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Intelligence in War: The value--and limitations--of what the military can learn about the enemy Paperback – October 12, 2004
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The first eight chapters, including Napoleon, Stonewall Jackson, wireless in World War I, and four examples from World War II, were insightful concerning how intelligence has been collected, used, and misused. As an American, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Jackson and Midway.
The Epilogue, "Military Intelligence Since 1945," seemed rushed, as though the author was under pressure to quickly complete the book and turn it over to the publisher. The coverage of the Falkland War deserved its own chapter. Since Al-Qaeda was included in the title of this book, I was disappointed that it only received two pages in the Epilogue. Perhaps, the author was trying to make the book more relevant to today's reader with the title.
The Conclusion, "The Value of Military Intelligence," was too long and seemed a bit pedantic in comparison with the rest of the book.
"Intelligence in War" deserves a place in the library of serious students of military history.
In a series of case studies starting with the naval operations of Lord Nelson, Keegan argues: "Intelligence, however good, is not necessarily the means to victory; that ultimately, it is force, not fraud or forethought, that counts" (p. 334). Two of the most striking examples he uses are the battles of Crete in 1940 and Midway in 1942. At Crete, the British had accurate signals intelligence telling them what the Germans were going to do and they still lost. At Midway, the Americans had equally good information on what the Japanese intended, but random chance was the key to U.S. victory. The American planes that sank three of the four Japanese carriers were lost and found the enemy fleet by accident at a time when their defenses were ill prepared for another attack.
These arguments are important. We use this book at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College where I currently teach. Keegan's ideas are revisionist but also seem straight forward. The title is accurate. This book focuses only on military intelligence in war. The subtitle is a bit misleading. There is next to no mention of al-Qaeda in the book. Keegan is an exceptionally easy read, but he raises some significant questions which is always a good combination.
It is worth noting that this is NOT a history of intelligence or intelligence operations but specifically a history of the role that intelligence has played within a military setting. As such Keegan does an excellent job of discussing the value of military intelligence and its limitations in effecting the outcome of a military campaign. As would be expected, most of the book deals with intelligence from the Napoleonic Wars on, with an earlier chapter dedicated to an overview of ancient military intelligence. Keegan provides one of the best in-depth studies that I have read on intelligence while subtly combining the historical facts with his analysis of its role as part of the "bigger picture".
The one aspect of the book that I did not like (hence 4 stars) was Keegan's writing style. I found that Keegan's use of long, complex sentences made it difficult to understand several of his key points. This is completely preferential but it was something that made the book slightly more difficult to read.
Overall a great book on the history of Military Intelligence and if you're interested in the subject this is a must have book.
His point that intelligence is a tool and not a decisive victory is well made. As is his secondary point that covert action needs to be separated from intelligence gathering.
The only part I disagreed with was his analysis of subversion. He does a solid job analyzing the conflicts he already had, but failed to see the impact and effectiveness of subversion throughout the last 50 years. He honed his scope too thin to really see the impact of subversion (especially with the analysis being near its beginning).
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