Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brief Overview of the Strengths and Weaknesses of IMINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT in Intelligence Collection

Daniel J. Evans is the Executive Director and Editor in Chief of the International Relations and Affairs Group. He has experience analyzing how crises unfold and evaluating contingencies for dealing with complications as they arise. His specialties are foreign affairs research, International Relations Theory, Systems Theory, Globalization, Geopolitics, Intelligence Analysis and Homeland Security. His training deals with assessing transorganizational structures for the management of Homeland Security and developing plans for coordinating networked Homeland Security organizations.

Intelligence collection uses several methods to collect information. In conversations about this, it has been shown that many people are unsure of their facts and get confused about intelligence collection. This is something that is not hard to confuse. Briefly, I will discuss the comparative strengths and weaknesses of IMINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT as intelligence collection means.

IMINT uses satellites and aerial photography to collect information for intelligence. Strengths are it mitigates the loss of human life and detection during collection. Advents of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and better aircraft, gives advantages over satellites because the information is quicker and pictures are more detailed, dispatched relatively easy, and put directly over targets (Richelson, 2008). Disadvantage of satellite imagery is the delay in information; images can be old and targets no longer in that position; UAV’s can be shot down easily. Sometimes leadership that should be able to read and interpret images is not able to do so, resulting in improper placing of troops and equipment (Richelson, 2008).
SIGINT incorporates space and signal intelligence. It is thought to be important and at the same time sensitive. Strengths of SIGINT provide crucial functions such as “diplomatic, military, scientific, and economic capabilities and plans of nations” (Richelson, 2008). It is also used for detecting the activities of terrorist organizations and rogue groups (Richelson, 2008). Disadvantages are human error, generally during the translation stages. Diplomatic signals can be misinterpreted, due to cultural misunderstandings or translation error. Interpretation has a human element and cultural implications impede in analysis.

HUMINT is based off of interpersonal communications and observations for intelligence gathering. Strengths are also some of the weaknesses. Informants can give false information and be friendly, hostile, and sometimes neutral. There is some kind of bias and the more information is passed the more it can be altered. It is valuable in proving real world views of situations and cultural interaction aids in the ability to look at intelligence from an applied perspective (Richelson, 2008).
MASINT is incorporation of “distinct collection activities” (Richelson, 2008). It is a more technical and scientific approach good for both “strategic and tactical” applications and uses sensors. It is able to build models for analysis as it is less on the collection of intelligence. It is able to put collected intelligence into categories. Disadvantages of MASINT are the collection process is limited and is hard to take this technical data and apply so it can be used (Richelson, 2008).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, and HUMINT in supporting intelligence objectives? This is how each of these disciplines complements the other in support of intelligence efforts; and the role that OSINT plays in this mix.

IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, and HUMINT complement each other in support of intelligence efforts. The images used from IMINT from satellites and aerial photography are able to give a picture of the operation. If IMINT is used in conjunction with SIGINT aids in the ability to also hear what on the ground and may mitigate the delay in information that IMINT sometimes does with newer images. The interceptions of these diplomatic and military capabilities through SIGINT help build a stronger model for detection. These two disciplines together with HUMINT also can put names and faces together along with the interpersonal aspect that cannot be seen or heard from a distance but aid in the human element in supporting intelligence efforts.

The validity of HUMINT collection can sometimes be verified for truth with the efforts from IMINT and SIGINT and this aid in getting a clearer and more accurate picture and the ability to whittle it down for a better understanding. With the technical aspects that are gained from the MASINT efforts the other disciplines can help fill in the gaps and holes in the categories that MASINT has created.  OSINT uses a lot of geospatial elements that are readily available such as GIS software, maps, map sites, magazines, networking sites, and many others. This information in conjunction with the rest of the intelligence efforts better shapes and tells a story. It also compares and contrasts the readily available public data and sees what inferences are very similar and dissimilar (Richelson, 2008).
This is only a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of IMINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT in intelligence collection. Obviously, there are many aspects that were not included, but this should aid in enough information to refine your understanding of how they are used in collection.  

