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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
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful