Overcoming September 11th Intelligence Deficits


Paul Sheldon Foote


Intelligence Deficits


After the terrible tragedies of September 11th, Americans asked how it was possible that agencies responsible for gathering intelligence could have failed so badly.  Since then, some members of the intelligence community have used the term “intelligence deficits” to describe how little we know about topics such as terrorist organizations, the Middle East, and money laundering.  Intelligence deficits, broadly defined, are the responsibility of all Americans.  America’s educational institutions can contribute to overcoming intelligence deficits, biased media reporting, bad foreign policies, and a decline in the rigor of educational programs.  As the war on terrorism progresses, other topics with severe intelligence deficits will become apparent.  In the long run, how each generation and educational institutions respond to intelligence deficits will affect the future of America and of the world.     


On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite.  It became obvious to everyone in the world that the Soviet Union was ahead in one aspect of the space race.  Americans responded by allocating more resources to educational institutions to eliminate this intelligence deficit.  Teachers and professors designed more rigorous educational programs.  Students changed their career goals to include options such as rocket science and engineering.  On July 20, 1969, America’s Neil Armstrong gathered lunar surface samples on the moon.  The whole world knew that a determined generation of Americans and an outstanding educational system had overcome this intelligence deficit.  Students from around the world in large numbers started studies at American universities.


From 1968 to 1969, I served as a lieutenant in the United States Army in Vietnam.  Prior to my service, I completed the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, and Army training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and at Fort Lee, Virginia.  Throughout this period of training, there were no required courses in the Vietnamese language or in the history of Vietnam.  Only a small percentage of soldiers in the Vietnam War had an opportunity to study at defense language schools. 


Today, California State University, Fullerton’s catalog shows that ROTC students have the option of spending part of the summer between their junior and senior years in Korea or in Europe serving in the Cadet Troop Leadership Training (CTLT) program.  While this is an improvement, I would urge all ROTC students to take advantage of the CSUF’s many courses with international emphases, such as foreign language, world history, international politics, comparative religion, and international business courses.


Middle East

On October 25, 1968, in Tehran, Iran, I married a wonderful Iranian Muslim lady (or khonam, as I prefer to call her in Farsi).  In 1968, Iran was America’s strong ally.  In 1968, we dreamed that we could provide the best of both worlds for our children.  Instead, our marriage and our children have suffered from the never-ending negative events in the Middle East.   On September 11, 2001, my wife was staying with our daughter and our son-in-law so that my wife could care our granddaughter.  Our daughter’s home is only 3 miles from the Pentagon. 


Our children have Christian cousins in America and Muslim cousins in Iran.  We care a lot about the dreams and futures of loved ones in the Middle East and in America.  I reject suggestions in America that we think in terms of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) and suggestions in the Middle East that we think in terms of jihad. 


I have worked in the Middle East and North Africa for several years.  As a summer job between years as a student at Harvard Business School, I worked in the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran.  After graduating from Harvard Business School, I remained at Harvard University for another year to study Farsi.  I have worked for Citibank and for Singer Sewing Machine Company in the Middle East.  In the doctoral program at Michigan State University, I surprised the advisors by insisting that I study Farsi for my foreign language instead of opting with most other students for foreign language substitutes.  California State University, Fullerton’s difference in pay leave program provided me the opportunity from 1994 to 1996 to teach at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman and to vist Shiraz, Iran.  In 1996, my daughter joined me on the trip to Shiraz.  At that time, she was a student at Berkeley and was taking a Farsi course.  She could not study Farsi in high school because the school board denied her the option of studying Farsi.


From my years of watching Arabic- and Farsi-language news programs in the Middle East, I am aware of the biased reporting of the major American television networks and newspapers.  In 1995 and 1996, I made trips to Shiraz, Iran when few Americans could obtain visas to Iran.  After these trips, I submitted an article to America’s best publication on the Middle East:  The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.  For archives of many past articles, see: http://www.wrmea.com/ Unfortunately, millions of Americans who know only what they see on television or what they read in a newspaper do not understand the extent of America’s intelligence deficit with respect to the Middle East.


Overcoming September 11th Intelligence Deficits

For months, CSUF’s President Milton Gordon had been arranging a trip to Tehran, Iran in late September to explore opportunities for educational programs to be offered by California State University, Fullerton.  After September 11, President Gordon told me that his plans are only postponed, not cancelled.  I had planned to present a paper at a conference in Isfahan, Iran in December.


While the war on terrorism might prevent many of us from visiting the Middle East in the near future, the faculty of California State University, Fullerton has the opportunity to act now to reduce America’s intelligence deficits by offering world class programs with strong international subject content.  Our students have an opportunity to prove that their generation can overcome the September 11th intelligence deficits.


Published in The Senate Forum, Fall 2001, California State University, Fullerton, pages 24 – 26.