Richard K. Betts

I - Z


Betts, Richard K. "Intelligence for Policymaking." Washington Quarterly 3, no. 3 (Summer 1980): 118-129.

[Analysis/Gen; GenPostwar/Policy/To90s]

Betts, Richard K. "Intelligence Test: The Limits of Prevention." In How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War, eds James F. Hoge, Jr., and Gideon Rose. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.

[Analysis/Warning; Terrorism/00s/Gen]

Betts, Richard K. "Intelligence Warning: Old Problems, New Agendas." Parameters 28, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 26-35.

The author uses two general categories of warning -- factual-technical and contingent-political -- to conclude that in the post-Cold War world "with many moderate and murky threats rather than one big and clear one,... it will become harder to view as many warning objectives in terms of the Cuban missile crisis or Midway [factual- technical] models. What were always the tougher challenges for warning, but could be considered secondary in wartime or the Cold War, are the contingent-political eruptions in all sorts of small countries. The simplest inferences from this are that the United States needs to cultivate more expertise on the new trouble spots, and to put more effort into human intelligence."


Betts, Richard K. Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices, Consequences. Washington, DC: Brookings, 1995.

Cohen, FA 74.2 (Mar.-Apr. 1995): "Betts ... has written a superb study of military readiness in the United States, drawing primarily on the period from World War II to the present.... Most striking here is his awareness of the paradoxes and tradeoffs in readiness.... Surely one of the most insightful books on military affairs this year."


Betts, Richard K. "The New Politics of Intelligence: Will Reforms Work This Time?" Foreign Affairs 83, no. 3 (May-Jun. 2004): 2-8.

Clark comment: This is a concise, rational, and clear-sighted view of this season's calls for intelligence "reform." It should be required reading for anyone wanting to discuss the issue.

Betts argues that all the attention now being paid to intelligence matters "creates both an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity stems from the consensus that major reforms are necessary.... The danger stems from the gap between the urge to do something and the uncertainty about just what that something should be -- as well as from the entanglement of intelligence and policy issues involved with the Iraq question in particular.... The basic problem is that there is no dramatic reform of the intelligence system that everyone agrees will yield a net benefit.... What all sides in the current debates should want is to restore public confidence in the competence and integrity of the nation's intelligence system."


Betts, Richard K. "Policymakers and Intelligence Analysts: Love, Hate or Indifference?" Intelligence and National Security 3, no. 1 (Jan. 1988): 184-189.

"One way to capsulize the problem is that there are contradictions between the dynamics of the analytical process and the decision process, between professional norms and political utility, or between the qualities required for accuracy and those required for influence."


Betts, Richard K. "Strategic Intelligence Estimates: Let's Make Them Useful." Parameters 10 (Dec. 1980): 20-26. [Petersen]


Betts, Richard K. Surprise Attack: Lessons for Defense Planning. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1982.

Pforzheimer tells us that this book is "considered by some to be the most useful and authoritative" work on Indications and Warning Intelligence. The author's examples are from 1940 onward.


Betts, Richard K. "Surprise Despite Warning: Why Sudden Attacks Succeed." Political Science Quarterly 95, no. 4 (Winter 1980-1981): 551- 572.


Betts, Richard K. "Warning Dilemmas: Normal Theory vs. Exceptional Theory." Orbis 26 (Winter 1983): 828-833.


Betts, Richard K., and Thomas G. Mahnken, eds. Paradoxes of Strategic Intelligence: Essays in Honor of Michael I. Handel. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2003.

According to Freedman, FA 83.2 (Mar.-Apr. 2004), this tribute volume to the late Michael Handel "addresses one of Handel's favorite topics: how countries can manage their intelligence to avoid getting caught by surprise.... These essays ... conclude that there are inherent difficulties in trying to guard against surprise, although there are approaches to intelligence collection that can reduce its likelihood."

Peake, Studies 48.1 (2004), says that "[e]ach of these essays is well documented and calculated to make the reader think and learn." For Inbar, NWCR 58.1 (Winter 2005), the editors have "put together an impressive group of practitioners and academics to write on various aspects of the work of intelligence agencies." They have produced "an excellent introductory collection for students and the professional reader to the gamut of issues with which the field of intelligence grapples."

[Analysis/Warning/Betts; Overviews/Gen/00s]

Return to Bes-Bez