Gordon Barrass, author of the recently published book The Great Cold War, wrote an intriguing article in the The Guardian entitled Inside the Minds of Foes. Gordon draws on his knowledge of the Cold War while assessing the current situation in foreign affairs that President Obama now faces.
Barrass addressed the fact that Obama will have to reshape US foreign policy; and he cannot do so without good intelligence. Looking back upon the lessons of the Cold War, it is crucial that a leader can get into the mind of his adversary. An excerpt from the book, which Barrass also includes in his article, tells us:
"One of the things that kept the cold war scary," secretary of defense Robert Gates recalled in 2006, "was the lack of understanding on each side of the mentality of the other."
The challenges that Obama’s administration faces now are, of course, fundamentally different then those of the Cold War; but Barrass informs us that “getting inside the mind” of the enemy should remain an important concern and guiding principle in foreign relations.
When seeking efforts to deter a nuclear Iran, or even in worrying about the possibility of terrorists acquiring nuclear or biological weapons within the next 5 years, the US must know more about the fears of their enemies and work toward a better intelligence system with new technologies. Barrass believes that the history of the Cold war reveals just how important intelligence is.
“There is another lesson the US will ignore at its peril - the need to grasp an adversary's culture. After Khrushchev shattered American self-confidence by putting Sputnik into space, Congress swiftly approved the National Defense Education Act. Soon many young Americans were studying Soviet affairs. They learned to look at what was really happening, rather than accept preconceived notions, especially the one about the Soviets being unfathomable. Now there is an equally urgent need for young Americans to comprehend the intricacies of more difficult languages and complex cultures.”
Using the insights from his work as a British diplomat during the Cold War, Barrass skillfully lays out what he thinks will be essential intelligence policy not just for the government, but for the people as well.