The depth of American diplomacy and espionage around the world is a closely guarded secret. The American public is afforded little detail and insight into the workings of our most essential intelligence gathering agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. This is for a reason. Often the work of clandestine agents within these agencies, although hidden from view, have led to improved relationships with allies, uncovered information that has stopped potential attacks, and helped bring world players to the table of diplomacy. In his new book, “The Good Spy; The Life and Death of Robert Ames”, author Kia Bird tells the story of one such clandestine CIA spy. Robert Ames was a spy for the CIA during the early 1960’s through the early 1980’s. Ames’ career with the CIA included involvement with many now famous individuals and operations. The most well-known event surrounding his life was the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983 where sixty- three people including Ames were killed.
After attending La Salle University on a basketball scholarship, Ames joined the Army where he found himself stationed at a base that was run by the NSA. It was here that he was introduced to the importance of intelligence gathering. After leaving the Army, Ames began working with the CIA in 1960. It was here that Ames excelled. He became an expert in Arabic language and custom (called an Arabist throughout the book). At any early point in his career, Ames became interested and involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He would be involved with this conflict his entire life. Bird chronicles his work assignments and travels, as well as his efforts to maintain a normal family life. This book is as much about American foreign policy in the Middle East in the 1970’s and 80’s as it is about Ames. While Bird details and helps the reader navigate the private meetings, back room negotiations, and fragile relationships with “assets” and other political players, he tells the story of the volatile atmosphere in the Middle East and America’s involvement in it.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the introductions that were made. Bird tells of Ames’ work in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iraq, the region of Palestine, Egypt, and others. Bird has done an excellent job of introducing the reader to figures such as Yasir Arafat, Ariel Sharon, Sadaam Hussein, and chronicles the rise of groups such as Israeli Mossad, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Osama bin laden, and the Taliban. “The Good Spy” is a great work. Intriguing. Informative. Prophetic. Honest. This is a book all Americans should read. It tells how arrived at where we are today and gives great lessons for moving forward into an uncertain future.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”