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Intelligence In War: Knowledge Of The Enemy From Napoleon To Al Qaeda

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  1,161 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
No war can be conducted successfully without early and good intelligence, wrote Marlborough, and from the earliest times, commanders have sought knowledge of the enemy, his strengths and weaknesses, his dispositions and intentions. series of important conflicts to develop an argument about intelligence in war. From the Napoleonic Wars to the sophisticated electronic warfar ...more
Hardcover, 443 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Hutchinson Radius
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Mike Harbert
Like most of John Keegan's books, this is not necessarily an easy read. Keegan's prose is often difficult for American readers, but I find that after about 100 pages it gets easier.

This book is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the application of intelligence in modern warfare. Instead, much like Keegan's much better "Mask of Command," he provides a series of vignettes detailing some of the greatest moments in the use and application of military intelligence, loosely tied together in
...more
Scott Neal Reilly
Jun 27, 2007 Scott Neal Reilly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those intertested in the history of warfare
This is a history of the use of intelligence of a variety of types in war. The main thesis is that human intelligence (spying, espionage, etc.) is usually associated with intelligence but that the most important forms of intelligence are actually based on electronic surveillance and code decryption. This is a fine and interesting point. The presentation, however, tends to focus less on intelligence and more on warfare and the narratives of particular battles where intelligence played some role, ...more
Tony
May 04, 2013 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
This one needed some gravy. The subject matter is infinitely interesting, but the delivery here was too analytical and academically-dry for me to really enjoy the stories behind the history. I have loved reading John Keegan, before, but this one didn't hold me like his others.
Rebecca Yin
Intelligence in War, written by John Keegan, is supposedly a research book discussing predictably, the usage and efficacy of intelligence in winning wars. However, though Keegan speaks extensively on multiple historical skirmishes across several countries and cultures, I find that the direction he takes is more often than not simply an extremely long summarization of circumstances, with minimal mention of any intelligence collected by the officers in command of the battles. The thesis of this pu ...more
Sue
Jan 25, 2017 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Keegan is a terrific writer about military history. Years ago I read his The Face of Battle & learned a lot. This book was much denser. I'd say I understood maybe a third of what I read!
Graham
I generally like John Keegan's histories - and the straight history portion of this is no exception - but when it comes to situating the role of intelligence in war, Keegan seems to miss the boat on its utility and indeed, its intended purpose.

The dominant thesis throughout this book is that intelligence is useful and important to military commanders, but that at the end of the day it wins neither battles nor wars. Which is not untrue; however, that would seem to be a straw man argument that few
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Jake
Of all of the clichés of the information age, “knowledge is power” might be one of the biggest and most prevalent. Living in a world where we have daily access to more information than we can possibly process or comprehend, we’ve become conditioned to think that knowing more is in of itself a means of being able to do more. This particular cliché extends to most people’s vision of military operations, where it is assumed that “intelligence”, which is the collection of information about enemy pla ...more
Lee
Mar 25, 2015 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a lot to recommend it. It is a series of case studies focusing on the usefulness of intelligence in specific battles. Keegan's thesis rejects the normal understanding of intelligence, that "knowledge is power." Instead, Keegan convincingly suggests that intelligence is usually peripheral to determining the outcome of a battle. Power, and the willingness to exercise it through brute, physical force, is the most important point to determining the outcome of a battle.

He proves this b
...more
Casey
Apr 06, 2013 Casey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dry. I had an internal civil war just trying to finish this book "put the book down... no just finish it, then you wont have to keep reading..."

I have heard good things about Keegan, but after finishing his book "Intelligence in War" there was much to be desired. I would agree with the other reviewers in saying that the historical aspects of this book were more thoroughly researched than the intelligence aspects.

In his own words: "All of the cases studies in this book concern military intellig
...more
Huw Evans
Sep 13, 2011 Huw Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, warfare
What is the value of Military Intelligence in warfare? This is the question that John Keegan asks in this book and he cites a number of episodes where the speed, value and access to information of the opposition improves with enough potential to change the outcome of a battle or campaign.

Having read much by other military historians of late I had forgotten just how dry, stylistically, Keegan is. He is also, of his own admission, much more interested in deployment than intelligence which would ap
...more
taarak
This work meanders. It is more an exciting complex of war stories about innovative leaders who used intelligence amongst their other assets to obtain victory. Entertaining but primarily as a missive on historical battles.

