Cambridge University’s Christopher Andrew is at it again – academically unmasking intelligence as an apparatus of state power. Called the world’s best-informed interpreter or historian of intelligence by Edward Lucas of The Times of London, Andrews has brought almost every imaginable angle to his academic engagement with the subject matter. Yale University in the United States has just announced the new book although it has been out since June. Titled The Secret World: A History of Intelligence, it is sure to pack a punch. How much of punch it would pack, however, remains in speculation. For the book is coming in the aftermath of the phenomenon of fake intelligence, among other pressures on statecraft.
This is aside from the age-old question of how far the scholar of intelligence can go into that domain of secrecy. Even Christopher Andrew who has studied the British, the Soviet and the American secret services is very unlikely to know more than the interpretive or judgmental assessment of information, not the craft. Does it matter, since he is a scholar, not a professional spy? Intelligence as a power resource is not that so elusive. People know what they do but not how they do it.
The greatest achievement of this outing is most likely to be the future of intelligence that must begin to appear to anyone who completes reading the hefty text. Does this statecraft have a future at a time the question of whether capitalism still needs the state is being posed; at a time private companies are also running their intelligence agencies? What is the marriage going to be like between intelligence and freedom as well as human rights? Or, is its future guaranteed simply because it has survived the ages?
It would be interesting to see when the book is available whether it satisfies the African reader’s puzzle in Intelligence Studies. The puzzle is this: In Europe and North America, intelligence as a modern practice developed as part of empire project and, in the case of the United States, to the Cold War. What did it develop in response to in Africa? Mere state survival? It should be more than that! It is interesting that existing reviews have not mentioned Africa in the text. It is possible that we would see Africa there when we get to read the book. Now, it is China and India that were mentioned in Prof Andrew’ sweep through the history of intelligence.
At over 900 pages, this might be Andrews biggest academic project!