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Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda | [John Keegan]

Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda

In fiction, the spy is a glamorous figure whose secrets make or break peace, but, historically, has intelligence really been a vital step to military victories? In this breakthrough study, the preeminent war historian John Keegan goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument about military intelligence. In his characteristically wry and perceptive prose, Keegan offers us nothing short of a new history of war through the prism of intelligence.
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Publisher's Summary

In fiction, the spy is a glamorous figure whose secrets make or break peace, but, historically, has intelligence really been a vital step to military victories? In this breakthrough study, the preeminent war historian John Keegan goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument about military intelligence. In his characteristically wry and perceptive prose, Keegan offers us nothing short of a new history of war through the prism of intelligence.

Keegan brings to life the split-second decisions that went into waging war before the benefit of aerial surveillance and electronic communications. The English admiral Horatio Nelson was hot on the heels of Napoleon's fleet in the Mediterranean and never knew it, while Stonewall Jackson was able to compensate for the Confederacy's disadvantage in firearms and manpower with detailed maps of the Appalachians. In the past century, espionage and decryption have changed the face of battle. Timely information, however, is only the beginning of the surprising and disturbing aspects of decisions that are made in war, where brute force is often more critical.

Intelligence in War is a thought-provoking work that ranks among John Keegan's finest achievements.

©2003 John Keegan; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The author is the most popular, and perhaps the best, contemporary writer of military history." (Booklist)
"His case histories offer enough revelations and drama to satisfy any espionage buff....Keegan is always a pleasure to read for his wit, insight, and style." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (145 )
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3.9 (39 )
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4.0 (41 )
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  •  
    D. Littman OH 01-10-04
    D. Littman OH 01-10-04

    history buff

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    "Military history more than history of intelligence"

    John Keegan is always an interesting writer. A good story teller. A good conveyer of fact. However, this book is mistitled. It is not a history of intelligence in war, it is a history of war with a bit of intelligence stuff thrown in for spice. It is an enjoyable book, but somewhat of a letdown if you are looking for the "spy" stuff.

    One thing that Keegan does very well though, in the lengthy stories he tells, is to give you an appreciation of the limited value of intelligence in actual battlefield decisionmaking. Which may be why the stories are more about battlefield & strategic events than spying. The intelligence gathering brings forward useful information to commanders, but in the end is usually so stale or easily misinterpreted ... or quickly made obsolete by battlefield actions ... that its value is over-rated in the popular literature. Keegan proves these points repeatedly.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LbsZ Boise, ID, United States 03-25-12
    LbsZ Boise, ID, United States 03-25-12
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    "Solid read, but misleading title."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes. The book is a fairly good overview of intelligence in war and uses tangible examples to illustrate key concepts.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    The book throws out a really key claim that the future of intelligence will need to focus heavily on HUMINT; however, it misses the opportunity to provide any strenuous examples of HUMINT in action. I.e., the reader is left wondering what operational role intelligence currently plays and needs to play in modern warfare & counterintelligence.


    What about Richard Matthews’s performance did you like?

    Excellent rhythm and pace.


    Do you think Intelligence in War needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes. The book seemed provided a good and in depth look at intelligence from the 18th - mid 19th century, but really needed to provide a more expansive look at pre-18th century and modern intelligence collection & its interaction with the military. Both also need intensive illustrations similar to the communications illustrations of Naval warfare. There was no knitty, gritty of HUMINT, which is what I most wanted to learn more about.


    Any additional comments?

    Great overview of how intelligence developed, just needed more modern content to truly be a full overview.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scotty Florida 01-23-06
    Scotty Florida 01-23-06
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    "Excellent"

    This is not an espionage or technical book, but a review of modern military history with a focus on intelligence. If you enjoy military history you will love this book.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Pittsburgh, PA, United States 01-25-04
    David Pittsburgh, PA, United States 01-25-04
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    "John Keegan does it again"

    Booklist calls Keegan "the most popular, and perhaps the best, contemporary writer of military history." I'd say he's one of the best contemporary writers of any genre, and a writer whose books belong on the shelves with the greatest writers of all time. Why? The extraordinary insight Keegan brings to his a very complex subject, matched, as is the case with all great stylists, a command of language equal to the task. Keegan is primarily an historian with no axes to grind but one who rather, in book after book, brings his axe (a jazz term for instrument) to providing a profound human understanding of a subject I had always thought boring until I picked my first JK book, The Face of Battle. This by now great classic looks at battle from the foot soldier's perspective (four different battles spanning over 1500 years) with the purpose of understanding, psychologically, behaviorally, historically, and, put it this way -- humanly -- what is going one in such scenarios of carnage and death. Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda, is no less exceptional. Keegan takes on our age's mesmerizing fixation with intelligence and gives a stressed warning for those fighting al Qaeda to "shorten their swords" i.e, battles are won not by intelligence but by engaging (and in this case infiltrating) the enemy. Intelligence in War is all about the limits of intelligence in war as it spans in great and intriguing detail specific cases that illuminate given subsidiary points of the thesis.

    16 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fiona BangkokThailand 08-30-04
    Fiona BangkokThailand 08-30-04 Member Since 2001
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    "Interesting, knowledgeable and well read"

    He using specific times in history to show the how intelligence impacted decisions. He shows how, in many cases, the impact of intelligence is overrated and that battle are won in the field.

    The narrator is fine.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vejohn Torres 07-27-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Essential for those Interested in Military History"
    Would you listen to Intelligence in War again? Why?

    This book provides a gripping approach to the background and information surrounding famous campaign/battles. You don't always get all the information on the first listen, so listening to the audio book another time ensures you pick up all the facts.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The information is well researched, which make the conclusions drawn from this information legitimate and believable.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    My favorite parts were the two case studies on the WWII Battles of Crete and Midway. Both exemplify the limits and importance of intelligence in war.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This is the type of book best done in parts. Since each battle/campaign has different key players, history, and background information, you need time to sit on the information you've taken in.


    Any additional comments?

    Great book for military history buffs!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Colorado Springs, CO, United States 01-14-13
    Roger Colorado Springs, CO, United States 01-14-13
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    "Excellent book"

    Yes. Even for someone who has read a good deal of history, this book was full of surprising and fascinating information. And as with all Keegan books, it is written with elegance and verve.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 12-20-03
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 12-20-03

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lots of military history ... Little Intelligence"

    Boring compilation of history of naval warfare. 90% naval history. 10% intelligence history.

    18 of 40 people found this review helpful
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