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Thread: Relationship between the political system and causes of war (questions)

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Default Relationship between the political system and causes of war (questions)

    Hello all.

    I'm currently in the process of doing a research paper for a class on war and peace. The quoted text below is my thesis. The basic premise is that the multi-polar political system has flooded the state actors with information. New technology also enables the participation of significant non-state actors, and more effective management of the information collected. As a result, the strategic aspects of intelligence will more directly influence all levels of decision making and execution ('strategic corporal'). The ways in which state actors discriminate information will dictate their actions. This creates the appearance that war has transformed, though its basic drivers remain the same.

    Reviewing my thesis, I in my mind come to a resounding "duh, so what?" at the end. So my questions are:

    (1) To what extent is strategic intelligence relevant to state decision making on war?

    (2) In what ways has technology transformed, or modified, the relevance of intelligence, if at all? Does an increase in capabilities generate a proportional increase in dependence on the effects it enables?

    (3) What is the link between the causes of war and intelligence? Are states more likely or less likely to enter conflict with more effective information management?

    I've put together a list of 20 or so sources, so I'm currently wading through the waves of pages and concepts to connect all the components together. Thanks for any assistance.

    The “transformation” of warfare, its increased intensity, and decentralization originates from the increased tempo of the decision-making process enabled by technology and facilitated by the factional nature of the modern political system. Underneath the masks of ideology and religion, the fundamental drivers and components of war remain the same. The concept of hard power, operationalized by the military as firepower and maneuver, remains essentially unchanged, but now existing in the modern context of a fragmented political structure. The notion of soft power arises from the complex dynamic of political, military, and economic interactions on multiple levels, shifting focus from dominance to influence, and an orientation on the effects that may be produced by a variety of compulsive means other than physical violence. For this reason, the nature of intelligence in war has undergone the most notable transformation. The capacity to make relevant decisions more rapidly than the adversary has become of extreme importance due to the fluid and mixed environment in which war and politics now exist. Information management which enables this capacity by increasing the tempo of the decision-making process will have a decisive impact on all levels of warfighting. This paper will focus on the strategic aspects of war where the political and military aims work in collusion, and why strategic intelligence will define the security challenges of the 21st century. The method in which state actors collect, evaluate, and apply strategic intelligence will decisively judge their fate.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I note with interest your suggesting that information technology increases tempo.

    Research done in the UK shows this to be very much in doubt. In WW2 Divisional HQs were much smaller, and did things far quicker using less people and resources. My understanding is that there is substantial evidence from both the UK and Sweden that higher levels of information actually slow down decision making and thus tempo.

    It has been further suggested that what increases really increased tempo is small thoroughly trained Divisional and Formation staffs. Not sure if this helps, but I can forward you a thesis that deals with this if you are interested.
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    Default Regarding your questions 3 and 1

    3. Depends (the classic answer) on the intel. If we had accurate info on WMD in Iraq in 2002 would we have gone to war? If we had accurate intel on Saddam's intentions prior to his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, could we have prevented it?

    This leads to #1:

    As a Lieutenant (back in the dark ages) I was a strat intel officer assigned to the Pentagon. We analyzed all kinds of info (political, economic, military, and informational - the classic instruments of power) from all sources for the decisionmaking political and administrative leadership. Responding to our analysis (I'm talking here about the entire intel community) they would use this as input to their policy decisions. Intelligence, of course, was not their only source of critical info. For non-denied areas, the media was often better informed than the entire intel community. This remains the case although, perhaps, the degree to which it is true may have changed. In addition to intel on friends and adversaries the decisionmakers have to take account of our own capabilities. For the military, this is coordinated through the 3 shop. As Graham Allison points out in Essence of Decision (if you haven't read it for pol sci you must ) Presidents are limited by the capabilities of their bureaucracies. Finally, recognize the wisdom of Clausewitz' (Saint Carl to the denisons of SWJ) in his one point of total consistency through all 8 books, that war is the continuation of policy/politics with the addition of other means.

    I'll leave the other questions for others more current like Wilf.

    Hope this was of some use.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    @ Finally, recognize the wisdom of Clausewitz' (Saint Carl to the denisons of SWJ) in his one point of total consistency through all 8 books, that war is the continuation of policy/politics with the addition of other means.

    @ I'll leave the other questions for others more current like Wilf.
    @ - To paraphrase the excellent Colin S. Gray, "If Clausewitz didn't say it then it's probably wrong."

    @ - actually all a bit above my pay grade, old Chap!
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    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    (1) To what extent is strategic intelligence relevant to state decision making on war?
    I suspect the degree of relevance has much to do with the personalities of the state decisionmakers. By this I mean, how much access to intel the decisonmakers demand and how much use (read "opennness of mind to being persuaded by 'facts' delivered by strategic intel") they actually make of the intel provided. Sports analogy--suppose a football coach had a scout who reported, with some provable degree of accuracy, what plays the opposing football team would run next. Further suppose the coach chose not to believe the scout, chose to ignore the scout's input in his decisonmaking, and/or chose not to inform his own defense about what plays to call to counter what the opponent called.
    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    2) In what ways has technology transformed, or modified, the relevance of intelligence, if at all? Does an increase in capabilities generate a proportional increase in dependence on the effects it enables?
    Because of the availability of near instantaneous imagery as combat information, I suspect that operators place less reliance on having a trained "intel" guy provide assessments of what the bad guys are up to or may be planning.
    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    (3) What is the link between the causes of war and intelligence? Are states more likely or less likely to enter conflict with more effective information management?
    The decision to go to war probably has little to do with a rational risk calculus and/or the kind of cost-benefit analysis that you learn about in classical economics and political theory/international relations courses. I suspect what makes it seem so rational has to do with all the "Monday morning quarterback/post mortem" analyses done after the shooting starts.

    States act based on their perceptions of reality. Insofar as intel may alter that perception of reality (for good or bad), the "go-to-war-propensity" pendulum could swing either way. See my response to 1 above.

    I suspect that you might want to review the thread on the the neo-con alibi here among other threads (like the one on Iran Nukes NIE) to get more grist for developing an answer to this question. The bottom line from where I sit is that a state's leadership makes a decision to go to war and then tries to come up with reasons that enables it to justify that decision in the moral/legal context defined by Just War Theory's jus ad bellum conditions.

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    Default Paygrades and all

    Wilf--

    I thought you gave a really good answer to #2 - so I didn't touch it.

    Regarding Saint Carl: Although I've used him for years and read in On War I had never read the whole thing until this semester when I assigned it to my course on War & conflict from ancient times to the present. Stupid me, I had to read it too! The Howard/Paret translation with essays by both along with Brodie and the latter's commentary is superb. Despite being written in great detail at the end of the Napoleonic era, it is surpising how well the examples hold up today. Unlike Sun Tzu, who writes in aphorisms, Clausewitz goes into excruciating detail and that is, I think, one of the real strengths of the work. The examples he chooses often are timeless. So, whoever said tha old dogs (like me) can't learn new tricks? (And if you are reading this Steve Metz, I will expect a remark to resemble since I just left myself wide open.)

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Despite being written in great detail at the end of the Napoleonic era, it is surpising how well the examples hold up today. Unlike Sun Tzu, who writes in aphorisms, Clausewitz goes into excruciating detail and that is, I think, one of the real strengths of the work. The examples he chooses often are timeless.
    Yes! Yes! Yes! This is why the old dead Prussian is so good (or "way cool"). The enduring empirical nature of his writing is excellent, and a thorough understanding of CvC leads you to so many other good things, as well as an ability to dismiss a lot of others.

    I would strongly recommend reading Foch's Principles of War, 1903 English translation was 1918. Foch was a big CvC fan and it shows CvC in a more modern context. I think it excellent! One day I really need to examine if it truly is CvC in application, but my current understanding is that it is.

    Warning: - Robert Leonhard, who I consider one of the best living Military minds is very down on Foch's book. Never asked him quite why, but I guess I should.

