“Intelligence pukes”

I am writing this without consulting TTG, an esteemed colleague and friend. This piece is going to seem a bit self-pitying, and he is not the type for that.

I transferred to MI branch (insignia above) after serving in the infantry and Special Forces. IMO that kind of background is needed in a good intelligence officer. TTG has a similar background.

As soon as I made the transition to MI, I began to hear the demeaning, sniggering descriptor “intelligence pukes” applied to colleagues by combat arms officers of all ranks. That attitude and insult has never abated in all my years of this kind of work.

The truth is that assessing the combat potential and likely courses of action of a foreign military force is a specialized skill. These things must be understood in the context of war against specific opponents at a known stage of their development. A vast amount of data must be held in the brain to make such judgments. Not everyone can perform such feats of mental gymnastics. Actually, most cannot.

Really skilled intelligence officers are a precious asset. There are some combined arms officers who can do this kind of work but not many. Not many. This does not discourage them from offering their mostly BS opinions.

I have seen good men die from such foolishness and it should stop. pl

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45 Responses to “Intelligence pukes”

  1. Fourth and Long says:

    It’s ok, Colonel. A Pennsylvania High School held a Church of Satan festival night not too long ago. The guys who ridiculed Intel officers can enjoy contemplating why such an event might have been held right out in the open, even announced on local TV. Give them a half day. Tell them if they get the right answer they can avoid meeting the parents and members of the community who showed up. Were they welcomed with “open arms?” Save that for the advanced seminar. I know when I storm my local McDonald’s with my Sherman Tank company, I will be.

  2. Lars says:

    You would think that officers engaged in combat would appreciate finding out where the enemy is and what they are doing and even what they may do. I think what is happening in Ukraine right now shows what failure in that area causes. It appears to me that the successes the Ukrainians are having is due in part to superior intelligence gathering and analysis.

  3. Bill Roche says:

    I learned years ago that Freud was a skilled Medical doctor before he became a famous psychologist. I guess he thought, how can I understand/explain what is happening in the mind if I don’t first understand the body. I have “assumed” that w/b true of intel officers. Good ones can not be born out of OCS but must come to intel work w/a appreciation of other military disciplines. Infantry, spec forces, armor should be part of an officer’s resume b/f he/she starts analyzing the order of battle, battlefield deployment, and enemy capabilities. “Killer Angels” describes Lee’s army moving into Pennsy w/o adequate intel as a giant worm blindly lurching forward. Would he have preferred better intel? “Intelligence Pukes”; who would prefer to lead men into battle w/o knowing what was up ahead. “Send the scouts fwd. Have the scouts come back? What have they learned?” Today “the scouts” take many forms and use much technology. Good ones still have to relate that to battle.

    • Fred says:


      By the end of the second day at Gettysburg the Army of the Potomac had Lee’s full order of battle. Meade thus knew what Lee had available that hadn’t already seen action in the battle. Col. Sharpe, who our host mentioned in previous posts years past, was the chief of intelligence and largely responsible for it.

      • Leith says:

        Fred – “By the end of the second day at Gettysburg the Army of the Potomac had Lee’s full order of battle.”

        Your source is probably correct in that Sharpe’s Bureau of Military Info knew the composition and commanders of all or most of Lee’s brigades. But Sharpe knew Lee’s OOB four or more months earlier, even earlier than Chancellorsville long before Gettysburg. And there are conflicting reports about Gettysburg intel. Sharpe’s biography recounts that on the evening of day two Sharpe did not have reliable information for Meade on the number of Lee’s troops and whether there were fresh Confederate reserve units available (other than Pickett’s division).


        • Fourth and Long says:

          I’ve always thought Pickett’s charge worthy of suspicion of high treason to the CSA (and loyalty to the USA). And this incredible item of info you post only intensifies my suspicion. How’d Sharpe get that info? Because he was a Sharp E? Robert E Tea Leaves Lee read the handwriting on the wall.

