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on 2 August 2007
This book has the misfortune to physically resemble those quickie military-porn books that are aimed at a certain sort of emotionally weird male - Special Forces recognition guides, glowing journalistic accounts of SAS missions you've never heard of, that kind of thing. That's a shame, as it's in fact an extremely interesting account of how certain military operations went badly wrong (or spectacularly right) because of how intelligence was either gathered, distributed or interpreted.

The author is a retired British Army Colonel with 20 years' intelligence experience, and while his literary style isn't always totally assured ('seeds' tend to be 'sown', if something is obvious then it tends to be 'blindingly obvious' and so on), his analysis of the various operations he talks about is always stimulating and sometimes eye-opening. What's refreshing about the book is that it's about failure, not about success; so the author can suggest that if Stalin hadn't ignored the mountain of evidence that the Nazis were about to invade the USSR in Operation Barbarossa, then the Russians could perhaps have felt very differently about their WW2 Allies who'd passed on a lot of the intel in the first place, and post-WW2 Europe could have looked very different in turn. Forensic argument like this is one of the big strengths of the book.

Similiarly refreshing is his extremely low opinion of that fondly-remembered minor royal, Lord Mountbatten, whose murder by the IRA I clearly remember from my teen years. Hughes-Wilson is unsparing in his criticism of Mountbatten's vanity, arrogance, duplicity and incompetence in relation to the botched Dieppe raid in 1942. He is equally right about Robert McNamara, without whose stewardship the US invasion of Vietnam could have ended much sooner.

I recommend this book not only to military geeks but also to anyone who enjoyed Norman F. Dixon's classic 'On the Psychology of Military Incompetence', to which this ought to be provided as an essential appendix. (One more thing. Re the title, shouldn't that be 'Covers-Up' rather than 'Cover-Ups'?)
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on 5 February 2007
This book takes several well known military events of the last 70 years, such as Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Tet Offensive, Gulf War 1 and shows how they succeeded or failed because of military intelligence, whether because the intelligences was absent, wrong or just plain ignored by the commanders and politicians. The writing style makes the book very easy to read and hard to put down.

The author is clearly of the military intelligence profession and he knows his subject, although this is not a text book by any means. I appreciate the author's neutrality when discussing the various events, something which may not appeal to people of a patriotic and narrow-minded persuasion.

The book opens by showing how military intelligence should work, and the opening chapter is somewhat dry for this reason. The remaining chapters show what happens when people fail to gather intelligence at all, or fail to gather it correctly, or gather too much of it and fail to analyze it quickly enough, or when politicians and other people with agendas insist that the intelligence supports a particular objective, or when politicians and commanders insist that they know best regardless of the actual facts. I was suprised at how utterly unprepared for invasion Stalin was, despite having possibly the best spy network in the world. I was shocked at the ignorance and reckless disregard for life shown by Winston Churchill and (the "war hero") Lord Mountbatten. I was amazed that the Americans could be surprised by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and the communist forces in Vietnam, despite lots of intelligence clearly showing what was about to unfold.

At the same time, the book praises successful uses of military intelligence. I was particularly impressed by how the allies misled the Germans with false intelligence so that D-Day could be a success, and how the Japanese conquered Singapore even though vastly outnumbered, simply because they had accurate intelligence and the enemy did not.

If you want to be, or claim to be, a military intelligence expert then I daresay this book will be nothing more than beach reading. If you have a passing interest, or if you find tales of people screwing up on a large scale rather entertaining, then this is an excellent read.
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on 1 July 2004
It is quite obvious that the author has an intelligence backgound but to me the most interesting chapter was on The Dieppe Raid & the involvement of Lord Louis Mountbatten. My Father, now dead, was involved and his opinion on this "Great Royal Hero" was quite unprintable. If you want to know why then this is the book for you.
His comments on political interference & ignorance are also well worth reading & I have often heard that the Falklands War was a war that should not have been fought, here you can see why that is an accurate description.
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on 22 December 2009
Intelligence for Dummies, though this is deadly serious! And then you would expect this book to be very boring indeed, but that isn't the case. Hugh-Wilson writes with good flow, amble sophistication, great insight and a twist of well-placed humour to spice it up. He is balancing delicately on the knife's edge of hindsight and "I told you so" and yet steering clear of the obvious pit falls.
I particularly like the parts about Vietnam and 9/11 - very enlightening and full of surprises.
The colour of the world is changing, as ever, and they - the intelligence community - have to be flexible. Who said jelly fish? That's not flexible enough!
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on 2 September 2015
Beautifully written and thoroughly researched by a deeply informed professional, this book stands out from others in its genre for its range, its quality and its accessability. No punches are pulled. A quite excellent book which I cannot recommend too highly.
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on 18 January 2015
A thoroughly informative read with lessons beyond just the military environment.
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on 30 July 2014
As described..all good
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on 21 January 2013
Tells by written what it says: MI blunders and cover-ups. Good for understanding the difficult metier of the MI experts and Intel Officers.
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