Customer Reviews of Very Thin Line: Iran-Contra Affairs
I read this book in college and gave my copy to my history prof when I left school. If I had known how difficult it would be to try and get another copy, I might not have left it. (just kidding Proffessor Gill) This is perhaps the best book I have read since Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as far as bringing a dense and complicated seiries of events together in an easily understandable, fascinating read. I followed the Iran-Contra "affair" very closely as it happened, and read many books on it before this; but only after reading this book did I feel as if I actually understood what went on. A keeper for anyone's non-fiction library.
The information contained in this book will keep your jaw dropping from page to page. If anyone is wondering why George W. Bush isn't being impeached, after reading this book, you'll know why. Why wasn't Reagan ipmeached? Or Bush Sr.? The abuse of power, the parsing and skirting of law has been going on since the early '80s. Nothing is new - even the people.
Draper writes an extremely detailed case study of the events surrounding the two controversial decisions that led to Congressional hearings and tarnished Reagan's image as a leader of the country. The desire to fund the Sandinista rebellion in Nicaragua ultimately has been combined with the need to rescue American hostages in Iran. Draper follows the events leading to the decisions, introducing the reader to the multitude of players that had a hand in the actions taken by the US Government.
Evidence of Draper's in depth investigative skills comes to bear quickly and is clear throughout the book. Upon starting his research, he discovered a mountain of information in the form of records, interviews, hearing transcripts, letters, and many more articles. He states in his introduction that he was surprised by the amount of info and decided then to allow it to speak for itself. He presents his work matter-of-factly, without too much interpretation. It's a good choice, as the events speak for themselves, the lack of political bias is refreshing in a work written as recently as this.
Draper includes photographs, allowing the readers to visualize the men involved with the scandals. He doesn't, however, include maps or charts which would have illuminated some of the numerous facts and figures he gives. One of the most beneficial elements he adds is a chronology in the appendices. It gives a step by step overview of the events that can eliminate some of the over-worked detail he includes in the text.
This book is excellent for Graduates researching the period. It includes too much detail for the undergraduate student in a survey or limited study course. The reference material alone would be a benefit for research in the topics.
Excellent chronology of a complicated affair
In a nutshell the author has reviewed the voluminous data, (transcripts, interviews, personal logs and diaries, etc.) and has written a coherent and engaging book documenting an extremely convoluted and complicated foreign policy initiative, (actually several initiatives) during the Reagan presidency. Aid to the contras, weapons sold to Iran and the diversion of funds from those weapons sales are tracked from inception to implementation to the exposure of these "affairs". This includes all the high hopes and noble causes, the "zeal" of the Americans involved, the greed and corruption of the middlemen used for the transactions, and at times the sheer incompetence which led to the inevitable exposure of what was really happening behind the scenes. This last item being the crux of the book - the hijacking of US foreign policy in the Middle East and Central America by a handful of men, (at times overworked, completely over their heads and out of their league), outside of any purview, oversight or review by the White House, Cabinet or Congress. As for who knew what and when, from President Reagan on down, the author also does a very good job documenting this time line and each of the major players involved. (As an aside, Sec. of State Schultz's involvement, or really conscious lack thereof, was an eye opener for me.) As for the timeliness of re-visiting this affair 20 years later and any lessons to be learned, if any, .... All I know is I found this book both fascinating and a little scary.
This is How Government Works
"A Very Thin Line" tells the bizarre story of a cabal of White House ideologues who hijacked foreign policy from the State Department and the Pentagon. The results were disastrous: terrorists were empowered and America's global image was left in tatters. It might sound like the book is about the Bush Administration and Iraq -- but it is actually about the Reagan Administration and Iran/Contra. Plumbing the documentary record compiled by Congressional investigators and federal prosecutors, Draper recreates this sordid and hilarious episode from the 1980s in painstaking detail. His book is smart and readable. Anyone who was surprised by the intelligence and policy failures in Iraq should read "A Very Thin Line" for a reminder of how Washington really works. (I'm a State Department official.)