About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

THE LOST ART OF INTELLIGENCE TRADECRAFT

The survival and longevity of the state is dependent on the acquisition of reliable information and intelligence that will allow analysts to predict the future intentions of the aggressor. Whereas information can be gained from overt sources, the reliability of this information needs to be tested against other known intelligence available – and must therefore be subject to the intelligence process, a process that ought to be objective. Good intelligence acquisition is, additionally, a responsibility a government has towards its citizens.

Overt sources are, however, prone to flying disinformation and information that is subjective and therefore biased. Furthermore, such overt information can often be used to deliberately mislead the analysts and thus lead to a misinterpretation of the threat a state is facing.

Although covert or secret sources account for a relatively small percentage of the overall intelligence picture, the lack of this type of information can lead to misunderstanding and misjudging the aggressor. The knock-on effect from this lapse in information gathering and subsequent analysis can cost a state dearly.

Electronic espionage, satellite surveillance, communications intercepts and other high-tech systems can all help build up the picture of the enemy, but even these high-tech sources are prone to deception, especially when dealing with a sophisticated aggressor.

In order to enter the mind-set and determine the intentions of the enemy, the state’s intelligence gathering apparatus requires agents that are able to access the required information. The essential elements of information that emanate from the analysts can usually only be gleaned from infiltration and penetration agents – something the West has discarded in favour of high-tech espionage. In the process, “intelligence tradecraft” or “espionage tradecraft” has sadly been neglected. Recent examples of the folly of this neglect are the short but ill-fated Bosnian war, the recent Israeli incursion into Lebanon, the war on Iraq, the Mumbai attack and so on.

But, agents too can be “turned” or “dangled” by the enemy or even report what they think their handlers want to know. This can, additionally, lead to an inflow of disinformation aimed at confusing the analysts – or even an intelligence overload which can result in information and intelligence becoming lost in the intelligence machine.

When this purposeful reporting of disinformation is aimed at achieving a specific strategic intent – and is missed by the analysts as being part of a larger agenda – the resultant actions that stem from it can cause massive embarrassment to a government and even lead to its demise.

Case officers or agent handlers ought to be trained in the various methods of agent identification, agent recruitment, methods of establishing cover, agent communications, false flag recruitments and operations, access exploitation and so forth. But more importantly, they need to be trained to identify deception and alternate agendas on the part of their agents – and know how to act once such deception has been identified.

Additionally, case officer selection remains an important criterion. A case officer who does not know how the enemy operates, what the application of the enemy’s weapon systems are, doesn’t understand the strategy and tactics of the enemy, has no real experience of war or conflict and so on will be easily deceived by the agent. Once an agent discovers that the deception is accepted due to a lack of experience, understanding and knowledge, it can be expected that he/she will continue to deceive or even fabricate information.

Apart from understanding and applying good tradecraft, the case officer should realise that he is the agent’s manipulator, psychologist, “friend”, paymaster and mentor. He must be able to motivate, direct and manage the agent in such a manner that the agent feels that there is professionalism attached to his handling.

Agents also need to be trained to survive the environment they are expected to operate in. A danger exists, however, when the agent is over-trained and acts in a manner that draws attention to his/her covert activities. Such actions can lead to the compromise of the agent, the case officer and intelligence operation – usually with severe international repercussions. Over-training an agent can also lead to a finger pointing at the state trying to conduct the espionage operation as tradecraft can be unique in its application.

The apparent lack of ability to plan the career path of an agent is also a factor that hampers covert intelligence gathering operations. Agents need to know that they play an important role but this role should never be over-emphasised. That said, the agent needs to know where he is supposedly going and how he will get there.

Long-term planning to gain the access required, infiltrate and/or penetrate aggressor organisations and monitor what the enemy is planning in the short-, medium- and long-term becomes vitally important to the safeguarding of the state and its citizens.

But, in an age of high-tech gadgetry, many governments have neglected the art of classical espionage and in the process have lost the intelligence advantage and are rapidly losing the intelligence war – a war that is vital to their survival.

My next posting will take a look at the catastrophe unfolding in the so-called Great Lakes region.

Added on 14 December 2008: See the following link for an admission by the US that it lacks intelligence on the pirates:
http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2441944,00.html


Added on 26 December 2008: I must admit that I found this totally stupid. Has any thought been given to how many women and young boys will now be raped? I simply cannot accept the reasoning behind this latest bit of idiocy. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1101874/U-S-hands-Viagra-pills-Afghan-warlords-return-vital-Taliban-intelligence.htm

44 comments:

Stupid said...

“In the process, “intelligence tradecraft” or “espionage tradecraft” has sadly been neglected. Recent examples of the folly of this neglect are the short but ill-fated Bosnian war, the recent Israeli incursion into Lebanon, the war on Iraq, the Mumbai attack and so on.” The New York Times has compared the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia to the Israeli incursion into Lebanon. Do the Ethiopians (and Americans) have any military options to prevent militant Islamists from gaining control?

simon said...

