Paul R. Pillar


Pillar, Paul R. "Counterintelligence After Al Qaeda." Washington Quarterly 27, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 101-113.


Pillar, Paul R. "Fighting International Terrorism: Beyond September 11th." Defense Intelligence Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 17-26.

"[U]nlike ... most other wars the United States has waged," the war on terrorism "will not have a clear end.... If history is a guide, even the currrent enthusiasm for counterterrorism ... will slacken over time.... Americans will ... need much patience and persistence, into an indefinite future."


Pillar, Paul R. "Good Literature and Bad History: The 9/11 Commission's Tale of Strategic Intelligence." Intelligence and National Security 21, no. 6 (Dec. 2006): 1022-1044.

Clark comment: There are only a few articles among the many dealing with diverse aspects of intelligence that I wish I had written. This is one of them.

Pillar calls the 9/11 Commission's report a "detailed and well-crafted account of the terrorist plot" behind the 9/11 attacks. However, he views "other parts of the account" as "not only wrong but willfully wrong." In addition, there were and are "serious flaws in the commission's reorganization plan" for U.S. intelligence.

As it related to the performance of the intelligence community, the commission's report "was advocacy of a particular proposal, and an effort to manipulate public opinion in support of that proposal." There were "a large number of factual errors and omissions in the commission staff's draft statement on intelligence." Although the intelligence community had the opportunity to point out those mistakes, the corrections were largely ignored; and "[m]ost of the errors in the staff statement on intelligence were repeated in the report." In contrast, the Silberman-Robb Commission (WMD Commission) was much more willing to listen to and heed "the observations of officers who were not only experts on the events and subject matter at hand but also at least as committed as anyone else to trying to make intelligence better."

[GenPostCW/9/11Commission/04 & Report; Reform/00s/06]

Pillar, Paul R. "Inside Track: Sometimes the CIA Is Right." National Interest, 6 Jun. 2007. "The Right Stuff." National Interest, 29 Aug. 2007. []

The author was NIO/Near East and South Asia 2000-2005. He notes that the much excoriated "estimate was one of only three ... community-coordinated assessments about Iraq that the intelligence community [IC] produced ... prior to the war." The other estimates "addressed the principal challenges that Iraq likely would present during the first several years after Saddam's removal, as well as likely repercussions in the surrounding region." These estimates present a different view of how the IC really performed on Iraq. They "offered judgments on the issues that turned out to be most important in the war..., even though those judgments conspicuously contradicted the administration's rosy vision.... And for the most part, those judgments were correct."

[Analysis/Est; CIA/00s/07; MI/Ops/Iraq]

Pillar, Paul R. "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq." Foreign Affairs 85, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 2006): 15-27.

The NIO for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005 argues that, with regard to the Iraq war, "official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized."

[GenPostCW/00s/WMD/05; MI/Ops/Iraq/07]

Pillar, Paul R. Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

According to Johnson, Proceedings 137.12 (Dec. 2011), the author argues that "reform" of the U.S. intelligence structure "do[es] not necessarily improve intelligence." In fact, "[t]hey may worsen matters," as was the case with the creation of the DNI. Freedman, FA 91.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2012), says Pillar "provides a vigorous and hard-hitting insider's account." To Burcalow, Military Review (Mar.-Apr. 2013), "Pillar’s book is extremely detailed and informative, providing a better understanding of just how hard it is to be an intelligence professional in a world where all that matters is being wrong . . . once."

George, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011), finds the author's "treatment of his subject sophisticated and informative as well as personal. It is also provocative. Indeed, readers will be struck by the strident tone that Pillar ... uses." The reviewer notes that "if the politicization was as blatant as [Pillar] asserts, it seems as though there would have been more internal uproar." For Schwab, IJI&C 25.4 (Winter 2012-2013), this work "succeeds primarily as a memoir by a former top-level intelligence officer.... Pillar writes clearly and forthrightly."

[GenPostCW/10s/Gen; Reform/10s]

Pillar, Paul R. "Intelligent Design? The Unending Saga of Intelligence Reform." Foreign Affairs 87, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 2008): 138-144.

The author, NIO for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, reviews Weiner, Legacy of Ashes (2007); Zegart, Spying Blind (2007); and Betts, Enemies of Intelligence (2007). In the process, however, Pillar has much to say about intelligence reform and the intelligence business. One, among many, telling observation is that "reforms that pander to psychological needs and political agendas encourage changes that are more disruptive than productive." This article should be mandatory reading for those who cry incessantly for intelligence reform.


Pillar, Paul R. Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001. 2d ed. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2004.

Powers, NYRB, 17 Jan. 2002, notes that the author, a former deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, "argues persuasively that overexcitement is the enemy of sound counterterror practice." Although published prior to 9/11, "most of what Pillar says holds up well." Moore, Studies 46.1, agrees: This work is a "persuasive, policy-oriented primer.... Seen through the prism of the 11 September attacks, Pillar's book holds up quite well." For Turner, IJI&C 16.4, Pillar's work is "a major contribution to understanding the terrorism phenomenon and the tepid American policy response to it."

Commenting on the second edition, Peake, Studies 49.1 (2005), finds that a "43-page introduction ... addresses post-9/11 questions.... Overall, this book presents a temperate and discerning analysis with practical insights aimed at dealing with" the problem of terrorism.


Pillar, Paul R. "Think Again: Intelligence." Foreign Policy (Jan.-Feb. 2012). []

"On major foreign-policy decisions,... whether going to war or broadly rethinking U.S. strategy in the Arab world..., intelligence is not the decisive factor. The influences that really matter are the ones that leaders bring with them into office: their own strategic sense, the lessons they have drawn from history or personal experience, the imperatives of domestic politics, and their own neuroses.... Intelligence can help manage uncertainty.... It can distinguish true uncertainty from simple ignorance by systematically assembling all available information, but it cannot eliminate uncertainty and it cannot prevent all surprises, including some big ones."


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