Title:                      Strategem

Author:                 Barton Whaley

Whaley, Barton (1969, 1976, 2007). Strategem: Deception And Surprise In War. Boston: Artech House

LCCN:    2007295948

U162 .W53 2007



  • Originally published: Cambridge, MA: Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969.

Date Updated:  March 21, 2017

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Whaley called this a study of surprise and deception in warfare, particularly as strategically applied; “strategem” is the term he uses for this form of strategic deception. He employs case studies of some sixty-eight instances of strategic deception in warfare between 1914 and 1968; in addition there are some forty-seven examples of tactical deception and of other cases where it was not employed. Whaley pioneered renewed interest in deception at a time when awareness of Soviet use of it both in war and peace (by the use of disinformation) had been heightened in the West. He touches on disinformation, but it is deception in warfare that captures his attention and that he documents. We find him saying that “the Soviets still have much to learn about the subtleties of strategem,” an opinion that will be contested; so, too, will his failure to appreciate Soviet applications of maskirovka in their military campaigns and disinformation to serve their ends both in peace and in war. Whaley makes a noble effort to penetrate the secrets of the Allied deception organization in World War II, and though he makes a number of mistakes, he does rather well considering the access he had.

He must be given credit for this initial effort to deal with a subject of great importance not only in warfare but also to intelligence and national security. Some will wish to refine and expand his views on the relationship of counterintelligence and deception and of security and deception. He could have broadened his examples to show how deception can be used to place strains on a society and its economy in peacetime; Whaley himself recognized that deception is the cheapest means of manipulating a nation’s military economy. His belief that the Germans showed talent for and were successful in deception from World War I continuously through World War II will arouse debate. It was the basis for his thesis of German success in fooling the Soviets in 1941 (see his Codeword BARBAROSSA[2]). The reader may be confused by the author’s criteria for assigning precedence to various books on deception or his failure to include some-Barkas’ The Camouflage Story[3] and James’ The Eyes of the Navy[4], to cite two. For reasons that are not clear, this pathbreaking study was never published. [See Notes above. It was published subsequent to Constantinides’ review.]

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 480-481

[2] Whaley, Barton (1973). Codeword BARBAROSSA. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

[3] Barkas, Geoffrey (1952) in collaboration with Natalie Barkas. The Camouflage Story: From Aintree to Alamein. London: Cassell

[4] James, William M. (1955). The Eyes of The Navy: A Biographical Study of Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, K.C.M.G., C.B., LL.D., D.C.L. London: Methuen


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One Response to Strategem

  1. Pingback: Codeword BARBAROSSA | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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