Essays & Reviews

David Tucker on the Classic Dimensions of Strategy and Intelligence

David Tucker (Ashbrook Center, Ashland University) has published a book, The End of Intelligence: Espionage and State Power in the Information Age, in the Stanford Security Series (Stanford University Press). To a first order, the book examines – and finds wanting – claims that the recent information revolution has weakened the state, revolutionized warfare, or changed the balance of power between states and non-state actors. It can be read at several different levels: as a primer, or refresher, on the various dimensions of intelligence (e.g., collection, analysis, espionage, counterintelligence, and covert action); as high-level exploration of the relationship among philosophies of government and human nature, historical eras, and various approaches to the means and ends of intelligence; and for its considered judgment of the possibilities, and particularly the limitations, of intelligence. Tucker argues that intelligence, rightly understood, can assist, but not replace, political wisdom (prudence), intuitive judgment and morality in the calculation of statecraft. All while recalling Harry Jaffa’s insistence on the power of chance in human affairs and thus the importance of “a standard of goodness or badness beyond results.”

Tucker’s book also provides an excellent critical review of historical and contemporary literature concerning intelligence.  He intriguingly divides the concept of the role of intelligence into “ancient” and “modern” perspectives.  Sun Tzu, in his judgment, offers perhaps the most important ancient reflections on intelligence. The modern version, certainly in its American incarnation, is best represented by Sherman Kent’s Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy (originally published in 1949), of which Tucker offers a thorough and careful critique.

We might also call your attention to Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Kim, a classic of the espionage genre, as well as of the Great Game in Central Asia, which we summarize here.