on April 2, 2003
Silent Warfare is probably the best introductory text available covering the subject of intelligence. It reads like a text book, but that's because it basically IS a textbook. It's a serious academic text rather than a cloak and dagger story. This is one to read for understanding rather than necessarily for pleasure.
The book is fairly short but covers all the bases in terms of types of intelligence, types of intelligence organisation, the various debates surrounding the subject etc. It is, perhaps inevitably, somewhat America-centric. British intelligence and the KGB stick their heads into the picture from time to time, largely to provide illustrative comparisons rather than as studies in themselves.
When making a point, the authors generally try to provide historical examples and comparison, which is helpful, especially for the beginner. It also helps to enliven the text a bit.
The book is extremely well sourced and many of the end notes contain further explanations and are extremely interesting in themselves.
The only thing I feel the book lacks, and this is a fairly minor quibble, is a bibliography. This would have been very useful, especially in what is intended to be an introductory textbook. A bibliographical essay with suggestions for recommended further reading would have been even better.
Quibbles aside, this is a very good primer and to the best of my knowledge there are no books on the market that can compete with it in terms of providing a solid academic introduction to the subject. People with a serious interest in intelligence would be well advised to follow this book up by taking a look at the works of Michael Herman, which provide more in-depth coverage (especially "Intelligence Power in Peace and War") and a non-American (in this case British) angle - though they may be a little heavy for the absolute novice.
To sum up, if you have never read an academic book on intelligence before this is the one to go for.
on February 11, 2003
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in gaining a basic understanding of the world of intelligence, counterintelligence and covert action. The text formed the basis for my course on American intelligence at a local college. The feedback I received from the students about Silent Warfare was 100% positive. A review of intelligence related syllabi from colleges and universities around the country indicates it is a very popular introductory text.
The popularity of this book is due in large part to Shulsky and Schmitt's ability to explain difficult concepts, and navigate the reader through the Intelligence Community bureaucracy as well as related legal/constitutional issues. The students were particularly grateful for the captivating historical examples sprinkled liberally throughout the text. Best of all it is a relatively short read with extensive and insightful endnotes.
My only (and small) criticism of Silent Warfare is its description of open source collection. The authors use a generally accepted definition: "... newspapers, books, radio and television broadcasts, the Internet, and any other public source of information." However, they stray off the mark a bit when they classify "diplomatic and attaché reporting" as open source. I would contend such reporting clearly belongs to human intelligence (HUMINT), as neither diplomatic nor attaché reports are "public source[s] of information." Again this is a small criticism, but as an open source practitioner I could not let it slide.
Overall, Silent Warfare is an excellent text which should be the first read for anyone interested in the world of espionage.
on December 4, 2002
As a whole, the American public is often unaware of the important role which intelligence collection and analysis plays within the development of national security policy; Silent Warfare provides an excellent introduction to this role. While not patronizing the reader, Shulsky and Schmitt have managed to break intelligence down into its basic components, explaining the theories and experiences through easy-to-understand historical contexts. They explain the differences between technical intelligence, human intelligence, and open source intelligence; they also explain the often overlooked role of covert operations within the confines of intelligence and national security policy.
While dealing with such a touchy subject, Shulsky and Schmitt are also careful not to gloss over the short comings of the intelligence community. Within Silent Warfare, they touch on issues such as the "not built here" syndrome, as well as the American tendency to project American values on other populations which may -- or may not -- see things the way we do. They take these criticisms one step further by also presenting possible solutions, as well as the solutions currently in testing phases.
Overall, I felt this book was a great introduction to intelligence, breaking the essential elements down into east-to-understand phrasing and terminology without talking down to the reader and without overindulging in the use of the infamous "alphabet soup."