One of two required readings on intelligence for anyone,
April 7, 2000
Allen Welsh Dulles
This is the other required reading. This gem sits on my desk with my dictionary of difficult words and my synonym dictionary. We still do not have an equal to this book. Since Dulles testified to Congress that 80% of the raw material for finished intelligence came from public sources including diplomatic reporting, this book provides an interesting benchmark for understanding the rather pathological impact of technical collection on the larger process of all-source collection and analysis.
Loch is the dean of the scholars competent to address intelligence matters, and his experience as a member of the professional staff of both the Church Committee in the 1970’s and the Aspin/Brown Commission in the 1990’s uniquely qualify him to discuss and evaluate U.S. intelligence. His chapters on the ethics of covert operations and on intelligence accountability set a standard for this aspect of the discussion. This is the only book I have seen that objectively and methodically discusses intelligence success and failures in relation to the Soviet Union, with a superb three-page listing decade by decade being provided on pages 180-182.
Ralph Peters, whom I know professionally, is a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia who has actually walked hundreds of miles through the worst of terrains, and deeply understands–at both a Ph.D. and gutter level, the reality of real war. The Joint Chiefs don’t want to face this reality because it bears no resemblance to their nice clean air-conditioned CNN version of war. Devil’s Garden is the real thing, and it is also a great novel.
Ralph Peters draws on over 30 years of experience and at least ten years of published thinking to bring us this capstone book. It is, with Brigadier Simmon’s book on RACE TO THE SWIFT, and one or two others (perhaps MajGen Scales book on The Limits of Firepower–can’t hit what intel can’t find, and anything by Martin Van Crevald), one of the top ten books in military thinking today, and absolutely essential for any officer or any political appointee responsive for national security, to digest and redigest. Ralph speaks truth to power, but power doesn’t want to listen. Anyone who has a son or daughter eligible for national service should be reading this book, because the reality is that we are perpetuating a military machine totally unsuited for the conflicts of today and tomorrow, and it is our children who will die because of our silence at voters today.
Copyrighted in 1950, my dog-eared, water-stained copy of this book has been with me now for 18 years, and the lessons it contains, learned the hard way by the men who fought and led troops through the first two world wars, are just as valuable today as they were on the eve of the Korean War. It examines what some might consider a mundane subject (what a soldier carries, and should and should not be expected to carry into battle) in a way that says a lot about our culture and the American way of war. Marshall’s observations may seem elementary, but the fact that he had to set them down on paper just a few years after WWII is proof positive that the minions of political correctness were alive and well fifty years ago, and that institutional memory is definately of the short term variety. Anyone who leads troops and has not read this book should be dismissed from the service, and anyone who does not reread it every two years should be put in charge of nothing more challenging than changing the marquee at the base theater. Unfortunatly my own experience has led me to believe that it remains unread by many who consider themselves professional soldiers, lending more than a grain of truth to the the saying “Common sense is an uncommon virtue.”. If you enjoy Col. David Hackworth’s column, you will like this.
THE DOLLAR HAS NO INTRINSIC VALUE : DO YOUR ASSETS?