Good intelligence can be the deciding factor in any conflict. The more you know about your enemy the better. Studying how he thinks, plans and reacts gives you priceless insight into dealing with him.
Unfortunately, gathering, evaluating and analyzing intelligence is not one of our strong suits. We have a kind of distaste for “reading other people’s mail” unless, of course, they are Hollywood celebrities.
Since the 1970s and the hysterical reaction to government abuses that would be considered business as usual in any other society, we have tried to make intelligence gathering a sterile, bloodless practice depending on technology to gather intelligence rather than humans.
If you read things like The Mitrokhin Archive or the Venona papers you will be aware that most of our spying post WWII was a miserable failure. While Stalin was able to place “agents of influence” and fellow travelers in positions throughout our government, our operations were rolled up almost as soon as they were started.
Americans are just to straightforward to be skillful at espionage. Our kids play football and basketball, not chess.
Between WWI and WWII the American cryptographic counterintelligence programs were abolished, an official explaining “Gentlemen don’t read other people’s mail”. It looks to me like we are showing our lack of seriousness in this area yet again.
We have captured thousands of documents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Documents that could show us the inner thoughts, plans and workings of both Al Qaeda and the pre-war Iraqi government. But we don’t seem to be taking advantage of this treasure trove. It continues to be locked away, some in the Middle East and some in the U.S., where it is being translated slowly, if at all.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has a translation and analysis of just a few of the documents captured in Afghanistan. They have recently released it to the public. But don’t look for it on the front page of any of the MSM newspapers, it might contain things that do not fit with the established format.
Austin Bay has some analysis of his own. Be sure to follow the links to the rest of his posts on this subject.
Another overlooked intelligence source is the “Saddam Tapes“. Tapes of the Iraqi dictator in his office discussing things like removing WMD from the country before the invasion. But everyone knows that he didn’t have any of those. So what was he talking about?
All in all, I think we are doing our usual lousy job on Intelligence. Before 9/11 several “progressive” Democrat regularly introduced legislation to reduce or eliminate funding for Intelligence. Their theory was similar to a child hiding under the covers so the monster won’t get him. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
Maybe the “progressives ” are onto something There. Why spending huge amounts of money if we’re not getting any product? That would mean that we would be blindsided by terrorists and foreign governments, but that seems to happen with regularity anyhow.
But why are we turning our backs on the mounds of raw intelligence already in our possession?