Problems of Asymmetric Threat Assessment 


In the last millennium, competition among the global powers has relied heavily upon the concept of war threat assessment. WITHOUT WARNING compares the intelligence priorities of principal decision makers in such various parts of t he world as the Mongol Empire and Sung China (1206-1221), Great Britain and France (1783-1800), and the U.S. and the Soviet Union (1975-1991). In his analysis, Mikhail Alexseev reveals that while the leading powers see security primarily in military and e conomic terms, their challengers focus primarily on political vulnerabilities. As a result, the world powers have constantly failed to detect or deter aggressive challengers.

Relying on chronicles and government documents‑including the recently d eclassified National Intelligence Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency and the KGB's instructions for global operations‑the study develops an "asymmetry" method for explaining threat assessment priorities of major actors in world politics, drawing on research in the evolution of world politics and applying it to decisions on initiating war or defending against an attack.

The following excerpts discuss the evolutionary logic of asymmetric threat assessment (original footnote numbering is preserved).

From The Conclusion of Mikhail Alexseev’s  WITHOUT WARNING: Threat Assessment, Intelligence, and Global Struggle (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997).


Then suddenly he was struck violently. By nothing! A vast weight, it seemed, leapt upon him, and he was hurle d headlong down the staircase, with the grip at his throat and a knee in his groin. An invisible foot trod on his back, a ghostly patter passed downstairs.1


This attack on Colonel Adye by a maniacal chemist in H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man is emblematic of the global wars described in this book: a challenger, whose threats initially resonate no more than a ghostly patter, unexpectedly strikes at the incumbent world power with full force. Eventually , as in Wells's story, the community mobilizes and defeats the challenger aspiring to rule the world by terror. By the close of the novel, the invisible man's chance to escape, let alone prevail, grows dim. The unseen threat is defeated. For the most part, however, The Invisible Man describes a less c omforting dynamic: an ambitious and zealous experimenter, unable to prove his theory within his scientific discipline, evolves into an aggressive challenger to the scientific community and world order yet remains undetected within the society he hates unt il blood is spilled, havoc is wreaked, and the community recognizes the challenger's invisibility as a clear and present danger.

Asymmetric threat assessment is part and parcel of this pattern, be it in Wells's classic story, or in the three case studies of global leadership competition: threats and opportunities apparent to one side were unnoticed or incomprehensible to the other. The confluence of such asymmetric interpretations of threat in the end produced momentously surprising outcomes. That obscure, "barbaric" tribes from the Mongol steppes would launch successful campaigns against the world's most populous and developed empires was not at all obvious right up to Genghis Khan's invasion of Chin China in 1211. That the rise of revolutionary France in armed revolt against the world's richest and most powerful nations was a prologue to more than two decades of global warfare would easily have been regarded a loser's bet in 1793. That the abandonment of global class warfare as the guiding princ iple of Soviet foreign policy after 1986 meant that the Kremlin de facto called off the Cold War was something the White House still tested as late as 1989. And few expected that the "evil empire" year, 1983, would witness two turning points in threat ass essment that paved the way for the end of the Cold War: the Scowcroft report closing "the window of America's vulnerability" in Washington and Reagan's Star Wars salesmanship inducing Moscow to seek understanding with the West, precisely when Mikhail Gorb achev, the Soviet leader-in-waiting, was on his first visit to an advanced capitalist state - Canada.

Like Wells's invisible man, the challengers in the global leadership competitions analyzed in this book were aware of their inferior strategic capabilities. They too sought to compensate for their vulnerabilities in military and economic power by exploiting the perceived political and organizational weaknesses of their adversary. They too believed that a reign of terror was a superior form of so cial organization. With each challenger -the Mongols, revolutionary France, and the USSR- the lack of institutional checks and balances and the means of free expression and assembly translated was reflected in their emphasis on exploiting political intent ions, interpersonal elite relationships, and ideological rifts. These inputs played a crucial role in the war initiation strategies of Genghis Khan and the leaders of revolutionary France. Genghis Khan correctly identified windows of opportunity when his more numerous and better equipped opponents, the Chin Empire and the Sultanate of Khwarazm, experienced leadership crises, diminishing war resolve, and growing internal dissent, all of which eroded the political authority necessary to assemble forces for decisive battles. From Genghis Khan's standpoint, intelligence suggesting that the new Chin leader was "an imbecile" and that the Khwarazm‑shah and the Caliph of Baghdad were irreconcilably split was central to the decisions to launch aggressive campaigns in China and Central Asia. For the Mongols, carrying out the divine plans expressed in the khan's yasa was more important than comparing military capabilities and estimating the probability of victory. If capability balances were unfavorable, ways to cir cumvent them had to be found. This explains the enormous intelligence efforts the Mongols deployed to sustain their troops along such avenues of approach as deserts and mountains, where the adversary would least expect them. Had Genghis Khan acted as a ra tional power maximizer assessing the number of enemy troops and his adversaries' economic potential, he would have seen no glimmer of hope and the Mongol world empire would have never materialized.

The aggressive French strategy leading to the R evolutionary and Napoleonic Wars was keyed in part by intelligence focused on preserving the revolutionary government of France, its potential for resistance to external and domestic subversions, and its prospects for inspiring revolutions against all the crowned heads of Europe. The impact of British naval power and wealth were discounted. So deeply was the National Convention in the throes of revolutionary idealism that French decision makers believed the British navy could be defeated if French sailors read a standard revolutionary proclamation to British sailors encountered at sea. Moreover, such apparently naive faith was exhibited in Paris when France's ablest seamen were likely to be hanged on lampposts in major French ports- suspected, because of their social origins, of nursing counterrevolutionary intentions. French decision makers who initiated the Great Terror on behalf of the nation considered every French citizen a potential soldier and interpreted the political situation in Britain in the c ontext of the narrow limits of their known world: Britain's third estate, they believed, would storm the Tower of London and erect on the ruins of that "Bastille on the Thames" a French‑style national assembly to displace the monarchy and the administrati on of William Pitt. The deterioration of France's navy and the sorry state of its finances were downplayed, and war on England and Holland was declared. This considerable and deadly negligence of military and economic capabilities was later replicated by Napoleon, leading to disastrous geostrategic moves, such as the continental blockade against Britain and the invasion of Russia.

The Kremlin's preoccupation with hostile imperialist intentions and competing ideologies in the global power arena se t the stage for an unprecedented intelligence alert (Operation RYAN) in 1983 over the possibility of a NATO surprise nuclear attack. The declining health of top Politburo members, along with the loss of socialism's popular appeal amid growing apathy and e conomic and political stagnation, made ailing Brezhnev and his moribund Politburo more reclusive and fearful of the West's ploys to undermine the historic value of Soviet achievements by brandishing capitalism's superior military and economic strength. In the absence of public debate and alternative information sources, Soviet leaders fell prey to conspiracy theories of NATO's preparations for a nuclear missile attack. Yet Moscow's focus on the Soviet Union's own ideological vitality - increasingly deflated in the late 1970s and early 1980s - prepared the ground for the abandonment of global competition with the West just when the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates were most alarmist about Soviet expansionism.

Like the local community upon which Wells's invisible man was trying to force his demented vision, the incumbent world powers missed many signs of challengers' aggressive intentions and failed to take preemptive action. In this sense, the status quo powers were as cautious, and for much the same reasons, as the owners of the Coach and Horses Inn at Iping, who were debating whether to inspect the Invisible Man's room: "The Anglo‑Saxon genius for parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of talk and no decisive action. 'Let's have facts first,' insisted Mr. Sandy Wadgers. 'Let's be sure we'd be acting perfectly right in bustin' that there door open. A door onbust is always open to bustin', but ye can't onbust the door once you've busted en."2

In all the case s tudies, some degree of political pluralism, the separation of civilian and military authority, and especially the rise of representative institutions holding the power of the purse were conducive to evaluating threats and opportunities in the light of ava ilable resources. The threat of the Mongol's drive for universal empire, with all its brutal and uncompromising intensity, was virtually invisible to the Sung Court: decision makers saw the "northern barbarian slaves" as realist, rational actors who would exchange poverty, backwardness, an uncertain way of life, and aggressive conquests for a fraction of the Sung's riches.

