from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 34
April 7, 2004


Policy makers require greater insight into the "thoughtworlds" of adversaries -- their culture, motivations, and characteristic modes of perception and behavior -- in order to advance national interests by means other than the blunt instruments of force, according to a new study from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a defense contractor.

The problem is that "A strategy of using [military or economic force] to compel desired outcomes... is poorly suited to many present challenges, notably in the strategic war against terror, a number of taxing regional crises, and in countering a global wave of anti-U.S. sentiment."

"There are alternative strategies that, instead of seeking to compel or force, actively engage foreign partners or adversaries in a way that recognizes their interests, perspectives, will, and energies and that seek to effectively communicate, influence, channel extant dynamics, or sometimes effect more fundamental changes in thought or action."

"Such strategies, not without their own limitations, should now receive relatively more consideration and emphasis in U.S. national security affairs."

In an astute and literate analysis, the author is careful to place bounds on his argument, observing, for example, that improved communication and understanding can sometimes exacerbate conflict rather than relieve it.

And he notes the obstacles to his own proposals, including a cultural predisposition that is unfavorable to the kind of insight he says is needed.

"A nuanced understanding of how people in other societies think -- their thoughtworlds -- ... has not been commonly reflected in U.S. national security affairs, and is not prominent in U.S. society generally." (The very word "thoughtworld" is not normally used in American English and is apparently borrowed from the German "Gedankenwelt.")

See "Insight Into Foreign Thoughtworlds for National Security Decision Makers" by J.W. Barnett, Institute for Defense Analyses, January 2004:


Cross-cultural conflicts are also addressed in a new report published by the U.S. Army, which notes "an apparent increase in anti-American sentiment expressed by and within" military partners in multinational coalitions.

"If the Army is to be successful in its cooperation with other countries' militaries, it is essential that it understand the sources of the anti-Americanism as well as what can be done to ameliorate those sentiments," wrote Zita M. Simutis, Chief Psychologist of the U.S. Army in a foreword to the study.

Some of those sources of animosity, and proposals to address them, are explored in "International Military Education and Multinational Military Cooperation" by Charles Moskos, January 2004:


The text of the "Intelligence Transformation Act of 2004" (HR 4104), a bill which was introduced on April 1 by Rep. Jane Harman and other Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, is now available here:


The efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to "transform itself into an agency that can prevent terrorist acts, rather than react to them as criminal acts" are examined in a major new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Both supporters and skeptics of the adequacy of FBI's reforms agree that collecting intelligence by penetrating terrorist cells is critical to disrupting and preventing terrorist acts," the CRS report observes.

"Supporters argue that the FBI has a long and successful history of such penetrations when it comes to organized crime groups, and suggest that it is capable of replicating its success against terrorist cells.... Skeptics say recruiting organized crime penetrations differs dramatically from terrorist recruiting [and that strategic intelligence collection is a qualitatively different function than gathering information on criminal activity]."

The new CRS report synthesizes a considerable volume of recent debate regarding the future of the FBI and outlines the policy choices available to legislators.

See "FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress" by Alfred Cumming and Todd Masse, Congressional Research Service, April 6, 2004:

Congressional leaders including Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), chair of the House Administration Committee, oppose direct public access to CRS reports like this one.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to [email protected] with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to [email protected].

OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at: