Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A gentle start from 55 years ago

There are always echoes to be heard in the reading rooms of the British Library

What is especially interesting about Longley-Cook’s* summer 1951 reflections is the extent to which he highlights the differences between British and American intelligence assessments of the Soviet threat. He had been alarmed during the combined US/UK intelligence conference in Washington in October 1950 by the degree to which the American equivalent of the JIC produced assessments that “tend to fit in with the prejudged conclusion that a shooting war with the Soviet Union at some time is inevitable…Although the Americans were eventually persuaded to endorse a combined appreciation of the Soviet threat, based on reason and factual intelligence, they were quick to alter it to fit their own preconceived ideas as soon as the London team had returned to this country.”

* Vice Admiral Eric Longley-Cook, Director of British Naval Intelligence, 1951.

From: The Secret State. Whitehall and the Cold War
Peter Hennessy. Penguin books, 2002.

The author (in tandem with a former Cabinet Secretary) was the best thing on television over Christmas - albeit after midnight on the BBC Parliament channel. Here, without the laughter from the stands (and members of the Public Administration Select Committee) is a transcript of a great old fashioned discussion about political memoirs.

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