The Blind Spot in Strategic Intelligence


Source:, By Dr. Wm Gawthrop, November 2023


The purpose of this paper is to provide insights gained from the October 2023 Hamas attacks against Israel.


Hamas is one of 67 Islamic terrorist organizations listed on the US State Department Foreign Terrorist Organizations Web Site (

While it has been the practice to examine the threat in terms of individual organizations (Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the remaining 64 other organizations) it becomes more practical to shift analytic focus upward from the organizations to their overarching ideology.

Islam is a Challenger Civilization

Islam is a challenger civilization composed of multiple domains (religious, ideological, legal, and cultural). It is driven by an assertive worldview animated by an aggressive doctrine with the final objective of international suzerainty.

The Blind Spot in Strategic Intelligence and Academia

Islam operates at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.  In the case of Islam, Intelligence is focused on the operational and tactical while ignoring the strategic. As a result, Intelligence never explores the strategic doctrine animating individuals and organizations.

Intelligence and Academia Misunderstands and Misinterprets the Forces at Work

Intelligence and academic misunderstanding and misinterpreting the forces at work resulting in flawed assessments are exemplified by discussions about “terrorism” and “suicide bombers.”

Terrorism is an act of defiance. Jihad is an act of religious devotion and a legal duty. Suicide is a sin and an unlikely motive for one seeking paradise, while martyrdom opens religious opportunities not understood or explored by Intelligence.

Counterterrorism strategies that confuse “terrorism” with “jihad” create flawed “counterterrorism” understandings and strategies that do not address jihad. The threat continues effectively unassessed and unchecked.

The Evidence for This Flawed Understanding

The evidence for this flawed understanding is demonstrated by a simple test. See if Islam’s doctrinal texts are missing from the bibliographies of Intelligence products and texts in your personal library. If they are missing, the intelligence products, strategies, and texts are likely not doctrinally informed.

Implications of the Blind Spot in Strategic Intelligence

First Implication.  In the absence of a credible analysis of Islam’s strategic themes and drivers, there can be no credible course of action recommendations for further policy responses.

Second Implication.  The absence of a strategic approach to the civilizational-level threat results in a piecemeal approach to problem-solving: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the 60 some odd other threat organizations.   Our research and analysis is not systemic.

[Editor’s Note – Bottom line: It’s the doctrine, stupid.]