Monday, November 24, 2003

Distinguished military historian John Keegan has a new book out suggesting that the importance of military intelligence has been frequently overrated. The gurus of high-tech information warfare know enough not to challenge Keegan on his own home ground; instead they suggest that all that history that he knows so well, is, well, history:

Bruce Hoffman, director of RAND's Washington office and a terrorism analyst, said that although Sir John analyzed the role of intelligence in countering Al Qaeda, most of his examples were drawn from 18th- to 20th-century wars rather than 21st-century conflicts. "Keegan is largely right on the role of intelligence in conventional wars," Mr. Hoffman said, "but he is not right about counterinsurgencies in any century, when intelligence is the sine qua non of success." Modern wars, he argued, are not fought only with military tools. "So intelligence has a very different role today. You can no longer fight, much less win them just with military strength."

Great news for our forces in Iraq, which might be able to succeed by applying intelligence, without brute manpower. Or not:

Mr. Hoffman maintained, for instance, that poor intelligence on the radical jihadists and pro-Saddam Hussein loyalists who are killing both Iraqis and American soldiers today "is one of our major problems in Iraq."


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