Saturday, June 06, 2009

Books I'm Reading 16) See No Evil by Robert Baer

Back in the fourth grade I was really into submarines and so, for some class book report, I read Tom Clancy's, The Hunt for Red October. I recall at the time the teacher didn't believe me and I remember being asked with a disbelieving tone "so what happens at the end of the book?" Like a smart ass I said "he falls asleep on the plane." which was technically true, though not really what the teacher was asking. Since then I've been intrigued by military history and in particular, the history of different intelligence agencies. Even considered applying to the NSA a couple of times but I hate math.

Reading Robert Baer's account of his time with the Operatios Directorate of the CIA was, I have to admit, a little slow at parts. But through. In the way I would expect a experieced case officer to be able to provide you enough background to make an appropriate assessment of the overall picture.

Some of the stories of individuals, particularly the times he spent in India and with Russian military officers after the fall of the Soviet Union, are thrilling and almost unbelievable, but paint a vivid picture of an age since past.

With limited large state-based enemies for US intelligence services and a change in political atmosphere since the end of Reagan, it's hard to justify such crazy actions as would have been completely acceptable when facing the KGB. So even though I agree, and in fact agree wholeheartedly that the US has to devote more of it's efforts towards HUMINT rather than ELINT intelligence collection, it's hard to imagine The Company getting back to the heyday it had when Baer was in the field running ops.

Flash aside, the sattelites can only pick up so much and it's clear that we're lacking in many areas. In the coming decades, the surprise with which 9-11 took us, will happen again because we don't have many native Fujian Chinese, or Tagalug speakers. If this is century will see the rise of Asia, particularly Eastern or Southeastern Asia in terms of economic importance, it would benefit us greatly to start working those areas with human resources now. Similarly Latin America and the contstant flow of drugs and small arms seems like a valid place to try and devote human intelligence resources.


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