The More Things Change…

With regard to hard problems:

Fifty years ago today the Soviet Presidium overturned its earlier decision to pull its troops out of Hungary in the face of a popular uprising, yet the CIA–with only one Hungarian-speaking officer stationed in Budapest at the time–failed to foresee either the uprising or the Soviet invasion to come, according to declassified CIA histories posted on the Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Describing the several days in early November 1956 when it seemed the Hungarian Revolution had succeeded (before the Soviet tanks rolled in on November 4), a CIA Clandestine Service History written in 1958 commented: “This breath-taking and undreamed-of state of affairs not only caught many Hungarians off-guard, it also caught us off-guard, for which we can hardly be blamed since we had no inside information, little outside information, and could not read the Russians’ minds.”

Hey, don’t blame us, we were clueless. Unfair? You’d think that with even one man on the ground current events would have been slap-in-the-face obvious, but apparently not. Now fast-forward to current hard problems (pre-war Iraq, Iran, North Korea) where the manpower issue is as bad or worse, and begin to understand just how dim the light is under which we are forced to make decisions.

History, repeat thyself . . .

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