Books by Mark Perry

Released: Oct. 24, 2017

"A book that does much to explain quirks of foreign policy, providing a military context for them—and one that makes one wonder who's really in charge."
Why have we been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets? Why did Saddam Hussein reign for a dozen more years after defeat in the Persian Gulf War? This study of the clash of military and civilian cultures goes a long way toward answering such questions. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2014

"A majestic overview with an engaging sense of the nuance of character. Thankfully, Perry doesn't become mired in familiar biographical detail."
In a study of quiet authority, Perry spotlights the presumptuous commanding general at the moment of his evolving maturity during the Pacific theater and apotheosis in the Philippines. Read full book review >
Released: May 11, 2004

"Intimate, spellbinding drama of the affinity between friends, each struggling in his own way to tell the country the truth about itself."
Journalist and historian Perry (Lift Up Thy Voice, 2001, etc.) examines in remarkable detail the 15-month period during which two iconic American figures produced monumental American literature. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2001

"Engaging, intelligent, and likely to be of much interest to general readers, as well as of value in courses in American history, women's studies, and African American studies."
A finely rendered portrait of two Southern abolitionists and civil-rights activists, and of the time in which they lived. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1997

Focusing on two Civil War heroes who commanded opposing regiments at Gettysburg, this dual biography forges an expansive, dramatic, highly readable history of the generation that came of age during that fateful conflict. Perry, who writes about history and military and foreign affairs (A Fire in Zion: How the Israelis and the Palestinians Made Peace, 1994, etc.), chooses his subjects well. Chamberlain, a devout and introspective Maine college professor, and Oates, a brawling Alabama roustabout, waged the battle for Little Round Top—``the single most important struggle of the single most important battle of America's most important and bloodiest war.'' Despite obvious differences in character, remarkable similarities mark the separate paths that crossed briefly at Gettysburg. Both were self-made men forced by family hardship to provide their own educations; both rode their war records to political office, serving as governors of their respective states; both failed to achieve their highest political ambitions—to serve in the US Senate. The experience of Oates, especially, illustrates the fluctuating fortunes of each side during the long conflict. He fought in nearly every prominent battle of the eastern campaign, from the highs of Stonewall Jackson's stunning Shenandoah Valley victories to the fateful Gettysburg defeat, where his failure to capture Little Round Top is posited as the war's turning point. Perry examines deeply the prevailing trends that shaped the politics of Oates and Chamberlain before the war (a survey that describes the rise of charismatic religion, the beginning of abolitionism, the antebellum movements for women's rights and temperance) and the politics of Reconstruction, which both men helped shape after it. Just when historical sideroads and blow-by-blow battle depictions threaten to swamp readers, Perry veers back to Oates and Chamberlain, the twin Everymen of his satisfying, wide-lens perspective on history. (16 b&w photos not seen) (History Book Club main selection; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: June 20, 1994

An objective, well-researched historical backdrop to the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, by a Washington-based reporter. Perry (Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA, 1992, etc.) offers insights into the events that led up to the dramatic accord signed on the White House lawn. In the wake of the Six-Day War in 1967, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank became ``occupied Palestinians'' and, the author implies, the world's favorite victims. In the initial chapter of this solid account, the reader is taken inside Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, ``a hotbed of radicalism, the flagship of the Palestinian revolution and a symbol of resistance to the Israeli occupation.'' Both the Israelis and the Palestinians subsequently made a number of strategic errors that, ironically, made the pursuit of peace almost inevitable. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, of Israel's Likud party, aroused the ire of the Bush administration with his intransigence, helping to assure Labor's victory in 1992. Labor Prime Minister Rabin's expulsion of hundreds of Islamic fundamentalists inadvertently drove the PLO and the extremist Hamas closer together. On the other side of the table, Arafat's poor judgment in backing Iraq during the Persian Gulf War cost the PLO millions of dollars in aid, making it desperate to grasp any deal. In addition, writes Perry, ``by choosing not to fight against Iraq, Israel implicitly made itself an ally of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and even Syria. The Gulf War made Israel a part of the Middle East as no other event had in its forty-year history.'' All these factors (and many more), coupled with the fall of the Soviet Union, are noted by Perry as crucial in pushing Israel and its neighbors to the peace table. The ideas are not original but are neatly collected and discussed here. An engrossing look behind one of the decade's most dramatic moments. Read full book review >
ECLIPSE by Mark Perry
Released: Oct. 16, 1992

An evenhanded audit of the CIA's recent history concluding that, in the years since William Casey's death, the agency has become a "quintessential government bureaucracy." In a tellingly detailed narrative that flashes back and forth in time, Perry (Four Stars, 1989) inventories the factors that have combined to clip the wings of an espionage organization whose powers probably never were as great as either critics or partisans imagined. In addition to self-inflicted wounds resulting from its role in any number of public scandals, he notes, the CIA has been injured by the ascendance of rival agencies—like the DIA, NRO, and NSC—whose stock in trade is intelligence gathered by electronic (mainly satellite) means rather than from human sources. Equally important has been the CIA's willingness to provide the executive branch with "politicized product," i.e., analyses tailored to the perceived biases or wishful thinking of policy-makers. This unfortunate bent, Perry argues, goes a long way toward explaining the agency's failure to foresee the overnight collapse of the Soviet Union's "evil empire," as well as its lapses in China, Iraq, Panama, and other global hot spots. Nonetheless, the author does give the contemporary CIA credit for some considerable accomplishments—e.g., clear warnings on the worldwide proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons, on civil war in Yugoslavia, on the plot against Gorbachev, and on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He also offers a bare-bones account of how agency operatives rescued 15 of the fugitives on Beijing's list of 21 most-wanted dissidents in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Covered as well are the CIA's joint ventures with China (in Afghanistan) and with Iraq's military during the prolonged conflict with Iran. A first-rate briefing. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >
FOUR STARS by Mark Perry
Released: March 23, 1989

Scores of books have been written about the American military. Virtually none, however, has dealt directly with its high command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Journalist Perry (Washington correspondent for The Nation) bridges this gap with an illuminating appraisal that documents the evolving roles played by a secrecy-shrouded institution. In recounting the history of the JCS from passage of the National Security Act of 1947 (which also created the CIA, DoD, NSC, and US Air Force) through the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, the author dispels any notion that the armed forces have been willing or even obedient servants of civilian masters. Indeed, he shows in considerable detail how the officer corps (in addition to engaging in interservice rivalries that have sapped the country's military strength and jeopardized its preparedness) has campaigned vigorously for a greater voice in foreign policy. Among his more dramatic revelations is that in August 1967 the Joint Chiefs (then led by Army General Earle G. Wheeler) voted unanimously to resign in protest over the conduct of operations in Southeast Asia. Nearly two decades later, the Joint Chiefs won their point when Congress enacted reform legislation that made the JCS chairman a member of the National Security Council—and duty-bound to advise his commander in chief, the President. In many respects, Perry notes, the military lost as much as it gained in the political infighting—individual branches, for example, no longer control their own budgets. On the whole, though, he reckons the new law a plus for the country since it promises to end the "incessant power struggles" that have led to the chaos of Vietnam, the humiliation of Desert One, the massacre of Marines in Beirut, the embarrassment of the poorly planned invasion of Grenada, and other untoward events, including the dismissal of General MacArthur. A judicious, absorbing inquiry that helps clarify contemporary military history. The text includes 16 pages of photographs (not seen). Read full book review >