4.0 out of 5 stars One Third Provocative, One Third Delusional, One Third Ignorant, March 22, 2014
I was given this book as a gift, by someone who knew I can recite from memory the ten high level threats to humanity (as identified and prioritized by the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, and reported out in A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which is also available free online as a PDF.
My first impressions were negative. On a second pass I found more to appreciate, but the most compelling impression I was left with is that Obama is Bush and the Brookings Institution has lost its moral and intellectual compass.
One Third Provocative
To the extent that good is to be found in the two-terms of the ObamaBiden Administration, this book serves as a fine guide. I wondered more than once which foreign policy position the author was applying for appointment to. Sadly, what the author offers in the way of positive must be construed by any realist grounded in international reality as a second application of lipstick on the pig, the first being when the neo-conswervatives and Wall Street successfully trotted Obama out as the savior of the two-party tyranny. [I credit the term to Theresa Amato's Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny — it is not possible to be a serious observer of American idiocy without first understanding that there is no real difference between the extremists of the right and the extremists of the left — they are both toxic.
One Third Delusional
This author is an apologist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. There is nothing in this book about the reality that Wall Street and the US Federal Reserve exploded multiple national economies and the US economy, while the IMF and World Bank and various secret agreements signed by corrupt elites on both sides have generally perpetuated poverty. For everything the author cannot bring himself to acknowledge, try Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History. For the history — there is none in this book, add Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.
While the book was largely written before the Edward Snowden debacle — or its spin-off with Angela Merkel, among other world leaders — the author seriously overstates the alignment of European allies and the USA and his endnotes on the NSA breaches downplay the matter to the point of gross irresponsibility. This is not a man who can bring himself to acknowledge that NSA has cost and will cost the US telecommunications sector tens of billions of dollars in lost business, both in software and hardware and now in cloud services.
One Third Ignorant
I have left the book at four stars because there is some good in this book, even if it is only in the presentation of what passes for reasoned policy dialog these days. Without that this would be a three-star book at best. The ignorance is profound. This entire book demeans the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) without once acknowledging that they represent — along with Indonesia — the demographic power of the planet. Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has emphasizes this many times, but Americans are not very well read and this author misses both that reality and the second harsher reality: the BRICS are creating an alternative global financial system AND an alternative global Internet. When the US used SWIFT against Iran, the Chinese were instantly ready with an alternative to SWIFT. Over 57 countires are actively preparing to abandon the dollar as the reserve currency and move to what will probably be a gold-backed Yuan with a composite twist. There is now an alternative to both the IMF and the World Bank.
This is not a book that offers anything useful with respect to responsible attention to the ten high-level threats to humanity, the twelve core policies from Agriculture to Water that must be harmonized, nor, as I note above, the twelve core demographic challengers defining the future. This is a book in which our pupported elite are talking amongst themselves, to no good end.
Better books still today (for which I have provided a summary review at Amazon and at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog)
Full Spectrum Diplomacy and Grand Strategy: Reforming the Structure and Culture of U.S. Foreign Policy
Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform
Seven Sins of American Foreign Policy (Great Questions in Politics Series)
The Folly of War: American Foreign Policy, 1898-2005
Preparing America's Foreign Policy for the Twenty-first Century
This book — as with so many others I do not bother to review — misses the core point that would make the book's title true: the ONLY thing we can offer at this juncture is intelligence with integrity, and that is not to be found in the US Government today — nor in the various leech elements that surround it. My 2 minute lecture on this point at the Wilson Center can be found by searching for YouTube Steele Scowcroft.
Absent a restoration of electoral and governance integrity in the USA in 2016 or 2020, the only thing the US leads the world in right now is legalized crime.