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Estimative Intelligence in European Foreign Policymaking: Learning Lessons from an Era of Surprise

This book is the first comparative study of estimative intelligence and strategic surprise in a European context, complementing and testing insights from previous studies centred on the United States. It does extensive empirical analysis of open-source material and interviews in relation to three cases of major surprise: Arab uprisings, ISIS’ rise to power in Syria and Iraq, and the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Nikki Ikani, Christoph Meyer, Eva Micheals, Aviva Guttman, Micheal S. Goodman
31 October 2022
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Furthermore, the book seeks new theoretical insights into the causes of surprises and performance problems going beyond the debate about intelligence versus policy failures with contributions from former senior officials from the UK, Germany and the EU. Finally, it identifies main causes of surprise among intelligence analysts and external experts challenging previous findings and accounts.

This book provides the first assessment of the performance of three leading European polities in providing estimative intelligence during an era of surprise. It develops a new framework for conducting postmortems guided by a normative model of anticipatory foreign policy. The comparative analysis focuses on how the UK, the EU and Germany handled three cases of major surprises: the Arab uprisings, the rise to power of the Islamic State (ISIS), and the Russian annexation of Crimea. It considers not just government intelligence assessments, but also diplomatic reporting and expert open sources and how these assessments were received by organisational leaders. The book tests and develops new theories about the causes of strategic surprises, going beyond a common focus on intelligence versus policy failures to identify challenges and factors that cut across both communities. With the help of former senior officials, the book identifies lessons yet to be learnt by European polities to better anticipate and prepare for future surprises.

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