America's National Intelligence Strategy
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. November 20, 2009
Last August The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America was published with a foreword signed by the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair (formerly an admiral). The report is a typical specimen of its kind: replete with trendy expressions, political correctness, and the dull repetition of commonplace managerial themes. As outlined, the strategy appeals to "community" and "partnership," as well as "sharing" and "streamlining." Here we find those buzz words most guaranteed to glaze the eye and muddle the brain. words like "integrated," "diversity" and "synergies" are given added poignancy by the addition of "new" and "improved." In general, the text is something between a self-help book for spies and a detergent billboard.
So how does America's intelligence strategy deal with Russia's massive and powerful covert machinery? Blair's report sees Russia as a "partner," especially with regard to "initiatives such as securing fissile material and combating nuclear terrorism...." The report seems utterly oblivious to Russia's longstanding support for terrorism as well as nuclear proliferation (see Iran and North Korea). The chief danger from Russia, according to this report, is that Russia "may continue to seek avenues for reasserting power and influence in ways that complicate U.S. interests." The report also downplays the threat from China, which is seen as sharing "many interests with the United States." China is merely a problem because its diplomacy is focused on natural resources and military modernization. But this merely makes China a more "complex global challenge."
There is one instance of a heartbeat in the text, where we read: "Violent extremist groups are planning to use terrorism – including the possible use of nuclear weapons or devices if they can acquire them – to attack the United States. Working in a number of regions, these groups aim to derail the rule of law, erode societal order, attack U.S. strategic partners, and otherwise challenge U.S. interests worldwide." The reader is thereby shocked to life by a striking statement, only to slump down in the next and subsequent paragraphs. The aforementioned "extremists" are not named. Their cause remains a mystery. The report moves on to discuss global warming and the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, though neither represents an intelligence challenge (unless the Russians, Iranians or Chinese are behind these phenomena).
As outlined in the report, America's intelligence strategy has four goals: (1) "Enable wise national security policies by continuously monitoring and assessing the international security environment to warn policymakers of threats and inform them of opportunities." (2) "Support effective national security action." (3) “Deliver balanced and improving capabilities that leverage the diversity of the Community’s unique competencies and evolve to support new missions and operating concepts." (4) "Operate as a single integrated team, employing collaborative teams that leverage the full range of IC [intelligence community] capabilities...."
The report says: "We must identify the gaps in our knowledge on the Nation’s highest priorities to focus analysis, drive collection strategies, and produce deep insight. We must continuously review and adjust Community analytic resources, capabilities, tradecraft, and performance to ensure proper coverage of strategic analytic priorities. Expanded use of techniques such as red-teaming can help ensure quality and integrity in analytic products, and potentially produce fresh insights into our toughest challenges."
Yes, of course. It is a profound national intelligence strategy (indeed!) to recognize that we "must ... produce deep insight," or that we "can help ... produce fresh insights...." How will this be done, exactly? Perhaps Dennis Blair should procure a megaphone and lead a troop of cheerleaders through the bowels of the intelligence community. In this way, the former admiral, once noted for attempting to water ski behind the guided missile destroyer he was commanding, can urge his staff toward those profundities he has so carefully eschewed.
I cannot help but prefer the more direct, precise, and intelligible performance of the late Allen Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1953-61. He made mistakes, of course, but his language was direct and his strategy was clear because he understood his enemy's strategy. In a book titled The Craft of Intelligence, Dulles wrote: "A major part of the strategy of the Communists in the Cold War today is the secret penetration of free states. The means they use, the target countries they select and the soft areas in these targets are concealed as long as possible. They exploit secret weaknesses and vulnerabilities of opportunity and, in particular, endeavor to penetrate the military and security forces of the country under clandestine attack."
According to Dulles, this was the most serious strategic issue faced by America's intelligence strategists. "The subversion campaigns of Communism generally start out using secret techniques and a secret apparatus," wrote Dulles. "It is against them that our intelligence assets must be marshaled in good time and used...." Dulles listed various countries taken over by the Communists through subversion. He then asked a key question: "What are we to do about these secret, underground creeping techniques such as were used to take over Czechoslovakia in 1948 and Cuba in recent years under the cloak of a Castro? Because Castro in one of his rambling and incoherent speeches has boasted about early Marxist views, the hindsight specialists are now saying that this should have been recognized years ago and action taken. Exactly what action, they do not specify except for those who advocate open military intervention. But thousands of the ablest Cubans, including political leaders, businessmen and the military, who worked hard to put Castro in and were risking their lives and futures to do so, did not suspect that they were installing a Communist regime. Today most of them are in exile or in jail."
Here is America's strategic intelligence problem, clearly and ably set forth by one of America's leading spymasters. It is a far cry, indeed, from the slop served up in the 2009 National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America. Dulles died more than four decades ago; but if anyone thinks that the basic strategic challenge of American intelligence is not the same as that described by Dulles, they are seriously mistaken. Sometime in the past we turned from the realities that Dulles outlined, and our intelligence strategy went off track. "This country and our allies have a choice," Dulles wrote. "We can either organize to meet the Communist program of subversion and vigorously oppose it as it insinuates itself into the governments and free institutions of countries unable to meet the danger alone, or we can supinely stand aside...."
I believe the choice was made for us long ago, and the text of National Intelligence Director Blair is merely one exhibit (out of many) that proves the point. I am left to wonder what is more egregious in Blair's production: the nugatory language which impresses the shallow-pated bureaucratic numskull, or that the word "strategy" is appended to something that crawled out from under the boilerplate of a management seminar.
© 2009 J. R. Nyquist