Intelligence, deception and the roots of neoconservatism

Col Pat Lang’s blog has a very timely piece by David Habbakuk looking at the intelligence roots of the neoconservative movement. The comments thread is also worth a look.

A good example of familiar neocon approaches was the hatchet job done
on Sherman Kent, a pivotal figure in the wartime R&A branch of the
wartime OSS and in shaping the analytical side of the CIA, by Carl
Schmitt and Abram Shulsky — the latter of whom headed the Office of
Special Plans, through which much of the bogus intelligence used to
justify the Iraq War was channelled. Their article Leo Strauss and the
World of Intelligence suggested that Kent’s conception of intelligence
as research involved a naïve faith in the ability of a ‘social science’
method to generate reliable predictions about the behaviour of
adversaries. (Sic Semper Tyrannis)

During the 1990s, Shulsky and Schmitt were senior associates at the National Strategy Information Center, the US think tank whose President is Dean Godson’s older brother, Roy.

In 1996 the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence, a project of the NSIC, produced a report entitled The Future of US Intelligence, whose recommendations prefigured the new  forays into intelligence operations by the Pentagon and the vice-president’s office. Co-authored by Shulsky and
Schmitt, the report argued that the intelligence community should adopt a new methodology aimed at obtaining information others try to keep secret and penetrating below the ‘surface’ impression created by publicly available information to determine whether an adversary is deceiving us or denying us key
information. The document recommended the establishment of competing analytic centers with different points of view that could provide policymakers better protection against new ‘Pearl Harbors’, ie, against being surprised. Rather than a narrow focus on information collection, intelligence analysis must make it more relevant to policymakers by emphasizing the forces that shape a given situation, the authors contend.

The study’s overall conclusion was that
the "future of intelligence" depended on building a new model that would offer "greater flexibility in the collection process" and produce the "big picture" of security threats. Ultimately, Shulsky and Schmitt concluded, the purpose of analysis is to help the policymaker shape the future, not predict it. Intelligence analysis should go beyond simply identifying security threats and assessing the military                 capabilities of a present or future enemy or a competitor nation; it should be "opportunity analysis" that anticipates chances to advance US interests. (Asia Times)(My emphasis)

Roy Godson’s book Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, which I’ve been dipping into so much lately, shares a similar emphasis. Godson identifies four disciplines within the intelligence field: intelligence collection, intelligence analysis, covert action and counterintelligence.

What’s notable is that while the first two disciplines are concerned with uncovering the truth about opponents, the latter two are concerned with deception, and its the latter that Godson wishes to emphasise.

This is in line with the background of the Godson family, and the neoconservative movement generally in covert action, and specifically in covert US sponsorship of parts of the non-communist left in postwar Europe.

The Washington power struggle between the the foreign policy realists and the neoconservatives could be seen as a battle between the intelligence analysts and the covert action specialists, with the Iraq War as a victory for the latter.

I wonder what proportion of the people who have picked the neoconservative agenda understand this culture of deception? Another quote from Roy Godson is relevant here:

Another condition that makes covert propaganda more effective is interpretation and amplification by credible people – two-step communication. Simply delivering information, even if the target audience is predisposed to the theme and message, is unlikely to have the same degree of impact as inducing someone to discuss it. (Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, p158)







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