Review: At War with Ourselves–Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Complexity & Catastrophe, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Insurgency & Revolution, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation

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4.0 out of 5 stars Useful Supporting Views for Prestowitz’ Rogue Nation,

September 1, 2003
Michael Hirsh
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add comment and links.

New Comment: I am distressed to see so many important books no longer available. Even though it makes my summative reviews valuable as a trace, I have tried to get Amazon to realize that it should offer such books electrionically, micro-cash for micro-text, and Jeff Besoz just doesn’t want to hear it. I predict that Kindle will fail.

The author has provided a very informed and well-documented view of the competing “axis of thinking” (unilateralism versus multilateral realism) and “axis of feeling” (isolationism versus engagement). The two together create the matrix upon which a multitude of ideological, special interest, and academic or “objective” constituencies may be plotted.

The endorsement of the book by the Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs is a very subtle but telling indictment of the unilateralist bullying that has characterized American foreign policy since 2000–indeed, the author of the book coins the term “ideological blowback” as part of devastatingly disturbing account of all the things that have been done “in our name” on the basis of either blind faith or neo-conservative presumption.

The book received four stars because at the strategic level, Clyde Prestowitz’ book, Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions is better in all ways–easier to read, more detailed, more specifics. Historically, I would bracket this book with the collection of Foreign AffairsThe American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World Essays from 75 Years of Foreign Affairs articles, , and I would add Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century by McNamara and Blight, Kissinger on Does America Need a Foreign Policy? : Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century, Boren et al on Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century, and finally Joe Nye’s, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone There are many other books I have reviewed on these pages, and one could make a fine evening of reading only the reviews, as they are summative in nature.

In any event, and the reason I mention other books above instead of in the last paragraph, is to make the point that everyone–other than a few obsessive neo-conservatives who happen to hold the reins of power–is saying the same thing: America must engage the real world, in a multilateral fashion.

The author of this book differs from other authors in that he explicitly recognizes, in his preface and then throughout the book, the fact that a coherent U.S. foreign policy cannot be achieved without the U.S. public’s first understanding what is at stake, and then making its voice heard.

The author is also noteworthy in detailing the hypocrisy and ignorance of existing U.S. national security policies. Although Prestowitz does this in a more useful fashion, this book is very valuable and has many gifted turns of phrase. Consider this one, from page 10: “Despite a century of intense global engagement, America is still something of a colossus with an infant’s brain, unaware of the havoc its tentative, giant-sized baby steps can cause. We still have some growing up to do as a nation.”

A third aspect of this book that I found compelling was the author’s continued emphasis on the need to change mind-sets and emphasize *awareness* over “guts”–as he tells this compelling tale, Americans are too quick to show “toughness” when they perhaps should slow down, orient, observe, decide, and then act on the basis of a fully-informed appraisal of all the linkages and potential consequences of their actions.

A fourth valuable feature of this book is the author’s focus on one chapter on American vulnerabilities in the age of globalization and super-empowered angry men. He quotes the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in explaining to Congress the military’s incapacity to intervene on 9-11, as saying “We’re pretty good if the threat is coming from outside. We’re not so good if it’s coming from inside.”

This leads to the fifth and final aspect of the book that I found noteworthy: the author’s discussion of the mismanagement–even lack of management–of the broad spectrum of the varied instruments of national power. As Suzanne Nossel, a top Holbrook aide puts it, “Today, when it comes to U.S. diplomacy, one hand rarely knows what the other is doing. The U.S. government has no central ledger in which bilateral relationships are tracked. There is no place to turn to find out what the United States has done for a particular country lately, or what a country may want or fear.” The book clearly supports what appears to be an emerging consensus within the Senate that some form of “Goldwater-Nichols Act” for civilian and joint civilian-military national security management.

The endnotes are good, the index useful but annoyingly below 8 font type (possibly as low as 6) which is a very foolish act on the part of the publisher. A readable index would have increased the reference value of this book by at least 10%. The book lacks a bibliography, and here we urge the author to consider one for what we hope will be a second printing: books on realism, books on unilateralism, books on blowback (e.g. The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World, or Why Do People Hate America?), etcetera.

See also:
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Review: Manufacturing Consent–The Political Economy of the Mass Media

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Capitalism (Good & Bad), Censorship & Denial of Access, Communications, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Information Society, Misinformation & Propaganda

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5.0 out of 5 stars 25 Years Ahead of the Crowd–Vital Reading Today,

August 22, 2003
Edward S. Herman
Edit of 22 Dec 07 to add links.

It is quite significant, in my view, that today as I write this Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right is #2 at Amazon, and Sheldon Rapton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraqis #114 at Amazon. Not only are the people awakening to the truth, which is that they have been had through a combination of inattention and manipulation, but these two books and several others in this genre are validating what Chomsky was telling us all in the past 25 years.

The ability to set the agenda and determine what is talked about and how it is talked about is at the root of hidden power in the pseudo-democratic society. Chomsky was decades ahead of his time in studying both the power of language and the power of controlling the media message. Today, as we recall that so-called mainstream news media *refused* fully-funded anti-war advertisements that challenged the White House lies (62 of which have been documented with full sourcing in various blogs, notably Stephen Perry’s Bush at War blog), we must come to grips with the fact that America is at risk.

Thomas Jefferson said “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry” and Supreme Court Justice Branstein said “The greatest threat to liberty is an inert public.” Today we lack the first and have the second, but as Amazon rankings show, the people, they are awakening. It is through reading, and following the links, and informed discussion, that the people can come together, using new tools for peer-to-peer information sharing and MeetUp’s, and take back the power.

