Intelligence in the Cold War

Title:                      Intelligence in the Cold War

Author:                  Michael Herman

Herman, Michael (2013) and Gwilym Hughes, eds. Intelligence in the Cold War: What Difference Did it Make? London: Routledge

OCLC:    825961995

UB250 I568


Date Posted:      April 18, 2016

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

The Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo has sponsored two conferences since 2000 on a crucial question for historians and intelligence officers alike: did intelligence matter in the Cold War?[2] In 2009, it was the subject of the annual workshop of the Oxford Intelligence Group at Nuffield College. Intelligence in the Cold War presents the papers delivered at that conference by seven scholars, some with direct experience in the field.[3] Beyond the central question, three subtopics were addressed: Did intelligence speak truth to power? Did governments listen? Did intelligence make the Cold War hotter or colder?

Aberystwyth University Professor Len Scott con-siders the questions as applied to the Able-Archer ‘83 exercise. Analyst John Prados examines them based on studies of the military balance, British intelligence analyst Peter Davies reports on estimating Soviet power by the Defence Intelligence Staff. Cambridge University Research Associate Julie Fedor surveys conspiracy theories in Soviet literature, with emphasis on “the mythical so-called Dulles Plan,” (pp. 89ff.) which is seldom mentioned in Western literature. Bar-Ilan University Professor Shlomo Shpiro looks at KGB operations in Israel since 1948 and how they affected security issues. Oxford University professor and former GCHQ analyst Michael Herman sums up the topic.

Not all the papers examine the subtopics directly. Most, however, agree that despite estimating errors, the technical accomplishments of the intelligence agencies made a difference when it came to monitoring nuclear arms agreements and in some other areas. When it came to the adversary’s intentions, however, the authors’ judgments were expressed with fortune-cookie ambiguity, a result that may be the best that can be expected.

This is a very valuable collection of views that should remind intelligence officers that “What Difference Does It Make?’ is a question worth serious consideration.

[1] Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, p. 129). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at

[2] Herman. Michael (2006), J. Kenneth McDonald, and Vojtech Mastny. Did Intelligence Matter in the Cold War? Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies

[3] The papers presented in this volume first appeared in the journal Intelligence and National Security (26, 6, 2011).

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