May 24, 2013
Barack Obama, Meet Team B
Posted on Mar 12, 2009
By Scott Ritter
Obama ought to reacquaint himself with the 1972 ABM treaty and the case of the CIA versus “Team B.” This chapter of America’s failed arms control policy unfolded from 1975-1976, during the administration of Gerald Ford. Once upon a time, there was a Soviet Union, and a Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. In an effort to prevent the Cold War from becoming a “hot war,” the two powers launched arms control initiatives, packaged as part of a larger East-West détente, to better manage the escalation of an arms race derived from Cold War tensions. It was critical in this effort to have an accurate understanding of not only the physical reality of Soviet strategic weapons programs, but also their intent. The CIA produced a report that addressed these issues, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) 11-3/8-74, “Soviet Forces for Intercontinental Conflict Through 1985.”
The benign picture painted by the CIA’s estimate of Soviet strategic capability clashed with ideologues in and out of government who were pushing for U.S. defense programs that could not be justified if the CIA’s estimates were allowed to stand. Rather than confront the facts of the CIA’s estimates, these ideologues instead assaulted the methodology used to determine them. Political pressure was brought to bear on President Ford by conservative opponents of détente to prepare a “Team B” of analysts (outside ideologues) who would challenge the conclusions put forward in the CIA estimate by “Team A” (the CIA’s own staff). “Team B” didn’t produce better facts (indeed, every one of its assertions was proved to be wrong), but it did produce better fear. Its claims about Soviet intentions and capabilities, highly inflated and inaccurate, were political dynamite that could not be ignored, especially in the politically charged presidential election year of 1976. “Team B” won out over “Team A,” and the foundation was set for not only the dismantling of U.S.-Soviet détente, but also for the biggest arms race in modern history, culminating in the destruction of the very agreements designed to constrain such an escalation.
Obama should acquaint himself with the story of “Team B,” because “Team B” exists today, propagating myths about an Iranian “threat” that are analogous to those employed by the team that sold the fable of the Soviet “threat.” The new president was critical of the Iraq war, and the sad tale of misinformation and deception that has since been repackaged as an “intelligence failure.” There was no “failure” because there was no “intelligence.” “Team B” doesn’t produce intelligence, but rather ideological assertions used as justification for policy. The same “Team B”-based methodologies which gave us the Iraq assertions about WMD programs are in play today in the Iran “intelligence” used by President Obama and his national security team.
Obama might be surprised that one of the programs being sold by “Team B” in its assault on truth was a missile defense shield to counter the team’s perception of a Soviet missile threat. The falsehoods and fabrications sold by “Team B” back in the 1970s set America on the path toward the withdrawal from the ABM treaty in 2001, and the proposed deployment of the very missile defense shield Obama is trying to bargain away to get Russia to help confront an Iranian “threat” manufactured by none other than “Team B.”
Obama needs to learn the truth about Iran, and about the proposed missile defense system in Europe. This truth would be inconvenient, but it would also liberate him to develop meaningful solutions to serious problems in a manner that avoids a repeat of his embarrassing “Grand Bargain” gambit with Russia, trying to trade nothing for nothing in an effort to certify something for nothing. There are a lot of “zero sums” in that equation, which pretty much sums up Obama’s Iran and Russia policies to date.
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