Intelligence - A strategic balance and a retrospective -
This essay of the R.Adm. Cellini presents the essential outlines of the Shadow War (2259-2261) and of its protagonists, analyzed from the perspective of an Intelligence Officer.
After the completion of the Bright warrior* upgrade project through out Earth force and of similar activities among other militaries of different races**, and after the series of Chess Master and Light Shield ISA joint fleet exercises***, the military situation of the ISA forces can be defined good. Overall, the compliance of the national forces integrated in the ISA military structure with the unitary command is more than acceptable, while the technical and quantitative growth of many navies, particularly Earth force, Narn and Centauri Navy, and, in a lesser measure, Minbari, has more than doubled (at least) the military might of the ISA forces in respect to the situation of the late 2250's.
An important remark is that the ISA represents the incarnation of the concept sought and enforced, even if unsuccessfully, by the Vorlons, in the period from the late 1700 A.D. to the last Shadow war. But the Idea was good, the Alliance and the later Treaty of the Four Stars, are powerful warrants of safety and freedom for all the participants
The Vorlon concept, in fact, while involving the same races, had a different structure and different goals, being conceived as an anti-Shadow alliance.
As can be reconstructed from the information collected, and thanks to the support of people directly involved in this situation, the "Vorlon project" involved the following of two main guidelines: spreading the Telepathic genes among the races that, in a long time perspective could be helpful against the Shadows, grow a "leading race" (namely, the Minbari) to function as military spearhead, focal point and political leadership in the upcoming confrontation with the Shadows, and allow the parallel development of other minor or new races, to spread and enhance the military force of the projected alliance.
As a secondary consideration that, I am sure, will generate a lot of criticism against me, I feel obligated to point out the fact that the ultimate goals of both the Vorlons and the Shadows, from some points of view, have been obtained: the Younger races are united in an ordered and rational structure, as the Vorlon wanted, while, as predicted by the Shadows, conflict made all of us stronger: the recent wars broke the Minbari isolationism, awakened the Centauri from their decadence and gave them back their pride, cancelled the LONAW contrasts, gave to the Narns the equilibrium they lacked, made the EA much stronger and more mature, and taught to all of us the lesson of humility. However the price we paid can be quantified in terms of millions of dead.
Taking account of the premises, the actual Alliance is the best that could be expected, so successful the only opposition against it that can be found in some fringes of the major governments, Minbari, Humans, Centauri, Narns.
To find ourselves allies of former, fierce and hated enemies is doubtless not easy, and each small bump leads to excessive reactions. However all the governments involved must place any effort possible to avoid the spreading of wrong reactions, because the actual situation presents great challenges for the future: the few remnants of the Drakhs are still a dangerous and unpredictable (and implacable) enemy; the "Hand" is an almost unknown entity except for three facts: they are Ancients, powerful and dangerous; the Third space Aliens are a clear and present danger not for the welfare, but for the survival of all the living beings of the galaxy. Some of these facts are accepted, others are debated, but it must be remarked that the danger represented is so great that the union and the reciprocal trust among the ISA members is not a goodwill goal but a vital need, that must be persecuted with monolithic will, by all the governments of the alliance.
With the facts above, what could be the lessons learned, particularly in regards to Intelligence activity? Well, as the Actual Chief of EFNI, and with my whole career as a Navy Officer spent in Naval Intelligence, someone could perceive my points of view as biased: in fact, this could be simply a different aspect of the same truth.
The Interstellar politic, and its "continuation with other means", so the past conflicts, are usually perceived simply as a balance of military power, numbers, battles and technology. But in fact the relevance of the Information and of the intelligence agencies, even if not always evident, has had, and has today, a relevance that deserves to be taken into account.
The whole Shadow conflict through the last two centuries, with its collateral developments (namely the Earth-Minbari war, the Narn-Centauri war, the Dilgar war and the Drakh war, besides some minor conflicts) and its final outbreak in the years 2260-2261, has been heavily conditioned by the intelligence and counterintelligence work between the involved powers, Younger and Ancients: so, from a certain point of view, a different reading key for all the historic events of this period can be proposed .
