Basic Books has sent me a long but highly readable and at times scintillating book by an old friend, Norman Stone. The Atlantic and its Enemies is quite long — well over six hundred pages — and although Norman calls it “a history of the Cold War,” it’s much more than that, and it’s full of useful information, witty insights and some very thoughtful analysis, especially of post-war Germany, East and West.
I thought Norman might have read some of my work on West European Communism, and so I turned to the Index to check references to “Ledeen,” and found two, which turned out to be very different from what I had anticipated. They’re not about my scholarly work, but rather about my alleged activities on behalf of the Marshall Plan in 1948. “As a young CIA man of the time, Michael Ledeen said (European) films, wines and women were endlessly fascinating and stood at great contrast to the tea and cookies on offer at home,” he writes at one point, and then later on, referring to CIA involvement in the Italian elections in the spring of ’48, “activity by men such as Michael Ledeen…who knew the country well.”
For which I am most grateful, since, if Norman is right, I was a talented American agent at the age of six. Which would make me, as it were, the Mozart of American espionage.
A great deal of nonsense has been written about my imagined career as a master spy — most recently by imaginative former CIA officers with Italian last names like Giraldi and Cannistraro — but this is one of the nicest to date, and I hope it establishes a template for the future. Just think, I was a precocious six-year old, already a talented womanizer and connoisseur of wines and films, fighting communism in the streets of Europe.
So far as I know, I have never been a “CIA man” and to the best of my memory my seventh year was mostly spent in Albany, New York, with a few happy months in Pasadena, California. But my memory is imperfect, and Norman is a fine historian, and he may be right.
I sure hope so.