Review Essays

From Parameters, Summer 1997, pp. 131-53.

Richard S. Friedman, "US Intelligence at the Crossroads?" pp. 131-36.

Norvell B. DeAtkine, "The Middle East: Back to Square One." pp. 137-45.

Paul F. Braim, "The Latest on the POW/MIA Controversy." pp. 146-49.

Samuel J. Newland, "On the War's Conclusion: Recent Historiography of the Ending Phases of World War II." pp. 150-53.

US Intelligence at the Crossroads?


© 1997 Richard S. Friedman

"It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results." -- Sun Tzu (6th-5th century B.C.) The Art of War

On 13 May 1996, about a hundred people crowded into the Post Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia, for the funeral of Ambassador William Egan Colby, Lieutenant Colonel, AUS, former Director of Central Intelligence. The mourners, including Oleg Kalugin, former chief of the Foreign Counterintelligence Directorate of the KGB, followed a horse-drawn caisson from the chapel to the gravesite in Arlington Cemetery. The following week, an American publisher announced a contract with Markus Wolf, former Director of STASI, the East German Security Service, for publication of a gourmet cookbook. When a former hostile intelligence chief joins mourners at the funeral of his longtime adversary, and when another publishes a book of exotic recipes, it seems to signal a departure from the world of intelligence we have known for over 50 years.

Although official Washington believed there was little need for foreign intelligence following World War I, during the 1930s the political leadership gradually became aware that increased knowledge of world events was becoming necessary. Military intervention in the Spanish Civil War (1938) by the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy and their uses of new weapons and tactics alarmed American, British, and French observers. When Mussolini embarked on his adventure in Ethiopia, President Franklin Roosevelt sent a private citizen, William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, a World War I military hero and prominent New York lawyer, on an intelligence collection trip. By 1939 Roosevelt and his Administration felt they had a modest foundation upon which to build an intelligence establishment.

In his 1993 book, The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age, historian John Lukacs argues that World War II was the defining event of the century. Lukacs notes that before 1893 the United States had no ambassadors in a foreign country, lacked any significant foreign intelligence capability until World War I, and had no intelligence organizational structure until World War II. Underscoring Lukacs' conclusion, there have been more new titles published about intelligence during the past two years than in the previous decade, certainly suggesting increased public interest in the subject. This essay examines some of those books and the question of whether US intelligence is really at a crossroads.

Declassification and release of significant source materials have allowed writers in a variety of disciplines to answer questions that have puzzled scholars for years. It is not surprising, therefore, that many recent books cover intelligence operations conducted during 1939-1945 and the early confrontations with the Soviet Union leading into the Cold War.

Thomas Troy's book, Wild Bill and Intrepid: Donovan, Stephenson, and the Origin of CIA, is a scholarly examination of the relationship between those two intelligence leaders and their organizations. Troy corrects errors surrounding the historic accounts of Anglo-American intelligence collaboration and puts to rest a number of myths and legends that arose over the years. Widely believed tales surrounding the founding of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) by "Wild Bill" Donovan and the role of Sir William "Little Bill" Stephenson, head of British intelligence in the United States, often turn out to be about as accurate as Parson Weems' fable about George Washington and the cherry tree. Troy sets these myths straight in his well-documented work.

The Unseen War in Europe: Espionage and Conspiracy in the Second World War, by John H. Waller, explores both details and highlights of World War II espionage and counterespionage, mainly in Europe and the Near East. The author provides an account of the "Venlo Incident," a clever and successful operation by the German security service that virtually wiped out British intelligence resources on the continent in 1938. Waller observes that this disaster, which forced the British to rebuild their intelligence assets, was the principal impetus for British efforts to enlist American cooperation, an account of which appears in Troy's work. Waller's book is an invaluable source of information about German resistance to Hitler and, in particular, the role of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, German military intelligence. Waller uses the Canaris chronicles to describe the latter's struggle against Hitler's Nazi security services and his deliberate manipulation of his own operations to aid the Allied cause. His successes, of course, led to Canaris's death in a Nazi prison camp only hours before Allied forces entered the area. The book uses details heretofore unavailable to link new revelations to previously available data; Waller deserves credit for putting them together in a coherent text.

Picking one's way through some of the murkier aspects of World War II intelligence is aided by reading V. E. Tarrant's The Red Orchestra: The Soviet Spy Network Inside Nazi Europe. This book revisits previous historical accounts which the author has skillfully woven into still other newly available material to portray the extensive Soviet intelligence apparatus operating in Europe from the 1930s through the end of the Second World War. The title comes from the German name for the Soviet ring, Die Rote Kappelle, and includes an appraisal of the Die Rote Drei network in Switzerland. The Red Orchestra could serve as a comprehensive textbook of clandestine intelligence operations for anyone seeking to improve his or her knowledge in this area. It also illustrates the sad, sometimes tragic, results when national leaders receive accurate intelligence but reject it to rely on their own biases, instincts, or intuitions. Each of the World War II books cited in the bibliography repeats this lesson, from different perspectives.

Another set of recent books looks at the transition from victory to Cold War and explores the establishment, culture, and activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. A second edition of Robin W. Winks' book, Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, corrects errors in the first edition and expands on some of the earlier material. Winks, a distinguished Yale University historian, served in the Research and Analysis Division of OSS, and was active in the organization of the Central Intelligence Agency. Cloak & Gown, a useful book, offers a good deal for readers; two examples illustrate this point. First, the book portrays the brilliant but eccentric counterintelligence officer, James J. Angleton, in a chapter devoted to his career which is, thus far, the best and most complete treatment of a complex and controversial character who occupied an important position for many years. Second, Winks provides an excellent outline of what intelligence analysis is, or ought to be. The "so what" factor is discussed in a way that intelligence consumers should understand when confronted with some new intelligence estimate. As Winks points out, "Research and analysis are at the core of intelligence. . . . [Most] `facts' are without meaning; someone must analyze even the most easily obtained data." Robin Winks recounts how this task was accomplished in the wartime OSS and during the early days of the CIA.

Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Newsweek, was granted unprecedented access to CIA records from which he obtained source material for his book, The Very Best Men--Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA. One might conclude from a quick glance at the chapter headings that Thomas picks up where Winks left off in describing a small group of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males from the eastern elite establishment who dominated US intelligence and covert action operations in the immediate postwar period. Thomas, however, demonstrates what a 19th-century sage meant when he said, "Biography is history teaching by example." In his introduction, the author observes:

The Central Intelligence Agency is also beginning the slow and somewhat painful process of opening up its classified records. . . . I became the first "outsider"--journalist or historian--ever permitted to see the CIA's own secret histories of its operations in the first two decades of its existence. Written by intelligence officers, these histories can be turgid, and they are not always complete. But they allowed me to see the CIA as it saw itself. They reveal no great secret victories or hidden defeats. The early operations of the CIA are now fairly public. This book attempts to explain the less well understood story of the men who made it [emphasis added].

With regard to the transition from the post-World War II era, through the Cold War, and into the present, several recent publications deserve attention. The first is Robert M. Gates's From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. Franklin P. Jones once remarked that "an autobiography usually reveals nothing bad about its writer except his memory." While Jones's skepticism is usually justified, Gates's memory is such that his self-portrait reveals even a few warts. The greatest value of this book is the insight it provides regarding White House and executive planning and policy during the five administrations with which the author was associated. Gates's book demonstrates Winston Churchill's observation that "the making of policy, like the making of sausage, is best not seen by the public."

In Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence, Roy Godson examines a precisely defined aspect of intelligence--covert action, such as paramilitary and psychological warfare operations--during the past 45 years. While Dr. Godson combines both covert action and counterintelligence in a single volume, and it might be argued that they are not necessarily companion subjects, the combination does no violence to either. In fact the unusual combination supports the author's conclusion that appropriate use of "dirty tricks" and effective counterintelligence enabled the United States to accomplish many important objectives that might otherwise have been unattainable by more conventional means. Dr. Godson's book illustrates the important point that both covert action and counterintelligence often seem to be orphaned stepchildren in intelligence operations since they do not offer assured prospects for favorable recognition or career progression.

The U.S. Intelligence Community, third edition, by Jeffrey T. Richelson is an encyclopedic work worth having as a reference even though some of the information was partially or entirely out of date even before the volume was printed. This is not to fault the author; intelligence institutions reorganize frequently, and while Richelson's approach may contain some errors, it nevertheless provides the user with a comprehensive overview of the topic. The author's bibliographic and specific notes will remain useful until the next revision.

In the framework of analysis, as well as covert action, Intelligence Intervention in the Politics of Democratic States: The United States, Israel, and Britain by Uri Bar-Joseph is especially interesting for intelligence consumers at every level, since it discusses and analyzes cases in which intelligence organizations affected, or attempted to influence, high-level political decisions. Bar-Joseph's book was originally a doctoral dissertation at Stanford University. All too many academic papers are pompous or boring; Intelligence Intervention is presented in a detailed but often humorous manner that makes for an entertaining as well as an educational experience.

Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency, by Stephen F. Knott, provides details and specific examples of what Godson's Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards was discussing, with a view to illustrating how a succession of Presidents beginning with George Washington employed these measures as "force multipliers" to advance their policies. Another volume, Soldiers, Spies, and the Rat Line: America's Undeclared War Against the Soviets, by retired Colonel James Milano and Patrick Brogan, addresses the immediate aftermath of World War II. Recalling, among others, the case of Klaus Barbie, "The Butcher of Lyons," a Nazi official who was brought back to France and prosecuted for murders committed during the Nazi's World War II occupation of France, this book describes how US military intelligence personnel carrying out their intelligence collection and counterintelligence work at the time the war ended became at first indirectly and then directly involved in providing cover and escape mechanisms for some former adversaries. It is a cautionary tale and one that should be kept in mind by future generations of military intelligence officers caught up in changing political situations.

The book that helps to develop the context for understanding the future of US intelligence operations, edited by Roy Godson, Ernest R. May, and Gary Schmitt, is U.S. Intelligence at the Crossroads: Agendas for Reform. Its 18 essays, originally presented at meetings of the Working Group on Intelligence Reform, cover the entire spectrum of intelligence. The first of the book's three sections examines intelligence topics in the broadest sense, seeking to answer the question "What is intelligence?" These essays analyze and question some recent intelligence reform proposals. The second section focuses sharply on fundamental intelligence activities--collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action--in the contemporary world security environment, while the final one addresses the relationship of intelligence to specific policy concerns and to policymakers in general. This book will give readers a thorough grounding on the intelligence scene as it appeared three to four years ago, which some thoughtful individuals believe is the proper direction for the future.

In his book cited earlier, John Lukacs seems to define the forces in social and political structures that will shape intelligence organizations and activities for the immediate future:

Near the end of the twentieth century--indeed, near the end of the so-called modern Age--two dangerous circumstances threaten the world. One is the institutionalized pressure for material and economic "growth"--contrary to stability and threatening nature itself. The other is the existence of the populist inclinations of nationalism--contrary to a greater and better understanding among peoples, often debouching into barbarism. One is the thrust for increasing wealth; the other, for tribal power. One issues from the presumption that the principal human motive is greed; the other, that it is power.

Count Alexandre de Marenches, the longest serving chief of French intelligence, elaborates on Lukacs' point with these observations in his book The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage in the Age of Terrorism:

This focus on electronic data-gathering might have been of some value in the military and intelligence realities of the Third World War, the East-West conflict. But in the South-North War, human intelligence plays a much more significant role. Our new enemies are backward nations. Their communications are often primitive. The thought processes are intricate and involve personal dynamics that are essential to understand and penetrate. The decisions and the calls to action are communicated with the utmost discretion. There is no role for electronic intelligence until the die is cast--until the troops begin to move or are already under way, until the terrorist is launched and irretrievable, the courier already delivering his plastic explosive to the unsuspecting target. Human intelligence can intercept him at the source. Electronic intelligence can only signal an alarm--and often, too late.

Is US intelligence in fact at a crossroads? If time or interest is limited, a reader might seek the answer in Loch K. Johnson's Secret Agencies: U.S. Intelligence in a Hostile World, a slim, tightly written, but thorough examination of contemporary US intelligence. Professor Johnson points out that:

America's intelligence agencies are distinctive in several ways. They are large and technically advanced, dispersed in their organization and management, watched closely by overseers (compared to earlier times and as against most other nations), and guided by at least some moral signposts. They also share common traits with their counterparts abroad, among them an inability to foresee and collect all the information that policy officers may need, the periodic distortion of information by analysts and decisionmakers, a beguiling attraction to covert action at times (even when these operations may run counter to publicly stated diplomatic initiatives), and persistent failures of counterintelligence.

Intelligence requirements must be driven by the needs of national policy and therefore should follow rather than lead.

A related question is, What are the prospects for rapid change and improvement in US intelligence? On that, readers might consider an article printed in The Washington Post on 8 July 1996, titled "Curtain Is Falling on Another Intelligence Drama: Reform," by Walter Pincus, a staff reporter who covers intelligence matters. In a lengthy survey that reviewed executive, legislative, academic, and institutional studies and all the various recommended intelligence reforms proposed during the past several years, Pincus concludes that very little is likely to change anytime soon. He appears to be substantially correct.


Bar-Joseph, Uri. Intelligence Intervention in the Politics of Democratic States: The United States, Israel, and Britain. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1995.

Gates, Robert M. From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Godson, Roy, Ernest R. May, and Gary Schmitt, eds. U.S. Intelligence at the Crossroads: Agendas for Reform. Washington: Brassey's, 1995.

Godson, Roy. Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence. Washington: Brassey's, 1995.

Johnson, Loch K. Secret Agencies: U.S. Intelligence in a Hostile World. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1996.

Knott, Stephen F. Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.

Lukacs, John. The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1993.

Marenches, Comte Alexandre de. The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage in the Age of Terrorism. New York: William Morrow, 1992.

Milano, James V., and Patrick Brogan. Soldiers, Spies and the Rat Line: America's Undeclared War Against the Soviets. Washington: Brassey's, 1995.

Pincus, Walter. "Curtain Is Falling on Another Intelligence Drama: Reform." The Washington Post, 8 July 1996.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. The U.S. Intelligence Community. 3d ed.; Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995.

Tarrant, V. E. The Red Orchestra: The Soviet Spy Network Inside Nazi Europe. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

Thomas, Evan. The Very Best Men--Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Troy, Thomas F. Wild Bill and Intrepid: Donovan, Stephenson, and the Origin of CIA. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1996.

Waller, John H. The Unseen War in Europe: Espionage and Conspiracy in the Second World War. New York: Random House, 1996.

Winks, Robin W. Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961. 2d ed.; New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1996.

