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Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century Hardcover – March 30, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
The fruit of many years' experience of intelligence service, this is a masterful exploration of the field, its critical role in statecraft and the principles underlying its use and misuse. Codevilla, senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues that the American apparatus for collecting information, countering hostile intelligence, analyzing information and conducting covert operations developed in a random fashion without reference to underlying precepts. He contends that with notable exceptions U.S. intelligence has "usually failed," and he expresses astonishment at how unreflective those in charge of policy have been. In this closely reasoned, authoritative study, Codevilla conveys skepticism about the usefulness of spies, the efficacy of the CIA and the value of secret operations: "American covert action has made little difference in the world."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Compared to some of the recent books on U.S. intelligence and the CIA--e.g., David Wise's Molehunt ( LJ 2/15/92)--this at times dense study lacks some of the flair, drama, and cloak-and-dagger elements that we might expect. It is an exceptionally well-informed introduction to the nitty-gritty of intelligence--collection, counterintelligence, covert action, analysis--filled to the brim with examples, lessons, and instruction. Codevilla is not sparing on the mistakes and foolishness of U.S. intelligence errors, but do not look for expose "now it can be told" stories and gossip. He is shrewdly aware that intelligence serves statecraft (or what might pass for it), and citizens must look to the character of basic policy, not the spooks, for the basic drives--especially in the "new world order" that lies ahead.
- H. Steck, SUNY at Cortland
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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He supports his argument with a rather well developed operational history of CIA in which he points out the dominance of the clandestine collection and covert operations side of CIA (known variously as the Directorate of Plans (DP) and Directorate of Operations (DO)) to the determent of an effective national intelligence program based on CIA's research and analysis side (Directorate of Intelligence). He is particularly scathing on the crown jewel of CIA national intelligence production, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). He observes correctly that an appallingly large number of NIEs have either been outright wrong or ignored or both wrong and ignored (and this was before the notorious WMD NIE).
Codevilla has a good deal to say about CIA's record of clandestine collection and covert action, but this was not the main theme of his book. His central point was that CIA had the primary role of providing the executive branch of government, the decision makers, with the best information available and had consistently failed to do so. He offers a rather unique but absolutely correct solution to this which is to change the culture of the analytic arm of CIA to reflect greater emphasis on subject matter expertise by analysts and to hold them accountable not for the number of reports they produce, but for their quality.
In 2004 the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was created and responsibility of NIE production along with the National Intelligence Council was then transferred to this office. It has yet to be determined if this move has materially improved intelligence support to the executive branch.
The National Security Establishment and CIA in particular have ignored this book for twenty years and are unlikely to pick it up at this late date. This doesn't make the book any less true or important. It would be a good companion to a more recent study of national intelligence issues, "Strategic Intelligence" (Scarecrow Press, 2009) by Don McDowell. McDowell is an Australian whose views dovetail nicely those of Codevilla.
It is interesting to note that Codevilla wrote two of the best introductions on "how to think" about two major subjects- about war in "War, Ends and Means" and "Statecraft". It is a crime that this book is out of print, and one should do everything in ones power to obtain a copy.
The only other book in the intelligence field that approaches this level of worth is "The New KGB, Engine of Societ Power", an older 1980's book by Robert Corson. All the other poor books on intelligence either take the character of "The Puzzle Palace" (which is stupid and an insider's pro-old boys network hack job) or one of Noam Chomsky's blithering semi-conspiracy theories. "Informing Statecraft" is the only type of really usefull intellectual companion to intelligence work in all existance.
This book is exactly what an intelligence book should be- an attack on the structural inadequacies of the United States intelligence community in the guise of a "how-to" book on how to run things correctly. Flipping through the book, one will wonder at the bales of common sensical yet brilliant realpolitik critiques involved in his analysis of what intelligence should be about.
Maybe the reason for Mr. Codevilla's excellence is his devotion to translating Machiavelli (now that's someone I'd like to have in an intelligence agency), or maybe not. What I do know is this book talks first and foremost about the basic questions intelligence operations should be asking about themselves and their work.
I've read a lot of books about intelligence agencies, but they all end up being either a) anecdotal, story like intepretations, b) partisan tracts on different aspects of intelligence work, or c) op-ed pieces.
I would put this book even above such works as "The Puzzle Palace". The only other book I have read with this caliber material was on Russian intelligence, "The New KGB: Engine of Soviet Power".
This book, however, takes the cake, and it restores my faith in looking up obscure intellectuals- this reminds me of the HL Mencken maxim- "There are only two types of books: the kind of books people read and the kinds of books people should read". This book is the latter. Buy it and read it twice.
Codevilla, from years as a Senate intelligence staffer, knows otherwise, and he chronicles one blunder after another. The lesson: since few if any of Codevilla's proposals were implemented, when CIA says something does or doesn't exist, you should be very, very skeptical. CIA has secret intelligence right? They know things we don't, right? Wrong.