UPDATE 14 Jan 2013: This review was written in 2008. It has fallen off the main page at Amazon. Just ten votes will restore this review to the main Amazon page displaying the top three reviews. Votes solicited in the interest of getting a good summary review of Chuck Hagel's mind on to the main page for this book. Click here to vote.
The ONLY Book by a Politician that is Deep, Broad, and Serious, April 18, 2008
Unlike the shallow platitudes that characterize books by politicians today, this is a book of substance, well-organized, and very sensible. I completely agree that the author would be a superb Secretary of State for either party, and commend to all readers a search for Transpartisanship (or go to Reuniting America's website. I am deeply frightened by Zbigniew Brzezinski, among others less Joe Nye (see my review just written, of Obama – The Postmodern Coup: Making of a Manchurian Candidate).
I have several pages of notes and will post some highlights here. The best thing I can say about this book is that despite some lapses on the author's part–he is after-all only human and Senators do not get a lot of time to read–this is the single most responsible book by a politician writing on his own that I have ever read. The book edited by Senator Boren, Preparing America's Foreign Policy for the 21st Century is the only one I can think of that even comes close.
This author puts all three presidential candidates to shame. Unlike all of them, he does not need to rely on advisors of disreputable past, he has a brain and his own mind and I for one am deeply impressed.
Early on he discusses the paralysis of the political system and our inability to adapt to a rapidly changing world, compounded by the blunders of war.
He observes that we cannot predict, but we can discern trends, and then goes on in four parts of the book, US role in the world, citizenship, competitiveness, and leadership, to provide some of the most balanced, intelligent, patriotic, and hence ethical writing I have ever seen.
+ He points out that we triumphed over totalitarianism without every firing a shot [he's right technically, but I am discomfited by his neglect of the human cost of the proxy wars]
+ He is clearly focused on the importance of poverty and my mind conjured up a dream ticket of Hegel-Edwards, and it may be, if the elected candidate refuses to abandon the two party spoils system (see Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, that they should form a virtual alternative Sunshine Government that keeps the sleazy party machines honest.
+ He states that we need a new frame of reference, and while he does not quite compute the emerging memes of green chemistry, biomimicry, true costs, open money, and so on, I sense in a very personal way that this is an honest man with an open mind, and I wish he were running for President. He'd have my vote, as would John Edwards.
+ He talks about the need to fundamentally rethink our financial system because we are “living on borrowed money and borrowed time.” See my review of The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism and also The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy as well as Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.
+ He notes our infrastructure policies and investments have been given a grade of D from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
+ He observes that the last time our political process was so pathologically inept Abe Lincoln created a new party, the Republican Party. I have felt since 2000, when the Democrats imploded and the Republican extremists hijacked our party, that we need a new Transpartisan Party that united the honest Republicans and Democrats with Independents, Libertarians, Greens, and others, and we agree to self-governance on a foundation of truth, transparency, accountability, and faith for the future.
+ He properly scorns leaders who say one thing in public and another in private.
+ He respects civilizations and living systems that if they do not adapt to change, will die. BOTH political parties have rotted to the core (in my view) and the change we need now is to dump both parties and start over.
+ He perceives the major trend of our time being the diffusion of power, and the need for the USA to stop trying to be a unilateral bully and instead build a global network of alliances and coalitions.
+ He notes that in the run up to the Iraq War the Prime Minister of Lebanon, the head of the International Atomic Energy Commission, and Hans Blix of the UN all said there were no weapons of mass destruction.
+ He clearly saw the pernicious role of Chalibi leading up to the war, and reminds me that Chalabi also oversaw a 2003 purging of the Bathists that created much of the instability that followed.
+ “Democracy, like faith, cannot be imposed. It must come from within.”
+ Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz both lied to Congress about having task forces and understanding of the post-war needs. Congress voted on the resolution on the basis of “half-lies, untruths, and wishful thinking.” He disappoints me in not noting that the Patriot Act was passed by Congress without the Act being read.
+ The book is a tour of the national security and foreign affairs that I find to be credible, balanced, sufficient, intelligent, and therefore, worthy of our complete attention.
+ He is pro-NAFTA, which has wrecked the US economy, but he is right to note that trade has tripled, while lacking in understanding of the “true costs” of NAFTA and the lack of FAIR trade rather than “free” trade.
+ “All of humanity is in this together.” This is what separates him for the brain-dead Brzezinski's and Kissinger's of the world, who think this is still a game of Nations in which they can order covert actions and sponsor illegal proxy wars. These guys have not read and do not understand The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People; The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World; A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.
+ I am impressed by his chapter on veterans and his earnest articulation of how his experience at war persuaded him that we could and should avoid war and the attendance suffering for all.
+ On the military-industrial complex, the author is nuanced and notes that it is not corruption so much as the militarization of our economy that is bringing us down. He shares my own concern over the outsourcing of security (and other government jobs in intelligence, for example).
In the section on competitiveness he covers infrastructure, education, alternative affordable energy, fiscal responsibility, a need for a reduction of corporate taxes from the present rate of 40% [I wonder how Halliburton got away with paying $15 million on $4 billion in profit, but I take the author at his word overall]
The draws to a marvelous close with his observation that the first three words of the Constitution are “We, the People,” and that today we have no great leaders with the courage to undertake programs such as Johnson undertook with civil liberties, or FDR undertook with his campaign for the four freedoms, including freedom from the fear of want.
For a sense of where we can take America, see this book and the ten books listed in my note there:
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace