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Capsule Review

Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival

In This Review

Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival

Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival
By John Kenneth Knaus
PublicAffairs, 1999 400 pp. $27.50 Purchase

From 1951 to 1974, the United States provided support to the Tibetan resistance, largely through the CIA. A CIA veteran and the key case officer for Tibet, Knaus tells in blow-by-blow detail the complex story of the operations, from the Colorado training of Tibetan fighters and the air drops of troops and weapons into Tibet to the U.S. support of the Dalai Lama in India and diplomatic maneuvers at the United Nations. Knaus is unsparing in his criticism of the cia's mistakes. As one example, he cites the air drops that attracted flocks of Tibetans to the drop spots -- but then tragically backfired after they inadvertently alerted the Chinese where to attack. His story makes it clear, however, that the CIA did not attempt to stir up a rebellion but supported an essentially Tibetan initiative. This moving account of the Tibetans' valiant efforts to resist the Chinese occupation captures the daring spirit of the early Cold War years and the mixture of idealism and crafty scheming that characterized American operations at the time. It also underscores the limited effectiveness of such covert operations.

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