Top positive review
Excellent Insights by an Insider
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2003
This is one the best books about military intelligence that I have read. Having spent many years working in the area, I find that most other books on the subject are written by outsiders who never quite fully understand what they are writing about, no matter how bright or well intentioned they may be. Few outsiders appreciate, for example, the details of the intelligence cycle, the multiple layers of intelligence collectors, the rivalries among collection agencies, the correct technical jargon, the practical effects on intelligence analysis of inter-agency battles for bigger budgets, etc.
Hughes-Wilson utilizes a case study approach. He analyzes nine different events or conflicts from World War II to the present. Having read about many of the conflicts before, I did not expect to learn much that was new. However, the author presented many new factual details about the events involving the Brits, in particular, that were fascinating. He was clearly a very informed observer and/or possible participant in many of the conflicts. His analysis of the American failure in Tet 1968 is one of the most incisive and dispassionate that I have read. He is no fan of official histories. He is blunt in his criticisms. His comments (actually a very minor part of his Pearl Harbor story)about the FBI's handling of Japanese and German espionage in WW II makes one seriously question the FBI's competence to work effectively as an intelligence organization at that time. But, then has anything really gotten better at the FBI?
Bottom line: As one other reviewer has commented, Hughes-Wilson's real message is that political considerations - whether those of a totalitarian regime or a democracy - often lead to what are called "intelligence blunders." His call for truly objective and independent intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination should be heeded, but it will probably be ignored. We will see more such blunders again.