A couple of points on thinking things through —


  1. Analysis is not advocacy. 
  2.  Both intent and capability must be considered in any analysis of potential threats.  pl
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27 Responses to A couple of points on thinking things through —

  1. doug says:

    “Analysis is not advocacy”
    Absolutely. While my background isn’t in military or the IC, dealing with this was a continuing problem in my small business which had to compete, and beat, much larger ones over a period of decades. It’s human nature to project what one wants to believe, or what one’s superiors believe into strategic analysis supporting those beliefs.
    Having seen how perversely this affected companies I worked for, when I started my own business one rule of thumb became to consciously give additional weight to analysis that was contrary to whatever paradigm was prevalent at the time.
    As the company grew it became harder and hence more important to continually stress this. Objectivity is important and humans just have a hard time with it. But also I found that most people need a certain level of simplicity to maintain motivation. There is a tension between these. One of the burdens of leadership.

  2. A.Pols says:

    You said “Analysis is not advocacy”
    Man, is that ever the truth; I am constantly having people in my face during discussions because they can’t tell the difference.
    And intent and capability are analogs of 2 out of the 3 legged stool of criminality:
    means, opportunity, and motive…

  3. TV says:

    But it’s not that hard to disguise advocacy as analysis.
    The media does it every day, usually badly.

  4. turcopolier says:

    You, the victims must have the mother wit to tell the difference. pl

  5. J says:

    Here’s one subject for critical analysis by the readership:
    Chinese in the Russian Far East: a geopolitical time bomb?
    Russia’s $75 plus Trillion in natural resources could be looted by the ever-growing Chinese expansion with some estimates being gobbled up by 2050 unless contained now.
    Will Trump and Putin work together to put the Chinese expansion in check (and save Russia)? Or will we see the Chinese Dragon grow even bigger, so big that eventually our U.S. power and might will not be able to contain it especially if Russia’s resources are absorbed by China.

  6. TonyL says:

    The American people have been brainwashed by network news (Fox, NBC, CNN,…etc) for so long that they automatically assume it is advocacy whe you give them analysis.
    It’s hard, even on this forum, to express a neutral opinion without being labeled as a pro-Clinton, pro-Trump, Left, Right,… all that nonsensical stuff you have to put up with to have a civilized correspondence.

  7. wisedupearly says:

    Very interesting topic.
    Analysis assumes the primacy of logic.
    If logic is subordinate to faith then it seems that all analysis is advocacy.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Yes. that’s why you have to keep the two sorted out. pl

  9. Eric Newhill says:

    The analyst, as messenger, too often worries about being shot.
    Correctly assessing intent sometimes goes beyond logic and is best when augmented by ample experience and a disciplined sixth sense.

  10. wisedupearly says:

    I have never found anyone able strike a true balance between the two. The argument (LOL) can be made that analyses made by people who have forgotten what faith is are likely to be flawed if the subject involves faith (Middle East?).
    To be logical makes no assumption as to particulars, only the process is critical. To be hold to a faith (traditionally religious faith) seems to be entirely about particulars. Dietary proscriptions are a good example and holding to the explicit words of a particular text is another. Is it really possible to ascribe equal importance to faith and logic? Seems as if, over time, one must overwhelm the other.
    How about we say that we have faith in logic and live by faith. Our brains literally run on faith, not religious faith, but faith that what we perceive is “real” and faith that our comprehension of our situation will yield “good” outcomes.

  11. turcopolier says:

    There is no place in analysis in the intelligence business for advocacy of ANY KIND. In any field, analysis that is influenced in its conclusions by “faith” in an aspect of the issue under consideration will inevitably be flawed. I was thoroughly detested when in government for disallowing any conclusions influence by a vested interest in the outcome of the analysis. pl

  12. Pundita says:

    From what you’ve written it seems to me that you’re conflating subjectivity and advocacy. They’re two different things.

  13. Stumpy says:

    A good example from the daily news, is sending Trump to G20 expecting him (commanding?) to give Putin a good spanking for meddling in the US elections. But: Failing to provide him with any real information that would neutralize Putin’s request that evidence be provided.
    Or was the idea to place Trump in a ridiculous position to attack Russia from an indefensible position and come out a fool?
    Methinks Trump out-trumped his oppressors. At least Kennedy had some imagery from Cuba as a basis to confront Kruschev and chase off the Soviet supply ships. I have yet to see anything that indicates to the average consumer that the Russians meddled over and above the normal everyday meddling.
    I am reminded of the prank we’d play on sleep-deprived PFCs out in the woods, telling to go over and shake a tree so we could find ourselves on the map.