          • Pat Lang says:

            You do not understand the analytic process conducted by a skilled man. He had good files ad fit all the reporting together against those files unlike the idiot Pinkerton who added all reporting together.

          • Leith says:

            F&L –

            Pickett wasn’t one of the brightest. Out here in the great state of Washington the rumor is that he tried to start a war with the Brits over a stolen pig on an island in Puget sound.

            PS – Tsouras’s bio on Sharpe claims he “deployed scouts and enlisted civilian agents to report on activities behind enemy lines. He and his assistant analysts interrogated prisoners, deserters, and refugees, and analyzed documents (mostly letters and newspapers). Sharpe also obtained reports from cavalry reconnaissance, Balloon Corps observation, and Signal Corps observation and flag signal intercepts for his analysis. “

  4. walrus says:

    McArthur, after he arrived in Melbourne in 1942, allegedly had an officer in his retinue who carried a briefcase marked “Intelligence” in gold, which amused the Australian intelligence community since apparently said IO knew SFA. Perhaps this performance was one of the sources of this negative reputation.

    My own contribution: I have just returned from six weeks in Europe – Croatia, Italy and fleetingly, Germany and I detected not one person, not one, who was in favor of this war. All I thought I could detect was a sense of foreboding behind the daily ritual of dealing with tourists but that may just be end of season fatigue.

    I saw precisely three wall posters one in Venice, two in Vicenza announcing anti. war demonstrations or meetings and not one Russian or Ukrainian flag. Vietnam on the way home was a blank on the subject. English tourists I met were horrified by energy price rises and were worried about how old people were going to cope this winter.

    As far as I could tell there was zero enthusiasm for war among those I saw.

    • Bill Roche says:

      That may be why Ukraine d/n invade Russia. Maybe Ukrainians were opposed to it also?

      • jim ticehurst.. says:

        Ukraine Was Not Armored Up In The Beginning Of Russian Staging..;;On The Russian Side
        ..It Was Only After Russia Invaded April 20-25th And Sat In Long Columns outside Kiev for Weeks. ‘” Got NATO
        Lathered Up..And Joe Bidens Attention…
        and Decided to Began To Armor up Ukraine in Stages..And The War .Againt the Russians Began..Stage by Rewards of Amor up Ukraine… Stage..by Stage..Stronger Nato..Weaker Russia

        How much Weaker is The Russian Army Now..Has utin Done this on Purpose…?? Did He Fear Coups..and Many of His Own..Now Dead Commanders..?? Was all This a War Game to Putin..Live Fire..With Conscripts..? Older Equipment..?

        Yes..Putin Fears…The Poison Pill..Yet..He Adapts..and Survives.


    • Fred says:


      “….were worried about how old people were going to cope this winter.”

      They’ll become impoverished wards of the state. They should be glad they are not in Canada, where euthanasia is being pushed on the elderly by Premier Trudeau.

  5. Burt says:

    “A vast amount of data must be held in the brain to make such judgments. Not everyone can perform such feats of mental gymnastics. Actually, most cannot.”

    A good number of “intel pukes” cannot do this either. It takes an eclectic yet discerning mentality to do this. Preventing intel from becoming a “self-licking ice cream cone” can be assisted by structural insertion of combat arms officers into intel agencies. The USAF did this back in the 70’s with its TARP program (Tactics Analysis and Reporting Program) which became part of the Air Intel Agency (now AF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency). It put a tactical pilot or WSO in a positition to manage the program that provided the info for operators (pilots and WSOs) to understand threat capabilities.
    Legend has it that it’s origins were at a bar where two pilots were talking about what they expected the MiG pilots to do, and the guy listening to them said “that’s not what they will do”. The pilots looked askance at the guy and asked “and how would you know?” The guy said “because I listen to them all day”.
    The pilots were intrigued, and they all adjourned to a secure location and the dialogue began that allowed direct info sharing and analysis between operators and “intel pukes”. The enemy might have a “Goliath” weapons system but the enemy operators might only (by training and doctrine) be able to employ only a pygmy-sized portion of that weapons system envelope.
    It was a good system. Not sure if it still is even in use. The core analysis relied more on linguists than bean counters. Knowing the human operator — how they were trained and the employment doctrine they followed — was at least as important as knowing the “bean counter” scientific info of aerodynamic capability, radar capability, enemy missile envelopes, etc. The guys with 15 lb brains can analyze that info, and it will be taken into account — but it is not necessarily the most important info.