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 confli
...more
Larry Hostetler
Mar 15, 2013 Larry Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
An interesting set of case studies on the impact of intelligence in wartime. The book covers a wide variety of battles with centuries worth of examples.

While looking at each instance the author examines and shares in layman's terms both the types of intelligence used and the value of both the intelligence and the use of it. He cites some examples where intelligence was limited and ignored to the detriment of the outcome, and others where it was used to the advantage of the owner.

Due to several
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Mike
This book is another example of John Keegan's brilliant historical writing. There is a lot here to support his thesis: that wars are won not by intelligence or a superior spy network, but by force -- armies against other armies. He gives examples where intelligence helped a inferior force defeat a larger force (Jackson and the Shenadoah campaign, or the Americans at Midway), and other examples where almost perfect foreknowledge was no help at all (Battle of Crete).

I must say that I was hoping f
...more
Nathan
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to read about Intelligence without getting upset.
Shelves: cia, history
John Keegan is probably one of the best military historians to ever put pen to paper, but Intelligence in War is not his best book. It's not as fluidly written or as rational as Keegan's other work. On the basis of intelligence alone, the book is strong but not nearly as informative as other books on the topic. Keegan focuses on intelligence during wartime, and while this study is solid, it is frankly not as fascinating as the operations of various national intelligence services during times of ...more
Matt
Oct 26, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty interesting book. It's a series of case studies meant to reveal how intelligence has been used in wartime. The case studies show how intelligence, when combined with superior force or military strategy, is beneficial. When there is no superior military force or strategy, intelligence does not put its possessor at any military advantage.

Since the author is only speaking of the value of intelligence in wartime, his thesis is naturally limited to those scenarios. I'm not sure that it holds
...more
Grant
Oct 20, 2014 Grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking series of case studies demonstrating that while information about the enemy's intentions, capabilities, and movements, can provide great advantages in war, ultimately it all comes down to fighting. Without the strength and will to win, no intelligence advantage can be decisive. The case studies - Nelson's pursuit of Napoleon in the Mediterranean, Stonewall Jackson in the Valley, the German East Asiatic Cruiser Squadron in World War I, and the World War II battles of Crete, Mi ...more
Francisco Luis Benítez
Interesante, y densa, visión de algunos acontecimientos bélicos, vistos desde la gestión estratégica y táctica de la inteligencia militar (humint). Aporta una visión distinta, al demostrar que tener más información verificada en tiempo casi real o real, no es determinante a la hora de una victoria militar si no se toman las decisiones adecuadas, y lo que es más importante la determinación para llevarlas a cabo, que es lo que pesa en el teatro de operaciones.
Especialmente destacables son los ensa
...more
Matthew
This is a superb work on the role of intelligence within warfare. Keegan's chosen case studies are: Nelson in the Mediterranean; Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley; wireless technology in the First World War's naval battles; Crete, Midway, the Battle of the Atlantic, and Peenemunde in the Second World War; and the Falkland Islands in the Cold War. Insights about other events from the Napoleonic Age to the world of today are consistently sprinkled throughout. This is an excellent book that could ea ...more
Ben
Feb 17, 2010 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A good, but not great, examination of war and intelligence from John Keegan (like you couldn't tell that from the title). He primarily focuses on intelligence during wars or leading up to battles. His big conclusion is that while accurate and timely intelligence is good, it's definitely not everything.

The chapters focusing on World War II are strongest (four of eight deal specifically with WWII), while the others are weaker. The conclusion, where discussing governments helping armed resistance
...more
Devon Aguirre
Oct 26, 2013 Devon Aguirre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting in some parts and dull in others. It is a great case study on certain parts in military history. Keegan definitely had a fondness of British naval history. His cases were distinctly modern but thy is usually how a lot of history works and especially because he was mostly documenting the changing of military intelligence and it's technology. I enjoyed it more as a general military than history of intelligence in war but the topic is very specific and it tried remain appr ...more
J.
Aug 14, 2014 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
4-5 stars. On the whole: a very smooth read and often riveting. Where I felt it fell short was (1) in some of Keegan's conclusions and (2) - in more modern examples - places where the author's own political views emerged more than I like in a historical/intelligence analysis. I definitely would have rated the final few chapters 3 stars (if that), which contrasted extremely to the preceding text.

