Well I’m back after having spent a week on the final print/proof edit and corrections for Surprise Attack. One of the things that makes the job so agonizing is the end notes, in particular the number of end notes which I include with links to the original source document. The objective of that is twofold, first conceptually it lets the readers check me out to see if I’m cherry picking or otherwise misrepresenting sources. Second, hopefully the sources will be of value to students or others who want to take off and pursue certain topics for their own research, papers, etc. Still, it takes up an agonizing amount of print space and that’s not something that most publishers are happy about; fortunately Counterpoint has been very tolerant.
Which leads me to the gist of this post – and that is whether anybody really reads the references or for that matter how many people truly read sources of any sort these days. I have to say that I often hear discussion of subjects that make it clear that folks are speaking to what they have heard on their preferred news source or from their favorite editorial source – but in many cases where I’ve actually read source documents on the subjects, I know what is being stated is either really incomplete or considerably slanted.
I know that is true for historical events and as my work on Shadow Warfare and Surprise Attack moved into contemporary events I find it far more true there than it should be – in researching Surprise Attack I found that to be true in regards to distant events but also relatively recent events such as the 9/11 attacks and even the attack on Benghazi. Now the caveat there is that of course I don’t expect the full story to necessarily be in official inquiries – but to my surprise I have found far more than I might have expected. For example it’s amazing how much high level detail on CIA operations is contained in State Department documents – and not just high level but details on budgets, logistics, internal political debates, etc.
For example, if you want to find out about CIA act ivies in the Far East, say in Tibet, check out the documents in this series: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958–1960, China, Volume XIX http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v19/ch5
Or you want to see details of say CIA meetings related to the Guatemala coup, recorded not by the CIA but copied and preserved in State Department files:
CIA Memorandum to Deputy Director of Plans,, July 22, 1954, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Retrospective Volume, Guatemala, Document 279, Meeting between Mr. Joe Montgomery and Mr. Corcoran and Col. J.C. King, Chief CIA Western Hemisphere. http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54Guat/d279
Or let’s say you are interested in CIA covert action:
Note on U.S. Covert Actions, Foreign Relations of the United States 1964-1968, Volume XII, Western Europe, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v12/actionsstatement
There are Foreign Relations documents for the other global regions as well. Of course if you want dirt on the State Department – oh let’s say during the Kissinger era – you have to look elsewhere. A great starting point for that is the National Security Archives.
My point is simply that you can really get a feel for personalities, debates, objections, and of course obfuscation by reading source documents. And when you move into national security, as I have with Surprise Attack, there are whole new realms of available data – a good deal of which contradicts much of what is said in the common, daily conversations that I hear.
I think many people will be really surprised by much of what is in Surprise Attack. I know I was when I did the research. But the good news is that all of the references are there and you don’t have to take my word for it. It’s true that some are fairly esoteric and if you want the book you may have to do inter-library loan – but a great many are reachable through links in the end notes. So – I hope lots of you read the book but that at least some readers actually take the time to do some homework on the sources – it would make all that editing pain just a bit more bearable.