How can the United States avoid a future surprise attack on the scale of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor in an era when such devastating attacks can come not only from nation states but also from terrorist groups or cyber enemies?
Intelligence and Surprise Attack examines why surprise attacks often succeed even though, in most cases, warnings are available beforehand. Erik J. Dahl challenges the conventional wisdom about intelligence failure, which holds that attacks succeed because important warnings get lost amid noise or because intelligence officials lack the imagination and collaboration to connect the dots of available information. Comparing cases of intelligence failure with intelligence success, Dahl finds that the key to success is not more imagination or better analysis but better acquisition of precise, tactical-level intelligence combined with the presence of decision makers who are willing to listen to and act on the warnings they receive from their intelligence staff.
The book offers a new understanding of classic cases of conventional and terrorist attacks such as Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, and the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The book also presents a comprehensive analysis of the intelligence picture before the 9/11 attacks, making use of new information available since the publication of the 9/11 Commission Report and challenging some of that report's findings.
The book is published by Georgetown University Press.
"A seminal work of original scholarship...should be a part of every community and academic library Security Studies & Intelligence collection." (
Midwest Book Review)
"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, U.S. Naval War College)
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