The Game of Nations

Title:                      The Game of Nations

Author:                   Miles Copeland

Copeland, Miles (1969). The Game of Nations: The Amorality of Power Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster [London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson].

LCCN:    79107268

E183.8.E35 C6 1970


Nasser, Gamal Abdel, 1918-1970.

United States–Foreign relations–Egypt.

Egypt–Foreign relations–United States.

Egypt–Foreign relations.

Date Updated:  February 1, 2017


Machiavellian principles for Third World revolutionary leaders in solving their power problems and amoral advice on advisable American moves and countermoves are developed through a case history presentation of Egypt’s President Nasser, his domestic and diplomatic maneuverings, and the United States’ methods and many mistakes in dealing with him and the whole Middle Eastern situation.

Copeland, an American management consultant and former State Department employee who helped organize the CIA, played the part of Nasser off and on from 1955-1957 in the State Department’s Games Center, where superexperts assume the roles and psyches of world leaders to “game out” international trends and crises and predict their outcomes. He has also “probably seen more of Nasser than any other Westerner,” and admires Nasser’s grasp of “the art of doing the necessary.” Unhindered by “loyalty to the cabal” and unintimidated by any but the strictest governmental security regulations, Copeland describes exactly how the U.S. has meddled since 1947 in the coups, countercoups, assassination attempts, spying, propagandizing, bribery, and dollar diplomacy that have characterized Middle Eastern politics, but he approaches it as a game of self-interest rather than a scandal (“Our citizens can also sleep more easily at night from knowing. . . we are in fact capable of matching the Soviets perfidy for perfidy”).

The historical treatment is sketchy and short-sighted since it is strategy-oriented; it ranges from an elucidation of American interference in Syrian politics between 1947-1949 to a brief treatment of the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967 and its aftermath. The case study itself makes intriguing reading, and the general propositions seem serviceable as far as general propositions go.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Copeland, who served in the Middle East in the 1950s with CIA, defined the “game of nations” as what results when “all nations in their respective self-interest pursue their national goals by means-any means-short of war.” What he calls “cryptodiplomacy” is the use of non-overt and abnormal channels of diplomacy to conduct relations and to pursue a nation’s interests. This book describes and explains the “game” and its hidden side as practiced in the Middle East, concentrating on Egypt from the 1950s under Nasser to the Six-Day War of 1967. Copeland served in official and nonofficial positions during part of the period covered and presumably was in a position to tell accurately of many behind-the-scenes events in Egypt and Syria. That he saw Nasser frequently up to one point, as he claims, is a fact. Eveland, however, who Copeland testified was involved in some events, in his own book on his experiences with CIA in the area, Ropes of Sand[2], warned that Copeland may not always have been so accurate. He wrote that on more than one occasion he had evidence of Copeland’s tendency to exaggerate. As for this work, Eveland remarked that Copeland credited Kermit Roosevelt of CIA with the “peaceful revolution” that allowed King Farouk to abdicate and said that Roosevelt had agreed to the military coup of Nasser and his followers even though he, Eveland, knew that CIA was caught by surprise when the coup took place. Eveland’s observations tend to agree with the consensus of those familiar with events: that, perceptive as some of Copeland’s writing on Nasser and his regime and on regional developments may be, Copeland’s versions of behind-the-scenes events about which he learned later, and even those in which he said he was a participant, cannot be accepted automatically as reliable and accurate. Experts’ opinion that he tended to be inaccurate (for example, Roosevelt did not know Nasser before the coup) make circumspection necessary.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

A first-hand account by a former CIA official of U.S. intervention in the Middle East from the 1952 Nasser coup d’etat in Egypt to the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of June 1967. The author explains the title of his book as follows: “[The] Game of Nations is what this book is about.. It is intended to reveal general truths about the relations between great powers and these small powers which, by techniques such as those of Egypt’s President Nasser, are able to gain international influence out of all proportion to their inherent strengths—and even, at times, to win diplomatic victories over one or another of the Great Powers.”

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 136

[2] Eveland, Wilbur (1980). Ropes of Sand: America’s Failure in The Middle East. New York: W. W. Norton

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.



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One Response to The Game of Nations

  1. Pingback: Without Cloak or Dagger | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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