Title: Desperate Deception
Author: Thomas E. Mahl
Mahl, Thomas E. (1998). Desperate Deception: British Covert Action Operations in the United States, 1939-44. Washington, DC: Brassey’s.
Date Updated: April 18, 2017
Reviewed by Eliot A. Cohen.
Those who fret about the role of ethnic interest groups in American governance, and campaigns of influence by foreign governments in the formation of the United States’ external policy, would do well to read this handy volume. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and their sympathizers turn out to have acted as much like an interest group as any group of hyphenated Americans, and the British governments of Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill persisted in an adroit and well-planned effort to get the United States into the war. They succeeded, and a good thing too: their wishes and sound policy for the United States (not to mention the rest of the world) coincided.
A fascinating account of some of the activities of the British, running the gamut from cleverly skewed spurious polls to the creation of front organizations funded by British intelligence, although one suspects that many others are buried in archives or, alas, hidden from history in files long since consigned to flames.
This review is counter to many other analysts who hold that while the British obviously needed and wanted the U.S. in the war, they hardly resorted to a Machiavellian strategy.