Richelson, J. (2008). The US Intelligence Community. Westview Press, Boulder, CO: Print

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Historical Development of International Relations and the State of it Today

Daniel J. Evans is the Executive Director and Editor in Chief of the International Relations and Affairs Group.  He has experience analyzing how crises unfold and evaluating contingencies for dealing with complications as they arise. His specialties are foreign affairs research, International Relations Theory, Systems Theory, Globalization, Geopolitics, Intelligence Analysis and Homeland Security. His training deals with assessing transorganizational structures for the management of Homeland Security and developing plans for coordinating networked Homeland Security organizations.

Recently, there has been a growing interest in the field of International Relations and Affairs. However, in conversations and discussions there seems to be a debate between where the field is going and where it came from. The historical development of the International Relations field has always had an emphasis on dominant theoretical perspectives and paradigms. I decided to assess the state of IR today, as well as, where it came from. I also looked at the driving questions and controversies and the crises of thought and of theory.

The historical development of the field of international relations can be traced back for centuries but much of what is thought of as that actual field of study is mainly thought to have emerged in the beginnings of the twentieth century. There are many paradigms and theoretical perspective that have shaped and molded the field, as well as the ever changing international system. In the changing system many new questions have arisen and many controversies from contending theories, and possible lack of theory, have caused this field to become even more vibrant today than it was in its inception. The treaty of Westphalia first discussed the nation state. Prior to Westphalia and the idea of the “nation state,” there existed tribes and ethnicities. In the manner of tribes, the most dominant tribe would dominate the others. International relations theory, especially throughout the late 1940’s and the 1960’s, had a huge interest in theoretical analysis weaving together insights from biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics and the behavioral sciences; it started to give shape an explanation for international politics. The approaches even then were focused on (a) ecological factors and the individual relationships between humans and their milieu (b) functionalism and regional integration (c) systems theory (d) the causes of war (f) arms race (g) decision making (h) games and theory and (i) related subjects in foreign policy and international relations (Dougherty, 16-19).

Woodrow Wilson had the idea that WWI was so horrific that it would be the war that “would end all wars”. Wilson is seen more as an idealist and although idealism has been taught in academia the processes have never seriously been implemented, and most of these liberal reforms have been attained. (Kegley, 34-35). Woodrow Wilson’s perspectives incorporated what he called the fourteen point program. He wanted to have relationships between the great powers after World War I. Wilson thought that there should be “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at” instead of treaties that many countries had kept in secret; he believed that the secrecy between nations was part of the cause of the war. Much of this prompted leaders and academics of countries to study international relations. Wilson was able to do many things that the field of international relations has learned from. There was the inception of the League of Nations which wanted to focus on a peaceful world without war and greater cooperation between nations. Much of this perpetuation of international relations happened between the two world wars and by the 1930’s the League of Nations was already breaking down and leaders were looking at other ways in which conflicts could be created and how to conduct foreign affairs. Idealism comes from liberal thought process. Idealism serves a purpose and it is obviously something that in a perfect world could transform the world into world peace. However much of international relations has been dominated by the realist school of thought – realist theory, neo-realist theory, and neo-classical theory (Dougherty, 65-67).

Realism has been a major influence in the field of international relations. The realist schools of thought incorporate realist theory, neo-realist theory, and neo-classical realist theory. Realest theory centers on the international systems level of analysis, and the state or unit actor. The balance of power is the main theme, and the nation-state is the primary actor. Power, a key concept is derived from either military prowess or economic power. A notable contributor to realist theory was Hans J. Morgenthau. Morgenthau’s six basic principles were: (1) “political relationships are governed by objective rules deeply rooted in human nature;” (2), political leaders “think in terms of interest defined by political power;” (3), “the meaning of interest defined as power is not easily determined;” (4), “universal moral principles cannot be applied to their actions of states in their abstract, universal formulation, but that they must be filtered through the concrete circumstances of time and place;” (5), political realism does not identify the “moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe;” and (6 the “autonomy of the political sphere” (Dougherty, 14, 16).

