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Learning from the Secret Past: Cases in British Intelligence History [Paperback]

Robert Dover , Michael S. Goodman

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Book Description

Sept. 26 2011
Identifying "lessons learned" is not new - the military has been doing it for decades. However, members of the worldwide intelligence community have been slow to extract wider lessons gathered from the past and apply them to contemporary challenges. "Learning from the Secret Past" is a collection of ten carefully selected cases from post-World War II British intelligence history. Some of the cases include the Malayan Emergency, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Northern Ireland, and the lead up to the Iraq War. Each case, accompanied by authentic documents, illuminates important lessons that today's intelligence officers and policymakers - in Britain and elsewhere - should heed. Written by former and current intelligence officers, high-ranking government officials, and scholars, the case studies in this book detail intelligence successes and failures, discuss effective structuring of the intelligence community, examine the effective use of intelligence in counterinsurgency, explore the ethical dilemmas and practical gains of interrogation, and highlight the value of human intelligence and the dangers of the politicization of intelligence. The lessons learned from this book stress the value of past experience and point the way toward running effective intelligence agencies in a democratic society. Scholars and professionals worldwide who specialize in intelligence, defense and security studies, and international relations will find this book to be extremely valuable.

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About the Author

Robert Dover is a senior lecturer in international relations at Loughborough University (UK) and the author of The Europeanization of British Defence Policy, 1997-2005. Michael S. Goodman is a senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King's College London, official historian of the Joint Intelligence Committee (UK), and author of Spying on the Nuclear Bear: Anglo-American Intelligence and the Soviet Bomb.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars Academic Case Histories June 19 2013
By Carlo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found the marketing description on Amazon for this book to be rather misleading, as it implied that actual intelligence operations were going to be discussed and analyzed. In reality, the book is structured around the somewhat novel approach of including a declassified historical document in each chapter/article (written by different authors) as the centerpiece for a broader academic discussion of the selected topic. All of the chapters are thus treated in an academic fashion, although some authors write more engagingly than others.

As long as the reader's expectations are properly adjusted, the book does have a reasonable amount of value to both foreign affairs practitioners and academics. Chapters that stood out for me included "Intelligence and Counterinsurgency: The Malayan Experience" by Matthew Jones, an in-depth treatment of how intelligence was central to the campaign; "'A Skeleton in Our Cupboard': British Interrogation Procedures in Northern Ireland" by Richard Aldrich, obviously very relevant for today's world and showing convincingly that these types of issues are timeless; and "The Value and Limits of Experience in the Early Years of the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1969-1972" by Eunan O'Halpin, which was perhaps the most entertainingly written in terms of prose and also highlighted the reality of ignorance and human limitations in decision-making.

Before purchasing this I would recommending checking the table of contents to make sure that it matches your interests. Otherwise, I can say it does offer some real insights into all of the topics treated. The declassified documents in the Kindle edition were readable, although not comfortably so for the most part.

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