The publication of the first volume of Michael Goodman’s much anticipated official history of the British Joint Intelligence Committee is a major event for students of intelligence and international relations. For nearly eighty years the Joint Intelligence Committee [JIC] has been at the center of the British foreign and security policy machinery. The JIC system for coordinating the analysis and dissemination of incoming intelligence evolved gradually in response to the unprecedented requirements of preparing for and then waging a global war. This system has since served as a model for the organisation of many of the world’s intelligence establishments. The first volume of the official history takes the story from the creation of the JIC in 1936 through to the Suez Crisis of 1956. As the three reviews that follow all make clear, Goodman has done justice to this hugely important topic. Volume I of his official history is an example of official history at its very best.
Several American supporters of the ‘New START’ arms control treaty the U.S. and Russia signed last December praised the deal for, among other things, giving the large nuclear powers some credibility in their ongoing efforts to stem nuclear proliferation to smaller states. See, said these advocates to putative audiences in Iran or Japan: we old superpowers can live up to our side of the bargain too!
One of the more astonishing facts that demonstrates simultaneously the global requirements of World War Two, the industrial capacity of the United States, and (by comparison) the real impact of the nuclear revolution on great power conflict is the size of the United States Navy in September 1945. There were twenty-three battleships, twenty-eight aircraft carriers, and seventy-one escort carriers—in total, including cruisers, submarines, and destroyers, some 1,166 major combatant ships. The smaller craft numbers are even more astonishing. The U.S. built some 88,000 landing craft during the war. With the war over, the question was what to do with all of it. How large should the U.S. Navy be now that peace was at hand and no serious naval opponent remained? What place was there for a navy in a world with air-delivered nuclear weapons and the promise of collective security through the United Nations?