Review: War is a Racket–The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

6 Star Top 10%, Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), History, Insurgency & Revolution, Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars Decorated Marine General Cannot Be Ignored,

August 17, 2003
Smedley D. Butler
EDITED from 17 Aug 03 to add book links.

This book is a real gem, a classic, that should be in any library desiring to focus on national security. It is a very readable collection of short essays, ending with a concise collection of photographs that show the horror of war–on one page in particular, a pile of artillery shells labeled “Cause” and below is a photo of a massive pile of bodies, labeled “Effect.”

Of particular interest to anyone concerned about the current national security situation, both its expensive mis-adventures abroad and its intrusive violation of many Constitutional rights at home, is the author’s history, not only as a the most decorated Marine at the time, with campaign experience all over the world, but as a spokesperson, in retirement, for placing constitutional American principles over imperialist American practice.

The following quotations from the book are intended to summarize it:

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil intersts in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” [p. 10]

“War is a racket. …It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” [p. 23]

“The general public shoulders the bill [for war]. This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.” [p. 24]

General Butler is especially trenchant when he looks at post-war casualties. He writes with great emotion about the thousands of tramautized soldiers, many of who lose their minds and are penned like animals until they die, and he notes that in his time, returning veterans are three times more likely to die prematurely than those who stayed home.

This decorated Marine, who understands and documents in detail the exorbitant profits that a select few insiders (hence the term “racket”) make from war, proposes three specific anti-war measures:

1) Take the profit out of war. Nationalize and mobilize the industrial sector, and pay every manager no more than each soldier earns.

2) Vote for war or no war on the basis of a limited plebisite in which only those being asked to bear arms and die for their country are permitted to vote.

3) Limit US military forces, by Constitutional amendment, to home defense purposes only.

There is a great deal of wisdom and practical experience in this small book–Smedley Butler is to war profiteering what S.L.A. Marshall is to “the soldier’s load.” While a globalized world and the complex integration of both national and non-national interests do seem to require a global national security strategy and a means of exerting global influence, I am convinced that he is correct about the fundamentals: we must take the profit out of war, and restore the voice of the people in the matter of making war.

The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Why We Fight
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Lessons of History
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past

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Review: The Search for Security–A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

6 Star Top 10%, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Culture, Research, Force Structure (Military), Future, History, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Security (Including Immigration), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Coherent, Holistic, and Above All, Sane,

July 4, 2003
Max G. Manwaring
This book is a gem, and it is worth every penny, but it is a pity that it has not been priced for mass market because every U.S. citizen would benefit from reading this superb collection of chapters focused on how to keep America both safe and prosperous in a volatile world of super-empowered angry men, ethnic criminal gangs, mass migrations, epidemic disease, and water scarcity.President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma, himself a former Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, provides a non-partisan foreword that clearly indicts both Democrats and Republicans for what he calls a “zig-zag” foreign policy that is guided by TV images and weekly polls, rather than any coherent and calculated evaluation of ends, ways, and means.

Divided into three parts, the book first addresses the Global Security Environment (2 chapters), then discusses elements of a grand or total strategy (5 chapters), and concludes with a prescription (2 chapters). Every chapter is good.

Chapter 1 by Richard Millet does an outstanding job of discussing the global security environment in terms that make it crystal clear that the highest probability threats are non-traditional threats, generally involving non-state actors in a failed state environment. These are not threats that can be addressed by a heavy metal military that is not trained, equipped, nor organized for humanitarian or constabulary operations. Among his most trenchant observations: America can not succeed when the local elites (e.g. Colombia) are not willing to pay the price for internal justice and stability; sometimes the costs of success can exceed the costs of failure (Afghanistan?); what America lacks today is any criteria by which to determine when to attempt coalition building and when to go it alone; the real threat is not any single government or non-state organization, but the millions of daily decisions (e.g. to buy cocaine or smuggle medicine) that incentivise crime and endless conflict.

Chapter 2 by Robert Dorff dissects existing U.S. national security “strategy” and shows clearly, in a non-partisan manner, that the U.S. does not have a coherent inter-agency capability for agreeing on ends, ways, or means. He calls what we have now–both from the past under Clinton and in the present under Bush, “adhocery” and he makes the compelling point that our failure to have a coherent forward-looking strategy is costing the U.S. taxpayer both money and results.

Chapters 3-7 are each little gems. In Chapter 3 Max Manwaring suggests that our existing assumptions about geopolitics and military power are obsolete, and we are in great danger if Americans cannot change their way of thinking about national security issues. He suggests five remedies, the most important of which is the establishment of a coherent inter-agency planning and operational control process for leveraging all sources of national power–political, diplomatic, economic, military, and informational–simultaneously and in balance. In Chapter 4 Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring offer a fine discourse on why legitimate governance around the world must be “the” end that we seek as a means of assuring American security and prosperity in the face of globalization. Chapter 5 by Leif Rosenberger addresses the economic threats inherent in globalization, including free flows of capital, concluding that fixed exchange rates divorce countries from reality, and that the US must sponsor a global early warning system dedicated to the financial arena. Chapter 5 by Dennis Rempe is good but too short. He clearly identifies information power as being the equal of diplomacy, economics, and military power, going so far as to suggest an “International Information Agency” that could eventually become a public good as well as an objective arbiter of “ground truth.” I like this idea, in part because it is consistent with the ideas I set forth in NEW CRAFT, to wit that we need to migrate from secret intelligence intended for Presidents (who then manipulate that intelligence and lie to their people) toward public intelligence that can be discussed and understood by the people–this makes for sounder decisions. Chapter 7, again by Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring, discusses deterrence in terms of culture, motive, and effect–they are especially good in pointing out that traditional deterrence is irrelevant with suicidal martyrs, and that the best deterrence consists of the education of domestic publics about the realities of the post-Cold War world.

The book concludes with 2 chapters, the first by Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring, who discuss how values (education, income, civic virtue) must be the foundation of the American security strategy. They then translate this into some specific “objectives” for overseas investments and influences by the U.S., and they conclude that the ultimate investment must be in better educating both domestic and international audiences. They recommend the legitimacy of all governments as a global objective; End-State Planning (ESP) as the way to get there; and a new focus on holistic and long-term programs rather than “adhocery” as the best way to manage scarce means. One can only speculate how differently Afghanistan and Iraq (and Haiti, now discarded for a decade) might have turned out if the US had rolled in with a Marshall Plan or Berlin Airlift equivalent the minute organized hostilities ceased. Robert Dorff closes the book by pointing out that state failure is not the root cause, but rather the symptom, and that the U.S. must intervene before a state fails, not after.

I recommend this book, together with Colin Gray’s “Modern Strategy” as essential reading for any national security professional. The publishers should consider issuing a more affordable paperback (books cost a penny a page to produce, perhaps a penny a page to market, so anything over $5 on this book is pure profit). This is a book, like Harry Summers on strategy, that should be available for $15 in paperback–if it were, I would buy 200 for my next conference.

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Review: The Fifty Year Wound–The True Price of America’s Cold War Victory

6 Star Top 10%, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Government), Diplomacy, Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), History, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Sanity–Hard Look at Cost of Cold War,

December 1, 2002
Derek Leebaert
This is an extraordinary book, in part because it forces us to confront the “hangover” effects of the Cold War as we begin an uncertain path into the post 9-11 future. It begins by emphasizing that the Cold War glorified certain types of institutions, personalities, and attitudes, and ends by pointing out that we paid a very heavy cost–much as General and President Eisenhower tried to warn us–in permitting our society to be bound by weaponry, ideology, and secrecy.Two quotes, one from the beginning, one from the end, capture all that lies in between, well-documented and I would add–contrary to some opinions–coherent and understandable.

“For the United States, the price of victory goes far beyond the dollars spend on warheads, foreign aid, soldiers, propaganda, and intelligence. It includes, for instance, time wasted, talent misdirected, secrecy imposed, and confidence impaired. Particular costs were imposed on industry, science, and the universities. Trade was distorted and growth impeded.” (page xi)

“CIA world-order men whose intrigues more often than not started at the incompetent and went down from there, White House claims of ‘national security’ to conceal deceit, and the creation of huge special interests in archaic spending all too easily occurred because most Americans were not preoccupied with the struggle.” (page 643)

Although the author did not consult the most recent intelligence reform books (e.g. Berkowitz, Johnson, Treverton, inter alia), he is consistently detailed and scathing in his review of intelligence blunders and the costs of secrecy–in this he appears to very ably collaborate the findings of Daniel Ellsberg’s more narrowly focused book on “SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He points out, among many many examples, that despite Andropov’s having been head of the KGB for fifteen years, at the end of it CIA still did not know if Andropov has a wife or spoke English. He also has a lovely contrast between how little was learned using very expensive national technical means (secret satellites) and open sources: “So much failure could have been avoided if CIA has done more careful homework during the 1950s in the run-up to Sputnik; during the 1960s, when Sovieet marshals were openly publishing their thoughts on nuclear strategy; or during the 1970s and 1980s, when stagnation could be chronicled in the unclassified gray pages of Soviet print. Most expensively, the CIA hardly ever learned anything from its mistakes, largely because it would not admit them.” (pages 567-568).

The author’s biographic information does not include any reference to military service, but footnote 110 suggests that he was at least in Officer Candidate School with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. The biography, limited to the inside back jacket flap, also avoids discussing the author’s considerable experience with information technology. Given the importance of this critique of all that most Republicans and most 50-70 year olds hold very sacred, we need to more about the man goring the ox. Future editions should have a much expanded biography.

Bottom line: America muddled through the Cold War, made many costly mistakes, and developed a policy-making process that is, to this day, largely uninformed due to a lack of a comprehensive global intelligence capability, or a sufficient means of consulting diverse experts (as opposed to the in-town intellectual harlots). If ever we needed a clean-sheet look at how we make policy and how we provide decision-support to that policy process, this is the time. The “fifty-year wound” is still open, and the author warns us it will not heal without a reappraisal of how we do the business of national security.

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Review: Secrets–A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

6 Star Top 10%, Censorship & Denial of Access, Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Information Operations, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Strategy, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars History Matters, Secrecy Permits War Crimes by Presidents,

November 2, 2002
Daniel Ellsberg
This extraordinary work comes at the perfect time, as an Administration is seeking to create new forms of secret operations invisible to Congress and the public, in pursuit of its war on Iraq and-one speculates-other targets of ideological but not public priority. The book covers seven areas I categorize as Background, History, Information Strategy, Pathology of Secrecy, Ethics, War Crimes, and Administrative.By way of background, the book establishes that the author was not a peacenik per se, as some might perceive him, but rather a warrior, both in terms of Cold War ideology and from actual experience as a USMC infantry company commander and an on-the-ground observer traveling across Viet-Nam by jeep instead of helicopter, generally in the company of the top U.S. ground expert in Viet-Nam, John Paul Vann. The book establishes-as George Allen has also told us in NONE SO BLIND, that intelligence did not fail in Viet-Nam, that Presidents do get good advice from good men, but that the position of President, combined with executive secrecy as an enabling condition, permits very irrational and ineffective policies, conceived in private without public debate, to go forward at taxpayer expense and without Congressional oversight. The author is timely in emphasizing that the “spell of unanimity” is very dangerous and provides a very false image to the public-the stifling of dissent and debate at all levels leads to bad policy.

The author does an effective job of bringing forward the lessons of history, not only from Truman and Eisenhower forward, but from the Japanese and French occupations of Indochina. We failed to learn from history, and even our own experts, such as Lansdale showing McNamara the rough equipment that the Vietnamese would defeat us with because of their “will to win,” were sidelined.

