Tag Archives: books

A Beginner’s Naval Intelligence Reading List

By Mark Munson

While the very topic of naval intelligence may seem to imply secrecy, there is a substantial literature on the topic available to the general reader. While many of the books below may be well known to many in the field, they remain a useful start for the uninitiated:

Patrick Beesley’s two books about British efforts to collect, analyze, and use intelligence, particularly in support of the fight against German submarine warfare, are the best places to start for anyone interested in the practical application of intelligence at sea. Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945 discusses the Second World War, while Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 covers the First World War. In both books Beesley contrasts the performance of these organizations during the two wars (the sharing and use of intelligence was much better during the Second World War). The discussion of British Naval Intelligence’s involvement in the famous Zimmermann Telegram and the subsequent U.S. entry into the First World War is fascinating.

The recommendation of John Keegan’s Intelligence in War may seem a little too obvious and on the nose, but his chapters on intelligence during the age of sail, the First World War, and the Battles of the Atlantic and Midway during the Second World War are one of the best summations of how wireless communications largely created what naval intelligence practitioners call OPINTEL (operational intelligence). Before wireless communications navies conducted “scouting” and “reconnaissance,” but intelligence as we understand it today largely results from the wireless revolution.

Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg’s The Admiral’s Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War is a flawed book, in large part because this slim volume uses the excuse of many of its sources still being classified to justify the general lack of detail and substance devoted to its subject. Having said that, it’s virtually the only source available to a general audience that explains the post-Second World War history of U.S. Navy intelligence. Among the more interesting claims it makes is that the U.S. Navy’s famous Maritime Strategy of the 1980s was directly informed by a detailed understanding of Soviet naval doctrine by American intelligence analysts.

Colonel John Hughes-Wilson’s Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups features regularly in military and academic courses on intelligence. Discussion of Indications and Warning failures include chapters on Pearl Harbor, the 1973 October/Yom Kippur/Ramadan War, and the Falklands.

“Eddie” Layton and “Joe” Rochefort are two figures considered among the founding heroes of the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence and Information Warfare communities, respectively. Layton (he retired as a Rear Admiral) was the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer during the Second World War (both during the Pearl Harbor disaster and the later American victories in the Pacific) while Rochefort led the codebreaking effort that enabled the American victory at Midway. Layton’s autobiography And I was There as well as the recently published biography, Joe Rochefort’s War, offer insight into how a few surface line officers in the inter-war period began to specialize in intelligence-related duties. Of note, both Layton and Rochefort participated in a program that sent them to Japan for several years to learn the language and culture first-hand, an investment that seems to have paid off.

U.S. Naval Intelligence has been one of the many elements of the intelligence community supporting the various aspects of what used to be called the Global War on Terrorism. Mark Bowden is probably the most well-known author covering the special operations world over the fifteen years. While Black Hawk Down is his most famous book, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw offers another look at the formative years of the current U.S. Special Operations complex and how intelligence is collected and used to target individuals. He’s also written articles for the Atlantic on the 2006 killing of Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq, American Special Operations in the Philippines, and counter-drug operations in Colombia.

For those interested in film treatments of intelligence in support of counter-terrorism the obvious choice is probably Zero Dark Thirty. My choice, however, is John Malkovich’s adaptation of Nicholas Shakespeare’s the Dancer Upstairs, a fictionalized depiction of the hunt for Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Peru’s Marxist Sendoro Luminoso Maoist guerrillas in the 1980s and 90s (both the book and film are excellent).

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

Time to Win Some Books!

Between the 17th and 24th of March, Offiziere.ch as well as the Facebook pages “Sicherheitspolitik” and Army HQ will hold another security policy contest with the support of “Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik“, “Aussen- und Sicherheitspolitik“, #carbine, and CIMSEC.

Figure of a giant “aircraft carrier” that was to be built in the Second World War by the British from a rather unusual building material.

This time, our security policy contest will deal with a historical maritime theme.

