Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Two separate worlds the endless tug of war

Paul Pillar made a splash with his latest piece in the Foreign Affairs. He provides an easy to understand model of how intelligence organizations are supposed to work with policy makers and how, he claims, in the Iraq war, intelligence was essentially cut out. Pillar was a long serving intelligence professional who now has the honor to teach at Georgetown's Security Studies Program. It's long but it is easy to understand and is a good background on what the intelligence community is designed to do.

On a related note, I am reading At the Abyss: An Insider's View of the Cold War. As one review puts it, this shouldn't be the only book on the Cold War that you read. This is true, the author worked on the science and policy side of the nuclear weapons complex and served in the Air Force as an officer and as the Secretary of the Air Force. Not surprisingly he concentrates on Air Force and nuclear issues. The approach is anecdotal and many of the stories are quite interesting. There are surprises for those less well versed in the Cold War. For example, US pilots in trouble over Korea would just head to the Yellow Sea because "North Korean" pilots would not follow them. The pilots were actually the supposedly neutral Russians who could not afford to be caught by the US Navy if they crashed at sea. It's that sort of story that makes the book fun to read.

The Cold War is a huge subject best served by extensive reading, but the new Gaddis book might serve as good introduction. Newer books have the value of profiting from the academic study of Soviet archives, as well as being less politicized. I have, but have not read the evocatively titled The Fifty Year Wound. In it the author agrees the US won the Cold War (simple test: of the two sides, which still exists?,) but argues that the cost to the United States and the world was grave. It's a long one though.

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