Intelligence in War

  • by John Keegan
  • Narrated by Richard Matthews
  • 14 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- D. Littman

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.

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- LbsZ

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-14-2003
  • Publisher: Books on Tape