Created: 9/1/1957

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TITLE: Book Review: Strategic Intelligence and National Decisions

REVIEWER: John Whitman

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A eoneetion of arliclos on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.

All staiements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors. They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of Ihe Central Inielligence Agency or any oihcr US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's faciual statements and interpretations.



Strategic Intelligence and National Decisions hasIt suffers (inevitably, under circumstancesfrom an overbalance of theory as against practice;departmental with central Intelligence; It showsof the special problems of Sino-Soviet Blocwhich dominate the business. Its radical proposalstotal reorganization of the effort are debatable Nor Is itbook to read. But It has "the great virtue of revivingIn the center of the stage the fundamental questionrelation of Intelligence to policy. Or, put moreare we here'.

Busman's argument startseclaration that the only justification for Intelligence Is the assistance which It gives to the making of policy. The core of his analysis lies In the



eighth chapter, which deHi wjtfi*tbe"rf.

policy between knowledge end action. He breaks down the decision-making process into Its partsexamination ol US values; recognitionroblem involving these values;an objective; appraising alternative means of pursuing It; calculating the subsidiary effects upon other goals; rnaklng the choice Itself, and, finally, modifying the decision in response to the reactions which accumulate as the decision Is Implemented The aim of Intelligence is to make this process as rational as possible. Thus, according to Hilsman, the only knowledge worth scquirlng is knowledge which Informs action, which can be used to judge how probable developments will affect US values, to weigh alternative means, and to appraise theeffects ofiven objective, in the ideal case, the requirements for knowledge spring directly from theof action at each stage. "Knowledge and action should Interact, should condition and control each other at every. Knowledge for these purposes must be adapted to the uses of action, shaped to the task of best utilizing the means for action that are at. It should be recipient as well as providercast In the framework which actionnurtured by the information uncovered as action Isout, and tested In the laboratory that action provides. Action in turn should not only be planned by knowledge, but guided by it at every stepIn the pause, perhaps, between question and reply In some vital negotiation"

Although this theory seems so sound as to appeara little reflection will convince moat intelligencethat the present organization of Intelligence Isquite different, even contrary, assumptions. Tbe basicas Hllyman discoverederies of Interviews withproducers and consumers, concerns facta. Factsto be the only true and dependable things in anand deceptive world. Not only are they hard toHflsman's informants all felt that the commitment of^

people to the line of thought embodiedfr policyblind them to any disturbing fact which conflicts withpecial type of person,ose for facts .



olicy. Is needed to'search themf^^'together, and this type of person requires. In turn, aorganization called an intelligence

In his interviews and his reading of intelligence doctrine, Hilsmanidely shared set of beliefs about the function of intelligence. Intelligence was held by his sources to be completely separate from the policy-making function, and therefore It was proper that Intelligence and policy making should be assigned to different organizations and separated geographically. Fearful of bias in the assembling ofand respectful of the truth contained in the factsthe holders of this doctrine also insisted that withinimum of guidance the research intelligence function should be performed before, rather than during or after, the formulation of policy or the taking of action. Thus the two should also be separated In time and In outlook.

It is easy to see howet of beliefs could arise, and Hilsman gives some of the reasons in an historical chapter which Is useful and Interesting reading for any practitioner. The first great impetus forostwar intelligence organization was the attack on Pearl Harbor, whichotorious example of the costs of failing to assemble and put together information. The conduct of war required great masses of facts about areas with which Americans had been little concerned before, and the possibility of another warthat next time we should be forearmed with these facts. Policy people were naturally suspicious of the ambitions of Intelligence, and collecting and wiymhiing facts seemed toatisfactory compromise. The policy people felt that thisarmless activity which might even on occasion do

them some good, and the Infinite world of facts offered "

land for the devotees of intelligence.

