Friday, July 21, 2006

Beware The Lure of Sexy Intelligence Work

Updated Below

Hmmm, did that headline bring you into the site? Welcome! Intelligence work in peacetime is the day in and day out monitoring of potential adversaries. Military organizations, Hizb'Allah or state forces, train the way they fight. That means you monitor training and exercises to learn how they operate and what their capabilities are.

So for the people who collect the intel, monitor the operations and analyze to learn those capabilities, ... what is sexy? Big exercises, combined arms, missile shots, aerial combat and weapons delivery, chemical warfare, special ops, infiltration, etc. You get the picture. Cool equipment. Highly trained, challenging foe.

What is not sexy? "Basic capabilities" How 'bout low level infantry operations. Barely literate guys in trucks and jeeps, with mortars, RPGs, and Assault Rifles.

That's not to say it doesn't get some attention, but by definition - the more complex operations/exercises will demand the talents of your more competent operators and analysts. And that day to day, low-level stuff? Give it to the new guy. Give it to the guy who couldn't handle the more complex targets. You certainly don't assign your "stars" to it. It's considered the drudge work of intelligence collection.

So what happens when you neglect the fundamentals of monitoring your adversary's basic capabilities?

"...Commanders said they were caught off guard by Hizbullah's mastery of anti-tank weapons, mortars and platoon-sized maneuvers...."

Getting "caught off guard" in combat means people die.

Bottom line... Sexy is fun. Sexy is exciting. But don't forget the basics.

UPDATE: I know how this works... but after writing this I can't get rid of the nagging feeling about the C-802 strike on the Israeli SA'AR. CDR Salamander gives an excellent command perspective of the event, but I see it as an intelligence failure. As spooks, we would tell our platform commander that our job was "to help put a missile on them, before they put a missile on us." While the skipper is ultimately accountable for fighting the ship, if I were an Israeli spook I'd have to take my fair share of responsibility on that one. Have the Israeli forces gotten soft?

UPDATE(7/27/06): Over at Counterterrorism there is a quick look analysis of yesterday's engagement at Bint Jubayl. Israelis suffered heavy losses (considering the small units engaged) against well-trained, well-equipped infantry. These terrorists are a new breed. Not guerrillas. Not "resistance." Not state actors. Not amateurs. Whatever they are, they are definitely dangerous. Combine combat effectiveness with a masterful use of propaganda, and you have a truly cabable enemy. Dig in for the long war.

Mudville open post


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