Wednesday, June 13, 2018
The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency Paperback – June 7, 2016 by Annie Jacobsen (Back Bay Books)
The Pentagon's Brain is investigative reporter Annie Jacobsen's masterpiece, a brilliant tour-de-force that led to her being a 2016 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. It is the history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's military and technology think tank that has been helping the US maintain military dominance on the battlefield since the post-WWII glory days of nuclear weapons development. Thoroughly researched, yet eminently readable, Jacobsen writes history with the pacing and character development of a suspense thriller. You won't soon forget the people or the places described in this book (which is the key to compelling history). The subtitle, "An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency" lives up to the reader's expectations.
The truth is, no author has ever tackled DARPA quite like this. Building from research in her previous books as well as her past careers as an LA Times Magazine historical reporter and a PJMedia investigative reporter, Jacobsen covers what is for her familiar ground. She follows it up with impeccable research and then brings together all the seemingly disjointed pieces into a cognitive whole. The effect is a book that is as thorough as it is fascinating. Will better books about DARPA be written in the future? Undoubtedly, but only because future journalists will have Jacobsen to thank for showing them the way. Jacobsen writes with the puritan objectivity that sometimes gets her in trouble with readers and subjects that have strong biases but it works well in this book. Some readers may disagree with some of her conclusions (her battle of Mogadishu assessment misses the mark). But it's nearly impossible for an outsider to thoroughly capture all of the right stuff when researching classified history. And she closes the book with her signature personal appearance in the last chapter. Because after all, good writers not only write history, they sometimes become a part of it. Highly recommended. Especially for those interested in Cold War history, intelligence operations, technology, US government secret programs, government conspiracy, futurism, research and development, military affairs, and scientific innovations. Read this book.