Suggested Paper Topics

  1. Surprise attack and intelligence are intimately related. Review existing discussions of surprise attack and the surprise/intelligence nexus. Choose some cases of surprise attack that have not been systematically analyzed and go to it. Alternatively, choose some that have been addressed, but that you judge to merit further consideration. [Pearl Harbor, Barbarossa, the Ardennes, Normandy, Tet, the 1967 Israeli air attacks on Egyptian and Syrian air forces, the 1973 Arab Israeli War, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.]

  2. Increasingly, students of military operations are becoming skeptical about the lessons that history can teach. U.S. combat technology is said to have advanced so far that WWII experience, for example, is viewed as largely irrelevant. Intelligence scholars continue to focus heavily on WWII, however. Why? What would make such a focus reasonable? What would make it unreasonable? Choose some WWII case material that supports both positions and then try to settle the matter.

  3. Analysts of counter insurgency seem to believe that intelligence is the key to success. Is this the case? Are there other paths to success? What are the barriers to the collection of good intelligence? Where have we seen particularly effective COIN intelligence, and where not? What explains the variation? What might COIN practitioners do to improve their intelligence performance?

  4. Periodically, the revelation of a long secret intelligence source causes historians to reconsider the existing history of important events. Enigma is one such revelation, which ostensibly changed somewhat our understanding of key events in WWII. Or did it? Review the bidding on one or more campaigns or incidents during WWII in which enigma is believed to have played a key role. [Battle of the Atlantic? Midway? Others?] How did the enigma revelation change the initial interpretation of the event? Was the altered interpretation truly warranted? What, in the end, do we learn of timeless value in studying these historical instances? (Some have suggested that “Vinona,” a recently released haul of U.S. intelligence information on the Soviet Union from the early Cold War, could also alter some interpretations. A paper focusing on Vinona could address the same questions outlined.)

  5. Some suggest that open source analysis is now more useful than ever. There is information everywhere. Develop an intelligence assessment question for yourself. Collect open source information on the question as if you were an intelligence agency. Don’t be shy about using dubious sources, just try to include an assessment of their dubiousness in the analysis. Apply every professional analytical technique, check, and
    balance that you can as you derive them from the intelligence literature. Present your analysis as if you were presenting it to a policy maker, in a fully professional way. Examples:

    • Chinese intentions toward Taiwan
    • Iran: weak government, ripe for destabilization?
    • Iran: nascent WMD power or really crappy energy planners?
    • Ariel Sharon willing to get out of most of the west bank?
    • France threat or pain in the neck?

    To get the gist of how these kinds of papers are written and presented, review some declassified CIA papers.

    When you have completed your sample analysis, assess its utility? How far could you get with open sources? What is missing? How might you try to employ or target more traditional sources of intelligence to strengthen your inferences? {Read their minds? Read their mail on the specific subject? Are not good avenues.}

  6. Review the historiography of the July 1914 crisis in light of the apparently high degree of intelligence penetration of several of the key actors by their key adversaries. How much was known? To whom? How much difference might it have made? Do typical accounts of 1914, which fail to treat intelligence systematically, end up misinterpreting the crisis significantly?

  7. The NATO/Warsaw Pact competition produced a vast western effort to understand the Pact militaries, especially the Soviet Military and its plans for war in Western Europe. Review the picture of the Soviet theater war fighting potential that existed when the cold war music stopped. Compare it to what has been learned subsequently. Does it appear in retrospect that the picture was particularly accurate? If the picture is mixed, discuss that? In light of some of the conceptual material presented in the course, or other theoretical material that you might mobilize, try to explain why western intelligence sources did well or poorly. If there is variation in their performance across sub-issues, try to explain that variation.

  8. A key debate on the development and exploitation of human intelligence sources is the benefits, vs. the risks and costs of U.S. involvement with the kind of indigenous individuals who might be likely to work with outsiders, and at the same time have information that the U.S. could use. Examine the problem and the record. Are their any recurring patterns? What explains them? Do you have any predictions about where the
    new U.S. interest in human sources may lead?

  9. Intelligence: Theory and Practice. The academic study of intelligence is hindered by the difficulty of relating theory and practice. Loch Johnson and others have addressed some of the issues involved, including the problem of testing various propositions in practice because of the continued classification of much relevant information. Take some of Johnson’s propositions and see if you can come up with some relevant tests of how they work in practice. Alternatively, develop additional propositions of your own and test them.

  10. Intelligence Reform. The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 used the Goldwater-Nichols Act as a model to try to promote more jointness in the intelligence community. Is this the proper model? How successful has Goldwater-Nichols been in practice? Alternatively, what other reorganization proposals may provide better models? Examine other proposals and weigh pros and cons.

  11. DNI vs. DOD. A major reason for creating a more powerful intelligence czar was the need for better control over the intelligence budget. But the final bill limits the DNI’s budget powers with respect to DOD. What are the key issues at stake in this controversy, and how will they likely be resolved in the long run? Give historical examples to make your case.

  12. CIA vs. FBI. The CIA and FBI have long had overlapping responsibility for counterintelligence, which contributed to the 9/11 failure. While the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center and an FBI intelligence service may assist joint CI efforts against terrorists, how will counterintelligence cooperation likely work in other areas? What will be the role of the National Counterintelligence Executive?

  13. Intelligence Streamlining. The Reform Act adds another layer of oversight to the intelligence community and creates some new structures, but it eliminates no existing organizations. What further consolidations and reductions in the new bureaucracy are likely in the future to reduce costs and promote efficiency?

  14. Collection. The costs of technical collection keep rising, but there have been few proposals for major cuts in technical collection. Look at the various technical “ints” and propose how major cuts are savings could be made in existing organizations or programs? It more outsourcing to the private sector a solution, i.e. for much imagery collection, open source etc?

  15. Analysis. Other than the use of classified information, how is political, military, economic or scientific analysis in the intelligence community different than in academia? Do facts or methodologies play a greater or lesser role in each case? Do policy customers greatly differ? What about politicization? Give examples to support your case.

  16. Consensus and alternative views. The British intelligence system operates on consensus principle when doing analysis, and seeks to give policymakers the best call with no alternative views. The U.S. system is more based on competitive analysis. What are the strengths and weaknesses of either approach, and how much is it driven by consumer needs and cultural differences? Use the Iraqi WMD issue as a prime example.

  17. Intelligence failures. The Indian nuclear test is often cited as a major warning intelligence failure. Some, however, claim it is more a policy failure than one of intelligence. Use this or any other example of a major intelligence failure to explore the proposition that there are only policy successes and intelligence failures.

  18. D&D. Denial and deception played a major role in Saddam Hussein’s efforts to develop WMD. Use this are other examples i.e. Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya to explore the role of D&D in WMD programs of hostile states. How can D&D be neutralized, if at all?

  19. Military intelligence. What role did Desert Storm play in the U.S. military view of the role of intelligence in war fighting? How have these views evolved since 9/11 and the war in Iraq? Can the strategic and tactical intelligence needs of the U.S. military be adequately served by the current intelligence system post intelligence reform?

  20. Covert action. Covert action is still a controversial mission of intelligence. Yet is appears to play a major role in the war on terrorism. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the paramilitary operations be placed in DOD rather than CIA. What are the pros and cons? Give historical examples to support your case.

  21. Congressional Oversight. The 9/11 Commission recommended that Congress streamline oversight of intelligence, but this did not occur in the Reform Bill. What are the implications for effective oversight? Give past examples to support your case.

  22. Future threats. The reform bill cites terrorism and WMD as the major external threats to U.S. national security. What is the risk that too many intelligence resources will be devoted to these issues, ignoring other potential threats in the coming decade. Give examples of other threats that may arise, either political, military, economic, technical etc.

  23. Intelligence and policy. The late 1970s-early 1980s was a period of increased concern about Soviet and Cuban expansionism in much of the Third World. What is the intelligence record during this period relating to the threat, and how did it impact policy? Examine a particular region, i.e. Latin America or Africa, or a particular country i.e. El Salvador, Angola or Afghanistan, to make your case.

  24. Measures of effectiveness. Intelligence comes under considerable criticism when there is a major failure, but gets little credit for successes. What realistic measures of effectiveness can be applied to various aspects of intelligence, including collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action. Give examples to support your case.

  25. Counter-intelligence. Review the many penetrations of important U.S. agencies during the Cold War—CIA, FBI, Navy, Army, AF, NSA etc—for the
    pattern. Why were we so easy to penetrate? What were the motivations of the spies? Why did it take so long to detect them? and what about our current vulnerabilities?

  26. What is that status of intelligence in each of the services? Is it the same? If not, why the variation? How does DIA fit in?

  27. Are national technical means useless in our current war? What are we trying to do technically and can these efforts have an impact on our current problem?

  28. Is there a broken window theory to be applied to terrorism? The broken window theory said go after small crimes (subway turnstile jumping and fix all the broken windows so people have a belief that order can win and small-timers don’t graduate into gangsters). Don’t terrorists depend on the non-enforcement of minor crimes–overstays on visas etc. wouldn’t the watch of local officials make it more likely that networks will be broken?

  29. Where do reorganization proposals originate? Trace back the 9/11 proposals? What is the intelligence on intelligence reform? Do they differ from non-intelligence disaster investigation in their organizational recommendations? Columbia? Beirut? The Johnstown flood?

  30. Have we treated the prisoners at Gitmo badly? What have other countries done to their terrorists, domestic and foreign? What was the treatment of the IRA prisoners like? Pick five or so of our peer, Western competitors and exam how they have handled their terrorists since WWII.

  31. Who would make a good intelligence czar? Examine the list of DCIs and discover if you can the backgrounds that worked best? Was it the professional or the politican? The military officer or the professor?

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