Neo-realist theory uses an approach known as “constellation analysis” which is a “multi-method system of inquiry.” This consists of (1) system design (2) perception and reality (3) interest and power (4) norm and advantage (5) structure of independence and (6) cooperation and conflict. Neo-realist theory uses the bases of realism but adds factors such as “cross cultural comparative analysis.” Neo-realism tries to broaden and deepen realism. A major contributor of Neo-realism was Kenneth Waltz who spoke of “structural realism”, and “power remains a key variable”. Others such as Gottfried-Karl Kindermann stated power is not always the primary factor in politics.

Neo-classical realist builds a link between international and domestic politics; it suggests that leaders seek to control resources to advance international and domestic agendas and seek economic and technological wealth. It speaks of external extraction: actors will access resources beyond their borders to achieve domestic and international status or power. External validation: leaders seek authoritative status in the international community so they can enhance their domestic image. Charles Glaser, an influence on neo-classical realism came up with contingent realism: when states enter into escalations, such as arms races, they may enter into a self-help system, because they have seen the benefit versus the cost of making such an agreement; or they have weighed out the consequences (Dougherty, 88-89).

Marxism Feminism & Liberalism
Other theories of international relations are Marxism and Feminism. Marxists focus on the problems in the world as a result of the imperialistic agendas of capitalism and the inability to co-exist which each other. They believe that capitalism wanted to create “surpluses” overseas and the imperialist forces would colonize countries in order to accomplish this. Once this was achieved they would then take materials from those countries to continue the aggressive drive of capitalism. Feminism focuses on the unequal treatment of woman, injustices, and other prejudices. Feminists believe that decision making in foreign policy is influenced by gender-identity (Kegley, 46). The Marxist-Feminist approach focuses on the idea that capitalism oppresses woman. This theory does not focus on power such as in the realist approach. Feminism believes that male driven theories are “inadequate if not misleading” (Kegley, 101, 143, 404). Liberalism or Idealism is much the same thing. There is the belief that negations and agreements, international laws, international organizations, collaboration of states and integration, and ethical principles are the way to establish international relations; not a quest for more power. The theorists of liberalism/Idealism believe in achieving peace through diplomacy, without resorting to war. There is also the belief that much of this is done through the regulation of state behavior along with international organizations, systems, and institutions (Dougherty 65, 419-420).

Constructivism & Postmodernism
There are also other theories such as constructivism, postmodernism and critical theory that have emerged in the field of international relations. These theories are considered to be the Post-positivist era. Feminism can also be incorporated into the post-positivist era. Constructivism started to emerge in the later part of the 20th century and has become in influence on the study of international relations. They believe that “intersubjective consensus” meaning that all institutions are socially constructed to include the state. This also stems from political science and the idea of shared social beliefs, values, and behaviors. Constructivists believe that policy making is derived from individual members and other actors. They believe that this is how decisions of going to war and peace are concluded and what perpetuates cooperation or conflict. Constructivism also incorporates some feminist thought believing that even gender is socially constructed. Postmodernism consists of explaining reality as a condition or state of being. It is said to mainly be a reaction to modernism and against assumed theories. Postmodernism attempts to explain the constantly changing international system and institutions through demonstrating how bodies of knowledge are constructed; this is opposed to relying upon already existing explanations. And though postmodern thought takes the context of culture, gender, history, etc. into account when looking for explanations, it also looks to not be bound by those systems when constructing meaning. Critical theory comes from the 1920’s from the Frankfurt School and is defined as “theory which can provide the analytical and ethical foundation needed to uncover the structure of underlying social practices and to reveal the possible distortion of social life embodied in them” (Dougherty, 38-40, 477-478).

Democratic Peace, Core & Gap
Other smaller theories of international relations are the Democratic Peace which states that “democracies are less likely to fight wars with each other”. This theory is rooted in liberalism and is another critic of realism (Appendix C). Thomas Barnett’s “Core and Gap” model has had both criticism and favorable impressions. The model states that there is a core made up of inter-connected states which are technologically, economically, socially advanced and the Gap is composed of isolated less developed or failed states. While the Democratic Peace is much more of a model derived from liberalism the Core and gap model derives much of itself from realism perpetuating the balance of power idea. However, what is shown from the field of international relations is that there are both ideas still being stemmed from realism and liberalism (Barnett).

