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Analysis and Policy: The Kent-Kendall Debate of 1949

By Jack Davis


Sherman Kent’s Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy, published in 1949, is probably the most influential book ever written on US intelligence analysis. Indeed, Kent’s carefully drafted blueprint for meeting the challenges facing intelligence in the postwar world has regularly been cited by defenders and critics alike of the performance of the Central

Intelligence Agency. Almost all experienced Agency analysts are generally familiar with Kent’s themes, though probably more from informal discussions than from a careful reading.

One of Kent’s most finely honed doctrines addresses the relationship between producers and consumers of intelligence analysis. Effective ties, while manifestly essential for the well-being of both groups, were difficult to achieve. Kent’s recommended fix: to warrant scholarly objectivity, provide analysts with institutional independence; to warrant relevance, urge them to strive to obtain “guidance” from policymakers.

Willmoore Kendall’s “The Function of Intelligence,” a 1949 review of Strategic Intelligence, agreed with Kent on the importance of getting right the relationship between experts and decisionmakers but on little else. Kendall’s bold and prescient arguments deserve more attention from both students and practitioners of intelligence analysis.

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