In a predictably opportunistic manner, both the White House and Senate are washing their hands clean of any policy decisions and laying fault at the doorstep of the CIA as though the agency is at fault for: a) policy making; b) having a crystal ball to predict when people will hit the streets; and c) had failed to provide good intel, despite sharing with the White House all it knew about the situation in December 2010, as CIA official Stephanie O'Sullivan testified. Published reports indicate that the CIA warned about simmering social unrest that could spread throughout the Arab world, but policymakers simply ignored the reports, as they probably warn many such reports that outline possible scenarios in various parts of the world where stability may be at issue.
Is the CIA to blame for failing to provide adequate intelligence to the Obama administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Arab uprisings in January-February 2011? From the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam, from the Iranian and Nicaraguan Revolutions to the 'phantom Iraqi nuke program' for which the CIA was doing all it could both to provide honest intelligence and at the same time go along with Bush policy, politicians in Washington have always blamed the CIA because they do not want to accept responsibility for policy decisions. The agency may as well hang a sign in its Langley headquarters that reads: "We will always credit the administration when something goes as planned, but when something goes wrong with US foreign policy, we are here to take the fall for elected officials."
This may sound very strange coming from me, a critic of the agency's operations since Truman created it. However, it is important to understand that CIA, which does everything from compiling important stats on countries to engaging in counter-insurgency operations, is only executing government orders and acts to implement aspects of policy. The CIA cannot be blamed if social unrest or revolutions erupt, any more than the army can be blamed for doing its job (with all its flaws that are expected under war conditions) in the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally, the desire of politicians is understandable to demand that the CIA should have 'guided' or manipulated the social unrest in Egypt so that the Muslim Brotherhood does not benefit politically in the aftermath. However, that is an utterly unrealistic demand that the agency could not possibly carry out even it had the blessing of the prophet Muhammad on its side.
The other criticism is that the CIA focused mainly on the 'terrorism nexus' - Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan - while ignoring 'safe pro-US satellites Tunisia and Egypt'. But why is it the CIA's fault that both Bush and Obama asked the agency to focus on the 'terrorism nexus', rather than the 'pro-West' authoritarian regimes? And can the politicians blame the CIA for placing their trust in pro-US authoritarian regimes, when that too was policy and the Pentagon did the same?
On February 3, 2011, Sen. John McCain told FOX news that the 'virus of mass uprisings behind which are radical organizations is spreading throughout the Middle East. McCain reflects broad sentiments of US politicians and pundits who strongly disapprove of the popular uprisings in the Arab world, and by implication grass roots democratic uprisings, largely because such events jeopardize US, westerns and Israeli interests. In sharp contrast to McCain and politicians and pundits who lament the popular Arab uprisings, Robert Grenier, former CIA Director of Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, CIA’s Clandestine Service director, argues that the US opted for political stability instead of risking backing democratic reform.
"Suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny. Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress the protesters' desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the wobbling, repressive governments in the region to "respect civil society", and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform. They urge calm and restraint. One listens in vain, however, for a ringing endorsement of freedom, or for a statement of encouragement to those willing to risk everything to assert their rights and their human dignity - values which the US nominally regards as universal. ... The failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests in peace and stability." http://www.zerohedge.com/article/former-director-cia%E2%80%99s-counter-terrorism-center-american-policy-middle-east-failing-because-u
With its board-members' approval, the IMF recommended to the countries currently in revolt to abolish state food subsidies thereby exacerbating simmering social unrest. Pundits and politicians - yes, of course always after the fact because before the same pundits and politicians were on the other side - are now asking why didn't the IMF provide emergency lending to the Arab nations now under turmoil, while the IMF is defending its policies and rejects the suggestion that austerity contributed to social unrest!