As a public administration and public policy text this book offers real value as a primary source. The author provides valuable insights into how quickly “ground truth” can be established; on how the U.S. Government is not structured to learn; on how the best answers emerge when there is not a lead agency and multiple inputs are solicited simultaneously; and most importantly, on how private truths spoken in secrecy are not effective within any Administration. The author stresses that Americans must understand what Presidents are doing in their name, and not be accomplices to war crimes or other misdeeds. He does a brilliant job of demonstrating why we cannot let the Executive Branch dictate what we need to know.

Interwoven with the author’s balanced discussion of how to get ground truth right is his searing and intimate discussion of the pathology of secrecy as an enabler for bad and sometimes criminal foreign policy, carried out without public debate or Congressional oversight. The author adds new insights, beyond those in Morton Halperin’s superb primer on Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy, regarding the multiple levels of understanding created by multiple levels of classification; the falseness of many written records in an environment where truth may often only be spoken verbally, without witnesses; the fact that the Department of Defense created false records to conceal its illegal bombings in Laos and Cambodia, at the same time that the White House created false secret cables, used Acting Director of the FBI Patrick Gray to destroy evidence, and sought to bribe a judge with the offer of the FBI directorship. The author presents a compelling portrait of an Executive Branch-regardless of incumbent party-likely to make major foreign policy miscalculations because of the pathology of secret compartmentation, while also being able to conceal those miscalculations, and the cost to the public, because of Executive secrecy. He is especially strong on the weakness of secret information. As he lectured to Kissinger: “The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information. P. 236]

On such a foundation, the author discusses the ethics of Presidential leadership. He is especially strong-and relevant today-in discussing how Presidential appointees regard loyalty to the President as a mandate for lying to Congress and the media and the public. The author excels at bringing forward how our corruption in permitting corruption is easily recognized and interpreted by indigenous personnel-just as how whom we support is quick evidence of how little we know about local politics.

From here the author segues into the ethics of collateral damage and the liability of the American people for war crimes and naked aggression against the Vietnamese because of our deliberate violation of the Geneva accords and our support for a corrupt series of dictatorships in South Viet-Nam. Much of what we did in Viet-Nam would appear to qualify for prosecution under the International Tribunal, and it may be that our bi-partisan history of war crimes in Viet-Nam is what keeps us from acknowledging the inherent wisdom of accepting the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal in future wars. Tellingly, at one point his wife reads the Pentagon Papers and her tearful reaction is: “this is the language of torturers.”

Administratively we are reminded that the Pentagon Papers were 7,000 pages in total; that Neil Sheehan from The New York Times actually stole a set of the papers from Ellsberg before being given a set; that character assassination by the U.S. Government is a routine tactic in dealing with informed dissent; and that it is not illegal to leak classified information-only administrative sanctions apply, outside a narrow set of Congressionally-mandated exceptions.

This book is a “must read” for any American that thinks and votes.

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Review: The Tunnels of Cu Chi

6 Star Top 10%, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for All Command & Staff Officers,

April 8, 2000
Tom Mangold
This is required reading for every commander and every staff officer, and for every intelligence professional, both at the entry-level and at mid-career. Two things really hit home from this book: 1) the fact that we were completely clueless about the physical, mental, and cultural toughness and dedication of the Vietnamese who opposed our interference in Viet-Nam; 2) the fact that we are completely unable to detect tunnels under our base camps or in the tactical environment (although new technology is coming along). They dug 200 miles of tunnels by hand, including extensive networks under the major Bien Hoa complex.
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Review: The exemplar–The exemplary performer in the age of productivity

6 Star Top 10%, Best Practices in Management, Change & Innovation, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Environment (Solutions), Information Society, Intelligence (Public), Leadership

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5.0 out of 5 stars Productivity Primer–One of Five Basic Books for InfoAge,

April 8, 2000
Robert R Carkhuff

This book had a profound influence on me, helping me to understand that the functions fulfilled by an employee dealing with “things” are completely distinct from the functions fulfilled by an employee dealing with “ideas”, and that completely different educational, training, management, and compensation models are needed for the new “Gold Collar” worker. From this book I realized that virtually everything we are doing in U.S. education and U.S. personnel management and training today is way off the mark and at least a decade if not two or three decades behind where we could be in human productivity management.

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