In Britain, particularly owing to pressure from Parliament during the economical reforms of the 1780s, the government instit uted a more rigorous monitoring of expenses and the evaluation of policy costs in monetary terms. Consistent with this trend, the potential threat from revolutionary France was assessed by comparing the size of the army and navy, budget revenues, the stat e of manufacturing (especially military procurement), and control over the geographical areas providing access to British‑controlled sea‑lanes. Thus, the 1789 revolution was primarily seen in London as beneficial to Britain's security, because it weakened France's economy and military capabilities. Britain's confidence in its strategic superiority in the face of the French challenge can be directly traced to intelligence that emphasized French naval and military capabilities, economic power, and potential for global commercial operations. British intelligence sources were predominantly located in or around the ports of France and its neighbors. Indicative of this trend, the pay of Britain's secret agents depended primarily on intelligence about French nav y and port facilities.

In the case of the United States, the increase in the estimated level of global war probability in 1980 was explicitly linked in National Intelligence Estimates to a steady increase in the Soviet capabilities for intercont inental attack relative to the United States. Transcending three presidential administrations, U.S. intelligence reporting in 1975‑1979 on the emerging window of vulnerability provided a steady flow of information that set the boundaries for policy debate s on the extent of the Soviet threat. Conflicting information on the weakening economic position of the USSR was addressed by all sides in the debate but downplayed in the face of uncertainty and domestic political pressures that could not be translated i nto reliable quantitative data. Notably, even the most consistent congressional critics of the CIA favored continuation of the NIEs on the Soviet strategic capabilities while arguing that other NIEs could be terminated. As late as 1991, however, when the director of Central Intelligence made a unilateral move to abolish quantitative dollar estimates of Soviet military and economic capabilities, the pressures of the congressional budget process (involving both Pentagon and Capitol Hill players) prompted th e reversal of those decisions. The impact on the Soviet proclivity for war from changes in the Kremlin's ideological outlook, such as limiting the definition of "states with socialist orientation" and, later, Gorbachev's "new thinking," were all but invis ible in the estimates. The potential for change with the advent of post‑Brezhnev leadership was misjudged on the assumption that the decline of Brezhnev's moderating influence was likely to result in a more assertive and aggressive Soviet posture. But Bre zhnev's demise heightened the Kremlin leaders' vulnerability, uncertainty, and search for understanding with the West. The virtual invisibility of such major political intention shifts in U.S. intelligence estimates of Soviet war strategy suggests that ha d the Kremlin really been determined to wage war against the West, the United States would have been unlikely to detect the rising threat.

A trend may be observed across the three case studies that was not apparent when each was examined separate ly: asymmetric competition was unfolding in a world system of increasingly greater complexity that was also undergoing "a prolonged process of explicit organization that had grown as part of the global leadership system."3 The systemic environment at the time of the Mongol challenge was characterized by interactions among powers that possessed mainly challenger‑type characteristics. The only major power that displayed some characteristics of global leadership, the Southern Sung, did not engage in proactiv e leadership and institution-building in Eurasia. Coupled with disastrous alliance policies, this shortcoming facilitated Mongol's conquest of Sung China after 1237. Lacking systemic leadership structures with corresponding institutions, the Mongols attem pted to reach cooperative and peaceful accommodation with their wealthier and more advanced neighbors; these transient attempts were indistinguishable from stratagems, and were easily abandoned in favor of massive military campaigns. Diplomacy was rare, d iplomatic mail exchanges and missions took weeks and frequently months, routes of communication were not secure, and chances for misinterpretation and mixed signals were plentiful. (Translation problems alone were often enough.) Domestic conditions were t oo volatile and violent to allow much room for maneuvering during the wait for tangible results from negotiations. The impulse toward war and quick gain strategies based on direct intentions assessment best addressed these domestic and systemic conditions , prompting Genghis Khan's aggressive expansion of the Mongol Empire.

In the case of the French Revolutionary Wars, the lineage of global leadership was well established and represented by Great Britain's preponderance in seapower and in lead eco nomic sectors. Although military conflicts with France persisted throughout the eighteenth century, so did attempts to arrive at a peaceful settlement by accommodating at least some of the French concerns. Although the 1783 Paris Treaty and the 1786 Comme rce Treaty failed to live up to French expectations, thus contributing to the French Revolutionary Wars, France was in a markedly improved position after its defeat in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Congress of Vienna (1814‑1815) included Fran ce in the Concert of Europe and paved the way for French participation with Britain in the alliance of 1914‑1918. In this respect, the higher degree of democratic and free market development in France in comparison to the other two challengers helped inte grate France into the global leader alliances. In turn, the openness and free market elements in French society were further enhanced in the process, and France today is hardly associated with aggressive challenges to world peace.

In the post‑Wor ld War II period and by the 1970s in particular, the Soviet Union was striving to promote its position in major global institutions, such as the United Nations and the Council for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Of the utmost importance to Soviet elit es, as evidenced by Brezhnev personally taking charge, was participation in the U.S.‑Soviet summit meetings with U.S. presidents. International arms control agreements were also pursued; several test‑ban treaties and the 1968 Nuclear Non‑Proliferation Tre aty were signed. Recently declassified National Security Council documents suggest that the unraveling of the Cold War rivalry was facilitated by U.S. pressure to improve communications with the Soviet leaders and outreach to the Soviet people; the timely increase in the U.S. interest after 1985 in negotiating issues relating to a greater Soviet role in the world economy, including the Soviet Union's application to participate in trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (current ly the World Trade Organization); the Soviet Union joining the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; settlement with the United Kingdom on defaulted czarist bonds and the first‑time participation in a Eurobond syndication; talks between the Euro pean Community and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance; the increase in Soviet international financial market transactions; the Soviet international economic security initiative; and Soviet proposals for joint ventures involving Western corporate m anagement and on‑site participation.4 Competition between the Soviet Union and the United States meant playing much more to global audiences and global institutions than did the competition for leadership in thirteenth‑century Central and East Asia or in the eighteenth-century Eurocentered world system.

Although the increased integration of world powers and their challengers in transnational institutions is a positive trend, human society is yet to develop a threat assessment system that can dete ct and prevent global war in a timely manner. After all, in the past 500 years, global wars have recurred about once every century. Today, half a century after World War II, we may simply be in the midst of one such interwar time span.

This book suggests that the Cold War ended peacefully chiefly because the challenger‑state, the Soviet Union, had lost its ideological determination by the time it had acquired sufficient capabilities for an intercontinental attack on its main adversary, the Unite d States. Substantial changes in the Kremlin's predisposition for aggressive behavior in the 1970s and 1980s could not be perceived through the prism of threat assessment embodied in U.S. intelligence estimates. Therefore, as the twentieth century comes t o a close, intelligence communities have yet to pass the real test of detecting and successfully frustrating an aggressive challenger determined to unleash‑‑and capable of unleashing‑‑a global war. While the prospects of facing such a test appear at best remote in the present context, the possibility of a global war cannot be ruled out entirely. In addition, it is as yet unclear whether the recent security challenges‑‑terrorism, ethnorebellion, major regional conflicts, or "bombs in the basement"‑‑signal a permanent fragmentation of the global war threat or underlie a global dynamic that may aggravate a combustible rivalry among some mix of states, alliances, and transnational nonstate actors in the years to come.

From Chapter 1, The Evolutionary Model:

* * *

" politics is a self-organizing process combining elements of both anarchy and structure, randomness and regularity, change and continuity, insecurit y and confidence, all in varying degrees at different times. The evolution of the world politics implies the continuous emergence of various actors and strategies with different capacities to adapt to the external environment, a process resulting in the r etention of more successful (adaptive) strategies and actors. Among the major global powers, this process of responsive and interactive adaptation takes the form of competition for global leadership, or the proverbial "rise and fall." Although highly rand om initially, tryouts or combinations of strategies are gradually structured into recognizable and enduring patterns, as the less adaptable approaches (usually at the extreme ends of the choice spectrum) are winnowed out over time. Computer simulations ha ve suggested, for example, that middle-range cooperative strategies outcompete both consistent defectors and unconditional cooperators even in one‑shot games of the implications of projecting one's intentions onto prospective partners. Evolutionary sequen ces result in still greater advances for these moderately cooperative strategies.51

The evolutionary process is also assumed to be nonlinear, meaning that the continual selection and reproduction of more adaptable strategies and actors in the wor ld politics does not necessarily culminate in any kind of finite and unalterable state of the system. Multiple feedbacks between the world system and domestic political and economic imperatives (including random phenomena) may periodically result in punct uated equilibria in power balances, domestic regime stability, or war proneness. From this perspective, no theoretical claim can be made that cruel and violent means of resolving international disputes, such as wars, may ever become obsolete (nor would th e world ever likely to lapse into total pandemonium, or a war of all against all). The application of genetic algorithms to Axelrod's evolution of cooperation model has demonstrated, for example, that even stable, benign clusters of tit‑for‑tat strategies break down in the long run (when the number of game iterations is extended to 700 and above) under massive and sudden attacks by "defective genes" challenging the status quo.52

