Compelling, Insightful, Useful – Glosses Over Some Fundamentals
This book excels at offering a compelling overview of the severe deficiencies in US national security strategy, policy, and operations – it is one of the strongest indictments I have seen of our total inability to wage peace instead of war. Among the many high points covered by the author and included in my extensive notes:
01 USA has no Grand Strategy and no process for creating and executing a Grand Strategy. Deep in the book the author observes that not only is Grand Strategy the only means of fully employing all sources of national power, but it is also how one anticipates and avoids unintended consequences.
02 The elements of the US Government (USG) nominally responsible for waging peace – the Departments of State and Commerce, the US Agency of International Development (USAID), the US Information Agency (abolished in 1999) are under-trained, unsynchronized entities unable to deter conflict or build a lasting peace.
5.0 out of 5 starsWorld-Changing Book Documenting Intersection of Humans, Technology, and Policy-Ethics, February 2, 2015
This is a hugely important work, one that responds to the critical needs outlined by Micah Sifry in The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet) and others such as myself writing these past 25 years on the need to reform the pathologically dysfunctional US secret intelligence community that is in constant betrayal of the public trust.
Digital Humanitarians are BURYING the secret world. For all the bru-ha-ha over NSA’s mass surveillance and the $100 billion a year we spend doing largely technical spying (yet only processing 1% of what we waste money on in collection), there are two huge facts that this book, FOR THE FIRST TIME, documents:
5.0 out of 5 starsOur Best Thinking to Date — We Can Go Much Further, December 24, 2014
This is the pre-cursor book to The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO which I have reviewed most favorably and strongly recommend. This book — while free online as are all NDU Press books, is a very high quality production with some complex graphics and color photographs. It is fairly priced and absolutely recommended in print if you favor books you can hold in your hands.
There have been other books by military commanders but to the best of my knowledge only General Tony Zinni, USMC (then commanding the US Central Command with two wars and 12 task forces) and General Wesley Clark, USA (then commanding NATO during the Kosovo mess) have risen to what this book strives to be, a gold standard for whole of government multinational engagement.
In The Tyranny of Experts, the author of the seminal book The White Man’s Burden drills down into the history of economic development around the world in search of its causes. What he finds has little to do with any of the factors bandied about among contemporary development professionals.
“The conventional approach to economic development, to making poor countries rich,” William Easterly writes, “is based on a technocratic illusion: the belief that poverty is a purely technical problem amenable to such technical solutions as fertilizers, antibiotics, or nutritional supplements . . . The technocratic approach ignores what this book will establish as the real cause of poverty — the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights.”
Instead, Easterly maintains, the fundamental pre-condition for successful development is democracy paired with deep understanding of local history. He calls the establishment of the World Bank “the moment of original sin . . . in which the Bank disavowed the ideals of freedom . . .”
Academia has been good to William Easterly. Presumably, when he was forced out of the World Bank because of his outspoken criticism of the Bank’s support for corrupt regimes and pro-Western favoritism, he was looking for a platform on which he could continue his campaign to shift the consensus among development professionals from top-down “solutions” to support for bottom-up, grassroots initiatives. He’s gotten that platform, but his position on the faculty of New York University has also moved him to dig more deeply into the intellectual roots of his thinking. The Tyranny of Experts is one result.