In my previous post I started a review of The Second Oldest Profession by Phillip Knightley concerning espionage in the 20th Century. This post will contain thoughts on the period after the end of WW II.Knightley spends a significant amount of time exploring the CIA of the Cold War. He minimizes its successful operations and maximizes its failures. He is more convincing when he deflates the image of the CIA as a pivotal player in world changes through the 1950’s and 1960’s.
He notes the CIA quickly became pre-occupied with the excitement of covert operations at th expense of gathering and assessing the information collected. For all the money invested in the CIA it failed to know the U.S.S.R. had succeeded in building atomic bombs until the first bomb exploded in Kazahkistan in 1949. It equally failed to detect that North Korea was about to invade South Korea in 1950.
As to Fuchs’s value to the Russians, Holloway (an American professor of history) cannot reach a positive conclusion. He says Fuchs did provided potentially useful information. Some of this the Soviet scientists already knew, o else they would have discovered it: ‘But I thin, it is hard to dismiss it as worthless, especially as it gave the Soviet authorities some indication of what the Americans were up to. The estimates I have (from scientists who worked with Fuchs) suggest that he might have saved the Russians as much as a year or eighteen months in building the atomic bomb.’
Yet there is no indication East Germany is failing as a state in the book and that the Wall will come down in 3 years. There is nothing to lead a reader to think that the U.S.S.R. will disintegrate in 5 years. There is no reason to think Knightley should have had a talent for foreseeing the future. At the same time he was an astute observer of nations and did not detect the coming collapse in Eastern Europe.
“If Reagan, Gorbachev, Thatcher and Mitterand only manage one book this year, the could a lot worse than pick up Phillip Knightley’s and discover what imbecilities are committed in the hallowed name of intelligence.” - John le Carré(The blurb actually appears on the image of the book at the top of my first post on the book.)