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16 May 2007

When everything is intelligence, nothing is intelligence

The now famous essay from the Sherman Kent School comes to mind as one watches the debate over the intelligence community’s role in studying potential global warming issues play out in the media-legislative complex.

Both Haft of the Spear and In From the Cold have further insight and commentary into the role played by the political considerations in this equation, and are well worth reading.

One is also reminded that the intelligence implications of the issue has already been well covered by the National Intelligence Council’s Mapping the Global Future series, and to a lesser extent with the Proteus project’s scenarios.

However, a very wise (but very cynical) senior analyst once told us that the best account one could be assigned to is a futures study with a horizon long after your own retirement. That way, one could spend an entire career in intelligence and never be proven wrong…

Given the flux of other more frequently addressed geopolitical and transnational issues accounts, longer term futures are more and more being rendered irrelevant by the radical shifts of today. Thus, moving out to a geological timescale accomplishes the same objectives in a far more certain manner for those seeking a profitable retirement.

We ourselves feel that there are far more pressing and more immediate issues that demand the application of the talent and insight of trained intelligence professionals, and there are better target accounts in which the community can explore the integration of outside experts and academics with much more immediate, and much more reproducible, results.

As long as Americans are dying in the Long War, this kind of peacetime fantasy exercise is not just irrelevant but offensive. We are sure that there are many serving officers outside the wire that would love a chance to come back in, work in an air-conditioned office somewhere in the Beltway on a 9 to 5 schedule, see their families at night, and spend their time in the intellectual equivalent of wanking. But there is a real war to fight, and real intelligence to do first.

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