Why do Governments Rely on Intelligence?

Perhaps the most fundamental priority for any nation is the maintenance of security, whether one is considering a nation’s domestic security, economic security, border security, etc. In an effort to maintain that security, and for other reasons, every nation to some extent maintains a system of intelligence, which is to say that they collect information about the strategic operations of other countries, defense information, economic data, and the like in an effort to keep ahead of rival nations, as well as to provide a certain degree of protection for their own nation and its people.

In this paper, the researcher will explore in greater depth the reasons why governments rely on intelligence as well as some of the areas where government intelligence is directed. Upon conclusion of this paper, the reader will have gained a much better understanding of the topic. Traditional Scope of Intelligence

In the traditional scope of intelligence, perhaps a scope that is a bit naive in its design, intelligence within the governmental arena consists of the gathering of vital information that key decision makers within the government need to form policy, and to facilitate the implementation of successful policy based on valid information (Bar-Joseph). This classic view, of course, does not account for the presence of politics in the equation. When politics are introduced into the intelligence process, this classic view begins to change drastically.

The origins of intelligence gathering, of course, date back to Biblical times, when tribes sent representatives to assimilate with other tribes in an effort to learn more about what were essentially their neighbors, or in some cases, their rivals. Even in those early days of intelligence, however, politics played a role as tribal rulers sought to use intelligence not only to form policy for their people, but also in an effort to advance their own agendas, gather wealth, and the like.

Once politics entered into intelligence, it changed from an objective, to a defensive practice. On the Defensive As was previously stated, once self interest and politics worked their way into the intelligence process, it became a defense mechanism for nations that sought to protect themselves from the aggression and subversion of other nations. This aggression only increased as times changed and the world political scene became more complex (Snider).

For example, as transportation methods and communications developed with the passage of time, the need for solid intelligence became more and more important, and as such, governments became more reliant upon it. This reliance on intelligence gave birth to what we today would call a spy- someone whose job it is to gather information about one nation in order to furnish the information to another nation for their benefit.

The time in history when defensive intelligence gathering really experienced a sort of golden age was during the period immediately following World War II, the late 1940s, which is commonly referred to in modern history as the Cold War period. During the Cold War, many nations were afraid of the growing threat that the Soviet Union posed to the security of their own nations, and therefore, these nations sought to gather as much intelligence about the goings on within the highly secretive Soviet Union as possible.

Recently de-classified documents have revealed that one of the most productive defensive intelligence operations of the Cold War was in fact a joint effort of the United States and Great Britain, two allies who helped each other through the trials and tribulations of World War II (Contemporary Review). In this collaborative effort, a vast network of spies from both of these nations were able to infiltrate the inner circles of the Soviet Union and gather information which was shared between the U. S. and U. K.

This intelligence ultimately helped both nations to be protected from the threat of communism, and ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. As times changed and the world political climate became more advanced, and of course dangerous, intelligence continued to be in high demand. With the advent of advanced weapons with the capacity to literally destroy the world, intelligence emerged as a key element in the proliferation of these global weapons. Weapons proliferation within the scope of intelligence gathering, therefore, deserves additional analysis and discussion.