Nevertheless, it was without a doubt one of the best-written non-fiction books I've read. The section
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Timothy Finnegan
Keegan tends to clot his sentences with diagrammatic detail. Books on wars suffer from the same malady; describing the action of millions of people under arms is often best left to movies or videos. It's much like trying to build a house by taking a self-help book without pictures down to the job. Whatever, his knowledge is so vast that you always learn something even if you just read the top and the bottom of each page. I learned a lot about the V-1 and the V-2, the wunder- waffens of Nazi Germ ...more
Bill
Jan 07, 2015 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like every other John Keegan book I've read this one is extremely well researched, laid out in a narrative format that keeps the reader's interest making it a real page turner, and flows in a logical fashion that helps the reader follow and understand the material covered.
Each of the separate historical events covered could be a book on its own so for someone looking for a deeper dive into any of the wars/battles Keegan uses this book can be an introduction and lead to a search for other books t
...more
Dan
Aug 10, 2008 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like John Keegan's style-- he manages to pack a lot of information in while still making it interesting. In this book, he basically makes the argument that intelligence gathering for military purposes makes very little difference in armed conflict. Instead, tactics, firepower, and luck are more dominating factors. I was skeptical of his argument at first, but I think he makes a pretty good case. Even so, I'm not fully convinced. Nobody likes going into battle blind, and knowing something about ...more
Mark Henrikson
Jul 19, 2013 Mark Henrikson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually read this before the update with Al-Qaeda was added, so can't speak to that section. The rest is excellent. Not exactly a gripping page turner, but if you like military history this one will knock your socks off.

The book covers a remarkably varied number of warfare situations and eras: Napoleon, American Civil War, WWII naval engagements, land battles, air recon, and now apparently the modern day fight against Al-Qaeda. Very broad, well written, and most important of all, well researc
...more
Wayland Smith
The title is pretty self explanatory. It's a bit dry and academic at points, but covers the history of developing intelligence on the enemy in wartime. Each section takes from a different part in history, including the Civil War, several parts of World War II, the Napleonic wars, the Falkland Islands conflict, and bit form the Iraq war.

The author does make a good point on the differences between intel and actually fighting. He has some good insights to the shifting nature of modern war.

Recommen
...more
Nuno
Aug 25, 2014 Nuno rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title is misleading. If you're looking for descriptions of espionage missions, this is not the book you're looking for.

Each chapter is focused on a particular battle of big wars of history (WWI, WWII, American Civil War, Napoleonic Wars) and the author describes how the battle was conducted. The intelligence the armies had gathered is almost always on the background of the narrative. Except when the author explains the importance of ciphers and the role of Enigma and B-Dienst, intelligence
...more
Peter
Jan 07, 2008 Peter rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've always respected John Keegan as a historian, even though I find him to be an arrogant S.O.B. While reading this book I got the impression that he was mailing in his effort. He starts the book by down-playing the importance of intelligence in war throughout history. His conclusion at the end of the book is that intelligence can only help a commander make decisions in battle; the rest is up to fate, weather, troop ability/morale. Not exactly a riveting conclusion for a well-respected historia ...more
richard m.
Great detail of some significant battles of past wars with a discussion of how information (i.e., intelligence) affected the outcome.

This is dry reading, but incredible detail if you are a military history aficionado.

The historical aspects of this book seemed much more thoroughly researched than the intelligence aspects. Perhaps this book is a collection of other writings overlaid with a more superficial analysis of intelligence factors. Was it just an opportunity to publish another volume?
Adam West
Dec 28, 2010 Adam West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. I've enjoyed everything from John Keegan thusfar, and I think one of my favorite aspects of military science is military intelligence. He who knows more, has so much the advantage over his enemy. Keegan does an excellent job of explaining how simply holding knowledge of the enemy is not enough unless it is included in the strategic, operational, and tactical planning procedures and measures are taken to make use of said knowledge. I would like to work in Military Intellige ...more
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Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE was a British military historian, lecturer and journalist. He published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime and intelligence warfare as well as the psychology of battle.

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