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Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA & Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War

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In this newly revised and updated edition of his essential work, John Prados adds his concluding findings on U.S. covert operations in Angola, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and the Persian Gulf. Acclaimed as a landmark book about U.S. intelligence agencies in the postwar era, Presidents' Secret Wars describes the secret warfare mounted by the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon In this newly revised and updated edition of his essential work, John Prados adds his concluding findings on U.S. covert operations in Angola, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and the Persian Gulf. Acclaimed as a landmark book about U.S. intelligence agencies in the postwar era, Presidents' Secret Wars describes the secret warfare mounted by the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon-operations aimed at altering the destinies of nations and the course of global politics. Mr. Prados uses many newly declassified documents to open a vital window on this most secret aspect of American foreign policy. "A worthy and informative book"-Washington Post. "An important book....Prados's recounting of the often neglected early days of the C.I.A. and its covert activities is especially enlightening."-New York Times Book Review. "For those concerned with the study of intelligence, Presidents' Secret Wars will be highly useful because Dr. Prados has done serious archival research....This volume moves the study of covert operations to a higher and more sophisticated plane"-Intelligence and National Security.


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In this newly revised and updated edition of his essential work, John Prados adds his concluding findings on U.S. covert operations in Angola, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and the Persian Gulf. Acclaimed as a landmark book about U.S. intelligence agencies in the postwar era, Presidents' Secret Wars describes the secret warfare mounted by the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon In this newly revised and updated edition of his essential work, John Prados adds his concluding findings on U.S. covert operations in Angola, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and the Persian Gulf. Acclaimed as a landmark book about U.S. intelligence agencies in the postwar era, Presidents' Secret Wars describes the secret warfare mounted by the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon-operations aimed at altering the destinies of nations and the course of global politics. Mr. Prados uses many newly declassified documents to open a vital window on this most secret aspect of American foreign policy. "A worthy and informative book"-Washington Post. "An important book....Prados's recounting of the often neglected early days of the C.I.A. and its covert activities is especially enlightening."-New York Times Book Review. "For those concerned with the study of intelligence, Presidents' Secret Wars will be highly useful because Dr. Prados has done serious archival research....This volume moves the study of covert operations to a higher and more sophisticated plane"-Intelligence and National Security.

30 review for Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA & Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Phillips

    In the current era of asymmetric warfare, accurate and timely intelligence is of increasing significance. Likewise, the nation’s leaders often employ non-kinetic methods or irregular forces to achieve national security objectives. John Prados introduces this world in Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II through the Persian Gulf. The view Prados provides spans from the strategic, such as making plans and policy in the Oval Office, to the tactical, such as In the current era of asymmetric warfare, accurate and timely intelligence is of increasing significance. Likewise, the nation’s leaders often employ non-kinetic methods or irregular forces to achieve national security objectives. John Prados introduces this world in Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II through the Persian Gulf. The view Prados provides spans from the strategic, such as making plans and policy in the Oval Office, to the tactical, such as describing special operations forces’ action in the U.S. invasion of Grenada. The book covers the subject thoroughly, providing insight and details into many U.S. covert operations. It highlights how each presidential administration employs intelligence and particularly the relationship between the president and the director of central intelligence. Also notable are Prados’ descriptions of the Bay of Pigs invasion and operations in Laos in the chapter entitled, “The High Plateau.” This book should be in the hand of any student who is delving into the world of covert operations for the first time and on the shelf of anyone who studies intelligence as an enduring reference.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Having read his book about US contingency plans to nuke the Viet Minh on behalf of France in the fifties, Prados' President's Secret Wars caught my eye at the Children's Memorial Hospital resale shop. I bought it, brought it home with a few other volumes purchased there and read it soon thereafter. The first four-fifths of this book is a straightforward history of covert military operations conducted by the Executive Branch from the end of WWII through our first adventure in Afghanistan in the e Having read his book about US contingency plans to nuke the Viet Minh on behalf of France in the fifties, Prados' President's Secret Wars caught my eye at the Children's Memorial Hospital resale shop. I bought it, brought it home with a few other volumes purchased there and read it soon thereafter. The first four-fifths of this book is a straightforward history of covert military operations conducted by the Executive Branch from the end of WWII through our first adventure in Afghanistan in the eighties. So doing, Prados gives the history of the CIA and its predecessors with an emphasis on its murky legal basis and the various fitfull experiments with oversight and control. The last fifth of this edition of the book concerns the war against Nicaragua conducted during the Reagan administration, a war still going on at the time of publication. Here, in this last part, what had been a flowing overview becomes a detailed accounting of the evolving scandal of Executive criminally defying Congress and the law. This was, in my opinion, the weakest part of the text, causing me to rate the whole as a four while otherwise I would have given it a five. The ostensible point of this book is to discuss the history of such black operations with an eye to evaluating their efficacy. Prados' condlusion is that while some operations have been tactically successful, most have proven to be strategic failures, often setting up the conditions for totally unintended consequences. Our overthrow of democratically elected governments in Guatemala, Iran and Chile all led to years of dictatorship. Our attempted overthrow of the Cuban government pushed its leadership into the arms of the Soviets. Our turn to Islamic fundamentalism against the Soviets led...well, we all know where that led. Throughout most of the text Prados avoids making moral judgments, confining himself to questions of efficacy. This objective pose fall apart in the last sections about Nicaragua where the Reagan administration comes in for scathing, almost overwhelming, criticism on all counts. Not only were they breaking both domestic and international laws and agreements, repeatedly lying to the Congressional bodies responsible for oversight and directly involving the President in unconstitutional crimes, but they rather incompetently backed the wrong horse. Prados conclusion is that the CIA should return to being what Truman originally intended: an apolitical intelligence agency reporting to the President and responsible to Congress. Covert operations should be eschewed except as adjuncts to actual declared wars and then they should probably be closely coordinated with, if not entirely run by, the military.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Really cool book that chronicles many of the covert CIA ops throughout the Cold War -- focuses on ones that employed actual military forces (as opposed to spy missions, assassinations, etc.) and reveals just how much the CIA was up to, how little oversight they had (and have) and how off the mark some of the Cold War rhetoric was. What I thought was most revealing is two things: first, that any time America had to choose between its principles of popular sovereignty and freedom, or it's own econ Really cool book that chronicles many of the covert CIA ops throughout the Cold War -- focuses on ones that employed actual military forces (as opposed to spy missions, assassinations, etc.) and reveals just how much the CIA was up to, how little oversight they had (and have) and how off the mark some of the Cold War rhetoric was. What I thought was most revealing is two things: first, that any time America had to choose between its principles of popular sovereignty and freedom, or it's own economic or political interests, it always went with the latter. America was perfectly willing to suppress freedom, limit the rights of people, and supported oppressive regimes, brutal tactics, or otherwise shady business, all in the name of Cold War ideology. The second thing that really got me here was how often even the idea of Cold War ideology was just BS. More often than not, the CIA was fighting to protect economic interests, financial hegemony, and American businesses -- not political ideologies. For example, the protection of American Fruit in Guatemala had nothing to do with fighting against communism -- even even Cuba this was not the case -- Castro was not a communist before the Bay of Pigs pushed him to contact the Soviets. Prados has a newer version of this book which I have not read, although I understand that it basically incorporates much of the same text from this one with some new material. In any case, this is a great read for all students of 20th Century American History, or anyone who is interested in just what the US has been up to around the world for the last 60 years or so.

  4. 5 out of 5

    N. N. Santiago

    "The truth is that the record of covert action is not without its successes. Notable among these are the partisan projects during the Korean War and the CIDG and Meo efforts in Indochina. A necessary qualification is that the programs were successful in mobilizing paramilitary forces but were not strategically decisive: neither in North Korea nor in Vietnam were adversary forces significantly hampered by the existence of effectiveness of United states paramilitary allies. The CIA programs most of "The truth is that the record of covert action is not without its successes. Notable among these are the partisan projects during the Korean War and the CIDG and Meo efforts in Indochina. A necessary qualification is that the programs were successful in mobilizing paramilitary forces but were not strategically decisive: neither in North Korea nor in Vietnam were adversary forces significantly hampered by the existence of effectiveness of United states paramilitary allies. The CIA programs most often cited as successes are Operation Ajax in Iran and Operation Success in Guatemala. Yet these victories had only short-term effects [and both suffered huge cost overruns: "Operation Ajax in Iran was estimated as low as $100,00 or $200,000, but cost $10 million. Operation Success cost twice as much as the $10 million allotted to it."]. Action in Iran sowed the seeds for what became virulent anti-Americanism on the part of the successors to the Shah. In Guatemala the overthrow of Arbenz turned the country away from democracy, the supposed aim of the covert war, while, disturbingly, failure would have triggered shifts, by forcing those nations into the arms of the Soviet Union. [...] American national interest suffers each time a paramilitary operation fails. The record shows successes to be few, failures far more numerous, and wartime actions to have been the most useful."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hugh Curtright

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott Parkin

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Lloyd

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynette

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Charles Russo

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kamran

  12. 4 out of 5

    Johnnie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ariel Daniliszyn

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Kendall

  15. 5 out of 5

    Larry Hunter

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charles Ameringer

  17. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Stephens

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Fogg

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jc

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claude

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric Walters

  24. 5 out of 5

    Barron

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kimpan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  28. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Griffin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ronan

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