learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...


learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

“war,” “prevent,” “avoid,” “limit” and “deter” — reveals the fundamentally negative

nature of warning in its current form. One standard textbook used to teach military professionals

about the missions, methods, and structure of the national Intelligence Community

uses the word “threat” fourteen times in the first three pages of its chapter on warning

intelligence. The text’s single, fleeting reference to the Intelligence Community s role in

“promoting a positive social and economic environment for all people in the world,” is

symptomatic of its fundamental message that warning is about being safe. 109

The strategic warning system was meant to insure the nation’s safety, and was specifically

designed to identify and close windows of vulnerability. Its threat-based orientation

was established on the foundation of Pearl Harbor, [which] drove the idea of surprise attack

so deeply into the national psyche that ‘Pearl Harbor’ became almost a generic term for any

sneak attack.... After World War II, it was generally agreed that any future attack almost

certainly would be in the nature of a surprise. Therefore the nation must be alert. 110

This mentality was reinforced by experiences such as the Berlin Blockade, the North

Korean invasion of South Korea, and the Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong. All involved

some unpleasant strategic surprise with significant, harmful consequences for American

citizens or interests, and implied some failure of the U.S. intelligence system.

The Warning Community’ s initial charter, influenced by these memories, was limited to

monitoring for the indications of military mobilization which would presage an armed confrontation.

111 This charter was drafted in a bipolar world, where every conflict between a

communist and non-communist nation had potential Great-Power implications. For this

reason the original warning structure was not tailored to identify threats, (or opportunities)

which had no direct correlation to the Cold War. As a result, U.S. decisionmakers were

unprepared to deal with a series of adverse incidents over the next three decades.

Each of the Congressional committees assigned to review these warning “failures”

(among them the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, India’ s first nuclear test, and the fall of the Shah

in Iran), raised serious questions about the system’s ability to provide leaders with adequate

warning of potential threats to U.S. interests. What usually followed was a reorganization

of the system to “address deficiencies, create structures, and channel resources to

better position intelligence agencies to provide timely strategic warning.” 112 Such changes

were purely institutional in nature, addressing the forms of warning without adequately

considering its comprehensive substance. One of the more recent “review and revise” processes,

initiated by Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates in 1992, was no different

in this respect. Its contribution was the enactment of “the most comprehensive plan to

date for restructuring the Community to enhance its ability to warn.” 113 As a result,

109 Defense Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Intelligence Community (NFIC) Course Textbook (Washington,

DC: Joint Military Intelligence Training Center, September 1996), 12/l-12/3).

110 Harold P. Ford, Estimative Intelligence: The Purpose and Problems of National Intelligence Estimating,

(Lanham, MD: University Press of America Inc., 1993), 26.

111 McCarthy, 6.

112 McCarthy, 6.


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