George Friedman on the Realities of Geopolitical Intelligence
By George Friedman, Founder and Chairman
Stratfor was founded in 1996 as a geopolitical intelligence company. Intelligence is obviously a very sexy term, conjuring visions of James Bond and elegant parties. Undoubtedly there is a part of intelligence that has the pleasure of experiencing this. I am waiting for my invitation.
As a way of looking at the world and a method for collecting information, intelligence differs from journalism in many ways. Perhaps the most important is that where journalism focuses on what has happened, intelligence also concerns itself with what will happen -- and even more important, why it will happen.
In order to do that, we need a system for collecting information. One part of this is a system for mining the vast amount of material published around the world, which requires collectors, translators, writers and so on. The second part is having personnel around the world, usually foreign nationals. Recruiting, managing and evaluating these people requires substantial effort. Astoundingly, some of them don't always tell the truth. Separating truth from fiction is the job of analysts.
Our analysts look at the world through the prism of geopolitics. Geopolitics is not simply a fancy way to say "foreign affairs." It is a methodology for understanding the world. It assumes that place matters a great deal and that place shapes people in nations. To understand how the world works, we don't simply concentrate on the decisions leaders make; we concentrate on the constraints geography and other factors place on those decisions. Constraints define what is possible.
Stratfor collects and analyzes intelligence. Until the last 20 years or so, this was only something governments could do. With the collapse in the price of communication and transportation, doing so no longer requires the federal budget. It does, however, require some budget, which we achieve by selling our intelligence through subscriptions and client services.
This is far from James Bond, I suppose, but not far from intelligence. It is the private sector approach to intelligence, and it is intended to provide a degree of understanding of the world to our readers that is unavailable elsewhere.
Feedback on this post? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.