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The other side of the hill

Intelligence – intel for short – is of two-fold interest to the security manager. As for any other manager in any arm of government or in any business, intel aids how he anticipates threats. And if the intel gathering by others shades into corporate espionage, the security manager has to guard against it, writes Mark Rowe.

Like assessing risk, humans gather intelligence without thinking about it. For what is the Green Cross Code, except the gathering of intel for the safe crossing of the road? Basil Liddell Hart the British military thinker summed up intel most neatly in the title of a 1948 book, sub-titled ‘Germany’s generals, their rise and fall, with their own account of military events 1939-45’. Hart began a preface with the story by John Wilson Croker, who on a journey with the great British general the Duke of Wellington, ‘passed the time by guessing what kind of country they would find on the other side of the hill on the way. When Croker expressed surprise at Wellington’s successes in forecasting it, the latter replied: “Why, I have spent all my life in trying to guess what was at the other side of the hill,”’

As Hart added, that remark of Wellington’s became ‘a definition of the imaginative requirement in generalship, in the wider sense of guessing what was happening’, literally over the hill, both among the enemy army and in the mind of the enemy general. In an army as in any large organisation, the heads cannot do everything; they have to delegate. Hence the function, as Hart pointed out, of Intelligence. Another intriguing point by Hart was that reality, as he learned from interviewing the elite prisoners of war, did not match the myth of severe German soldiers. Some were; and some were Nazis: “But the majority were of a different type to both … Many would have looked in their natural place at any conference of bank managers, or civil engineers.”

More on intel in the February 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

Picture by Mark Rowe; view from Longtown Castle, Herefordshire, summer morning, looking towards the England-Wales border along the hilltop ridge, also carrying Offa’s Dyke Path.


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