Ralph Peters: Spygame

Known as an old ‘Russian Hand’; a euphemism detailing the acumen accrued by developing successful ‘cover’ as a mole behind the line of fire, Ralph Peters remains one of the finest intelligence experts the Army has produced in decades.  He continues to maintain American strategic and tactical weakness in her recruitment and deployment of HUMIT: human intelligence.  According to Peters this cannot be resolved except to counter the culture that prevails throughout all monolithic institutions; they remain intractable because they’re indispensable and unmanageable.  Without a political revolution akin to Reagan, this problem simply cannot be fixed!  His latest column on the status of our spy game is dire. Here’s what he revealed.

Our problem dates back to at least the 1960’s.  He details three pillars that continue to undermine our capability.

1.  ‘Nothing cripples our intelligence network so profoundly than the inability or simple refusal to identify, recruit, develop and retain gifted intelligence officers.  We still don’t test for the quirks of mind that make a first rate player.’  Institutions act like humans in that what we work around personnel deficiencies by buying lots of fancy stuff.  Peters is adamant in revealing that only humans provide the understanding to facts, for the principle of intelligibility is not demonstrated in facts alone.

Back in the early 1970’s Henry Kissenger violently interrupted a meeting Nixon was having with a Russian premier exclaiming the revelation that spy photographs had captured detailed pictures of soccer fields in Cuba.  Everyone in the room cringed.  Kissenger screamed that Cubans don’t play soccer, they love baseball.  The Russians were building soccer fields in maintaining the loyalty of agents already sold on residence to Cuba!  Only talented humans can connect the dots.

2.  Over classification reveals the cowardice of specialization!  I’ve written on this topic many times on this blog.  Over classification is the coinage paid to those who possess insider cachet.  For Peters, his experience in the field as an agent permitted him the fresh air to vet the cravings that insider specialists maintain and deploy.

3.  Bureaucracies aren’t brave!  What’s the goal of the intelligence community?  Its not revelatory insight, that scares the insiders.  The goal is consensus.  This is ‘cover-your-ass’ for adults.  “Intelligence work without moral courage is just a welfare program for university grads.” Peters reveals that most intelligence persons deal in an expensive version of ‘book learning’.

All of this was recently on display by the editors of the Washington Post who detailed an article recently on the sheer waste that is the intelligence community.  The Post revealed that contractors hire away CIA intelligence personnel.  This is the crux of the problem from inside any agency, a revolving door.  Retention problems coupled with nonexistent recruitment.

For Peters, ‘our system of intelligence is not worthless, its dispiritingly mediocre’.

We’re going to pay the price!

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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