Why spies never discover anything useful

Richard Posner in a lecture some years ago talked about how useful spying was during the cold war. Each side develop a far more accurate appreciation of the other’s strengths. As a result, it did not overreact nor under react to threats. For example, it was through U-2 spying that the USA learned that there was no missile gap with Russia. In fact, Russia is very weak and much less of a threat.

In 1983, Ronald Reagan learned through secret intelligence that through a series of misinterpretations of routine military manoeuvres in Western Europe, and some bureaucrats at Russian embassies trying to inflate their own importance and knowledge of the workings of their host governments, the Soviet leadership came to the impression that they were a ruse for war and they were under the threat of imminent attack. The Russians started to prepare to counter attack.

At the same time, a Korean airline was shot down by the Russian air force. Privately, Reagan and his advisers are horrified that such a thing could happen through a comedy of errors and that could lead to something far worse through mutual alarm and tests of will.

Reagan began seeking a rapprochement with the Kremlin fifteen months before Gorbachev took office. Reagan spoke of common concerns, the mutual desire for peace and the urgent need to address “dangerous misunderstandings” between Moscow and Washington.

John Quiggin

I’ve long maintained the view that spies never discover anything useful about a country’s foreign enemies, though they are very useful in suppressing domestic opponents. This is a straightforward implication of game theory, but my attempts to explain it haven’t worked in the past, and I don’t know how to do much better. So, I’m going to restate my arguments from 10 years ago, against the massive expansion of spying that was already under way, and make the observation that the evidence since then strongly supports my case.

Despite an espionage and surveillance effort unparalleled in history, the US NSA has been unable to produce any convincing evidence of stopping even one domestic terror plot. Its best case was someone alleged to have sent a few thousand dollars to Al Shabab in Somalia. The NSA not only missed actual terror plotters like those in Boston, but also performed poorly relative…

View original post 2,222 more words

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Science Matters

Reading between the lines, and underneath the hype.

Uneasy Money

Commentary on monetary policy in the spirit of R. G. Hawtrey

The Market Monetarist

Markets Matter, Money Matters...

The Inquiring Mind

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” Thomas Paine - "Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited." ~ Lord Acton - Commentary on what interests me, reflecting my personal take on the world

Point of Order

Politics and the economy

New Historical Express

(Formerly Hatful of History)

Economics in the Rear-View Mirror

Archival Artifacts from the History of Economics

Truth on the Market

Scholarly commentary on law, economics, and more

Stockerblog

Philosophy, Politics, Culture from Barry Stocker, British philosopher based in Istanbul

Organizations and Markets

Economics of organizations, strategy, entrepreneurship, innovation, and more

John Quiggin

Commentary on Australian and world events from a socialist and democratic viewpoint

The Antiplanner

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Pedestrian Observations

For Walkability and Good Transit, and Against Boondoggles and Pollution

Bet On It

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Trade Diversion

Commentary on development, globalization, and trade by Jonathan Dingel.

Movie Nation

Roger Moore's film criticism, against the grain since 1984.

Conversable Economist

In Hume’s spirit, I will attempt to serve as an ambassador from my world of economics, and help in “finding topics of conversation fit for the entertainment of rational creatures.”

AwayPoint

Between An Island of Certainties and the Unknown Shore

Weapons and Warfare

History and Hardware of Warfare

fportier.wordpress.com/

Franck Portier's professional page

NZCPR Site

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Anti-Dismal

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Bowalley Road

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

History of Sorts

WORLD WAR 2,EIGHTIES,MUSIC,HISTORY,HOLOCAUST

Tudor Chronicles

News, reviews and talk all about the Tudors

Karl du Fresne

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Roger Pielke Jr.

an undisciplined academic - @RogerPielkeJr on Twitter

Great Books Guy

Reading The Classics

@STILLTish. Gender Abolition

Examining Gender Identity ideology and its impact on Women's Sex based rights and Gay Rights. Exploring how this has taken such firm root in Western societies (Cognitive & Regulatory Capture).

200-Proof Liberals

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

What Paul Gregory is Writing About

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Offsetting Behaviour

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Conversable Economist

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Barrie Saunders

Thoughts on public policy and the media

The Victorian Commons

Researching the House of Commons, 1832-1868

Coyote Blog

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

The History of Parliament

Blogging on parliament, politics and people, from the History of Parliament

Books & Boots

reflections on books and art

Legal History Miscellany

Posts on the History of Law, Crime, and Justice

Sex, Drugs and Economics

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

%d bloggers like this: