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Trusted Guardian: Information Sharing and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance

Trusted Guardian: Information Sharing and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance by Damon Coletta. Ashgate Publishing, 2008, 178 pp.

Dr. Damon Coletta, the author of Trusted Guardian, is a professor of political science at the US Air Force Academy. His newest book, rich in quantitative analysis, includes a wide breath of politically astute material designed to convince the reader of the benefits of sharing vital intelligence with our allies, starting with members of the Atlantic Alliance. It examines the possible implications of such sharing during the run-up to military conflict. Coletta offers a calculus by which decision makers can determine the political and military prudence of making available information from our sources, be they national technical means and/or human-collection efforts. He considers whether the United States’ clear lead in information-gathering technology creates political liabilities with our allies or whether this position mandates a more open approach to information sharing among allies.

A good writer and an informative narrator, Coletta offers a new means of evaluating the value of sharing. National leaders face the dilemma of determining whether such distribution is in the best interests of the country. The author describes neither the nature of the intelligence products nor the types of sources. Instead, he addresses why the decision to share or not is important to public policy. As a political scientist, Coletta provides the reader with the nuances of this decision process—and therein lies the true worth of this book.

Trusted Guardian offers useful examples from both earlier confrontations (e.g., the Cuban missile crisis) and more recent ones (e.g., the Balkans conflict) to explore the advantages and disadvantages of sharing intelligence products both before and during such conflicts. Additionally, it examines several new technical means of information collection, such as the airborne ground surveillance program, a remotely piloted system originally designed and developed by United States as a variant of the US Global Hawk and now being purchased by NATO. Perhaps acquisition of a similar intelligence-gathering airborne system will strengthen the linkage between the United States and NATO during diplomatic and military conflicts.

To summarize, Coletta’s book speaks directly to the important matter of national security decision making. It walks the reader through a maze of arguments, emphasizing the costs and benefits of intelligence sharing—a useful tool during international diplomacy—especially during the crisis-management period of conflict resolution. As the author points out, “Data and analysis emerging from state-of-the-art national systems will not make escalation or concession decisions easier” (p. 101). Trusted Guardian reflects the complexity of deciding whether to share information about potential diplomatic and/or military crises during the various stages of international bargaining, a decision which in turn can present new dilemmas in an era of defense-capability transformation.

Col Joe McCue, USAF, Retired

Leesburg, Virginia

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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