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

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  950 ratings  ·  66 reviews
From the earliest times, commanders have sought knowledge of the enemy, his strengths and weaknesses, his dispositions and intentions. But how much effect, in the 'real time' of a battle or a campaign, can this knowledge have?

In this magisterial new study, the author of A History of Warfare goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument
Hardcover, 443 pages
Published by Hutchinson (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,941)
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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
Scott Neal Reilly
Aug 10, 2007 Scott Neal Reilly rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Huw Evans
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
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
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to read about Intelligence without getting upset.
Shelves: history, cia
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
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
Larry Hostetler
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
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
Francisco Luis
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
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
Keegan at his best. He dissects Intelligence support to war throughout the ages and wonderfully describes the "push-pull" nature between it, operations, and (always) politics.
Devon Aguirre
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
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
Kyle Geissler
I enjoyed most of this book, but some of it was not want I was expecting. The parts that detailed battle strategy in the various cases he looked at was more more heavy on the specifics of the battles than I would have expected. It seemed to drift away from the issue of intelligence at some points. That said, it was still a good read, it just seemed to veer from the main topic at times.
Andrew Parnell
Good book, well researched. John Keegan knows his history. I think he went into too much detail on his chosen examples to make his point.
Adam West
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
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
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
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
Mark Henrikson
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
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?
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
Comparing the collection of intelligence over two hundred years is a daunting task, but Keegan shows thru concrete examples how intelligence gathering has changed, how it failed and succeeded thru the sweep of years.

Why I started this book: We've all heard that joke that the biggest oxymoron is military intelligence, so I was interested in learning more about gathering secrets of the enemy.

Why I finished it: Fascinating case studies, it's always interesting to know who knew what when.
Scott Martin
Overall, a solid read. It does reinforce that bad intelligence can seriously screw up military operations. However, great intelligence does not in itself determine the success of military operations (see the examples of Crete and the Battle of Midway). Ultimately, it does come down to how a military force uses that intelligence and what outcomes a battle takes. One of those books that I had for a long time, but just hadn't gotten around to finishing until recently.
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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.

More about John Keegan...
The First World War The Face of Battle The Second World War A History of Warfare Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944

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