Intelligence Failures

The World and I, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Intelligence Failures


Modern Thought has an interesting article by Phillip Henderson, which attributes intelligence failures primarily to selective interpretations that reinforce the predispositions of policymakers. Clearly this is part of the answer, but I believe it is an incomplete one. In particular the failure to pinpoint an attack on Pearl Harbor, which he includes in his confirming cases, resulted from a failure to acquire hard evidence that likely would have forestalled much of the damage at Pearl Harbor.

American intelligence on Japanese intentions actually was excellent. The United States knew perfectly well that Japan would attack. American policy deliberately had left Nippon with no alternative except virtual surrender of great power status. We may not fully have understood that their imperialism in Asia was designed to avoid the fate of China by copying the successful imperial policies of the European powers. However, we were aware that acceptance of Roosevelt's virtual ultimatum would have been equivalent to accepting European domination of Southeast and East Asia. The chief mystery is why General Marshall was out horseback riding on December 7 when he knew that an ultimatum would be delivered that morning.

Why was their no urgency in removing the fleet from Pearl Harbor? The answer to this is rather simple. Torpedoes do not explode in shallow water. At least no torpedoes that the United States knew of did. Therefore, an attack on Pearl Harbor would be a costly mistake that diverted the Japanese military from the oil and mineral wealth of Southeast Asia. The real intelligence failure was the failure to get information about Admiral Yamamoto's exercises with torpedoes that did explode in shallow water. If we had had that information, we would have understood that an attack on Pearl Harbor could not be discounted.

Many intelligence failures stem from a failure to ask the right questions. As an 18-year-old in the spring of 1939, I read in the Philadelphia Record of diplomatic travel between Russia and Germany. I was aware that the Western powers would like nothing better than for Hitler and Stalin to duel to the death. And it was also clear that Stalin would have liked nothing better than for Hitler and the democracies to destroy each other.

If, however, Hitler began by attacking Poland, Russia had to be bought off first, lest Hitler expend his forces against Russian troops fearful that the Nazis would not stop at the eastern Polish border. In the meantime, the French army, which was universally, although inaccurately, regarded as the best in Europe, would remain unscathed behind the Maginot Line.

By giving Poland a blank check, the Western powers removed Stalin's fear that Hitler's next move after Poland would be against the Soviet Union if he accepted a deal that gave him the eastern half of Poland. Thus, the pact was a win-win situation for the two powers. It did not take great intelligence on my part to infuriate a communist professor who was giving a lecture on socialist foreign policy by telling him that there was going to be a Nazi-Soviet pact.

If one observed Stalin's territorial gains during the pact, they all gave him space against Germany. Only David Lloyd George among Western leaders had the perspicacity to note this. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Intelligence Failures
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.