The Immense faith In facts which underlies prevailingand structure is nowhere Illustrated more clearly thananalogy of the Jigsaw puzzleprobably the most harmful "ever applied to intelligence. Whereas everyone is con- of its limitations. It remains the standardto the intelligence process; no one hasetter


remarkable faithfulness. First there are the collectors, to whom every factiece in some Jigsaw puzzle; and because there are so many facts, the hapless collector has to assume that all are of equal value, and he gathers themThen there are the processors and storers, whoarge staff simply to determine what puzzle each piece belongs to. Then the analysts, so swamped with facts that'they must be divided up Into specialists in edge pieces, sky pieces, cloud pieces, and faces. Atop them all, then, are the "big picture" men, who Integrate the sub-puzzles, Joining the fence to the house, the tree to the sky, until tbe puzzle Is complete. The Implication Is obvious that, If everybody does his job, life will turn out to be fully consistent, entirely knowable, and perfectly rectangular.

It Is hard to argue against the need for facts, against the claim that you can never have too many facts. But there is reason to believe that intelligence already has far too many facts In the numerical sense, although obviously someimportant ones are always missing. But largeof facts, precisely because they require so many people to handle them, take their toll in over-specialization, in loss of the ability to make Judgments, in Increasingly attenuatedin remoteness from policy problems.

The last point, that of the distance between intelligence and policy, is Busman's most penetrating concern- And. Indeed, who of the veterans In Intelligence has not had theexperience of being askedix-month neophyte whether he knows of any cases where intelligence has actually been related to policy. To most analysts, any such relation is rarely discernible In some cases, this destroys Incentive; most of those who remain In Intelligence overcome their frustrations (Bilsman found many indications of frustration on this point in bis Interviews with intelligence officials) by turning scholar. They simply get interested in, their subject for its own sake, derive their satisfaction from knowledge Itself, and workfor the sake of convincing their colleagues. On this level.

research and internal debate are the main ^driving forces, and


the question orjus'tifylng all this activityernment

gram, which can be done only through reference to policy,

recedes Into

Of course, this mayrong view. It may be that, in personal contacts, the Director and his chief assistantstransmit to the appropriate persons the distilled product of the Agencyorm andchedule useful to policy formulation and execution. But this Is not evident to the rank-and-file analyst, and his morale suffers for It because he finds It hard, as does Hilsman. to see any policy-relatedbeing performed In the stream of current Intelligencethe esoteric research papers, and the grand estimates

These defects were Illustrated several times in the recent case of the Polish loan. First, as soon as the early hintsof Oomulka's desire for an American loan, any outsider familiar with the size and competence of CIA's staff In this field would automatically have assumedtudy wasInitiated to determine the probable effects of various types and sizes of loans on the Polish economy, not to apeak of the effects on Polish Internal and external politics. No suchoccurred, however, because everyone was busy withelse and no one was sufficiently attuned to policy either to orderroject from above or undertake It on his own from below. Later,oviet-Satellite estimate was being drafted, mention was made of the probable effects ofoan, but only in the most general way, and some participants were rather disquieted by touching so closelyolicyFinally thereequest from the State Department for an analysts of probable effects of the loan actually under consideration by the US Government. Here, It would seem. Intelligence was actually to be used inecision. But alas, in reading the resulting memorandum, the State official, corning across the statement that grain In the proposed amount

would not permit the cessation of compulsory deliveries from^

the Polish peasants, took bis pencil and crossed out the word When remonstrated with, he answered that. Just

morning, the US had quintupled the amount of grain to be loaned. Perhaps the intelligence memo was needed to explain


attempt to spread responsibilityangerous policy. rate, the request for an Intelligence analysis certainly had

nothing to do with the policy choice, which had already been made.

Readers should be forewarned that Hilsman's book is heavy going. But It would be unfortunate If, merely on this account, intelligence professionals were to Ignore this thoroughgoing treatment of the theory of intelligence It is Interesting par-Ucularly because of Its provocative and persuasive conclusion that much, in fact most, of today's Intelligence production is wasted effort.

John Whitman

Original document.

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