairs are in fact far from impartial. Their funding, information and even much of their staffing is so dependent on government sources that there can be no hope of impartiality. We saw this over Vietnam in the early stages of that war, and we saw it over Iraq.
True, many of these bodies are in themselves often fairly low key. But they have a very powerful influence on the media, with the media relying heavily on them for quotes and opinions on foreign policy issues.