thumbnail of Toward a new world; Intelligence and the policy process, part one
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The Institute on world affairs the Institute on world affairs held each year on the San Diego State campus brings together statesman scholars military leaders and businessmen from all over the world. The purpose of this institute is the understanding of the problems and challenges that face man gained through knowledge and discussion. This year's theme was toward a new world and here to introduce this session speaker is Professor Minos generalised director of the Institute. The subject that we'll be dealing with. This morning. Is intitled perceptions of the new intelligence and the policy process. How to handle something like this. One would normally expect on naturally expect to have an expert who has had exposure. To military as well as political effect and
in this we have Colonel Donald Busey who is in a sense an old timer as well as an old friend. This Institute he's been here on several occasions before and has contributed very largely to the kind of work that we're attempting to do himself is a native of Minneapolis a graduate of the University of Chicago Graduate in political science continued his work in Chicago in graduate work and then went to Princeton where he was an instructor there Dymov Department of Politics. He was gone from there to join the Army and became a second lieutenant during World War 2. So it was a waterpark of general staff until 1944 when I was assigned to the G2 section 5th Quartus until the end of the wall after having gone back civilian life. He was recalled to active duty in 1950 following the outbreak of the Korea law and served in
various capacities of the army ever since. I would say until recently. He has accepted an appointment of the legislative reference service live in Congress and is it senior specialist in national defense. He comes to watch as you see qualify from many angles for handling the subject that has been assigned to him gives us great pleasure to introduce to you. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for your generous more than generous introduction. It seemed to me appropriate for this year's institute that in view of the fact that your topic is an effort to look at the dynamics of our present world as a basis for trying to visualize what the world of the future may be like seem to be appropriate with that topic it might be
useful if at some stage of your deliberation and I'm glad to say that it's coming early in the institute. We took a rather hard look at this whole business of trying to forecast the future and what I'd like to do this morning in the time available as a basis for some discussion to follow is to try to establish a groundwork for this topic by looking at about five aspects of it. First a few remarks about the whole problem of forecasting foreseeing the future to include a few observations about the whole question of what the psychologists call perception. Second. I'd like to look at. Some of the failures of intelligence in the broad area of national policy over the course of the past 15 20 years or more.
As our chairman has indicated this business of perception this problem of forecasting the future insofar as foreign policy is concerned and insofar as military strategy is concerned of course it's referred to under the general rubric of intelligence. After we've taken a somewhat detailed look at some of these failures of intelligence and I say detail because I think it's instructive with respect to. Making some generalizations about the problem of intelligence and the policy process. I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the technical difficulties that are involved. In the whole business of intelligence estimating. Then I'd like to move from there into a fourth area rather briefly and that's to talk about. A related problem and that is translating intelligence into policy. In other words the taking of your of your analysis and the findings and conclusions of your analysis and translating them into action.
And then finally we've got to say a little bit I guess about what do we do about all this. What are some of the solutions to the problems which we face in this area. First then with respect to foreseeing the future of this whole business of forecasting. I suppose the first and most obvious thing to be said about this is that in actuality. We should recognise in all humility. That we can't foresee the future very well that whenever we use the rather trite expression that in the foreseeable future such and such can be expected. We're living in allusion in a sense because it is very difficult. Meaningfully. To foresee the future with the kind of precision that would be necessary for exact analysis. Let me give you an illustration of this. Certainly you would expect. That To the extent that we are capable of foreseeing the future it would be in the in the physical sciences.
