Dumb and Dumber

Thomas Barnett:

Me? I like my politicians slower and dumber than my businessmen. I see safety and prosperity in that.

Beyond that, I want my military slower and dumber than my politicians. I see the preservation of freedom in that.

And beyond all that, I want my intell agencies slower and dumber than my military. I prefer my sins to be of commission rather than omission, and a better CIA would be more trouble than it’s worth.

Me? I like my politicians, generals, and intel analysts all to be as fast and smart as possible.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Military Affairs,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The issue is one of relative competence not absolute competence and I think that Barnett has a point.

  2. legion says:

    Agreed, as far as it goes. But when your high-water mark for smartness is George Bush, the jokes kinda write themselves.

    And are necessary to keep one from slitting one’s wrists.

  3. wolfwalker says:

    I would like my politicians, generals, and spooks to be as smart, fast, honest, and honorable as possible. For the crooked ones, however, slow and stupid is definitely good, and the more the better.

  4. Scott_T says:

    Yeah, a slow and dumb CIA.

    What could be wrong with that?

    Oh yeah. 4 manned Cruise-missiles flying in the air towards targets in the USA.

  5. Christopher says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  6. Time to put on my cynical cap: With politicians, military men, and intelligence agents slower and dumber it makes the businessmen and consultants charge that much more for their services.

    And that’s from a guy who has read much of what Barnett has written and thinks he’s one of the most important thinkers around.

  7. Tom Barnett says:


    That’s pretty funny!

    Seriously, as Dave’s point makes clear, the post was a relativistic ranking that says I trust the private sector more than the government to get things right, especially at this point in global history.

    Think about that: who are the great thinkers of our age? And where do they hail from?

    Think that’s an accident?

    As for the SLCMs zeroing in, I would put my trust more in the defense sector figuring out that problem rather than CIA picking up the intent.

  8. Tom Barnett says:

    Having commented twice now (stuck in a boring–meaning way too technical–Oak Ridge conference on climate change), let me say this is a great blog!

    Having said that, let me now provide a quick link to my penis-enlargement drug site, because, judging by the spam my site gets, that’s the logical next thing to do after offering such a compliment.

  9. This comment thread has me terribly confused.

    Manned Cruise missiles? Are terrorists perfecting a new form of kamikaze tactics?

    SLCM? At first I thought someone was referring to South Louisville Community Misitries. A quick double take showed SLCM also stood for Submarine launched cruise missiles.

    Showing my Naval ignorance. I spent ten years in that branch of the military mostly saying- ‘Take a deep breath and hold it.’

    So if the missiles are manned by terrorists, and coming from a submarine, who supplie AQ(insert the terrorist organization of your choice) with a submersible?

    Please someone enlighten me.


    Bill aka The Florida Masochist

    PS- Read the description of my blog and you’ll be able to understand this post better.