I think that your thoughts mirror the post ww 2 idea that air power could win wars. Time and again America failed to win with airpower starting in korea, vietnam, etc. It can rock the boat and bring an infrastructure to its knees but it wont root out the cockroaches. HUMINT was completely gutted to my understanding in the post reagan era of american foreign policy.

In my mind, one of the issues of our current global war on terror will be prolonged further is due to lack of intelligence and penetration inside the cells or terror. Aside from the cultural and religious issues, relatively few linguists and relationships existed with pharsi speakers and we totally abandoned interest in afghanistan after the soviet departure.

I firmly believe it took all these years to build up humint in iraq to be able to target the leaders of the insurgency during the 'surge'. will it be a lesson learned ? or abandoned ?

Mr. Barlow, how do you see the west genuinely operating inside terror structures that are so religious in nature. Money is one thing, the sould another. Which is what drives so many terrorists these days. They dont hijack planes for ransom, they hijack to crash them. I would love to hear you address this issue more. Love the blog. Simon.

graycladunits said...

Dear Sir:

Owing to the fact the overt, covert, and electronic sources for intelligence gathering all have their flaws...does a national government end up having to continuously compare the information from all three sources in order to insure the accuracy of each source and then determine the intentions of an enemy? If so, what happens when all three sources say something different? I know I would be a frustrated intelligence department head if the newspapers said one thing, the spies said another thing, and the satellites disagreed with both of them. How do governments determine which source to put more faith in when a situation like this arises? (Sadly, with the lack of the covert element in the equation, governments only have two sources to check against each other--goes to show how important spies are to a government.)

Sincerely,

graycladunits

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

In my opinion, Stupid, it is all about long-term planning – planning that can only be accomplished with sound intelligence. Far too many things are left until it is too late and then we want to fix it with crisis management. Are there options? Yes, there are but thorough planning, based on the principles of war and the various phases of war need to be adhered to. Every campaign furthermore requires a workable civil action programme to run in tandem with it. The majority of people do not want to get involved in the war. They want to be left alone and continue with their lives. They should be assisted to do exactly that while intelligence-driven operations hunt those who wish to murder and destroy.

What we see in many conflicts are the innocent civilians being targeted by both sides. That can be changed.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You make some very valid points, Simon. However, HUMINT is one cog in the larger intelligence machine, but it remains a vital cog. Looking at the example you cite, think how far the war would have been in Iraq had HUMINT been in place at the beginning – and how many coalition lives would have been saved, not to mention costs of the war and collateral damage. Also, this lack of planning has certainly done the US more harm than good.

Will these lessons be learnt? If history is anything to judge by, I doubt it.

My answer to your question is similar to that I gave Stupid. It goes back to long-term planning. Surely, the signs were all out in the open long before the “war on terror”. This should have inspired a focussed intelligence effort on the part of the West. This would have led to a sound prediction of future intentions. But instead, the warnings were ignored until it was too late while the West continued to support the very people who they now see as “terrorists”.

I shall in the near future be posting a piece on terrorism which may answer some of these questions.

Thanks for the compliment.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That is precisely how the so-called intelligence machine works, GCL. All sources that feed the intelligence machine go through a process known as the intelligence cycle where each piece of information is analysed and either accepted or rejected. If the information from all sources is vastly different, the analysts determine EEIs which will allow them to either accept or reject that information.

Whereas the media is a typical overt source, it can be used to create confusion (disinformation). However, the media should NEVER be allowed to drive the intelligence picture. Satellites may be able to see a build-up of forces but only agents can determine “why” and the intention of the enemy commander.

Agents and other HUMINT sources only provide a small percentage of the input required into the intelligence machine but their input is vital. Neglecting this source is neglecting national security.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Our intelligence service, CIA was curtailed during the Carter Administration of the late 70's. Memories of Vietnam started it. Political manipulation involving the American Hostages being held in Iran, with George Bush Sr.(Next president after Reagan) as CIA director, trying to gain favor with the Iranians to help secure the presidential candiddate Ronald Reagan's positioning was an eye opener. We got caught using our spies to forward political careers domestically. Reagan did win, but would also blunder with his Central American Policy, Staff went to Prison over this. President Clinton continued the house cleaning.
Here in America, liberals are especially reactive to domestic spying.
For us we want freedom of everything without giving up anything, which really can not happen. The Patriot Act (after 911) helped address this issue and gave some flexibility.
I would suppose than in Africa domestic spying could definitely become grey. With the need to hold onto power politically, this service could very well be used against legit political opponents.
One real problem we have with our Country Building Foreign Policy is we can't agree on who the bad guys really are.
As a rule conservative (republicans} tend to support the current government while the liberals (democrats) support the rebels. With the press coming at is full bore the public can take sides in regards to which publication they are following. in

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very valuable comment, ER. However, the CIA ran a massive covert action campaign against the old SA government. The aim was to destabilise the already difficult situation SA was in. (This information I found in a recently self-published book on the old SA intelligence service). Ironically, while SA considered itself as a “bastion against communism”, the very people we considered to be our allies were busy with more covert actions against us than the accepted enemy was. As soon as I am able, I shall post something on this book which is titled “Really inside BOSS – a tale of South Africa’s late Intelligence Service (and something about the CIA)”. Written by P C Swanepoel, a man who was an intelligence officer for 32 years.

