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From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War Hardcover – May 7, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 7, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684810816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684810812
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gates, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1993, began in an entry level position and rose to the top. His insider's account of the Cold War, CIA operations and the unraveling of the Soviet Union is sprinkled with revelations including the fact that 1983 was the most dangerous year in U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations and that both the CIA and KGB sponsored countless "black operations" designed to embarrass and discredit the other side. Gates also reveals that he secretly met with KGB foreign operations chief Vladimir Kryuchkov on two separate occasions and how the CIA often acted in contempt of Congress. While none of this may come as a huge surprise, it never fails to shock when it's laid out in black and white by someone who was on the inside.

From Publishers Weekly

Gates, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1993, rose from entry level to the top. His insider's account of the Cold War, CIA operations and the unraveling of the Soviet Union is sprinkled with revelations. We learn that 1983 was "the most dangerous year in U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations"; that President Bush telephoned Boris Yeltsin in the Russian parliament building during the 1991 attempted coup; that for months the CIA predicted a coup attempt against Gorbachev-a warning that he ignored. Gates characterizes former CIA director William Casey as coming to the CIA "primarily to wage war against the Soviet Union." Both the KGB and the CIA, Gates divulges, sponsored countless "black operations"-forgeries, lies, dirty tricks and other covert propaganda activities designed to embarrass and discredit the other side. We also learn that during Gorbachev's 1987 visit to Washington, a collateral secret summit took place-Gates, then CIA deputy director, met with KGB foreign operations chief Vladimir Kryuchkov; they secretly met again in Moscow in 1989 when Kryuchkov was head of the KGB. Gates also candidly discusses how the agency's contemptuous treatment of Congress, evasive briefings and deceptions eroded public confidence.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Over all, this was a very good book and I am glad I read it.
Newton Ooi
In 2006 President G.W. Bush recalled him to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense in 2006 and about which he recently wrote another excellent book.
George M. Coburn
It is also well written, with helpful and sufficient background for the events recounted.
Bill Ofrights

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on September 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The CIA is probably the one institution that the US President controls the most; or so this book argues. Robert M. Gates spent over two decades working at the CIA, and is one of the few career officials who came in near the bottom and rose all the way to the top. This book is his memoir, and recollection of how the CIA served 5 consecutive presidents in the Cold War. Starting with Richard Nixon, and ending with the first George Bush, Gates shows how each president used, and sometimes abused, the CIA to further their policies with regard to the USSR and communist parties around the world.

The major points one gets from this book are as follows. First, Carter was no wimp with regard to the USSR. Second, the most dangerous years of the Cold War did not end with Vietnam; they included some years in the 1980's. Third, the CIA consistently disregards the laws of the US. Fourth, the CIA often gets suckered into doing thing at the whim of the president that it later regrets. Last, the first George Bush was probably one of the best diplomats the US has seen in recent times. Over all, this was a very good book and I am glad I read it.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Gates had access to some of the most fascinating characters in the history of the Cold War. His observations are incisive and revealing about many of these personalities; however, his book often reads like one might imagine a CIA memo reads, rather dry. The book provides feedback on several important historical instances but it does not go into much depth on any. I do not recommend it as a book used to learn the history of that era. Instead I would read it to gain a further understanding of what went on behind the scenes.
In general, I find Gates to be an interesting character himself. He has some hilarious anecdotes about life in the CIA. Such as when he is walking up the steps of Air Force One and turns to flip off several of the top officials (I think it was) in Romania after they botch his passport. In addition to a often dry sense of humor he also seems to have a great deal of character and integrity.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bill Ofrights on February 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Mr Gates' background in writing intelligence analysis is very apparent in his book, which covers the role of intelligence on policy and the figures that carried out the policy, from President Nixon to Bush Sr. Stylistically, ideas are introduced, expanded upon, and brought back together in sum and reflection in efficient essay form, yet in, one senses, what epitomizes intelligence directorate reporting at Langley. As such the recounting can be understandably dry (albeit with ready humor), but these ARE renderings of historical events; when I was patient, I found that his clarity and humility make the work readable and insightful. The DC cocktail crowd no doubt received ample fuel from Mr Gates' (decidedly fair) renderings of George Schultz and William Casey, both of whom Mr Gates spent much time with during the Reagan years. Other character sketches elucidate and emphasize Mr Gates' opinions about other high-ranking individuals in the various administrations, but his everyman-ish voice is an able mediator among the personalities.
The retelling of some events where Mr Gates plays up his role or access get a bit tedious; for example, when he and Larry Eagleburger hit the European circuit to sell arms reductions (somewhat to the effect of "we went to London, then Rome, then Bonn, then Amsterdam")-likewise, when Mr Gates would accompany other advisers and President Bush to Kennebunkport, and almost any private meetings Mr Gates would have with President Bush.
Mr Gates' own conservative bent comes through in several places, but most succinctly in his concluding remarks about the Soviet Union's demise. Here Mr Gates writes of a Soviet role in terrorist activity, yet a US role in aiding freedom fighters, which only extends a pervasive double standard in US government foreign policy.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brian Leverenz on April 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gates has made a solid contribution to the literature on the cold war. Arguing that US foreign policy had far more continuity and coherence than the political positioning of candidates would seem to make it appear, Gates proves that presidents come and go but the bureaucracy remains forever! The fact that he was a major part of 4 administrations makes it somewhat self-serving for him to make this argument, but nonetheless, it is probably true. Gates provides the reader with major insight into many of the fronts of the cold war, including Latin America, Europe, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, highlighting how intelligence failures in the late 60's resulted in the detente policies of Nixon, but the military buildup by the Reagan administration ultimately bankrupted the Soviet Union. In between Nixon and Reagan, he gives President Carter a great deal of credit for being the first president to challenge the moral auhority of the COmmunist Party to rule. This made him a dangerous enemy i nthe eyes of the Soviets. According to the author, the year 1983 was the most dangerous year; we nearly came to blows with the Soviet Union over missle placement, Star wars and a host of other issues. The book is a bit long and the rough chronological format results in the author repeating many themes too often, but it contains enough facts and insights about so many seminal events in the cold war that its ultimately worth the long hours to finish. What Gates does not do is assess the price America paid for victory in the cold war, and ask if it was all worth it. Is the world any safer now than it was then? Im not sure, but Gates provides us with many fascinating stories about a time when the world was a two superpower place.Read more ›
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