The interwar period witnessed both a considerable shift in the balance of power in Europe and Asia and the emergence of new ways of war, such as carrier aviation, amphibious operations, and combined-arms armored warfare. American attempts to follow these developments, Mahnken says, illustrate the problems that intelligence organizations face in their efforts to bridge the gulf between prewar expectations and wartime reality. He finds three reasons for intelligence's relative lack of success: intelligence agencies are more inclined to monitor established weapons systems than to search for new ones; their attention is more likely to focus on technology and doctrine already demonstrated in combat; and they have more success identifying innovation in areas their own country is testing.
Uncovering Ways of War substantially revises the perception of how American intelligence performed prior to World War II. Mahnken challenges the assumption that intelligence regarding foreign militaries had little influence on the development of U.S. weapons and doctrine. Finally, he explains the obstacles these agencies must still negotiate as they seek to understand foreign efforts to exploit the information revolution.
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"Uncovering Ways of War presents an important revision of the accepted wisdom about the character, scope, and success or failure of the American intelligence effort in the years between the two world wars. Thomas G. Mahnken makes extensive use of archival materials and thoroughly surveys the historical and theoretical literature to build a solid picture of military intelligence in peacetime."
"Mahnken has written an interesting and provocative book that should be of great interest to historians, military professionals, and policy makers.... This book is a must-read for a broad audience. Highly recommended."
"Correcting expert conventional wisdom, Mahnken shows that in a crucial period military intelligence was not obtuse, not blind to innovation, not useless. This fascinating study offers hope for the future."