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Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda Hardcover – October 21, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0375400537 ISBN-10: 0375400532 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 387 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400537
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Keegan (The First World War), there is a good reason why "military intelligence" is so often described as an oxymoron: inflicting and enduring destruction often has no room for reflection, just retaliation. But retaliation tends toward attrition, and attrition is expensive; thought, for Keegan, offers a means of reducing war's price, taking commanders and armies inside enemy decision-action loops, helping identify enemy weakness, warning of enemy intentions or disclosing enemy strategy. Keegan offers a series of case studies in the operational significance of intelligence, ranging from Admiral Nelson's successful pursuit of the French fleet in 1805, through Stonewall Jackson's possession of detailed local knowledge in his 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, to the employment of electronic intelligence in the naval operations of WWI and its extension and refinement during WWII. For that conflict, Keegan expands his analysis, discussing intelligence aspects of the German invasion of Crete, the U.S. victory at Midway and the defeat of the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. To balance an account heavily focused on technology, he incorporates a chapter on the importance of human intelligence in providing information on the Nazi V-weapons. Keegan concludes with a discussion of post-1945 military intelligence that stresses the difference between a Cold War in which the central targets of intelligence gathering were susceptible to concrete, scientific methods, and more recent targets that, lacking form and organization, require penetration through understanding. That paradigm shift in turn is part of Keegan's general argument that intelligence data does not guarantee success. This book shows that the British need not have lost on Crete; that the American victory at Midway was not predetermined. At a time when armed forces tout the "information revolution," Keegan writes in the belief that the outcomes of war are ultimately the result of fighting.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"Results in war, in the last resort, are an affair of body, not mind; of physical force, not plans or intelligence." This is renowned military historian Keegan's analysis of 1942's Battle of Midway. Discounting the value of military intelligence is just one of the paradoxical conclusions drawn in the eight case studies comprising this work. With his usual shrewdness about the highly confusing world of war, Keegan subtly weaves into his narrative the disruptions that seem to hex intelligence collection and analysis. In only one case does Keegan grant primacy to a commander's use of intelligence--Stonewall Jackson's 1862 campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. In all of the other examples, Keegan ascribes the outcome to another factor: at Midway, it was luck; during the 1941 invasion of Crete, it was "berserk" German determination. Within each episode, Keegan uncovers a communication breakdown, an analytical mistake, or a tactical blunder that turned even golden military information to dross. Throughout, Keegan projects a deep empathy for battle victims, who were swept away by the thousands. This humane sensibility, on display in book after book, explains why the author is the most popular, and perhaps the best, contemporary writer of military history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Mr. Keegan uses 8 case studies to attempt to make his point.
I am ready to read more of Keegan's works and recommend this book to those who enjoy military history coupled with a keen intelligence perspective.
T. Mazerolle
With the satellite intelligence and codebreaking available today, much can be learned about enemy forces.
Q. Publius

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By J. Wan on November 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
John Keegan is a well known military historian, and the defence editor for a major UK newspaper. In this particular book, he tackles the broad topic of intelligence and war. He uses case studies to help illustrate his points. (These include the 1942 Midway campaign, Nelson's pursuit of the French fleet leading to the Battle of the Nile, and Jackson's Shenandoah valley campaign). As some of the other reviewers have noted, these examples are not new, and some of the points he makes may be quite familiar. But I think in fairness, it should be remembered that while his work may be used to comment upon current policy, the roots of the work is as a history. It is not meant to be a polemic about how defence budgets may be better spent or the ultimate folly of war. While he does offer insights - and perhaps the best observation is that even if one has a great intelligence advantage, that advantage to be decisive must still be converted in some concrete way. The US knowing that the target was Midway was a great intelligence coup, but it still needed a big break when the Enterprise and Hornet's dive bombers managed to find the Japanese carriers while they were in the midst of re-arming. Of note in the later battles, the Japanese were able to determine US intentions (Phillipine Sea, Leyte Invasion) but the disparity in carriers and battle fleets was so great that the insight was almost irrelevant. Intelligence because it often has a short 'shelf life' unless it is acted upon or can be converted into some other tangible advantage can be transient and illusory. A very interesting work, and worth a read - more aimed at history buffs and not for ultra serious academics (who want more details) nor for policy pundits and mavens who are looking for historical 'evidence' to support their particular political and policy positions.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This history is well timed in the sense that it appeared at a time when certain people were attempting to spread a myth that the United States should have been able to avoid the tragedy of 9/11. Keegan, a military historian of the first tier, examines the full scope of military intelligence and its ramifications.
He convincingly demonstrates that accurate intelligence has almost always been unavailable - and even in the few instances it was available, its impact has not been the decisive element.
Keegan examine Lord Nelson's 73 day quest for the French fleet, relying upon merchants, captured sailors, ambassadors and just about everyone else for information. In the end, it was Nelson's experience and intuition that brought his fleet to battle with the French.
Perhaps his most telling example concerns the Battle of Midway. The Americans had exceptional intelligence and yet, as Keegan shows, the American victory resolved itself to four minutes of good fortune. So it goes in war.
Yes, some governments spend millions and billions on gathering intelligence. No, it is very rare for that intelligence gathering process to produce sucessful results as a norm. War is a business where secrets are not given up easily and are difficult to ferret out.
Keegan maintains that in the end, intelligence isn't a handmaiden to victory in battle, but perhaps a cousin once removed.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Q. Publius VINE VOICE on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Sir John Keegan, the world's foremost living military historian, has written a book which thoroughly examines the role of intelligence in warfare, reaching a conclusion that is sure to tick off the intelligence community: even the best military intelligence on an enemy's forces and plans is secondary to having adequate military forces and planning with which to defeat the enemy. Keegan gives a number of case studies, including the World War II submarine Battle of the Atlantic, Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, Admiral Nelson's hunt for the French fleet in the Mediterranean, and the battle of Crete, to show the effect of various degrees of knowledge of the enemy's forces and plans on the outcome of battle. The battle of Crete contributes most to Keegan's conclusion on the usefulness of military intelligence: the commander had a high degree of knowledge of German forces and plans for the batttle, so much so that when the first German paratroopers began to land while he was eating breakfast, he looked up and said: "they're on time." Yet the British lost this battle despite this high degree of foreknowledge of the German invasion plans. Keegan would not deny the importance of military intelligence in future military operations. With the satellite intelligence and codebreaking available today, much can be learned about enemy forces. However despite this foreknowledge, the intention of the potential enemy's command structure can still be unknown: witness the beginning of the first Iraq War, when Iraqi forces were massing on the Kuwait border, yet U.S. intelligence did not believe Saddam would cross the border and invade Kuwait. Technological intelligence capabilities have been overemphasized by the U.S.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey L Baker on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found John Keegan's book well written, although the title is somewhat misleading. In my opinion, this work focuses mostly where Mr. Keegan seems to be most comfortable, in World War II. Even though some of the concepts he describes span across time, I found few take-aways for the current war on terrorism. Additionally, there appears to be more written about the military operations themselves, rather than about the intellgence influence in those ops. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Keegan defends the intelligence community, as all too often intelligence is simply a scape goat for leadership to blame when they make bad decisions. I would recommend this book to any history oriented readers interested in wars during the first half of the 20th Century.
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