And yet even here we have great difficulty looking into our crystal ball and estimating what the future may hold. I think a very good illustration of the problem. Is to be found in. A report of some 30 up to 30 years ago exactly as a matter of fact was in one thousand thirty seven. That there was a report entitled technological trends and national policy produced for the National Resources Board of the federal government. A committee was established to produce this report a very distinguished committee. It was somewhat biased towards engineers and technologists rather than toward scientists but it had a good scientific base. And this group was charged by the National Resources Board with looking out 10 to 25 years into the future and trying to estimate the impact
of likely invention on social affairs. They came up with a very extensive report and for the most part a very successful report. They were quite. Accurate in their forecasts. But in at least four areas. The report had grave deficiencies as hindsight now tells us. For one thing they had a chapter on. Power. And yet in one thousand thirty seven. They did not expect. Power to be derived from atomic energy. Now it is perfectly true that the fundamental scientific finding with respect to the fissioning of the you're right I mean the atom did not occur until 1939. Nonetheless in the atmosphere of 1937 there had been much speculation about the possibility. Of deriving. Power from the atom. And yet this report
overlooked this possibility as a likelihood in the course of the next 10 to 25 year period. Another area in which the report. So we say missed the boat. Was that they had chapters on communications and on transportation and in both of these chapters they talked about the potential with respect to navigation aids. And yet they had nothing to say about what. Was developed within a short period thereafter during World War 2 and that radar. And yet there have been quite considerable speculation as of that date with respect to the possibilities of harnessing electromagnetic phenomenon for this kind of purpose. I'm trying to think of a fourth area where they were deficient Oh yes in the field of in the same chapter on transportation. They talked about air transportation naturally. But they had nothing to say about the possibility of jet propulsion. Of jet power plants for aircraft. It's rather
interesting in hindsight to refer back to the report because they were talking about the magical figure at that time of maybe we would achieve speeds of as much as two hundred forty miles an hour at 20000 altitude 20000 feet altitude provided we could solve the problem of cabin pressurization. Rather modest expectation. When we think of what has happened in the air rage since that. Day. Now I. I cite these examples of. A failure to predict in 1937 such things as atomic energy Jet Propulsion antibiotics and radar not to be critical of this group of man at all. Quite the contrary. Their report on the whole was extremely as I've indicated successes. But only to indicate to you that even a very distinguished body of man working in the physical science which are. Certainly much more manageable than the more nebulous general area of the social sciences or humanities find great difficulty.
In seeing the future with precision. Now. We could develop this in considerably greater detail but I don't think it would serve our purposes this I think illustrates the basic point that that is difficult with respect to forecasting the future. One aspect of this I think though does deserve singling out it's a rather abstract one but a very important one in terms of what I want to say a little bit later about some of the failures of intelligence. And that is the the broad problem. Of what the psychologists call perception. I'm not a I'm not a psychologist and I don't pretend to be able to develop this. Topic with anything like the detail that it did that it merits. But I mean I'm under the impression that modern psychological findings. Indicate to put it in rather colloquial English that we as human beings can
only see those things that we are able to see. A little later I'll have something to say about. The tendency to believe those things that you want to believe. But here in the area of perception. I think it is generally accepted. That we see what we are equipped. To perceive in other words that is a stimulus to which we are exposed. Using is to translate a will is interpreted. By us. Only if we have within our makeup. And obviously we're talking here essentially about our intellectual equipment. Only if we have within that intellectual equipment the capacity the ability. To translate that symbol that signal. Into into meaning. And as we see this is a very crucial aspect of intelligence in a little in a few moments.
Another way of stating the same proposition is that. We have to have within our mind is organizing hypotheses that make sense out of this a lot of the stimulation. That we receive and in the absence of those organizing hypotheses that make sense out of stimulate. We in effect do not perceive that stimuli at all. Now again here's another topic that could be spelled out in considerable detail and we may have occasion to want to talk about a little more later but for the present let me simply indicate that this is a very important aspect. Of this whole question of failures in the field of intelligence. So let's move them to the second topic that I want to talk about and that is some of the classic failures in intelligence if time permits I'd like to talk about four or five of them. Starting with let's say Pearl Harbor because of the lessons that it holds.
We certainly would want to talk a little bit about Cuban missile crisis in the fall of 60 to. Possibly a few remarks about Korea and 50 and then. Will indicate others if we're if it's possible. Starting with Pearl Harbor I suppose the most. Comprehensive and certainly the best analysis the most comprehensive account the best analysis that has been made of an intelligence failure is is the analysis that has been made of Pearl Harbor. Notably in a book by Roberta world's debtor which some of you may have seen entitled Pearl Harbor. And on this she's concerned primarily with why did we fail to perceive that the Japanese might attack. Our fleet at Pearl Harbor. In the fall of 1941. She analyzes this at great length. But what it all boils down to and here we have a
clear example of the failure of perception. What it all boils down to was that there were there was all the knowledge and facts and information in the world available about. The Japanese fleet. If anything the problem was we had just too many signals. What she refers to in her analysis as background noise. We had signals all over the place that the Japanese might attack in French Indochina. We had signals that they were burning their code books. Incidentally we were burning our code books too so that signal didn't mean a great deal because this would be a normal kind of precaution under certain situations particular in a period of tension. We just had too much as she called a background noise to properly interpret and read the signals that were truly relevant. The ones that. It might indicate that the Japanese were about to attack
our fleet at Pearl Harbor. As early as January of nineteen forty one some can lead months earlier. Our ambassador in Tokyo had reported a strong rumoring in Japan to the effect. That the Japanese were contemplating the possibility of an attack upon the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor. But this is the kind of report that in intelligence circles you get constantly. And you you may or may not take it seriously. We did not take it seriously in the absence of. A group of people or even an individual. Who had accepted as an organic as an organizing hypothesis the possibility that the Japanese might attack Pearl Harbor. It was not possible to read these signals that we were getting accurately as soon as the fact occurred of the attack on Pearl Harbor it was a very simple matter to go back and do a
post-mortem. And read all the facts that were available read all the A TVs that we had at hand and then it became very easy to perceive. Yes this is what the Japanese must be planning. But if you didn't have such a starting point if you didn't have that hypothesis to begin with. These signals could be interpreted in many many different way. While Pearl Harbor is a is an excellent illustration of of the problem but we needn't concentrate on it to the exclusion of other examples. Let's take the battle of the Bulge. It reveals the same basic problem. There was nobody who believed that the Germans in December of 1044 were in any position to launch a major offensive or counter offensive if you prefer to call it that. Against allied forces in western Europe. And because nobody believed that this was a possibility. All the intelligence in the world could
be misread could be misinterpreted. The signals simply were not perceive the signals were there. Again a post-mortem done immediately after the Battle of the Bulge was launched. Made it clear to everyone that we had a abundant information. If we could have read it accurately that this is what the Germans were up to. I know an intelligence officer who was serving in Western Europe at that time. Who was on an adjacent front. In other words he was with a unit that was not involved in the area that might be threatened. Based upon the information which this intelligence officer was receiving he briefed his commanding general. To the effect that all the evidence indicated that the Germans were preparing to mount. A massive offensive on the Mommy D axis. The fact that this was the axis isn't important. Factually on of these important about it is that this is exactly the axis that was used by the Germans and
that it looked as though the attack might come sometime in the middle of December. What was the reaction of the commanding general. Very simple. When are you persuaded me that this is what the Germans are up to. But certainly the commanders the commanders involved starting with General Eisenhower to John Bradley. On down to the first and third army commanders they have the same information available that we have here. They must be reading these the same data. They therefore must be really teaching the same conclusion and therefore it would be a little presumptuous of me to suggest a higher authority. That in my judgment this now being the general talking that in my judgment the Germans are about to attack in a major way on the Mahmoudiya axis in the Ardennes. The thing that was being lost sight of here was that yes higher authorities and adjacent authorities did have the same information but the difficulty was they had a lot of other information too. What Roberta was that or called this background noise. They had
signals all over the place and in the great flood of information. Because there was no one who accepted the possibility to start that that this might occur. These signals were not being interpreted in the same way. We had the same thing in pro Harbor but there was no single place in the bureaucracy where all of the relevant signals that pointed. In retrospect to the possibility of an attack on Pearl Harbor were brought into focus in one place. It's a terrible temptation to talk about Pearl Harbor a great length because the. Problems there are so it's such a classic laboratory case of the failure of intelligence let me give you want to stray should go back to Pearl Harbor for a second. One of your credit problems was the operators in the Navy the people who were the planners the doers didn't get along too well with the intelligence types in the Navy. So here was one bureaucratic problem automatically the army and the Navy were getting along too well in those days either. And one classic example of the army and navy problem was that.
The Army intelligence officer in Washington. Said a message to the G2 army in Hawaii saying in effect suggest you go see your navy colleague about the Tokyo weather forecast. I have to interject at this point. The reason for this remark was that a very important message had been decoded in what was called Magic which became known as the winds code. This is intelligence because it was so called Magic was derived from a source which was very important we not let the enemy know we had. Basically the breaking of the Japanese code there for special security precautions were always associated with this kind of intelligence. You couldn't transmitted it in normal. Electronic means you had to use special communications methods in order to communicate this kind of intelligence. Therefore the only way in which the G2 in Washington could tell the army g to an a y about this was to tell him to go over and
see his Navy colleague who had this data about the Windows code. And the way in which he was going to tell the G2 in Hawaii. Colonel Bratton to get this information was go over and ask your colleague about the Tokyo weather forecast and this immediately of course would strike a note of response in the Navy intelligence officer because he'd know that this was talking about the Women's Code. However Colonel Bracken had no reason to think that this was an important message. His expectations were not that there might be an attack upon Pearl Harbor and therefore he should take this seriously he had lots of other things to do as a result he never went over to size his Navy colleague about the Tokyo weather forecast. Well this is simply an illustration of how the bureaucracy how deep the problem of organizing the task of creating and producing intelligence can get in the way of producing the necessary result. Well this interjection of Pearl Harbor let me get back to. The battle of the Bulge. There's really nothing.
