The Limits of Intelligence

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by MrPVRd, Dec 31, 2005.

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  1. No, not a psychological profile of George Dubya but a musing upon the usefulness of intelligence in furthering foreign policy or military operations.

    Intelligence failures (mainly predicting, locating or ignoring):

    7 July bombs;
    Whereabouts of Saddam for the best part of a year;
    Iraq insurgency;
    WMD in Iraq;
    Any Iraq "decapitation" targets;
    Whereabouts of Osama B-L (still missing);
    World Trade Centre attacks;
    Whereabouts of Mladic or Karadizc (still missing);
    Invasion of Kuwait;
    Collapse of communism in East Germany;
    Invasion of the Falkland Islands;
    Failure of Suez operation;
    Ardennes offensive;
    German armour and infantry in Arnhem area (Dutch sources ignored);
    Attack on Pearl Harbour (despite radar);
    Mainland attack on Singapore;
    Attack on Soviet Union (ignored by Stalin);
    Invasion of France;
    Invasion of Poland;
    Invasion of Czechoslovakia;

    Intelligence successes:
    1962 - Identification of Soviet missiles on Cuba;
    1938 onwards - Interception and decryption of German Enigma signal messages (initially by the Poles);
    1917 - interception and decryption of Zimmerman telegram.

    Is too much emphasis placed upon intelligence?
  2. Surely there are bound to be less publicised "successes" for intelligence, as by its nature if intelligence does its job then an event doesnt take place and we dont hear about non-events in the media.... if that makes sense.
  3. I'm not sure that ignoring absolutely screaming jumping up and down Intelligence Indicators can be classed as intelligence "failures"

    Cynical misuse of intelligence to further other agendas perhaps?
  4. *dons tin-foil hat*

    Roosevelt knew about the attack on PH but let it happen 'cos he wanted the US to enter WW2.

    US cajoled Saddam into invading Kuwait ('April Glaspie interview')

    OBL is currently at the Bush family ranch in Crawford, Texas.

    *takes hat off*

    Actually a lot of the so-called failures are to do with the 'cognitive dissonance' of those receiving the intelligence. The indicators were there, but politicians didn't want to beleive them (especially the case in the run-up to WW2). They fell on the reposrts that supported their view and ignored those that didn't.
  5. :D
  6. You can have all the Intelligence in the world, it really just depends on how it's used by the recipient.

    An "intelligence failure" is often, in reality, a "command failure."

    Operation Market Garden is a case in point. The senior officers knew that there was a strong possibility of armour in theatre, via Dutch Resistance source product. They, for a variety of reasons (not least the politics of momentum, q.v. Op. TELIC 1) chose to ignore it. To my mind this was an intelligence success ignored by the person it was designed to inform, creating operational failure. The movie caught this moment perfectly, as the hapless Int. Officer is carted off to a rest home for rocking the boat.

    This isn't semantics nor pedantry. Historically, an Intelligence guy who tells powerful men things he does not wish to hear should not be entirely surprised when ignored. Again, ask Mr. Scarlet etc. re. WMD in Iraq (a genuine intelligence failure, mitigated by the fact that all got it wrong, Hawks and Doves alike).

  7. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    I think if you consider Intelligence just the 'collection' of information, then it is fighting an uphill struggle. I would wager the best intelligence comes in from assets not strictly considered as 'intelligence' i.e. chance information or 'by-product information'. Where 'Intelligence' can be key is in strategy, i.e not just in collection but in distribution of information, true or false, or a cunning mixture of the two. Think Overlord, that operation could have been a failure, as it was it was a hard won victory.
  8. I like the way you're thinking there V. In my biased G2 way I would characterise a lot of "intelligence" failures as failures by some thrusting G3 bod to accept what he was told as it conflicted with his plans. It's easier to blame "intelligence" than front up to ignoring advice and getting things wrong, or perhaps it merely illustrates the tendency towards self-deception humans can exhibit.

    There's also the difference between capability estimates and intention estimates. Our int organisations are still heavily biased towards determining capability, which is what we needed for the Cold War. Hence lots of IMINT, SIGINT and technical work. All very useful if you want to know whether 3 Shock Army has re-equipped with T-80 yet or how many new destroyers the Chinese have launched.

    However, we know all there is to know about the technical capabilities of terrorists. They use existing small arms and explosives after all. The crucial question here is intention which is a far more elusive quarry. That requires HUMINT and very careful interpretation of other sources. It is difficult, never usually provable to high standards and consequently takes most people outside their comfort zone. Hence I feel it does not get the attention it deserves.
  9. Does anyone have the NSN for the following?:

    Ball, Crystal, Large

    The fact is that, formally speaking, the Intelligence services are just that- services. Their tasking comes from a requirement from policy/decision-makers and their insufficient resources are allocated accordingly. Contrary to popular belief, they don't have their eyes and ears everywhere and despite what their "customers" might think, they are not fortune tellers.

    In addition, there are a multitude of reasons, that range from the psychological (as Andy P has mentioned), to the organizational, to the bureaucratic, to the strategic cultural that contribute to intelligence failure.

    I'd suggest to anyone interested in the matter that they "Fixing Intelligence" by William Odom and, for a lighter read, "Why Secret Intelligence Fails" by Michael A. Turner.