Domestic intelligence gathering is something all responsible governments do – not with the aim of neutralising opposition politicians – but to determine the enemy within. I suspect that 9/11 was a massive failing in this intelligence gathering activity and the very tragic consequences of it ought to make people want to prevent a similar situation from ever reoccurring again.

In Africa, the danger you point out can become very real as politicians jockey for power and position. Again, it goes back to abuse of power as mentioned in your comment re the “early days” and the subsequent house cleaning that took place.

Whereas it is important to know who the good guys are, even good guys change their agendas as we know. In Africa, the Republicans view some governments as friendly until those governments do not want to bow to pressure. Then the support shifts. This adaption of foreign policy is not unique to the Republicans though as the Democrats have been equally active in changing support from government to rebels and back again to government.

But coming back to domestic intelligence gathering – part of the West’s problem has been giving succour to people who, under the guise of political refugees, have entered their countries. Once they get asylum, some become citizens and are keen to accept all of the benefits that they get at the natural citizens’ expense. But then, once established in their “new” country, they start plotting and scheming to cause mayhem. The end result is most probably that now the West finds itself with an enemy within. Only domestic intelligence gathering can identify these trouble makers.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

You're on the spot here:

"part of the West’s problem has been giving succour to people who, under the guise of political refugees, have entered their countries. Once they get asylum, some become citizens and are keen to accept all of the benefits that they get at the natural citizens’ expense. But then, once established in their “new” country, they start plotting and scheming to cause mayhem. The end result is most probably that now the West finds itself with an enemy within. Only domestic intelligence gathering can identify these trouble makers."

Western countries, especially the US and the UK find themselves in big trouble at the moment. The biggest enemy of the West are the enemy within.

These 'liberals' have the 'inborn' tenancy to support people/nations who actually have one aim and that is to destroy them. The whole 'intelligence tradecraft' concept disappeared when the politically correct concept became popular. How the hell do you gather intelligence if you rot within and if you don't know who the 'bad guys' are? A certain paranoia creeps in and all the time and energy are wasted on gathering 'intelligence' on your own people and those who are supposedly on your side.

Important factors: patriotism and trust have gone out the window. The downside of the political correct generation is that they don't voice strong opinions and they don't make a strong stand when needs be. They mill around like sheep, waiting for the most political correct to make a decision. They don't question, they don't investigate and the don't have opinions.

A leader/commander can't be politically correct - it only feeds the rot within.

This new "Western philosophy" has come full circle only to bite the 'intelligent' on the backside.

Aethyr said...

I definitely can't talk about this topic because of my lack of knowledge.
But I remind something I read recently. Allegedly Al Kaida, the Taliban etc. are infiltrated up to the highest ranks, BUT western intelligence doesn't use this to destroy these organisations/groups but uses them to establish an atmosphere of terror instead to establish some kind of police state.

One has to agree that this sounds like the worst conspiracy rubbish, but I find it interesting enough to share. hehehe

But now a more serious approach: Eeben, what do you think about the private Intelligence companies which get established by firms like Blackwater or Stratfor (which has been on the market for quite some time).

regards
David

simon said...

regarding asylum, its so obvious. I work for the govt in immigration/dhs in an admin capacity. Nothing exciting but the cases that come across my desk , you just pause and wonder...Rhodesia and SA have long been interests of mine. I had the good fortune to speak with an individual who is well known about rhodesia and served in its war.

The treachery of our CIA in rhodesia makes me angry but the political times and the president involved didnt leave me suprised when I came across blatant evidence from primary sources on it. Its all over now but looking back what a deplorable thing. I love my country but the foreign policy has to be cleaned up and the US has to decide on what it IS.

I do not have info on CIA in south africa but the circumstances that transpired in angola, etc point to the us/britain meddling. What a wonderful ally they produced the ANC...looking forward to your take on it.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The West ought to stop looking for its enemies beyond its borders and start focussing within, Maurice. But of course, political correctness will not allow this to happen. What you imply by the good guys being spied on instead of the bad guys is too true.

The factors you mention (patriotism and trust) including loyalty have certainly been forgotten if not discouraged. When one is a patriot or loyal, there is usually a negative political connotation placed on it.

Everything the West stands for is currently being undermined from within – and that is happening with the assistance and encouragement of the elected political officials.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

If those theories have any substance to them, then the powers that be ought to be shot at dawn, David. But these theories often abound especially when a service has no access but tries to boast that it does – and then claims that it actually does have access but will do nothing as a cunning plan has been devised. Mostly though, those theories are simply “conspiracy theories”.

