Actionable Intelligence

It's what every executive, boss, client, man, woman, and child wants



In the middle of the Gulf War of 1991, the commanding general, the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. (“Stormin’ Norman”), complained publicly that he was receiving intelligence reports filled with so many caveats, qualifiers, and footnotes, that it was as though, he said, the reports had been written by lawyers. He demanded actionable intelligence.

As a lawyer, I thought it was bad enough that he criticized his analysts for submitting reports that did not meet his needs without comparing his weak, wavering, waffling subordinates to lawyers! It reminded me that, when Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their scrupulosity in observing the law and for their hypocrisy, the lawyers declared to Jesus, “When You say these things, You insult us, too!” (Jesus, by the way, must have agreed with their assessment since He went on to badger them — cf. Luke 11:37-54.)

What does every general want? Actionable intelligence. What does every president, defense secretary, foreign affairs secretary, government department head want? Actionable intelligence.

What does every CEO want? What does every executive, every boss, want? What does every client want? Actionable intelligence.

Indeed, I submit actionable intelligence is the demand, the cry, of every man, woman and child. It is information upon which a person can rely in planning for the next hour, the next day, the next month, the next year. It is information upon which one may rely in planning one’s entire life. It was the cry, for instance, of Augustine, bishop of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), who recounted in his autobiographical Confessions (398 A.D.) his unrelenting pursuit of truth, that is, his pursuit of intelligence upon which he could rely, act, live. (See the 2012 film Restless Heart, the first movie about him:

Jesus Himself reminded those who were considering becoming a disciple of their need for actionable intelligence. He asked them to suppose that they are about to build a house. They must ascertain the cost lest they have to stop after completing only the foundation and be the subject of ridicule. He asked them to compare themselves to a king who was met with an opposing force. The king must ascertain the size of the opposing force and compare it to the size of his own army (Luke 14:28-32).

As it happens, there is actionable intelligence for every man, woman, and child. This actionable intelligence is from God Himself. It is what is called “revealed religion” or revelation. It is the Good News that on the first Christmas Day, God communicated His Word (John 1:1). He sent His only Son into the world to save every man, woman, and child (see John 3:16). All those who believe in Jesus, in the Word of God made flesh, in Love personified, become children of God (John 1:12, 14). Truly, any other kind of intelligence pales in comparison to this.

And what is the cost to you of acting on this intelligence? You will carry a cross, that is, lose your life (Luke 14:27). But consider the reward, such as that given by Jesus to the man executed alongside Him: “Today you will be with Me — in paradise!” (Luke 23:43)

Jesus, Whom Handel described in his Messiah as King of kings and Lord of lords, is like no other king, lord, prince, dictator, president, chieftain, warlord, or gang leader who seeks your discipleship, your allegiance. King Herod the Great killed three of his sons because he thought they threatened his kingship. Yes, human kings kill their sons and daughters and wives and commanders, suppress rebellions, expand their territories through force of arms and the formation of coalitions. Jesus kills no one, harms no one, butchers no one, smashes no one, belittles no one. Rather, He gives life to every single soul, gives it freely, gives it abundantly, gives it eternally. This is actionable intelligence par excellence.


James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

From The Narthex

Daydream about Jesus Before Mass

I was sitting in church waiting for Sunday Mass to begin. My church has a…

Seeing Islam in a New Light

It is a remarkable thing that the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre…

The Human Animal: Fun or Folly?

Are we made for fun or folly? I’d vote for fun over folly, and it…