From Naval War College Public Affairs Office
April 9, 2013
NEWPORT, R.I. -- U.S. Naval War College (NWC) professor Joshua Rovner received the International Security Studies Section (ISSS) best book award for 2012 at an annual International Studies Association reception in San Francisco on April 5.
His book “Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence” was the unanimous committee selection for its methodology and substantial look at a challenging and understudied area.
Rovner’s book explores how intelligence informs policy and how policymakers use and misuse intelligence. Forty-seven books were nominated.
“It’s a great honor, of course, and I’m especially pleased that a book on intelligence is gaining attention in the broader academic community,” said Rovner, who teaches strategy and policy at NWC. “For a long time, scholarship on intelligence had a tough time getting a foothold in mainstream political science.”
While intelligence work is often dramatized in fictional novels and Hollywood films, Rovner’s work is a look at the real intelligence world.
“Some of the major controversies in U.S. national security over the last two decades have revolved around intelligence-policy relations. Did the intelligence community fail to provide warning before 9/11, or did policymakers simply ignore it,” said Rovner. “Were intelligence agencies guilty of analytical sloppiness that led to the flawed estimates of Iraq, or were policymakers guilty of bullying them into producing estimates that supported the case for war? I wrote the book because I wanted answers to questions like these.”
For political scientists, Rovner’s book offers a critical look at sources of perception and misperception in international politics.
“Since intelligence agencies are the institutions of the state that are built to aid perception, we need to know about how they work, and more importantly how they work with policymakers,” said Rovner.
Several key takeaways for both government officials and the public citizen include a look at how intelligence and policy relations can break down and the importance of productive dialogue.
“The trend over the last quarter century has been towards more intelligence transparency. In one sense this is a good thing, given that government transparency is and must always be the default position in a democracy,” said Rovner.
However, Rovner asserts that more transparency presents challenges as well.
“The more that the public expects that current intelligence will be declassified, the more that policymakers will be tempted to pressure intelligence agencies to deliver findings that support their own beliefs and preferences. Ironically, the result of more transparency may be a misinformed public debate.”
Rovner believes that effective intelligence-policy relations requires restoring the traditional norm of secrecy in order to avoid any future politicization of intelligence.
The International Studies Association is a scholarly association that promotes research and education in international affairs.