Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Sword and the Shield [A Summaview]

The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGBThe Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

Christopher Andrew is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Cambridge University. One of the leading authorities on intelligence history, Andrew is also the official historian of Britain’s Secret Service (MI-5). Vasili Mitrokhin served as an archivist in Russia’s KGB, and having become disillusioned with the Soviet worldview during Krushchev’s rule, began copying sensitive and highly classified documents from the KGB archive. He defected in 1992, and over 25,000 documents were retrieved from the contained them, buried beneath the floor of his dacha.
The Sword and the Shield follows the history of the KGB from Lenin’s Cheka, to Stalin’s OGPU through the establishment of Yeltsin’s presidency. Andrew documents the operations and impact of several hundred spies who operated during that time frame.

The sheer volume of the material is overwhelming. As a result, reading is somewhat tedious with only a few paragraphs dedicated to each operative. Andrew is a historian and has contributed greatly to our understanding of Soviet Intelligence operations. I found myself skimming many sections and reading those which were of special interest, such as operations directed against the United States and those surrounding the Prague Spring in 1968. That would be my recommendation for the amateur historian.

That said, I did enjoy the book. Secret Service, spies, intelligence, counter-intelligence and related stories fascinate me. Andrew focuses on people and what they did. I would have enjoyed a greater discussion of trade craft and operations than he offered. In any case, his work added to my understanding of a secret and until now, hidden world.

Contents and concepts

  1. The Mitrokhin Archive
  2. From Lenin’s Cheka to Stalin’s OGPU
  3. The Great Illegals
  4. The Magnificent Five
  5. Terror
  6. War
  7. The Grand Alliance
  8. Victory
  9. From War to Cold War
  10. The Main Adversary - Part 1: North American Illegals in the 1950’s
  11. The Main Adversary - Part 2: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies in the Early Cold War
  12. The Main Adversary - Part 3: Illegals after “Abel”
  13. The Main Adversary - Part 4: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies int he Later Cold War
  14. Political Warfare: Active Measures and the Main Adversary
  15. PROGRESS Operations - Part 1: Crushing the Prague Spring
  16. PROGRESS Operations - Part 2: Spying on the soviet Bloc
  17. The KGB and Western Communist Parties
  18. Eurocommunism
  19. Ideological Subversion - Part 1: The War Against the dissidents
  20. Ideological Subversion - Part 2: The Victory of the dissidents
  21. SIGINT in the cold War
  22. Special Tasks - Part 1: From Marshal Tito to Rudolf Nureyev
  23. Special Tasks - Part 2: The Andropov Era and Beyond
  24. Cold War Operations Against Britain- Part 1: After the “Magnificent Five”
  25. Cold War Operations Against Britain- Part 2: After Operation FOOT
  26. The Federal Republic of Germany
  27. France and Italy during the Cold War: Agent Penetration and Active Measures
  28. The Penetration and Persecution of the Soviet Churches
  29. The Polish Pope and the Rise of Solidarity
  30. The Polish Crisis and the crumbling of the Soviet Bloc
  31. Conclusion: From the One-Party State to the Yeltsin Presidency
 Andrew, C. M., & Mitrokhin, V. (1999). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (1st ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service [A Summaview]

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service by Andrew Meier

Andrew Meier, a former Moscow correspondent for Time magazine is the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall and Chechnya: To the Heart of A Conflict, has compiled a remarkable and unknown history of Isaiah Oggins, an American who was murdered on Stalin’s orders in 1947. His case remained unkown to the world aside from a brief mention in 1992 until Meier began searching for clues to Oggins’ story in 2000.

Oggins, born in 1898, was recruited by Stalin’s secret service in 1928 and travelled extensively through Europe and Asia on behalf of the Soviet state. Meier’s research uncovers a man who moved carefuly in the shadows until his arrest and sentence to the gulag in 1940. So much so, that Oggins was relatively unknown by the United States until the post World War II period. Meier’s discussion how diplomats from both countries found it difficult to handle the situation his emergence from the gulag presented was especially interesting to me.

The Lost Spy is a non-fiction book that reads like a modern day spy thriller (a genre I read often for recreation). Having lived in Europe and traveled in Russia, I enjoy understanding the historical foundations of modern culture. This book provided insight for me into Americans who became enamored with the promises of revolution and communism at the beginning of the last century, much like Tim Tzouliadis did in The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia . I also enjoyed the photos and archival documents which Meier discovered in his research.

