Despite all that has already been written on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Persico has uncovered a hitherto overlooked dimension of FDR's wartime leadership: his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations.
Blending anecdotes, speculations and documented facts into an exciting story of collecting and transmitting information in wartime, Persico (Nuremburg: Infamy on Trial) offers a clear-eyed take on FDR's approach to intelligence. For Persico, Roosevelt was someone to whom dissimulation was second nature, and who enjoyed for their own sake the trappings of secret agentry: clandestine meetings, reports done in invisible ink, codes and ciphers. Roosevelt built espionage into the very structure of American government well before Pearl Harbor, Persico shows. The president preferred human sources over electronic ones and the intuition of field agents to the conclusions of technocrats, but he incorporated electronic intelligence comprehensively into strategic and operational planning. Roosevelt's was the decisive influence in creating the Office of Strategic Services. Under "Wild Bill" Donovan, this initially unstable amalgam of dilettantes, poseurs and experts achieved an enviable record of successes during the war. Roosevelt, however, was by no means dominated by his intelligence services. As we see him here, the president listened, processed and drew his own conclusions. He rejected, for example, repeated OSS recommendations to modify the principle of unconditional surrender rather than risk exacerbating Stalin's distrust of the Western alliance, and he respected the Faustian bargain that kept Russia in the war, even in the face of growing evidence that the U.S. was the target of a major Soviet espionage offensive. Such examples are rife throughout the book, showing how Roosevelt's use of intelligence decisively shaped the war and helped define the peace that followed. (On-sale Oct. 9)Forecast: This book should sell solidly to intelligence enthusiasts, but it doesn't connect clearly to any current issues or make major revelations, and is not quite strong enough to create its own buzz. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.