Wallerstein’s Contribution
Immanuel Wallerstein had a major influence on the study of international relations and more importantly he is known for world systems theory more specifically the capitalist world-system, core/periphery and semi-periphery states. He discussed the rise and hegemonic fall of agrarian, industrial, and financial powers from core states to peripheral areas, as cyclical systemic phenomenon (Dougherty, 137-140). Giving the examples of the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States, he demonstrated how power is both gained and then diffused. This perspective has validity and can be applied to recent events with the example of the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union. During the 1980’s the Cold War and arms race was a systemic escalation between the United States and the Soviet Union that could have ended in a cataclysmic war. However, the hegemonic power of the Soviet Union was diffused. With regards to cycles that may be unfolding, if we look to past cycles we see that many cultures when they reach their peak, the next step is that they fall – such as Rome, or Peloponnesians. They do this through becoming over-extended in their resources, through cultural divisions from within, such as the greater division we are now having between liberals and conservatives, as one of many examples (Dougherty, 137-140).

The Cold-War
The Cold-War had a showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union. This may or may not be viewed as a Just War from one of several normative approaches to it: such as applying a qualitative sense of traditional values, in addition to a quantitative analysis of behavior; or even through the application of principles of modern pacifist theory because of economic emphasis of free trade and peace; or any one of the older theories, which could be used to explain, in essence, a traditional concept of war centering it around the nation-state. However, with the end of the Cold War and the beginnings of the Global War on Terrorism the nation-state finds itself no longer engaging with uniformed military. And the military targets themselves and their objectives are no longer clear. It more so finds itself with the nation-state on both a defensive and offensive stance having to be flexible with changing missions and priorities during a conflict, fighting the same local tribes it just trained and at times struggling to trust allies it may have just made (Dougherty 627-630).

The Global War on Terrorism
The Global War on Terrorism has modified many theories such as traditional concepts of war centered on the nation-state. This new phenomenon has several variables including geopolitical emphases that non-state actors have on nation-states themselves, instability of host nation states to combat host non-nation-states, the inability to identify non-state actors in a nation state, non-state actors that work for the nation-state and non-state group, as well as several other factors that ultimately modify the traditional concept of war. Traditional concepts of war could almost describe the nation-state as adversary against adversary and could even be thought of as something as simple as the fairy tale knight fighting the dragon. Both are very distinctive in conflict and there is no misunderstanding as to who is fighting who and ultimately what the demise would be to either of them. An analogy of United States fighting in the global war on Terrorism with the knight could be as such. The knight (US) in The Global War on Terrorism has not slayed the dragon (foe nation-state) and finds himself with no clear adversary. However, there are clearly groups that do not share the same principles as the knight. Whereas before the dragon was easy to identify, but now it is not dragons that the knight is fighting, it is multiple serpents that he is fighting (Drinkwine, 2009). One or two bites from a serpent is not going to effect the knight it a mortal way but if the knight is bit from several different directions and many times eventually it is going to wear down the knight and eventually could be his demise. Al-Qaida could be thought of as the serpent. The group will continue to hide itself and camouflage itself within the geopolitical environments that it now operates. In the age of the Global War on Terrorism technological advances and new tactics will allow nation-states to operate in environments where they are not engaging with a uniformed army and they will continue to have to draw on lessons learned from past wars as well as global histories of wars (Drinkwine, 2009). Adapting the traditional theories of war could require countries like the US, which is the last superpower, to operate more like a “police state” dealing with “criminals” in a non-nation state fight that could cross several geopolitical boundaries (Buck-Morss, 2003). In essence a lot of the fundamentals of theories of war can still be used. The major differences being non-state actors do not have to be part of a nation-state and operate independently not necessarily condoned by the nation-state that they are in.

Integration/Disintegration, Systems, & Structural-Functionalism
Integration and disintegration are becoming key components in the study of international relations. For example, there is integration of the European Union and World Trade Organization and the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Traditional theory has not caught up with much of the current phenomenons. Integration is not necessarily a new concept. Talcott Parsons, a major contributor to systems theory, wrote about integration. Joseph Nye also had perceptions of integration which were slightly different than Parsons. Parsons believes that action between an individual and actor; action in a “societal context” called “action systems.” His systems place people in the role of subjects and objects. He also explains that at any given time people are members of several other action systems such as family, employer and nation-state. Parsons states that the three subsystems are 1) the personality system 2) the social system 3) the cultural system. They are interconnected through the action system. If there is a change in one of the subsystems it will affect another in turn affecting the entire action system. The systems theory “assumes the interdependence of parts in determinate relationships, which impose order on the components of the system.” “Social systems are characterized by a multiple-equilibrium process because social systems have many subsystems, each of which must remain in equilibrium in the larger system is to maintain equilibrium” (Dougherty 115-116).

Causes of disintegration, from Parsons point of view, explicates how the systems deal with stress. Parson’s four functional conditions are prerequisite: 1) Pattern Maintenance 2) adaptation (to the environment) 3) goal attainment 4) Integration (of the different functions and the subsystems into a cohesive, coordinated whole. “The integrative function is fulfilled by the cultural subsystems the serve the function of pattern maintenance.” “According to Parsons, the formulation of common values that cut across national boundaries is essential to international order.” If you look at the EU this is in place and happening very clearly but looking at the former USSR states it can be seen that several of these factors are not taking place and only a handful are fairly being used (Dougherty 115-116). The conditions of integration that Joseph S. Nye explains are what the EU follows: (1) Politicization (2) Redistribution (3) Reduction of Alternatives (4) Externalization. In short the EU has a common interest to have a closer knit Europe, a single currency to allow for less exchange rate processes, the states involved have a parliament that is able to discuss sovereign alternatives, and they seek to not bring in external forces to control the general premise of the EU. This can be very attractive to many countries and membership into the EU could perpetuate them more in the global market where they once had trouble competing (Nye & Dougherty 515-519).

The former Soviet Union continues to be a place of study in the field of international relations. Even after the 1917 revolution, when communism ushered into the country to modern day with the fall of the former USSR and the forces of disintegration. The disintegration of the former Soviet Union which has several implications as to why it did not work and why there is a lack of integration between the former members. The Soviet Union itself integrated was a single party regime that controlled everything and dictated the actions of its members. Of course this ultimately failed and a lot of the factors may not be simply human nature and the inability to completely be socialist because of greed and other factors that influence behaviors (Riasononovsky & Steinberg). Factors that caused the disintegration of the Former Soviet union include nationalism inside former states splitting into separate states along with ethnic disputes, ideological conflicts, competing economic factors that include raising prices higher than market conditions, and several other factors. The disintegration has also caused some states to become Isolationists, such as Russia because of several reasons but a major point being the idea that they had been taken advantage of economically (Dougherty 93 & 106).

Failure to acclimatize to the new systems or not keep up and will be much like indigenous tribes that become extinct because of lack of flexibility. The EU has become very flexible and adaptable to many market conditions. The EU’s inception, whether acknowledged or not, is to knock the US down from being an economic superpower. There is no doubt that the EU supports democracy and capitalism, however its focus may have to become broader as the economies change over time as of right now its flexibility lean towards the idea it will continue to prevail. However, to compare the EU with the US the Structural-Functional approach could be used. It has the ability to view political systems individually as well as compare vastly different political systems to each other. There are two main points with the structural-functionalist approach. (1) “In different countries, the same structure may perform different functions” (2) “institutions often do not have a monopoly on any given function”. This tells us that there are factors that work as a cause and effect type model and derives much of this from systems theory itself (Almond, 33).

