The early years of the cold war were marked by America's so-called containment strategy, which meant, in short, keeping Communism penned within its existing borders. Former New York Times
reporter Peter Grose, however, suggests that this was merely window-dressing. In Operation Rollback
, he writes:
Even as containment was being scorned as appeasement and timidity in the first months of 1948, a high-level staff within the State Department was devising a remarkable initiative to confront communism aggressively through clandestine action. The secret program would start with innocuous propaganda and persuasion, then proceed directly into sabotage, subversion, and paramilitary engagement.
This book is a history of that effort, kept under wraps until recently, says Grose, because both sides had a motive to avoid the publicity: the Soviets didn't want to acknowledge resistance movements inside their client states, and the Americans refused to admit their failure. Grose writes that the rollback was never revealed to Congress and that public monies didn't even pay for it; funding came from a secret account maintained by the Treasury Department and linked to Marshall Plan repayments. Operation Rollback
is a groundbreaking work of cold-war history, and an engaging one to read. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
As WWII came to a close, the Soviet Union and the United StatesDuneasy allies in the agonizing struggle to defeat HitlerDbegan maneuvering their intelligence agencies against one another into what would eventually become the dangerously polarized Cold War. Grose (Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles, 1994) is a former New York Times foreign correspondent, the former executive editor of Foreign Affairs and now a Kennedy School of Government fellow at Harvard. He tells a fascinating and well-documented tale of intrigue and double-dealing during this heady period of covert policy making and secret actions. He reveals that it was none other than legendary Sovietologist George Kennan who helped orchestrate American strategy, advocating containment of the Soviet Union with one hand, and secretly working against his own official policy with the otherDculminating in a secret plot to throw the Communists out of Eastern Europe. Kennan's plan, Operation Rollback, aimed to subvert the Soviet empire by stirring up resistance in its satellite countries. Grose, using newly declassified material from both the U.S. and former U.S.S.R., takes us through the intricate machinations of Rollback and its architects, presenting a hitherto untold tale of a project that was kept secret even from the CIA, and includes enough revelations throughout to sustain the tension. He writes, for example, that Rollback's planners circumvented Congress entirely and funded the operation with unaudited U.S. Treasury and Marshall Plan dollars, and that Soviet authorities were tipped off about the operation by such spies as the British Kim Philby. Students of American politics will be surprised to learn that a prominent figure from 1960s' antiwar activism, William Sloan Coffin, trained undercover saboteurs for Rollback missions. Thorough, thought-provoking and entertaining, this is a work that casts considerable light on a topic that has long lingered in the shadows. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
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