peace-intelligenceHere’s an amazing fact: None of the world’s vaunted intelligence organizations boast a single “Peace Intelligence” division. Defense and offense are two major strategic aspects of each country’s governance, and national intelligence organizations expand enormous resources to produce and disseminate intelligence aimed at improving each country’s defensive and offensive postures.

Our political masters keep telling us that making and maintaining peace is one of their top strategic goals. Why then do we invest nothing at all at collecting, studying, assessing and exploiting peace-related intelligence?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Theoretically, politicians, decision makers, and other consumers of intelligence reports should strive to get the broadest possible analysis and recommendations. Incorporating high-quality, peace-related intelligence into the daily briefing portfolio of any governing and executing body will achieve just that.

Yet we are told that political and operational decision makers encourage the intelligence producers to come up with impoverished binary (Go/No Go) operational products. In the new Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers, six former heads of Israel’s internal intelligence services say exactly that (and much more).

I am not talking about intelligence organizations’ obsession with studying real or imagined peace movements because they view such movements as potentially subversive, destabilizing, or lawless. What I am suggesting is exactly the opposite – the creation of dedicated “peace intelligence” departments that will try to determine to what extent peace action in “target” countries constitutes an opportunity, not a threat.

Here is a proposal for a “Peace Intelligence” division that will improve the work of any intelligence organization. It would consist of several sections.

The Peace Intelligence Collection Section: Here, peace intelligence analysts, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and data collection specialists will compile and maintain a “Peace File” for each country in conflict with their own. In this file, they will keep all peace-related data about a country, such as updated information about peace advocates and peace-related media, including information about specific peace-oriented individuals, groups, organizations. Analysis of peace trends, government attitudes, human rights, and other NGO organizations should also follow.

The intelligence in this file will become an integral part of the regular intelligence briefings that decision makers at all levels of government receive.

And of course, if at some point in time the collected intelligence points to a “peace opportunity” on the horizon, decision makers should be appraised of that opportunity and advised how it can be leveraged. That way, they can respond at a moment’s notice and reciprocate overtures appropriately. They can know the makeup and positions of their counterparts’ peace camp, what they think, what they are likely to respond to, and what will turn them off. They’ll know what needs to be done to achieve peace.

The Cultural Section: This section will employ country-specific and culture-specific dispute resolution experts. They will devise customized dispute resolution tools to mitigate some of the cross-cultural hurdles so many dispute resolution ventures face. They will educate emissaries on how to best negotiate and communicate with culturally different counterparts, and they will educate military and paramilitary operatives on the finer points of negotiating their way out of a variety of complex situations in a culturally challenging environment.

The Peace Operations Section: Operatives in this section will scout enemy strongholds, identify, recruit, and remotely cultivate peace-oriented individuals and groups (sometimes with their knowledge and sometimes without their knowledge). These “peace agents” will work on behalf of a peaceful agenda, advocating internally, monitoring at high resolution, and assisting in complex operations designed to orient their adversary in a more peaceful direction.

Finally, the Peace Information Section will generate country-specific and group-specific plans to promote and instill peaceable ideas within the enemy’s power centers (media, academia, government, religious institutions, etc.). These will be classic psychological operations, with the main exception that their aim will be not to confuse and disorient the enemy, but rather to introduce a peace-making ingredient into their daily narrative.

Israel’s inability to respond in any way to the Saudi peace initiative (presented twice, in 2002 and 2007) and the Bush administration’s failure to respond to Iranian diplomatic overtures in 2003 are but two examples of missed peace opportunities that may be partly attributed to lack of proper peace intelligence readiness. There are plenty more examples of this sort.

A peace intelligence division within every intelligence organization will add an additional angle of consideration, and a few new and different answers to policy questions. What is there to lose?

Doron Pely is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, a PhD candidate at Kings College London, and the executive director of the Sulha Research Center in Shefar’am Israel. His research focuses on Muslim dispute resolution.