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Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaedaby John Keegan
Synopses & Reviews
Knowledge of the Enemy
"No war can be conducted successfully without early and good intelligence, wrote the great Duke of Marlborough. George Washington agreed: The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further argued. No sensible soldier or sailor or airman does argue. From the earliest times, military leaders have always sought information of the enemy, his strengths, his weaknesses, his intentions, his dispositions. Alexander the Great, presiding at the Macedonian court as a boy while his father, Philip, was absent on campaign, was remembered by visitors from the lands he would later conquer for his persistence in questioning them about the size of the population of their territory, the productiveness of the soil, the course of the routes and rivers that crossed it, the location of its towns, harbours and strong places, the identity of the important men. The young Alexander was assembling what today would be called economic, regional or strategic intelligence, and the knowledge he accumulated served him well when he began his invasion of the Persian empire, enormous in extent and widely diverse in composition. Alexander triumphed because he brought to his battlefields a ferocious fighting force of tribal warriors personally devoted to the Macedonian monarchy; but he also picked the Persian empire to pieces, attacking at its weak points and exploiting its internal divisions.
The strategy of divide and conquer, usually based on regional intelligence, underlay many of the greatest exploits of empire building. Not all; the Mongols preferred terror, counting on the word of their approach to dissolve resistance. If duplicity enhanced their terrible reputation, so much the better. In 1258, appearing out of the desert, Hulagu promised the Caliph, spiritual leader of Islam, ruler of the Muslim empire, his life if he would surrender Baghdad. As soon as he submitted, he was strangled and the horde moved on. The Mongols, however, as a wide-ranging nomad people, also knew a great deal and, like all nomads, when not on campaign, were always ready to trade. Markets are principal centres for the exchange of information as well as goods, and it was often a demand of marauders-by the Huns of the Romans, frequently by the Vikings-that they should be allowed to set up markets on the borders of settled lands. Commerce was commonly the prelude to predation. Trade may follow the flag, as the Victorians comfortably affirmed, but it was quite as often the other way about.
Empires in the ascendant, to whom nomads were an irritation rather than a threat, adopted a different attitude. They gave and withheld permission to trade and hold markets on their borders as a deliberate means of local control.1 They also pursued active forward policies. The pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty not only constructed a deep belt of forts on the border between settled Egypt and Nubia but also created a frontier force and issued it with standing orders. Its duty was to prevent Nubian incursions into the Nile Valley but also to patrol into the desert and report. One report, preserved on papyrus at Thebes, reads, We have found the track of 32 men and 3 donkeys; nearly 4,000 years old, it might have been written yesterday.
Ancient Egypt's border problem was perfectly manageable. The narrowness of the Nile Valley, amid the surrounding desert, necessitated the minimum of protect
A study on the influence of intelligence on war operations examines a series of historical wartime events to delineate the strategies and outcomes of each while linking the function of their intelligence operations, refuting perceptions that intelligence superiority is a key to war success. 125,000 first printing.
John Keegan, whose many books, including classic histories of the two world wars, have confirmed him as the premier miltary historian of our time, here presents a masterly look at the value and limitations ofintelligence in the conduct of war.
Intelligence gathering is an immensely complicated and vulnerable endeavor. And it often fails. Until the invention of the telegraph and radio, information oftentraveled no faster than a horse could ride, yet intelligence helped defeat Napoleon. In the twentieth century, photo analysts didn't recognize Germany's V-2 rockets for what they were; on the otherhand, intelligence helped lead to victory over the Japanese at Midway. In Intelligence in War, John Keegan illustrates that only when paired with force has military intelligence beenan effective tool, as it may one day be in besting al-Qaeda.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
John Keegan’s books include The First World War, The Battle for History, The Face of Battle, War and Our World, The Mask of Command, Fields of Battle and A History of Warfare. He is the defense editor of The Daily Telegraph (London). He lives in Wiltshire, England.
Table of Contents
Knowledge of the enemy — Chasing Napoleon — Local knowledge : Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley — Wireless intelligence — Crete : foreknowledge no help — Midway : the complete intelligence victory? — Intelligence, one factor among many : the Battle of the Atlantic — Human intelligence and secret weapons — Military intelligence since 1945 — The value of military intelligence.
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