    Sun Tzu? "A single hamster cannot defeat a bear, but many hamsters make a good meal"
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    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    What technology tends to do is create a series of information bottlenecks. While it has the capability to greatly increase optempo, it also has the ability to slow actual reaction time greatly. This is because as information becomes easier to gather, higher levels develop a greater need to "see" everything. As more information flows up the chain, it quickly overwhelms the capability of people to absorb and evaluate it, so it lingers and often doesn't get to the people who need it.

    With the increased flow of information comes the "need" of some higher formation commanders to try to control everything they can "see." The great anecdotal example of this is the Vietnam "charlie-charlie" bird. You have guys on the ground slogging through terrible terrain and the Brigade CO running the show from 500 feet yelling that the troops should "move faster" because it "doesn't look that bad from up here." All this combines to create Saint Carl's "friction," and results in units reacting much slower than they might otherwise.

    But it doesn't have to happen that way. If you want some good examples of fairly fast turnaround enabled by technology, take a look at some SOG operations from the same period. Here the focus was on getting the job done, and often tech was used as a tool for that and not the master.

    Technology makes it easier for the process to become the end instead of the process serving the end. And that's my take on that...for whatever it's worth...
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses and also whoever moved the thread (I realized I posted in the wrong forum after the fact ).

    Research done in the UK shows this to be very much in doubt. In WW2 Divisional HQs were much smaller, and did things far quicker using less people and resources. My understanding is that there is substantial evidence from both the UK and Sweden that higher levels of information actually slow down decision making and thus tempo. It has been further suggested that what increases really increased tempo is small thoroughly trained Divisional and Formation staffs. Not sure if this helps, but I can forward you a thesis that deals with this if you are interested.
    I would appreciate that document. It seems to me that what you state suggests that information management depends on the competency of the decision maker involved. But if we're to assume that the decision-maker is a rational actor (I'm more or less required to use realism, or a modified version of it, as a theoretical framework), and everything else being equal, can we claim with any kind of confidence that the rapidity in which an actor turns around information from collection to application will be a decisive factor in political or military action vis-a-vis other actors? (Obviously I am not entirely familiar with the ins and outs of the intelligence cycle, so I must ask: is the pace of the intelligence cycle an indication of its effective use?) I recently read through Keegan's book Intelligence in War, and while he suggests that "exertion" (in the Clausewitzian sense) is the decisive factor in victory, I think he misses the underlying causes which brought the forces together at the decisive point. I suppose then, beginning with the idea that intelligence, in a broad sense, is necessary, I assumed that more of a good thing would automatically indicate a better thing. But I see why that may not be the case.

    3. Depends (the classic answer) on the intel. If we had accurate info on WMD in Iraq in 2002 would we have gone to war? If we had accurate intel on Saddam's intentions prior to his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, could we have prevented it?
    If we are to assume that a state's interests are permanent (for theoretical purposes), I think the next question becomes: does intelligence decrease uncertainty? Clausewitz called intelligence a "chasm" between conception and execution. And if we're also to assume that states are concerned with relative power and gains among them, can we say that a state with less certainty about another's behavior will be more likely to resort to violence in order to realize its interests? The classic "prisoners dilemma" suggests that if actors had knowledge of one another's intentions, they will cooperate.

    I suspect the degree of relevance has much to do with the personalities of the state decisionmakers. By this I mean, how much access to intel the decisonmakers demand and how much use (read "opennness of mind to being persuaded by 'facts' delivered by strategic intel") they actually make of the intel provided.
    This is the key problem in realist theory (which I'm using as a theoretical framework for my thesis). Other authors suggest however, realism can be modified from the state-centric focus to the nature of the faction, or factions, governing the country. But I'm trying to explore whether or not intelligence as a concept is inherent in the state consideration, determination, and pursuit of its interests. So while it can be said that interests determines friends and foes, realism asserts that states have the singular interest in their security and that politics is self-help. With that assumption, I will modify my question to: to what extent does strategic intelligence assist the state in discriminating between friend and foe?

    What technology tends to do is create a series of information bottlenecks.
    This is something I addressed a few pages into my paper when I came upon relating the nature of the political system to state decision making. It seems to me that while technology can enable more decisions to be made faster, it reduces the number of choices actually available because it simultaneously provides information which discredits options that might otherwise seem viable. This assumes of course that states are rational actors and will choose the option with the most utility as far as their interests are concerned.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    The other thing increased information based on technology does is create more "fingers in the pie" because more people gain access to that information. And that need in turn drives your information management framework.

    Information is normally subjective, especially information dealing with humans (motivations, actions, etc.), as opposed to objective. As your information flow increases, the need for effective analysis grows at the same pace. However, I think this gets offset (and in some ways canceled) by the number of people who gain access both to the information and the product of the analysis. A number of different opinions and information can lead to decision paralysis, especially if those close to the top of the food chain are not comfortable making decisions (or want a comfortable amount of "group think" behind those decisions). Likewise, the ability to discern between useful information and "white noise" and/or disinformation becomes even more critical as the flow increases.

    Regarding Keegan, I'd be wary of many of his statements in some areas. He's done some good stuff, but I also think that he's become a little full of his own sense of all-knowingness when it comes to history. He's good to read, but be sure you check the sources he uses and allow yourself to come to your own conclusions. If you haven't read it already, I'd recommend the most recent edition of Handel's "Masters of War." He does a great job of breaking down Saint Carl (among others) and points out that Clausewitz was more focused on tactical and operational intelligence than he was what we would consider strategic intelligence.
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    Default Uncertainty

    Again, it depends. While decreasing uncertainty can increase the sense that one's action are rational it may also provoke rashness. Alternatively, while the existence of uncertainty may provoke action against an adversary to defeat the possible threat, it is equally likely to produce policy paralysis. The role of the individual actor again. That said, you will probably get better policy the more you can reduce uncertainty with solid data and analysis.

    Don't be particularly concerned about being forced into a realist mode. Allison's work (mentioned previously) demonstrates that the best predicting of his 3 models is the classical rational actor. The other 2 (org theory and the 'political' [stressing individual background, biases, and preference] only fill holes in the rational actor explanation/prediction. The key to its use is the rigor with which the model is applied - and I don't mean quantification necessarily.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    . I suppose then, beginning with the idea that intelligence, in a broad sense, is necessary, I assumed that more of a good thing would automatically indicate a better thing. But I see why that may not be the case.
    .
    The problem with intelligence is that it is not an absolute thing. It's subjective, and constantly changing in both nature and relevance. You often don't known how good it is, till it's moment has come and gone.
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    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    At the risk of self-promoting, read my memoirs, especially the final three chapters on Rwanda regarding intelligence reporting, analysis, and strategic warning concerning the prospects for a larger war in central Africa.

    Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda, TAMU press 2005. Your library probably has it.

    I also suggest that you read this article in SWJ magazine:
    Guerrillas From the Mist: A Defense Attaché Watches the Rwandan Patriotic Front Transform from Insurgent to Counter Insurgent

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default What's this about risk?

    It’s nice to see that Tom isn’t beneath engaging in a little blatant self-promotion of his many literary accomplishments.

    Information overload certainly becomes a by-product of increased collection capability. This may, or may not, "blur" the picture. However, I believe this is more relevant to the utilization of operational intelligence where the LIMFAC is time.

    “The method in which state actors collect, evaluate, and apply strategic intelligence will decisively judge their fate” rings true throughout the history of conflict. Within the realm of strategic intelligence more may be better yet also increases the requirement for analysts to determine what is useful information and what may be dis-information. Despite the advances in collection and analysis, we still cannot “see” into the heart and mind of a state leader.

    It is not merely a factor of what, or how much, you know; it’s in how you leverage that knowledge into viable action.
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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    If you are looking at the influence of intelligence upon decision making at the national strategic decision-making level, then I highly recommend giving a read of a book I've recommended on this board a couple of times: Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment Before the Two World Wars

    The book was published by Princeton University Press in '86 and consists of sixteen essays that describe in fair detail intelligence collection, analysis and decision making at the national level in countries about to go to war (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain and Italy before WWI and Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, and the US before WWII).

