Alternative Futures Intelligence Analysis in the Case of Pearl Harbor

Abstract

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 has remained one of the most devastating events in our nationÍs history. The aftermath of the attack has brought forth numerous investigations, analytical studies, and personal reflections on how our government allowed such an attack to take us by complete surprise. The intelligence capabilities at the time allowed for significant information gathering during the period before the attack, yet analysts and leaders alike failed to interpret much of this information in ways that would have instigated a greater sense of awareness of the possibility of an attack. The present study, using both historical accounts of Pearl Harbor and modern literature on intelligence analysis, reevaluates the timeline of events leading up to the December attack and reanalyzes the information gathered using modern analytical techniques. Such methods as Red Team, Key Assumptions, What If, and Alternative Futures analyses, if implemented, may have allowed for essential preparations against a Japanese attack. While the attack may still not have been prevented, the use of these analytical techniques could have provided decision-makers with a more open approach to the possibility of multiple outcomes, as well as cultivated more of an understanding of the cultural and political context of JapanÍs actions. This current analysis shows that blame for the attack on Pearl Harbor should not be placed on one individual, but on the inability of many to effectively use the information gathered in making informed decisions that could have benefited the security of our nation.