I have no problem with private intelligence companies as long as their reporting is objective and not politically- or agenda driven. I do however think that their information ought to be analysed by the state’s analysts who ought to have the larger picture at hand. These companies often have better access than the state does – and they can play an invaluable role in adding a layer of protection to national policy.

These companies also play an important role in assisting commercial companies with analysing target markets and thus safeguarding their investments.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Simon. Treachery seems to go hand-in-hand with the foreign policy directives of some governments. It does concern me that this type of thing continues, and despite the world being aware of it, no one dares say anything about it. Angola, as you mention, is a good case in point where treachery, political and economical blackmail, support to rebels and so on were the hallmark of US foreign policy. But, likewise Rhodesia and South Africa.

I shall soon be posting some information about the book I have just read on BOSS and the CIA’s role in collapsing South Africa. It is indeed sad but then one can realise why so many people in Africa distrust the US and the UK.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

The Lost of Men of Caliber:

I grew in the Kavango (1976 - 1989) and did my bit in the Kavango/Caprivi region. What I can remember most of these times is seeing and talking to real men. In 1990 I moved to South Africa, where I studied.

What stood out like the balls on a Bulldog, was a huge change in the attitudes of 'men.' A certain 'softness' crept in. I'm now in Australia and I'm afraid I've lost all confidence in the readiness or alertness of the male species around me. I'm wondering if it is just my imagination or if it is a worry to others as well.

Any nation should have some sort of a plan to retain a certain 'fighting fitness' if you like. Especially in the world of today. You can't fight a war without men.

The Forgotten Soldiers:

The elite battalions in South Africa, Namibia and earlier in Rhodesia consisted out of large numbers of black soldiers. Somehow they've fallen through the cracks and it is amazing to talk to people from other countries and they don't have a clue about the involvement of these people. Maybe it was not in the interest of political correctness to show that there were black people opposed to the current regimes in Southern Africa. Is it possible to address some of these issues in the future?

Books and information about the Bush and other Africa Wars:

I managed to track down a few books about the Rhodesian War and the involvement of Koevoet in Namibia. I'm currently trying to purchase all your books. Is it possible to list books and other information about the wars in Africa that you can recommend?

Regards

Grumbleguts said...

Hi Eeben,
Ever the sceptic, but what are the chances that al Qeada don't exist at all? What if they are a figment of Western Goverments imigination to keep the general population in check? Personally, if they do exist, they will go down in history as the most inept disfunctional terrorist organisation of all time.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, Maurice – many men today are apparently trying to get in touch with their feminine side. The fact is that with many men, there is no more self-pride, discipline and a desire to be men and challenge themselves. I am not talking about being gung-ho: too many of these guys are likewise dangerous as they usually have no clue what they are on about.

We see a lot of this lack of moral fibre especially in the political males who like to shout the odds but don’t have the moral courage to back up their shouts. This lack of manhood has also permeated down into the armed forces and law enforcement agencies across the world. This has weakened the West substantially.

There are many books around that deal with the wars in Africa. At the end of the day, every single one of them does attract negative criticism for various reasons. Also remember that every author writes from his own perspective, so these books, although valuable in content, are not always objective.

I am still astonished how in especially the West, the role played by black troops is simply ignored or their role diminished. In South African units such as Special Forces, 32-Battalion, 101 Battalion, Koevoet and others, their contribution was massive. Even in EO our black contingent outnumbered the whites by about 5 to 1. It is part of the campaign to discredit the armed forces and keep them firmly in the camp as “apartheid” soldiers that these things are not mentioned. I will in future take a look at the important role black soldiers have played in campaigns in Southern Africa.

As regards books, there are several on the website www.galago.co.za Also AL J Venter wrote a large amount of books on Mozambique, Rhodesia, Angola and so on. Another author was John Turner who wrote “Continent Ablaze”. There are however many more but this may get you started.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am no expert on Al Qaeda, Grumbleguts, but I suspect that any religious-driven (Islamic) terrorist group is classified as part of or an offshoot of “Al Qaeda”. In doing so, it makes it easier to identify a single enemy. Of course, there are also other terror groups out there, not all of them being Islamic. But, I do suspect that it exists – also bear in mind that Bin Laden was trained by the US before the romance ended on the rocks.

