“America’s Secret War”: A Fascinating Book

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America’s Secret War by George Friedman

For fans of geopolitical intrigue, behind-the-scenes diplomatic arm-twisting, and real analysis explaining why countries and their leaders do the things they do, this is easily one of the most informative, balanced, fascinating, and just plain useful books I’ve ever read.

I’m somewhat plugged into the world of the military, geopolitical conflicts and intrigue, the CIA, “war is politics by other means”, etc. Not an expert, by any means, but I read a fair amount about such things. Some people watch “24”; I read about real spies and geopolitical intrigue. And I learned a lot from this book.

I didn’t know, for example, that during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the U.S. hinted very strongly to Saddam Hussein that should he win that war, we would not object to a subsequent invasion of Kuwait.

A pledge, as it turns out, which we had no intention of honoring, since we had no intention of letting him win the Iran-Iraq war. We were helping both sides, since we didn’t want either side to win. But win it he did. Our ambassador to Iraq at the time, April Glaspie, somehow didn’t get “the memo” that the policy must now must be changed, since we never intended to allow the taking of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Here is a partial transcript of the conversation between Saddam and Amb. Glaspie.

And there is so much more. An explanation of the U.S. backing of the mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in the Afghan war, and why the Soviets lost. How the end of the Cold War not only fooled a lot of gullible people into imagining a world without war, it also put America squarely into the sights of power-hungry nations like France, China, Germany, and Russia, and of course, Osama bin Laden. The perversion of U.S. foreign policy under Clinton to prioritize helping people rather than pursuing our national interests, which showed the world that we were not a serious nation any more. Details of the back-channel negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan, and between the U.S. and Russia, after 9/11. The sophistication of Al Qaeda in planning (they wanted us to attack, based on the assumption that they could grind us down like they had the Soviets in the 80s) and in studying the history of the U.S. in warfare. The legal jumble of waging war against non-uniformed combatants — in every previous war, such people were shot, no questions asked. The unrelenting string of intelligence failures that cause us to make bad choices. Etc.

And the best thing is, it is written in a strict, no-nonsense, judgment-free “you are there” style. There is really no bashing or venting or whining of any kind. Imagine THAT!

Worth reading multiple times. Highly, highly recommended.