THE FRENCH SECRET SERVICE: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War by Douglas Porch

THE FRENCH SECRET SERVICE: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War

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An authoritative analysis of the complex role of intelligence services in modern French history. With Porch's (History/Naval War College; The French Foreign Legion, 1991, etc.) book, it will no longer be possible to think of the defining moments of modern France without also considering the function and influence of the country's secret services. From the two world wars to the disastrous colonial policies in Indochina, Africa, and Algeria, the French intelligence services have had an enormous say in the country's politics, usually without the knowledge of French citizens. Porch takes us through the establishment of the modern French secret services, born out of the defeat of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), through their unheralded successes and sometimes spectacular failures. It is no accident that the French secret services are directly implicated in the two most devastating episodes in modern French history: the Dreyfus Affair and the fall of France in May-June 1940. Yet Porch partially exonerates the intelligence community in arguing--contrary to the traditional view that politicians ignored intelligence--that they were obsessed with it to the point of paralysis. The secret services were to be the Achilles' heel of the Fourth Republic, and readers will be astonished to learn the extent of domestic spying in the Fifth Republic today. The author has had to overcome several obstacles in writing this book, and many of the questions raised cannot be answered until certain classified documents become available. In addition, there is a perpetual war in the bewildering underworld of espionage and intelligence between various offices and services. A major strength of the book is that it places the French secret services squarely in political context and insists on the necessary state-intelligence connection, which, unfortunately and sometimes tragically, breaks down. Those breakdowns have literally altered the course of French history. An absorbing and detailed critique of the French intelligence community.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 599pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"