As for being inept, I don’t know if I fully agree with you. Their penetration of the West has been successful and whole nations are on now on terror alert. Special Homeland Defence departments have been established at huge cost to governments/taxpayers. This has led to a negative influence on matters such as tourism, the economy, and so forth. Their attacks have also drawn massive publicity – something that helps to fuel their standing in the world.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben.
I can remember the rally cries condemning the governments of Rhodesia as well as South Africa. Then they popularized the word apartheid. With a history of slavery in this country that we just can't seem to let go of, apartheid was sold to us through the media as a way of reconciling our own African American population by rectifying a bad situation somewhere else.
No one gave South Africa any favorable press. What I did know of SA was that it was a modern first world country, large economy, stable government.
Even though it is beyond reproach to question the intent as to the actual outcome of the liberal media, is the population of SA better off now? From what I have read, hell no.
Very easy to promote your agenda with racism as your crutch, but what some cannot admit is that you need no identifiable skin color to be worthless, it is a state of mind, a choice of ignorance.
When it was to our advantage SA was a strategic partner in Africa, but as a country, we were sold down the tube while the bleeding hearts, looking for a new cause found one.
Right decision or wrong one, if you are the favorite child of the CIA, you can at least expect a whole lot of money and guns until the administration in Washington changes.
Too bad we chose the wrong side in SA.
I have noticed the masculinity depletion also, group think feminine side, very popular state of being in media terms.
There are lots of estrogen type compounds that make their way in to our food chain, plastic containers are believed to be a major source.
There are a lot of good men out there, although the qualities that we recognize as essential are not being encouraged.
I'm convinced that some time back men as well as women were genetically altered with a "P" gene added. This mutation is held in check until they become politicians at which point moral fortitude is secondary while "P" "Personal Political Survival" becomes paramount. Follow the Money.

Grumbleguts said...

Hi Eeben,
Thanks for the reply. Another thought. Has there been a penetration of the west, or is it not maybe that small groups in different parts of the world have jumped onto the bandwagon, wanting recognition for whatever cause they stand for? There have been terrorist groups for many years, from before Baader Meinhof to the Stern Gang to what we have now. They wern't part of a global group, just isolated gangs that thought they had a cause. Would it not be possible that the 7/11 was an isolated group, and the Mumbai group an isolated one as well?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I recall those days, ER. We as South Africans had to bear the world’s guilt and scorn wherever we travelled but we came through it and will, despite what is happening, continue to come through it. So too will the rest of Africa.

You are correct in saying it has nothing to do with colour: being useless is a state of mind and a choice of ignorance – and a desire to do nothing about it.

It is a pity the West betrayed South Africa and Rhodesia the way it did. But other countries were also betrayed. There were other ways of bringing about the change they wanted without resorting to assisting terrorism against us. As noted before, these betrayals are not easily forgotten and may be part of the reason why the US is not too welcome all over Africa. But, that is no fault of the average US citizen – it is more a case of a floundering foreign policy.

There are still many good men out there but they are diminishing. If we look at the role models the youth of today has…well, that may explain some of it.

Point taken on the “P” gene.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Grumbleguts, I suspect that the penetration of the West is far more than is realised. But, this may be due to the publicity the situation is being given. As I said, I am not an expert on Al Queda but I look at how things are developing in the UK and the influence is certainly there.
Terrorism has been around for a long time. Usually, it was as you point out, isolated to a group or a cause. Now, it is easier for lump all Islamic terror groups under one banner. Again, there are allegations that Pakistan has been aiding and abetting Al Queda and that the Mumbai group came from Pakistan. So, it makes it easy to link the attack to one major group that can consist of many splinter groups.

Given that they all seem to be linked under one banner, it creates a sense of power and ability. That leads to fear. I would have thought that it would be easier to fight if people were made to realise that these groups are not everywhere and that they are not as powerful as claimed. It would also have created an opportunity to drive a wedge between such groups and destroy them piecemeal – or allow them to destroy themselves.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
The bill of goods that we get sold in the USA is usually laden with untruths. If you can sell it then you can fund it. We seem to have so much money to throw around any cause will do.
We send money to Iraq by the ton. Pakistan use to underwrite the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with Musharif leading the charge, but when we needed an alley to fight them he signed Pakistan up, and they are still receiving money by the ton for their perceived cooperation.
Our motto could be, "there is not foreign policy issue that we can't solve as long as we can throw money at it. We are able to deliver amounts of money that are equal percentages of gross domestic product for that country.
I really don''t want to be labeled a curser, but if you are not on the receiving side of our foreign policy (CIA) you are at least F... for the
short term. Even when we lose lots of people die.
I wish the world could demand more from us, but we just have to much damn money to throw away, and so many are too willing to accept it.

Johan Hurter said...

The art of gathering information & turning it into intel has not only been lost in the military world. It has been lost by all who seek short cuts to instant gratification - and in all sectors including hard science.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very sad but true ER. I am just sometimes surprised as who the US throws their money at.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are absolutely correct insofar as the military is concerned, Johan.

Whereas I know nothing about world of science, I take you word for it. Thanks for your comment.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

I am a strong believer that the terrorism the West experience today, is a direct result of the support the West gave terrorism in the past.

Especially the US and UK 'walked' around with an attitude that terrorism is 'out there' and will never reach such civilized countries as the mighty world powers themselves.

Looking back, it is hilarious to think that England made Mugabe a 'Sir.' I wonder how the Queen sleep at night ......... thinking about all those starving children right in the middle of the breadbasket of Africa. Then again, if one look at who qualifies for 'Sir' status today ...........?

