After reading Tim Weiner's excellent "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA", I was eager to hear the CIA story from an insider's perspective. Unfortunately, Mr. Tenet spends most of the book defending CIA employees' dedication, commitment and patriotism instead of giving close examination to their oft-repeated failure to identify threats to this nation and its people. The CIA's reduction in budget and manpower in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union was more related to a realization by the nation's leaders that even with huge multi-billion dollar appropriations, it was ineffective and hide-bound. It's not at all clear that even with better funding, CIA would have predicted any better than it did the rise of Islamic terrorism and the 9/11 attack. the Agency was, after all, a huge and secret bureaucracy more interested in protecting its own personnel and in its own survival, than in fulfilling its mission. We can only hope that this is not still so.
My impression is that this book was written and narrated by British men for a British audience. Its overly prosaic style mirrors the Edwardian speech used by Churchill himself 100 years ago, but is no longer captivating, if it ever was. It reveals far more detail than this reader, at least, cared to know about Mr. Churchill's early life, ambitions and political manipulations. I gave up before completing even the first (of six) Audible sections. Sad to say, I will have to find a better book than this to satisfy my desire to learn more about one of the 20th Century's greatest figures.
The message of this book isn't anti-war, or even anti-Iraqi war; rather, it is about how the U.S. has failed to develop and carry out a strategic plan for success there. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz bear the primary responsibility, whose plan for the war assumed U.S. forces would be hailed as liberators and didn't provide for the insurgency that developed following the invasion. This book is well documented; it is a condemnation not the of the original idea of overthrowing Hussein, but of the colossal blunders that put us in the situation in which we now find ourselves. This is a "must read."
This book never "took off" - each chapter continued its aimless predecessors. At the end, I felt only relief that it was over.
If the story line were in a novel, it would too farfetched to believe. But this is non-fiction -- the story of how a very few mavericks engineered a massive and largely covert aid program that influenced world history. This book is well worth the (rather long) read.
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