Review: Hard Power–The New Politics of National Security

5 Star, Military & Pentagon Power, Strategy

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Amazon Page

Great Minds, Good Intentions, *Very* Incomplete,

November 9, 2006
Kurt Campbell
I know Michael O’Hanlon, whom I consider to be one of the most insightful and honest policy analysts in America–his one line in “A Half Penny on the Federal Dollar” pointing out that the single best investment in foreign assistance is in the education of women, is a benchmark for all that ails US foreign policy–we simply do not know how to wage peace. He’s the best. I do not know Kurt Campbell, but I respect the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). I give this book five stars instead of four because of the caliber of the authors and the terribly difficult task they took on. The book is, however, *very* incomplete.

The authors are strongest on the politics of national security–there is nothing wrong with the substance where they address it, but I will end with my observation on how incomplete the book it.

The book can be summed up–and questioned–on the basis of its eight chapter headings–the book’s focus is in capital letters, my alternative focus in lower case:

NATIONAL SECURITY AS PRIMARY ELECTORAL ISSUE–not so, electoral reform and the integrity and legitimacy of government is the primary issue

MYTH OF REPUBLICAN SUPERIORITY–quite so, but what about Peter Peterson’s view in “Running on Empty,” to wit, BOTH political parties are inept and two sides of the same coin–they represent corporations, not the people.

MANAGING THE MILITARY–is not enough. Must manage ways and means, must manage the inter-agency matrix (Cheney ignores the policy bureaucracy, and the only agency actually fighting in Iraq is the military–everyone else is going through the motions).

HOMELAND SECURITY–TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL–physical security is not enough, even if private sector is willing to cooperate. The next level is about immigration control, tracking non-citizens, revoking citizenship as appropriate for those who do not adopt our values, tracking sermons by hostile imans, and rejecting visitors who are not bonded by their home government.

WINNING THE LONG WAR–strong on understanding next generation, weak on how to actually stabilize and reconstruct the world. The authors are too focused on terrorism, which is a tactic, not an enemy, and while they boldly propose approaches to stabilizing the Islamic nations, with a positive emphasis on education, they do not address the fundamentals of virtual colonialism, unilateral militarism, and predatory immoral “bandit” capitalism–our greatest enemy is within, not without.

THE REAL TRIPLE THREAT; ENERGY & SECURITY, GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE, AND TERRORIST FINANCING. Simplistic, conventional wisdom. Sure, we have to have energy independence, start doing real-time science and climate stabilization (changes that used to take 10,000 years now take three), and focus on terrorism financing, but these are a *fraction* of the national security challenge, and out of context, they are not realistically achievable.

COPING WITH CHINA–all well and good, but what about Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as Turkey and South Africa?

PROLIFERATION–fine on the bio-chem and nuclear weapons, what about small arms, the real weapons of mass destruction that make the 17 genocides real (I am sick and tired of hearing about Darfur in isolation–it is ONE of 17 genocides now on-going).

Most useful to me was the authors’ knowledgeable identification of four competing Democratic constituencies focused on national security: the “hard power” elite; the “soft power” globalists; the “modest power” Democrats seeking a partial pull back; and the labor-environmental Democrats profoundly troubled by global capitalism (which I and William Greider and Clyde Prestowitz among others have found to be pathologically predatory and our own worst enemy in terms of long-term global stability).

In short, this is a book that is excellent in its narrow focus–getting the Democrats some traction in the national security arena, growing beyond Iraq, and setting the stage for an expanded dialog.

Now here is what is NOT in this book:

1) The ten high-level threats identified by the United Nations High-Level Threat Panel, Dr. LtGen Brent Scowcroft participating, and taken *together*: poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities (kidnapping starlets for Saudi debauchery, kidnapping others for body parts), proliferation, terrorism, and transnational crime.

2) The twelve policies that must be balanced in a transpartisan fashion: Agriculture, Diplomacy, Economy, Education, Energy, Family, Health,Immigration, Justice, Security, Social Security, and Water–using scarce water to produce subsidized agriculture or to flush heavy tar oil is nuts–but no one is managing the country across the board; and finally

3) The eight challengers or challenges that *must* be enlightened and assisted in avoiding our mistakes while we also learn from them: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards.

One final note: Jock Gill, who served President Clinton as a communications specialist, taught me this: we have to abandon the war metaphor–war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terrorism. IT DOES NOT WORK! I would add that we have to abandon the secrecy practice as well. In my view, the next government must be a Coalition Government because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can govern competently without the common sense of the Libertarians, Greens, Reforms, Independents, and others; and the next government must redirect half the secret intelligence budget toward national and global education free in all languages, and half the heavy-metal military budget toward waging peace in all possible forms, to include using residual capabilities in abandoned DoD communications satellites to provide free Internet connectivity to Africa and Latin America.

O’Hanlon and Campbell are as good as it gets inside the beltway. I praise them as being the first step in a long march back to sanity, but only the first step. We cannot proceed nor succeed without them, but they need a dirty dozen iconoclastic outsiders to actually get us to an AFFORDABLE implementable Grand Srategy for a sustainable prosperous peaceful future going out seven generations.

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