John J. Mearsheimer
Cornerstone, Not the Whole Building
January 2, 2011
By no stretch should this book be dismissed as a three. While I might normally have gone with a four, I am settling on five for balance and because the author not only covers an extraordinarily important topic in a sensible measured way, but his endnotes are another book all by themselves–I recommend all readers start there.
Where the author falls short is in lacking a strategic analytic construct for measuring the true costs of lying in blood, treasure, and spirit. He tends to ascribe pure motives to leaders (for example, not at all confronting the raw fact that Dick Cheney committed 23 documented impeachable acts (see my review of Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency for the itemization) and Dick Cheney also led the telling of 935 documented lies best covered by TruthDig but also in Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.
The book disconnects grand strategy (global engagement) from domestic prosperity in a manner I find disconcerting, and while the author is most able in documenting the costs to a democracy of lies to the public, I do not see nor feel the deeper reality: lies destroy the Commonwealth. Lies allow a two-party tyranny to sell out to the Arabs (not just the Israelis), to Wall Street–lies permit the mortgage clearinghouse fraud, the derivatives fraud, and the Federal Reserve fraud on the one hand, while also fooling the public into a national security policy that is clinically insane, catastrophically costly, and ultimately a self-inflicted wound that could be fatal.
Morton Halperin covered this topic better in Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy; Second Edition and one can never go wrong with a close look at Art of Diplomacy: The American Experience. More recently Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (American Empire Project) is helpful.
The book does not render a deeply philosophical look such as provided by Will Durant in both Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition as well as The Lessons of History. It does not get into the nuances of what I call data pathologies and information asymmetries, a foundation domain for Advanced Information Operations (IO) and Cyber-Command (an oxymoron, but comprehensive in intent).
Lies kill one's comrades. Lies are treason. Flag officers and Senior Executive Service officers who go along with political lies for careerism are betraying their Oath to the Constitution. Until we have a cadre of professional leaders that reassert their integrity, political leaders will continue to lie, and the Republic will continue to decline. [Professional leaders lies also, I would court-martial them for doing so–inter-service lies are intramural murder in my view.]
This book is a five for impact, disregard any lesser appreciations.
See also (I only get three more links):
Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power
All by books are free online at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog (but better in hard copy from Amazon). My two extensive lists of lists of book reviews do what cannot be done here at Amazon: examine the best of non-fiction across the 98 categories in which I read, one master list focusing on the negatives that are killing us all, the other on the emergent positives. Find them if you wish at PBI under REVIEWS: