After the RMA: Contemporary Intelligence, Power and War

Authored by: John Ferris

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754674108
eBook ISBN: 9781315613284
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042495


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Intelligence is not just espionage. It is the collection, collation and analysis of information so to help one use resources well in competitions with rivals. Intelligence is not a form of power, but a guide to its use. Intelligence is not collected for its own sake, but to support action. It does not win wars, but it can help generals to do so, by serving as a force multiplier, or by letting one know one’s options and choose a good one. It has offered advantages to States for millennia, though not consistently—here essential to events, there irrelevant. Most States have received some intelligence sometimes, but not always from permanent and specialized agencies, and they have not always assessed it through bureaucracies. Until 1860, staffs were a secretariat, while commanders handled even minor functions of command. They organized the collection of their own intelligence, working through ad hoc means and a few aides; so did prime ministers and kings. This approach had advantages. Decision-makers could direct their intelligence and receive exactly the information they wanted; despite their lack of technological resources, the best personalized systems matched any bureaucratized ones of the twentieth century. Most pre-modern systems, however, were worse than mediocre modern ones, because intelligence was not thoroughly collected and assessed. By 1914, bureaucracy and technology enabled a revolution in intelligence, which rose sharply in significance and, along with other factors, transformed the nature of power and the working of war. Some see another such revolution in military intelligence occurring today.

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