We can also look with disgust at the Nobel Peace Prices that were handed out like Girl Scout's cookies. Not to speak about the 'rise and shine' of Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the strong support for terrorism in Palestine. The political correct alternative for terrorism was created - 'freedom fighters.'

When the 'freedom fighters' touched the soil of these world powers, we saw pathetic knee-jerk reactions, based on mainly fairy tales - a result of the total "loss of the intelligence tradecraft." Suddenly terrorism was terrorism again and needed to be stomped out. The end results in the Middle East is shocking and like elsewhere only increased the 'feeding process' of terrorism.

Only a bleeding heart political correct idiot will give praise or reward any form of terrorism.

Support for the West is down the drain and the West is now feeling the pain.

The Chinese machine is a slow moving machine, but a very disciplined and well organized one. If they play their cards right, they'll soon have a very effective continent on the move.

If I was a 'Sir' in the West, I'll be somewhat concerned.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Maurice! I am writing a piece on terrorism and several of the comments you made I also pointed out.

The West is reaping what it created in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. So much for the politically correct foreign policy which has now become a dangerous internal situation.

Rgds,

Eeben

Sigurdur said...

The book 'The Human Factor' by Ishmael Jones is an excellent evisceration of the rot at the core of the USA's HUMINT service.

Eeben, would you ever teach a class about intelligence techniques? What would you suggest that HUMINT collectors read and learn? It is clear that the CIA cannot train its people to do it right, could you?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There are several very good books to read on the role and exploitation of HUMINT, Sigurdur. If one reads books by the old Soviet defectors (KGB and GRU) there is a lot to take note of in terms of planning and tradecraft. Whereas not everything may be as true as the authors write, they nevertheless serve as good references on how they approached their HUMNINT operations.

Tradecraft is something that evolves, depending on the area one is operating in, the opposition one is facing, the target itself, the objectives and so on. There are many factors that determine if the operation is a penetration or an infiltration.

Yes, I have and still do teach tradecraft. Several years ago, I taught tradecraft to selected military institutions and now mainly teach corporations how to use tradecraft to counter organised crime.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
Maurice's observation are very interesting, and probably believable, but history means nothing to the new guys in charge. The guys that made the decisions then, have moved on to boards, government endowments, and the likes with strategic monetary investments in tact, set for life.
We have hatched a whole new batch pursuing similar agendas in different places.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very sad, but true, ER.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

I agree with you up to a point ER. The purpose and aim of history is to learn from past mistakes ...... AND TO PREVENT FUTURE MISTAKES.

One only has to look at 'History' as taught in the 'modern world' and you'll see PCC (political correct crap)all over the place. No wonder the mighty 'world powers' repeat the same stupid mistakes, over and over again.

A fact about history - nobody can change it (although many try). 'They' can move on, but everything you do in life has consequences. The First World discovered with shock that they have feet of clay and that their clean little white faces are not so popular anymore.

People still dig up ancient 'civilizations' to find the answers for their disappearance. When people suffer, they look for answers.

A small player in the world like EO has made history. The people of Rhodesia and Southern Africa made history. The history has been twisted by those who choose to disinform. The truth is coming out for EO, because someone decided to stand up and tell the truth and take on those who choose to misinform. The truth about Africa will come out and the history will judge nations and individuals.

People get away with stupidity and lies only because the ignorant voters let them. You get what you vote for.

People only see the world as it is and loose their ignorance, when they loose their plasma TV's, their jobs and see their children suffer. The political correct doesn't believe in prevention, they want everything right now and will do anything to get it. They preach goodness in you face, then stab you in the back.

History will judge people and not even the Queen and all her men would be able to escape.

The knee-jerk reactions of the World Powers today - the creation of political correctness, together with the rise of terrorism are all the result of HISTORY catching up.

In Eastern philosophy this concept is described as Karma: in short, one doesn't get away with anything.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are so right in saying that people want to change history, Maurice. It is this inability to accept and learn from history that has caused so many governments so many problems. This is precisely what leads to the poorly thought out foreign policies we witness today. The consequences, as you point out, can affect everyone.