From this perspective, global wars are more than mechanisms to "redr aft the rules by which relations among nations work" and establish "who will govern the international system and whose interests will be primarily served by the new international order."53 They are viewed as the macrodecision points in the process of glob al leadership competition and selection linked longitudinally to the setting of political agendas, coalition‑building, and the emergence of new institutional structures for global system management. In the context of world time, or what Fernand Braudel de scribed as the "superstructure of world history,"54 these processes can be seen as distinct phases in the evolution of world politics. According to George Modelski, these phases make it explicit that problem resolution requires, in the first place, inform ation, and an exploration of alternative courses of action. That is followed by the coalescence of coalitions around prominent leaders, and certain prominent alternatives, some of which are bound to offend vested interests. The coalitions are then likely to square off in sustained conflict but one of them will prevail through a collective choice process. Claimants to global leadership all participate in this process but with special intensity in the phase of macrodecision. They activate and lead the coali tions that via a global trial of strength (in past cases, a global war) validate the set of policies that will be carried to fruition...55

Strategies in global leadership competition, including global wars, are conditioned by this evolutionary pr ocess, which drives the selection of global leaders and the "deselection" of challengers. Studies in long cycles of world politics have identified three major conditions that in combination have ensured a nation's rise to global leadership in the past 500 years: a superior politico-military organization for global reach (naval, airspace, and information power); an open democratic polity anchored in a system of popular representation, institutional checks and balances, and the rule of law;56 and a lead eco nomy sufficiently large to support global operations yet deriving growth and vitality from innovation rather than extension.57

This global selection process also results in the rise of challengers seeking to modify existing configurations of powe r in world politics in their favor; however, no longer accepting the rules of the game set by the incumbent world power and its coalition, challengers strive to develop alternative forms of military, political, and economic organization. Historically, cha llengers have emphasized rapid regional concentrations of military force (usually large land armies); highly centralized and less open political systems; and economies favoring direct and centralized government intervention.58

Since about 1500, four powers have risen to the position of global leadership according to these criteria: Portugal in the sixteenth century, the Netherlands in the eighteenth, England (Great Britain) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the United States in the twentieth century. And states that clashed with the incumbents in wars contesting global leadership‑‑Spain and France (both twice), Germany, and the Soviet Union‑‑clearly fit the challenger profile. Before 1500, initial conditions of global leadership we re observed in Sung China and Venice, with the Mongols (from Genghis Khan to Kubilai Khan) exhibiting the traits of global challengers.


"Over the centuries, differentiation amon g global powers, particularly among leaders and challengers, has necessitated the differentiation of strategic priorities and, hence, priorities in intelligence collection and analysis. Leaders and governments are never supplied with complete information about the world by their intelligence services. Rather, intelligence efforts are directed where their high‑placed consumers request, thus perpetuating established patterns. In this manner, asymmetric differentiation in strategic priorities between incumbe nt world powers and challengers is further reinforced by the "limits of the known world" or by decision paths resulting from policymakers' adapting their domestic requirements to global conditions. Metaphorically speaking, incumbent world powers (global l eaders) and their challengers use parallel and separate information highways to reach strategic decisions.

The examples of national variations in the meaning of intelligence59 mentioned earlier suggest that a systematic distinction is possible be tween intelligence assessments about facts and purpose, or capabilities and intentions, in the language of intelligence experts. In fact, the assessment of capabilities and the intentions of other actors in world politics has been the main traditional con cern of intelligence institutions.60 In intelligence studies, threat assessment has traditionally comprised both capabilities and intentions linked to a broad range of factors. In analyzing how the intelligence product reaches decision makers, Sherman Ken t has emphasized personalities, geography, military capabilities, the economy, political alignments, social attributes, moral "doctrines of life," and scientific‑technological development (including the social sciences). In broader terms, he distinguishes between nonmilitary instrumentalities and war potential constituting the overall strategic stature of a given actor.61 Thus, asymmetries in the assessment of intelligence among governments will be based on diverse weights assigned to intentions and capab ilities, as well as on different methods of interpreting intentions.

