Monday, December 13, 2010
Pearl Harbor, WikiLeaks, and Strategic Surprise
69 Years ago last week, the Japanese Navy surprised strategically the United States in their attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii. That date that will live in infamy along with October 6, 1973, and September 11, 2001 are among the most critical examples of strategic surprise studied for improving national security and establishing effective national intelligence. Some argue that these events show that no matter what measures a country can place in effect, strategic surprise is inevitable. When considering strategic surprise, one cannot only consider the intentions of the attackers, but also consider one’s own intentions, and how well the enemy understands them. WikiLeaks’ airing of the State Department’s cables achieved the desired effect of the rogue website and its founder and, when taken into context with previous strategic surprise, constitutes espionage. Hopefully, the Executive Branch of the US Government will not react to the espionage with measures that will lead to another strategic surprise.
The weirdest source of conspiracy about Pearl Harbor…Michael Jackson?? You have to look at the uber-scary painting on the right.
OK…Back to reality: Pearl Harbor, the Yom Kippur War and 9/11 share commonalities to include commissions by the US and Israel to investigate the causes of their surprises. Pearl Harbor included many, the most comprehensive of which was the “Joint [Congressional] Committee on the Investigation into the Pearl Harbor Attack.” The Israelis enacted the Agranat Commission to investigate the failures to predict the Egyptian and Syrian attack beginning the Yom Kippur (or October) War. Finally, most know of the 9/11 Commission and Report and their effect. Studying the reports will show two critical factors of national intelligence – understanding of intentions (both yours and the enemies), and intelligence sharing among departments and communities.
Wikileaks’ releasing the State Department cables revealed to potential adversaries the United States’ and other countries’ intentions in many different arenas. While some intentions are well-known, known de facto, or common sense, having them on paper eliminates ambiguity for our/their enemies. Those intentions that were meant to be kept a secret are no longer…enough said. People who say “no big deal” or “we already knew this stuff” fail to understand how simple understandings of intentions can change things. For instance, in the October War, the Israeli Defense Forces believed they could predict Egyptian actions because Egypt would have to attack the Israeli Air Forces to prevent the embarrassment of the 1967 war (a “no duh” statement, one would think). Knowing that, the Egyptians merely moved anti-aircraft systems to the Sinai border to protect the ground forces during their surprise. This is the type of information that could be released on the lower “Secret” level documents such as the cables, as opposed to Top Secret stuff.
Each report shares a common thread regarding the sharing of information. The Joint investigation Committee commented on the ineffective transfer of intelligence gathered from MAGIC transcripts from Washington to Hawaii. In fact, the congressional commission reversed earlier claims that the ground commanders in Hawaii were derelict in duty. The Agranat Commission identified stove-piping and too much centralization of influence in the Israeli Military Intelligence community. The 9/11 Commission found the same and instituted similar changes to the others.
The most likely, important, unfortunate, and lasting effect of the Wikileaked documents will be mistrust among departments and countries. As the respective agencies ratchet down on controlling intelligence by means of bureaucratic controls and other inconveniences, information sharing will bog down and intelligence processes will slow. This will directly affect the targeting cycle on the tactical level, and could possibly lead to the next “inevitable” strategic surprise.
These criteria demonstrate that Wikileaks’ actions amount to espionage against the United States. The website’s actions directly and indirectly affect US National Security on tactical and strategic levels. Julian Assange and his conspirators should be considered as enemy spies and treated as such. The soldier, if found guilty, should be tried for treason and espionage. Each should be made an example of, to include the death penalty for the soldier.