Reviews for Shadow Warfare
Publishers Weekly Review Read here
Congress declares war, right? Constitutionally, yes—but, as intelligence
Hancock and Wexler (The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White
and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., 2012) write, there’s a
“It is significant to note,” write the authors, “that the United States
has not officially declared war since 1941.” That hasn’t kept America from
dozens of wars large and small, but the point is deniability: If a war goes
pear-shaped, then Congress allows the president to take the blame. It’s a
convenient arrangement, save that it has left presidents free to do things
land divisions in Vietnam and Iraq.
Yet, as Hancock and Wexler demonstrate, Asia is almost an outlier: It’s
Latin America that has born the weight of America’s military operations,
covert ones, for years. They document, for instance, the U.S. military’s
in hunting down Che Guevara, supposedly the work of the Bolivian army, and
of the U.S. government in destabilizing and overthrowing other governments.
The first president to do so vigorously was Dwight Eisenhower, who had no
utilizing “surrogate troops, ‘mercenary’ air support, intense
and threat of political assassinations.” Since then, other presidents have
use of the formula.
The handy thing about all this, for a president, is that the
of checks and balances gets put on the shelf. Cynics will find nothing new
authors’ overall argument, though even the best-schooled of them will find
surprises: We all know that the U.S. mined the harbors of North Vietnam,
knew that Ronald Reagan did so in Nicaragua? Who knew that the CIA has
in hand with the world’s major drug dealers, and that, for all its bloated
the Pentagon’s major emphasis is now on cost-effective,
Readers who care about the intentions of the Founders and the niceties of
rights will come away depressed by this grim yet trenchant portrait of
imperial reach—and overreach.
All American presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have ordered
clandestine military actions. Hancock and Wexler investigate
why commanders-in-chief find secrecy appealing. The
U.S. sponsorship of the operations detailed in this tome was concealed in
most cases to avoid
political controversy within the U.S. or within a country hosting the
The authors cite FDR's authorization to create an American air force in China
--the Flying Tigers--as a template; the president decided the action was
necessary but impolitic to reveal to the public.
So it went with secret Cold War military operations in Tibet, Indochina,
Guatemala, Cuba, Nicaragua,
and Afghanistan. So it continues in the conflict with radical Islam.
Deniability as a feature
of covert warfare parallels the authors' attention to tactical
methods,such as the use of front
companies, which may interest readers of intelligence history, while those
concerned with the constitutionality of this subject will be sated with
discussion of its legal aspects.
Because their extensive research is wrapped in politically neutral prose,
Hancock and Wexler can engage a
range of readers with a controversial topic.