During the Second World War, Britain’s land-based combat aircraft lacked sufficient range to attack German submarines in the middle of the Atlantic. A British journalist and inventor working for the British Combined Operations Headquarters, who was already known for his unusual ideas, suggested the construction of giant floating landing platforms (“aircraft carrier”) on which planes could land and take off. A prototype was tested on a lake in Canada. The proposed construction material was unusual, but it was available in sufficient quantities and at an unbeatable price. A boat that was also made from this material can be seen in the image below.


What material was the “aircraft carrier” made of?
What was the project name of this venture?
Who suggested the project to Winston Churchill?

The (hopefully correct) answers should be sent to einsatz@offiziere.ch. The preferred prize can also be specified in the e-mail, although we cannot guarantee this.

The prizes will be drawn from among the correct entries. They will first be drawn from among the entries answering all three questions correctly. If nobody manages this (don’t disappoint me!), the draw will be made from the entries that have two correct answers.

2 x “Soldaten, Guerilleros, Terroristen” by Philipp Knesebeck (gesponsert von Springer VS).
1 x “Global Environmental Change” by Achim Maas, Balázs Bodó and Clementine Burnley.
1 x “Life Begins at Incoporation” by Matt Bors.
1 x “Shadow Wars: Chasing Conflict in an Era of Peace” by David Axe
1 x “Vier Tage im November” by Johannes Clair.
1 x “Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It” by Morten Jerven.
1 x “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety ” by Eric Schlosser.
1 x “Cyber War will not take place” by Thomas Rid.
1 x “New Security Challenges in Asia” by Michael Wills and Robert M. Hathaway.
1 x “Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition” by Ben Schott.
1 x “Europa als sicherheitspolitischer Akteur” by Michael Staack and Dan Krause.

Google Ngram Viewer’s History of the Cold War

It turns out that the history of the Cold War is best told not in books, but in graphs about books.

Google has an obscure new feature called “Ngram Viewer,” which allows users to search for individual words, or “grams,” as they appear in over 5.2 million digitalized books stored in the Google database. Users have the option to search for words in more than a dozen languages, even discriminating between British and American English.

The search function also allows users to modify particular words to do things such as determine when certain forms of words fell into and out of popularity (such as when “tackle” was used as a noun instead of a verb). By adding wildcards or modifiers, users can search for things as diverse as the popularity of slacks versus dress pants to which Internet operating system was most prominent.

Ngram Viewer searches from books written from over 600 years ago to the present day. The x-axis represents years in chronological order; the y-axis represents the percentage of books that a particular word or phrase appears in during that given year.

In a search of books between 1840 and 2008 in the English language, entering the terms “communism” and “capitalism” reveals a telling graph. At first glance, these data plots appear to create two insignificant lines. But combined with our knowledge of 21st century events, it becomes a surprisingly accurate graphical depiction of one of the defining struggles of modern times.Ngram

Communism first appears to overtake capitalism in 1947, where the red and blue lines intersect. This point coincides precisely with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, signaling the beginning of the “containment” strategy that would consume much of the next four decades.

Communism appears to reach its apex on the graph in 1963 during the Kennedy administration, just two years after construction began on the Berlin Wall. Also of significance during this time was the introduction of a hotline between Moscow and Washington, enabling direct communication between the two Cold War powers for the first time. After the president’s assassination, communism begins a fatal free-fall from which it will never recover. In 1964, Leonid Brezhnev succeeds Nikita Khrushchev as Chairman of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Capitalism finally appears to regain the upper hand against communism in 1971, around the time of the death of Khrushchev. Significant during this time is President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, the first time an American president had visited the communist nation.

Finally, in the early 1990s, the area between the two curves is the greatest, signaling the vanquishing of the Soviet Union. After the Malta Summit between Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President George HW Bush in December 1989, perhaps the most symbolic sign of the fall of the Soviet Union was the opening of a McDonald’s in the heart of Moscow on January 31, 1990.

While compiling a graph of words found in books of a particular language and attempting to ascribe some geopolitical significance to them may constitute a form of lingual bias, the uncanny similarity between the types of books written during the Cold War and the actual events therein is remarkable. Google’s Ngram Viewer is an important tool for analyzing society and discovering who we really are as a people.

Can one book predict the fate of the world? Perhaps not. But can millions of authors from around the world over the course of dozens of years accurately portray the consciousness of a people? Deus ex machina.