The Reviewer: Colonel Richard S. Friedman (USA Ret.) served in the European, African, and Middle Eastern theaters in World War II as an intelligence NCO in the Office of Strategic Services. After the war, he was commissioned from Army ROTC at the University of Virginia, where he received a law degree. He subsequently served in a variety of intelligence and special forces positions, including an assignment as the senior US intelligence officer at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Since retiring from the Army, he has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior analyst, assistant national intelligence officer, and staff operations officer. Colonel Friedman was the lead author of Advanced Technology Warfare (London: Salamander, 1986) and contributed chapters to The Intelligence War (London: Salamander, 1984) and U.S. War Machine (New York: Crown, 1987).

Review Essay

The Middle East: Back to Square One


Often it seems that Middle Eastern history is circular rather than linear, and to peruse the latest literature and assessments of the area is to invite the feeling that it all has been said before and perhaps said better. Having declared Marxism dead, Arabism as dying, and Islamism (politicized fundamentalism) as showing the first signs of failing health, the speculation is what next? Could it be a reversion to a nativist tribal society, or perhaps there are some glimmerings of hope for the Western concept of democracy? Or perhaps it will simply be a continuation of the present path of one-country nationalism being imposed from the top down by thuggish rulers interested primarily if not totally in self-preservation and self-glorification.

Democracy and Islam

The debate between those who view the Islamic revival as a threat to Western interests and those who see it as a neutral or beneficial development continues, with mind-numbing redundancy, especially since the proponents of the two views continually quote each other. It conjures up Dan Rather interviewing Tom Brokaw talking about Peter Jennings.

An interesting exception to this tendency was an article appearing in the October 1995 issue of The RUSI Journal by Maha Azzam, "Islamism, the Peace Process, and Regional Security," in which she, perhaps unwittingly, supported the Bernard Lewis view first described in his 1990 Atlantic Monthly article "The Roots of Muslim Rage." Azzam, as did Lewis, takes issue with those policymakers and academics who believe that some economic aid, a settlement of the Arab-Israeli issue, and regional development will forge a new East-West relationship. Moreover, she contends, support for the democratic process will encourage the growth of Islamic governments, in part because the people of the region view our promotion of democratism as another form of Western imperialism. Azzam also expects a long-term struggle with Israel; the people of the Islamic world have not come to terms with a Jewish state and are merely awaiting a more propitious time to renew the fight. Overall, however, she assesses the Islamic threat as much more significant to indigenous rulers than to the Western world.

Ira Lapidus, in his 1996 Orbis article "Beyond the Unipolar: A Sober Survey of the Islamic World," writes that Islam has become an obsession in the American imagination. Assessing the programs and philosophy of the Islamic movements in terms of politics, economics, and ethos, Lapidus finds utopian objectives and inchoate programs, overlaid with vague symbolism. There can be no doubt, however, of the powerful appeal of such objectives and programs, especially in a region in which the Western concept of human rights and our version of democracy have little meaning.

Another book that examines this issue is Martin Kramer's very readable Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival: The Politics of Ideas in the Middle East. Unusual in its conception, Kramer's book tells the story of Arab nationalism and Islamism through the stories of representative people, some of whom are influential in those movements. It is a book of considerable merit despite the rather haughty attitude it sometimes exhibits toward those such as George Antonius, and especially toward Westerners who promoted Arabism. Kramer seems to be making the point that Arabism was a fraudulent concept based on personal opportunism and romantic attachments to the exotic. Expanding on a book by Robert Kaplan, The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite, which focused on American foreign service diplomats known as "Arabists," Kramer exhibits a distressing condescension in his description of outstanding American diplomats who appear to him unduly pro-Arab. Having served in a besieged US embassy during the Palestinian-Jordanian civil war of 1970 with one of those diplomats, Hume Horan, I know from personal experience that when American interests are at stake in the Middle East, professionals like Horan and Robert Pelletreau are irreplaceable. Explaining and executing a regional foreign policy that has been a function of US domestic politics for 50 years, as well as carrying the other baggage we bring to the Middle East, is not a job for amateurs--especially not political appointees.

A small volume entitled Toward Civil Society in the Middle East? A Primer is particularly informative on the issue of democracy in the Middle East. It presents a variety of views produced in a study project headed by Colonel Richard Augustus Norton. One of the remarkable features of this thin volume is that the 25 authors have all reduced their thoughts to two pages apiece. Certainly editor Jillian Schwedler deserves some special credit for that alone. There is no consensus among the specialists that the Middle East does have a civil society--defined by Colonel Norton as nongovernmental associations, federations, unions, and other groups that provide a buffer between the state and the citizen. There is no doubt, however, that whether a civil society is present or not, the region has not developed a democratic tradition. Most of the analysts represented in the book focus on two topics: whether there is a cultural barrier to democratization, and, if not, why the Middle East seems to be so far behind much of the rest of the world in developing a democratic tradition.

Historian Elie Kedourie has written in other works that democracy is alien to the people of the Middle East. Renowned "orientalist" Bernard Lewis agrees; in his new book, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years, Lewis exhibits little faith in the growth and viability of a Western style of democratic society in the Middle East, particularly in competition with the built-in advantages of Islamism, although he does acknowledge some stirrings of support for democracy. This is a book of great erudition, and as always with books written by Lewis, it is a joy to read. Policymakers should consider carefully his view of the most recent trends in East-West relations, such as the declining Western influence in the Middle East. He sees this as an important factor in the increasing volatility of the region. Lewis makes the point that the Middle East has been relatively peaceful only under hegemonic rule, like that of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman millet system of using the various religious communities as a basic political structure was replaced by the Western concept of state. This change has been a factor in moving the traditional and somewhat decentralized authoritarianism of Middle East rule toward a much more coercive form, as rulers learned to use the instruments of the state to control the political, economic, and cultural life of their people.

An attempt to reconcile Islam with democracy was undertaken by John Esposito and John Voll in their book, Islam and Democracy; they see no incompatibility between Islam and democracy--at least not with respect to an "Islamic democracy." The authors assert that democracy is a "contested" concept and that our Western definition of democracy is too narrow. They reduce democracy to two essential features--the empowerment of people and their participation in the political process--and proceed to examine the relationship of Islam to democracy through a survey of a number of Islamic nations. At the end of it all, there is still no clear statement of what constitutes an "Islamic democracy." Esposito and Voll use phrases like "multilayered and complex" and employ carefully worded ambiguity to make a case for a democratic impulse within Islam; their prose, however, raises more doubts than it dispels. The failure of two brilliant scholars of Islam to make a coherent case for the compatibility of Islam and democracy tends to confirm the views of Eli Kedourie and Bernard Lewis that it cannot be done. In fact their argument suggests that the Eastern concept of democracy would be so different from the Western that there really would not be much point in calling it democracy at all.

Indeed, perhaps the question should not be how to bring democracy to the Middle East, but a still more basic one: Would it solve the problems seemingly endemic in the region? The ideologically driven democratism we so idealistically and sometimes pompously encourage around the world seems to be based on a premise that any culture can adopt its precepts and flourish. It is a premise that needs to be challenged. A recent article in The Economist, "Gestures Against Reform," described the unrest arising from popular discontent with democracy in Latin America, which heretofore has been touted as the shining example of the global democratic trend. The challenge in the Middle East may be what democracy might do to Islamic culture, rather than what Islam might do to democracy. If in the end democracy will require the relegation of Islam to an ever-diminishing role of religion, such as in our own society, and the elevation of the individual to the detriment of the family, then the premise must be questioned. A choice between the world of Clockwork Orange and that of Hafez Assad tends to make the latter look like a benevolent uncle.

The Traditional Arab World

After so much political science and analysis of the rather depressing state of the political landscape in the Middle East, it was a welcome relief to read a truly great book, The Bedouins and the Desert, by Dr. Jibrail Jabbur. I admit to bias, however, in that the late Dr. Jabbur was my landlord while I was attending the American University of Beirut. I often went downstairs to hear this gentleman of the old school recount an oral history of the Arab world. However late the hour he was always immaculately attired, ever the epitome of courtesy and civilized conversation. An example of the very best in the combination of a Western education and Eastern personal attributes, he had lived much of the era of modern Middle Eastern history. The story he related concerning the exodus of the Armenians from Turkey and their arrival at the outskirts of Damascus remains vivid in my memory; it was the Christians of the city who carried food and clothing to the survivors of one of modern history's most harrowing ordeals. He remembered the cadavers of the Armenian dead, lying unburied in the open desert, being eaten by wild dogs. History such as this brings home the truly horrendous unintended consequences that seemingly progressive ideas can have on a traditional culture. The Armenians were the victims of a half-baked oriental view of nationalism, the idea that brought down the Ottoman empire, turning Ottomans into Turks and others into aliens in their own lands. As political scientists debate and posture in the various marketplaces of ideas, I wonder if they ever consider the human toll should their ideologies be taken seriously.

Jabbur's book is a pleasure to read, a monumental work of scholarship in bringing the life of the bedouin to Western readers. But it is much more than that; it is an elegant, insightful tale that links the past to the present. One can derive from it far more knowledge of the Arab culture and understanding of the Arab character than from a year's supply of the current crop of political science books on the Middle East. One sees the origins and importance of the great Arab attributes of hospitality, loyalty, and appreciation for their language, as well as the essential importance of the family structure and the embedded nature of tribalism. While the nomadic bedouin is nearly an extinct way of life, his legacy has deeply imprinted the Middle Eastern political culture. Also of note is Dr. Jabbur's use and praise for the work of many Western orientalists, such as Charles Doughty and Alois Musil, in his compilation of tribal customs and history. These are the same orientalists that the current crop of post-modernist Middle Eastern gurus fault for being unable to understand the Middle Eastern mind and people. Reading this book after wading through so much "poli-sci" jargon reminded me why I became interested in the Middle East in the first place.


There seems to be a renewed interest in the ethnic divisions in the Middle East, undoubtedly inspired by the headlines being made by Kurds, Shia, and other regional ethnic minorities as well as conditions in Bosnia and Zaire. The problem with the discussions of ethnicity is defining exactly what one means by the word; none of the multitude of definitions is particularly enlightening. For example, after much discussion in his book Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives, author Thomas Hylland Eriksen indicates that the ethnicity of any individual is what he thinks he is, while Michel Aflaq, the founding father of the Pan-Arabist Ba'ath Party, said that an Arab is a person who thinks he is an Arab. The new interest undoubtedly is related to the fact that the vast majority of recent wars are internal and ethnic in origin. Perhaps the primary barrier or obstacle to the Middle Eastern acceptance of democracy will not be Islam but rather ethno-nationalism.

Recent books and articles continue to explore this worldwide issue in a Middle Eastern context. A. J. Abraham, in his book The Lebanon War, graphically describes the destruction of a civilized nation that was once seen as a shining example of tolerance and enlightened government policies. Lebanon was an example of a quota system in power-sharing--a Maronite president, a Sunni prime minister, a Druze defense minister--and ultimately it failed. To the utter horror of those who thought they knew the Lebanese, this sophisticated people indulged in barbarism and acts of depravity in a war that all sides saw as a war of survival. We were reminded once again not only of the fragility of a fledgling democracy, but also the thinness of the veneer of civilized behavior. The book itself mostly retraces familiar ground and is based primarily on secondary sources, but it has a particularly redeeming feature: the author did not join the academic and journalistic pack mentality in placing most of the blame for the war on the Maronite Christians. They share the blame in equal proportion with many others.

Attributing the war to Maronite greed or selfish desire to maintain power is another manifestation of the curious trait of an influential segment of the Western media elite: the willingness to denigrate Western civilization and any who may show some cultural, religious, or political affinity to the West. Demonization of the Serbs by the media, for example, is not shared by many of those who have been on both sides in the peacekeeping activities. Conversely, with the exception of an occasional article in a religious periodical, there is a conspicuous lack of corresponding interest in the plight of Christians in Sudan, or in the Middle East in general. Journalists seem to have accepted the belief that these peoples are legacies of a colonialist past and apparently conclude that, as remnants of colonialism, they deserve whatever happens to them--this, despite the fact that Christianity was the dominant religion at the time of the Islamic conquest of the Middle East.

Abraham's solution to the Lebanese problem is simply to tweak the old Lebanese formula (quota) system and get the United States actively involved in helping the Lebanese to reinstall it. This would involve keeping the balance between the Christians and Muslims, but giving the Shia and Druze greater power. Simple as it seems, there is no other solution save continued domination by Syria or fragmentation of the nation into ethno-religious cantons. For all practical purposes, Lebanon remains a vassal appendage of Syria.

Francine Friedman has done a credible job in tracing the history of the Bosnians in her book The Bosnian Muslims: Denial of a Nation. Obviously sympathetic to the Bosnian Muslims, Friedman nevertheless does not gloss over the pro-Nazi proclivities of the Bosnian leadership in World War II and the atrocities committed at their command against the Serbs. Particularly important is the author's analysis of the present situation as a consequence of the Bosnian quest for ethnic identity. Bosnia is simply one more piece of stark evidence that the Western concepts of state and nation have failed to fill the political void left by the demise of the Ottoman Empire. It is also evidence that there is no common solution to deeply-rooted ethnic conflicts. Many analyses impute economic or class divisions as reasons for ethnic conflict, implying that with some redistribution of wealth here, a little class leveling there, and "presto," all is well. While such simplistic analyses may make war understandable to the modern secularized mind, it is unfortunately not so in reality.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, in an article in International Spectator, makes several cogent points on these issues. First, there has been little study of Middle East ethnicity, and much of it was done many years ago primarily by Albert Hourani and Paul Juriedini. Second, the vast majority of the wars and their cost in lives have been the result of ethnic conflict. The ongoing Sudanese civil war, for example, has claimed five times the lives of all the Arab-Israeli wars combined, and there is no end to it in sight.

Certainly there is no better case study of the effects of ethnicity in the Middle East than that of Iraq. In her book Iraq: The Search for National Identity, Liora Lukitz has chronicled the failed attempts at national integration that were so dramatically illustrated at the conclusion of the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein's assiduous courting of the Shia population was evidenced in his high-visibility projects in the south, placing storefront Shia representation in his cabinet, and offering verbal deference to Shia sensibilities. This all impressed some Western academics, one of whom predicted a Saddam Hussein-led Shia uprising against the West during the Gulf War.

In fact, at the conclusion of the war the Shia demonstrated their true feelings toward the Hussein regime in a widespread rebellion, quelled by Saddam in typical Middle Eastern fashion. Republican Guard units, and their tanks, bearing slogans such as "no more Shia after today," crushed the rebellion, destroying Shia shrines the coalition forces were so careful to avoid. Another view of the Shia issue in Iraq is contained in a chapter of the book Iraq's Road to War, edited by Amatzia Baram and Barry Rubin. In this discussion, contributor Ofra Bengio makes the point that the divide-and-rule strategy followed by Saddam Hussein is a continuation of the policies instituted by the royal dynasty from the beginning of Iraq's independence. The total lack of cooperation between Kurds and the Shia, not to mention the lack of internal cohesion in the Shia and Kurdish communities, makes the continued dominance of the Saddam/Sunni ruling elite much easier.

