The U.S. intelligence community and American scholars of international affairs have a remarkable and impressive record. Though scholars in countries that follow the “English School” of international relations (such as the UK, Canada, Australia) can be every bit as impressive, the best Americans stand out as world leaders and have inspired many around the world.
Long exposure to the analysts and product of the CIA, both its intelligence achievements and failures, teaches the astute student three analytical principles: empathy, curiosity and humility. These lessons have been reinforced over many decades by leading American scholars, like Raymond Garthoff, Doak Barnett, Jack Snyder, Barry Posen, John Steinbrunner, Jonathan Pollack, Michael Swaine, Richard Solomon, David Lampton, Ezra Vogel, Sam Huntington and Richard Betts, to name a few, regardless of their seemingly disparate political dispositions.
These qualities seem all too absent among the raucous commentariat that has come to dominate public discourse on China in the United States, including in some parts of the U.S. government, armed forces, the Congress and many non-specialist writings on China. Donald Trump’s charge from 2012 that climate change is a conspiracy dreamt up by China to bring down the United States is symptomatic of the gulf between some new political movements in the United States and the much wiser, better informed intelligence officials and scholars. It is also symptomatic of the lack of self-awareness of the loudest promoters of unscientific and highly propagandistic international relations analysis of China. Many less critical analysts have found undeserved prominence because of new opportunities created by the information age.