Christopher Andrew

Andrew, Christopher. For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency From Washington to Bush. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. JK468I6A844

Clark comment: Despite its sweeping title, this book is not a full-blown history of U.S. intelligence as seen through the interaction of the Presidency and the intelligence activities relevant to each time frame. However, it is a good history -- perhaps, even a great one -- of modern U.S. intelligence and the presidents who used or misused it. Andrew's discussion of the presidents prior to Franklin Roosevelt is interesting and occasionally enlightening, but not fully developed. For example, the period from George Washington to Woodrow Wilson is covered in 24 pages and from Wilson to FDR in 35 pages. Roosevelt and World War II get 74 pages. The remainder of the 541 pages of text (minus a 5-page conclusion on "Intelligence After the Cold War") focuses on the period that coincides with the existence of the Central Intelligence Agency.

That small corrective stated, For the President's Eyes Only is the best book now in print on the role of intelligence in presidential decisionmaking for the entire period of the Cold War. The quote by David Kahn, respected author of The Codebreakers and other works on intelligence, on the book's dust jacket is close to the mark: "This is the most important book ever written about American intelligence."

In Chambers' view, the author's "ability to write clearly and engagingly has allowed him to write at great length without boring the reader.... As the first book to take a hard look at the relationship between the Presidency and the intelligence community this book deserves to be read by all for whom intelligence is a major interest." Click for Chambers' full review.

Peake, AIJ 16.1, says that Andrew "tends to over-emphasize" the later presidents' attitudes toward SIGINT as a touchstone for judging whether individually they had a "flair" for intelligence. And his judgments about which presidents had that flair are debatable: "In this reviewer's judgment, Kennedy's ["flair"] performance fell far short of Truman and Roosevelt ["no flair"] by almost any measure." In the final analysis, however, this is "an immensely interesting and informative book. Christopher Andrew has demonstrated with vigor that he, too, has a real flair for intelligence."

For Thomas, WPNWE, 6-12 Mar. 1995, "Andrew ... does not moralize. He has an eye for telling detail and a good sense of balance. He appreciates that the CIA is neither a magic wand nor a bunch of thugs, that intelligence is critical to wise foreign policy, and that presidents are all too human."

Economist, 11 Mar. 1995, believes that "for those who view American intelligence in terms of extremes -- whether as ... super-conspiracy or as ... bunglers ... -- this book will serve as a corrective." This is because Andrew "accepts the argument that, far from being the 'rogue elephant' the CIA was once dubbed, American intelligence has pretty faithfully followed the dictates of American presidents, from George Washington to George Bush. And that when it has erred ... this has been in the main at the behest of the presidents."

Finding the book "[f]ull of anecdotes and fresh insights," Surveillant 4.2 comments that it "reveals how [the Presidents'] use -- and in some cases misuse -- of the increasingly important military, diplomatic, and political tool [of intelligence] contributed to the success or failure of American policy." Dallek, NYTBR, 19 Feb. 1995, observes that Andrew has "written a thoughtful, judicious book.... [This] is as objective an account as seems possible on so controversial a subject."

Shulman, I&NS 11.1, praises Andrew for his "impartial stance and energetic prose," and calls the work "the best survey to date of the history of American strategic intelligence." The reviewer does note, however, that the text frequently "appears rushed," and that the book lacks an explicit thesis. To Cohen, FA 74.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1994), Andrew "provides a richly detailed account of the uses to which American presidents have put U.S. intelligence agencies." However, the "brisk narrative ... is seldom leavened by much analysis."

In one of the more negative reviews, Bates, NIPQ 12.1, says that he "didn't learn anything new from it and there is an awful lot missing before Franklin Roosevelt. But then, researching the[] more recent presidents is easier. There are better books to buy." And Theoharis, AHR, Dec. 1996, comments that Andrew "often fails to distinguish carefully between military and political intelligence and between intelligence gathering and covert operations."


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