This is by no means an easy read but its bottom-line (bearing in mind that the author has been writing many books on this theme, this is the latest) is clear: Sound Mind in a Sound Body. Others would add Sound Soul and Sound Heart at well. In other words, the mind is carried in the host, the body, and the totality of the nervous system, the skeletal system, the muscle system, the bio-chemical soup system, are all critical to how well the mind functions and how well the mind — including the unconscious — heals in the aftermath of trauma.
5.0 out of 5 starsPioneering Work, Deserves a Great Deal of Attention, April 29, 2013
I am shocked that there are no reviews of this book. Brought to my attention by Berto Jongman, one of the top researchers in Europe with a special talent at the intersection of terrorism and related violence (e.g. genocide) and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), he knew this is an area that is of very high interest to me.
The book passed my very first test, with more than ample references to Dr. Patrick Meier, a pioneer in crisis mapping, SMS translations and plotting by diasporas, and humanitarian ICT generally. I strongly recommend his blog and expect him to produce a book of his own soon.
The primary focus here is on social media via hand-held devices. It assumes a working Internet and does not have a great deal of focus on the urgency of achieving an Autonomous Internet, and more fully exploiting Liberation Technology and Open Source Everything (OSE), the latter my special interest along with M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making).
Use Inside the Book to see the chapters and appendices. The author makes clear two major points early on:
01 Grassroots is where its at, not top down macro
02 Technology alone is not enough, organizing — the hard long road of grassroots organizing — is essential.
Backpacks Full of Hope: The UN Mission in Haiti describes the experience of a Chilean general as Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) during the particularly turbulent year September 2005 to September 2006. It details the realities of commanding more than 7,000 men from eleven countries while working to fulfill the mandate of the United Nations in Haiti—to ensure a secure and stable environment, to support the transitional government in a democratic political process, and to promote and protect the human rights of the Haitian people.
Despite the enormous challenges of a complex scenario that included local violence and extreme poverty, the UN command succeeded in its mission, stabilizing the local situation and paving the way for Haiti to hold a presidential election.
Originally published as Mision en Haiti, con la mochila cargada de esperanzas, this work provides a new audience with insight on the peace operation and sheds light on the long-term endeavour of civilians, military, and local and international agencies to support Haiti’s path to prosperity.
Top of the Fives, A Bold Departure Elegantly Executed
August 25, 2010
Erik Assadourian et al
I’ve become someone jaundiced about the State of the World series, while always respecting the persistence of Lester Brown (Peter Drucker called people like us “mono-maniacs” essential as change agents), but this one knocked me off my seat just with the table of contents. From there I went to the Notes and saw a number of books new to me. You can visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to see the 1,600+ that I have reviewed, sorted into 98 non-fiction categories.
My first note:
A triumph, the most interesting, diverse, and relevant of the series to date. A bold departure, “just in time.”
The book opens with a timeline over multiple pages with illustrations, and the notes are worthy. The timeline is compelling broad view that I found very helpful, and would like to see more of.
It’s a real shame this book is not being represented properly on Amazon, in part because the UK publisher is just not geared up for the US audience. This is an important book. Below is the author’s summary as appeared in TimesOnline 25 April 2010.
Easy money: the great aid scam Foreign aid is big business and much of it simply vanishes. In a devastating new book, we reveal how millions are lost to waste, corrupt local officials and warlords who realise more blood means more money
In the swimming pool beside the neatly laid tables at the Mamba Point restaurant in Freetown, white women were doing aerobics and the conference hall was hosting a seminar called “The Traumatised Child”. Mantovani’s strings played, ice cubes tinkled in our wine glasses and waiters slunk about with steaming platters.
It was summer 2002, a year after the signing of the peace accord that ended Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war. We had steak — on the menu at 47,000 leones, or 15. That was over half a month’s salary for the waiters serving us, the Unicef representative to my left told me.
For three full years Sierra Leone had been the darling of international donors and humanitarian organisations. Where all that money was going puzzled me, since the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had recently declared Sierra Leone, yet again, to be the world’s poorest country.
“How do people actually survive here?” I asked my dining companions. They all burst into ebullient laughter. “Juju!” they cried in unison — sorcery. “Come on, let’s pop another bottle of wine, guys,” the European commission representative shouted above the jovial hubbub.
Related Links Haiti hell continues months after quake Charity insiders know the score. “There’s a market for good works, and it’s big business. Call it the `moral economy’ if you like,” says Nicholas Stockton, a former emergencies director of Oxfam.
We see what looks like one big happy family moving in concert into crisis zones to ease human suffering, but the most powerful link between humanitarian aid agencies is that of commercial competition. It’s certainly a long time since the relief of suffering was carried out by people wearing sandals; now they dress in sharp business suits. Organisations that want to remain competitive need to know all about integrated marketing strategies, cost-benefit analyses and competitive incentives.
Those that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed by competing organisations that do show up. Whether it’s the construction and supply of refugee camps and orphanages, the repair of bombed roads and buildings, the re-education of child soldiers, or the inoculation of entire populations against polio, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that send official donors the most competitive bids for the huge amount of work involved will come out on top.
Start-up costs in distant, crisis-hit countries are sky-high. Aid organisations have to recruit and hire staff, rent and furnish housing and office space, and bring in Land Cruisers, aid supplies, satellite dishes, computers, air-conditioners, office equipment and generators. Once at work in a “humanitarian territory”, NGOs have to ensure they can remain active there for at least as long as it takes to earn back their investments.
The big handsome hero of a Nigerian soap shown on television all over west Africa isn’t a pilot or a fireman but a project leader for Unicef. In every scene, the broad-shouldered hunk parades about in a dazzling outfit while beautiful women squirm at his feet. After all, a civil servant or local chief attached to an NGO project as an adviser or supervisor can earn a salary dozens of times higher than normal — and local administrators can easily “supervise” many competing projects simultaneously.
The relevance, quality and results of aid projects are not a priority. A co-ordinator for the European commission in west Africa explained to me: “The things local officials weigh up are: will they get access to imported aid supplies, training, study trips, per diems and people needing to rent houses and vehicles? Will an aid project put them in a position to hand out jobs to brothers and cousins? If the answer is no, it may take a very long time to get the necessary permits.”
A story I’d just told him about a wheelchair project in Liberia had made him feel even more dispirited. Medical NGOs had arranged for a batch of wheelchairs to be flown in, to ease the sufferings of war invalids. The chairs turned up in the streets of Monrovia modified into ice-cream carts and mobile shops. Vendors who had nothing wrong with their legs were using the chairs, while amputees went on dragging themselves on their hands and knees through the filthy streets. Local government workers had distributed the wheelchairs among their own kith and kin, who in turn had rented them out to small-time entrepreneurs.
The growing number of aid organisations and the rising value of the aid supplies and services they deliver to warring countries make humanitarian aid an increasingly important supplement to war chests: countries with no other sources of income turn the aid industry, supposedly neutral and unbiased, into a potentially lethal force that the belligerents need to enlist.
Take the $825m aid operation in Darfur, which in 2008 was reckoned by the UN to be the most expensive in the world. In March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir for playing an “essential role” in the murder, rape, torture, pillaging and displacement of a large number of civilians in Darfur. He faces the charge of crimes against humanity — yet the NGOs in Sudan are still the milch cows of Bashir’s state apparatus.
An employee of an American NGO explained to me how it works. “It’s an open secret among UN organisations and NGOs that the government earns several million dollars a quarter on visas, travel permits, work permits for humanitarians and permit extensions. Entering Sudan costs. Leaving Sudan: ditto.
“To set up an NGO you need approval from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, whose minister was also indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. At every stage of the application process, you pay again. It drives me wild that the `humanitarian community’ is so spineless in its dealings with the regime. If there was some collective spirit, we might be able to avoid becoming, in effect, sub-branches of the Sudan state.” But there isn’t.
Only 30 minutes after the ICC ordered the arrest of President Bashir, the regime retaliated with an order for 13 NGOs to leave immediately. Oxfam GB lost £5m, £2m of it in possessions and accounts. Médecins sans Frontières admitted to having lost 2m (£1.7m). But none of the NGOs or the donor governments protested — they all hoped to be allowed to return to Sudan.
Meanwhile, between 2001, when the war on terror began, and 2008, more than 60 donor governments allocated a total of more than $15 billion to aid for Afghanistan — but exactly where the money ended up is unclear. Neither the donors nor their NGOs dare to visit the projects they finance. The result is an unfathomable channelling of aid billions that is highly susceptible to fraud.
Clinics never actually built, girls’ schools where only boys are taught — everyone in Afghanistan can give examples of aid projects that have been financed but not realised. The majority of western NGOs never venture outside Kabul. Instead, they subcontract local and other NGOs to implement their projects, which in turn engage further subcontractors. A total of four intermediate organisations, each creaming off a portion, is common. Steadily seeping away, project finance passes from hand to hand until finally someone gets down to bricklaying, carpentry or ploughing. In the intervening stages, effective supervision of budgets is impossible.
CorpWatch, an independent research institute that investigates and exposes corporate fraud and corruption around the world, eventually managed to trace what had happened to the $15m USAID had earmarked for the building of a road from Kabul to Kandahar in the south. The money turned out to have been transferred from USAID, via the UN, to an American company that hired a Turkish roadbuilder. Each intermediate layer absorbed between 6% and 20% of the project funding, so that in the end only cheap, inferior materials could be purchased. According to CorpWatch, the stretch of tarmac that resulted was barely any improvement on the unsealed road it replaced.
At any given moment, several thousand aid projects are under way in Afghanistan. Jean Mazurelle, former director of the World Bank in Kabul, estimated that 35%-40% of all international aid to Afghanistan is “wrongly spent”. “In Afghanistan, the wastage of aid is sky-high: there is real looting going on. In the 30 years of my career, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
When asked, aid workers and donors naturally say they control what happens to the money. But an Afghan accountant who carries out spot checks on control methods for USAID thinks this is highly unlikely. “I can tell one Afghan’s handwriting from another’s, but foreigners only see squiggles and dots. Sometimes I’m shown 150 receipts with the same signature,” she said. And photographs of USAID projects? “I sometimes see pictures of exactly the same project with different donors. Aid groups are happy to be financed three times over. After all, the donors don’t come and look.”
This systematic lack of control of aid funding has been nicknamed “Afghaniscam”. Not only do Afghan racketeers rake off aid money unhindered, but in some areas Taliban fighters are able to use unsupervised aid funding to strengthen and expand their popular support.
The 21st-century aid business is booming as never before. And it’s increasingly lucrative — which is why the 2001 announcement that Sierra Leone had once again been named the world’s poorest country was the occasion for a festive gathering in Freetown. The poorest countries, you see, are eligible for enormous, special international aid programmes.
The cream of Freetown society had gathered to toast this dubious first prize in a conference room at a recently opened luxury hotel, the property of a Chinese investor. The vice-president handed a copy of the UNDP report to his president, “Pa” Kabbah, who waved it triumphantly. “Nice hotel, this,” the vice-president said. “But it gives foreigners the wrong idea. They’ll start thinking we’re a country of comfort and luxury.” The guests nodded in agreement.
Further along the same Freetown road is the Mammy Yoko hotel, currently serving as the HQ of the UN mission in Sierra Leone. That day, negotiations about a ceasefire were taking place there between the rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and donor governments.
The RUF delegation seemed to consist of wiry teenagers. A month ago, they had still been prowling the bush; now they strolled in oversized western suits to the UN dining room. Now and then, they slapped each other on the back and laughed loudly, the way they’d seen important international functionaries do. The coastal strip, a quarter of the country, was under the control of UN blue helmets. The remaining three-quarters of Sierra Leone, a region of jungle and diamonds, would be left in the hands of at least four warring parties until an accord was signed. No matter: the international peace negotiators were more than prepared to meet RUF demands, since donor governments want to see results.
Many experts dismissed the warriors in Sierra Leone’s bush as drug-fuelled maniacs, but some suspected that a rational, calculated strategy lay behind their destructive frenzy, which left 200,000 dead. They suggested it was a deliberate attempt to drive up the price of peace.
From the viewpoint of the warriors, the logic of the humanitarian era is simple. Without violence and devastation, no aid. And the more ghastly the violence and the more complete the devastation, the more comprehensive the aid.
EDIT of 7 Jan 09. I got halfway through another book last night and now understand the Princeton-based idea that the US has enough power to demand changes and that earlier “balance of power” constraints might not apply. On the one hand, this is an idea worth pursuing, but if you know nothing of strategy, intelligence (decision-support) and how to integrate Whole of Government and Multinational Engagement campaigns against the ten threats by harmonizing the twelve policies and engaging the eight demographic leaders, then this is just academic blabber. On the other hand, this is 100% on the money–if the USA were a Smart Nation with an honest government, now is the time to lead–but it’s not going to come out of the ivory tower or politicals in waiting for their next job, it will come from the bottom (Epoch B), the poor, and the eight demographic powers (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as South Africa, Thailan, and Turkey, with the Nordics and BENELUX always lurking positively on the fringes.
I tried hard to find enough in this book to warrant five stars, but between the pedestrian threats, buying in blindly to the climate change fraud, assertions such as “There is no prospect for international stability and prosperity in the next twenty years that does not rest on U.S. power and leadership,” and the general obliviousness of the authors to multiple literatures highly relevant to their ostensible objective of answering the question “how do we organize our globalized world,” this has to stay a four. It has some worthwhile bits that I itemize below, but on balance this is an annoying book, part cursory overview, part grand-standing proposals for new organizations, and part job application–at least one of these authors wants to be the first High Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism.
Had the author’s actually sought to tailor their suggestions to the above elegant threat architecture, this could have been a much more rewarding book. As it is, it strikes me as a book written around a few ideas:
As a publisher who is also an author, I continue to be outraged by the prices being charged for “trade” publications. This book is properly-priced–other books on GIS I would have bought are priced at three to four times their actual value, thus preventing the circulation of that knowledge. Those publishers that abuse authors and readers refuse to respect the reality that affordably priced books are essential to the dissemination of knowledge and the perpetuation of the publishing industry.
The book loses one star for refusing to address Google Earth and elements of the Google offering in this industry space. While Google is predatory and now under investigation by the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice, to ignore Google and its implications for cloud management of data in geospatial, time, and other cross- cutting contests, is the equivalent of poking one eye out to avoid seeing an approaching threat.
Having said that, I found this book from ESRI charming, useful, and I recommend it very highly, not least because it is properly priced and very well presented. Potential clients of ESRI can no doubt get bulk deliver of this volume for free.
Return on Investment factors that ESRI highlights up front include: + Cost and times savings + Increased efficiency, accuracy, productivity of existing resources + Revenue generation + Enhanced communications and collaboration + Automated workflows + More efficient allocation of new resources + Improved access to information.
The book consists of very easy-to-read and very well-illustrated small case studies, most previously published in Government Matters, which appears to be a journal (there are a number listed by that title).
Here are the highlights of this book for me personally:
+ Allows for PUBLIC visualization of complex data + Framework for “seeing” historical data and trends + Value of map-based dialog [rather than myth-based assertions] + Allows for the visualization of competing perspectives past and future + Illuminated land population dynamics, I especially like being able to see “per capita” calculations in visual form, especially when per capita can also be sliced by age, sex, income, religion, race, and so on. + Mapping derelict vessels underwater is not just a safety function, but opens the way for volunteer salvage and demolition + GROWS organically by attracting new data contributors who can “see” the added value of contributing their data and then being able to see their data and everyone else’s data in geospatial terms. This is a POWERFUL incentive for information-sharing, which more often than not receives lip service. GIS for me is the “key” to realizing sharing across all boundaries while also protecting individual privacy + Shows “pockets” of need by leveraging data gaps in relation to known addresses (e.g. immunizations, beyond 5 minute fire response, etc.)’ + Gives real meaning to “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)” and–not in this book–offers enormous potential if combined with a RapidSMS web database that can received text messages from hundreds of thousands of individuals across a region + Eliminates the time-energy cost of data collection in hard copy and processing of the individual pages into an aggregate database.
The book also avoids any discussion of the urgency as well as the value of GIS in tracking and reducing natural resource consumption (e.g. water usage visible to all house by house), and the enormous importance of rapidly making it possible for any and all organizations to channel their data into shared GIS-based aggregations. For a sense of World Brain as EarthGame, see my chapter in Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace the chapter is also free online at the OSS.Net, Inc. website forward slash CIB.
The latter remind me that GIS will not blossom fully until it can help the humanities deal with emotions, feelings, and perceptions across tribal and cultural boundaries. Right now, 23 years after I first worked with GIS in the Office of Information Technology at CIA, GIS is ready for the intermediate leap forward: helping multinational multiagency data sets come together. ESRI has earned deep regard from me with this book and I will approach them about a new book aimed at the UN, NGOs, corporations, and governments that wish to harmonize data and in so doing, harmonize how they spend across any given region, e.g. Africa. This will be the “master leap” for GIS, enabling the one billion rich to respond to micro-needs from the five billion poor, while also increasing the impact of aggregated orchestrated giving by an order of magnitude.
The corruption of the leaders and the complacency of the West in accepting that corruption is a recurring theme. If the USA does not stop supporting dictators and embracing corruption as part of the “status quo” then no amount of good will or aid will suffice.
Superb, Crystal-Clear, Speaks Truth to Power, April 3, 2008
Amazon destroyed this review in error and I failed to keep a file copy. This is a reconstructed review–not nearly as good as the original–nothing I can do about it.
This book is a learned essay, and I immediately discerned (I tend to read the index and bibliographies first, to understand the provenance of the author’s knowledge) that the author has excelled at both casting a very wide net for sources, and at distilling and presenting those sources in a useful new manner with added insights.
Natural disasters impact on 6 times more people than all the conflict on the planet.
Industrial irresponsibility, especially in the nuclear, chemical, and biological industries, is legion, and much more potentially catastrophic than any terrorist attack. Of special concern is the storage of large amounts of toxic, flammable, volatile, or reactive materials outside the security perimeters–this includes spent nuclear fuel rods, railcars with 90,000 tons of chlorine that if combined with fire would put millions at risk.
The entire book is an indictment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which the author says was designed for permanent failure (at the same time that it took over and then gutted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)).
The author focuses on how concentrations of people, energy, and high-value economic targets make us more vulnerable than we need to be. Dispersal, and moving small amounts of toxic materials (just enough just in time, rather than a year’s supply on site), can help.
The author outlines five remediation strategies:
REDUCTIONS of amounts
TRANSFERS from outside the wire to inside the wire
SUBSTITUTION (e.g. of bleach for chlorine)
MIND-SET SHIFT to emphasize public safety and regulation over profit
REFORM of the political system, where federal laws now set CEILINGS for safety rather than floors (one of many reasons we have 27 secessionist movements in the USA–the federal government is insolvent and abjectly corrupt and incapable).
We learn that post-9/11 we have spent tens of billions on counter-terrorism to ill-effect, while completely neglecting rudimentary precautions and protections against natural and industrial disasters that will inevitably turn into catastrophes for lack of competent organizations.
The author emphasizes that complex systems will fail no matter what, but it is much more dangerous to the public if the government and the industrial executives refuse to do their jobs. The author coins the term “executive failure” to describe top leaders who deliberately decide to ignore federal regulations on safety, and describes a number of situations where near-nuclear meltdown and other disasters came too close to reality.
The power grid, PRIOR TO deregulation, is treated as a model of a system that developed with six positive traits:
1. Bottom-up 2. Voluntary alliances 3. Shared facilities at cost 4. Members support independent research & development 5. Oversight stresses commonality interdependence 6. Deregulation is harmful to public safety
The author sums up the enduring sources of failure as:
ORGANIZATIONAL — flawed by design (pyramidal organizations cannot scale nor digest massive amounts of new fast information)
EXECUTIVE — deliberate high crimes and misdemeanors, seeking short-term profit without regard to long-term costs to the public safety. “We almost lost Toledo.” Buy the book for that story alone.
REGULATORY — the corruption of Congress, now known to be legendary.
The author tells us that globalization has eliminated the “water-tight bulkheads” within industries and economies, meaning that single points of failure (like the Japanese factory making silicon chips) can impact around the world and immediately. The author prefers to nurture networks of small firms, and this is consistent with other books I have read: economies of scale are no longer, they externalize more costs to the public than they save in efficiencies.
The book ends with an overview of the Internet, which is not the author’s forte. He notes that our critical infrastructure is connected to the Internet, but I like to add emphasis here: all of our SCADA (supervisory control and data administration) are on the Internet and hackable.
I like very much the author’s view that Microsoft and others should be held liable for security blunders that cost time and money to the end users. I recall that Bill Gates once said that if cars were built like computers they would cost very little and run forever….to which the auto industry executive replied: yes, and they would crash every four blocks and kill every fourth person (or something along those lines). We still do not have a desktop analytic suite of tool because of proprietary protections for legacy garbage.
Nature is the What, Culture is the Who–Lovely Analytic Account, April 21, 2008
I am starting to think about a 2009 book on CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE: Faith, Ideology, and the Five Minds (the later from Five Minds for the Future and I am constantly enchanted when I run across a vital reference to how culture is the disaster, not nature.
