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My Solutions to "Intelligence is Evidence"

(To read the entire “Intelligence is Evidence” series, click here.)

Last year, I devoted an entire month to the idea that “Intelligence is Evidence.” On the face of it, that statement seems like an “entirely uncontroversial banality”, as some would say. If it were, though, people probably wouldn’t screw up intelligence so often.

When people treat intelligence differently than evidence--primarily by relying on much less of it--human tragedies result, as I wrote about in Exhibits: Terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Mistakes in using evidence lead to other human tragedies, as I wrote about here and here.)

This week, I will finish the series by providing my recommendations for how to use intelligence better. I won’t really fix how we gather or analyze intelligence, but how leaders use intelligence to conduct counter-terrorism operations. Over the next few weeks, my solutions will eventually drift into the topic, “How Michael C would win the so-called ‘long war’”.

In six words, we should value accuracy over action. As a company commander once advised me, counter-terrorists need to develop their “tactical patience”. Intelligence is never perfect, but imperfection shouldn’t excuse sloppy or imprecise action. Targeting fewer terrorists more accurately will ultimately win the “long war”. Killing civilians in Pakistan or Yemen or other countries, detaining the wrong people or supporting the wrong, corrupt regimes will simply prolong the fight to stop extremists. Intelligence is evidence, and we should hold it to that standard.

This simple idea--accuracy over action--applies to every facet counter-terrorism. Tomorrow, I will describe how we can fight counter-insurgencies more effectively by using more precise intelligence. To end this week, I will explain how we can fight the war on terror more effectively, specifically developing a real, and different, “Obama Doctrine”. After a break next week, I will expand on my favorite idea that came from this series--the crux of intelligence is evidence.

Finally, I will explain why none of this will ever happen.