    So overall I agree with you — intel needs to be integrated with operators, and vice-versa.
    One more thing — contemplate the fact that Gen Michael Hayden rose to such a height in the intel world and in both Republican and Democrat administrations. What can you call such a man? “Intel Puke” is as apt a moniker as any, especially with regard to the embarrassing tweets he’s put up in the past months.

    • Pat Lang says:

      “A good number of “intel pukes” cannot do this either.” I said that. Your system produced both Haydon and Clapper.

      • Burt says:

        And I agreed with you. Both of those putzes are an embarrassment to the USAF. I don’t know if either of them had anything to do with TARP. They are both purely an Intel stovepipe product as far as I can tell.

        • Pat Lang says:

          Clapper ran me out of DIA. I should be grateful. I made money in business without any access to gov. information. I have been accused of using my background from DIA for ptofit. Actully, I was hired by Director Jim Williamm to teach them all how to do what people like me and TTG do naturally.

          • Bill Roche says:

            Pat a serious question. Can you teach how to process and interpret the mountains of information AND experience necessary to draw worthwhile intelligence? The past 30 years in education have been about teaching “critical thinking”. My parents would have said to me, “Billy use your head, its just common sense”. You cant teach commonsense or critical thinking. You have it naturally or you don’t!

          • Pat Lang says:

            To some extent, yes by constant pressure for creative thinking and resistance to backsliding into conformity. But some people will always be better than others. Do not expect to be popular if you are doing the teaching.

          • Pat Lang says:

            There were already some really good analysts at DIA. One named Bill Porter comes to mid. He resigned when Clapper wanted to put him in charge of counting AAA guns. There were also some real duds who were hard to get rid of. Civil service rules prevailed. These people wanted to believe that whatever was occurring would continue forever. They hated me because I would ask them epistemological questions (how they knew things.)

  6. ked says:

    our techno-driven world is way too heavy on quantifying while far too light on qualitative assessment. numbers that are impressive in their precision are often useless as to accuracy for addressing the questions-at-hand. when things go wrong, “we followed the data” (w/ a nicely completed, internally consistent database file attached) almost always forgives failure. wherever the human dimension is central to understanding, we appear to place a great deal of faith in counting… and leave it at that.

  7. Burt says:

    I know a little about epistemological questions — I was a philosophy major. I didn’t want to go to at least 3 more years of law school or seminary after 4 years of staring at walls inside a college classroom, so I went into the military.
    Re Bill Roche’s question and your answers, it seems you might agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s thesis in “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. When you have enough experience — maybe even hard won through bad judgments and mistaken analysis, and not just lots of book knowledge — you can make pretty accurate judgments even without massive information and thorough analysis because you can distill and discern what’s important and quickly act on that. Someone good at that, like Patton, could get inside of the “OODA loop” of his adversary and “drive the fight” by making the opponent always react. “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”
    “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment”. I think only a certain amount of such decision making can be trained. How is someone inexperienced supposed to quickly discern what’s important? One needs a mental catalog, built through experience, to do that. Certainly history (learning from other’s good and bad decisions and good and poor judgments) and maybe even a philosophy or literature background can help with understanding humans and their actions. This improvised air defense might be an example of that: “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne”
    I think your and TTG’s ability to make quick, accurate, intuitive assessments based on less than optimal information is partly due to the breadth of your experience — not least your combat arms experience.

