Ignorant Armies: Tales and Morals of an Alien Empire
Ignorant Armies: Tales and Morals of an Alien Empire combines startling stories from the life of an American diplomat with equally startling opinions about the country he represented abroad for over three decades. Charles Sam Courtney chose his book's title to convey bizarreness, the bizarreness of some of the things that happened to him as well as the bizarreness of contemporary America's behavior toward the rest of the world.
In his Forward and in Chapters II, IV and VI he expresses his dismay at what has become of the United States in the post-Cold War era. He depicts the decline of the country from its former status as the world's model nation to its current one as global pariah. He attributes this decline, not to mischievous foreign powers or even to wicked politics at home, but rather to the Americans themselves. He describes how the pervasive culture of consumerism and overweening ignorance of Americans have left them incapable of engaging in the kind of enlightened public discourse a genuine democracy demands. He considers the decline irreparable, and he has come to believe that he has lost his country. After a lifetime of service to America, his loss is personal and painful.
In Chapters I, III and V he recounts some personal episodes in his life as a diplomat. He was a hostage to terrorists twice, once in the Near East and once in the United States Senate. On an earlier occasion, as a brand new junior diplomat, he was fired for slugging a journalist. JFK saved his career, but in a heart-rending way. Not long after that Courtney helped his Turkish secretary in Istanbul pursue an illicit affair, with the result that interlocking sexual and political betrayals disrupted the Soviet Union's espionage operations throughout the Near East. A few years later in Calcutta he was encouraged by the CIA, no less, to fall into a Soviet sex trap. He concludes his personal reminiscences by describing his friendship with a man who probably was the KGB station chief in London but who, in 1992, was seeing his world turn upside down. This poignant tale and those preceding it capture the Cold-War world that was. They also foreshadow the world that was to come.
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