Robert and Dayna Baer, two former CIA agents who married each other, appeared on Fresh Air on March 7, 2011. They discussed life in the CIA, what it’s like to fall in love with another agent, but more interestingly, the current crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Baer’s conclusions that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have commandeered precious intelligence resources away from other countries in the Muslim world was striking. Then he said that despite the lack of intelligence in the region, even good intelligence would have struggled to predict the current uprisings. He stated:
Mr. BAER: You can’t collect intelligence on ephemera, of a Tunisian vendor lighting himself on fire and sparking a revolt. We were vaguely aware and have been aware for a long time that if food prices continue to go up, demographic problems and the rest of it, it’s eventually going to crack. But, you know, the way it did crack and how quickly, you just – it’s a matter of intuition and you cannot write up intuition and send it to the White House in intelligence reports. It just doesn’t wash.
I love his statement about writing up intuition and selling it as intelligence. It really helps to differentiate between true knowledge, which has been gathered systematically, analyzed and reviewed, and intuition, which is an educated guess to explain a given situation. What passes for news or intelligence these days is simply intuition. How much will true intelligence be valued in the world of the future?