The International Political Economy & Globalization
The international political economy has also become a subset of study in international relations. Politics and Economics have intermingled since the existence of one another and most intellectuals acknowledge their relationship but have been studied separately instead of the relations ship between them. In the later part of the 20th century international relations has studies the two together. Capitalism is defined as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market” (Webster). Democracy is a “government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” (Webster). Free countries follow a capitalist market system in which they are able to establish profit for goods and services allowing the seller to make a profit. This is thought to establish and allow economic growth. While these concepts are basic there are economic factors that influence political decisions. The understanding that politics and the economy are nothing new, Adam Smith, David Ricardo and many other dominate historical figures spoke of it but much of the earlier work is thought to be mercantilist and followed: (1) states cannot remain powerful in an anarchic setting without a strong economy (2) economic strength must be preserved by protecting key industries and jobs (3) such protectionism may require tariffs and governmental subsidies (4) low-priced imports may threaten domestic jobs and industry, (5) the state can and should remain sovereign in economic matters and (6) membership in international economic organizations may have adverse consequences for national strength. More contemporary approaches follow economic liberalism and believe that markets need to operate free from government intervention (Dougherty, 416-419).

Globalization has become a huge topic of study for international relations. Instead of just focusing in the nation state there are many more actors than there was before including everything from IGO’s, MNC’s, NGO’s, terrorist groups, rouge states and other actors. Wars are no longer always fought against uniformed armies there is now the clash of ideologies and nation states versus non-nation states such as the United States and the war on terrorism. Many nations feel they must form alliances with one another to combat many of the current problems such as terrorism and rogue nations. The fact that they are surrendering some of its authority to an international organization once again the benefits of protection and collaboration seem to outweigh the costs (Dougherty, 559, 631-632).Globalization and the forces of disintegration and economic integration are changing the field of international relations. The EU is lessoning on countries nationalism and a buy in of economic collectivism because of the common currency and the fact that the economies of these nations are now much stronger and can more easily compete against the United States and now have more clout and purchasing power. However with this there is less patriotism of the individual state and more value for the bigger economy. The loss of group identity in a globalizing world is a contributing factor for the rise of nationalist movements redefining the borders of nation-states but as long as the economies are strong it is almost definite that this is not going to happen as much until a true recession hits hard to drive it home for the individual states (Bhagwati).

The field of international relations has many more actors than is had before. There are Intergovernmental Organizations or IGO’s like NATO that is usually an organization set up so that two or more nations can form treaties and accomplish common interests. The other type of International Organization is a Nongovernmental Organization or NGO. NGO’s are very different from IGO’s in the fact they do not have to “operate in a vacuum” basically meaning they can operate independently from a governments and intergovernmental organizations. However, both IGO’s and NGO’s play an important role in dealing with conflicts and disasters. In essence they are specialists and perform essential tasks that many time governments simply cannot perform. The economy is definitely shaping into more of a global economy than it been. There will always a place for the nation state; however, there are many more actors than there was before including everything from NGO’s, terrorist groups, and rouge states. Wars are no longer always fought against uniformed armies there is now the clash of ideologies and nation states versus non-nation states such as the United States and the war on terrorism. Along with IGO’s and NGO’s there are also multinational corporations or MNC’s that can have immense influence on countries there enter. MNC’s can play much of a role in passing certain conditions for workers and several other factors because of the impact they have on a countries economy especially in the third world (Bhagwati , Dougherty & Bennett).

International relations theory must catch up to modern conditions. Currently there is disconnect with terminology in international relations about modern phenomena, but there is plenty of theory in place to build upon to develop new theory and explain conditions. The end of the Cold War leaves Russia as a superpower no longer, and it has been proven that communism does not work. Now the factor is the disintegration of the former USSR. Russia believes they have been betrayed by the same countries they once supported and kept going economically. There are several parts of theories that can explain some of what is going on such as systems theory, however there is no theory in place the fully explains the disintegration. Like many countries such as in the Middle East there are ethnic disputes and clashes from religious affiliations, but nothing completely like what has happened in the former USSR. If anything it seems to be several factors with several different variables happening simultaneously. The state of international relations is changing and theories that once seemed to be able to explain much of the world are no longer viable. With the ever-changing global climate the field of international relations is probably going to stay exciting and like the rest of the world, students, like countries that do not keep up, will be left in the dust.


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