If you enjoy historical biographies of forgotten people, Cold War Era espionage, diplomacy or similar genres, you will likely enjoy learning of Oggins’ story in The Lost Spy. As for me, I'll be seeking out Meier's Black Earth: A Journey through Russia After the Fall before long.

     1. “The American Professor”
     2. Thread City
     3. War
The Lubyanka: 1939
     4. Revolution
     5. Into the Night
     6. A Change of Sky
Gulag: 1940
     7. The Red and the White
Butyrka: 1942
     8. Journey to a War
     9. The Stamp Market
     10. Truth Will Win
     11. The Note to Stalin
     12: Afterlife

Bibliography: Meier, A. (2008). The Lost Spy : An American in Stalin's Secret Service (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership [Summaview]

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima

Gary L. McIntosh is president of the Church Growth Network and professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology. He leads seminars and has written several books, including Biblical Church Growth and Beyond the First Visit. Samuel D. Rima is director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Bethel Seminary, where he is also a faculty member in the Center for Transformational Leadership. He is the author of Leading from the Inside Out and Rethinking the Successful Church.

The stories of leaders who crash and burn are many. It seems that as many leaders fail to finish well as a result of self-destructive habits as those who fail at the hands of others. This book found it’s way onto my reading list because good leaders are self-aware. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses - especially those that reside behind the public face. This book makes and delivers three promises: 1) help the reader understand what the dark side is; 2) assist in identifying one’s dark side; and, 3) help to overcome the dark side lurking in one’s success before being blindsided by it.

McIntosh and Rima’s work should be mandatory reading for all leaders (in my humble opinion). Drawing from a variety of fields, the lessons learned from leaders who succumbed to the dark side are clearly articulated. It was easy to find the danger I pose to myself and those I would lead. In addition, part 3 of the book has practical steps to redeeming our dark side and I believe it will be helpful to redirect the energy and passion that lead to failure into more productive efforts. Editorially, this book has one of my favorite features in books designed for reflection and improvement. Each chapter closes with a summary of key points and application of insights through open ended questions, assignments and surveys.

The table of contents and key concepts are as follows:
Part 1 Understanding Our Dark Side
  1. Blindsided by the Dark Side - The dark side is the inner urges, compulsions, and dysfunctions of our personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to us until we experience and emotional explosion… or some other significant problem that causes us to search for a reason why. (28)
  2. Danger on the Dark Side - When we refuse to process in healthy ways feelings of insecurity, unhealthy co-dependence issues, feelings of personal shame, deeply sublimated anger or fear, or some combination of these or other issues, they will wreak havoc in our lives and leadership and eventually endanger ourselves and others. (40)
  3. Company on the Dark Side - The dark side if found across eras in the lives of leaders. Those who accomplish much have confronted their dark side.
  4. Shedding Divine Light on the Dark Side - The raw material for our dark side are pride, selfishness and self-deception. (59)
  5. How the Dark Side Develops - The critical factor in how our dark side will impact our leadership is the extent to which we learn about its development and understand how it influences us… There are definite signs we can become sensitive to that will help us identify the unique ways it has developed over the years as well as the specific shape it has taken in our life. (70) In short, any behavior that seems to overpower us, as well as any urge or motivation that seems to uncontrollably drive us, is a possible sign indicating the presence of our dark side. (71)
  6. Seafood, Pictionary, and the Dark Side - The dark side can provide energy for success.
  7. Paradoxes of the Dark Side - When our drive to achieve, fueled by unmet needs and existential debt, is channeled in the right direction, it can be a power for good. However, when that need-fueled drive becomes misdirected, it can result in disaster… (99)

