- Western Anti-Communism and the Interdoc Network: Cold War Internationale by Giles Scott-Smith
This volume examines the history of an organization formally named the International Documentation and Information Centre, headquartered in The Hague from 1962 to 1986. Initiated by West German and Dutch intelligence agencies, Interdoc’s network spanned Western Europe and beyond. The organization coordinated diverse “psychological warfare” activities, from conferences to covert action. Participants included intelligence officers, academics, journalists, businessmen, and philanthropists. In this book, Giles Scott-Smith aims “to put together the Interdoc story, the people and ideas that drove it, and its place within Cold War history “(p. 1).
The result is a detailed case study firmly grounded in multi-archival research, participant interviews, and a thorough command of the relevant literature, particularly on Cold War “psychological warfare.” Scott-Smith generally succeeds in conveying an interesting story, portraying its main characters and sketching their animating ideas. He succeeds more modestly in situating Interdoc within Cold War history. Scott-Smith’s narrative often becomes hard to follow; his enormous attention to detail often overwhelms the book’s limited analytic framework.
A British-trained historian based in the Netherlands, Scott-Smith in his previous work has examined Cold War cultural diplomacy, “psychological warfare,” and transatlantic relations. This study draws on archival research in Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Belgium and, most heavily, the Netherlands. As Scott-Smith acknowledges, the book is “largely based on the papers of C. C. van den Heuvel” (p. 1), a long-time Dutch intelligence officer who became Interdoc’s prime mover. Van den Heuvel is also listed among the dozens of people Scott-Smith interviewed. A former World War II resistance fighter active in anti-Communist enterprises throughout the postwar era, van den Heuvel is a fascinating figure. In Scott-Smith’s narrative, unfortunately, he becomes a privileged source whose voice the author echoes without interrogating.
The introduction and conclusion put forth the book’s overarching points. The introduction presents the main thesis, arguing that Interdoc represented “an alternative path” to the predominant anti-Communist discourse. The conclusion assesses Interdoc’s legacy. To Scott-Smith, the Cold War was “above all a war of ideologies” (p. 2). Each side feared for its own survival in a Manichaean struggle between good and evil. After Iosif Stalin’s death, the new Soviet rhetoric of “peaceful coexistence” left the West at a disadvantage. Interdoc emerged from subsequent efforts to develop a more nuanced, “progressive” response to “peaceful coexistence,” including efforts to influence the Communist world. Interdoc’s leaders believed this approach could hasten Communism’s demise. To clarify the nature of this untaken path, Scott-Smith offers a brief typological analysis, classifying Interdoc within six distinct categories as an organization:
1. public-private network, operating in a murky realm between secret state and civil society (in contrast to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which was secretly funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency);
2. transnational organization, seeking “to transcend national differences” (p. 11); [End Page 233]
3. policy network, aiming to shape policy as much as propaganda;
4. commercial enterprise, supporting itself partly by selling its products and services;
5. training center, organizing educational programs aimed at “cadre formation”;
6. covert action operation, seeking “to disrupt communist front organizations” (p. 11).
The eight chapters between the introduction and conclusion generally advance the story chronologically. Chapter 1 sets the context for Interdoc’s emergence in the wake of “peaceful co-existence,” examining discussions within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Western intelligence agencies and introducing central figures in Interdoc’s creation. Chapters 2–4 cover Interdoc’s founding, the development of its European network and U.S. ties, and the crucial Dutch-West German partnership at Interdoc’s core. (The West Germans provided the bulk of the financing, and the Dutch coordinated most of the work.)
The story’s turning point comes in chapter 5, with Interdoc’s high-water mark and the beginnings of its decline. A slow demise becomes the de facto...