Prospects for crisis prediction: a South Pacific case study

Author/s (editor/s):

Ken Ross

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 65

This monograph considers the ability of intelligence assess,emts to predict important developments, particularly political crises. It surveys the published literature and draws on the author's decade as an analyst specialising on the South Pacific. Intelligence analysis is explained and the considerable limitations on predicting crises are highlighted with the intent to establish more realistically what policy-makers and the public can expect of intelligence organisations. The importance of top-calibre analysts is emphasised as a most important element in obtaining the best possible assessments.

Most South Pacific countries change their Prime Ministers and governments within a peaceful constitutional succession convention. Fiji has been the only exception. Vanuatu, where the Lini government has been in power since 1979, is regarded by some observers as next most probable exception. A general election is due in late 1991 and it is thought there could be political turmoil regardless of who wins because of discontent with the result.

This general election is developed into a case study to illustrate how an intelligence analyst might prepare assessments endeavouring to determine the likelihood of a crisis occuring then. The tentativeness of the assessment is stressed by the value of its being done hinges on the assertion that ministers and senior officials, we policy-makers, will be more alert and better briefed to face the eventual outcome, whether it lives up to the prediction or not.

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