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Intelligence Wars : Lessons from Baghdad
Not long after the first heady months of the war in Iraq when President Bush celebrated aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln under a "mission accomplished" sign, US forces soon became bogged down in a frustrating war of attrition against a largely unseen insurgency that attacked with ambushes and roadside bombs. In this revealing insider's look at the US intelligence community's efforts to fight the insurgency, author Steven K. O'Hern, who served in Iraq in 2005 as a senior intelligence officer, offers a critical assessment of our intelligence failures and suggests ways of improving our ability to fight an often elusive enemy.
O'Hern criticizes America's military leaders for being enamored with high-technology solutions for all situations, including intelligence operations. Essentially, we are still relying on an intelligence system that was designed to beat the Soviet army. But with no troop formations or supply depots to spot by satellite and no radio signals to intercept, insurgent tactics significantly reduce the US military's technological advantage. Using examples from human source operations conducted in Iraq, this book explains why human intelligence--not technology--is the key to defeating an insurgency and why the US is so poor at using what the military calls "HUMINT."
O'Hern also cites internal structural problems that work against effective intelligence operations. The "intelligence community" is actually a collection of organizations usually more interested in protecting turf than sharing information. The author gives examples of missed opportunities that resulted from information being caught in "stovepipes" and red tape. He shows how front-line units and intelligence officers developed ways to work around the intelligence bureaucracy in order to succeed.
Due to these problems and others, O'Hern notes that US intelligence has failed to spot emerging threats, such as Iran's involvement in Iraq. In conclusion, he cautions that these unresolved problems will continue to affect the United States in any future conflict against an insurgency.
"O'Hern addresses a key subject - how to get the most out of HUMINT-human intelligence - in the irregular wars of today and those of the future. Grounded in experience and thoughtful, [The Intelligence Wars] provides a great primer on the problems facing our HUMINT community today and a set of practical recommendations to fix them."
-Colonel T.X. Hammes, US Marine Corps (Ret.)
Author of The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century
"We constantly read in the media about the US military uncovering Iranian agents penetrating the borders into Iraq, but I believe The Intelligence Wars accurately reflects a nonbiased approach to revealing these reports. The book reads almost like a journal without revealing too much information that would compromise efforts abroad. Mr. O'Hern does an outstanding job of walking the tightrope between classified and unclassified while providing a tool to teach intelligence analysts of all disciplines and experience levels."
-Garth Phoebus, Marine veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom
and Iraqi Freedom I and II, former senior intelligence analyst (Marine Expeditionary Unit),
and executive editor of the Marine Corps Intelligence Association INTSUM Newsletter
* Included on the 2010 U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Reading List recommended by the USMC's Director of Intelligence - http://hqinet001.hqmc.usmc.mil/dirint/2010%20DRINT%20%20flyer.pdf
Recommended as essential reading for intelligence officers by Tom Rick's National Security blog on the Foreign Policy Web site -
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November 01, 2008
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