Particularly more to say about it except that in terms of this division of labor point. This intelligence officer I was referring to earlier who correctly read the signals and so briefed his commanding general was in the fortunate position of having available to him all the relevant data. He happened to be a ground officer therefore he was able to read this air intelligence from the ground officers point of view. And the same intelligence was not being read in the same light by higher echelons because there you had a division of labor with certain people reading certain kinds of information and others reading other kinds of information. I might say also that once you established a hypothesis and organizing hypothesis that the Germans might be contemplating such an attack. Then you had a great flood of other data that headed into that proposition. And there you could perceive these other things in their true light because you had an organizing hypothesis which was the general point I was making earlier with respect to perception. Let's take
Cuban missile crisis for just a minute or two. You'll recall that the president made his speech to the nation about the crisis as I recall on Monday 22 October. Approximately one week earlier which would have been what Sunday I think it was for 18 October. When Bundy rather his brother McGeorge Bundy the special assistant to the present for national security affairs was interviewed on Meet the Press and he said at that time in response to a question because you remember the senator Keating and others had been saying for some weeks that there was a danger of a Cuban Soviet missile buildup in Cuba. He said in response to a question at that time that we have no present evidence and do not presently believe that the Soviets are likely to place. Long range missiles into Cuba. He based this upon. What Abel has referred to in his book about the Cuban missile crisis on a national intelligence estimate which was
produced on 21 September months before the president made a speech on television. And in this national intelligence estimate or an IED it was stated that in the opinion of the United States intelligence Bort it did not seem likely that the Soviets would place long range missiles in Cuba and they gave the reasons why the Soviets would be unlikely to do this. First they never placed missiles outside the Soviet Union before they hadn't even positioned them in the in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. For a variety of reasons which were cited in the estimate they would recognize that this would be an extreme provocation. And if you proceed on the assumption the Soviets don't want a nuclear war which seems a reasonable assumption. They would certainly not. Take this kind of a risk of putting these missiles in Cuba and so forth. And they gave us a lot of very good reasons why the missiles wouldn't go into Cuba. There had been many signals which if if you started from the proposition that the Soviets might put those missiles into Cuba. Would clearly
point. To the probability that they were there. For example. It was early in September too. These freighters the Poltava and the arms. Now it's important that you single out these particular freighters because these freighters had been built for the. Scandinavian. Lumber run. And which required that they have very large hatches and very large holes. Now the arms the arms going the Poltava were taken off the lumber run to Scandinavia and were sent to Cuba. It was noted by the. Photographic intelligence officers that these ships did have large hatches. It was also noted that they were riding high in the water. Now if those four analysts had recognized that there was a possibility that the Soviets might place missiles into Cuba they might then have to. Have started speculating
on what might be in those holes. But because they didn't imagine that this was a conceivable course of action by the Soviets. They didn't know how to interpret the large patches and riding high in the in the water. Well again you in retrospect it's like the Battle of the bulge in Pearl Harbor. Once the fact had been established of the missiles in Cuba it became very easy to go back and read all the signals that we had. And it became fairly evident that. There should have been very evident to us that the missiles were there but we didn't start with the assumption that they might be up to this trick. Well we can could we could resettle a lot of failures of intelligence but I think time suggest we have to move on to another aspect of the topic and we may want to get back to some of these other failures later such as the Chinese Communist intervention in Korea. And possibly others. We may want to say something about the problems of.
Intelligence in Vietnam as well. The third area that I want to talk about was some of the technical problems associated with intelligence and here we'll obviously be drawing upon. The lessons we've learned from some of these failures of intelligence at least to a degree. One of the key technical problems in intelligence is drawing a distinction between what is commonly referred to as intentions enemy intentions on the one hand and enemy capabilities on the other. Obviously this is the heart of the intelligence process. More broadly we can say that. The starting point in any policy process as our chairman has suggested is this business of intelligence for example.
Toward a new world
Intelligence and the policy process, part one
Producing Organization
San Diego State University
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-x34mr25f).
This program presents the first part of a lecture from Colonel Donald Bussey, senior specialist in national defense, Library of Congress.
Lectures recorded at San Diego State College's 25th Annual Institute on World Affairs. The Institute brings together world leaders to discuss issues in politics, culture, science, and more.
Global Affairs
Public Affairs
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: San Diego State University
Speaker: Bussey, Donald
Speaker: Generales, Minos D.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-9-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:48
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Toward a new world; Intelligence and the policy process, part one,” 1968-01-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 26, 2021,
MLA: “Toward a new world; Intelligence and the policy process, part one.” 1968-01-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 26, 2021. <>.
APA: Toward a new world; Intelligence and the policy process, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from