The Kent-Kendall Debate of 1949

role of intelligence literature in creating,Previous            Next

is likely to disappear when that effort is relaxed." What could be counted on to work at the desk level became more problematic at higher levels. Indeed, the more "august" the issue the less one could rely on effective ties.11

Kent provided several reasons, the most prominent being the fact that policymakers do not naturally trust the quality and utility of the product of intelligence makers, nor the latters' readiness to take responsibility for their assessments. Kent quipped, "I will warrant that the Light Brigade's G-2 was high on the list of survivors in the charge at Balaclava."

What to do about it? Kent's recommendations are colored by his view of the mission of strategic intelligence as well as by his concern that the relationship required special handling. Kent believed that the function of the intelligence unit was to provide expert knowledge of the external world, on the basis of which sound policy would then be made by those with expert knowledge of US politics. While the intelligence unit "wished above all else to have its findings prove useful in the making of decisions," its role had clear limits.
Intelligence is not the formulator of objectives ... drafter of policy ... maker of plans ... carrier out of operations. Intelligence is ancillary to these; ... it performs a service function. Its job is to see that the doers are generally well informed ... to stand behind them with the book open at the right page, to call their attention to the stubborn fact they may be neglecting, and-at their request-to analyze alternative courses without indicating choice.
According to Kent, policymakers are very much in need of the intelligence unit's service, which at one point he defines as knowledge about foreign countries that is "complete ... accurate ... delivered on time and ... capable of serving as a basis for action." ' 2 To be worthwhile, though, intelligence has to provide objective scholarship. Getting too close to policy would undercut the whole purpose of such an effort. In this context, policy did "not necessarily mean officially accepted high United States policy,"
... but something far less exalted. What I am talking of is often expressed by the words "slant," "line," "position," and "view."
Kent made much of the point that analysts had enough difficulty avoiding unsound judgments on tough issues without worrying about what conclusions a policymaking boss wanted to see in their intelligence assessments.

Other difficulties that would emerge if intelligence analysts worked directly for policy officials could be fixed at least in part by good administration: the tendency of operational bosses to put analysts to work as operators, to preoccupy them with trivial questions that precluded serious research, to permit research standards and coordination across regional desks to suffer. But in Kent's considered judgment the problem of the skewing of analysis to fit the wishes and fears of the bosses had no solution.

Kent was well aware of the need for analysts to put something on the table for policymakers in addition to scholarship. Analysts, he averred, were not paid to pursue knowledge for its own sake but rather for "the practical matter of taking action." He went one step further: intelligence that is ignored, for whatever reason, is "useless." To avoid this, analysts have to bend every effort to obtain guidance from their customers. Today this is called tasking and feedback.
Intelligence cannot serve if it does not know the doer's mind; it cannot serve if it has not his confidence; it cannot serve unless it can have the kind of guidance any professional man must have from his client.
Kent put the challenge of getting the relationship right into a well-known phrase: "Intelligence must be close enough to policy, plans, and operations to have the greatest amount of guidance, and must not be so close that it loses its objectivity and integrity of judgment." He conceded that the danger to the relationship of intelligence being too far

Previous            Next


Posted: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM