Middle East History Starts Over
New Security Problems and a New Security Policy Paradigm
The Middle East often is called the 'cradle of civilization' as ancient cultures and peoples emerged there many millennia ago. Some of the earliest recorded human intelligence exploits are recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible.1 Throughout history, the Middle East has been a turbulent region as empires waxed and waned and foreign powers conquered parts of the region. The borders and nation-states have been relatively stable in the last 100 years as established by colonial European powers after World War I. Israel was a one-off as the United Nations Resolution 181 carved out a homeland for the Jewish people in 1948 after the tribulations of the World War II holocaust.2 The region’s historic strategic importance as a crossroad for trade was even further enhanced by the Suez Canal, and the last half of the 20th century saw parts of the region accrue vast wealth with the discovery of oil in areas bordering the Persian Gulf. The global need for oil brought a new competition for influence in the Middle East and a continuing need for intelligence studies on the regional political and economic issues. The borders and nation-states created after the fall of the Ottoman Empire began to disintegrate and implode after the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Radical Islamic groups gained power and asserted this power in violent efforts to gain control governance. The Shiite-Sunni sectarian struggle for dominance and hegemony evolved into a series of sectarian wars. An ambiguous U.S. policy has complicated potential solutions to the widespread chaos.3
The Future is a Synonym for Uncertainty
Strategic intelligence is the basis to mitigate the uncertainties and provide a framework to understand the risks. While uncertainties are always an element of future planning, a clear understanding of the possible timing and realistic limits of potential events gives policymakers a manageable set of likely scenarios. The all source intelligence process can generate a comprehensive data set to support the critical intelligence studies supporting security policies. Human intelligence holds a unique role in the intelligence process. Monitoring the military capabilities and economic potential of an adversary or a friend generally is rather straightforward. Exceptional situations such as a secret Iranian nuclear facility will always be part of the intelligence challenge. What is knowable through human intelligence is the intent of the enemy decision makers. What are the actual threats to the United States emanating from offshoots of al Al Qaeda like the Islamic State, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other fundamentalist groups? What is the status of the Iranian nuclear weapons program? What are the respective commitments by Iran and the new Sunni Arab coalition to prosecute a decisive sectarian war?4 Effective security policies have foundation in collecting the innermost secrets of enemies and friends and conducting objective analyses of the all source information. Do the enemy capabilities match the enemy intent? What are the gaps in our intelligence knowledge? The overall problem is complicated by technology compressing timelines for events.
Intelligence Analyst Jobs and Essential Qualifications
Individuals who want to serve the nation as intelligence analysts need to develop a set of skills and competencies in the science and art of intelligence analysis. There are traditional analytic techniques that are an integral part of intelligence analysis. However, there are additional nuanced methods that are particular to the challenges in intelligence work. The problems of intentional deception along with fragmented data present exceptional challenges to providing insightful intelligence studies. Analysts need to be grounded in area studies that include such things as target area history, culture, politics, economy, technology maturity, and knowledge of the strategic pretensions of the target leaders. Few schools offer the curriculum and qualified faculty to prepare an individual for a career in intelligence. Some select online schools have the focus and mission to prepare motivated individuals for careers in intelligence and strategic security. One key criterion to vet the schools is the experience factor of the faculty members. Do the faculty members have practical experience serving in operational assignments that leverage academic qualifications? Online schools meeting the faculty and curriculum criteria are the optimal choice to prepare for intelligence careers.
1. The Holy Bible. Schofield Reference Edition. Oxford University Press, 1945. Print.
2. Creation of Israel. Retrieved: www.history.state.gov
3. Doran, M. (2015). Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy. Retrieved: www.mosaicmagazine.com
4. The Arab League Contemplates a Joint Force. April 8, 2105 Stratfor. [Electronic newsletter]. Retrieved: www.strafor.com