The Lost Art of Intelligence

In short, Beijing demonstrated its technological capabilities and prowess to the entire world by using only a small fraction of its power to do so, all while sneaking in a major intelligence and spying operation at the same time, which means Beijing hit two birds with one stone, while Washington now has to dig through the ocean in order to make sense of what all of this was. 

This perhaps takes us to the issue of intelligence and spying and what role these two functions and operations play in a “global hybrid war” which is quite different than the major conventional wars which the Western world had to endure in the 20thcentury. In a sense, intelligence gathering and spying amount to just one attribute or characteristic, namely, subtlety. As Sun Tzu wrote: “Be subtle! Be subtle! And use your spies for every kind of business.” 

Hence, in a world of “panoptic malveillance” which we have described in earlier posts, intelligence-gathering and spying is something which everyone engages in one way or another, regardless of whether they are civilians or government officials. It can happen in women’s salons, shopping malls, or in any other kind of setting for that matter. 

But on the highest level of intelligence gathering and spying – namely, the international level – such functions and operations revolve around something quite counterintuitive, namely, the conversion of foreign spies and enemies into one’s own assets and allies. As Sun Tzu wrote: “The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality.” 

Arguably, intelligence gathering and spying play a more significant role in dealing with adversaries and enemies than military and political operations. The former is a necessary role, whereas the latter is a contingent role when it comes to dealing with adversaries and enemies. As Sun Tzu wrote: “Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in war, because on them depends an army’s ability to move.” 

In short, foresight, intuition, subtlety, and sagacity can make or break the fortunes of governments and militaries, and such attributes and qualities are supposed to be found in the intelligence officials and spies of a nation. Without such attributes and characteristics, governments and militaries come to a standstill, and their fortunes take a severe downturn. In turn, there is an imbalance within our own society here in America which needs correction, namely, the imbalance which leans in favor of widescale militarization rather than the art and subtlety of intelligence which makes or breaks the fortunes of a nation. As Sun Tzu wisely wrote:

“Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy’s condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.” 

And as we have demonstrated, the issue of whether we have become an inhumane society is perhaps contingent and secondary to the issue of the loss of special and unique attributes and characteristics which can determine our collective fortunes and outcomes.

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