  14. wisedupearly says:

    Pat, my point was that faith informs logic/analysis, not suborn it. Since the subject of analysis has his own faith then only someone who has faith (not necessarily the same of course) will be able to provide accurate analyses. My assumption is of course that the analyses are not merely engineering exercises but involve the ability of men to fight and resist.
    So, yes. You have demonstrated balance in action. Those that wanted you to slant your statements/conclusions were incapable of providing or accepting accurate assessments.
    A more important point is can the balance be acquired in the formal, logical, manner? Certainly it possible to force masses of individuals to accept logic or faith. The hatred and suspicion of faith is certainly ingrained in modern American education. Which, of course, has engendered hatred and suspicion of “modern” education.

  15. turcopolier says:

    I understood your point. Understanding the faith of someone who is the subject of intelligence analysis is good. It is one of the elements of comprehension. On the other hand, allowing one’s own faith to enter into analysis is deeply corrupting to the process because if that is the case, then you are not objective. pl

  16. Tom Cafferty says:

    Can there not be intense advocacy in the choice of what to analyze?

  17. Linda says:

    Yes, so was I.

  18. turcopolier says:

    Tom Cafferty
    That is not “analysis” as I meant it. It is rather a collective of opinion of senior managers (not analysts) of what would be good or bad for their careers. For example; it was impossible for many years to obtain authorization to write NIEs that said the USSR was declining economically. That would have offended the neocons in policy jobs or politics. They were present in all administrations of both parties The same was true concerning the Palestinians. We were forbidden for a long time to write an NIE with that title and focus. The IC were allowed in that period to write on The Palestinian Problem,” but not on “The Palestinians.” See my old essyt “Artists and Bureaucrats.” pl

  19. doug says:

    That is fascinating. Some years before I was astonished at the, only slightly veiled, criticism of their own system on Radio Moscow, I read a piece put out by the Hoover Institute quoting Sen. Daniel P. Moynhan stating that the USSR was “Spiraling into the Abyss” circa 1982. That’s an exact quote! The piece’s authors expressed surprise and astonishment at the Senator’s statement. I was similarly affected which is why I recall it so clearly.
    Unfortunately, the Senator’s reasoning wasn’t explained. I recall the Senator was pretty perceptive about a wide range of issues, mostly social ones, that bought him some currency amongst conservatives yet he consistently voted and supported pretty much every liberal bit of legislation coming down the pike.
    Any idea what would have caused the Senator to issue such a comment that went against pretty much all assumptions about the USSR at the time?

  20. turcopolier says:

    Moynihan had a first rate mind as well as a taste for good whiskey. When I went out to Yemen as DATT around 1980 I was briefed out at CIA by one of their annuitants who had been a Soviet analyst for many years. He explained the actual data concerning the irreversible decline of the USSR. About the same time there was a book by a Soviet dissident. Andrei Amalryk which clearly demonstrated the coming collapse of the Soviet State. The evidence was there as it usually is for those with objectivity. Moynihan had objectivity. Many good not see this future because of the stifling group think concerning the USSR as menace. while living in Yemen (Sana’) I spent a lot of time with Soviet military people. This was part of my job. If you looked at them with any sort of objectivity and empathy it was quite obvious that the USSR was a country that unable to provide a good life for even relatively high ranking people like air force pilots and whose citizens thought the 3rd world primitives of
    Yemen lived in a rich consumer driven economy. It was obvious that something was seriously wrong at home in the USSR. pl

  21. Wunduk says:

    Would in your experience an average weighted relationship between intent, capability and opportunity be correct at 55-30-15 to determine likelihood? For the Soviet example, the complete abandon of belief in the continuing success of socialism among Soviet and allied elites was the strongest factor its decline. Amalrik, I think, identified this “liberalization of Soviet society” and the continuing backing it received among the Soviet elite as the driving factor for its end, and not for a renewal.
    Quoted (http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/classes/amalrik1.html)

  22. turcopolier says:

    This is difficult to explain because the judgment as to how much weight to assign to either intent or capability is so dependent on the analysts (could be the commander himself’s) personal skill, knowledge, instinct and all the other intangibles that make for good intelligence analysis. Intelligence analysis really is art rather than science because it involves human choice and behavior. In general it can be said, as I have, that as actual combat as fact recedes as context the relative importance of intent rises as a factor in deciding how great a threat really is. In actual combat all the capabilities of an active enemy must be dealt with without excluding some from consideration because the chief analyst does not think the enemy will choose that one. An example would be the failure of Allied intelligence in December 1944 to take seriously the possibility of a German advance through the Ardennes. That happened in spite of the fact that the Germans had advanced through that supposedly impassable ground in 1940. OTOH, some commanders and staffs are able to evaluate an enemy commander so well that his personality and past behavior become a factor even at the level of grand tactics. RE Lee famously observed wryly after McClellan was fired by Lincoln that he would have preferred to have continued against McClellan. This was true because Lee had known McClellan for many years and understood his weaknesses. In the case of the coming acquisition by NoKo of a serious ICBM capability against the US, major weight must be given to judgment of NoKo intentions with regard to these weapons because although a number of other countries have such weapons they are all judged to be unlikely to use them except in extremis. that risk has been acceptable, but what NoKo might do with is weapons is, at this point, IMO, not judgeable. pl