    • Pat Lang says:

      I made two major analytic errors in my life and, as you say, learned from both. One was in 1965 when I was new to the game. I was in the Latin American Special Action Fore (8th SFG +) in the Canal Zone. I was asked if the Indian insurgency in Guatemala would continue, and I said yes. I did not understand that the Guat Army would simply wipe out all the villages from which the insurgents came. They did and I was wrong. The second time was during the run up to Desert Storm. I passed up an invitation to a J-5 wargame on the coming action. I had extensive experience of the Iraqi military from advising them in their war with Iran and thought I did not need the wargame. I was wrong. As a result, I estimated probable US KIA as likely to be 5,000. In the event it was half that. With regard to the value of my and TTG’s combat arms experience I completely agree and think there should be NO 2nd LT in MI unless they have extensive prior service.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      It’s physiological too. That learned through experience has a generalized muscle memory associated with it. Sitting in college for 90 minutes at a desk taking a test, I’d often realize I made a mistake or a solution occured to me once I rose and walked down the hall after the exam ended. Same thing used to happen if stuck on a crossword. Answer the door and suddenly I knew the thing I was stuck on.

  8. mcohen says:

    Off topic on inflation

    Walked into macdonalds the other day and ordered a tokmac like on tik tok and the guy asked if I wanted sauce on it.
    Unbelievable sauce is now extra.I told him keep it plain and he said he likes it spicy.
    Spending money has become a bad experience

  9. Deap says:

    A short stint as USAF officer camp follower found us at a foreign post detachment, with only a few officers and mainly enlisted personnel. This allowed much more officer-enlisted interaction on a casual or social level than most military assignments would entail.

    Quickly I learned, complaining about officers, any officers, was a full time occupation for enlisted personnel. And the officers complained about headquarters. Everyone was a self-proclaimed genius, except for the other guy.

    Other than that, living on the taxpayers dime in Northern Italy for 2.5 years in the late 1960’s as a military dependent was not bad deal at all. The insults and endemic grousing culture rolled off like water, compared to the opportunities to explore the rest of Europe always out our backyard. Thank you, US taxpayers.

    I never encountered that same systemic workplace unhappiness in the rest of my private sector working career, until I sat on a school board and there it was again in full flower — faculty vs staff vs administration.

  10. Barbara Ann says:


    Every Veterans Day you re post here your lesson on the consequences of disdain for “Intelligence pukes” and of the gung ho attitude; Ap Bu Nho. I detect no self pity there or here, just a heartfelt wish that such unnecessary slaughter be avoided in future.

    • Bill Roche says:

      BA; I know the post you reference. After reading I always asked, who, what kind of a person, who’d order men into battle while getting clear warnings to look b/f you leap. Intel Pukes, I’m sure there are some. Speaking of vomit, a good intel officer can read the puke and instantly tell you what it means. Some people s/never be officers or senior enlisted. They forget their responsibility to the soldiers they lead. This might be a good time for Col. Lang to repost that story for those who haven’t read it.

  11. TTG says:

    The first MI officer I knew was the S-2 of the 1/35th Infantry, a major when all other primary staff officers were captains. He was sharp and well respected. He designed and oversaw field exercises for all the battalion’s infantry platoons to sharpen our observation and reporting skills. Now his assistant S-2, a lieutenant like us, did not get that kind of respect, but he got no worse than we gave each other. Except for the one time when we tricked him into doing a “mystical sit-up.” The poor bastard ended up slamming his nose firmly in the bare butt of Jake Poole, our FSO, a particularly hairy-assed artillery lieutenant.

    Right around the time I was commissioned, the Army stopped requiring all officers to attend a combat arms basic course and serve a tour in combat arms before transitioning to other branches. I thought that was a good program. It was the same with SF. That was before SF became a separate branch. I don’t know if officers can be commissioned directly into SF in today’s Army. They shouldn’t. Even enlisted served at least one tour outside of SF before transitioning. One of my NCOs was highly incensed when the Army started to allow soldiers into SF training right out of initial training.

    I also served in a SMU that was an intelligence outfit. At that time, I was an Army civilian case officer. Since I was also SF and a lot of the operatives knew me from 10th Group, I escaped the Intel Puke pejorative. However, there were some intel officers in the HQ element who thought they were Billy Bad Asses because they were in an SMU. They deserved to be called intel pukes.