All of us make mistakes. It is being able to recognise the mistake and take corrective action that will distinguish the good leader from the bad. But, we need to admit those mistakes as a lesson to those who will follow in our footsteps.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
I think you and Maurice are pontificating the art of history making to the point of missing my point.
From a perspective of looking at the policies of the US here is what I see. Our government service is not really a high paying career. The GS pay ratings have nothing to do with becoming wealthy.
HIstory has so little to do with opportunities in todays foreign policy decision making. Our being "USA" strategic and financial interests, lets assume that they are the same, are what drives our decision making process. I see no other real reason for decision to be made other than for these reasons. HIstory is nothing more than a mistake or accomplishment from someone in the past. The person in the present is doing his job to further the interests of his country. These interests are put forth by the State Department, Congressional Committee? As a government we really do not run a business like a factory or industrial complex. We consume their wears but don't do the work. So in the interest of the businesses that make our county work, we implement foreign policy that fits theirs needs.
As a government employee one might tend to favor acquaintances with representatives of such interests.
Power has a way of doing things to good men and women. As humans we have inherent tendencies to venture in the wrong direction, alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, many become addicted with no other reason than the availability of the vices.
In order to gain power you need money, holding on to power, more money. leaving power, lots more money, because without power money will be harder to come by.
Greed trumps history.
Not everyone succumbs to this, an example is a person who may have received his money the old fashioned way by inheriting it. He may just tent to ingratiate his friends since he is already set.
Donald Rumsfeld was said to be one of the wealthiest men in Washington, Dick Cheney, CEO Haliburton. you can answer that one.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct in some of your points, ER. If one looks at politics coldly, it is all about power. With power comes money, influence, recognition and so on. But, once in a political system, it can be manipulated to one’s advantage – or to the advantage of one’s friends.

I wasn’t trying to pontificate my way away from your points. However, as I cannot really comment on US politics – except with a jaundiced eye view US foreign policy – I didn’t see myself as qualified to give a decent comment on your input.

What I see as a major factor in politics in Africa vs the West: In Africa, politics drives the economies as opposed to in the West where the economy drives the politics. Ultimately though, both are aimed at achieving power. If one considers issues such as grand strategy, strategy and the like, foreign policies are all aimed at expanding that influence because with influence comes the opportunity to exploit matters considered to be of national interest. The collateral damage that these policies inflict cause casualties in other countries.
These casualties are aimed at wearing down resistance, thus making it easier to exert more power and thus achieve more financial benefit.

Your comment “In order to gain power you need money, holding on to power, more money. leaving power, lots more money, because without power money will be harder to come by” is absolutely correct. It is a characteristic of all political systems. In exercising that power, a politician has to do some things to make the voters reasonably happy so that they think he/she is concerned with their welfare. When voters are unhappy, they vote for change.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hello Mr. Barlow,

Thanks for the great blog. I don't agree with everything, but you seem very candid, which is enough.

I just have some general comments.

There was a guy at the University of California, Riverside who authored a paper on the Shuttle Columbia disaster in which he said, essentially, there are three critical components of capability: Cost, time and risk.

Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs exist primarily to beat this theory into students heads.

The result contained within the paper was that NASA threw an extreme amount of resource and bureaucracy at the first two components (cost, time), while never addressing/minimizing the last, since the cost component bought "intelligence" (in staffing PhD's, for instance) and the timeline were a result of political expediency.

Cost, time and risk: How much will it cost, how long will it take, and can we do it?

It is my belief that federal, first-world governments that do not explicitly address the risk component face mission creep or abject, long-term failure.

However, election cycles are almost always short-term.

Hence, risk opportunity is either compressed ("This will not get me reelected"), or downside risk is overemphasized (overconfidence in capability).

The reason for this is that if you artificially compress, inflate or gerrymander one component, the others will thus become distorted and provide wildly divergent outputs, in the end preventing or obscuring useful decision making.

This breeds a "throw money at it" mentality, whereby risk is addressed by strident, technocratic overconfidence or abject political avoidance.

In this continuum, timeline is a result, not a function, of political necessity.

Africa is its own worst enemy. The role that America plays is thus an organ of the diseased, not the disease. Like you say, only Africa can help itself; in the end, it's constituents must understand America (and the West) and what motivates and manipulates it, as much as it is the other way 'round.

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I never expected everyone to agree with me, Userdude, as my perceptions are shaped by where I have been and what I have seen and done. But as long as we can debate things in a healthy atmosphere, I am open to accepting the views of others.

You make a good point with your comment “if you artificially compress, inflate or gerrymander one component, the others will thus become distorted and provide wildly divergent outputs, in the end preventing or obscuring useful decision making”. If one looks as how some plans are formulated and how they eventually fail, I am sure a closer analysis will reveal exactly this.

Yes, Africa is its own worst enemy – but it has also been forced into that position by poor leadership, political and economical blackmail and exploitation. I hope that one day this continent will come to its senses and be what it ought to be.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hello Eeben,

I think the interesting corollary to the cost/time/risk equation is that it does not specifically address purpose; to what purpose are these things being done?

Who accounts for the cost, time and resource? I think Africa's problem (as a generalization) is that it cannot get out from under it's cost/time/risk being addressed (or dictated) by external entities (nay, the west and far east). So many Africans hate other Africans, that it almost feels hopeless from where I'm at (in the US).

So until the purpose for addressing the cost/time/risk equation is competently and consistently addressed specifically for the good of the African people, and not left to a function of aid/donations, then I'm afraid Africa does not have a chance. Africa needs good leaders, but it also needs to stop fighting and hating itself.

You are right, though; there is always someone with their own motivations who is willing to encourage the lunacy of self destruction.

