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THE OBJECTIVES OF DIPLOMATIC POLITICAL ANALYSIS C H A P T E R T W O 7 T he objectives of diplomatic political analysis are to inform, to explain, or to influence. The terms “reporting” and “analysis” are often used interchangeably. Embassy political reporting is a generic term that may include one or more functions of reporting (informing), analysis or prediction (explaining), or recommendations (influence). They are distinguishable and should be distinguished because they have different content, different objectives, and, often, different audiences. The U.S. intelligence community is bifurcated into operations and analytical branches.The operations branch comprises what we think of when we think of the CIA— the spies, the spooks, James Bond, et al. Its job is to use clandestine means to collect information and transmit that information to Washington along with an evaluation of its accuracy and reliability. This is reporting, not analysis. The Station (the CIA’s office at an embassy) reports what it receives. It generally limits its interpretation and analysis of the information, although it may comment on it. Most analysis is done in Washington by the analytical branch, which wants just the facts. By putting together facts from a variety of sources and methods, it produces an interpretation, or analysis, of what they mean.1 The State Department is organized differently. Its operations and analytical efforts are not so clearly differentiated. One of its divisions, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), is considered to be part of the intelligence community and devotes itself entirely to analytical efforts. The secretary’s Policy Planning Staff also has primarily analytical functions, although how it is used varies more widely as senior department officials come and go. Much of the rest of the department, including its geographic, economic, and functional bureaus, performs both operational and analytical tasks. A 8 ———— THE CRAFT OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS FOR DIPLOMATS country desk within a geographic bureau may, for example, on the same day be dealing with the problem of a diplomat from country X caught shoplifting (it happens!), and providing senior department officials its evaluation of whether a threatened mineworkers ’ strike in country X could destabilize the regime in power. Embassies also work both sides of the operational and analytical fence. Embassy officers may on the same day be organizing a visit to the United States of a group of host-country journalists or assisting a congressional delegation that is in the country, and drafting cables for Washington readers about a variety of developments in the country . An embassy cable may solely report, or analyze, or predict, although it is more likely to be some combination thereof. The distinction is simple enough in principle, but it is a distinction worth noting because, as indicated above, of the differences in content, objectives, and audience. EXAMPLE: MINERS’ STRIKE IN COUNTRY X A reporting cable, simply comprising factual statements, provides information to interested Washington readers. At a minimum, these readers will presumably include the country desk officer or officers and members of the intelligence community responsible for following developments in that particular country. The country desk will decide whether any higher-level officials in the department need to be made aware of the information . The intelligence community will incorporate the information into its analyses of what is happening in the country. The “Simplified Flow of Embassy Reporting” chart gives a simple picture of how a typical embassy reporting cable is distributed to offices and agencies in Washington. Which offices and agencies will receive a particular cable is a function of a number of variables. The key ones, to which we will return later, are subject matter, security classification, and distribution restrictions. Each office and agency will have its own THE OBJECTIVES OF DIPLOMATIC POLITICAL ANALYSIS ———— 9 criteria—some automated, some not—for determining how embassy reports are distributed , both horizontally and vertically. Let us use a miners’ strike in country X as an example. An embassy officer arrives at work in the morning, picks up the local paper, and reads that there may be a walkout by miners. Assuming he has the right connections and is on top of his game, he arranges to see the head of the mineworkers’ union and the chief of staff to the minister of the interior. He gets a cable out that evening that says: Speaking to emboff2 in his office at union headquarters, miners’ union chief ____ said that his workers will walk off their jobs at noon tomorrow unless they get a 10% pay...


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