This book is hard to read for someone who doesn't know about some of the times and eras that the book uses as a backdrop. I really didn't get into the book until I got to the Kennedy era.
The title says it all. With all the movies, tv series, and even history books it hard to think of the CIA as something other than all powerful and all knowing. Tim Weiner does a great job explaning events in such a way that there's little question to the validity that we are living with a "Legacy of Ashes".
Title should be 'A History of the CIA' and not 'The History of the CIA'. It's just one slice of the pie. An interesting slice to be sure, but certainly not 'THE' whole pie. Despite the misleading packaging, I'm glad I read it.
I came into this book thinking it would be the same dry experience you'd expect from the sixty year account of a government agency. I was quite mistaken. The author takes a bold position right from the start: Everything you know about the CIA is based on a propaganda campaign from the 1960s. The real CIA has been mired by bitter incompetence and humiliating failure. I must admit that I was skeptical at first. By now we've all seen Zero Dark Thirty, and we have developed a cultural image of the clandestine service loaded with respect, admiration, trust, and just a hint of fear.
This book was a rude awakening to the real world. What was perhaps most shocking was the discussion of how the CIA's efforts in so many parts of the world (Iraq, Iran, South America, Korea, Vietnam, etc.) led directly to the problems we face today. What was most disturbing was the realization that the CIA crushed budding democracies for no reason other than the fear that they might elect a socialist or communist leader, instead installing military juntas so repressive and terrifying that it is hard to wonder why they were so often overthrown by their own people. It is clear that the communist paranoia, which we now know to have been exaggerated if not entirely unfounded, that led to the creation of the CIA and sustained it for much of its life did far more harm than good. Indeed, today we are reaping the rewards of the CIA's misdeeds all around the world.
This book, and the discussions found within are vital to a complete understanding of the Cold War and American foreign policy after the Second World War. For those who, like me, sat in the traditional euro-centric pro-American high school history class, you will undoubtedly be blown away by this book. I was prepared for a critical analysis of America's clandestine service, but I was not prepared for the astonishing indictment I would receive.
I would strongly recommend this book for this who are interested in the 1945-1989 period of American history, as well as anyone looking for a fresh perspective on American history untainted by the pro-American biases of our education system.
CIA is a messy place. A messy place whos trackrecord is just one line (with few exeptions) of failure after failure. The book feels well researched but I cant shake the thought that we donät get all of the picture. If the CIA really has performed so increddibly bad during its years it ought to have been closed by the adminsitration.
This is a really good listen and it gives the listener a thourough rundown of the worlds history from the 1940s up to date, at least regarding all the instances where the CIA has been involved, and that seems to be... everywhere!
This largely unbiased viewpoint at the facts of the US spycraft for recent history is a captivating story. For those who enjoy getting to know the founders of US institutions and their lives, it leaves the reader wanting more. One really gets to know the sacrifices, and the hardships of those in the CIA through the different administration.
This book is great for anyone wanting to know how Government works in a compelling story and analysis. Yes, there is a great deal of criticism of the Agency and the mistakes that were made. The author, however, conveys a spirit and tone not of defamation or mud-throwing, but one of wanting to improve the agency for better effectiveness as an organization and for its employees (and product customers). The book also excels at showing the human side to the agency, and helps one understand how actual people thrived or failed in their posts.
I found this a great book to connect to American history and make me appreciate the sacrifices of the people at the agency. If I were to ask the author to change anything in any future revisions, is to add more potential solutions to the problems leading to the "ashes" described in the title.
The narrator was fantastic!
If you liked Argo as an inside view into the CIA, you'll love this book!
Harry Turtledove fan
1) Regime change did not start with Bush or Iraq. It started with Eisenhower.
2) JFK was not all Camelot. He made the CIA intervene in internal affairs of many countries than any of his predecessors. His obsession with killing Castro and his subsequent assassination may or may not be revenge killing.
3) CIA is not all great as its myth. It was brilliantly bad at its core purpose (to collect intelligence). It was good at wetware operations and regime changes.
4) The CIA was almost always wrong with its intelligence reports, so bad in fact not one President trusted it. Except for the Israeli war, it was wrong on ALL counts.
5) The CIA did not win the Cold war. The USSR lost it.
6) The sheer amount of useless lives lost due to CIA carelessness is criminal.
7) The CIA was a bastard child since its inception was vetoed by the President who refused to sign the declaration and killed the OSS.
If you are at all a student of history then you will find this book to be an outstanding, and detailed, recount of the CIA and its activities since WWII. This is important history for any American to understand how and why we are viewed the way we are in the world.
I plan on listening to Legacy of Ashes a second time, perhaps a third.
One of my past times now that I am in my sixties, is reading material that offers a much more truthful perspective on events I grew up witnessing, events that profoundly shaped who I am today. We knew we were not being told the truth about the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Books like The Legacy of Ashes help me make more sense of all the senseless violence and better understand the forces that created so much suffering.
Legacy of Ashes is the only Stefan Rudnicki book I have read.
The part of the book that discussed the ways that the CIA deliberately created suffering in South East Asia, lied about America's actions in the Vietnam War, reconnected me to all those old feelings of sadness and anger over the senseless death of so many people.
Say something about yourself!
I was very disappointed with this book. The author just cherry-picks the data which supports his opinion and ignores the rest. I cannot recommend it as something worth reading.
If you found this review helpful, please let me know. Cheers!
No extreme reaction. This book only proved what I have believed about the CIA for decades.
It is amazing to me that those in charge have so often given "misinformation" to our Presidents!!!!