The Cold War’s Arab Spring

Stolen Kremlin records show how the Soviets, including Gorbachev, created many of today’s Middle East conflicts.

TABLET, June 20, 2012

The dominant narrative of modern Middle East history emphasizes the depredations visited upon the region by European colonization and accepts as a truism that the former colonial powers prioritized the protection of their material interests—in oil, above all—above the dignity and self-determination of the region’s inhabitants. Thus did botched decolonization result in endless instability. The most intractable of the regional conflicts to which this gave rise, that between the Arabs and Israelis, is attributed in this narrative to Israel’s unwillingness to accede to Palestinian national aspirations. Thus did the region become a breeding ground for radicalism, intensified by Cold War rivalry between the superpowers, who replaced the European colonizers as the region’s meddling overlords. Then came Mikhail Gorbachev—a Westernizing reformer. At last, the Cold War was over. A new world order was at hand.

What if this conventional wisdom is nonsense? Russian exile Pavel Stroilov argues just this in his forthcoming book, "Behind the Desert Storm." “Not a word of it is true,” he writes. “It was the Soviet Empire—not the British Empire—that was responsible for the instability in the Middle East.”

Spy vs. Spy

The New York Sun, January, 2008

A review of The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France.

During the German occupation of France in World War II, Suzanne Desseigne, a French woman with fascist sympathies, initiated contact with the Nazis. She became the mistress of a German soldier who recruited her to conduct espionage missions against the collaborationist Vichy regime in Southern France and French North Africa. Her mother described the Nazi spy as "a young French girl who, from the age of fifteen, while her peers were playing without a care in the world, felt the danger of Bolshevism and of the Jewish conspiracy." She remained, even after her arrest and imprisonment, a devout traitor, assaulting other inmates who did not share her commitment to the Nazi cause.

Why We Don't Spy

The Weekly Standard, March 2002

ACCORDING TO CIA case officer Robert Baer, who spent twenty-one years recruiting informants in the Middle East and Central Asia, the luminaries of the CIA hold that the events of September 11 are no grounds for self-reproach. In the preface to his outraged memoir, "See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism," Baer reports that high-ranking CIA officials privately tell reporters that "when the dust finally clears, Americans will see that September 11 was a triumph for the intelligence community, not a failure."

D.C. Confidential

National Review, December 1998

IN 1997, THE Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, chaired by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, concluded that the government classifies way too many documents – millions every year – while failing to distinguish among different sorts of documents and protect secrets of real importance. What’s more, the Commission argued, secrecy is inherently antithetical to open debate in a flourishing democracy, and the perception of a government bloated with secrets erodes public trust.

The Absent Minded Adviser

The New York Sun, July 2004

SANDY BERGER WAS doing what? He was stuffing those documents where ?

What the hell was he thinking? That's the question everyone is asking. But even the most nimble conspiracy theorists can't figure this one out. Was he trying to keep something from the 9/11 Commission? That doesn't make sense: The pilfered papers were photocopies, not originals. Was he planning to give them to the Kerry campaign? No logic in that, either. Kerry serves on the Foreign Relations Committee -- he could have perused the National Archives whenever he wanted. Our former National Security Advisor has achieved a neat trick: He has engaged in behavior so moronic that it defies interpretation.

Spy vs. Spy

Weekly Standard, December, 2004
A review of CIA Spymaster, by Clarence Ashley

Clarence Ashley’s account of the life of the CIA’s most-decorated case officer, George Kisevalter, is apt to suffuse the old cold warriors at the Agency with nostalgia. A Russian émigré, Kisevalter handled Pyotr Popov, the CIA’s first major source inside Soviet military intelligence. He was key to the most successful operation in CIA history, the penetration of the Soviet military hierarchy by GRU colonel Oleg Penkovsky, and to the extraction and interrogation of the dipsomaniac defector Yuri Nosenko, supervisor of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald. Those were the glory days, when the CIA could do no wrong -- or at least, could do something right.

English Only Spoken Here

There's a desperate shortage of foreign language speakers at our intelligence agencies. Not that they're doing anything about it.

Weekly Standard
December 3, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 12

A RUMOR HAS BEEN CIRCULATING in intelligence circles that communications intercepted prior to September 11 referred in Arabic to a "Christmas gift" for the United States. What no one listening to these messages realized was that the same expression can mean "an unpleasant exploding surprise."

This anecdote may or may not be true. But the lack of trained linguists in our intelligence services is no rumor. Directly after the September 11 attack, FBI Director Robert Mueller issued an urgent appeal for Arabic and Farsi translators, posting a toll-free number for applicants on the FBI's website. But this is too little, too late: A critical shortage of linguists with security clearances has crippled American intelligence efforts for decades, and will take decades to remedy fully.

True Lies

Arabies Trends, December 2001

THE PLACE IS simply mythical, its iconic power lending it an almost magnetic resonance, like the Taj Mahal or the pyramids. Not a day passes without some nut trying to get past the front gates, driving up to the vehicle barriers with a 12,367-point list of demands from his alien masters or a desperate plea that the CIA stop beaming those obscene broadcasts into his fillings.

Syndicate content