This article addresses the challenge of managing uncertainty when producing estimative intelligence. Much of the theory and practice of estimative intelligence aims to eliminate or reduce uncertainty, but this is often impossible or infeasible. This article instead argues that the goal of estimative intelligence should be to assess uncertainty. By drawing on a body of nearly 400 declassified National Intelligence Estimates as well as prominent texts on analytic tradecraft, this article argues that current tradecraft methods attempt to eliminate uncertainty in ways that can impede the accuracy, clarity, and utility of estimative intelligence. By contrast, a focus on assessing uncertainty suggests solutions to these problems and provides a promising analytic framework for thinking about estimative intelligence in general.
Outside intervention in civil warfare is important for humanitarian, theoretical, and practical policy reasons – since 2006, much of the debate over the war in Iraq has turned on the danger of external intervention if the U.S. were to withdraw. Yet the literature on intervention has been compartmented in ways that have made it theoretically incomplete and unsuitable as a guide to policy. We therefore integrate and expand upon the theoretical and empirical work on intervention, and apply the results to the policy debate over the U.S. presence in Iraq using a monte carlo simulation to build upon the dyadic results of probit analysis. We find that Iraq is, in fact, a significantly intervention-prone conflict in empirical context; the prospect of a wider, regional war in the event that violence returns in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal cannot safely be ignored.
Why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007? Many policymakers and scholars credit the “surge,” or the program of U.S. reinforcements and doctrinal changes that began in January 2007. Others cite the voluntary insurgent stand-downs of the Sunni Awakening or say that the violence had simply run its course with the end of a wave of sectarian cleansing; still others credit an interaction between the surge and the Awakening. The difference matters for policy and scholarship, yet this debate has not moved from hypothesis to test. An assessment of the competing claims based on recently declassified data on violence at local levels and information gathered from seventy structured interviews with coalition participants finds little support for the cleansing or Awakening theses. Instead, a synergistic interaction between the surge and the Awakening was required for violence to drop as quickly and widely as it did: both were necessary; neither was sufficient. U.S. policy thus played an important role in reducing the violence in Iraq in 2007, but Iraq provides no evidence that similar methods will produce similar results elsewhere without local equivalents of the Sunni Awakening.
How does manpower affect counterinsurgency? Important debates about counterinsurgency theory, military doctrine, force planning, and ongoing military operations revolve around assumptions about the role manpower plays in determining counterinsurgency outcomes. But these assumptions have not, by and large, been subjected to large-n analysis. This paper helps serve that role by examining new data on counterinsurgents‘ deployments across 171 campaigns since World War I. These data provide insight into a range of important issues, such as how force size should be measured, whether it is related to counterinsurgent success, whether troop nationality matters, and whether the role of manpower varies across contexts. Of these findings, the most notable is that conventional rules of thumb for force sizing, including the recommendation put forth in official U.S. military doctrine, receive no empirical support. These findings therefore challenge the prevailing wisdom, while laying the groundwork for a range of future scholarship.
Many now see future warfare as a matter of nonstate actors employing irregular methods against Western states. This expectation has given rise to a range of sweeping proposals for transforming the U.S. military to meet such threats. In this context, Hezbollah’s 2006 campaign in southern Lebanon has been receiving increasing attention as a prominent recent example of a nonstate actor fighting a Westernized state. In particular, critics of irregular-warfare transformation often cite the 2006 case as evidence that non-state actors can nevertheless wage conventional warfare in state-like ways. This monograph assesses this claim via a detailed analysis of Hezbollah’s military behavior, coupled with deductive inference from observable Hezbollah behavior in the field to findings for their larger strategic intent for the campaign.