The Ultimate Graduate/Policy Text on Intelligence,
Really Serious, Really Current, Combat Military Intelligence,
For Presidents, Cabinet Members, Commanders, & Senior Staff,
Rheingold 10, Gates 0,
Howard Rheingold, former Editor of the Whole Earth Review and one of the pure-gold original thinkers in the Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly circle, lays down a serious challange to both decisionmakers and software producers that has yet to be fully understood. Originally published in 1985, this book was a “must read” at the highest levels of advanced information processing circles then, but sadly its brilliant and coherent message has yet to take hold–largely because bureaucratic budgets and office politics are major obstacles to implementing new models where the focus is on empowering the employee rather than crunching financial numbers.
This book is a foundation reading for understanding why the software Bill Gates produces (and the Application Program Interfaces he persists in concealing) will never achieve the objectives that Howard and others believe are within our grasp–a desktop toolkit that not only produces multi-media documents without crashing ten times a day, but one that includes modeling & simulation, structured argument analysis, interactive search and retrieval of the deep web as well as commercial online systems, and geospatially-based heterogeneous data set visualization–and more–the desktop toolkit that emerges logically from Howard’s vision must include easy clustering and linking of related data across sets, statistical analysis to reveal anomalies and identify trends in data across time, space, and topic, and a range of data conversion, machine language translation, analog video management, and automated data extraction from text and images. How hard can this be? VERY HARD. Why? Because no one is willing to create a railway guage standard in cyberspace that legally mandates the transparency and stability of Application Program Interfaces (API). Rheingold gets it, Gates does not. What a waste!
Prophet of Electronic Power to the People,
Sacred and Scary Reflections on Neo-Biologicial Civilization,
Rare and Deep Insights into Intelligence Grid-Lock,
The opening quotation from Harry Howe Ransom says it all-“Certainly nothing is more rational and logical than the idea that national security policies be based upon the fullest and most accurate information available; but the cold war spawned an intelligence Frankenstein monster that now needs to be dissected, remodeled, rationalized and made fully accountable to responsible representatives of the people.”
Professor Johnson is one of only two people(the other being Britt Snider) to have served on both the Church Commission in the 1970’s and the Aspin-Brown Commission in the 1990’s, and is in my view one of the most competent observer and commentator on the so-called U.S. Intelligence Community. The book is a tour d’horizon on both the deficiencies of today’s highly fragmented and bureaucratized archipelago of independent fiefdoms, as well as the “new intelligence agenda” that places public health and the environment near the top of the list of topics to be covered by spies and satellites.
Highlights of this excellent work, a new standard in terms of currency and breadth, include his informed judgment that most of what is in the “base” budget of the community should be resurrected for reexamination, and that at least 20% of the budget (roughly $6 billion per year) could be done away with-and one speculates that this would be good news to an Administration actively seeking trade-offs permitting its promised tax cut program. His overviews of the various cultures within the Central Intelligence Agency, of the myths of intelligence, and of the possibilities for burden sharing all merit close review.
He does, however, go a bridge too far while simultaneously rendering a great service to the incoming Administration. He properly identifies the dramatic shortfalls in the open source information gathering and processing capabilities of the various Departments of the Federal government-notably the Department of State as well as the Department of Commerce and the various agencies associated with public health-but then he goes on to suggest that these very incapacities should give rise to an extension of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s mission and mandate-that it is the U.S. Intelligence Community, including clandestine case officers in the field and even FBI special agents, who should be tasked with collecting open sources of information and with reporting on everything from disease to pollution. This will never work, but it does highlight the fact that all is not well with *both* the U.S. Intelligence Community *and* the rest of the government that is purportedly responsible for collecting and understanding open sources of information.
On balance I found this book to be a very competent, insightful, and well-documented survey of the current stresses and strains facing the U.S. national intelligence community. The conclusion that I drew from the book, one that might not be shared by the author, was that the U.S. Government as a whole has completely missed the dawn of the Information Age. From the National Security Agency, where too many people on payroll keep that organization mired in the technologies of the 1970’s, to the U.S. State Department, which has lost control of its Embassies and no longer collects significant amounts of open source information, to the White House, where no one has time to read-we have completely blown it-we simply have not adapted the cheap and responsive tools of the Internet to our needs, nor have we employed the Internet to share the financial as well as the intellectual and time burdens of achieving “Global Coverage.” More profoundly, what this book does in a way I have not been able to do myself, is very pointedly call into question the entire structure of government, a government attempting to channel small streams of fragmented electronic information through a physical infrastructure of buildings and people that share no electronic connectivity what-so-ever, while abdicating its responsibility to absorb and appreciate the vast volumes of relevant information from around the globe that is not online, not in English, and not free.
“Best of the Best” from CIA Insider Think Pieces,
Conservative Internationalists Provide the Game Plan,
Well-footnoted and indexed, this is a very serious professional contribution to the rather lackluster national discussion about where our national security and foreign policy should be going. As one who previously advocated a change from 2+ major regional conflicts (MRC) to 1 MRC and three separate forces for dealing with crime, environmental and cultural movements, and electronic and economic warfare (1+iii), I am now fully persuaded, mostly by the Kagan’s book “While America Sleeps” but also by this book, that we absolutely must go toward a 2+iii national security strategy.