As a final word on the ethnicity issue in the Middle East, one need only to peruse the matrimonial match-making ads in Muslim periodicals published in the United States. Parents seeking a husband for their daughter invariably describe her as fair-skinned, and are specific as to the acceptable home of origin for the potential suitor. It is said that nothing so concentrates the mind as one's impending execution. It is also true that nothing so highlights prejudices and gut feelings as the suitability of suitors for one's daughter.

North Africa

The "whither Algeria" topic still attracts a great deal of analysis, much of it divergent in conclusion. Graham Fuller, in a study titled Algeria: The Next Fundamentalist State? for the RAND Corporation, seems to believe that a fundamentalist victory is inevitable and that it would be more beneficial for all--particularly for the West--if they come to power peacefully and democratically. Fuller believes that once the fundamentalists assume power, there will be little change in Algerian relations with the West and that ultimately the Islamic solution will lose its appeal to the people in that it lacks solutions to Algeria's problems. The problem with this analysis is the idea that somehow "international pressure" will prevent the fundamentalists from holding onto power illegally. One must ask, what international pressure, and who will apply it to preclude the "one man, one vote, one time" scenario from becoming reality? Preventing the sale of Algerian gas is not a likely option for sanctions; that should be obvious from the Libyan example. What other levers do we have? The bottom line is simply that once in power the Islamists will be no more likely, and perhaps less so, to give up power peaceably than any other government in the Middle East. The idea that we can force them to do so through any behavior short of economic blockade is wishful thinking. Algeria is not Haiti.

Colonel Gideon Gera, a retired officer of the Israeli Defense Forces writing for the Washington Institute, declines to predict the outcome of the civil war in Algeria. Concluding that an Islamic victory would give a "tremendous boost" to similar movements around the Middle East, he adds that it would adversely affect Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, European security, and US interests in the region. The author does recognize the economic realities facing the Islamic regime and believes that "active containment" policies would keep it within acceptable international norms of behavior. In a short paper written for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, I. William Zartman offered a different prospect. He posits that the danger of an Islamic takeover has passed, saying that the Islamists have been largely discredited among the people, but he recognizes that an end to the conflict will come about only as a result of "an opening of the political process and a restoration of state legitimacy."

The Palestinian Issue

With all this happening in the Middle East, the perpetual Palestinian issue has been attracting an overwhelming share of the coverage, producing torrents of books and articles of varying lengths and credibility. One of the more pragmatic is by Richard Haass, a former advisor on the Middle East for President Bush, who states that the era of dramatic treaties between Israel and its former enemies is over. The United States must understand that because Syria is unlikely to go any further--Assad feels comfortable with the present arrangement, and Lebanon is not a free agent--the Israeli-Palestinian goal of signing a final treaty by May 1999 simply is not attainable. There is less urgency than before, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has not followed the playbook many observers had assumed he would--tough talk and then, once in power, continue Labor Party policies in negotiations. He has the disconcerting habit of saying what he means and then doing what he says. Haass concludes that Israel eventually will have to give up land for peace and accept the idea that the Palestinian entity will emerge with more than simple autonomy, but less than the status of a "full-fledged state."

As a consequence, he says, the United States must aim lower, striving only to hold on to gains made previously, and maintaining a moderate, consistent approach. Part of our approach would include helping the Palestinian entity become more democratic, which "would also increase Israeli willingness to negotiate." One must approach that conclusion with a healthy skepticism. Would the present Israeli government like to have to cope with the chaos usually attendant to evolving democracy, or would they opt for one single and all-powerful Palestinian leader whom they could talk to and hold responsible? And if the Palestinians come to the table demanding statehood--as they will--what possible difference could it make to Netanyahu whether they come as elected officials or traditional Arab leaders?

Ethnicity versus Islam in Central Asia

Chapters by Martha Brill Alcott and Nancy Lubin in Muslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies, edited by Yaacov Ro'i, explore the conflicting identities of the people of Central Asia, another region where Islam and ethnicity are in direct conflict. The history of Islam under the Soviets is one of amazing resilience, and independence has fostered a massive return to Islam. This change is not a result of Iranian evangelism or the actions of any other Muslim country--although the phenomenal building of mosques is being financed in many cases by the Saudis--but rather appears to be a nationalistic phenomenon along ethnic lines. Some observers see the Central Asian states as having crucial strategic importance; one, Kazakhstan, is particularly important because of its mineral wealth and increasing indications that Russia will seek to retain control of the state. Estimates are that Kazakhstan may have as much oil as Saudi Arabia, as well as a number of other strategic minerals in economically significant quantities.

Following their precept of divide and rule, the Soviets went to great lengths to destroy state Islam much as they did other religious institutions throughout their empire. They did not, however, eradicate Islam from the consciousness of the people. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the issue--oversimplified by Western observers--is which model will the peoples of Central Asia follow: the Turkish semi-secularized state or the Iranian theocracy? Early indications are that it could be neither. More likely there will be a sociocultural struggle between a nascent rebirth of a distinctively regional Islam and the powerful force of ethnic appeal. One can be assured that the Russians will attempt to exploit this societal fissure to regain or maintain control of Kazakhstan.


With renewed interest in China's future comes a revival of interest in Chinese policy in the Middle East. In an article in the Autumn 1996 issue of Survival, Jonathan Rynhold describes Chinese policy toward Islam and toward the region as one of pragmatism, a departure from the adventurism of the 1960s and 1970s. Staying on good terms with both Israel and Iran is an example of this more cautious policy; the Israeli-Chinese relationship, by contrast, points out one of the dichotomies of the US-Israeli strategic alliance. Shai Feldman, in a study written for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, concludes with an optimistic view of future US-Israeli strategic cooperation based on a "shared recognition and common purpose." That "shared purpose" is not evident in US and Israeli policy toward China, typified by Israel's transfer of sophisticated American technology to China.

In another study of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hilal Khashan makes the point--an important one--that while there is grudging acceptance of the Israeli state at the official government level of the Arab states, there is little popular support for reconciliation. The source of this resistance, he says, is the Arab intellectuals who constantly inculcate the general populace with a negative, stereotypical view of Israelis in particular and of Jews in general. My own observations lead to the conclusion that one of the few issues that Islamists and indigenous regional secular leftists agree on is the demonization of Israel and America. It is a fact that the earlier writings of Salman Rushdie and those of Ayatollah Khomeini are equally disdainful of American society.

A RAND study, Strategic Exposure, by Ian O. Lesser and Ashley J. Tellis, examines the effects on the European nations of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, concluding that in ten years every southern European capital will be within range of ballistic missiles in North Africa and the Levant, and the political turmoil in those areas will create greater risk that the missiles might be used. The authors of the study conclude that European security will be much more closely tied to that of the Middle East; European participation in future Desert Storm scenarios will be much harder to obtain unless we can guarantee a theater missile defense umbrella.

Finally, in a slender study for the National Defense University, Deterrence Theory: Success or Failure in Arab-Israeli Wars, Elli Lieberman analyzes the Arab-Israeli wars and concludes that deterrence works, but--and this is a point that needs to made periodically--it works only when the potential enemy is convinced of your military strength. This means that it may become necessary from time to time to fight wars in order to demonstrate one's military superiority.


Abraham, A. J. The Lebanon War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.

Azzam, Maha. "Islamism, the Peace Process, and Regional Security." The RUSI Journal, 140 (October 1995).

Baram, Amatzia, and Barry Rubin, eds. Iraq's Road to War. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives. Boulder, Colo.: Pluto Press, 1993.

Esposito, John L., and John O. Voll. Islam and Democracy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.

Feldman, Shai. "The Future of U.S.-Israeli Strategic Cooperation." Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1996.

Friedman, Francine. The Bosnian Muslims: Denial of a Nation. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996.

Fuller, Graham E. Algeria: The Next Fundamentalist State? Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1996.

"Gestures Against Reform." Economist (30 November - 6 December 1996).

Gera, Gideon. "An Islamic Republic of Algeria: Implications for the Middle East and the West." Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1995.

Haass, Richard. "Middle East Stasis." Foreign Affairs, 75 (September-October 1996).

Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. "Management and Mismanagement of Diversity: The Case of Ethnic Conflicts and State Building in the Arab World." International Spectator, 30 (October-December 1995).

Jabbur, Jibrail S. The Bedouins and the Desert: Aspects of Nomadic Life in the Arab East. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1995.

Kaplan, Robert D. The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite. New York: Free Press, 1993.

Khashan, Hilal. "Partners or Pariah? Attitudes toward Israel in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan." Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1996.

Kramer, Martin. Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival: The Politics of Ideas in the Middle East. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1995.

Lapidus, Ira. "Beyond the Unipolar: A Sober Survey of the Islamic World." Orbis (Summer 1996).

Lesser, Ian O. and Ashley J. Tellis. Strategic Exposure: Proliferation Around the Mediterranean. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1996.

Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years. New York: Scribner, 1995.

____________. "The Roots of Muslim Rage." The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990.

Lieberman, Elli. Deterrence Theory: Success or Failure in Arab-Israeli Wars? Washington: National Defense Univ., 1995.

Lukitz, Liora. Iraq: The Search for National Identity. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 1995.

Ro'i, Yaacov, ed. Muslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 1995.

Rynhold, Jonathan. "China's Cautious New Pragmatism in the Middle East." Survival, 38 (Autumn 1996).

Schwedler, Jillian, ed. Toward Civil Society in the Middle East? A Primer. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1995.

Zartman, I. William. "Algeria After the Elections: A Giant Step Forward." CSIS Africa Notes (July 1996).

The Reviewer: Colonel Norvell B. DeAtkine, USA Ret., is director of Middle East studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He also is an adjunct professor of Middle East studies and terrorism at Methodist College in Fayetteville. A 1959 graduate of the US Military Academy, he earned a master's degree in Middle East studies at the American University in Beirut, and is a graduate of the US Army War College.

Review Essay

The Latest on the POW/MIA Controversy


© 1997 Paul F. Braim

Twenty-four years after Operation Homecoming, controversies continue about those who did not come home from prisoner-of-war or missing-in-action status in Vietnam. New books on the Vietnam POWs/MIAs are generally more definitive and contain more useful references than those previously published.

One of the more interesting of the books examined is Malcolm McConnell's Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives. Compiled from exclusive research conducted by Theodore G. Schweitzer III in the archives of the Hanoi Military Museum, the book describes artifacts taken from captured Americans, provides accounts of US prisoners and their fate, and recounts surreptitious personal actions by middle-ranking North Vietnamese to provide secret information to Schweitzer as a means to influence US negotiations or to gain monetary rewards. What seems most unusual is the revelation that the North Vietnamese, although they were aware that Schweitzer was a covert agent of the US government, allowed him access to their most secret records (the "Red Book," and "Blue Book") of US POW incarceration. McConnell's book, in addition to providing much information that was not gained by official US representatives in North Vietnam, brings to light one major fear of the North Vietnamese with regard to the POWs: that secret information about the mistreatment and torture of American POWs might be discovered, and the United States might convene "war crimes trials" based on these records.

With respect to the treatment of prisoners (the North Vietnamese refused to allow them the status of "prisoners of war" as they contended, rightly, that no state of war existed between the United States and North Vietnam), a number of new books address the terrible conditions of captivity for Americans in both North and South Vietnam. In a reissued volume of a 1975 book, Survivors: Vietnam P.O.W.s Tell Their Stories, Zalin Grant weaves the stories of nine American POWs into an interesting chronology of capture, internment, privations, beatings, isolation, boredom, and psychological pressures which were the lot of the group imprisoned together in South and later North Vietnam. Their physical and mental ordeals led all of them to some form of accommodation to the demands of their tormentors; some collaborated with the enemy in a "Peace Committee" in return for better treatment. Air Force Colonel Ted Guy, the highest-ranking member of the group, tells of setting up a prisoner command, camp discipline, means of covert communications to maintain order and morale, and modification of the military Code of Conduct. Some vignettes tell of continuing personal turmoil, military courts-martial proceedings, and fractured families following the prisoners' return.

Craig Howes' Voices of the Vietnam POWs: Witnesses to their Fight, which is similar to Grant's book, synthesizes and analyzes the accounts of an entire group of returnees, and discovers a remarkable homogeneity: the POWs were mostly career officers, strong-willed, well-educated, and intensely patriotic. They withstood torture, adapted the Code of Conduct to ameliorate their most intense suffering by minor cooperation with the enemy, organized their camps, and planned their homecoming statements so well that they became instant heroes to a society badly in need of champions. However, Howes makes the point that some of the heroic "hype" was contrived in Washington, and some less-than-commendable performances were downplayed. Howes, as did Grant, found the post-homecoming experiences of the POWs to be fraught with psychological and familial problems.

A recent straightforward account of captivity by an American POW is Lawrence Bailey's Solitary Survivor: The First American POW in Southeast Asia, cowritten by journalist Ron Martz. Bailey was a military attaché in Laos, shot down, captured, and interned by the Pathet Lao in March 1961. He describes in vivid detail the privations of prison life among captors who fared little better than he. His journal is mainly a chronicle of isolation and loneliness, accompanied by boredom, and offset by interrogation and occasional mistreatment. Bailey's story continues after his release and return home, through the difficulties of readjustment, including the all-too-common POW experience of divorce, and then retirement from military service. The return of the POWs from Vietnam eclipsed the experience of Bailey and the few others who had returned from captivity in Laos; Bailey, however, occasionally was given deference because of his early POW status, and because of public charges that over 500 Americans had disappeared in Laos. Bailey's story ends with his return visit to Sam Neua, the area of his confinement. Finding little evidence of his former surroundings, Bailey also was unable to gain significant information on the fate of the hundreds of others who had been interned in Laos. He departed Laos with the belief that villagers had killed most of those who were captured; he headed home with the realization that the dark period of his imprisonment will remain with him forever.

Paul D. Mather's M.I.A.: Accounting for the Missing in Southeast Asia is a record of considerable value in describing and validating the work of the US Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) in locating and identifying the remains of Americans who died in Southeast Asia. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mather, who served with JCRC from its creation in 1973 until his return to the United States in 1988, summarizes the work of JCRC and his personal experiences in Southeast Asia in this National Defense University publication. Mather's patient, laborious, often frustrating investigations, his equally difficult liaison with the authorities of North Vietnam, and his consummate dedication to the unpleasant but important task of identifying those who were listed as missing in action--all are presented carefully and unemotionally. Mather concludes that the work of the JCRC was inextricably held hostage to concessions that the North Vietnamese believed they could wrest from the United States. The North Vietnamese held all the cards: they owned the territory on which the investigations took place; they controlled the persons who might have been able to assist in locating the bodies; they held records of incidents of death or capture of Americans. After the US forces' withdrawal, US representatives could use only the "carrot" of possible economic assistance; the "stick" of possible US retaliation was not credible. Considering the limits under which JCRC (and its successor, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting [JTF-FA]) worked, Mather believes its incremental contributions to reducing the list of MIAs were about as much as could have been hoped for. He foresees greater cooperation by the affected nations of Southeast Asia in the future, as the scars of the war fade from view and memory, and as a climate of mutual association, even trust, emerges between US and Southeast Asia officialdom.

A US Army War College monograph by Lieutenant Colonel Melvin E. Richmond, Jr., "In Pursuit of the Fullest Possible Accounting in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, June 1994 - June 1995," takes up recent work of JTF-FA to determine the fate of the 2157 US personnel still listed as missing in Southeast Asia. JTF-FA, organized in January 1992, made an unprecedented effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting for US MIAs through intensive investigation and coordination with government and private groups and individuals in Southeast Asia. It is worth noting that no such all-out effort was undertaken to account for the over 78,000 US military missing from World War II, nor yet for the 8100 missing from the Korean War.

Richmond commanded Detachment 2 of JTF-FA, operating in North Vietnam. His monograph describes the organization and functions of his team, and the modalities by which they worked to uncover and follow leads on human remains and related records. Citing the words of a wounded man from an earlier battlefield, "I knew you'd come," Richmond describes the sense of mission and dedication that those words conveyed to him and his team. He describes the satisfaction gained from discovery of bone fragments or wedding bands--evidence that might lead to identification of persons still listed as MIA. Richmond encountered the dilatory tactics, dissembling, and demands for reparations that other investigators experienced in their discussions with Vietnamese officials. The Vietnamese often mentioned their one million killed during the war and the 300,000 Vietnamese still missing.

Richmond cites a major breakthrough that occurred when he offered evidence of a mass gravesite in South Vietnam, based on information collected by the Vietnam Veterans of America; the Vietnamese immediately offered cooperation by Vietnamese veterans organizations in gaining information on unaccounted-for Americans. Cooperation and reports have increased, says Richmond, since 1994, when the United States lifted its trade embargo on Vietnam. Richmond provides a good working guide to negotiations and investigations in the highly charged atmosphere of his operations; he also cites lessons learned that merit inclusion in military education and training programs. His team's diligent work from 1992 through 1995, and that of the other teams in Southeast Asia, helped identify the remains of 110 former MIAs. In 1995, a Department of Defense review identified further leads on 1476 MIA files requiring continuing investigation; 159 files on whom all leads have been exhausted; and 567 cases that were determined to be unresolvable by search for remains. It should be noted that these figures total 2202, exceeding by 45 the total of 2157 earlier reported.

The thorny question of "live" US prisoners remaining in Southeast Asia is well answered, but hardly put to rest, by Susan Katz Keating in her book, Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America. Keating, a journalist who has concentrated on the POW-MIA tragedy, claims that various organizations and individuals have fostered the hope that MIAs remain in Southeast Asia. The dreams of POW/MIA family members have been kept alive by activists interested in propagating the myth of prisoners remaining in custody there; by charlatans and criminals who have gained eminence and profit from the plight of the families; by self-styled "Rambos" attempting to gain attention and importance by forays into Southeast Asia, and by the US government's deception and poorly organized inquiries. Keating identifies these actors, their failings, and their crimes, and builds a convincing case for her conclusion: There are no living US prisoners of war in Southeast Asia. This dash of reality, well argued and documented, is most convincing concerning POWs/ MIAs in Vietnam; there is less proof in the case of MIAs in Laos, but the weight of the argument remains strong. Her conclusion is supported by authorities of the US government and by most of those who have struggled to find answers to the questions posed by unrecovered MIAs or possible detained POWs.

A study of the entire culture of the prisoner of war, Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative, by Robert Doyle, provides a retrospective on the issues of POWs and MIAs. Doyle has crafted a pastiche of statements by American prisoners of war, taken from the Colonial Period to the Gulf War. Organized according to the experiential scenarios common to prisoners of war, the study consists mainly of vignettes of the POW experience, with some interstitial analysis. Doyle sees the POW as a universal figure of history, cast into the unreal world of captivity, progressing through rationalization to resistance, to release, and finally to lament caused by the inability to adjust to the outside world. The analysis of confinement conditions, and the extensive bibliographic and tabular information in this book, provide a good basis for more extensive and intensive studies of this universal military experience.

In this era of "hot peace," with memories of the Vietnam War fading to a chronic but tolerable pain, these studies of the POW/MIA experience may provide a better understanding of that trauma, without a concomitant return of the agony over the losses suffered.


Bailey, Lawrence R., Jr., with Ron Martz. Solitary Survivor: The First American POW in Southeast Asia. Washington: Brassey's, 1995.

Doyle, Robert C. Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1994.

Grant, Zalin. Survivors: Vietnam P.O.W.s Tell Their Stories. Rpt.; New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.

Howes, Craig. Voices of the Vietnam POWs: Witnesses to their Fight. New York: Oxford Press, 1993.

Keating, Susan Katz. Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America. New York: Random House, 1994.

Mather, Paul D. M.I.A.: Accounting for the Missing in Southeast Asia. Washington: National Defense Univ. Press, 1995.

McConnell, Malcolm. Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives: Solving the MIA Mystery. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Richmond, Melvin E., Jr. "In Pursuit of the Fullest Possible Accounting in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, June 1994 - June 1995." Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: US Army War College, 1996.

The Reviewer: Colonel Paul F. Braim, USA Ret., Ph.D., is Professor of History at Embry Riddle University. He served four tours in Southeast Asia.

Review Essay

On the War's Conclusion: Recent Historiography of the Ending Phases of World War II


The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in military history in academic as well as popular works. This renewal continues the efforts of specialists and generalists to analyze campaigns and battles, and to explain the qualities of military leadership. Classical writers--Herodotus and Thucydides--and modern historians--A. J. P. Taylor, Russell Weigley, and Martin Blumenson--share the vision that produces for each generation the chronicles of innumerable battles and of the leaders, great and small, who fought them.

Writers and readers alike, however, are attracted to tales of victory: successful campaigns, strong and innovative military leaders, and the lessons learned from their strategies and operations. Thus, the interest in battles like Zama, Crecy and Poitiers, or the Marne. But the opposite of victory--whether a battle, campaign, or leader--can hold similar appeal. The collapse of an army or a nation and the concluding battles that lead to the demise of either or both can create their own type of fascination. This is particularly true when the disintegrating country or empire has an aura about it, related either to the regime or to a charismatic leader.

A favorite topic of writers who have studied the events surrounding the end of World War II has been the apocalyptic demise of Berlin, with particular attention to the death of Hitler and the destruction of the National Socialist leadership. Older classics retain their value; Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle and H. R. Trevor Roper's The Last Days of Hitler are still good reads for historians and history buffs alike. Some recent publications, however, offer a broader perspective than either. One of the best works in this category is Christopher Duffy's book Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945. The author avoids the lure that has entrapped all too many writers since the war, the tendency to focus on the Götterdämmerung that was 1945 Berlin or the bizarre dramas that unfolded in the Reichs Chancellory during the last four months of the war. Instead, Duffy examines the massive Soviet push that propelled the Red Army into Berlin. With the skill expected of someone in his position (senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst), he describes and traces the concluding battles across Germany's eastern front and the key personalities on both sides who hastened the end of the Thousand Year Reich.

