The Fog of Intelligence
Or How to Be Eternally "Caught Off Guard" in the Greater Middle East
Date Written: 15/10/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX17982
The phrase "the fog of war" stands in for the inability of commanders to truly grasp what's happening in the chaos that is any battlefield. Perhaps it's time to introduce a companion phrase: the fog of intelligence.
You get the point. Whatever the efforts of that expansive corps of intelligence analysts (and the vast intelligence edifice behind it), when anything happens in the Greater Middle East, you can essentially assume that the official American reaction, military and political, will be "surprise" and that policymakers will be left "scrambling" in a quagmire of ignorance to rescue American policy from the unexpected. In other words, somehow, with what passes for the best, or at least most extensive and expensive intelligence operation on the planet, with all those satellites and drones and surveillance sweeps and sources, with crowds of analysts, hordes of private contractors, and tens of billions of dollars, with, in short, "intelligence" galore, American officials in the area of their wars are evidently going to continue to find themselves eternally caught "off guard."
The phrase "the fog of war" stands in for the inability of commanders to truly grasp what's happening in the chaos that is any battlefield. Perhaps its time to introduce a companion phrase: the fog of intelligence. It hardly matters whether those 1,500 CENTCOM analysts (and all those at other commands or at the 17 major intelligence outfits) produce superlative "intelligence" that then descends into the fog of leadership, or whether any bureaucratic conglomeration of "analysts," drowning in secret information and the protocols that go with it, is going to add up to a giant fog machine.
It's difficult enough, of course, to peer into the future, to imagine what's coming, especially in distant, alien lands. Cobble that basic problem together with an overwhelming data stream and groupthink, then fit it all inside the constrained mindsets of Washington and the Pentagon, and you have a formula for producing the fog of intelligence and so for seldom being on guard when it comes to much of anything.
My own suspicion: you could get rid of most of the 17 agencies and outfits in the U.S. Intelligence Community and dump just about all the secret and classified information that is the heart and soul of the national security state. Then you could let a small group of independently minded analysts and critics loose on open-source material, and you would be far more likely to get intelligent, actionable, inventive analyses of our global situation, our wars, and our beleaguered path into the future.
The evidence, after all, is largely in. In these years, for what now must be approaching three-quarters of a trillion dollars, the national security state and the military seem to have created an un-intelligence system. Welcome to the fog of everything.