Chomsky had it right. It took 25 years for all of us to realize he had it right. I rise in praise of this great man.

Other links that validate his ethics and intellect:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Al On America

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Review: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Democracy, Electoral Reform USA, Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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Greg Palast

5.0 out of 5 stars Let Freedom Ring–Truths the Corporate Thieves Can’t Hide

May 29, 2002

The most distressing aspect of this book, written by an American expatriate publishing largely through newspapers in the United Kingdom, is that all of this information should have been published in U.S. newspapers in time to make a difference–to inform the voting public–but was not. One can only speculate how corrupt our media have become–how beholden to their owners and advertisers–if we cannot get front page coverage of the Florida government’s disenfranchisement of over 50,000 predominantly black and democratic voters, prior to the presidential election; or of the raw attacks on our best interests by the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and others linked in a “trigger” network where taking money from one demands all sorts of poverty-inducing and wealth theft conditions.

Even more timely are his stories about the current Administration continuing a practice of the former Administration, spiking, curtailing, forbidding intelligence investigations into Saudi Arabian government funding of bin Laden’s terrorism as well as Pakistani production of the “Islamic” atomic bomb.

His exposes of corporate misdeeds, some criminal, some simply unethical, all costing the U.S. taxpayer dearly, are shocking, in part because of their sleaziness, in part because our own newspapers do not dare to fulfill their role as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, of informing and educating the people of this Nation upon which the government depends for both its revenue and its legitimacy.

Although I take this book with a grain of salt (wondering, for example, why he did not ensure that Gore’s campaign had all that he could offer in time to challenge the vote disenfranchisement as part of the Supreme Court case), there is enough here, in very forthright and sensible terms, to give one hope that investigative journalism might yet play a role in protecting democracy and the future of the Republic.

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Review–The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Politics, Priorities
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Truth–Left, Right, or Independent, It Is The Truth

May 29, 2002

Patrick Buchanan

Patrick Buchanan has impressed me enormously with this book. For one thing, he has his facts right. The English-speaking peoples, as Churchill called them, and the Caucasian peoples, as our Russian colleagues as well as Europe might be inclined to describe them, are not replenishing their populations. Immigrants have been a blessing to this country (my mother, for instance), but in the absence of a judicious combination of repopulation, immigrant integration, and sustained civic duty by the larger population, we become hollow and fragmented.

Most interestingly to me, Patrick Buchanan and Lee Kuan Yew, former Premier of Singapore, perhaps the most intelligent man in Asia, are in total–and I do mean total–agreement on the vital importance of the family as the foundation of civilization and continuity. I grew up in Singapore, and have extremely deep feelings of respect for Lee Kuan Yew, and what I see here is two men, as far apart as the earth and philosophy might separate them, who agree on the one core value apart from religion (it does not matter which religion, only that one respect within a religion): FAMILY. Family is the root of cultural continuity and civil sustainability, and if we allow the traditional nuclear family to enter into minority non-replenishment status, we are in fact destroying the Nation.

Patrick Buchanan speaks of how we are no longer one nation under God–or one nation, period. There is a great deal to what he says. For one thing, Mexico has reclaimed American territory all the way up to the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty line, and the at least one major Republican family seems to be an active element in support of Mexico’s illegal as well as legal immigration subversion of America. For another, and Joel Garreau did this in his book by this title, very intelligently, America is geographically, culturally, and economically really NINE nations in terms of geophysical and cultural separation.

The author also alludes to the growing separation between the federal government, which is agreeing to supra-national deals that hurt the states and the population at large–or refusing to sign off on deals (e.g. the Kyoto Treaty) that would actually benefit future generations. One is left with the feeling that we have three different Americas–the federal bureaucracy, the state-level authorities, and the people, and somewhere in here our methods of governance are failing to reconcile the behavior of the first two with the values of the third–in part because the people are all over the lot in terms of values, and we have lost our social cohesion.

Bottom line: he may never be President, but Patrick Buchanan speaks to the core of American values, and he must always be respected and listened to at the high table of American politics.

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Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Gore Vidal

5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002

This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal’s book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”

I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”

1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.

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Review: The No-Spin Zone–Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America

3 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Culture, Research, Media

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3.0 out of 5 stars Wanders–With More Structure, Sequel Could Be Sensational,

November 17, 2001
Bill O’Reilly
Unlike the first book, which offered a very fine slice of structured thoughts across 20 topics, this is more of an ego-driven one-upsmanship volume, and it does not help the intelligent reader (or their intelligent cheerful gifted pets) make sense out of the world. This one wanders.I would like to see O’Reilly do a “Mandate for Leadership” type book where he invites more than one expert at a time to his show, structured over the course of a year to cover each aspect of the real-world threat and how our government is organized to manage American on our behalf, and let’s see if he can bring out the best of our distributed citizen knowledge.
We know the author is really good at rooting out the truth–can he take it to the next level and manage a national conversation that actually improves the State of the Nation?
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Review: In the Absence of the Sacred–The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Complexity & Catastrophe, Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Information Society, Information Technology

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5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary, Thoughtful, Whole Earthish, Worthy,

April 7, 2000
Jerry Mander
By the author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, this is actually a manifesto for a popular revolution against banks, corporations, and states-a peaceful cultural revolution that has as its objectives the restoration of land ownership to the commonwealth; the acceptance of alternative economic models that optimize group cohesion instead of individual or organizational profit; and the liberation of 3,000 nations of relatively distinct groups from the subjugation imposed by the states that now have sovereign (that is to say, violent coercive) power over the individuals and groups that fall within their imposed territorial claims.
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