I’ve been a clandestine case officer (C/O) with three tours in Latin America, including one in the 1980’s chasing terrorists, and while at the time I thought I was the Cold War equivalent of a Jesuit priest, I now see it all as terribly unethical, largely insane, and totally not worth the money, the risk, or the collateral damage.
Both books provide easy-to-read and still very relevant history on how the arrogance of the US, unconstrained by US ignorance, had led to surprisingly successful regime change operations despite a host of errors.
EDIT of 2 August 2010: However great the mind or the man, we all make mistakes. Paul Hawkins made his with Monsanto, I’ve made mine. ClimateGate established with clarity the fraud associated with both the fabricated science and the intended “sub-prime mortgaging” of the Earth’s atmosphere. Maurice Strong and Al Gore are pushing fraud, not fixing. Mercury and sulfer and methane are bigger problems than carbon, and global warming is a small element–not even close to being the main event–within Environmental Degradation, threat #3 after poverty and infectious disease. It troubles me when people vote against the messenger–McKibben is a great man–he’s also made a mistake. Get over it and do more reading, integrate more, and it will all come out fine.
Any book that quotes the discredited James Hansen of NASA and that builds a case around Op-Eds and undocumented assertions is a stain upon scholarship, and the first third of this book falls into that sinkhole. Despite many references to the Copenhagen summit, there is not a word in this book about ClimateGate (see the Rolling Update at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog) and therefore I find this author guilty of active misrepresentation bordering on a lack of integrity in this specific instance. The author is spending too much time with newspapers and not enough time with books representing the distilled reflections of others.
Having said that, and deducted one star for the lapse, I find the balance of the book absorbing, fascinating, and rich in gems of insight and fact. It should be read in conjunction with:
My criticism and praise of this important work are based on the above and the other 1,600 non-fiction reviews I have posted to Amazon, all more easily accessible in 98 reading categories at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Network.
This book is really a “comprehensive” (in the literal meaning of the word), clearly written, richly supported by concrete cases (mostly, federal agencies) guide about government bureaucracy mainly in the United States. From introduction to the end, Wilson clearly and convincingly demonstrates the reasons what the government agencies do and why they do that in the way they do.
The book is organized into six parts: Organizations, Operators, Managers, Executives, Context, and Change. In the first part, Wilson’s thesis is simply that organization matters. Organization must be in accordance with the objectives of the agency. In the second part, the author examines the operators’ behavior (say, street-level bureaucrats) and how their culture is shaped by the imperatives of the situation they encounter in a daily basis. The third part deals with the issues peculiar to managers of public agencies. In this part, attention is focused upon the constraints that put the mangers in a stalemate (see chapter 7, this chapter is completely insightful!!). The fourth part is devoted to the Executives. This part clearly illustrates why the executives of government agencies compete with other departments and which strategies are used in the process of competition and/or cooperation (especially see the 10th chapter about Turf, insightful!!). In the fifth part, Wilson focuses on the context in which public agencies do their business (Congress, Presidents and Courts). In the last part, Wilson summarizes the problems and examines alternative solutions (the market alternatives to the bureaucracy) and concludes with reasonable and “little” propositions.