Small Wars Journal

The Gray Zone and Intelligence Preparation of the Battle Space

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 4:44am

The Gray Zone and Intelligence Preparation of the Battle Space

Patricia DeGennaro

 “As cities grow, many governments fail to provide adequate security, employment, infrastructure, and services… For Army leaders to thrive in these uncertain and chaotic conditions they must be able to understand the cognitive, informational, social, cultural, political, and physical influences that affect human behavior”

- - LTG H.R. McMaster

Gray is used for things that are gloomy, cloudy, dark and grim. It is an ambiguous space. Not easy to visualize, it is cloaked making things beneath not always what they seem. Competitive actions between nations and actors are not always clear. They can be misread, misunderstood, and misleading. There is no denying that a missile hit a target, however, offensive rhetoric, cyber infiltration or a malicious messaging may be interpreted differently by those who send it and those who receive it. Thus, it is often problematic to interpret the meaning of a non-lethal act by friend and adversary alike. In pre and post war, or what is now being categorized as The Gray Zone, military intelligence teams struggle to define how to interpret such actions and categorize them as friendly, neutral or threat.

 The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) defines gray zone challenges as competitive interactions among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality.[i] The U.S. Army War College combines this definition with “purposeful, high-stakes employment of aggressive statecraft-employing all available coercive instruments-in a deliberate campaign-like persistent pressure and intimidation that achieves war-like ends through ways and means short of open conflict. Grey zone competition is not war by a classical definition but via miscalculation and unintended escalation threatens to transition to open conflict.”[ii] In this vain, experts often refer to China’s maneuvers to reinforce its claim to a larger part of the South China Sea or Russians blatant annexation of Crimea and its continued military intimidation in Ukraine as Grey Zone competitions. Each trying to justify, legally or ethically why their actions do not constitute a declaration of traditional war.

Gray zone definitions align well with the types of operating environments envisioned in TRADOC Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept (AOC): Win in a Complex World. The AOC was written to guide future force development. It “describes how future Army forces, as part of joint, inter-organizational, and multinational efforts, operate to accomplish campaign objectives and protect U.S. national interests”. It also defines complex as, “an environment that is not only unknown, but unknowable and constantly changing. The Army cannot predict who it will fight, where it will fight, and with what coalition it will fight.” Gray zone environments provide such conditions.

How then, do we visualize, interpret and respond to an action that is not necessarily categorized by war, but may give the impression that an action, such as a cyber-attack, is war without firing a shot. To date, the Army is exploring ways to deter, coerce and influence both State and non-state actors that look to be taking adversarial actions that mimic gray actions or the space between war and peace.

War is often interpreted differently. Some nations and peoples do not see it as solely being a time of battle. War for them is the continued competition for place and power regardless of the instruments used to get there. The U.S. perceives these two environments separately. However, as weapons fall silent, it would behoove planners, strategists and intelligence professionals to broaden the understanding of the operational environment.

LTG (then MG) Michael Flynn (retired), articulated the need for the military to build its capacity in the human domain in his 2010 paper, Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan:

“Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collec­tion efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intel­ligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the envi­ronment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade. Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the cor­relations between various development projects and the levels of coopera­tion among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers – whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers – U.S. intelligence offi­cers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-mak­ers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.”

Although LTG Flynn pointed this out as a failure of the intelligence community, Army leaders now recognize that intelligence alone cannot describe the complex and ambiguous operational environment (OE); it requires a full staff effort to conduct joint intelligence preparation of the operating environment (JIPOE).  If staffs would implement JIPOE as described in the 2014 joint doctrine, most or all of the frustrations that LTG Flynn described would be mitigated.

To many, this may mean creating a Soldier that reads minds, can easily connect the proverbial dots and get the bad guy. Unfortunately human behavior is not that easy to discern. The human terrain and its cognitive space forces the soldier to concentrate on possibilities beyond lethal engagement.

I remember my first assignment in Afghanistan on a capacity building project. As our team drove into Kabul in our armored SUV, our driver took us on a quick tour, gave us a terrifying security brief and dropped us off at a fortified building where we found ourselves on lockdown. I could not help thinking there was no way to win a war on lock down you need to get out and deal with the people.  Living in isolation from the Afghan people was not going to cut it. I needed to make change or go home.  In less than a week, my team was on its way up North to work with the Governor’s office in Balkh. We went straight to the governor and he helped facilitate our work to improve provincial linkages to Kabul and strengthen governance. That trip was followed by ones to Herat and Bamyan, we spent our time building relationships with the governors, met the populations, listened and were clear about what we could or could not deliver to them. Mostly we could not deliver, but our relationships outweighed our limited abilities to influence change. We learned about them. In Iraq, one trip and a long lunch at a chicken farm helped clear the way for our team to hear the reality of Sunni and Shi’ite fears. To date, those relationships continue in trust and friendship.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the forces learned that preparing for the physical domain is not the only answer. After spending millions on primarily physical needs and protections, the “capture or kill” mission merged into one of engagement. Meaning there was a need to understand more in the information environment about what influenced people’s thoughts and actions. US Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, employed social science experts to help them figure out the powerbrokers, economics, and collective systems of the adversary.

The OE is not heterogeneous, it is an ambiguous friendly, neutral and threat milieu. As stated in the AOC, winning in complex environment, “involves more than just firepower. It involves the application of all elements of National Power.” Implied in this statement, is the requirement for the U.S. Army to become more capable of shaping OEs by engaging and influencing selected groups of people to achieve desired effects.  

There is no straightforward way to influence change, every situation is different. Today the challenges in the OE are not solely kinetic, they include narratives,[iii] beliefs and perceptions. Additionally, it is necessary to know how people might respond to their ideas being challenged by outsiders. It is not important for one to argue as to whether these ideas are true or false, but rather to fully, understand these dogmas, how they fit into a person’s very being, and how deeds and actions are prejudiced by them.

The Army and joint forces in Iraq and Afghanistan where not fully prepared for, nor did they fully understand, the ambiguous social human dimension of these complex operational environments. They were prepared for combat. One example is the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). The MRAP protected many of our forces from improvised explosive devices. However, I cannot help but envision how about $2 billion of the MRAP’s $50 billion price tag could have given our troops the advantage, as LtG Flynn stated, to influence the people they must be persuaded to engage, shape, and win.

Studying history, culture, and language is only part of that whole, it is imperative to also know what drives peoples. To be effective out in the OE, with people, warriors must learn about others, leave biases at the door, and file opinions. Know your argument, but remember it does not matter. What matters is the OE you are in, not the one you want to be in, and then preparing for it comprehensively. Soldiers need to know the people and understand what makes them tick; otherwise any message, deed or kind act you perform will be for naught.

Currently the Army has small elements that are trying to do this. Both the military information-support operations (MISO) units and the Asymmetrical Warfare Group (AWG) are part of this effort.  The mission of the Military Information Support Operations Command is to provide fully capable Military Information Support (MIS) forces to Combatant Commanders, U.S. Ambassadors, and other agencies to synchronize plans and execute inform and influence activities (IIA) across the range of military operations.[iv]  A massive responsibility that needs a well-oiled machine, not ad hoc reactionary group who is put at a disadvantage because they weren’t given the resources to develop what commanders need. 

To support these efforts, the TRADOC G2 partnered with The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Carnegie Mellon University to develop an advanced way to analyze social networks in order to identify critical nodes and maximize a particular effect on the network. This methodology, known as Advanced Network Analysis and Targeting (ANAT) is a critical component of the Attack the Network (AtN) training program provided by the TRADOC G27 Operational Environment Training Support Center (OE TSC). In today’s increasingly ambiguous environment, targets are not actually clear. Thus, it is important to analyze networks in a new way to neutralize threats and also determine those neutral and friendly actors that can be influenced to act in alternative ways. Further, TRADOC G2 uses a software tool called Athena which is a simulation that computationally informs users of potential long-term consequences from engagements, including all instruments of national power – Diplomatic-Informational-Military-Economic.  Together these tools can identify the informational intelligence space by determining who is in it, then, testing how different actions may or may not impact populations. These tools are available to help the soldier when the OE is gray, now it is time to reach out and use them.

Enhancing these and other reasoning tools for the JIPOE (or intelligence preparation for the battlefield (IPB)) is paramount. In order to engage one must do more than shoot, move and communicate, one must “synchronize (italicized for emphasis) lethal and nonlethal capabilities to assess, shape, deter, and influence the decisions and behavior of a nation's security forces, government, and people.”  (TP 525-3-7), This necessitates that Soldiers are socio-culturally astute about the information they are receiving, think critically, and know when to adaptively consider immediate and pressing non-lethal alternatives to achieve mission success.

Operating in the social space takes patience. The gray zone is abstruse and must be mastered in order to operate in the “informational environment where cognitive, informational, and physical intersect.  (IO- JP3-13 2014).[v]  This space, where messages, thoughts and narratives reign, requires a greater focus on knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors. In essence, if war is ultimately a clash of human wills (Strategic Land power Task Force White Paper), one must be clear on what drives the will.

In a complex and ambiguous OE, commanders and staffs should be spending at least as much time learning the about peoples knowledge, ideas and beliefs as they spend on employing combat power – probably a lot more time. The AOC informs us that “Army forces provide combatant commanders with the ability to compel outcomes without the cooperation of the enemy. It is for these reasons that this concept emphasizes the Army’s ability to impose our nation’s will on an enemy by force as essential to deterring war and preserving options short of war.” But in general, Army commanders and staffs aren’t going in that direction.  There is still much greater emphasis on lethal action and little value in the advantage of socially capable Army, even though, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria, tells us otherwise. The next big thought for improved human engagement may far outweigh the advantages, and costs, of enhanced vehicular maneuverability in future operating environments.

The Army, and the military as a whole, is at a cross roads. It is looking for less costly initiatives to increase overmatch. Investing in cognitive, information and physical engagement collectively in order to win in complex environments will give the Army that overmatch. It is not the time for the Army to economize on intelligence training and other required non-material solutions for Soldiers, it is time to enhance them. Investment in people is less expensive than acquiring new hardware and in many environments it will provide a priceless advantage to commands in the OE, especially now that it is so gray.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the positions of the United States Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

End Notes

[i] United States Special Operations Command, White Paper, The Gray Zone, 9 September 2015.

[ii] United States Army War College, The Defense and Grand Force Implication of Hybrid and Gray Zone Threats, integrated Research Project Brief, February 2015.

[iii] Formal definition: a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

[iv] Fact Sheet, U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office Fort Bragg, NC

[v] The Secretary of Defense now characterizes IO as the integrated employment, during military operations, of information related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.


Categories: Mad Scientist

About the Author(s)

Patricia “Tricia” DeGennaro is an Adjunct Professor of International Security at New York University and a U.S. Army Contractor with Threat Tec, LLC. in support of the TRADOC G27 Operational Environment Training Support Center. Ms. DeGennaro has an MBA from George Washington University and an MPA in international security from Harvard University’s Kennedy School. Her expertise is focused on geopolitics of the Middle East, North Africa and near Asia regions.


Bill C.

Sat, 08/20/2016 - 12:51pm

The first step, I suggest, re: getting one's head screwed on correctly as to the current "operating environment," is to understand that this such operating environment (in stark contrast to what we initially envisioned post-the Old Cold War) IS NOT made up primarily of states and societies, and indeed of individuals and groups, who wish to (or indeed can) (a) readily jettison their time-honored way of life, their way of governance, and their associated values, attitudes and beliefs. And, in the place of these, (b) readily take on and adopt our -- radically/grossly different -- such attributes.

THAT, I suggest, is your "operating environment" -- your "battle space" -- both today and for the coming decades.

The next step, I suggest, re: getting one's head screwed on correctly today, is to understand that it within this specific operating environment, within this exact battle space that -- both now and indeed for the coming decades -- you will be seeking to accomplish your part of the overall mission. This overall mission being to transform (more along modern western political, economic and social lines) and to incorporate (more into the western-led global economy) these such adversely-oriented and configured states and societies, and these such adversely-oriented and configured individuals and groups.

Thus, in sum, to suggest that:

a. Your adverse operating environment -- your adverse battle space -- this is much the same as that of the "expansionist" Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday. (When they-then, like we-today, sought to both transform, and to incorporate, the outlying states and societies of the world.)

b. Your mission -- re: this such contrary operating environment and this such difficult battle space -- is also the same as that of the "expansionist" Soviets/the communists back then. (See "transformation and incorporation" in my paragraphs above.)

c. Your state and non-state enemies, today and accordingly, are very much the same as those that the Soviets/the communists encountered back-in-the-day. (To wit: the conservative/the "no-change" elements of various populations.) And, thus,

d. Your "intelligence requirements" -- re: this such common operating environment, this such common battle space, this such similar mission and these such similar enemies, etc. -- these are, likewise and accordingly, generally the same as those of the "expansionist" Soviets/the communists back in the Old Cold War.

If this is, indeed, the unvarnished truth of the matter, then should we not, accordingly -- and re: intelligence and anything else you can think of -- be studying exactly how the Soviets/the communists, for many years, (a) often overcame their such similar challenging operating environment and (b) often accomplished their such similar mission?

(This, given that neither our-now -- nor indeed their-then -- "soft power" versions of such things as "universal values," and/or "the end of history," would prove true/would prove to be sufficiently powerful enough to allow that "force"/"hard power" would not, ultimately, need to be applied to the "transformation and incorporation" jobs at hand?)


Sat, 08/20/2016 - 9:09am


Very concise and well-written article. I wholeheartedly agree with this quote from the article:

"It is not the time for the Army to economize on intelligence training and other required non-material solutions for Soldiers, it is time to enhance them."

Below is an excerpt from a forthcoming article entitled:

Understanding the Strategic and Human Environments: Complex Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield for the Ukrainian Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO).

It contains some of your aforementioned points involving Gray Zone competitions, IPB, JIPOE, Attack the Network/Network Engagement,and fitness landscapes. Complex IPB contained here on SWJ was applied directly to AtN and COIST training with Ukrainian Armed Forces (Infantry, Engineer, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Officers) last August and September.

Complex IPB reference:

Complex IPB

Define the Area of Operations
Describe fitness landscape effects
Evaluate the major groups
Evaluate major groups’ courses of action
Asses the groups interaction
Evaluate population behavior

Article Excerpt:

Complex IPB for Ukraine:

With regard to the current IPB in Ukraine, the fitness landscape and functions in the Donbas region are currently disconnected from rest of Ukraine and Russia. This separation has left the region and these systems in a state of artificial regulation and physical isolation, allowing both internal separatists republics and outside actors to more easily manipulate the region’s capabilities. In addition to manipulating these dynamics, both separatists and outside actors also ineffectively attempt to replicate certain dynamics, systems and structures within the region using military and non-military means. While it is true that the region is isolated, it is only isolated to a certain extent; events in the Donbas region have orders of effects for the population(s) in that region, but also have effects in Ukraine as a whole, in neighboring countries, Europe and in the international community. These are the reasons to employ Complex IPB which emphasizes group behavior more. Individuals compose a group, and groups compose populations. Populations are then represented by some kind of state, proto-state, rogue state or third party actors. What the old process fails to adequately consider, however, is that these individuals, populations and states all interact with one another in various environments and that these interactions have orders of effects both inside and outside the physical OE. For this reason, Complex IPB evaluates groups (Step 3) and courses of action (Step 4) during the process. However, what drives these interactions (Step 5) and how both individuals and groups make certain decisions within the OE (Step 6) requires further analysis of the incentive structures present (Step 2).

Incentive structures are the conditions within the fitness landscape or PMESII systems that on a macro level promote cooperation or competition, and on a micro level push individuals and groups to make the decision that they do and/or perform an action. These effects can be formally centralized or informally de-centralized in the form of micro-decisions. Therefore, instead of a group decision being made and enforced from the top down, enough individuals often arrive at the decision, which in turn manifests as a group phenomenon from the bottom up. This phenomenon is evident during “color revolutions’ and specifically in the War in Donbas (also referred to as the Russo-Ukraine War), where various ethnic groups and individuals have decided to support the separatist movement instead of the post Maidan movement government in Kiev. Some of the reasons for supporting the separatists (i.e. the incentive categories) show a general sense of mistrust and betrayal toward the central government in Kiev, and include discriminatory demographic redistribution within Ukraine, perceived negative effects associated with of European Union membership and economic austerity measure, and a sense of political and economic loyalty to Russia 6. Therefore, while each group or individual may have initially had differing motives for their micro-decision to support separatists’ goals of re-establishing “Novorossiya” (“New Russia”), the macro-result was often the same: a considerable strengthening of the separatist movement and establishment of separatist republics in Donbas. Furthermore, as individuals, groups and states interact, the micro-decisions change over time and cause the collective separatist movement and associated center of gravity to shift.

Given the varied and dynamic nature of a hybrid threat, demographics and incentive structures present in the Donbas region, it is clear that holistic actor(s) evaluation as part of a more concise application of Complex IPB is not only required, but has already proven beneficial. In fact, the Complex IPB is advisable because it was inadvertently conducted during a practical exercise and discussion after the “Introduction to Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (JIPOE)” lesson and related PMESII problem system mapping. The entire complex IPB practical exercise was directly applied to the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in Eastern Ukraine and “Projekt Novorossiya” 7, and therefore involved unclassified Ukrainian Armed Forces Attack the Network/Network Engagement 8 and Company Intelligence Support Team (COIST) training for the Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) in Ukraine. Because the focus of this course was IPB, system and hybrid network analysis, and because of the complex nature of groups operating inside and outside of Ukraine, it was both appropriate and effective to utilize Complex IPB in this context. The new process was more effective than traditional IPB because it not only identified the threat actors and their behaviors as traditional IPB does, but went a step further to consider the incentive structures that helped create those behaviors and effects of proposed lethal and non-lethal action to support, influence, disrupt or neutralize targeted behaviors.

Since Complex IPB is generated by expanding the Core IPB process, it is logical that the exercise began as traditional IPB does by identifying actors through conducting adversary evaluation. The core process was then expanded by first conducting a description of fitness landscape effects, and then a graphical evaluation of the major groups influencing political policy and military operations in Ukraine. Major groups’ courses of action and group interactions influencing population behavior was also assessed in detail.

Next, since Complex IPB is generated by expanding the Core IPB process to include dynamic network analysis, the exercise performed complex network modeling that highlighted the socio-cultural and elements of national power drivers of instability, as well as fitness landscape effects and specific incentive structures present. Complex adaptive system emergence characteristics involving decentralized military operations and decision-making were also modeled. In fact, network modeling and understanding of the mutually supporting relationships between the below perceived threat and/or threat supporting groups was also developed by the Ukrainian students.

Conclusion Excerpt:

Lastly, the exercise and subsequent discussions highlighted shared understanding requirements. Moreover, they highlighted Network Engagement and COIST fundamentals involving analysis of the operational environment, and of both basic (measures of centrality) and group social networks and behavior. Consideration of these factors in turn expands the C-IED Attack the Network/Network Engagement line of effort and countering threat networks principles contained in draft Joint Publication 3-25. While the above assessment accounts for 16 of the various groups inside and outside of the ATO zone, it does not account for “friendly and unknown” groups. It is argued here that these lesser considered actors should also be included for appropriate engagement and effects assessment in order to produce the most comprehensive assessment of the OE. Nevertheless, conclusive analysis did assess both the threat’s and the population’s behavior, which fit into Complex IPB’s Category Three of behaviors of concern. This categorization essentially represents a stalemate, with neither the insurgency nor the legitimate government gaining ground. More refined analysis, however, would reveal the internal dynamics and incentive structures that are driving the most vulnerable portion of the population who do not fully support Projekt Novorossiya and insurgency efforts, but feel betrayed and disenfranchised by the legitimate government in Kiev. Thus, on one hand, future assessments based on the aforementioned process will identify additional and connected PMESII implications involving military reform, anti-corruption and reconciliation initiatives by the host nation. On the other hand, continued assessments will identify such implications involving external international foreign internal defense (FID) support and ceasefire special monitoring missions by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). Finally, current hybrid threats and external influence will continue to exploit PMESII vulnerabilities and grievances if they are not acknowledged and holistically reconciled and politically accommodated by the Kiev government. Therefore, the issue becomes what national and international instruments of power to better synergize in order to restore both the Donbas region’s systems specifically, and Ukraine’s identity, ecosystem and post-revolutionary equilibrium overall.

Slava Ukrayni, Heroyam Slava


Fri, 08/19/2016 - 1:25pm

In reply to by SWJED

That sounds great, I haven't had any experiences like that. But I can probably make recommendations to my commander, so we can get it at the battalion level at least. We've built a robust training program to build NCOs and officers abilities on MDMP before they get to the captain's career course, and IPB/Mission Analysis probably gets most of the time.

Thanks for the recommendation!


Thu, 08/18/2016 - 5:39pm

In reply to by zshubbard

Eons ago, while assigned to the Marine Corps SPMAGTF, I was part of their G-2 when they became the first USMC unit to go through a rotation at the Army’s JRTC. During IPB I had the intel types stand back while our enemy’s counterparts (infantry, indirect fires, mechanized, etc.) did the analysis. It worked really well.


Thu, 08/18/2016 - 5:04pm

Great article, and absolutely agree with you on all points.

One huge issue is the lack of professional military education to non-intelligence officers on how to properly analyze intelligence at the lowest levels. Infantry platoon leaders have their own battle space, but through the education of IBOLC, Ranger School, follow-on schools (Bradley Leader's Course, etc), it isn't there until the Maneuver Captain's Career Course that they truly learn and practice IPB. The philosophy that every soldier is a sensor needs to grow from being a sensor to actually trying to develop an analysis.

Leaders of all ranks need to be provided a deeper and formal IPB course. Another option is to create task organizations or permanent force structures to support larger CoISTs.

Finally, our sensors take in so much information, that the cost of training so many additional intelligence analysts/collectors is unfeasible. Automated analysis processes will need to be developed further, to at least determine a baseline action, and does that action need the attention of an analyst.

Part One: The Operating Environment:

If, as I suggest, our current and future operating environment is best understood and best described as a New/Reverse Cold War; one which finds:

a. The U.S./the West now seeking to transform outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines. (In this vein, to see the U.S./the West's actions in the Balkans, in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere.) And one which now finds:

b. Russia, China and Iran, and indeed the Rest of the World, acting so as to undermine, thwart, contain and/or roll back such Western gains and/or ambitions. (In this vein, to see China’s maneuvers to claim a larger part of the South China Sea, Russians blatant annexation of Crimea and its continued military intimidation in Ukraine and Syria, and ISIS and AQ efforts in the Greater Middle East, etc.)

If one can view the current and future operating environment in this manner, then one can, likewise I suggest, see how this such conflict -- much as was the case in the original Old Cold War of yesterday -- would need to play out significantly on the political warfare (and unconventional warfare in support of same) and proxy war stages. This, so as to -- as in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- help prevent a nuclear exchange between the great nation combatants seeking, respectively, expansion (the U.S./the West) or containment/roll back, etc. (Russia, China and Iran).

Part Two: Intelligence Requirements of the New/Reverse Cold War:

In this regard, let us look to LTG Flynn's profound quote from our author above:

“Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collec­tion efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intel­ligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the envi­ronment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade. Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the cor­relations between various development projects and the levels of coopera­tion among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers – whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers – U.S. intelligence offi­cers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-mak­ers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.”

Note here that, in sum, what LTG Flynn appears to tell us is that -- given our job to overthrow and replace the current political, economic and social models of various countries throughout the world -- we have focused our intelligence gathering on the wrong group, to wit:

a. On the "insurgents," (Actually, on the "counterinsurgents," to wit: those seeking to PREVENT such radical political, economic and social changes as the U.S./the West seeks to bring about). This, rather than focusing our intelligence gathering on our greater enemy, to wit:

b. On the people, the traditions, the ideas, the forces, the cultures and the other dynamics which make these states and their societies so resistant to "transformation" more along modern western political, economic and social lines.


If one's job is to transform other states and societies more along one's own -- often alien and profane -- political, economic and social lines (the job of the U.S./the West in the New/Reverse Cold War of today; the job of the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday),

Then one, logically, cannot (a) see only those few individuals actively seeking to PREVENT such unwanted transitions/transformations (the counter-insurgents) as one's enemy and, accordingly, (b) focus one's intelligence gathering activities on these groups alone.

Rather, one must understand -- in these "Cold War"/"state and societal transformation" contests/contexts -- that the true "enemy" of the "expansionist" great nations (the U.S./the West today; the Soviets/the communists back then) are those cultural and other factors which (a) currently hold these outlying states and their societies together so well and that, accordingly, (b) make them so non-malleable/so resistant to one's "transformational" approaches and activities.

It is this specific regard, I suggest, that we consider LTG Flynn's emphasis -- re: intellegence gathering -- on understanding such dynamics as those relating to local "economics," "landowners," "power brokers," "coopera­tion among villagers," etc.?

To wit: Those things -- and others -- which will give us a better insight into what challenges we are actually going to face re: our "transformational" goals for these other states and societies of the world?

Bottom Line:

Re: our transformational goals for other states and societies of the world, if our version of "universal values," etc., had, in fact, proven to be true post-the Old Cold War, then "intelligence gathering" maybe could have been limited to that relating to "the insurgents" (to wit: the few remaining "dead-enders") alone.

Given, however, that our version of "universal values," etc., has, in fact, proven to be so glaringly false, "intelligence gathering" will (1) need to accept this reality and (2) adapt accordingly.