Dr. Paul R. Pillar

NCPA Economic Policy Forum & Author Series with

Dr. Paul R. Pillar

Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform

WHEN:            Wednesday, March 7, 2012
                        12:00PM – 1:15PM

WHERE:          The Pavilion at Belo Mansion
                         2101 Ross Avenue
                         Dallas, Texas 75201 



Click here to register.


In his book, Paul R. Pillar confronts the intelligence myths Americans have come to rely on to explain national tragedies, including the belief that intelligence drives major national security decisions and can be fixed to avoid future failures.  Dr. Pillar believes these assumptions waste critical resources and create harmful policies, diverting attention away from smarter reform, and they keep Americans from recognizing the limits of obtainable knowledge.

Pillar revisits U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and highlights the small role intelligence played in those decisions, and he demonstrates the negligible effect that America's most notorious intelligence failures had on U.S. policy and interests.  He then reviews in detail the events of 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, condemning the 9/11 commission and the George W. Bush administration for their portrayals of the role of intelligence.  Pillar offers an original approach to better informing U.S. policy, which involves insulating intelligence management from politicization and reducing the politically appointed layer in the executive branch to combat slanted perceptions of foreign threats.  Pillar concludes with principles for adapting foreign policy to inevitable uncertainties.

Pillar offers an original approach to better informing U.S. policy, which involves insulating intelligence management from politicization and reducing the politically appointed layer in the executive branch to combat slanted perceptions of foreign threats.  Pillar concludes with principles for adapting foreign policy to inevitable uncertainties.

Dr. Pillar retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia.  Earlier he served in a variety of analytical and managerial positions, including as chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia.  Professor Pillar also served in the National Intelligence Council as one of the original members of its Analytic Group.  He has been Executive Assistant to CIA's Deputy Director for Intelligence and Executive Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster. He has also headed the Assessments and Information Group of the DCI Counterterrorist Center and from 1997 to 1999 was deputy chief of the center.  He was a Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1999-2000. Professor Pillar is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and served on active duty in 1971-1973, including a tour of duty in Vietnam.

Copies of Dr. Pillar’s book will be available for purchase at the event, and he will sign copies after his remarks.


“Writing with the authority of a distinguished practitioner and scholar, Paul R. Pillar presents a blunt and candid assessment of the profound disconnect between intelligence and American national security policy.  His pointed reflections expose the reality of the politicization and misuse of intelligence as well as the importance of the images of the world that policy makers bring to the table.  His book is an invaluable corrective to the assumption that policy blunders and the inability to predict can be blamed simply on the “intelligence failure.’”

-- Martha Crenshaw, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University      


“Paul R. Pillar has written a brilliant, lucid analysis of the evolution of U.S. national security intelligence in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.  He shows how the intelligence agencies have been made scapegoats for the failures of our political leaders, how intelligence reform has become confused with bureaucratic reorganization, and hos our foreign policy is driven by a psychological as well as political incapacity to accept the limitations of our knowledge about the plans and motivations of actual and potential adversaries.  Pillar’s book is erudite, thorough, and authoritative, yet accessible to anyone concerned with the gravest issues of national and global security.”

-- Richard A. Posner, author of Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps


“Paul R. Pillar brings to his study of intelligence and foreign policy the skills of a polished scholar and a wealth of experience as an intelligence officer.  A brief endorsement cannot do justice to the richness and power of his arguments, which are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what intelligence can and cannot do; why the appeal of reforms is often greater than their value; and how we can avoid repeating our past mistakes.”

-- Robert Jervis, author of Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Fall of the Shah and the Iraq War