By Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D.
The author of this article asserts that critics of the intelligence community concerning both of the major recent US intelligence failures--Iraq WMD and 9/11--ought to come to the realization that threats of varying levels of uncertainty are typically inaccurately assessed. Only successive, repeated assessments of updated data can narrow the gap between perceptions and reality. Since data users and intelligence analysts tend to initially process information subjectively (against their own rational beliefs, judgments, opinions), and modify their rationality as new information or intelligence comes in.
Blair argues that decision making was the result of intelligence analysis that basically followed the laws of reason. He contends that, "applying a rule of logic known as Bayes' law to these cases (9/11 WMD) shows that the intelligence process produced conclusions that were not only plausible but reasonable."
Blair utilized the following formula in his study:
While all of the probabilities come from the minds of people and are inherently subjective, the analysis itself depends on the product of successive analyses of real (objective) data, the probabilities of which are likely to converge with reality, so long as the individuals involved are thinking logically/rationally. Lower rates of error are likely to accelerate this convergent process.
Here are two scenarios, applied to Baye's formula:
The author then provides possible scenarios , based on Bayesian calculations and iterations, that determine the point at which the relationship of warnings converge with the reality of the event.
Thus, concerning situations that involve preemption or preventive war, the author suggests that neither inductive reasoning nor even Bayesian analysis can truly clarify the validity of warnings, intelligence interpretations, or new information in certain situations--"two observers with different preexisting beliefs will often believe that the same bit of behavior confirms their beliefs - hawks seeing aggresive behavior and doves seeing evidence of conciliatory behavior".