At a first glance, the first thing that comes to my mind is the extremely poor performance, in terms of intelligence, shown by the Vorlons: the lack of information, and, more, of analysis, nullified a relevant part of their enormous and prolonged efforts to build the future strategic weapons for the conflict, the telepaths.
The systematic work brought on by the Vorlons was well conceived and effective in the direct outcomes, and, overall, the final objective was morally acceptable, but their plot, in the complex, failed. This is an important point that has not been discussed, but can be clearly be seen upon examination of the facts.
First of all, the Minbari, chosen by the Vorlons as "focal point" of their anti-shadow structure, have always been too much of isolationists and too heavily ideological to act as a moral leadership and a reference among the Younger races of this sector. Also the Vorlon support went more in the technological and military enhancement than in the politic and ethical area. Only the Earth-Minbari war broke partially this isolationist politic, but the real decisive step is directly related to the diplomatic and politic activity of President Lady Delenn and President (R) John Sheridan.
In regards to the other races involved, the efforts of the Vorlons have been inorganic, and overall discontinuous and without a correct monitoring of the situation, a total lack of intelligence activity, and this was a lethal failure.
The Humans were "gifted" with the telepathic genes, and the project was successful, but, at the end, the Vorlons were not only unable to manage the evolution of their actions, but unaware of the fact that the human telepaths fell under the control of the Shadows, this had dramatic outcomes: left to themselves, the Humans fared very well in the Orion's Arm interstellar politic arena, acting both as a diplomatic and commercial bridge between the various races, and placing the bases for an effective interstellar alliance and cooperation: as an example, the EA was the only power maintaining good relationship with both the Centauri and the Narns, and its efforts to promote a peaceful agreement between these races, even if slowly, were progressing, particularly in the wake of the Dilgar war.
It must be remarked that, from data collected in recent times from the historical achieves of various races, it is now certain that the Shadows backed the military might and the political will of the Dilgar, in the early stages of the Dilgar conflict, and so the Earth Alliance began to do its part in the conflict against the Shadows. But, while the "promotion" effort of the Vorlon, in this situation was weak, the reply of the shadows was very effective, and it is now certain that, through the Psi-Corps, the Shadows piloted the events that led to the Earth-Minbari war, with all the well known consequences.
In the same time, the Vorlons did nothing to stabilize the situation between the Narns and the Centauri, did nothing to end the Earth-Minbari war, except some ineffective influence among some members of the Minbari government, did nothing to restore the telepathic capabilities of the Narn race and did nothing to remedy the negatively evolving situation of the Centauri people.
The possible political outcome in the period from the late 2230's to the late 2250's could have been an alliance, eventually focalized around the Minbari, with the Earth Alliance acting as a "glue" between the LONAW, the Centauri and the Narns, and with all the military might of the major and minor powers intact and backed with a well spread telepathic capability, all united against the Shadow Order.
The lack of continuity and the poor management of the initial actions by the Vorlons led to a different situation: the Shadow war begun with the Narn military and political power nearly annihilated, the Centauri and the Earth Alliance governments neutralized by the Shadows, the LONAW weakened by internal struggles and conflicts, a legacy of hate between Humans and Minbari, and the Minbari government weakened by internal problems: it was the lucky strike of the building and service of the Babylon 5 diplomatic station that maintained at least a neutral Centauri Republic and Earth Alliance in the war, because all the premises for an alignment of these powers with the Shadows were well in place. Only the fortune and the efforts of a few people avoided such a situation with his tragic consequences.
Also, the Earth, Minbari and Centauri all experienced civil wars and internal struggles in consequence of the Shadows actions, even after they left the galaxy, and the Earth was th subject of an attemped genocide operated by Shadow allies, and, in any case, the last Shadow war ended only thanks to the intervention of other "Ancients", otherwise the outcome could have been a series of major and induced conflicts with hundreds of billions dead and hundreds of planets reduced in ashes, and entire races whipped away.
