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6.1. Key intelligence topics for the study of geoeconomics

At the end of the day intelligence is not about methods, but about guesses and facts. We are not so much concerned with natural-science facts here, which are less controversial and easier to look up, but with those relating to social life and social behaviour. It is possible to teach geoeconomics from a purely methodological and technical perspective, but there are good reasons not to stop there. For one thing methods without examples become abstract and boring. More important, the content of wisdom needs to be passed on to future generations.

Any intelligent, competitive organization, whether private-sector or public, civil or military, can be judged and measured in terms of two questions: (i)what is your strategy? and (ii) what are your best pieces of intelligence? Every effective organization has at least one clearly defined strategy. Intelligence cannot be evaluated if there is no strategy, since what is valuable information for one party or organization may be trivial for another. A quick look at the best pieces of intelligence, or intelligence units (IU), should tell us how far the organization is able to predict future events. The strategy (or most often strategies in the plural) defines what information is need-to-know and what is nice-to-know. Every IU is evaluated according to how well it helps decision-makers to make good decisions, whether these are chief executives of companies, military commanders, or heads of State. A group of IUs within one field form a key intelligence topic (Herring 1999). An organization's choice of key intelligence topics shows how well it understands its environment, and thus whether it is likely to make good decisions.

What are the factors transforming the world in which we are living? What are the issues we need to be informed about in order to stay on top of things, to compete in the global marketplace? A short book like this, indeed any single book, cannot give complete answers to these questions. Different organizations will each have their own sets of IUs. What we can do, though, is introduce some of the important issues.

The maxims presented in this last chapter are divided into IUs by Dimensions and Issues (section 6.2) and IUs by Countries and Regions (section 6.3). In the former, issues are classified into three dimensions : economic, political, and social. The number of issues attributable to each dimension is, as readers will understand, practically innumerable, so that it would make little sense to even attempt a complete listing here. Instead we have tried to set out some of the more important issues or key intelligence topics for our own time which affect the competitive position of all organizations. Some IUs will soon be out of date, others will be valid for centuries; that is just the nature of IUs.

The classification of issues under each dimension may be debated. For instance, should religion not be a dimension in its own right? Should the mass media be placed under the political, economic, or social dimension? Also, most issues have an influence on all three dimensions. This is a question relevant for classifying intelligence, which is a topic studied with the help of data systems (data mining). In an intelligence organization or function, it is important that there is an efficient way to divide, retrieve, and analyse the intelligence.

Few will agree with all of the statements presented in this chapter. We do not aim to achieve general agreement. Some will find certain statements exaggerated, others will find them inflammatory, others again will doubt their value. And one should bear in mind that they represent perspectives viewed from one particular location.

Some words about the format of the closing part of this book. There are three aspects to format in report writing, which we could call text form, chapter form, and report form. Text form refers to the content on individual pages, and specifies how one presents single ideas, for instance in paragraphs as in discursive prose, or in sequence of propositions as in much of the geopolitical tradition. Chapter form refers to the way we organize each part of a report and specifies how we should group the different ideas. Report form is about how we present each part in relation to other parts. So, in most academic reports we proceed in sequence through problem formulation, methodology, analysis, and conclusion.

The geopolitical tradition builds on its own format of sequences of separate propositions. These are normally two to eight lines long, sometimes followed by a list of examples, sometimes accompanied by a literature citation. The example lists themselves will be anything from one to eight lines, and all intended to facilitate our immediate grasp of the phenomenon presented. The reason for choosing this particular format is not one of aesthetics so much as ease of use. When we read something in a book we easily forget the place we found it.

To distinguish our propositional format from the somewhat similar format of verses in poetry or literary maxims, we call our propositions essentialisms; we refer to essentialist format or the art of essentialism. Enjoy your reading.

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