Intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory in war. Do you agree?
In a world that is typified by independent states, above which there is no higher authority, and a scarcity of resources, such states often compete with each other. The most deadly form of such competition is war, whether in the name of territory, self-defence, religious belief, or any other reason. When such competition exists, there is ample motivation to be well prepared, for one state to know what other states are planning, and not to have others know their intentions. Essentially, this is the role of intelligence; to use information acquired through various means to create an advantages for one state over others. But in a war situation, with all the other factors that have to be taken into account, such as technology, manpower, and training, how can the importance of intelligence be measured? Is good intelligence, knowing what ones enemies are doing, sufficient to ensure victory? This essay attempts to analyse the importance of intelligence in war by looking at historical examples. It will be seen that intelligence is not sufficient for victory, but it probably is necessary, and hugely influential in determining the outcome. This essay shall begin by examine what is meant by intelligence, its purpose and the methods commonly used. Through this, several stages of intelligence are identified. By applying this framework to several historical examples, it can be seen how intelligence aided victory and what other factors are important. The Battle of the Atlantic against German U-Boats, and the ‘secret’ battle of the cryptanalysts in Britain, as well as the Battle of Midway between American and Japanese navies, highlights the importance of intelligence in war. Intelligence, particularly Sigint, significantly aided the Allies in these situations. However, the Battle of Crete shows how even when equipped with vastly superior intelligence, victory is far from assured. Subsequently, this essay shall briefly discuss other important factors pertaining to victory in war.
Intelligence is understood to be different things to different people. Sherman Kent’s characterisation of intelligence covers three main areas; knowledge, the type of organisation that produces that knowledge, and the actions of that organisation. But how does this distinction provide a theoretical framework for assessing the importance of intelligence. It can be extrapolated that there are five main stages of intelligence, as noted by John Keegan. These are; acquisition of information through various means, delivery of that information to the interested organisations, acceptance of that information as truth by the organisations, interpretation of the information, and implementation of action as a result of that information.
Acquisition may involve the eavesdropping of one state into the communications of another, or Signals Intelligence (Sigint). It also includes information gained through people ‘on-the-ground’, whether stealing documents or gaining information from those with legitimate access to it, named Human Intelligence (Humint). A third method of acquisition is through photography, either from aeroplanes, satellites, or ground-based units, which is known as Imagery Intelligence (Imint). To assess the contribution that intelligence makes towards victory in war, the acquisition stage is crucial. Another crucial stage is the interpretation of information, particularly in the Sigint field. Since states do not want other states to know certain information, communications are often encrypted, with codes or ciphers, to make them illegible to all but the authorised recipients. Interpretation of Sigint, as will be seen in the intelligence success of the Battle of Midway, plays a crucial role in determining the contribution of intelligence. The final crucial stage for this essay is the acceptance stage. Adequate intelligence, once acquired and interpreted, must be given to authorities, often political leaders, for them to decide action. Though they may not be part of the intelligence machinery as it is often perceived (CIA, SIS, or KGB), political leaders and other authorities are a key part of the intelligence process