The challenge for the operations officer: how to exercise self-awareness and self-discipline so emotions inform and strengthen greater intellectual knowledge, improve judgment, and empower a relationship to render acts of skill and courage that deliver valuable intelligence.
Clausewitz in his classic On War stressed the courage of responsibility over all other forms of courage. Without that type of bravery, there can be no leadership and no victory.
Not a theological point, but rather an enduring lesson of warfare: You need to know yourself. The better you understand yourself, your team, and your nation, the better you can triangulate friend and foe in the human terrain of combat. Sun-tzu had taught this.
Both Russia and China probably have more clandestine intelligence operatives inside the United States now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, than at the height of the Cold War.
There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable.
Self-awareness through self-examination is essential for a successful intelligence officer, especially a recruiter. Without a solid, central reference point of yourself, every other assessment and judgment is skewed.
The instructors outlined the ingredients of a recruitment operation: MICE. This stood for money, ideology, compromise, and ego. I thought of another, revenge, perhaps an extension of ego but nonetheless powerful enough to warrant its own designation. Later in my career, in the universe of counterterrorism and war, I would learn and apply coercion, from the intricately subtle to the massively kinetic.
Intelligence collectors and analysts without empathetic intuition, or “deep intelligence,” can yield deeply flawed conclusions, bungled operations, and catastrophic policy decisions. In contrast, by understanding local norms in a human intelligence context and by working to build common policy purpose with local partners, risks diminish and rewards grow. Self-awareness through self-examination is essential for a successful intelligence officer, especially a recruiter. Without a solid, central reference point of yourself, every other assessment and judgment is skewed.
Those operations officers who best understand themselves, their own motivations, their own ignorance, while exploring the ideologies, faults, anger, fears, hopes, and aspirations of others, are the ones who recruit the best spies. Those who realize what they don’t know acquire the best intelligence.
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
The essence of espionage is access.
I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
“Covert action means influencing conditions and behavior in ways that cannot be attributed to the sponsor.
Communication, especially the crucial but sometimes mundane work of writing reports, is fundamental to espionage.
The enemy understood asymmetric warfare. We did not.
Yet these monumental advances in technology have not necessarily made collection easier. On the contrary, in some ways, technical collection is much harder, because of massive amounts of data, new requisite skills, diverse operational risks, organizational challenges, bureaucratic competition, archaic law, uninformed politics, and social norms.
He maintained that each student must train with diligence, learn good habits, and go pitch prospective agents—and keep learning. He maintained that all great recruiters constantly refined their craft. They always experimented and they always adjusted because all targets and all environments were different.
Our leaders will need relevant information in a timely manner, information analyzed with the leaders’ specific objectives in mind so it is actionable. So it is valued and used. So that it is more than information. It is good intelligence, like fine art, understood and treasured by the beholder.
This is why intelligence will be so critical, to help us diminish the “obscurity and confusion” and to understand the “new and dangerous forms.” Cohen stated simply, “Secret agents and spies may play a more important role than soldiers or pilots.”
What are the ideal experiences for the development of a top-flight intelligence officer? There was an overwhelming consensus, according to James, that whether in operations or analysis, the best officers were usually those who had accumulated a broad range of diverse and enlightening experiences prior to joining government service.
Sun-tzu emphasized that the art of war is necessary for the state. He added that “All warfare is based on deception” and that “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” He was referring to the value of intelligence.
Perhaps, however, one of my best teachers was this near-naked boy. In the future, whether engaged with illiterate Afghan warlords or European technocrats, I would listen to my indigenous interlocutors with a larger degree of patience and respect.