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MI6 from the Cold War to Afghanistan and Iraq
on 16 January 2013
Written by a BBC journalist, this is a readable and gripping book about MI6 and the development of Britain's secret service. Though MI6 was born in 1909, this history effectively starts with the post-WW2 Cold War period, and the early chapters set in Vienna read like the novels of Graham Greene and John le Carré, both of whom worked for MI6.
The fall of Soviet Russia in 1991 changed the game, however, and the latter part of the book discusses MI6's search for a new role and identity in a post-Cold War world.
The book is especially good on tracking the involvement of MI6 in Afghanistan where, with the CIA, they helped arm, train and fund mujahideen against the communist government and later Soviet invasion in the 1980s, and there's a nice irony in quoting Thatcher's government on how Islamic groups "`were good terrorists so we supported them. The ANC were bad. That caused her [Thatcher] no problem at all,'".
The final chapter looks at the role of MI6 in the `weapons of mass destruction' debacle which led to the invasion of Iraq, and the impact that has had on the management, role and status of MI6.
Throughout Corera keeps this readable and involving, and maintains a fairly judicious and objective viewpoint. So this is very good political reportage which weaves the personal stories of spies, agents, handlers and bureaucrats together. In some ways, the story of MI6 is also the story of world politics, from the Cold War between global superpowers to international terrorism - and Corera tells it in an accessible and fluent way.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)