1st Edition

Understanding Intelligence Failure Warning, Response and Deterrence

By James Wirtz Copyright 2017
    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    This collection, comprising key works by James J. Wirtz, explains how different threat perceptions can lead to strategic surprise attack, intelligence failure and the failure of deterrence.

    This volume adopts a strategist’s view of the issue of surprise and intelligence failure by placing these phenomena in the context of conflict between strong and weak actors in world affairs. A two-level theory explains the incentives and perceptions of both parties when significant imbalances of military power exist between potential combatants, and how this situation sets the stage for strategic surprise and intelligence failure to occur. The volume illustrates this theory by applying it to the Kargil Crisis, attacks launched by non-state actors, and by offering a comparison of Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 attacks. It explores the phenomenon of deterrence failure; specifically, how weaker parties in an enduring or nascent conflict come to believe that deterrent threats posed by militarily stronger antagonists will be undermined by various constraints, increasing the attractiveness of utilising surprise attack to achieve their objectives. This work also offers strategies that could mitigate the occurrence of intelligence failure, strategic surprise and the failure of deterrence.

    This book will be of much interest to students of intelligence studies, strategic studies, security studies and IR in general.



    1. Theory of Surprise

    Part I: The Theory of Surprise Applied

    2. Surprise at the Top of the World

    3. Surprise and the Non-State Actor

    4. Déjà Vu? Comparing Pearl Harbor and 9/11

    Part II: Surprise and Deterrence Failure

    5. The Balance of Power Paradox

    6. Deterring the Weak: Problems and Prospects

    Part III: Avoiding Surprise: Toward a New Intelligence Doctrine

    7. Red Teaming Surprise

    8. Indications and Warning in an Age of Uncertainty

    9. From Combined Arms to Combined Intelligence: Philosophy, Doctrine and Operations

    10. Conclusion


    James J. Wirtz is Professor and Dean of the School of International Graduate Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California, and author/editor of numerous books, including, most recently, Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies, 4th edition (ed., with Loch Johnson, 2015).

    'Warning of threats to the Republic before they occur is the most important of all the many intelligence duties---and the main reason why America spends a fortune each year trying to understand where dangers lurk in this complex and uncertain world. The warning responsibility places an understanding of intelligence failure directly at the heart of U.S. national security considerations. Only a handful of people in the world can address this subject with authority and deep insight; James J. Wirtz is one of them. In this gracefully written and absorbing volume, he makes a strong case for a greater synergism and integration of this nation's intelligence efforts as a means for reducing the likelihood of failure. This book is one of the "must reads" for anyone interested in intelligence and national security as we enter an era of growing nuclear threats and ongoing global terrorism.' -- Loch K. Johnson, University of Georgia, USA

    'This characteristically erudite and thought-provoking volume from one of the leading figures in both Intelligence Studies and Strategic Studies is required reading for those seeking to understand, and minimise the occurrence of, strategic surprise.' -- Mark Phythian, University of Leicester, UK

    'This book, a premier in the field, distinguishes itself by skillfully merging theory of strategic surprise with theory of coercion. Wirtz diagnoses the main pathologies in the art of intelligence, and offers the most innovative doctrinal solution to deal with them, for the age of uncertainty and instability. As such, the book takes theoreticians and practitioners of intelligence and strategy a quantum leap forward.' -- Dima Adamsky, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel

    'In this fascinating and absorbing account Professor Wirtz masterfully explores the interconnectedness between risk, intelligence, and warning. His clear analysis and identification of the lessons of the past make this essential reading for scholars, analysts and policy-makers alike.' -- Michael S. Goodman, King's College London, UK

    'Intelligence failure and surprise attacks are flip sides of the same coin, though all too frequently studied separately. In Understanding Intelligence Failure: Warning, Response, and Deterrence James J. Wirtz effectively integrates the two sides together by exploring how knowledge and power interact to improve our understanding of surprise in international affairs. In doing so, he makes a significant contribution to both intelligence studies and security studies by providing a holistic theory of surprise which explains the planning and implementation of surprise attacks as well as practical suggestions for what can be done to prevent them. Written in an easily digestible fashion, this insightful exposition of the dynamics that underlie surprise attack will provide much knowledge and insight for those interested in intelligence and security.' -- Stephen Marrin, James Madison University, USA