In this book, Robert Baer tells the story of his career with the CIA, starting with his recruitment and then moving to his training at the secret facility in Virginia called ‘The Farm'. He then tells the story of his career as a case officer in the field, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe and Russia.
The book opens in March 1995 with Baer, having worked in the CIA since the ‘70s, being pulled back to Washington from Northern Iraq and becoming the center of a legal/political struggle initiated by President Clinton's national security advisor over a bungled attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In the next chapter Baer flashes back to his childhood and his experiences in those years that would later make him a good candidate for the CIA. He then moves to his college years, his recruitment by the CIA (which, he claims, almost didn't happen due to a couple of hippie-like radicals he briefly roomed with in college) and his training at ‘The Farm'.
Baer recounts his extensive experiences in the Middle East and his misadventures in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan driving Soviet tanks and sky diving in the middle of the night from a Soviet AN-2 airplane, among other things. Baer provides an enlightening, insider's glimpse into the politics and culture of the Middle East. He meticulously explains—in a non-partisan fashion—how the politics of Washington—especially after the end of the Cold War—slowly dismantled the CIA with political correctness and ineptitude. Neither political party nor any presidential administration gets a free ride here and Baer describes how an environment of arrogance, political correctness, greed, incompetence and corruption led, finally, to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He ends with a reminder that the need for human intelligence gathering will never end and that the CIA and the American government must be willing to do what's necessary to have any hope of winning the war on terror. His tone in the epilogue however, isn't very optimistic.
The review of this Book prepared by Robert Cox