<style type="text/css"> .no-show { display: none; } .disable-fade-in{ opacity: 1 !important; transform: none !important; visibility: visible !important; } </style>
Studies in Intelligence 67, No. 4 (Extracts, December 2023)

Commentary: The Enduring Importance of the Humanities in the Work of Intelligence

Andrew Skitt Gilmour


These are challenging times for the intelligence profession. The promise of an “end of history” has yielded to new transnational threats, assertive regional and global competitors, and doubts about the ability of the United States to influence the international system it shaped in the last century. Beneath this roiling surface, key states such as China, India, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are working out fundamental political and cultural orientations. They are adopting selectively the West’s culture of science, individualism, and materialism while reviving earlier views of civilization and national identity. Intelligence analysts must increasingly reckon with ideas, histories, languages, and geographical claims dormant in the Cold War but now resurgent. National security needs a humanities comeback.

The humanities are analytic prisms through which US adversaries see their own interests. Shortly after NATO reiterated in June 2021 that “Ukraine would become a member
of the Alliance,” Russian President Vladimir Putin replied in detailed historical terms. He not only repeated his claim that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” but anchored his lengthy personal assessment in the language and religion of
the ninth-century Kievan Rus state. However tendentious some may find Putin’s reading of history, it has defined Russian interests and motivated Russian action in Ukraine.
Similarly, the backwaters of Islamic jurisprudence that justify and motivate, for some, acts of extremism are understandable mainly through the study of philosophy, history, and religion in Islamic civilization.

Download PDF to continue reading (3 pages)