So, historically, the Vorlons, while making great efforts to build a coalition against the Shadows, and while obtaining technical success, and overall, being aimed to an ethically acceptable goal (even if debatable in terms of respect of the freedom of choice of the various involved parts) were totally incapables of managing the situation at political and intelligence level: in this field, the winners, for bad luck, were the Shadows, and the final outcome can be calculated in entire worlds destroyed and billions of deaths.
For the few things we know, the Vorlons have in their past more than one example of this scarce intelligence work, or maybe, comprehension of the real relevance of the Intelligence activity: it seems possible to envision poor information and intelligence in a so called "Kirishiac War", and in the outbreak of a dramatic conflict with the Third space Aliens. We are talking of events that happened millions years ago, so what we know is fragmentary and barely enough to give to us just some vague idea of the historical facts, but in both these occasions it seems that the Vorlons, and some other Ancients involved, acted blindly in respect to enormous menaces.
But, if the Vorlons, in the Intelligence field, acted poorly, the Shadows, even if they were the winners of many intelligence battles, lost the war. What is the sense of this outcome? What considerations can be expressed? What critics can be moved, and, more important, what lessons can we learn?
Well, in this case it is essential to evaluate the situations with an open mind, regardless to moral judgment and analyzing the facts.
The infiltration activities of the Shadows among the power centers of the Younger Races were excellent: their actions, performed through an accurate work of politic influence buildup, the use of support agents belonging to various races and an impressive work of disinformation* and "information poisoning"** obtained the exceptional outcomes presented above: in a few word, they were able both to vanify the Vorlon activity, and to use the outcomes of these activities against the originals masters: this is the dream of every Intelligence organization.
Their failure can be essentially identified by two main mistakes: lack of timing and coordination, and poor identification of the key objectives and of the actions to be performed: this last point is clearly comprehensible just considering a fact: the elimination, through the destruction of the credibility or, eventually, with extreme prejudice*** of some strategic targets, the Anla'Shok (Rangers) organization and the Babylon 5 diplomatic station (likely with a sabotage action), and the elimination of the Minbari and Narn ambassadors, Lady Delenn Sheridan, Mr. G'Kar, and of Captain John Sheridan, could have been the Great Seal of their plan.
The fear to create martyrs, the inability to use the disinformation as an instruments of public demolition, and, at the end, the unavailability of one or two sleeping agents in the right place at the right moment, were deadly mistakes, incomprehensible in an organization that acted so properly (from the Intelligence point of view, of course!) until the last months of the Shadow War. This, tied with the poor timing and lack of coordination in the special operations during the Narn-Centauri war and during the Earth Civil war (two conflict that would have had to be simultaneous, and could have been without a so roughly planned and scarcely organized use of the special operation forces and of the infiltration agents) seems to me the crashing of a card castle, the outcome of the matching of poor detail planning, scarce comprehension of the psychology, and lack of comprehension of the non-linearity of the historical events. Overall, the behavior of an organization extremely strong in terms of technology and military force, conscious of this strength, but corrupted by an excess of ideology, that undermined the judgment capabilities beyond an otherwise brilliant strategy.
Both these ancients adversaries, impressive in their enormous knowledge, in their will and in their power, at the very end were defeated by trivial mistakes, emotional and ideological more than logic choices that, at a last, cold minded glance, can be related to the first Capital Sin of an intelligence agent: arrogance.
* Disinformation = Diffusion of false information and rumors.
**Poisoning = Transmission of false information through an enemy informative agent, aimed both to disinformation and, in the long term, to the destruction of the credibility of both the enemy agent and of all the informations he obtained and delivered. One of the most dangerous intelligence tactics.
***Extreme prejudice = Assassination (against Somebody.) - Sabotage or destruction (against Something.)
*(see Brightwarrior Project I and Brigtwarrior Project II )
**(see Centauri Firebird Project)
***(see E.F.N.I. Essential chronology, Years 2279-2281)
My sincere thanks to Peter Smith, that was so kind and patient to extract from my original script something much better in terms of language, and, at the end, made it comprehensible! Thanks, Peter.