Of 1000+ Books on National Security, This Is 1 of Top 10,
This review has been edited (giving up 14 votes) to eliminate an inappropriate and premature designation of Howard Dean as “the one”. Regardless of who helps America to regain its balance, this book is 1 of a handfull utterly brilliant contributions that everyone should buy and read and discuss.
As the only reviewer for Amazon who focuses exclusively on national security non-fiction, across the categories of information; intelligence; emerging threats; strategy & force structure; blowback, international relations, and dissent; and US political, leadership, and the future of life; I want to say quite clearly that I regard this book as one of the three “must reads” for every American between now and November 2008. The other two are #1 William Greider, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and #2, Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People.
This book is solid, serious truth-telling. Those reviewers, including the so-called professional editorial reviewers, who demean this book are simply revealing their narrow self-centered arrogance–precisely the quality in many Americans that is most distressing to the rest of the world. I find it of considerable importance that this book is favorably considered by the major intellectual newspapers and magazines across Europe and in the US, and including The Economist, the Christian Scientist Monitor, and Salon.com.
Easy to read, well-organized, this is a story, not a documentary, and it should be appreciated in that light. On page 10 the book’s main argument is perfectly captured by a quote from a South African: “we know everything about you [Americans] and you know nothing about us.” Therein lies the problem. As the author notes later in the book, after a review of the decrepitude of both our media and our educational systems in relation to foreign affairs and national security, “Ignorance is an excuse, but it is no shield.”
Although I have reviewed many other books that have much more detail and are more documentary in nature, I give this author credit for telling a story that is comprehensible and compelling to the normal citizen, one already disadvantaged by a mediocre news services and functionalist schools that do not teach, as I do, that the world has 32 complex emergencies (failed states), 66 countries distressed by tens of millions of displaced persons, 33 countries with massive starvation as a daily fact of life, 59 countries with plagues and epidemics this very day. There are also 18 genocide campaigns that everyone is ignoring, this very day, massive water scarcity, energy scarcity at the poverty level, and corruption and censorship across 80 and 62 countries. America has no clue….it is not only the average citizen that is ignorant, but the average elected official and the average federal bureaucrat as well. This book helps remedy that situation.
The author does a fine job of distilling both a broad literature and a broad survey of foreign views through direct interview, and it is a job good enough to put this book into my “top three” for the year.
I will end by saying that this book persuaded me that the US has become a Third World nation, a lower-tier disadvantaged nation, in many respects. Apart from the critical infrastructure, which has not been refurbished in a quarter century because of the fraud perpetuated on the public by deregulation, and the massive poverty, prisons, poor health, and so on, what we have in America today is massive injustice and a massive concentration of wealth so outrageous that in any other country it would have led to a violent revolution.
This book has persuaded me that America needs not one, but two Truth & Reconciliation Commissions. We need a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, ideally managed by Colin Powell, to investigate the perversion of both capitalism and democracy in the US, and to outline a way forward such as William Greider discusses in “The Soul of Capitalism.” We also need, even more desperately, a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, ideally managed by Nelson Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew, to catalog and acknowledge, and apologize to the world for, the war crimes, the unethical behavior, and the enormous political, social, cultural, economic, demographic, and natural resource costs we have imposed on the world through our ignorance and arrogance.
There are six billion people out there, waiting to see how America handles the emerging Reichstag known as the neo-conservative Cheney-Bush regime. We cannot kill them nor contain them with force–as Jonathan Schell notes in “The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People,” there is one path and one path only toward a bright future: non-violent cooperative collective power.
If every American reads this book, and every American votes in an informed manner in November 2008, we can save the world and in the process save America.
Other recommended recent books:
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It