THE DEVIL’S SECRET NAME: True Stories from the Front Lines, Jim Morris, 2005, St. Martin’s
Ex-Green Beret officer Jim Morris became a writer for the maverick Soldier of Fortune magazine following his service in Vietnam. Here he chronicles the trips he was sent on during his early years with the magazine and, more specifically, offeres evidence for his theory that the guerrilla wars that followed Vietnam were part of a continuing Soviet strategy of which Vietnam was only one element (the Soviet Union disintegrated a year after first publication of this book in 1990.)
Notwithstanding that seemingly dated issue, The Devil’s Secret Name provides an enlightening view of Third World hot spots in the latter part of the Cold War. It also offers lessons for the current fight against terrorism aside from a selection of personal experiences including flashbacks of his service advising the Montagnard hill people of Vietnam.
Following globe-hopping jaunts to Cambodia, Thailand, Beirut, and El Salvador, Morris insists on the accuracy of the maligned Domino Theory that motivated the Vietnam experience.
Morris points out that after Vietnam fell, so did Laos and Cambodia — generally unnoticed until Hollywood filmed The Killing Fields; by then Americans had totally turned their back on Southeast Asia and many glibly claimed the Domino Theory was disproven, a claim still made despite evidence to the contrary.
There remain lessons to be learned from the experience of Thailand which, despite the trend, actually defeated three separate revolutionary movements, an amazing performance.
But the Domino Theory didn’t end with Laos and Cambodia, says Morris, but jumped the ocean to El Salvador and Nicaragua.
In all cases, arms provided by the Soviet Union were found throughout Southeast Asia, as well as in Central America and Lebanon. On one reporting trip to Lebanon, Morris makes contact with Phalangists and the Lebanese Army. He finds them worthy of support while noting that journalists withhold criticism of the invading Syrians and the murderous Palestinian elements…when a refugee camp comes under fire, they fail to report the secondary explosions which indicate the presence of ammunition dumps. He admits part of this is due to a strong sense of self-preservation but laments the false information everyone back home is getting.
This is an excellent overview of the front lines of low intensity warfare of the era that bridged Vietnam and the fall of the Soviet empire, and contains revealing information about today’s war against terrorism.
An excellent read.