As a former case officer (spy) with the CIA, in the Latin American area from 1979 to 1988, and now on my way out of Guatemala, this book is one that I am going to rate as beyond 5 stars, 6 stars and above, because it is a phenomenal vortex that brings together genocide (called “the patriotic wars” by the white minority “conquistadores” seeking to keep the 80% indigenous in slave status), CIA complicity in genocide and torture, and the deep, deep honor and courage and intelligence of the indigenous people. See 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus for the larger treatment.
I’ve been a clandestine case officer (C/O) with three tours in Latin America, including one in the 1980’s chasing terrorists, and while at the time I thought I was the Cold War equivalent of a Jesuit priest, I now see it all as terribly unethical, largely insane, and totally not worth the money, the risk, or the collateral damage.
Both books provide easy-to-read and still very relevant history on how the arrogance of the US, unconstrained by US ignorance, had led to surprisingly successful regime change operations despite a host of errors.
There is a great deal in this book that I was not aware of, and that is with 294 reviews tagged Intelligence (Government/Secret)at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, all leading back to their Amazon page.
In a nutshell, PBSUCCESS was a stunningly inept widely known endeavor penetrated across multiple points by the Guatemalan government, which succeeded only because the Army lost its nerve and deposed their own elected President. Especially new to me were the US Navy blockage of the Guatemalan ports (one on each coast), and the failure of CIA-trained “saboteurs” to derail the shipment of arms from the port to the capital city that the President was able to procure despite a global US embargo on arms for Guatemala.
This book is really a “comprehensive” (in the literal meaning of the word), clearly written, richly supported by concrete cases (mostly, federal agencies) guide about government bureaucracy mainly in the United States. From introduction to the end, Wilson clearly and convincingly demonstrates the reasons what the government agencies do and why they do that in the way they do.
The book is organized into six parts: Organizations, Operators, Managers, Executives, Context, and Change. In the first part, Wilson’s thesis is simply that organization matters. Organization must be in accordance with the objectives of the agency. In the second part, the author examines the operators’ behavior (say, street-level bureaucrats) and how their culture is shaped by the imperatives of the situation they encounter in a daily basis. The third part deals with the issues peculiar to managers of public agencies. In this part, attention is focused upon the constraints that put the mangers in a stalemate (see chapter 7, this chapter is completely insightful!!). The fourth part is devoted to the Executives. This part clearly illustrates why the executives of government agencies compete with other departments and which strategies are used in the process of competition and/or cooperation (especially see the 10th chapter about Turf, insightful!!). In the fifth part, Wilson focuses on the context in which public agencies do their business (Congress, Presidents and Courts). In the last part, Wilson summarizes the problems and examines alternative solutions (the market alternatives to the bureaucracy) and concludes with reasonable and “little” propositions.