and manipulatory — which are negative in context. It is vital to clearly distinguish between seizing an opportunity and being opportunistic. Americans despise a predator, and are inherently suspicious of any interaction in which the strong appear to be preying on the weak. They also tend to oppose unilateral American involvement in another nation’s internal affairs, unless there is a perceivable threat to U.S. interests. There is, therefore, a tendency to confuse the seizing of a strategic opportunity with “opportunism.” Advancing U.S. interests does not have to be predatory in nature, and “a policy of ‘improving’ the state’s power is not to be confused with territorial expansion, which is the hallmark of dangerous and disruptive imperialist powers.” 119 Some U.S. interests, such as those reflecting domestic issues like education, the environment, and employment, can be advanced with no impact on other nations. Others, involving broader issues like regional peace and economic stability of the Middle East, can actually benefit everyone involved to some degree. Having said that, there is a time to be predatory in our pursuit of national interests. It is vital that a stated policy be in place to determine when this time has come. The democratic prescription against taking advantage of another nation’s weaknesses is not enforced when dealing with an identified enemy. The Reagan Administration’s military assistance to the Afghan Mujahedin in the early 1980s was not grounded in any love for the rebels. It was perceived to be the best way to strike at the Soviet Union, advancing our national interests against our ideological enemy and primary competitor for global superiority. It is essential that a clear distinction be drawn between opponents and enemies. With one we compete for advantage; the other we contest for dominance and survival. By acknowledging this distinction, U.S. policymakers can more accurately define whether opportunities will be pursued in a benign or predatory fashion. OPENING WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. 82 —Lord Palmerston, 1848 Opportunity-based warning can work. It is already being demonstrated at the tactical level in the form of Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace (IPB). IPB is an “analytical methodology employed to reduce uncertainties concerning the enemy, environment, and terrain for all types of operations.” 120 Among the most important characteristics of this methodology are its emphasis on getting the decisionmaker directly involved in the intelligence process, providing a timeline of critical decision points, and clearly defining the range of action options. IPB, like warning, is designed to stimulate actions which 119 Michael Roskin, National Interest: From Abstraction to Strategy, Parameters 24, no. 4 (Winter 1994- 95): 7. 120 Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 2-01, Joint Intelligence Support to Military Operations (Washington, DC: GPO, March 21, 1996), GL-11.
eliminate a threat or exploit an opportunity. Its ability to serve both warning functions is what makes it an essential component of battlespace dominance, enabling the field commander to seize the initiative, manage the action, and retain the advantage in a conflict. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are using a different approach to balanced warning analysis to determine where their efforts can be most productive. This is particularly useful in any region where there is, or may soon be, a serious conflict. Beyond measuring the cost of operations and threat to staff in the field, an NGO must measure the opportunities which a conflict may afford. As Hugo Slim, Director of the Complex Emergencies Program at Oxford Brookes University, observed: There may not be many, but the ones there are may surprise NGOs and give them a useful starting point for an emergency programme. For example, some conflicts create new levels of purpose and social cohesion in particular groups. Conflict can bring people together as well as divide them, accelerating certain social and economic activities by mobilizing society in a common cause. Such impetus can be good for relief and development programming. 121 Such a process can be good for American interests as well. A warning system which anticipates the potentially positive elements in a conflict will make it easier for leaders to focus military and diplomatic efforts to influence that conflict. Such an effort could isolate the conflict or, at least, focus it in such a way as to eventually build a stronger society and increase long-term stability. Attempting to apply processes like IPB or the NGO model at the strategic level would be much more complex given the wider range of variables and broader field of engagement in the national policy arena. It would involve the construction of very detailed scenarios using extensive intelligence from a variety of databases. The challenge associated with this type of effort goes beyond the conceptual transition from threat-based to opportunity-based warning. It involves a fundamental change in the structure of the warning system. The current warning system is dedicated to defending political and military interests. Even if it was already capable of producing opportunity-based warning it would only do so for a narrow field of expertise. Because there is great flexibility in the way any opportunity can be approached, there is a corresponding requirement for a broader array of specialized intelligence to support such a decision. Unfortunately, many elements of national policy (economics, the environment, and domestic interests) are not addressed by the current system. An expanded network of warning specialists with technical expertise in areas such as trade, finance, economics, the environment, and education will have to be developed. These technical warning professionals would represent their respective agencies and departments in an expanded National Intelligence Warning System. Once in place, this 121 Hugo Slim, “Planning Between Danger and Opportunity: NGO Situation Analysis in Conflict Related Emergencies,” training presentations given at two NGO seminars in March and November 1995, posted on the Internet 2 May 1996, URL: , accessed 27 February 1997. 83