5.0 out of 5 stars Useful to Policy and Intelligence Professionals, as Well as Students and the Public, March 23, 2013
I enjoyed this book, and particularly enjoyed the rather clever the way the author is able to say some pretty devastating things about intelligence failures in a rather bland manner. This book ends with a clear statement on how the US and UK intelligence agencies are trying — and failing — to “future proof” their calling. As I have spent the past 20 years thinking about that topic, for me this book is perhaps more valuable than some might find it–it has helped me to think about what seven points I might make to the serving heads of intelligence if I were asked, and I end my review with those.
At root this book outlines the following:
01 How the UK and US intelligence systems spent 50 years developing sources and methods suited to the Cold War state on state confrontation, only to find that today those sources and methods are largely useless against both fanatical non-state actors and dispersed non-state actors.
02 How the primary value of intelligence in the past may have been the ability to detect plans and intentions being kept secret, but today there are too few surprises, and the real challenge is understanding the underlying political, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, and techno-demographic parameters that make any given body do what it does.
03 Citing Christopher Andrew, how still today, and for the past decade since 9/11, the intelligence communities have no learned to work together nor learn from history.
04 In relation to the elective war on Iraq, the author finds the intelligence elements seriously abused by policy-makers who misrepresented the truth, and now seriously in need of reinstatement, but does not provide a prescription, something I offer below at the end of my review.
05 Knowing what is “really” going on is a grass-roots human intelligence deliverable, and not to be confused with the blithering of the think tanks, academics, media, and agitating activists.