This book is a magnificent epistle on the folly of mankind and the duplicity of government, business and the media. The author of totally brilliant as he gently sets forth the myth that we are not responsible for acts of God when in fact we are the perpetrators of complex human, social, economic, and political fabrications and decisions that invariably:
1. Screw over the poor and those of color
2. Amortize high risks taken by the rich across the entire taxpayer base
3. Conceal, lie, deceive as to the actual premediated decisions that occasioned the disaster turning into a catastrophe.
Here is “the” quote from the author, on page xxii:
“The official response to natural disaster is profoundly dysfunctional in the sense that it has both contributed to a continuing cycle of death and destruction and also normalized the injustices of class and race.”
The middle of the book is a detailed but not at all tedious account of California, Florida, and the Mississippi flood plain. In all three cases calamity was treated as a cultural script to execute:
1. A political agenda on the poor
2. Conceal and deceive outsiders to keep investment coming in
3. Further land speculation, with insurance company as well as state government complicity
The account of how a railroad magnate built a railway from Jacksonville to Miami (which was 200 feet of sand at first) and then on to Key West, with the taxpayer footing the bill, the state government giving away the land, and the speculation leading inevitably to enormous disaster and death, is riveting. Or at least captivating.
He lambasts the federal government for venturing into the political economy of risk, for trying to control weather from the 1950’s, and for “writing off” the poor in their mobile homes. Land in hazardous terrain subject to flooding is cheaper, mobile homes are cheaper, the poor cannot afford to evacuate, this strikes me as something only a genocidal maniac would love: “natural eugenics,” only a little connivance needed.
The author tells us that through the 1970’s the federal government stunk at both forecasting and warning, in part because of poor budgeting for the National Weather Service, in part because of privatization, in part because of ineptness (e.g. not repairing critical buoys).
He states, and this did not begin with Katrina, but goes back 40 years, that the Federal response to disasters has been consistently pathetic. One explanation is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has consistently been a dumping ground for political hacks, with nine times more losers than in other agencies.
He explicitly blasts Bush-Cheney for lies in relation to Katrina, which was accurately forecast. Every POLITICAL level of government, from the chicken mayor to the complacent governor to the dumb-s..t FEMA director to the village idiot President failed us.
The books ends by skewering both Clinton and Bush for 16 years of deregulation of all industries having anything to do with public safety, allowing them to increase their profits by increasing the risks and costs to the unsuspecting buyers upon whom they were enabled to prey.
Not a pretty story, but I for one am starting to see the pattern of government and corporate deception, and that is why I have committed the last twenty years of my working life to creating public intelligence in the public interest.
Book loses one star–perhaps unfairly–for not integrating secondary sources and using the *combination* of this extraordinary biography and the Brahimi Report and other core documents, to illuminate why the UN desperately needs a United Nations Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN).
+ Sergio Vieira de Mello (henceforth SVM) spent forty-years as a UN gad-fly, and his resume of tens of short assignments interspersed with a handful of 2-3 year assignments is a testimony to all that is wrong–not with him, but rather–with UN recruitment, training, continuity of operations, and lack of decision support.
+ The book opens with the observation that Paul Bremer (the ultimate US dilettante who set us back five to ten years while losing tens of billions of dollars) refused most of SVM’s suggestions, especially on setting timelines (the same ideas General Garner adopted before he was fired by Dick Cheney and replaced with Bremer). We are told his last words were “Oh shit” and I somehow doubt that.
+ SVM was an impressive scholar. He finished first out of 198 at the Sorbonne in Philosophy. He did a Masters in moral philosophy (a tautological redundancy I would have thought) and then a doctoral in two levels, one in 1974 and one in 1985. It was here that he understood that governments are not adept at preventing crises nor as rebuilding failed societies.
– First level doctorate: “The Role of Philosophy in Contemporary History,” with key line “Not only has history ceased to feed philosophy, but philosophy no longer feeds history.”
+ He composed his speeches on hotel note pads, observing that if he could not fit his argument to a hotel pad, he probably did not know what he was trying to say.
+ At this point I have a note, overall a very good use of biography to offer a “sense” of the UN, but lacking in synthesis, recommendations, or secondary sources.
+ Early in the book and throughout, one senses that Lebanon is the UN’s modern birthplace, and where it has been permanently hospitalized if not euthanized.
+ SVM is quoted as saying that constructive change required “a synthesis of utopia and realism.” I urge the reader to visit Earth Intelligence Network to see this being implemented.
+ Pages 87-89 provide a marvelous condemnation of satellite surveillance as a panacea. SPOT Image which does ten meter or 1:50,000 multispectral imagery, identified land “suitable for resettlement.” Actual ground inspection failed the satellite findings, which did not see the land mines or the malarial mosquitoes.
+ SVM valued local staff, actively cultivated their inputs regardless of rank or function, and he is described as having a keen eye for symbolism.
+ We learn from this book that UN “teams” are assembled in an ad hoc fashion reflecting the whims and past good relations of the ubber boss, and I for one recognized what chaos and discontinuity this represents for all elements of the UN System.
+ We learn that when the UN arrives the cost of everything skyrockets, not least because UN employees get $140 a day, which in the specific instance of Cambodia or Kosovo, I forget, was the average ANNUAL income for any given person. I point to William Shawcross’s unforgettable Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict. Read my review of that book to see the relevance.
+ SVM proves clever in one instance, suggesting that smugglers not only be hired to get around a blockage against blankets, but that they be given dignity in the form of a UN consultant certificate. From many such accounts the author excels at painting a portrait of a complex and very intelligence UN official.
+ It is at this point that I check the index to discover that neither the word “information” nor the word “intelligence” nor the compound word “decision-support” appear.
+ The author cites SVM as saying that he was fed up with American bullying–I can certainly understand that–and that the hardest part of peacekeeping was internal peacekeeping (within the UN’s dysfunctional family).
+ It is here I note: “At every turn: ‘We don’t know; ‘We don’t have the information; ‘We are too few to certify….'”
+ Then I see the golden nugget, on page 219, in his words: “We are so remarkably ill-informed. We go into a place, we have no intelligence, we don’t understand the politics, and we can’t identify the points of leverage. See the PKI book cited above, and also the forthcoming book, PEACE INTELLIGENCE: Assuring a Good Life for All, with a Foreword by MajGen Patrick Cammaert, who with this book and a decade of effort, got many at the UN to understand that Brahimi had it exactly right: intelligence is decision support using legal ethical open sources, and it has nothing to do with espionage. The raw book is at OSS.Net/Peace, just add the www. at the beginning.
+ The book continues with many vignettes where the UN elements are uninformed, therefore they do poor planning (lousy mandates, crummy force structures, no tactical combat charts for landing zones, etc) and hence they are often over-whelmed.
+ SVM saw a need for and proposed that the UN address the constant law enforcement gap by maintaining a roster of pre-trained and available multinational police, judges, lawyers, and prosecutors. See Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security, my review includes notice of the fact that most UN “police,” e.g. those from Nigeria, can neither read nor drive.
+ We learn that SVM was acutely aware of how the UN’s reputation for competence plummeted in the 1990’s and how he learned in East Timor was that Legitimacy was Performance Based. As a side note, when East Timor went down I led one of 40 different efforts to answer the same three questions: 1) where are the bodies; 2) where can we land; and 3) who is is coming when, and what are they bringing. That was when I realized the need for a Multinational Decision-Support Center. On legitimacy, see The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
+ The book comes to a close with several useful notes.
– Law and order gap a constant recurring theme.
– SVR saw Iraq as a peer nation meriting respect rather than patronizing from the US
– Excellent discussion of the days leading up to the attack on the UN headquarters; to the dismissal by the US of all UN requests for information or security, and the realization, too late after the attack on the Jordanian embassy, that the UN HQ was a “soft target.”
– KUDOS to LtCol John Curran, whose foresight and rehearsal to include identification of all relevant helicopter med-evac landing zones, ensured that no one died for lack of very rapid medical evacuation. I certainly hope the UN put him for a Legion of Merit, at the very least.
Easily one of the top ten on the death of the American dream
September 30, 2007
I read this book while crossing the Atlantic. The author has done something extraordinary, the equivalent of Silent Spring for industrial-era capitalism as an immoral form of human organization. This book is unique but also tightly linked to the books that I list below.
The conclusion of the book focuses on how Wall Street has discovered how to profit from mega-disasters and financial melt-downs, and contrary to popular belief, Wall Street makes money from these economic down-turns. It is the individual, and the indigenous owners who are forced to sell below market, that lose, every time.
The author’s opening focus is on privatization, deregulation, and deep cuts in social spending, each as mandated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with other nasty triggers demanded by the World Trade Organization, that have been systematically used to loot entire nations and their commonwealths–this is apart from the immoral predatory capitalism that uses bribes to clear areas of indigenous peoples so they can steal all the gold or other natural resources, and their only cost is the bribe, while the host peoples lose billions in natural resources.
