Strategic Intelligence And National Decisions

Title:                      Strategic Intelligence And National Decisions

Author:                 Roger Hilsman

Hilsman, Roger (1956, 1981). Strategic Intelligence And National Decisions. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

LCCN:    80029549

JF1525.I6 H53 1981



  • Reprint of ed. published by Free Press, Glencoe, Ill.

Date Updated:      October 26, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

This book’s task was to identify doctrines that prevailed in intelligence agencies, examine them, and compare them with alternatives. The purpose was to discover what role U.S. agencies concerned with strategic intelligence are supposed to play in determining foreign policy. Hilsman served in OSS and CIA and later as head of the State Department’s INR. Critics of the book were mostly laudatory. Harry Ransom in The Intelligence Establishment[2] called it one of the three groundbreaking treatises on intelligence. DIS’s bibliography (see below), however, characterized it as provocative, difficult to read, and not regarded by all leading intelligence authorities as an incontrovertible treatment of the subject. Codevilla, in a 1979 paper given at a symposium on analysis and estimates, described Hilsman’s work as perhaps the best book on the subject. At the same time, he felt it dealt more with the opinions of various figures in U.S. intelligence at the time rather than evaluating the kind of system that would best suit the United States. Blackstock and Schaf’s bibliographic notation[3] called it an excellent summary of U.S. strategic intelligence doctrine of the first postwar decade. It also said that Hilsman’s views were later modified.

Sections of the book vary in quality and style. Part 2 is perhaps the best; it describes the attitudes of various categories of individuals, from decision makers to academics and critics of intelligence. Chapter 1 of the first section, “Background and Growth,” is not wholly accurate. Part 3 is much more academic and theoretical than the rest of the book in evaluating doctrines and making recommendations.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[4]

Discussion of the relationship between intelligence and the decision process by a former OSS and INR official written prior to his role as Director of INR. This academic study on the theory of intelligence is provocative, but not easy reading. Several of his interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are not accepted by leading intelligence authorities.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

Hilsman, wartime member of OSS in the Far East, former CIA officer, and director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the Kennedy administration, based his book on materials gathered from interviews of Washington intelligence officials and departmental policy-making officials—the users of strategic intelligence. A valuable account of the relationship between intelligence and the policy-making and decision-making processes of the federal government. In the preface Hilsman describes his book as “an attempt to identify the doctrines that have grown up in the intelligence agencies, to examine the doctrines discovered critically, and to compare them with various alternatives.” Although Hilsman’s personal views were later modified in favor of more “policy-oriented” intelligence, this work gives an excellent summary of American strategic intelligence doctrine vis-a-vis intelligence users’ requirements in the first postwar decade.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 234

[2] Ransom, Harry Howe (1970). The Intelligence Establishment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press

[3] Blackstock, Paul W.(1978) and Schaf, Frank L. Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co.

[4] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 31

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 32-33


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4 Responses to Strategic Intelligence And National Decisions

  1. Pingback: The Future of American Secret Intelligence | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage And Covert Operations | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: Utilization of Intelligence chapter 5 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: Blackstock Selected Bibliography of Fifty Titles | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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