Intelligence / Agencies / Paramilitary

Adams, James. Secret Armies: Inside the American, Soviet and European Special Forces. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988. 440 pages.

This book begins by noting that in 1986 alone there were over 40 instances of sustained armed conflict involving 45 of the world's 165 nations. In light of new challenges such as international terrorism and new concepts like "low intensity conflict," the author makes the case that conventional wars may be a thing of the past. "Instead, a new, secret, battlefield has appeared where special operations forces act out their deadly games in a clandestine environment that is only rarely visible to the public."

Author James Adams, defense correspondent for The Sunday Times in London, frequently seems overly enthusiastic, as if he were writing ad copy in a magazine for would-be mercenaries. But you work with what's available, and Adams does manage some credible reporting on Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) and their efforts against the IRA, the war in Afghanistan, and the series of complete screw-ups in Grenada (which the U.S. press failed to notice during their love affair with Reagan). Other chapters deal with special forces training and equipment, Charles Beckwith's Delta Force, and Soviet operations. There is also a bibliography with 90 titles, and a 13-page appendix that describes special forces alphabetically by country.

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