Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Summer Spy Thriller

Just finished reading Benjamin Wieser's A Secret Life, an account of the life of Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski who operated as a spy for the CIA, passing some 35,000 pages of secret material from Polish and Russian sources to the US over the course of a decade. I am ashamed to admit I knew nothing of this story prior to picking up the book a few weeks ago, but apparently Kuklinski is a well known and obviously highly controversial figure in Poland to this day. In addition to the fascinating descriptions of covert missions, Warsaw Pact military strategies, and insight into the Cold War circa 1970-1980, the inevitable discussion as to the real meaning of loyalty and patriotism that this scenario raises is intriguing and difficult, even from this distant vantage point.

Obviously, as an third generation American first, and Polish descendant second, I am strongly biased, and consider Kuklinski a hero of the storybook variety. By overcoming the tendancy to glorify a system that had served him so well, by being proactive and seeking any way possible to work for the release of Poland from the prison of Soviet imperialism, and by being so completely selfless as to subject himself to the stress and dangers of being constantly alert and fearful for his safety and that of his family over the course of a decade, Kuklinski indeed defines heroism. There certainly were easier and more personally rewarding paths available to him as a high ranking officer in a Warsaw Pact nation.

Whether or not you share my disproportionate fascination with Eastern Europe and particularly the era late in the Cold War where the facade of indominable Soviet strength began crumbling at the foundation, I highly recommend this book as either a page turning spy novel that is coincidentally factual or as an intriguing real life account of the intrigue surrounding the CIA and the Warsaw Pact.

See also: The CIA account of Kuklinski and his service


Blogger girlfiend said...

That last paragraph was perhaps the longest sentence I've ever read on a blog. I may read A Secret Life anyway.

11:44 PM  
Blogger rox_publius said...

is this an advance payment on that heckling i promised?

12:09 AM  

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