  23. turcopolier says:

    I lived in a lot of places and cultures unlike most of my countrymen. Soviet fighter pilots with visibly rotten teeth were a revelation to me. pl

  24. Wunduk says:

    I think we agree that intent is the driving factor, and you are correct to insist that it will change as the situation evolves. Forgive the crude numbers.
    Intent in my experience takes precedence over capability or even opportunity. I did things I knew me and my men would not be doing sufficiently well to guarantee success (we did not have the required level of capability), but we banked on this being good enough for the situation, when something needed to be done at that moment. As the other side had us expected to not do anything, it even turned out to be pretty effective. But in other situations I have seen many cases where people took initiatives where they had no chance whatsoever to hurt the other side, but just to realize their intent. I think I want to say: The primary intent is not always only self-preservation.
    For assessing DPRK’s leadership intent, I think as of now it’s about gaining maximum freedom from sponsors, while still benefiting from tribute from all. The crown of this is to gain a nuclear weapon status and then be proofed against invasion and regime change.
    I wonder whether the the model should not be the manipulative behaviour of a client towards his patron (a bit like Israel, KSA or Pakistan to the US)? Anything will be done to coax the patron towards confrontation with others. Easiest to direct the sponsor into confrontation with contiguous neighbours, but not exclusively. At the same time, autonomous decision-making of the DPRK client is maximised and tested with small provocations (e.g. seizure of Russian boats in the self-declared DPRK waters, Russian diplomats always will need to shuttle quickly to the site of the incident and request release, in case of private yachts this then creates irritation in the oligarch class). In every instance the DPRK gains a bit more wriggle room.
    In support of this I would also cite that KJU has eliminated alternatives to himself in order to avoid ‘change from within’ – thereby attacking people in DPRK with much better relations to both sponsors.
    I would speculate that KJU would think he can achieve this by offering his and his country’s annihiliation as the only alternative to his dream of freedom. Been in that movie frequently with a certain South Asian country. If for the patrons the only alternative to backing the course of the client is the disappearance of the client, they’ll continue the backing.
    This being said, I am in no ways an expert on the country or the mindset of Koreans. My reading is limited to two or three books mainly about the middle age Korean kingdoms. In modernity, I have great respect for the authors of this report though, and would recommend this for the esteemed SST readership:
    An argument made by the experts in that report is that the ‘warhead’ might not be what it is claimed to be. This would mean that KJU is not having the full capability required, he knows the P5 understand this, and tries to get it as fast as possible.
    Don’t understand why he does not do it quietly though and tries the bluff road instead, but maybe he was told by the patrons that they would not like him to proceed further and will take action against those of his people who try.
    So I would think it likely he might be toying with the idea of an imperfect ICBM to deliver a dud to the US West Coast or its vicinity. Even calling it as warning against US warmongering, so there won’t be any actual damages and neither China nor Russia can override him. Any response by air attacks or cruise missile launches afterwards would be met with artillery against RoK targets, relying on China and Russia to dissuade the US from committing anything more serious. After what he will regard as ‘bruises’ carried by the country, he likely images that he will emerge from his bunker as newly respected leader of a fully independent DPRK. This in tun will allow him to complete the warhead in time.
    Any representation as to the recklessness of this plan will likely be brushed aside by him, as he brushed aside close associates of his father, even if they come from Russia or China.
    I think he is looking now for the best opportunity to do so, and is more likely than not to carry this out in the next six months. God help the Koreans!

  25. Degringolade says:

    Colonel et al:
    I just read this article
    And I thought of this string of comments

  26. wisedupearly says:

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting analysis. However, I thought the writer was limiting himself to a closed environment where power was shuffled among the players. Very much a “my political view is superior to yours”. I see little to argue with his analysis but feel that he fails to see the very ground shifting under the country.
    He makes the rather cryptic comment of “and the truth happens in some case to fall outside of polite consensus,” but does not elaborate as to what he means.
    I would have liked to him to analyze the recent moves by conservative governors to preempt cities from trying to raise the minimum wage.
    This situation is, I think, driven more by direct competition for resources than ideology.

  27. doug says:

    An excellent, related, discussion is in Kuran’s book: “Private Truths, Public Lies” which explores what we often call, groupthink.

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