Secret Agent U-2

The Craft of Intelligence

by Allen Dulles
Harper, 277 pp., $4.95

The Brothers Dulles might well, one feels, like the Brothers Karamazov, provide the subject for a novel of our time. When we consider them as non-fiction, however, we have to take account of the historical fatality whereby one of them, Foster, became Secretary of State under a President only too content to entrust him with the shaping and execution of American foreign policy, and the other, Allen, took over the direction of the Central Intelligence Agency at a time of intensified cold war when its operations were commonly regarded as having crucial importance. The two of them, indeed, were key figures in what Pravda still likes to call American ruling circles. Foster, mercifully from a reviewer’s point of view, did not live to write his memoirs; Allen, having now been induced to retire, has found time to record his impressions of the C.I.A., as well as of earlier experiences in the field of Intelligence.

There is no reason to suppose that, as is common enough among eminent contemporary personages, he has employed a ghost. Everything suggests that The Craft of Intelligence is his own unaided work. The Dulles prose style, like the Dulles style of oratory, is quite unmistakable. It has about it a kind of passionate ordinariness reminiscent of those forms of dementia which express themselves, not in howling and incoherence, but rather in an icily terrifying calm and banality. The Hebrew prophets, I should suppose, were tiresome enough, but at least their wild appearance and words matched their prophetic role. Supposing their ferocious admonitions had been proclaimed in the accents and the attire of a Rotary get-together! Then, surely, it would not have been enough to drop them, like Jeremiah, down a deep well; to ensure their extinction, a large stone would have had to be dropped in after them.

Mr. Allen Dulles has witnessed, and personally participated in, the stupendous growth in American Intelligence activities, from nothing to the present vast, imposing, and variegated edifice. No one knows what it costs the American Exchequer, but certainly a great deal. Some idea of its range is given by Mr. Dulles when he mentions, in passing, how “some good work of field collection in Arizona” pointed to the imminence of a coup d’état in Iraq. One knew, of course, that the C.I.A. men were thick on the ground in places like Laos and Afghanistan; one would expect to rub shoulders with them in the bars and bordellos of Brazil and Montevideo, and to find them dispensing funds where Africa’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand. But Arizona!

As a wartime officer in M.I.6. I witnessed the first O.S.S. arrivals among us after Pearl Harbor. They came from Yale and Harvard, from studying The Wasteland and Beowulf; from selling motor cars in Prague, and real estate on the Riviera: linguists, some in unfamiliar uniform, and some neat, some plutocratic or even senatorial offspring for whom a niche had …

This article is available to Online Edition and Print Premium subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.