THE SHADOW WORLD by Andrew Feinstein
Kirkus Star


Inside the Global Arms Trade
Email this review


A highly pertinent, deeply damning indictment of the flourishing of the world’s “second-oldest profession.”

Global military expenditure was priced at $16.2 trillion in 2010—“$235 for every person on the planet,” writes South African journalist and former ANC member of Parliament Feinstein (After the Party: Corruption, the ANC and South Africa's Uncertain Future, 2009). The trade in conventional arms, the legitimate tool of government (as opposed to weapons of mass destruction), engenders a secretive world, mainly due to enormous profits and the advance of nefarious political aims. The author focuses on the black market as well as the so-called grey market, where the government is involved “through legal channels, but undertaken covertly.” He methodically examines the construction of the global military-industrial complex, including the breakup of the British arms trade after World War II, exemplified by British Aerospace’s (now BAE Systems) courting of Saudi contracts, and the inroads of the Americans in the early ’60s. After the war, the Americans had incorporated many key ex-Nazis into the West German intelligence service—e.g., Reinhard Gehlen and Gerhard Mertins, who secured beneficial arms deals for the U.S. and Germany. Feinstein looks closely at Margaret Thatcher and BA’s deal with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia in the mid ’80s; and the pernicious legacy of Lockheed Martin and middlemen John Murtha, Charlie Wilson and Adnan Khashoggi. The author sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as key in changing the way arms dealers did business, since small, fractured states became the new clientele of rapacious dealers, from Croatia to Africa to Pakistan. He also provides portraits of the crusading investigators who have pursued these criminal cases—e.g., Helen Garlick of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.

The detail is occasionally overwhelming, but Feinstein’s book is sound, timely and invaluable. Diligent readers will be rewarded.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-20838-7
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2011


NonfictionTHE BEAUTY AND THE SORROW by Peter Englund
by Peter Englund
NonfictionBENTO'S SKETCHBOOK by John Berger
by John Berger
NonfictionBLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion
by Joan Didion
NonfictionTHE ECSTASY OF INFLUENCE by Jonathan Lethem
by Jonathan Lethem


NonfictionSANDSTORM by Lindsey Hilsum
by Lindsey Hilsum
NonfictionWASHINGTON RULES by Andrew J. Bacevich
by Andrew J. Bacevich
NonfictionPROPHETS OF WAR by William Hartung
by William Hartung
NonfictionARMS AND THE DUDES by Guy Lawson
by Guy Lawson