Intelligence: March 24, 2003


The coalition strategy in Iraq is based on using intelligence information aggressively and getting it quickly from many sources. Not much is said of this, for obvious reasons. But it is known that the CIA and other intelligence operations are supplying more information more quickly than was the case in 1991. American intelligence agencies have enormous capabilities, from spy satellites to electronic monitoring networks to vast databases of already collected information. The big complaint in 1991 was that not enough of this information was getting to the people needed it. And then they did get some of it, it wasn't soon enough. This has apparently changed considerably. Intelligence troops down to the brigade level, and lower in some cases, are getting a lot more information. Taking advantage of advances in computer database and analysis software, the right information is getting to the troops, not just a flood of raw and incomprehensible data. The idea is to keep everyone as well informed as possible so that they can react to opportunities before the enemy can figure out that they are about to be played. In 1991, the Iraqis often realized what danger American maneuvers were putting them into and moved out of the way, or at least in such a way as to defeat any attempt to exploit their vulnerability. One of the obvious examples was the escape of most of the Republican Guard in 1991. By the time most of the guardsmen had gotten back into Iraq, we realized that we could have stopped them, and made the subsequent rebellions in northern and southern Iraq more likely to succeed. This time around, the idea is to figure out what shape the Iraqis are in before they do, and take advantage of it immediately. How well these new intelligence tactics will work will be seen in the next few weeks. Even if the new methods don't work, a lot will be learned about why they don't, and what has to be changed to fix the problems. 


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