    And, although they don't go into as much detail on the strategic intelligence feed into national-level pre-conflict decision making, I also recommend Irresolute Princes: Kremlin Decision Making in Middle East Crises, 1967-1973, Chinese National Security Decisionmaking Under Stress, and Who's at the Helm? Lessons of Lebanon. There's more, but that's just an off-the-cuff recommendation before I go get my post-lunch coffee.....

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    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default Some more reads...

    Signals of War: The Flaklands Conflicts of 1982 by Lawrence Freedman is pretty good but nothing beats:

    The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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    It’s nice to see that Tom isn’t beneath engaging in a little blatant self-promotion of his many literary accomplishments.
    It was not blatant. It was flagrant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umar Al-Mokhtār View Post

    The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
    Good choice, from the standpoint of how leaders can become locked into the execution of pre-determined plans (Moltke the Younger), despite intelligence that the actual situation is different from the one for which you planned.

    I also recommend Stoessinger's Why Nations GO to War, specifically chapter one, for a discussion of how personality and state of mind affect rational thought under stress.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

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    One point that hasn't been made yet, is that most of our intelligence sources (SIGINT, ELINT, etc.) tell you about capability and potential. They give no insight into intentions, which are, in any case, changeable as the wind.

    With regard to the latter, the only source is human intelligence, i.e. the mistress, cabinet member, bureaucrat, etc. who's been turned and is now feeding information to the other side. (A US capability that was gutted in the late seventies and is only now being rebuilt.) Even then, the intel is only as good as what the source is told. If his own people are lying to him, the best he can do is pass on the lies. On top of which, the source may be lying to us for his own motives.

    Our decision to go into Iraq provides a good example of the problems:

    1. We knew Saddam would use chemical weapons. (He already had, against Iran in war and Kurdish civilians in "revolt.")
    2. We knew he had the capability to produce them. (Anyone who can't convert a fertilizer, pesticide, pharmaceutical, etc. plant to manufacture chemical weapons, and hide the capability, simply isn't trying.)
    3. We were getting reports from inside his cabinet that he claimed to still have them. (These apparently were true.)
    4. We were told by Iraqi expats that he had them. (These apparently were false, and presented out of personal motives.)
    5. We had chatter among his officer corps about the use of their own chemical weapons. ("Do you think he'll really use them?" "Are you ready if he does?")

    To summarize, the intel that he had chemical weapons was good. As it turns out, the reason it was good is that Saddam was trying to make it good, running a domestic and international bluff.

    Didn't work out well for him.

    (WHAT!?! Tom wrote a book!?! Who knew? )
    Last edited by J Wolfsberger; 03-28-2008 at 11:24 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger
    One point that hasn't been made yet, is that most of our intelligence sources (SIGINT, ELINT, etc.) tell you about capabilityand potential. They give no insight into intentions, which are, in any case, changeable as the wind.

    With regard to the latter, the only source is human intelligence, i.e. the mistress, cabinet member, bureaucrat, etc. who's been turned and is now feeding information to the other side....
    As a career HUMINTer, I have to say that any claim that only HUMINT can provide insight to intentions is false. SIGINT, when collection is targeted effectively, is also a valuable direct source of information regarding intent. When HUMINT and SIGINT are effectively coordinated to collect on a target set, each feeding into the other in a structured collection effort, then the degree to which intentions can be ascertained is greatly expanded beyond the individual capabilities of either. Of course, the other INTs often have significant value in corroborating, invalidating, or simply providing additional indicators of assessed intent - IMINT immediately comes to mind.

    You also must understand that capabilities are inextricably linked with intent. Neither intentions without capabilities nor capabilities without intentions pose a threat. A threat only exists when both are manifested together. The statement that "capabilities give no insight into intentions" is false. Capabilities, how they are obtained, structured and used in the context of the collection target, are often an important indicator of intent. So, it is not a question of capabilities vs intentions, but of coming to a logical judgment of intent in light of a host of indicators from the spectrum of collection assets available.

    It is rare that a single collection asset, no matter how well placed, will provide stark warning of a clear and unmistable intent (decision made, action about to be initiated) for a specific course of action to be taken at the national strategic level by a potential threat. If only it was that easy.....

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