Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"See No Evil" by Baer

"See No Evil" is an extremely interesting look into the CIA from 70's through 9/11 from a bottom up view.  The first section is a surprisingly candid look at the nuts of bolts of HUMINT (at least the way it used to be according to the author).  The later sections describe the gradual disintegration of the CIA starting from Reagan and culminating with the complete intelligence failure that led to 9/11.  Although the author finds fault with the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, he minces no words when describing the utter disdain the Clinton administration had for the CIA.  A novice observer might argue that with the Cold War over, there was/is no need to maintain an expensive overseas intelligence framework.  However, Clinton's policy of appeasement made us blind to terrorists and other threats (like China and Russia).  It also contributed to the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq War.
Written right after 9/11, this book has some interesting characters that are seen in a much different light 7 years later.  One is Ahmed Chalabi.  Baer writes about Chalabi's efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the mid 90's that Clinton refused to support (for nefarious reasons the author later found out).  Chalabi was then a prime mover in getting Bush to invade Iraq in 2003.  If the CIA has boots on the ground, that whole mess might not have happened.
It will interesting to look back at the Bush administration to see if he allowed the CIA to get back to its roots and foster a new HUMINT network.  One lesson we need to learn is that there are always bad guys and we need to keep an eye on them.

No comments: