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The following is a review of the article ‘The Cold War: Did Intelligence make any Difference?’ The article was authored by Michael Herman, a former intelligence practitioner. In the article, Herman (2012) tries to establish the effects of intelligence during the Cold War. The main argument by the author is that intelligence had positive effects on avoiding threats; however, the intensity of the intelligence waged was almost warlike and worsened the Cold War.
During the Cold War, both USSR and Western allies waged intelligence war with great intensity (Corke 2008). As such, there are lingering questions about the role of intelligence in the war. For example, did it solve the crisis of fuel the differences that already existed between the opposing sides? Therefore, the article aims to provide text evidence of the intelligence collection, the complexities, and their impact on the Cold War.
In the context of the article, there is evidence that the intelligence had both positive and negative effects on the Cold War. The strategies employed by the adversaries to collect information made the situation hotter, but also helped to tamp down threats by either side.
The article provides details of the dynamics that characterized the intelligence war between the adversaries. Covert and non-covert approaches characterized intelligence collection and use. In the case of the Soviet Union, intelligence was marked by covert actions while Western intelligence used both covert and non-covert sources. It is through such complexities that the article answers the pertinent questions on the role of the intelligence on the Cold War.
The key point that the author puts forward is that it acted as both a threat and reassurance. For instance, intelligence was used to “redress the balance between Soviet’s secrecy and the more open Western societies” (Herman 2012, p. 160). In 1960, America deployed imagery satellites marked a landmark achievement in technological intelligence collection; hence, addressing tension of the unknown actions of the Soviet Union. Advancements in the intelligence collection led to great realignments of national and international interests. Intelligence resulted in reassurance as it resulted in a dialogue between the adversaries, which in extent reduced tension.
Also, it led to a threat that heightened the Cold War. For example, the destruction of the 14 American intelligence aircraft by Soviet defenses and the further downing of civilian passenger aircraft over Soviet Union airspace which led to the deaths of 269 civilians. Throughout the text, the author shows that intelligence was defined by a mixture of exaggeration and accuracy and there were no boundaries between the policy and intelligence. Therefore, the author intends to show the complexity related to intelligence gathering during the Cold War and the effects it had on either party.
The article provides key points and backs them up with examples to achieve the overall intention of the author. Nevertheless, some strengths and weaknesses surface of the article. One key weakness of the article is that it is narrative. It does not provide an analytical basis of dynamics that surrounded the Cold War and the general interests of the parties. For example, Herman (2012) pointed out that there was the politicization of the intelligence, a claim supported by Thayer (2014), and Labrosse (2015). However, there is no further analysis to denote how the politicization and exaggeration of the intelligence happened. Thus, the failure to acknowledge the fact the two antagonists had different objectives.
Despite the shortcomings, the article has addressed fundamental dynamics related to intelligence and its impacts on the Cold War. For instance, the psychological effect of the intelligence analysis that led to threat or reassurance. It is from this perspective that the key points presented in the article make the readers understand the strategic interests of the adversaries. Besides, the article gives a snapshot of how intelligence evolved. In the analysis of the effect of intelligence on the Cold War, Whitaker (2009) noted that the capabilities of the parties in the technological and human intelligence improved significantly.
Overall, the core intention of the author was achieved. However, the article can be enhanced by the incorporation of theories to synthesize the intelligence issues that relate to international relations. For example, the author could have used the Defensive Realism Paradigm to explain the security dilemma concept at the time (Holsti 2004). This could have addressed the complexity that the author attributes to intelligence impact on the Cold War.
Also, the use of institutionalism ideas could improve the text as it could enhance the understanding of some ideas raised by the author. For example, the need for the Soviet-American ‘code of conduct ‘ as outlined by the author could be understood better by analyzing whether any international rules governing the operations of the countries especially bearing in mind the factors that led to the end of the Second World War.
The strategies employed by the adversaries to collect intelligence made the situation hotter, but also helped to tamp down threats by either side. The review of the article has exemplified both the negatives and the positives of intelligence during the Cold War. However, the article was a narrative. To improve the article, it is recommended that the points outlined are followed by detailed analysis using relevant theories that relate to international relations. Such an improvement will enhance the understanding of the article and hence help readers have a clear understanding of the dynamics that surrounded intelligence during the Cold War.
Corke, S 2008, U.S Covert Operations and Cold War Strategy, Routledge, New York.
Herman, M 2012, ‘Intelligence in the Cold War: What Difference Did It Make?’ Intelligence Service in the Information Age, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 159-162.
Holsti, O 2004, ‘Theories of International Relations’, Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, vol. 1, no. 1, pp.51-90.
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Labrosse, D 2015, ‘Beyond and Between the Cold War Blocs’, International History Review, vol. 37, no. 1, pp.142-166.
Thayer, B 2014, ‘Intelligence in the Cold War: what difference did it make?’ European Security, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 1-7.
Whitaker, R 2009, ’Security and Intelligence in the Post-Cold War World’, Socialist Register, vol. 28, no. 28, pp. 1-12.