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The Main Enemy : The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB

by Milton Bearden, James Risen



Buy the book: Milton Bearden. The Main Enemy : The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB

Release Date: 06 May, 2003

Edition: Hardcover

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Buy the book: Milton Bearden. The Main Enemy : The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB


Fascinating on Afghanistan

It is good to see a book written about the late stages and aftermath of the Cold War by someone who was actually involved in it and committed to the American side at the time. The straight CIA-KGB stuff at the beginning can be a tad frustrating as it is more anecdotal than analytic, more spy story than retrospective scrutiny. And when the spy narratives resurface at the end amid the USSR's dissolution they go little beyond what was known at the time from the headlines. But the Afghanistan stuff is truly fascinating. Bearden reveals how flawed, indeed sometimes ludicrous, the Soviet rationale both for invading Afghanistan and staying there after 1985 truly was. The Stinger missile technology was only used in Afghanistan after the US became convinced that the Soviets already knew of it so using it in a place where the USSR was bound to capture some evidence of it did not jeopardize the integrity of the technology. This is illustrative of an epistemological paradox--tools which can be effectively deployed are tools whose secret is already known and thus cannot be given away; transparency was, in this case, more efficacious against the enemy than mystery. By being known, the Stingers escaped the net of deterrence that held everything in seeming deadlock, and this was certainly a turning point in the Afghanistan war and perhaps the Cold War as well. Another memorable episode occurs when the Mujahedin use a Stinger to shoot down a Soviet MI-24D attack helicopter and Bearden, monitoring events in Islamabad, sees a video of a dead Soviet soldier of about twenty; realizing it looks too much like a 'typical' American soldier for comfort, he does not transmit it back to Washington along with the rest of the information about the effectiveness of the Stingers. This is not only a moving revelation of humanity and compassion on the part of a hardened operative in the midst of the global chess game but an anecdote rife with implications both for the nature of the Cold War as well, of course, for events in Afghanistan today. Bearden explicitly compares Operating Enduring Freedom to the Soviet Afghan experience. In fact sometimes the similarities he observes are misleading if taken literally because, though the terrain and even some of the personalities have remained the same, the global framework is so different. Bearden is a straight shooter but he has also thought about the events in which he was involved. He and his collaborator James Risen have made this a rich and rewarding book, written with narrative flair, that is a quick and riveting reading experience. Though an ardent Cold Warrior, and justifiably so, he is an independent thinker and does not necessarily ratify consensus. The photographs included also tell many stories in themselves.

From Amazon.com

Gripping Clash of Cultures

This is a work about diverging cultures on two levels. It is the conflict between the cultures of the two world powers, the USSR and the United States. But a theme running throughout the book is how the world of intelligence is a culture unto itself. This story is better than any fictional tale around. Tom Clancy only wishes he could produce something like this.

We are back in the final days of the Cold War, with both sides working through proxies and attempting to trump the other side in any way possible. What strikes one throughout is the motive difference between those who chose to spy for the other side. The few Americans did so for money or revenge. The volunteers behind the Iron Curtain - and this included generals, high-up party members, scientists - did so for ideological reasons. The two worse US spies - Hannson (FBI) and Ames (CIA) both loved the thrill and the money; both were contemptuous of the Soviets.

In the end, this is an old-fashioned spy tale with all that that implies - skulking in the dark alleys, the drops, the chase, the planting of devices, transfers of cash, discreet signs, suicide pills, bravery, cowardice and a battle of wills in the agencies that exemplified the clash between the two cultures. This is one of those books you just can't put down.

From Amazon.com
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