Studies in intelligence suggest that incumbent world powers structure intelligence collection and analysis, emphasizing precise and quantifiable information on the global reach capabilities of all major powers, the centrality of analysis, verifiable open source collection, the higher salience of global issues, and access by public representatives to intelligence data. These elements comprise what is known as the American view of intelligence.62 Sherman Kent, one of the pioneers and major proponents of the American view, also argued that capabilities are the minimum and the critical predictor in assessing strategic threats, particularly in wartime.63

At the same time, in telligence studies indicate strongly that totalitarian, expansionist challengers are more likely to give priority in their intelligence process to direct assessment of the political intentions of adversaries, to the ability of opponents' alliances to ensu re regional concentrations of military force, and to strong personal leadership, coercion, mobilization, war tolerance, and morale. Within the challenger paradigm, intelligence collection and analysis is more concerned with strategic deception and surpris e, whereas autocratic governments usually impose blanket restrictions on public access to intelligence data. The challenger mode of information collection and analysis, therefore, conforms to what is known as the traditional view of intelligence.64

< P> Intelligence studies and the evolutionary theory of long cycles in world politics each in their own right make no explicit and systematic connection either between global leadership characteristics and the American view of intelligence, or between chal lenger characteristics and the traditional view. This connection, however, is logically very plausible and is tentatively supported by a substantial body of literature.

To restate the hypothesis in terms of international relations theory, the con ditions of global leadership are likely to engender strategies based on the systematic analysis of globally available tangible military and economic capabilities. Estimates of material capabilities typically center on the size and technical characteristic s of navies, airpower, nuclear missiles, land armies, cavalry (for various historical periods); population size; economic indicators, such as steel output; natural resources; and similar data. Conditions exhibited by challengers are more likely to favor s trategies derived from the direct assessment of political intentions and motivations, particularly intentions affecting regional concentrations of land power. These asymmetric priorities for strategy should translate into distinct national institutional p atterns of intelligence collection and analysis. With respect to strategic intelligence, in policymaking jargon incumbent world powers may then be called "bean counters," and their challengers, "palm readers." In this way, the evolutionary dynamics of wor ld politics, including global leadership competition and global wars, account for the phenomenon of asymmetric threat assessment among major actors. Intelligence assessment asymmetries between leaders and challengers in turn should help explain the presen ce or absence of global war between the contenders for world leadership.

It can be argued that both leaders and challengers will pay attention to intentions, and they do, but the divergent emphases are critical. By analogy with the American view of intelligence, global leaders are more likely to extrapolate political intentions of challengers from estimated material capabilities. I shall term this method as capability‑based intention assessment. Intention is measured by calculating which threats are feasible, given the estimated capabilities. From this perspective, an army concentrated on a border would signal an intention to initiate war and would trigger countermeasures. For example, the U. S. government received signals of Japan's hostile inte ntions regarding Pearl Harbor, especially through intercepted diplomatic cables, but failed to react because the Japanese strike force was not detected.65

Challengers, on the other hand, are more likely to accentuate direct intention assessment. Here the stress is on the independent impact of political intentions on capability deployment and use. When conducting direct intention assessments, an intelligence consumer focuses on how political plans, designs, and intentions may animate the adversary 's capabilities. In a sense, estimates of the adversary's usable capabilities are extrapolated from political intentions that are assessed independently. From the perspective of direct intention assessment, a concentration of troops on the border signals war only if there is direct, additional evidence of hostile intention. Recently declassified Soviet intelligence files of the prewar period show that reports on German troop concentration near Soviet borders in 1941 presented overwhelming evidence of Hitl er's aggressive plans.66 Stalin, however, failed to counteract the threat, believing that Hitler had no political intention to attack‑‑a belief that was only strengthened by Britain's disclosure of Plan Barbarossa to Moscow in 1941. Stalin could not imput e aggressive political intentions to Hitler even when faced with "Ultra" intelligence from decrypted German communications supplied by Winston Churchill‑‑his belief in a British global conspiracy against Russia was too strong.67 Thus, the distinction betw een intentions extrapolated from capabilities and direct intentions matters critically in decisions affecting the course of history."


1. H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), 115.

2. Ibid., 26.

3. George Modelski and William R. Thompson, Leading Sectors and World Powers: The Coevolution of Global Politics and Economics (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 216.