My one concern about this book is that it completely ignores what is quaintly called Program 150-all that State Department, Peace Corps, Agency for International Development stuff. It also mentions intelligence and counterintelligence only in passing. Conservative internationalists clearly have the brain power and the strategic vision and the historical understanding to be vital protectors of America’s interests, but they must expand their vision to go beyond guns and consider the potential contributions of both diplomatic and economic butter, and applied intelligence. There is in fact a need to have a very strong Presidential program that fully advances, in an integrated fashion, American investments in diplomacy, defense, transnational crime fighting, economic assistance including a Digital Marshall Plan, and cultural exchanges worthy of a great Nation. This book lacks an appreciation for all the “soft” stuff, but it covers three of the four bases very nicely. A “strong buy.”
Wake Up Call for the Next President–Real World Security,
Especially gripping for anyone who anticipates a future in which Dick Cheney and Colin Powell have something to say about our national security, is the authors’ analysis of their strategic decisions following the Cold War. Both Cheney and Powell get very high marks for understanding that global strength is a pre-requisite for stability and security. The Powell vision for a Base Force with Atlantic, Pacific, Strategic, and Contingency force elements is categorized as brilliant. Powell does, however, get very low marks for being consistently unwilling to use force to impose order in the absence of clear objectives-the authors are very clear in calling the Weinberger Doctrine (setting conditions under which force may be used) completely out of date and at odds with today’s needs. Both President Bush and Chairman Powell are severely castigated for having ended the Gulf War too soon and without a decisive result-the author’s compare this to the similarly indecisive outcome of World War I, an outcome that left the aggressors strong enough to come back and fight another day.
The authors then go on to systematically review a series of major foreign policy and defense failures in the Clinton administration, an Administration characterized by a consistent failure to understand and address the mismatch between wandering and vacillating foreign policies and attendant commitments, and the real-world capabilities of a declining military force. Especially dangerous, in the authors’ view, was the Bottom Up Review approach that abandoned the Cheney-Powell appreciation for maintaining sufficient force to deter two regional surprise attacks (Russia and Iraq on one side, China and North Korea on the other), and instead adopted the premise that 6 months warning would be available, that reconstitution of both the force and its industrial base was possible, and that forces could be justified only in terms of existing threats, most of them from non-state actors. Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq inspections, North Korea inspections, these are all reviewed and all are found to have left America with a legacy of half measures. “By trying to ignore the problem, to leave it to others, whether the UN or NATO, by declaring it to be of no vital interest to the United States, by refusing to use any force once involved and then to use adequate force once committed, they [Bush Sr. and Clinton] found themselves making the very mistakes that brought defeat and disaster in Vietnam, the fear of which had played so great a role, first in their failure to act and then in their inadequate response.”
In their conclusion, the authors find that the next Administration will assume responsibility at a time when the rest of the world has learned, from the past eight years, that America is not willing to summon the forces to defeat aggression; that developing weapons of mass destruction is the fastest means to elicit billion dollar bribes from America; that ethnic cleansing and politically driven mass starvation will not inspire intervention by America. “The most likely American response will be neglect, at first, followed by some attempt at negotiation. If, at last, driven to action, the Americans attack, it will be from the air, employing limited rules of engagement, and it will not destroy the aggressor. Ground forces will almost certainly not be used until the aggressor himself invites them in as part of a negotiation that gives him [the aggressor] most of what he wants. Above all, he should be sure to develop weapons of mass destruction. Even the hint of such a program in a threatening country will bring high-level American officials on top-secret missions to bribe its leaders to abandon the program. They will probably be able to keep the bribe and to pursue the programs they like, as well. These are the lessons America has given the world in the past eight years…”
The book closes by concluding that the strategic pause is gone and it is almost too late. Forces have declined severely (one can only lament the ill-considered Navy program for decommissioning destroyers and frigates that, once decommissioned, are almost impossible to resurrect), coalitions and alliances are in disarray, and non-state actors have learned how to play on the naiveté of the U.S. Government. America’s responsibilities for global stability and security are “inescapable”, and the next President must make the necessary commitments and be materially and morally ready to meet them.
Unconventional Wisdom Triumphs in Unconventional Times,
Excellent Overview with Plenty of Useful Information,
A Gem of Lasting Value, Especially Relevant Today,
Deep Insider-Doctoral History, Relevant Today,
Heroic Citizens Beat Petty Bureaucrats–A Cautionary Tale,
I wish every doctoral dissertation were this useful. Under the guidance of Stephen E. Ambrose, well known for his books on the citizen-soldiers of World War II, the author has produced a very readable and moving book about one brilliant caustic citizen’s forgotten contributions to World War II. Two aspects of this book jump out at the reader: the first is that Americans are capable of anything when motivated. Andrew Jackson Higgins and his employees, most trained overnight for jobs they never thought to have, was able to create an assembly line producing one ship a day. He was able to design, build and test gun boats and landing craft on an overnight basis. He is remembered by Marines, and especially General Victor Krulak, for having given America the one missing ingredient necessary for successful amphibious landings-in this way, he may well have changed the course of the war and the history of our Nation. The second aspect that jumps out at the reader is that of bureaucratic pettiness to the point of selfishly undermining the war effort within the Department of the Navy and the Bureau of Boats. In careful and measured detail, the author lays out the history of competition between trained naval architects with closed minds, and the relatively under-trained Higgins team with new ideas, and shows how the bureaucracy often conspired to block and demean Higgins at the expense of the Marines and the sailors on the front line. There is less of that sort of thing these days, but it is still with us, as we contemplate the need for a 450-ship Navy that is fully capable for Operations Other Than War (OOTW). This book should be included on the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations lists of recommended professional readings, and it should be studied by anyone contemplating the hidden dangers of bureaucratic interests that often override the public interest and undermine our national security.