Strategic Warning:

Surprise, Intelligence Failures, and Indications and Warning Intelligence

S - Z

Schmitt, John F. [MAJ/USMCR] "What Is an Intelligence Failure? A Case Study of Korea, 1950." Marine Corps Gazette, Oct. 1997, 60-65.

The author concludes that the two major surprises of the Korean War -- the initial North Korean attack and the Chinese entry into the war -- "were less intelligence failures than operational failures and, especially, failures of command. Dramatic surprise was the result of the decision by authorities to discount the recognized possibility of hostile action."

Schwartz, Peter. Inevitable Surprises: Thinking Ahead in a Time of Turbulence. New York: Gotham, 2003.

According to Hoffman, NWCR 57.3/4 (Summer/Autumn 2004), the author predicts that in the future "we will face numerous sharp jolts or major discontinuities in political, military, and economic areas." These surprises will be interconnected; and they "will bring about a different world, one in which the rules of the game are fundamentally altered." The "critical value of this work is the author's belief that many of these discontinuities have their roots in ongoing trends and that we can anticipate them. By realizing what today's driving forces are, we can alter our perception about today's emerging realities, anticipate the consequences, and avoid surprise."

Shane, Scott. "How Intelligence Fails More Often Than Not." Baltimore Sun, 8 Feb. 2004. []

"[I]t is unfair to assume that every major intelligence failure is proof of incompetence. 'I think intelligence is a very tough business,' says J. Ransom Clark, who worked for the CIA from 196[4] to 1990. 'Even if you do everything right, you're going to be wrong a whole lot of the time.' Certainly, the track record for predictions in other fields is far from perfect, even when detailed data are available.... [E]xperts on intelligence have identified a number of recurring patterns of intelligence failure." These include: Mirror-imaging, intelligence to please, signals lost in the noise, and the power of preconceptions.

Sheffy, Yigal. "Unconcern at Dawn, Surprise at Sunset: Egyptian Intelligence Appreciation Before the Sinai Campaign, 1956." Intelligence and National Security 5, no. 3 (Jul. 1990): 7-56.

Sirseloudi, Matenia P. "How to Predict the Unpredictable: On the Early Detection of Terrorist Campaigns." Defense & Security Analysis 21 (Dec. 2005): 369-385.

Spector, Leonard S. "Strategic Warning and New Nuclear States." Defense Intelligence Journal 3, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 33-52. Defense Intelligence Journal 7, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 45-63.

"The threat of unexpected nuclear proliferation has become a growing danger.... [M]otivations, as well as capabilities, are an essential part of the strategic warning database.... [T]he reliability of the Ten Year Rule has become problematic.... [S]ome regular type patterns of uncertainty are beginning to manifest themselves."

Swanson, Scott. "Indications and Warning Post 9/11: Analyzing Enemy Intent." Military Intelligence 31, no.3 (Jul.-Sep. 2005): 38-40.

This article seeks "to address some ... components to construct new methods and approaches to analysis requirements for Early Warning. The focus is to identify critical processes and analytics used to see threats and understand hostile intentions, and improve their reliability by moving from an emphasis of simple cause-and-effect relationships to more intuitive, non-linear associative forms of pattern recognition to understand the enemy."

Swenson, Russell G. "The Warning and Crisis Support Functions in Regional Joint Intelligence Centers." Defense Intelligence Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 81-93.

Twining, David Thomas. Strategic Surprise in the Age of Glasnost. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1992. [Seymour]

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. President Nixon and the Role of Intelligence in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, at:

A collection of documents highlighting "the causes and consequences of US Intelligence Community's (IC) failure to foresee the October 1973 ... Yom Kippur War.... Prior to October 6, the CIA concluded that the Arabs would not attack.... Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analysts believed that Arab military inferiority would militate against an attack on Israel. DI analysis did not explore the possibility that leaders might go to war -- even at the risk of losing -- to pursue political objectives."

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Strategic Warning and the Role of Intelligence: Lessons Learned From The 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, at:

"The Czechoslovak crisis began in January 1968. The Czech communist leadership embarked on a program of dramatic liberalization of the political, economic, and social orders. These reforms triggered increasing Soviet concerns culminating in the invasion of 21 August 1968. This collection of documents pertains to these issues, the responses and analysis of this event in history."

Vickers, Robert D. "The State of Warning Today." Defense Intelligence Journal 7, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 9-15.

The National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Warning and Chairman of the Intelligence Community's Warning Committee notes the "decimation" of warning staffs in an era of tight budgets. He argues, however, that "Warning is not broken and the process doesn't need major restructuring."

Watt, D. Cameron. "An Intelligence Surprise: The Failure of the Foreign Office to Anticipate the Nazi-Soviet Pact." Intelligence and National Security 4, no. 3 (Jul. 1989): 512-534.

There are several reasons for the failure of British intelligence to anticipate the signing of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. These include: confused and even wrong information; assessors "were misled, if not positively misdirected"; and when "confronted with evidence that did not fit their assumptions," officials at the Foreign Office tended "to question the motives of those who produced it."

Wheaton, Kristan J. The Warning Solution: Intelligent Analysis in the Age of Information Overload. Fairfax. VA: AFCEA International Press, 2001.

Williams, Robert. "Commanders and Surprise." Studies in Intelligence 26, no. 3 (Fall 1982): 9-19.

Westerfield: "How commanders should handle intelligence."

Wirtz, James J. "Indications and Warming in an Age of Uncertainty." International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 26, no. 3 (Fall 2013): 550-562.

"Indications and warning methodologies comprise a significant tool that offers important ways to organize strategic responses to today's threats.... Because few mechanisms are available to organize and inform both intelligence professionals and government officials about their roles in the indications and warning process, indications and warning is unlikely to experience a resurgence as a key instrument of intelligence and strategic policy."

Wirtz, James J.

1. "Miscalculation, Surprise and American Intelligence After the Cold War." International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 5, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 1-16.

Wirtz identifies some problems of miscalculation and surprise in past U.S. intelligence analyses, and concludes that the post-Cold War world may exacerbate such problems in the future.

2. "Review Article: The Intelligence Paradigm." Intelligence and National Security 4, no. 4 (Oct. 1989): 829-837.

This is a review of Kam, Surprise Attack (1988); it, however, merits reading on its own. As indicated in the article's title, Wirtz provides a look at what I would call an emerging paradigm, but to which he seems to grant significant maturity, for the study of intelligence failures. This article may be a little "political sciency" for some, but this is a useful discussion of organizing principles for study.

3. The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991. DS5598M44W57

Choice, May 1992, says this is "close to being the definitive study of the Tet offensive." But it is "repetitive and heavy going at times." According to Campbell, AIJ 14.3, the author's "thesis is that 'unmotivated biases' prevented analysts and commanders from utilization of information that contradicted their belief systems." Wirtz "has performed a significant service to the intelligence community by his scholarly discussion of how preconceptions can prevent an accurate analysis of information."

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