Richard K. Betts

A - H


Betts, Richard K. American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

Freedman, FA 91.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2012), finds that "Betts combines serious thought, common sense, and deep historical knowledge,... and his conclusions are expressed in plain English." For Weiner, I&NS 27.4 (Aug. 2012), the author "has produced a far-ranging and well-articulated critique of how the United States has envisioned and pursued national security since the end of the Cold War."


Betts, Richard K. "American Strategic Intelligence: Politics, Priorities, and Direction." In Intelligence Policy and National Security, eds. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr., Uri Ra'anan, and Warren Milberg, 245-267. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1981. [Petersen]


Betts, Richard K. "Analysis, War, and Decision: Why Intelligence Failures Are Inevitable." World Politics 31, no. 2 (Oct. 1978): 61-89. In Power, Strategy, and Security, ed. Klaus Knorr. Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Kovacs, IJI&C 10.4/384, refers to this as a "seminal paper."


Betts, Richard K. "Careerism, Intelligence and Misperception." In Soldiers, Statesmen and the Cold War Crisis, 183-208. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Petersen: "Special reference to the Vietnam War."


Betts, Richard K. Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Dujmovic, Studies 51.4 (2007), finds that the author "addresses what too often has been lacking in the national debate about intelligence and its reform since the attacks of 11 September 2001: a sober and realistic assessment of what intelligence can be expected to do and, more importantly, what it cannot reasonably be expected to do because of its built-in, and therefore unavoidable, limitations.... Whether one agrees with all of Betts's conclusions, this illuminating discussion of intelligence in the post-Cold War age is necessary reading for the intelligence professional, and for those served by the profession. I would also recommend its use in academic courses dealing with intelligence and reform."

To Liaropoulos, IJI&C 21.2 (Summer 2008), this is "a deep and well researched study of the challenges that the U.S. Intelligence Community is facing." By grouping the factors that lead to intelligence failure into three working categories (the "enemies"), Betts "provides a conceptual framework for understanding the complexities of the intelligence enterprise." However, the work "lacks a detailed discussion on safeguards and mechanisms for avoiding government abuses."

Chapman, IJI&C 21.3 (Fall 2008), finds that this book "is at times a difficult read." The author "focuses on the better use of intelligence analysis." But if he believes the analyst can "input knowledge into the decisionmaker's brain to influence the right decision," such "will never happen." Additionally, "[c]onstitutional rights go one way and [Betts'] demand for intelligence goes another."

For Nolte, AIJ 25.2 (Winter 2007-2008), this is a "sober and valuable contribution to the literature." Readers may find the author's "effort to establish context, not to mention complexity and ambiguity,... a heavy reading experience. But intelligence is largely about complexity and ambiguity and Professor Betts never lets the reader lose sight of those important aspects of context."

Hulnick, Perspectives on Politics 6.3 (Sep. 2008): "For those of us who teach about intelligence at the university level, the book is probably too advanced for undergraduates who are just being introduced to strategic intelligence as a function of government. For graduate students, however, or for those who study intelligence at professional schools, the work is ideally suited for more advanced debate and discussion."

Richelson, I&NS 24.3 (Jun. 2009), concludes that "by the time a reader has finished Enemies of Intelligence he or she should acquire an enhanced understanding of the limitations on intelligence success, an improved ability to identify real from imagined failures and real from imagined solutions, and the tradeoffs associated with future proposed reorganization and reform efforts -- for it is enevitable that there will be failures followed by proposed solutions."


Betts, Richard K. "Fixing Intelligence." Foreign Affairs 81, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2002): 43-59.

"Paradoxically, the news is worse than the angriest critics think, because the intelligence community has worked much better than they assume.... U.S. intelligence and associated services have generally done very well at protecting the country....

"The community has undergone several major reorganizations and innumerable lesser ones over the past half-century. No one ever stays satisfied with reorganization because it never seems to do the trick -- if the trick is to prevent intelligence failure. There is little reason to believe, therefore, that the next reform will do much better than previous ones.... The underlying cause of mistakes in performance ... does not lie in the structure and process of the intelligence system. It is intrinsic to the issues and targets with which intelligence has to cope: the crafty opponents who strategize against it, and the alien cultures that are not transparent to American minds."

[Analysis/Warning/Betts; Reform/02]

Betts, Richard K. "How to Think about Terrorism." Wilson Quarterly 30 (Winter 2006): 44-49.


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