ISBN-10:
1589019989
ISBN-13:
9781589019980
Pub. Date:
10/01/2013
Publisher:
Georgetown University Press
Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond

Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond

by Erik J. Dahl

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Overview

Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond

Why do surprise attacks-whether from terrorists or from conventional enemies-succeed even when some advance warning frequently seems clear in hindsight? Ever since Pearl Harbor the conventional wisdom has been that surprise attacks succeed because intelligence and national security officials lack the imagination or capacity to "connect the dots" from the available information or lack "game-changing" strategic intelligence. But this work argues that the conventional wisdom is wrong: by comparing cases where intelligence failed to anticipate and stop a surprise attack with cases where intelligence did prevent the attack, Dahl find that the key to success is not more imagination. Rather the acquisition of specific, tactical-level intelligence, combined with the presence of decisionmakers who are receptive to the warnings they are given makes the difference. Strategic intelligence is often what decisionmakres say they want, but Dahl finds that in practice, strategic intelligence is generally non-specific and thus doesn't foster a sense of urgency to act. This book offers a theory of preventive action and advances the literatures on intelligence and surprise attack.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589019980
Publisher: Georgetown University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 268,512
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Erik J. Dahl is an assistant professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is also a faculty member of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) at the Naval Postgraduate School. Previously, he was a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, an instructor of joint military operations at the Naval War College, and served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Breaking the First Law of Intelligence Failure

1. Why Does Intelligence Fail, and How Can It Succeed?

Part I: The Problem of Conventional Surprise Attack 2. Pearl Harbor: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom3. The Battle of Midway: Explaining Intelligence Success4. Testing the Argument: Classic Cases of Surprise Attack

Part II: The Problem of Terrorist Surprise Attack 5. The East Africa Embassy Bombings: Disaster Despite Warning6. New York City: Preventing a Day of Terror7. The 9/11 Attacks: A New Explanation8. Testing the Argument: Why Do Terrorist Plots Fail?

Conclusion: Preventing Surprise Attacks Today

Appendix: Unsuccessful Plots and Attacks against American Targets, 1987-2012

Notes

Bibliography

Index

What People are Saying About This

Thomas G. Mahnken

Erik Dahl's Intelligence and Surprise Attack reflects the experience of a practitioner and the rigor of a scholar. It is a serious work that deserves attention in the world of ideas and the world of action.

Robert Jervis

In this important book, Dahl advances the study of surprise attack by looking at intelligence successes as well as failures, stressing the value of warnings that are precise enough to merit action, and reminding us that warnings will influence only those who are prepared to heed them. The theory is developed very well and the case-studies are exemplary.

Arthur Hulnick

Most scholars who have written about intelligence have concluded that failure is inevitable, but Erik Dahl has taken a different, ground-breaking approach. He outlines, in this very readable book, ways to make intelligence successful and avoid surprise. This is a work that many readers will find useful and should be on the bookshelf of every intelligence analyst.

Jack Levy

Building on in-depth historical studies of American intelligence failures and successes spanning seven decades, and on his own invaluable experience as a career intelligence officer, Erik Dahl provides a new answer to the old question of when and why intelligence fails. Emphasizing the importance of specific, actionable intelligence, Dahl explains the mistakes of the past and suggests how they might be avoided in the future. Intelligence and Surprise Attack is a fascinating study of both conventional and terrorist surprise attack, and essential reading for all serious students of the theory and practice of intelligence.

From the Publisher

"Erik Dahl's Intelligence and Surprise Attack reflects the experience of a practitioner and the rigor of a scholar. It is a serious work that deserves attention in the world of ideas and the world of action." -- Thomas G. Mahnken, Jerome Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Security, US Naval War College

"In this important book, Dahl advances the study of surprise attack by looking at intelligence successes as well as failures, stressing the value of warnings that are precise enough to merit action, and reminding us that warnings will influence only those who are prepared to heed them. The theory is developed very well and the case-studies are exemplary." -- Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

"Building on in-depth historical studies of American intelligence failures and successes spanning seven decades, and on his own invaluable experience as a career intelligence officer, Erik Dahl provides a new answer to the old question of when and why intelligence fails. Emphasizing the importance of specific, actionable intelligence, Dahl explains the mistakes of the past and suggests how they might be avoided in the future. Intelligence and Surprise Attack is a fascinating study of both conventional and terrorist surprise attack, and essential reading for all serious students of the theory and practice of intelligence." -- Jack Levy, Board of Governors' Professor, Rutgers University

"Erik Dahl combines a practitioner's experience in the intelligence field with an academic's theoretical sensibility in an astute comparative analysis that places our inability to prevent the 9/11 surprise attacks in historical perspective. His book is a worthy addition to the literature on intelligence failures." -- Martha Crenshaw, senior fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University

"Most scholars who have written about intelligence have concluded that failure is inevitable, but Erik Dahl has taken a different, ground-breaking approach. He outlines, in this very readable book, ways to make intelligence successful and avoid surprise. This is a work that many readers will find useful and should be on the bookshelf of every intelligence analyst." -- Arthur Hulnick, Associate Professor of International Relations, Boston University

Martha Crenshaw

Erik Dahl combines a practitioner's experience in the intelligence field with an academic's theoretical sensibility in an astute comparative analysis that places our inability to prevent the 9/11 surprise attacks in historical perspective. His book is a worthy addition to the literature on intelligence failures.

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