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Canadian Military Journal

Intelligence Models in Practice: The Case of the Cuban Missile Crisis

William Wilson
William Wilson is a Ph.D. candidate in political Science at the University of Ottawa. His areas of focus are political theory and Canadian politics.
Abstract :

The overall complexity of the intelligence profession poses serious conceptual challenges for practitioners and scholars alike. For one, the exact nature of the relationship between policymakers, analysts, and collectors can be difficult to articulate. Moreover, the highly interactive order of decisions, actions, and events cannot be easily captured in ‘linear’ descriptions. At any given time, decisions, actions, and events can take place simultaneously, or even in reverse logical order. Finally, the secretive nature of intelligence work presents the greatest challenge of all: sometimes it is just not known or ‘knowable’ as to what has actually occurred.

In light of these challenges, a number of intelligence models have been created to help grasp this complexity. None of the models claims to completely or faithfully represent the intelligence profession, acknowledging the inherent difficulty of mapping a highly fluid and oftentimes ambiguous work process, but they all claim a degree of authenticity and promise certain advantages to those who employ them. These advantages often relate to greater insight into (and presumably, control over) the intelligence process itself. Among the different models on offer, three prominent ones include the cyclical model, the target-centric model, and the multi-layered model, as presented in the first section of this article. Each model is based upon a slightly different understanding of the intelligence process, and each carries different strengths and weaknesses as a result.

The remainder of this article aims to test the usefulness of these three models by evaluating them against the Cuban Missile Crisis. This crisis demonstrates many of the conceptual challenges confronting intelligence practitioners and scholars, making it an ideal test case. Bearing this in mind, the second section outlines the unique characteristics of each model, while, the third section provides a brief and general history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In turn, the fourth section situates the three intelligence models within this history to critically evaluate their respective merits. The final section serves as a short conclusion, restating the article’s main findings, and returning to the overall complexity of the intelligence profession. In the end, the best model is the one that acknowledges this complexity and seeks to incorporate it.

Keywords :
Intelligence Models in Practice: The Case of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:52

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:52

Official URL:

Volume 15, Number 1, - 2015

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