4. "Meeting with Soviet Leader in Geneva: Them es and Perceptions," National Security Decision Directive, 194, Washington, D.C., October 25, 1985, 2; "Soviet Initiatives in International Economic Affairs," National Security Study Directive, 2‑86, Washington, D.C., September, 16, 1986, 1-2.

51. Tomonori Morikawa, John M. Orbell, and Audun S. Runde, "The Advantage of being Modestly Cooperative," American Political Science Review 89 (September 1995), 601-11.

52. Ken Oster kamp, "Evolutionary Game Theory with Genetic Algorithms: Stability and Structural Change in Complex Political Systems" (paper presented at the Evolutionary Paradigms in Social Sciences Workshop, Seattle Battelle Research Center, May 26, 1995).

53 . For the first quote see Organski and Kugler, The War Ledger, 23; the second quote is in Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 209.

54. Fernand Braudel, The Perspective of the World (London : Collins, 1982), 17‑18.

55. George Modelski, "The Evolution of Global Politics," in Journal of World‑Systems Research 1 (1995), 8. In George Modelski, "Is World Politics Evolutionary Learning?" in International Organization 44 (Winter 1990), 1‑2 4, this sequence of processes is defined as the four‑stage ACME learning cycle consisting of agenda‑setting (global problems), coalition‑building (core alliance formation), macrodecision making (global war), and execution (rise of the world power and chal lenger). For a book‑length treatment of these issues see George Modelski, Long Cycles in World Politics (London: MacMillan, 1987). For a structural realist approach to the leadership succession in world politics see Gilpin, War and Change. A less flatteri ng view of global leadership is provided in Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984). The latter two studies, however, emphasize the phenomenon of the leading powers or hegemons in world politics.

56. See Modelski, "Democratization."

57. For the latest data on the first two conditions for global leadership see Modelski and Thompson, Leading Sectors.

58. Modelski, "Evolution of Global Politics," 21‑22.

59. See note 4 7 to this chapter.

60. On the difference in national patterns of strategic intelligence and its institutions, see Abram N. Shulsky, Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1993), especially 177 ‑197. Also see Adda B. Bozeman, Strategic Intelligence and Statecraft (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1992).

61. Sherman Kent, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), 30-65.

62. Shuls ky, Silent Warfare, 177‑88.

63. Kent, Strategic Intelligence, 62‑63. In this work, considered a classic in intelligence studies in the United States, Kent suggests that when the context of estimating probable causes of action is war, the nonmilit ary elements of grand strategy are converted into "quasi‑military instruments." Therefore, he explained, "our side will be calculating the courses of action open to the enemy in terms of our estimate of his capabilities."

64. Shulsky, Silent Warf are, 177‑188.

65. David Kahn, The Codebreakers (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1973), 1‑67.

66. Federal'naia sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossii [Federal Security Service of Russia], Sluzhba vneshnei razvedki Rossii [Foreign Intelligence Servic e of Russia], Mosckovskoe gorodskoe ob'edinenie arkhivov [City of Moscow Archives Administration], Sekrety Gitlera na stole u Stalina: Razvedka i kontrrazvedka o podgotovke Germanskoy agressii protiv SSSR, mart‑iyun', 1941‑‑Dokumenty iz tsentral'nogo arhi va FSB Rossii [Hitler's secrets on Stalin's desk: Intelligence and counterintelligence on German preparations for aggression against the USSR, March‑June 1941‑‑documents from the Central Archive of the FSB of Russia] (Moscow: Mosgorarkhiv, 1995), pp. 3‑17 .

67. Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, Inside the KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (New York: Harper Perennial, 1991), 259‑69.


Whereas a certain degree of threat assessment asymmetry is to be expected in all conflict situations, the dangerous features of the asymmetry are expected to be reduced significantly under three major conditions:(1) improved communications, and better mutual knowledge;(2) increased awaren ess of common interests; and (3) better global organization. All three have undergone significant changes from the Mongol Empire to the present.

Lack of communications, —especially among the Sun, the Chin and Khwarazm--was instrumental to the Mongols' success; the second, lack of awareness of common interests was strenghtened by Revolutionary France's placing itself outside the community of states whose heart was Britain; and (3) the third became particularly significant in the Soviet case as the growing web of world organizations made it possible to cushion the fall of the Soviet Union. The cumulative action of all three conditions makes it possible to envisage a diminution of this danger in the case of the next challenger, such as China might become.