On 28 November Peter de Werd will defend his PhD thesis Critical Intelligence: Analysis by Contrasting Narratives. Identifying and analyzing the most relevant truths.
The PhD thesis addresses three issues: the nature, status and sense of articulating a ‘critical intelligence studies’ project, an introduction to a critical methodology termed analysis by contrasting narrative (ACN) that is relevant for the practice of intelligence analysis, and research findings of three case studies on Al Qaeda in the 1990s. These case studies demonstrate how ACN reveals interdiscursive dynamics between the US institutional terrorism narrative and the Al Qaeda narrative. The first two topics relate dialectically to each other as the former situates the latter, and the latter further substantiates the former.
problematization of the essence and workings of 'intelligence'
Over the last three decades uncertainty and the complexity of the intelligence process have increased. Several intelligence scholars called for reform or a ‘radical revolution’ in intelligence, but refrained from explicitly articulating the theoretical roots of new thinking in philosophical terms. Therein lies an opportunity to clarify and advance debates in intelligence studies. In this thesis a specific way of using the term ‘critical’ is promoted: a self-reflexive attitude that problematizes the essence and workings of ‘intelligence’ within a socio-political context.
include ideational context
ACN integrates theoretical components of sociological securitization and critical discourse analysis to enable identifying different narratives in distinct social orders, and analyzing them in terms of securitization efforts. The critical nature of the approach is partly reflected in that the strategic narrative of the intelligence consumer, which situates the intelligence practice, is integrated in the analysis. This requires ex durante cooperation between intelligence analysts, working level policymakers, and possibly trusted outside experts. Such an integrative approach contests the dominant intelligence studies paradigm of a strict separation between ‘value-based’ policy and ‘objective facts-based’ intelligence. The traditional view of threat as a multiplicative function of capabilities, activities and intentions also illustrates that socio-political situatedness of entities and their narratives is underemphasized in intelligence. It is fundamental to include the ideational context as a driver for people’s actions to more fully understand complex intelligence problems.
US and Al Qaeda narratives
To demonstrate and develop ACN, three basic analytic narratives that relate to Al Qaeda are studied. In addition to an Al Qaeda and a US institutional macro narrative, a micro narrative is constructed from texts produced by entities with no influence on the intelligence problem. The micro narrative serves as ‘commentator’ and increases contrast on discursive and non-discursive interaction between Al Qaeda and the US. The dynamic in macro narratives is explained by mapping key statements and actions constituting securitization efforts, and the events and circumstances that affected those efforts. A special focus lies on identifying the multi-consequentiality of securitization efforts within and across social domains. In contrast to the US narrative, which served to (re)confirm American identity and institutionalized roles, the Al Qaeda narrative had a more formative function of establishing roles and identity.
The research revealed how Bin Laden shifted focus over the years, which initially led to disagreement among followers. The US effort to comprehensively deal with the threat had some counterproductive effects, silencing concerns among Al Qaeda supporters. With regard to securitization theory, the research contributes to academic debate on the role of audiences by advancing the idea of ‘efforts’ and the broader Al Qaeda ‘ecosystem’ as a way to further contextualize and differentiate securitization ‘acts’ and ‘audiences’.