Top positive review
Easy reading, insightful, authoritative
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2017
Easy reading, insightful, authoritative. The huge range of incidents are nearly uniformly engaging and clearly presented, and the enormous value of knowing one's enemy through diligent surveillance is crystal clear.
It took a while to get through the definitions of different kinds of intel near the beginning, which slowed the pace, as the anecdotes are the meat of the book, and categorization of methods is not necessary for the tales. Another minor gripe is the normative tone - don't ignore this possibility, and that method shouldn't be used this way - I wasn't looking for a manual in how to use spies. A final tone that seemed forced is that most conflicts were presented as having been decided by the quality of the spying and whether the authorities listened to the usually exemplary spies, maybe true, or maybe a little too self-congradulatory for the spying profession.
A curiosity is that the Cuban missile crisis is presented as a triumph of good intelligence by the US. But elsewhere I've read that Kennedy was totally unaware that the Soviets had nuclear bombs in Cuba and a sub that the US forced to surface nearly used its nuclear missiles, of which the US was unaware. He also presents the Viet Nam as easily winnable; failure of US was due to lack of stomach for bad publicity. Makes me wonder if there is some distortion to uphold the image of US intelligence, and one purpose of the book might be lobbying for resources for the CIA and its British equivalent.
This book reinforces my belief that it is very hard to judge the actions of nations, as there is much perspective gained through espionage that the public never sees at the time, or sometimes until decades later, if ever.
A good read.