The author teaches us that “disaster capitalism” is the next step above immoral predatory capitalism, in which wars and disasters have been privatized and the global military-industrial-prison-hospital complex has moved one step closer to displacing all governments.
She spends time discussion torture by dictators as a silent partner to the free-market crusade, and this is a good time to mention that the book is a standing condemnation of all that Milton Friedman and “the Chicago boys” inserted into the IMF and World Bank via their students.
She provides a helpful discussion of how believers in Armageddon, including the neo-conservatives, are motivated by the belief that there is such a thing as a clean slate, and that Africa without Africans, or Iraq without Iraqis, are both desirable for that reason.
She does a tremendous job of outlining the three shock waves of disaster capitalism:
1. Government Disaster/War out-sourced 2. Corporate looting 3. Police terrorism
A portion of the book focuses on the urgency of restoring unions and the middle class, unions because they protect fair wages that create a middle class. She stresses that the 1970’s through the 1990’s saw a global (but particularly southern hemisphere) campaign to use the cover of counter-terrorism to murder and terrorize union leaders. As a graduate of the Central American and Andean wars, I can certainly testify to the fact that government death squads were as about looting and killing opposition leaders, and I for one saw no terrorists, only indigenous people’s at the end of their rope.
Interestingly the author singles out visionaries as being among the top targets for being hunted down and “disappeared.” Visionaries counter the government lies that seek to rule by secrecy, impose scarcity, and concentrate wealth within a small elite.
The author damningly documents how eager corporations have been to work with dictators to create police states that eliminate unions and enslave peoples at wages that cannot support a family, much less create a middle class.
She focuses on national debt and on government corruption as the two pillars of social destruction. As a student of E. O. Wilson and Medard Gabel, and many others, I can testify that there is plenty of money for all of us to be virtual billionaires, but it is corruption and greed at the top, enabled by secrecy, that have allowed a handful to create a global class war and impoverish the 90% that do the hard work (see my list on this one).
I am utterly blown away by the author’s overall assessment, in the middle of the book, to wit, that crisis is now used routinely to side-step reasoned democracy and completely halt political and social reform while furthering the ends of those who seek to concentrate wealth and power exclusive of the larger body of We the People.
The author is damning across the board of the failures of neoliberalism, which has been a “second pillage” of the looting of state-owned enterprises, following the first pillage, the looting of the natural resources of the commonwealth being targeted.
As part of this the author explicitly accuses the IMF of deliberately fostering crises in part by fabricating and manipulating statistics, or as the author puts it, “statistical malpractice.”
The author suggests that unlike the Mexican bail-out, when Rubin was seeking to protect Wall Street investments, Asia was allowed to collapse financially because the US wanted to put an end to the prospects of their being a “third” way that was more balanced than either capitalism for the few on one side, or socialism for all on the other. This is especially noteworthy because Latin America is today pursuing a similar “third way” and very likely to succeed.
The author declares that Donald Rumsfeld’s over-riding objective as Secretary of Defense was the privatization of war. The author tells us that he declared war on the Pentagon bureaucracy on 10 September (this is the same day that Congresswoman McKinney’s was grilling him on the missing 2.3 trillion dollars). On 11 September the missile won Rumsfeld his war with the Pentagon bureaucracy *and* it destroyed the computers with all the records on the missing money.
The author goes on to document how the Bush Administration privatized Homeland Security across the board.
As the book draws to a close she reviews the history of corporate-driven foreign policy, summing it up in three steps:
1. Corporation suffers set-back in a foreign country 2. Politicians loyal to the corporation demonize the foreign country 3. Politicians “sell” US public on the need for regime change.
The author scorns political appointees, noting that their “service” these days is little more than a pre-raid reconnaissance.
She concludes by suggesting that disaster apartheid is leaving 25-60% of the populations as an underclass, destroyed middle classes, and creating walled cities for the elite, death and suffering for everyone else. Dubai is one such walled city.
Corporations are red-lining the world, using stocks, currency, and real estate markets to crash economies, buy cheap, and then restore with a sharp re-concentration of wealth.
Ending on a positive note, she suggests that We the People are in the process of reconstructing our own world, and while I did not see mention of the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) or Interra and the other community-oriented systems, I believe she is correct, and that the Earth Intelligence Network, the Transpartisan Policy Institute, the People’s Budget Office, are all part of taking back the power and the commonwealth.
This is a great and necessary book. Others (the first two DVDs) listed below reinforce her findings.