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Insofar as a government under siege is concerned, they DO – in my experience - address those issues, Jared. And these things are done to hopefully put an end to the conflict that government might be engaged in. But, in my experience, the African governments are so comprehensively under a blanket of political and economical blackmail that they eventually have to bow before pressure.

Yes, you are very correct – Africa has many problems, I will never deny that. Again, many of these problems are exploited by outside interests to ferment conflict in order to keep the wars going. This in turn has allowed the UN and the accompanying NGOs to create their own niches. Looking at the situation harshly, the UN has never made much of a difference as it is not impartial, it has no sense of direction and some of its “peacekeeping personnel” are deeply involved in illegal activities – as was recently exposed.

To us who live here, it is not always pleasant to witness what is happening. However, I believe that the majority of us want Africa to come to peace with itself and become the continent it ought to be.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Of course, I don't live there and cannot pretend to understand all of the intricacies of the situation, especially as it is such a large place.

Irrespective of that, I have always had an affinity for Africa. It is a place that seems alive in ways that differentiate it from anything else to be found. One day, I hope to visit and see it for myself.

One thing that I always tell other people who live here in the US is that we live closer to the jungle than we think. The narco wars that are engulfing Mexico are a perfect example. The only thing that is different is the civilization's response.

I don't know if you read The Economist, but their Africa reports show a trend in development towards a model that is more self-sustaining. The trick to development is to make it worth the trading partner's while to maintain civilization. In other words, sustainability as a resource. Resource extraction does not need the locals to be capable and trustworthy and able to work together; manufacturing and industrialization does. The "resource curse" is the fact that a place's human capacity is not the most valued objective. The greedy hands of those leaders who have gained perimeter access to that resource only reinforces and perpetuates this cycle of violence, in my mind.

To overcome the resource curse takes leadership and scholarship, top to bottom. Maybe blackmail is the trump card, but I sincerely hope that Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia is sincere and capable of following through on reforms that will encourage long-term development patterns. She must make it at least somewhat as profitable to invest in her countries services (manufacturing, extraction, etc...) as it is to take the resources by violence or subterfuge. The security to follow through is going to be her greatest challenge.

Africa is a place of great resource. Why are the people themselves not seen as a resource? This must change.

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Even us who live here, Black and White, do not always understand the intricacies of Africa, Jared, so you are not alone. But, Africa is one of those continents that can wriggle deep into one’s blood and when that happens, you cannot leave. Either you love it or hate it. I just happen to love it and hope to never have to leave. But, I also hope that Africa will one day find some peace.

Again, you are correct: Africa needs leadership and education to propel itself forward. If those important elements are instilled, many in the continent would be willing to work together. It is also leadership and education that will lead to good governance and ultimately the upliftment of the continent and its people. But, as long as Africa is at war with itself, that becomes a dream and the people, our most important resource, suffer.

The Economist has made some valid observations about Africa. There is of late, in several countries, a definite move to find a model that will allow sustainable development. But, where countries have looked towards the East, this has created some concern in the West. So a new cycle of “sabotage” sets in and conflicts become East vs West driven. We saw this in the DRC recently. This in turn leads to conflicts spilling-over into neighbouring countries and new refugee problems as well as new conflicts are born.

I hope that Africa will one day realise the value of its people. But, again I am hopeful that that “one day” will come soon.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

I wonder what would have befell the East if China had not been as independent from western instruction? They've been through this before, and importantly, were a continent with global historical context. They once did what the West is now doing.

I have no doubt that Africa can one day make it free of the oppression and calamity of resource-driven goals and objectives. We would hope in a truly global context, the phrase "uppity africans" would not be spoke with any seriousness, but racism and class warfare are important elements in the struggle to participate in economic stability.

Where are the African think tanks? Who are they are persuading? What are they saying? Policy matters, but much less so when your neighbor has short-term goals that seek to destabilize others around it. But it still matters.

As an example, a woman who has many children may have many children since she is not sure which, or if any, will survive. This is a very complex subject, but when it comes down to brass tacks, this is a strategy that makes a lot of sense. It is also one that is very simply not the case in developed countries. Some countries (Italy, Sweden, Japan) have very low birthrates, because the likelihood their children will die of disease, drugs or war are very low. How many places in Africa can that be said to be true?

US and other foreign policies may be part of the problem, and that is truly the case without a doubt, but in the end Africa is at war with itself. Just as all Muslims are not terrorists, the greater body of Africa must put itself on a self-assured path, and then stick with that plan, no matter what.

Otherwise, the wars will continue, and Africa will always be susceptible to the whims (and tradecraft) of others.

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

As usual, you raise some good points, Jared. For years African politics have seemingly been power-driven and not policy-driven. As long as that remains the case, Africa will remain in turmoil.

It is a fact that the more educated and developed a nation, the lower the national birth-rate and the higher the standard of living. As long as the overall aim of African governments is to improve their learning institutions, things have a chance of succeeding. It is when the very neglect of education exists that manipulation becomes easier for any outside party.

Rgds,

Eeben