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4.0 out of 5 stars Keegan - Intelligence in War
Extremely interesting, as always with Keegan. Better on the historical material (perhaps because less familiar) than on the more up-to-date stuff. His account of Nelson's chase of the French fleet before the Battle of Aboukir bay is masterful.
Just one complaint - it needs better maps. So often military history books are marred by this. It can make it very...
Published on 5 April 2004 by david_frost

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressed
If you believe the cover this is a "magisterial new study" on the subject of military intelligence, with a "narrative sweep [that] is enthralling", "stimulating and informed", "a fascinating book on a fascinating subject", etc., etc., etc. I came to this with a very high opinion of John Keegan's work, having been bowled over by "The Face of Battle", one of the best...
Published on 26 May 2007 by Andrew Walker


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressed, 26 May 2007
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Andrew Walker "Andrew Walker" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intelligence in War. Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (Hardcover)
If you believe the cover this is a "magisterial new study" on the subject of military intelligence, with a "narrative sweep [that] is enthralling", "stimulating and informed", "a fascinating book on a fascinating subject", etc., etc., etc. I came to this with a very high opinion of John Keegan's work, having been bowled over by "The Face of Battle", one of the best military history books I have ever read, and one that thoroughly deserves all of the grand phrases I quoted above.

I see from the other reviews posted on different versions of this book that it has lived up to the billing for some people but I was disappointed in it. It is 440 pages long and after a brief introduction to different types of intelligence it consists of seven case studies, followed by a chapter to cover 1945 onwards, focusing mainly on the Falklands.

The case studies are arranged chronologically to illustrate the way intelligence has developed, but I still found them a rather odd choice. The earliest is Nelson's pursuit of the French fleet across the Mediterranean in 1798 so anything up to that date receives slightly cursory attention. Of the seven case studies, four of them concern naval battles (Nelson in the Med, naval action at the start of the first world war 1914, Midway 1942, the U-boat campaign in the Atlantic 1939-45). One case study is of `special weapons', the German V1 and V2 bombs launched in 1944-5. Only two chapters are about land war, and the choice - an airborne assault (Crete) and a `sideshow' from the American Civil War (Shenandoah Valley) - seem bizarre to me.

With four case studies out of seven, naval warfare is seriously over-represented. Major land campaigns such as the fall of France in 1940, the Waterloo campaign, and any one of a number of others (Iraq 2003, perhaps?) are not considered. What about air battles such as the Battle of Britain or the Allied bombing campaign of Germany? Or even, anti-terrorist campaigns such as Northern Ireland? Certainly these are touched on in the last chapter but only in passing. I would have valued more on any one of these rather than yet another naval battle.

Bizarrely, some of the case studies really don't emphasise the role of intelligence at all - the Shenandoah Valley chapter (claimed to be an example of `local knowledge in action') hardly mentions the role this played. The study of U-boats in the Atlantic is also more memorable for its sad thoughts about the fate of the survivors of sunken ships than it is for the role of intelligence.

Another Amazon reviewer says that even when Keegan strays from his theme he still recounts the history to a high standard, but again I did not find this. The Shenandoah chapter is so confusing I had little idea what was going on, and the chapter on Nelson was quite hard to follow as well. The publisher is guilty here for the maps for a given case study are often crammed onto a single page; the naval battles in particular require you to follow zig-zagging lines around but it is hard to orientate yourself to begin with. I would willingly have sacrificed all of the glossy pictures included in the book, which frankly add nothing to my understanding, for more maps that broke battles down into a sequence rather than cramming complicated manoeuvres onto one map.

Another irritant was the description of machines such as Enigma - Keegan goes on for pages about this and how they were analysed by the scientists of various countries, but I found this very hard going and really can't say I understood any of it.

This book would have been much more informative if, instead of going into great detail about a few case studies, the author had picked themes and used numerous brief examples to illustrate them. For example, the gist of the case study of the assault on Crete is that even if you know 99% of the enemy's plan you might still lose the battle. This is important but the example could have been covered in 2 pages, maybe 5 at a push; in fact the chapter goes on for 42 pages. The author stands accused of self-indulgence when he goes on at such length.

And a final whinge, on my paperback the front cover includes pictures of Hitler, Goring, Bin laden and Napoleon ... yet none of them are the subjects of the case studies! And they say you can't judge a book by its cover!

In summary, I was not impressed! My review sounds very grumpy but it is probably because I expected a lot and was disappointed. This was a fair attempt to make a technical subject accessible but the odd choice of case studies, compounded by the unnecessary level of detail and failure to stick to the point, left this as a mish-mash of a book. I suggest you invest your hard-earned pennies in a copy of "The Face of Battle" instead.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Keegan - Intelligence in War, 5 April 2004
This review is from: Intelligence in War. Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (Hardcover)
Extremely interesting, as always with Keegan. Better on the historical material (perhaps because less familiar) than on the more up-to-date stuff. His account of Nelson's chase of the French fleet before the Battle of Aboukir bay is masterful.
Just one complaint - it needs better maps. So often military history books are marred by this. It can make it very difficult to follow the text. Why won't publishers listen?
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