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The Hidden Hand Paperback – October 28, 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America and Britain have long enjoyed what leaders in both countries have deemed a "special relationship." Their closeness has long been cemented, Richard Aldrich writes, by shared intelligence--"the hidden hand" of his title, even if their intelligence communities have sometimes been at odds and worked to different purposes. In the postwar era, writes University of Nottingham professor of politics Aldrich, American intelligence was aided immeasurably by Britain, which had had considerable experience in keeping tabs on Russian agents for decades, thanks to the long-played "great game" in Central Asia. One successful joint enterprise took place in Iran, threatened by Soviet invasion after World War II: even with a few missteps, joint American-British efforts led to victory in a battle largely fought through propaganda, even if that battle gave America strategic advantage in the Persian Gulf region at Britain's expense. Other joint efforts were less successful, including the cynical abandonment of the Hungarian rebels of 1956, and relations between the two powers were often strained by competing interests, such as those made evident by the Suez crisis. Despite errors of judgment, spy scandals, interagency and international competition, and other blights on the record, Aldrich observes that "Cold War intelligence was neither fruitless nor a zero-sum game, and its most substantial benefits might be measured through inaction"--that is, the fact that the war stayed for the most part cold. Aldrich considers the whole range of operations in this detailed account, which will be of considerable interest to students of cold war history. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

We do not yet know the full story of the Cold War, writes Aldrich near the beginning of this impressive study of Anglo-American secret intelligence. Indeed, we may never know. Nevertheless, Aldrich, co-editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security, gives it his best shot. Beginning in 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R., and concluding in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis, he details an astonishing range of covert activities by British and American intelligence units. Some of these, like the British effort to break the German Enigma code, are now well-known; others have remained largely obscure, for example, Operation Unthinkable, Churchill's appropriately named plan to attack the U.S.S.R. immediately after WWII or the British parachuting of agents into the Ukraine, where nationalist guerrillas fought against the Soviets well into the 1950s. Such revelations can be found on almost every page. Aldrich builds a convincing case that much of the Cold War was fought behind the scenes, manipulated by the hidden hand of spies, counterspies and secret analysts. Much of the important history of the Cold War, Aldrich says, remains locked away in the vaults of the CIA, MI6 and KGB. And even when information is released, the sheer volume precludes comprehensive analysis Aldrich notes that the U.S. National Security Agency alone now produces more documents in a single day than anyone could read in a lifetime. Despite these obstacles, Aldrich succeeds in throwing open the door on the grim secrets of recent history. Though the book's academic tone and sheer size may overwhelm some readers, those who persist will dramatically expand their understanding of the Cold War. 32 b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 733 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (October 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585674591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585674596
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,634,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone else said, well written, but I only mean the sentence structure in this case. The entire book goes back and forth on dates and people so much that there is no timeline structure, and therefore impossible to get a better understanding of the events after reading it than before. It reads more like a soap opera giving name after name with one anecdote after another but with no clear overall picture.
Having so much jumbled information with such a heavy mixture of what I believe to be personal opinion "facts," such as the opening chapters reliance on "sources" focusing almost entirely on how the English and Americans thought that the Russians were nothing more than animals, makes this a book that does not seem like a very reliable source of information.
Personally, I prefer the historical books that have a well written timeline with a much less emotional focus, such as the Winston Churchill books on WW2 events or the XX system of 1939-45. They may have biases etc, but they are not mostly about trivial opinions and people in an unstructured timeline.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Aldrich is another British historian of intelligence who offers lots and lots of data, fact as well as myth, and adds his own opinions to sort of freshen the materiel. His 740-page The Hidden Hand is preceded by Stephen Dorrill's MI6 and several works by Christopher Andrew and some of Andrew's co-authors; he credits both Dorrill and Andrew for their support for his own project.
Aldrich tries to debunk some of the myths that are carried from one U.K. published espionage history to another - none more prevalent than that Harold Adrian Philby's betrayals destroyed much of the MI6 and CIA/OPC covert and often fatal dispatching of East Bloc exiles to do political mischief in their homelands, such as driving Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha to history's ashheap. By Aldrich's brief light, Philby was too important a spy for the KGB to allow him to be much involved in secret shoot-'em-ups. While it is to his credit for not totally swallowing the British - and too often American - myth about Philby, he misses some important details that grew the Philby legend; did Burgess truly courier Philby's purloined top secret papers to KGB case officers in New York City?
One overall element that bothered this writer is Aldrich's themantic approach. Too often a reader has to overuse the index to maintain one thread or another coherently. That is not to say the book is badly written, for it is not; rather it is merely inconvenient. In fact, there was little if any of the obvious mistakes that gatherers of huge volumes of factoids too often make. Finally, for this American, there is reason to credit Aldrich for his obviously huge amount of research effort.
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Format: Hardcover
Max Hastings in The Sunday Telegraph `Books of the Year' 2 December 2001 >
The Hidden Hand by Richard Aldrich (John Murray) is as good an account of Cold War Intelligence between 1945 and 1962 as we are likely to get for some time.
George Walden in The Evening Standard 23 July 2001 >
From riveting case-histories of individual operations to the furious intrigues of the transatlantic intelligence community , from the unsung role of the low-level agent to the evolution of electronic espionage - everything is here ... Aldrich has a gift for conveying a sense of living history, combing colourful detail of this or that episode with the grand strategies that drove the intelligence men.
Cal McCrystal in The Financial Times 1 July 2001 >
What makes Aldrich's book so delightful is its abundance of marvellous anecdote ... Miles Copeland, the CIA's new station chief in Cairo at the time of the Suez crisis, had little time for US ambassadors and was a bit of a cowboy. As station chief in Syria in 1950 Copeland was blamed for a series of army coups that "eventually led to an increasingly pro-Soviet dictatorship". He was moved to Cairo after a wild party during which guns were fired through the ceiling. Indeed, an Aldrich sub-theme is the extent to which British and American secret agents frequently unnerved their own governments more than the regimes they were supposed to monitor subvert or liberate.
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