Holiday Reading List

Red-Christmas-Tree-made-froDear CIMSEC Readers,

It’s Christmas, and the time of gifting is here.  Although we try to provide our readers with the best naval and maritime security articles, we are also providing a Holiday Reading list put together by various CIMSEC members.  Great ways to use your Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards. Additions to this list are welcome via the comments section:

Annie George
The Cleanest Race:  How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters
–By B.R. Meyers
A psychological look into the why and the what of North Korea.  Gets past the propaganda machine – a great read for folks interested in navigating the “but why?” of DPRK regime decisions.
Les Miserables
–By Victor Hugo
I’m a lit major by heart, and I believe that every once in a while, reading should be a labored endeavor.  Hence Les Beautiful read.
Thank You For Your Service
–By David Finkel
Going past the horrors of war, he delves into the horrors of the post-war reduction to “normality.”  I’m not finished with this one yet.

Bret Perry
Brave New War:  The Next Stage of Terrorism and End of Globalization
–By John Robb
Although I may have picked up this one a little late, John Robb forces the read to think about conflict differently.
Four Ball, One Tracer:  Commanding Executive Outcomes in Angola and Sierra Leone
–By Roelf van Heerden and Andrew Hudson
A recap of Executive Outcome’s operations from a tactical perspective shedding light on the mentality of those training the Puntland Maritime Police Force.
The New Machiavelli:  How to Wield Power in the Modern World
–By Jonathan Powell
Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff (who is a Machiavelli scholar) explores this philosopher’s misinterpreted concepts and demonstrates their applicability in today’s world with his experiences.

Dan De Wit
The Terrorist’s Dilemma:  Managing Violent Covert Organizations
–By Jacob N. Shapiro

Drew Perciballi
The Battle for the Falklands
–By Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
Victory at Sea:  World War II in the Pacific
–By James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi

Lucas Schleusener
Pakistan:  A Hard Country
–By Anatol Lieven
21st Century Mahan:  Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era
–By Benjamin Armstrong

Matt Hipple
Spymaster:  My Thirty-two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West
–Oleg Kalugin
We rarely see intelligence operations from the other side, especially in such fine and personal detail. Oleg Kalugin’s book is not only the story of the KGB, but a stalwart Soviet slowly realizing how flawed the communist system truly was.
Brown Water, Black Berets:  Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam
–By Thomas J. Cutler
Three years ago, I found this to be a formative book. In a world where excel sheets can cause people around you to panic, reading about the leadership, dander, heroism, and suffering of real sailors at war put life into perspective.
Great Naval Blunders
By Geoffrey Regan
A collection of humorous and horrible anecdotes about the absolute worst ideas and executions in naval history.

Michael Junge
Second-Party Counterinsurgency
–By Mark O’Neill

Miha Hribernik
The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
–By Edward N. Luttwak

Scott Cheney-Peters
War and Peace
–By Leo Tolstoy
I’m halfway through War and Peace by Tolstoy-not because I’m pretentious, but because I am a slow reader.  The great Pevear and Volokhonsky translation makes fresh the insights on the nature of human relationships and war.
Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation
–By Joseph S. Wholey, Harry P. Hatry, and Kathryn E. Newcomer
So that I have some idea what I’m doing as CIMSEC’s Director and your elected VP.

I am also looking forward to some sci-fi, The Economist, and CNA/CMSI pleasure reading. I will not be reading the nutrition labels of everything I eat over the holidays.

Sebastian Bruns
Navies and Foreign Policy
–By Ken Booth
The point of departure for anyone who wants to understand the use (and limitations) for navies in foreign affairs of any state.
Seapower:  A Guide for the Twenty-First Century
–By Geoffrey Till
The masterwork textbook on seapower and what it can do in this century.
Maritime Sicherheit –By Sebastian Bruns, Kerstin Petretto, and David Petrovic

William Yale:
Forgotten Ally:  China’s World War II:  1937-1945
–By Rana Mitter
Shanghai 1937:  Stalingrad on the Yangtze
–By Peter Harmsen
Eisenhower:  In War and Peace
–By Jean Edward Smith