Movies, Doctrine & Intelligence Analysis

I was sitting in a really good movie earlier today and I saw an example of how we allow our key assumptions to fill in the “don’t knows” of intelligence analysis.

Unless you’re watching Game of Thrones, our key assumption is always that the main character will stay live, defeat the bad guy and save the day.  That’s the plot of nearly every action movie since the dawn of mooveez.  So that’s a solid key assumption for tens of thousands of movies that followed and will follow.  Spoiler Alert: We don’t know for a fact that the protagonist will stay alive but we put our money on it, anyway.

It’s sort of the same concept in intelligence analysis.  The history of movie plots in which the protagonist wins can be called ‘doctrine’.  That’s the observable history of action movie plots and (more or less) the rules of those movies.  Intelligence analysts can rely on doctrine to guide their analysis in the same way that we expect the heroes to save the day.  That’s just the way things work.

In the schoolhouse, we learned intelligence on a Soviet-style adversary.  Everything we expected to see from our adversary was based on doctrine and their order of battle (OB) – the recorded history of the way they did things in previous conflicts and engagements.  Everything our adversaries expect of the US military are based on our doctrine; they expect us to act in a similar fashion in future conflicts as we have in recent conflicts of the same type.

So my rhetorical question to the burgeoning intelligence analysts out there is, What is the doctrine of your potential adversaries?  Record the history of recent and similar conflicts, and identify what they’re doing and use it as a baseline.  It does not mean that they will act in accordance with their doctrine 100% of the time, however, using it as a baseline is safer than starting with no expectations.  If the rely on doctrine more than five times out of then (which is very likely), then you will be correct at least 50% of the time.  That’s much better than knowing nothing about the way they operate and having each engagement become a crap shoot in which you are likely to lose.  If you find that you’re correct less than 50% of the time, then take another look at their doctrine because it may be evolving to adapt and overcome… the exact same as you are doing.

Leave your questions or comments below!


  1. JR Bolton says:

    Great thoughts!

    I have often told my group that we can’t view opponents by our own
    bias and/or what we know to be right and true.
    Perception varies and understanding that perception is vital in
    breaking down your adversary, especially in the Political insurgency realm. Its the one practice I don’t see being employed by active conservatives in politics, Thus they have surrenders the social/political realm to the enemy.

    Excellent thoughts Sam.

  2. Stephen C. says:

    I’d say the #1 adversary for the American people, whether they care to admit it or not, is the US government, especially when it’s run by Democrats. What’s the doctrine that animates that political party? … apart from endemic levels of corruption, deceit as SOP, and an unprecedented disdain for the ordinary citizen. Those are all flat-out observable phenomena in the government’s actions towards the people. Paying revenues (taxes) to an entity that despises you is the worst folly imaginable, and it only get worse b/c the more money the Democrat regime hauls in the more they spend. So paying your taxes literally is putting your grandchildren into worse levels of debt and penury before they even get started. The government is our enemy. What we do to our enemy under normal circumstances is kill them. We don’t pay them 30%+ of our income for them to gang-rape us next year even worse. Moreover, we know now that the government actively regards us as their enemy, and they’re planning accordingly with the militarization of police forces and setting up of temporary internment camps at FEMA centers across the country. This also brings into sharp relief why they’re gathering so much data on each & every one of us. We should plan accordingly based on the Democrat regime’s clear doctrinal preference for using massive force that comes through loud & clear in all their decisions and actions. One of the first things we should do is start a nation-wide moratorium on paying taxes to the illegitimate, immoral mafia entity known not-so-affectionately as the US government. Starve the bastards for funds. Then start killing them. Happy day!

  3. Henry Bowman says:

    If I assume the adversary to be a .gov organization at some state or federal level, their doctrine is to respond with overwhelming force including the use of machine guns, bombs, aircraft and armored vehicles. By necessity that adversary would have to be fought very asymmetrically with precision ‘hit and run’ tactics.

  4. Paul B says:

    I would posit the enemy is the Federal Government. The locals will only be dangerous if they buy into the Federal Mantra.

    It is hard to shoot some one you know. Unless you are a true sociopath.

  5. J R Bolton says:


    Its not my site, but folks I think we’ve gone from an appropriate intellectual discussion by Sam, to, well things we don’t need to be talking about on the open web.

    I hope to see some management stepping in any time.

    • Samuel Culper III says:

      Hey JR – It doesn’t really matter if I start deleting comments or not. Once they are entered, they’re logged. I can’t control what others write, anyway. And along those lines, these sentiments are the result of decades of abuse towards the American People by their government. People feel this way for a reason, and if they want to register themselves by making those comments, then that’s their decision. I’m not really into the censorship thing.

  6. JR Bolton says:

    I certainly agree with you Sam to a point. As an 8yr Marine, a combat vet,a father, many years of active study in COIN and 20 yrs of involvement in organized politics, I have learned some discipline that has payed off in a big way several times.

    Staying on point is a critical practice with the subjects you are teaching. One or a group can not prepare and operate Intel gathering without some ability to practice temperance. It would never work.

    I don’t buy into the victim status either. Abuse by the government is our fault and our responsibility if you know the law. Anarchy is the fruition of the victim mentality and that helps no one.

    Don’t mean to preach, but I’m 47yrs old, not 20yrs old. I have learned and applied many things in my life thus far and learned a few hard lessons to boot.

    Organization comes from mature thinking and putting self aside. The attitudes displayed above are adolescent at best and somewhat dangerous. I don’t fear the government or any man, I do cut a wide path around people who don’t exhibit self control. They are not beneficial for the Patriot movement, unless they are just trying to be bullet stoppers.

    With that I will just move on and resist responding to any further blogs. I do appreciate your skills and incites, but leadership is a key factor in survival and real efforts. It is a military, government and civil standard that our side is severely lacking in.

    Thank you and God bless,

  7. Dan Morgan says:

    Great analogy Sam. Sometimes it is a little easier to digest when broken down to the PV1 level. You mentioned OB. Maybe a primer on how to determine OB regarding an advesary, say the Leroy Jenkins Gang, is in order.

    • Samuel Culper III says:

      Hey Dan – I certainly can work on an OB post. I’ll get to that this week. Thank you for the suggestion.

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