    I remain dual branched in Infantry and MI. When offed the opportunity to branch transfer into SF, I declined. I just could not give up my Infantry crossed rifles.

  12. jim ticehurst.. says:

    TTG..Good Place as Any to Tell You That I Am Always Very Impressed at The
    Amount of Data You Can Always Produce.Photo Memory.
    Bet Its a High IQ…And I Would Call that In the Genius Spectrum.I Can Understand Why Pat likes You ..I respect Your Service..

    And I dont Think Your Twisted .. Genius..

  13. John Merryman says:

    I have absolutely no war experience, but my little voices are surprised the Russians haven’t acted more forcefully to being caught with their pants down. Now some would say this is because they were hollow klutzes in the first place and that may be true, but this war is certainly as existential to Russia as it is to Ukraine, Yet it seems they’ve rolled over and asked for a belly rub. Meanwhile the Ukrainians are close to ecstatic.
    So now my little voices are saying it ain’t over, until the fat lady sings.

    • Pat Lang says:

      They have been defeated thus far because their ground army is/was a Potemkin Village. I doubt that they have the capability to do better in this war.

    • Leith says:

      JM –

      This war is certainly existential to Putin, but not to the Russian Federation itself or to Russians in general. Their country has not been invaded. They are in no danger of being invaded. Unless of course Xi decides to take advantage of Russian weakness and retake ancestral Chinese lands north of the Amur River and east of the Ussuri River in Siberia.

      • John Merryman says:

        If, as Pat says, their army is a Potemkin village, then they can’t afford a pin being stuck in that bubble, or it’s back to Yelsin and the oligarchs and they become another Ukraine. Monsanto comes in and buys up all the farmland.

      • Barbara Ann says:


        Tell me why Ukraine would not now invade Russia – say to create a small ‘buffer zone’ in Belgorod region to protect Khakiv from shelling? Would this not be a tremendous PR victory and blow against Putin’s leadership? Great bargaining chip come the time for a settlement too.

        • ked says:

          I’ll tells ya… it would unite Mother Russia to come back at Ukraine… w/ more competence, or worse. Plus, the NATO / EU Coalition of Ammo would come to a screeching halt.

        • Leith says:

          Barbara Ann –

          Because Ukrainians know that invading Russia would be a fool’s game. It would unite all Russians against them and probably drive Putin to order a general mobilization. I doubt seriously that General Zaluzhnyi and the Army would go along with Zelenski trying to imitate Hitler’s & Napoleon’s blunders. Plus they would lose much support in the West if they tried such a boneheaded scheme.

          Ked is right.

          Although I believe they will continue raids on Russian territory. Those raids will include SOF and air & missile strikes.

          They may even try to take back Crimea and help Moldova take back Transnistria. I have no clue as to what the reaction of the Russian populace would be in that case.

    • Bill Roche says:

      Why is successfully denying Ukrainians independence an existential situation for Russia?

      • John Merryman says:

        Obviously there are quite a few layers of propaganda painted over this, but since they had no problem with it, from 91, to 22, maybe someone with an actual thought process would look a little deeper.
        Life is complicated, even if people like it simple.

    • Bill Roche says:

      Sorry but I still don’t get why a Russian war on Ukrainian independence is existential to Russia. Have you forgotten; Russia invaded Ukraine.

  14. Mishkilji says:


    At what level–tactical, operational or strategic– do you think the “intel puke” is most prevalent?

    My experience is the tactical and strategic.

    At the tactical level, company grade intelligence officers have to deal with ego-invested field grade commanders. The National Training Center lessons helped tamper that over the last few decades. Plus the intelligence staff at the tactial level are much larger now.

    At the strategic level, know-it-all political appointees scoff at the IC.

  15. Mishkilji says:

    To clarify:

    At what level–tactical, operational or strategic– do you think the “intel puke” ATTITUDE is most prevalent?

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