Military Persuasion in War and Policy: The Power of Soft

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

6

Intelligence and Military Persuasion: The 1983 “War Scare”

Intelligence is about the collection of information, the analysis of that information, and the distribution of that information to customers or clients. This brief description is admittedly misleading. Intelligence, in the sense of foreign intelligence organs that serve a government or state, is not only a collection of boxes on an organization chart. Nor is intelligence reduced to the product collected, analyzed, and distributed by intelligence agencies and others, however interesting and intriguing it may be. Intelligence is, like Billy Joel's description of New York, a “state of mind.” Intelligence is not only a competition between military threat assessors and case officers on two or more sides: It is also, and preeminently, a window on the soul of a country and society.

History permits us to open a window on the intelligence of a great power, the former Soviet Union, during a tense time in the Cold War. It was early in Ronald Reagan's first term, and the president's harsh anti-Soviet rhetoric coincided with a leadership-succession crisis in Moscow and a Soviet economy that even its leadership agreed was failing miserably. Had U.S. intelligence been able to see into the high circles of Soviet Communist Party leadership and intelligence services as well in 1983 as they later could do with the advantage of post-Soviet archives, the results would have surprised and stunned some American political leaders in 1983. Some very pessimistic intelligence estimates were provided to the top leaders in Moscow in 1983, based on what the Soviets saw as a pattern of U.S. hostility and attempted intimidation dating back at least to 1979. U.S. officials were unaware of

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