Created: 12/1/1956

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TITLE: Book Review: The Hazards and Advantages of Estimates of Enemy Intentions

REVIEWER: The Editors



A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and iheorctcal aspccls ol intelligence.

All statements of fad, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Govemrncnt entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations



henever books or articlesthailose relation to the subjectonograph, we plan toibliographic Section. This wW have the primary purpose of directing the reader's attention tohe existing literature, overt and classified, which tn our judgmentontribution to theof tound intelligence doctrine. We thmk the foUowmg is one such item.

Col Sanford H. Kirtland, Jr, "Tbe Haxards and Advantages of Estimates of Enemyhesis, Air War College, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Mas. com'. p.

also summary in Air Intelligence Digest,

In this paper, Col. KirUand comes frankly and vigorously to grips with the cosear in traditional military Intelligenceagainst estimating enemy intentionsor, to put it another way, against breaking down the distinction between enemy capabilities and enemy intentions. Col. KirUand is far from contemptuous of this doctrine; Indeed, he makes an excellent case for it, emphasising the dangers of second-guessing and of assuming that the enemy will choose to do pretty muchS commander would do,imilare emphasizes, too, the danger of writing upstimate of the Situation from even the shrewdest guess of enemy Intentions, thus Inviting disaster If the guess turns out to be shrewd but wrong. In brief, thiso hatchet Job.


What It la, on the other sensibleof the traditional doctrine and an Invitation not toariety of naive traps where the estimative process is concerned. First of all, the author points out that thebetween capabilities and intentions is some times synthetic. Tbe line can be more easily drawn in the abstract than it can in real situationsespecially, we might point out. Inthat count the most,S commander has to spread out thin resources toariety of possible enemy moves. Any intelligence officer (as Bar. Smith argues above) obviously works from estimates of intentions in that hefrom hishole series of outlandish and, from the enemy point of view, self-defeating grossIf the dear enemy objective is toiece of land. It is not very instructive to point out that he is capable of an Immediate, orderly retreat

Second, according to Col. Klrtland. the Intelligence officer Is forced into estimating intentions (or probable courses of action) precisely because the DS is no longerosition of undoubted preponderant power from which it can prepare for and can thwart any and all enemy capabilities. Which is to suggest that the traditional doctrine is outdated. As Mr. Smith says:

There has been much debate, among the military, on whether an intelligence cancer should presume to put Into his formal estimate an opinion as to which of the enemy capabilities listed Is most likely to beome have even held that thehimself must not make it, but must treat all enemy capabilities as if they were sure to be carried through, and must prepare to deal with them all This latter doctrine Is somewhat academic. (Emphasis


Cot Kirtland and Mr. Smith both seem to be saying thatheae days the intelligence officer may pay Up service to the traditional military doctrinemay insist that be is follow-


lug the book on the distinction between capabilities and Intentionsbut cannot possibly keep the distinction clear

in practice.

Finally, the author concludes that there ti no Inherent drawback In estimating Intentions: to do so with reliability simply puts the burden on finer Judgment, on betterand training, and on better personnel selection of estimators. Be might also have added that since estimating Intentions is what the intelligence officer In fact does, some of the time at least. It would be well that he do it consciously The real danger is that the estimator might think he Is dealing with relatively sure and scientific capabilities data (claiming relative certainty for his conclusions, therefore) rather than with speculative premises about enemy Intentions.

CoL Kirtland is writing, of course, strictly about military Intelligence. But most of what be says can be translated Into the frame of reference of tbe civilian IntelligenceMr. Smith's paper demonstrateswith some valuablefor all of us. This is, at thehoughtfulto the subject

Original document.

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