Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Review: Lahneman and Arcos, The Art of Intelligence

William J. Lahneman and Rubén Arcos, The Art of Intelligence: Simulations, Exercises, and Games (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014). 282pp. $45.00 pb.


51hT0+MXdXL._SL500_AA300_This volume is intended to be a resource for those who teach about intelligence analysis, by providing a series simulations and classroom exercises that can be used directly or with modification. As the editors note in their introduction:

…students of intelligence courses can learn analytic tradecraft best through experiential learning methodologies such as simulations and games. These learning vehicles allow students to experience intelligence analysis and issues related to its practice by performing analyses and then derive other meanings from their experiences through reflection. It often happens that, after we have run a simulation in class, a student will say (in the American vernacular), “I didn’t get it before. Now I get it!” Usually he or she is referring to things such as the difficulty associated with working with information gaps, or with trying to convey uncertainty in words that a policymaker will understand, or with the need to respond to a requirement even though there is little raw intelligence on the topic, or with the effect that denial or deception had on the outcome of the student’s analysis. The student had heard about these sorts of challenges in lectures, but participation in the simulation raised the student’s understanding to a new level.

We need to highlight that we are not speaking about opposite approaches to intelligence education or training or advocating for a single approach. Rather, it is a matter of balancing the use of lectures, reading assignments, and discussion with experiential activities such as simulations, exercises, and games, on the other.

The rest of the volume contains fourteen chapters each presenting a different simulation or exercise. These range from those that take up 1-2 classes of time to longer multi-week activities. Each of the authors is describing an activity they have used in their own classroom. Throughout, the simulations and exercises are clearly explained. Many are presented in a similar format, with contributors discussing instructional and simulation objectives, target audience, playing time, number of players required, materials required (most of which are supplied in the book), other equipment required, and the debriefing format. The issues addressed include the analysis of competing hypotheses, the perils of intelligence collection, cognitive strategies, interagency collaboration, and the production and presentation of intelligence analysis.

It would have been useful if the book had included a chapter or two (or even a longer introduction) addressing cross-cutting thematic issues, such as simulation moderation, curriculum integration, and effective debriefing. Still, the volume is a very welcome contribution and will be a valuable resource for those teaching in the field, as well as those in related areas (such as public policy analysis or international relations) who might wish to adapt some of the exercises to their own specific needs.

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