Duffy's book, accurate and insightful throughout, is also eminently readable. His characterization of Hitler is of particular interest: "Hitler was not a great man, if we are inclined to link that term with things that are of lasting good. But Hitler was undoubtedly a man of great attributes who thrilled and energized a nation." The book is noteworthy for its portrayal of operational and tactical insights derived from the actions of both the Soviet and German armies. At the same time Duffy provides the human drama inherent in this closing campaign where quarter was seldom asked or given, regardless of whether the actor was military or civilian. Duffy's book is for those who wish to read a balanced military history of the final throes of the savage war within a war between the Germans and the Russians.

John Russell broadens the reader's knowledge of the western front in a similar fashion in No Triumphant Procession: The Forgotten Battles of April 1945. Like Duffy a professional soldier, Russell starts with the observation that between the conclusion of the Ardennes offensive in January 1945 and the fall of Berlin in early May, the many battles, large and small, fought on the western front have largely been ignored in the "standard" texts.

All too often the Battle for Berlin and the Ardennes offensive tend to overwhelm accounts of the lesser engagements. Russell tackles what is appropriately termed "the forgotten battles" fought in April 1945 by British troops in northern Germany. Though this book provides a largely tactical approach to the battlefield, it impresses with its clarity and with the amount of detail it offers about battles often ignored in American historiography, such as the Leese Bridgehead or the battle for Rethem and the subsequent crossing of the Aller on 12-13 April. Russell reminds us that much more could be written about these and other hard-fought battles on the north German plain. By design, however, he focuses on the German 2d Marine Infantry Division and the British VIII and XII Corps during what was virtually the last month of the war.

Most historians will likely acknowledge that there is always room for another book on any significant historical event, but Anthony Read and David Fisher's recent book, The Fall of Berlin, is disappointing. While it is well written and successfully captures the drama of a metropolis invested by an enemy force and pounded into rubble, it is marred by a proliferation of factual errors. Indeed, students of the Ardennes offensive will be surprised to discover that Hitler assembled 600,000 men for the offensive (most authorities cite half this number) and that it nearly succeeded in driving a wedge between the British and Canadian forces and the Americans. Veterans of the German army's proud Grossdeutshland division, with a lineage going back to the Imperial period, will be offended because their unit is referred to as an S.S. division. And those Germans who stacked smoldering corpses in the streets following the joint British and American air raid on Dresden will be surprised to learn that there were really no bodies to recover after all. The heat after the raid, according to these authors, was so intense that no bodies remained when the fires had burned themselves out. This book fails to add substantially to published material on Berlin's demise.

With the end of World War II in Europe, the significant task of defeating Imperial Japan remained. Those critical summer months, as the Allies shifted to the occupation phase and then had to confront the Cold War, have often been overlooked.[1] The most original book reported on here easily fills this void. Stanley Weintraub, who won acclaim with his Long Day's Journey Into War: December 7, 1941, looks at the war's last summer in The Last Great Victory: The End of World War II, July/August 1945. Weintraub's scholarly and exceptionally readable narrative covers 30 days, 15 July to 15 August, when the question was not whether the Allies would defeat Japan, but when the Japanese would acknowledge that they had been defeated.

Picking up his narrative where many conclude theirs, the author briefly discusses the European strategic landscape as Germany is dismembered at Potsdam. With that settled, and with the United States making the transition to the Truman Administration, Weintraub highlights the bitter infighting in the inner circles of the Japanese government as Japan's leaders struggled to decide if the war should continue and how they should act on their decision. He provides fresh insights into the controversy in the United States over use of the atomic bomb, and he reminds us of a number of incidents from the latter part of the war, including the sinking of the cruiser Indianapolis and the surrender that summer of rogue elements of the German armed forces. Considering the war's consequences Weintraub concludes, "The Second World War in its century had lasted, counting only until the formal surrender in Tokyo bay, six years and ten days, and had produced as many new crises as it had settled."

Once an army and a nation have been defeated, can that defeat, no matter how painful, become the catalyst for rebuilding? In The Aftermath of Defeat: Societies, Armed Forces, and the Challenge of Recovery, George J. Andreopoulos and Harold E. Selesky have collected essays that address the trauma of defeat and the ways in which societies and their institutions recover from it. The span of these readings, most of which were originally given as lectures at Yale, is broad both in terms of the period and the nations covered. Thus, the editors present case studies of military defeat and recovery beginning with Prussia after Jena and concluding with the United States in the wake of Vietnam. Regrettably they omitted descriptions of Japan and Germany at the conclusion of World War II. For those states, the end of the war meant the defeat of all military forces, the dismemberment of those forces and parts of the society that supported them, loss of territory, and the occupation of the country by victorious armies. This compact volume provides many insights on how societies handle defeat, but it does not give the reader a real sense of the effects of unconditional surrender and occupation.

It may be that we are still too close to the period for objective accounts of the trauma that beset Berlin and Tokyo in mid-1945. After all, some critics might assert that neither country is completely free of the vestiges of occupation, even after the passage of 50 years. Heinrik Bering, however, offers some useful insights into occupation issues with his recent Outpost Berlin: The History of the American Military Forces in Berlin, 1945-1994. Rather than a history, which really needs to be written, Bering has produced a journalist's approach to the occupation years, combining personal accounts with the key events that transpired in Berlin during the period. It is short on analysis but rich in human drama: the blockade, the uprising, the Wall, and unification. Outpost Berlin is an enjoyable book, but it lacks insights on the political and military issues that have preoccupied victors and vanquished for half a century.

There remain many opportunities to assess the full effect of total defeat on a society, of extended occupations and military governments, and of the reentry of the defeated states into the world community. Richard L. Merritt's book Democracy Imposed: U.S. Occupation Policy and the German Public, 1945-1949, reviewed in the Summer 1996 issue of Parameters, provides a good example of the work remaining to be done. When writers have examined occupation policies, the physical and emotional reconstruction of the defeated nations, and the restoration of social, political, and economic life in the occupied states, we may begin to understand whether we have achieved a lasting peace.


1. A noteworthy exception is "Portentous Sideshow: The Korean Occupation Decision" by Donald W. Boose, Jr., in the Winter 1995-96 issue of Parameters.


Andreopoulos, George J., and Harold E. Selesky. The Aftermath of Defeat: Societies, Armed Forces, and the Challenge of Recovery. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

Bering, Henrik. Outpost Berlin: The History of the American Military Forces in Berlin, 1945-1994. Chicago: Edition Q, 1995.

Duffy, Christopher. Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993.

Merritt, Richard L. Democracy Imposed: U.S. Occupation Policy and the German Public, 1945-1949. New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1995.

Read, Anthony, and David Fisher. The Fall of Berlin. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995.

Russell, John. No Triumphant Procession: The Forgotten Battles of April 1945. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1994.

Weintraub, Stanley. The Last Great Victory: The End of World War II, July/August, 1945. New York: Truman Talley/Dutton Books, 1995.

The Reviewer: Dr. Samuel J. Newland is a member of the faculty of the Department of Corresponding Studies at the US Army War College. He holds M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Kansas, as well as an M.A. in history from Pittsburg (Kans.) State University.

Reviewed 13 May 1997. Please send comments or corrections to