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.
"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)
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.
Yes. The book is a fairly good overview of intelligence in war and uses tangible examples to illustrate key concepts.
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.
Excellent rhythm and pace.
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.
Great overview of how intelligence developed, just needed more modern content to truly be a full overview.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Say something about yourself!
Boring compilation of history of naval warfare. 90% naval history. 10% intelligence history.
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