Part 2 Discovering Our Dark Side
  1. The Compulsive Leader - Example: Moses. Compulsive in a leadership context describes the need to maintain absolute order. (105)
  2. The Narcissistic Leader - Example: Solomon. For the narcissistic leader… the world revolves on the axis of self, and all other people and issues closely orbit them as they get caught in the strong gravitational pull of the narcissist’s self-absorption. (115)
  3. The Paranoid Leader - Example: Saul. …Paranoid leaders are desperately afraid of anything or anyone, whether real or imagined, they perceive to have even the remotest potential of undermining their leadership and stealing away the limelight. (123)
  4. The Codependent Leader - Example: Samson. An emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to and practice of, a set of oppressive rules that prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems. (133)
  5. The Passive-Aggressive Leader - Example: Jonah. A resistance to demands to adequately perform tasks, often expressed through behaviors such as procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, forgetfulness and intentional inefficiency. (141)
Part 3 Redeeming Our Dark Side
  1. Overcoming the Dark Side - Leaders are expected to exercise a higher degree of self-management, redeeming their darks side and thus mitigating its potentially negative influences. (149)
  2. Spiritual Composting - While parts of our personality are not particularly useful in their present form, they can be redeemed and transformed for a useful purpose. (161)
  3. Step 1: Acknowledge Your dark Side - If we want to overcome our dark side, we need to start by acknowledging its existence and understanding the shape it has taken over the years… All too often the Christian community… relegates the moral failures and other problems that result from the dark side of our personality to the realm of spiritual warfare and demonic attack. (168) The sooner we stop denying our dark side’s existence, t he sooner we will stop blaming the devil, our parents, bad breaks, and every other possible reason for our struggles. (169)
  4. Step 2: Examine the Past - We are the sum of the experiences of our lives. The most successful and effective leaders recognize this and are able to separate fact from fiction in their childhood memories while understanding the role these memories have played in their personal development. (174)
  5. Step 3: Resist the Poison of Expectations - Because the influence of expectations is so powerful, many leaders often live life at a dangerously frenetic pace in an effort to meet all of them and satisfy all of the people who have made them known. (190)
  6. Step 4: Practice Progressive Self-Knowledge - [Spiritual] disciplines and tools will provide us with a constant stream of information about ourselves that we can use in an effort to understand ourselves and overcome our dark side rather than passively being controlled by it. (199) These include scripture reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, journaling, personality pro0files and tests, professional counseling and therapy, accountability groups and formal performance evaluations.
  7. Step 5: Understand Your Identity in Christ - We must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power that we wield. Rather our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future. Without the grace of God that is found only in his son, Jesus Christ… our best efforts and most altruistic acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Everything we might learn about our dark side will be without significant benefit if we fail to find our value in Christ. (213)
I think this is a valuable resource. In fact, it ranks as my #1 book for 2010. Therefore, it will remain on my shelf and referenced during personal planning retreats.

Bibliographical entry: McIntosh, G., & Rima, S. D. (2007). Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Rev. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig [a summaview]

Your Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You RichYour Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich by Jason Zweig

This is not my normal genre, aside from the fact that I read widely. I received it as a gift and decided to wade through it.

Jason, editor of the Intelligent Investor newsletter, worked with neuroscientists to examine how the brain processes information related to investing. Zweig subjected himself to several studies and imagery programs illustrate how the brain reacts to experiences such as anticipation, gain, loss and regret. Chapter titles include: greed, prediction, confidence, risk, fear, surprise, regret and happiness.

From the book jacket: “Why do otherwise smart, rational people make irrational, foolish decisions about money? Combining psychology, neuroscience and economics, the new science of neuroeconimics answers that question… Your Money and Your Brain exp=lains why we oveten misunderstand risk and tend to be overconfident aobut our investment decisions. Zweig blends anectodes from experimends in which he participated with stories aobout investing mistakes - some from highly successful people - distilling them to offer practical steps that investors can take to make better decisions and take control of the battlefield between reason and emotion.”

The book has application for leaders as well as investors. In any field in which we take responsibility for our own decisions and actions, help to understand how we process information is valuable.

A few broad takeaways for me.
  1. Anticipation seems to be a stronger motivation than does receiving.
  2. It has been my experience that all history is revisionist, and all revisionist history is nostalgic. Stated simply, we remember only the best of times and upon reflection, our recollections are rarely objective.
  3. If investing, make a log of thoughts, processes, and feelings when you make an investment. It will help you document your path when you are tempted to second guess yourself. Same goes for any decision.
  4. The brain is a wonderful gift. It is fascinating in its ability to adapt, process information and (re)program itself.
  5. We are prone to deception. We may fool ourselves or be fooled by others. We must be aware of that and careful to guard against it.
I’ll be passing this book along to a friend in the investment business, rather than keeping it on the shelf for reference.

Bibliography - Zweig, J. (2007). Your money and your brain: how the new science of neuroeconomics can help make you rich. New York: Simon & Schuster.