Why We Don’t Spy

The Weekly Standard, March 2002

ACCORDING TO CIA case officer Robert Baer, who spent twenty-one years recruiting informants in the Middle East and Central Asia, the luminaries of the CIA hold that the events of September 11 are no grounds for self-reproach. In the preface to his outraged memoir, “See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism,” Baer reports that high-ranking CIA officials privately tell reporters that “when the dust finally clears, Americans will see that September 11 was a triumph for the intelligence community, not a failure.”

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Spy vs. Spy

The New York Sun, January, 2008

A review of The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France.

During the German occupation of France in World War II, Suzanne Desseigne, a French woman with fascist sympathies, initiated contact with the Nazis. She became the mistress of a German soldier who recruited her to conduct espionage missions against the collaborationist Vichy regime in Southern France and French North Africa. Her mother described the Nazi spy as “a young French girl who, from the age of fifteen, while her peers were playing without a care in the world, felt the danger of Bolshevism and of the Jewish conspiracy.” She remained, even after her arrest and imprisonment, a devout traitor, assaulting other inmates who did not share her commitment to the Nazi cause.

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The Cold War’s Arab Spring

Stolen Kremlin records show how the Soviets, including Gorbachev, created many of today’s Middle East conflicts.

TABLET, June 20, 2012

The dominant narrative of modern Middle East history emphasizes the depredations visited upon the region by European colonization and accepts as a truism that the former colonial powers prioritized the protection of their material interests—in oil, above all—above the dignity and self-determination of the region’s inhabitants. Thus did botched decolonization result in endless instability.

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A Murdered Darling

Style, for example, is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament. You remember, may be, the Persian lover whom I quoted to you out of Newman: how to convey his passion he sought a professional letter-writer and purchased a vocabulary charged with ornament, wherewith to attract the fair one as with a basket of jewels. Well, in this extraneous, professional, purchased ornamentation, you have something which Style is not: and if you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
–Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, generally misquoted and misattributed to Faulkner.

Here’s a darling I had to kill. I was trying to put this scene in Lion Eyes, but it just didn’t advance the plot or really have anything to do with the book, so it had to go. It is of course fiction, but it’s based on a place that really exists, and when I wrote this, I lived just down the street from it — and walked into it  innocently one evening  with my date. I no longer remember what parts of this are true and what I just made up, but I reckon it’s pretty faithful to reality. The discerning tourist may also appreciate this, then, as a Paris nightclub review.

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