Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Role of Foreign Service Officers as Human Intelligence (HUMINT)

Of all the methods in intelligence, I have been interested in the HUMINT method, known also as espionage or spying involving clandestine activities and considered as the oldest method for collecting information about foreign power. It was discussed in the class that compares to TECHINT which has limited capabilities in accessing the target, HUMINT can offer deep infiltration access to the target, although it has also weaknesses, it can simply be misleading and unreliable. For that reasons, many literature say that before the technological revolution of the twentieth century, HUMINT serves as the primary source of intelligence for government and I think for most nations, it remains as the basis of their intelligence collection activities.

The Intelligence Threat Handbook (1996) discussed that most HUMINT collection is performed by overt or open collectors such as diplomatic personnel, military attaches, members of official delegations. Diplomatic reporting, according to Lowenthal (2006), is a type of HUMINT even though it is considered as not have enough credibility because its overt nature. This is the case when the host country government official knows that when he speaks to a diplomat, his remarks are going to be informed to that diplomat’s capital, resulting non credible information. That makes some people prefer more traditional HUMINT (clandestine) even when the source’s reliability remains uncertain, more willingly than the diplomatic reporting (Lowenthal, 2006).

Apart from of their limitation, in my opinion, diplomats and other foreign service officers as a HUMINT cover and complement the traditional HUMINT activities.  For instance, as an official cover or “spy”, diplomat tend to have more access to maintain contact with the superior and would produce fast warning, he or she also has the access to the host country’s high ranking officials in order to get classified information through networking, utilizing embassy facilities and the most important thing that HUMINT diplomat can contribute to policy making in foreign affairs.

In addition to giving warning, according to Hilsman (1952), intelligence must also supply the information, analyzed and arranged in a pattern on which policy can be based. In this part, diplomats have advantage compare to traditional HUMINT, their gathered information are already policy compatible to my opinion, although there are some arguments that intelligence discussed by Hilsman (1952) should not be defined as evaluated information, because it is no longer objective since the intelligence were already two steps  up from the policy makers.

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Iran’s Nuclear Strategic Decision Making, Is It Predictable?

Stable democracy countries which have long track record of nuclear possessions such as U.K., France and U.S usually are reliably predictable when it is relates to nuclear strategic decision making, on the contrary, countries without stable democracy such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, or Pakistan are more difficult to predict reliably on their act in the future (Walton and Gray, 2002). However, Iran makes a different, according to Chubin and Litwak (2003), public opinion in Iran supports an active international role for the country that allows it to be taken seriously and does not undermine its neighboring states’ reasonable search for security. In other words, Iran’s dynamic domestic politics present a possibility for influencing the country’s decision making about its nuclear strategic program.

Does it make Iran’s nuclear strategic decision making in the future predictable? As we know, Iran continues to insist on the peaceful character of its nuclear program which is developing nuclear energy program. However, along with achieving progress in enriching uranium, Iran has developed long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel as well as parts of eastern and southeastern Europe. These developments have increased the international concern over its nuclear program.

The concern about Iran’s right to nuclear technology program has often considered as a strategic way for its right to nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, according to Chubin and Liwak (2003) some observers have sympathized with Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Supposedly because today’s Iran is located around the nuclearized neighbor countries – Israel and Pakistan – and U.S military power extended to Iraq and Afghanistan, causes a threat to Iran’s security.

In my opinion, Iran’s nuclear program has to be objectively study, especially its determination to pursue ambitious nuclear program for energy or power generation. The energy justification is frequently cited as Iran’s response to population growth and increased domestic energy consumption.  If so, to facilitate the energy rationale for the program, U.S or other international community concerned by the program should consider the technology alternatives in providing, selling or financing to nuclear energy for Iran.

Iran’s nuclear programs above mentioned, have two rationales, its security and energy purposes. With those rationales, certainly we can predict Iran’s nuclear strategic decision making and take measures for each rationales.


Chubin, S and Litwak, R,S. (2003), Debating Iran’s nuclear aspirations, The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Washington Quarterly • 26:4 pp. 99–114. Retrieved on 22 May 2010, from http://…/iran%20nuclear/Debating%20Iran’s%20Nuclear%20Aspirations.pdf

Walton, C.D and Gray C.S. (2002), The second nuclear age: nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century, in Strategy in the contemporary world: an introduction to strategic studies, ed. John Baylis, Eliot A.Cohen, James J. Wirtz. Oxford University Press, USA. 

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The Rise and Fall of U.S Coercive Diplomacy

Two major exercises of coercive diplomacy, deterrence and compellence were discussed in the class. These was said to be the regular tools of U.S foreign policy. Schelling (1966), as cited by Sperandei (2006) distinguished compellence as a threat intended to make an adversary do something (action) and deterrence as a threat intended to keep an adversary from starting something (inaction). Both of compellence and deterrence use threats, not to harm the adversary physically, but to affect his motivation.

We can see the U.S practice of deterrence and compellence in the history of international relations, Freedman (2004), as cited by Sperandei (2006), observed that U.S during Cold War conveyed two warnings to the Soviet Union: one aimed at stopping Soviet missile installation in Cuba (compellent) and the other aimed at stopping any additional missiles from passing through the U.S line of defense. Nevertheless there exists also confusion in the U.S practice of deterrence and compellence according to Byman and Waxman (2000) as cited by Sperandei (2006) in the US-Iraq confrontation during the first Persian Gulf Crisis, U.S threats that can be classified as deterrence and reactive compellence, such as “don’t invade Kuwait” or “withdraw from Kuwait”, overlapped considerably in practice.

Hence, can we measure the success of U.S coercive diplomacy with its deterrence and compellence policies? or it is falling down as U.S engaging more preemptive and preventive military action? Such as in Iraq and Afghanistan? Certainly the issuance of threats can never be a total strategy by itself. According to Freedman (2003), the conduct of strategic coercion may well reflect a preference for threatening rather than applying force, but should force be necessary, even for exemplary purposes, it might still have to be deployed in substantial amounts.

Generally, according to Sperandei (2006), deterrence considered successful when no force is used and a course of action is stopped before its pursuit is attempted. Compellence, instead, succeeds when a compellent threat is made and the attacker stops using his force. In the context of U.S, it was failed to succeeding both strategies in the First Gulf Crisis. Does it make the U.S coercive diplomacy failing? Not necessarily, as concluded by Sperandei (2006, 258), “coercive policies of deterrence as well as of compellence rely on the threat of future military force to influence adversarial decision makers and that the limited use of force may be required for compellence to work”.


Freedman, L, (2003), Strategic Coercion, in Strategic coercion: concepts and cases, edited by Lawrence Freedman, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sperandei, M, (2006), Bridging deterrence and compellence: an alternative approach to the study of coercive diplomacy, International Studies Review 8, 253-280. Retrieved on April, 23, 2010 from

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