Review: In an Uncertain World–Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Economics, Politics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Serious Overview of Core Economic Security Issues,

December 7, 2003
Robert E. Rubin
Edit of 22 Sep 08 to recognize that Rubin did not bail out Mexico, he bailed out Wall Street, and Paulson is about to rip the heart out of every American taxpayer in the boldest and most insane national treasury rip-off anyone on this planet could conceive of….we don’t need a Wall Street bail-out, we need a complete recall of both the Executive and the Legislative leaderships–a fresh start. These pigs have destroyed the nation–see my new book, free online from 24 Sep, ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig.

Edit of 21 Dec 07 to recommend update and reissuance in collaboration with John Bogle, author of 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 and a few others whose books are linked below.

Rubin is self-effacing and not at all, in any way, claiming personal credit for how well it went as America experienced one of its greatest economic booms, despite some rather scary international threats to our economic security. I believe this will be a classic reference for years to come.

1) Early on, and then throughout the book, Rubin does a fine job of documenting and explaining why markets, which are relatively autonomous beasts, and at least as important as governments and government policies, in setting the economic security environment.

2) A corollary to the above, but all the more important because it dovetails precisely with Henry Kissinger’s caution (“Does America Need a Foreign Policy”), is Rubin’s detailed articulation of how U.S. politics and US policy mechanisms are not now well-suited to coping with the new risks of the global economy. The speed and reach of the marketplace is now such that the industrial-era government bureaucracies and 1970’s information technology stovepipes are completely inadequate–however well-intentioned a President might be, the current structure and current approaches to establishing economic strategies and policies are NOT OKAY.

3) Rubin is quite excellent in explaining in a very understandable manner how specific fiscal policies toward other states (e.g. Mexico) can be directly related to consequences in terms of illegal immigration (surging if Mexico is allowed to collapse), illegal drugs and crime, and trade.

4) Especially helpful in this book is its emphasis on the importance of educating the American public as a pre-requisite to the politics of making the right economic decisions for America. Rubin quotes Clinton as saying that one of his (President Clinton’s) greatest lessons learned from his two-term Presidency was the need to do the public education (political strategy) before the public politics and deal-making. Senator David Boren (today President of the University of Oklahoma) and Mr. David Gergen have made this point earlier (“Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century”), but Rubin’s focus merits strong emphasis, because in combination, our mediocre policy structure and our mediocre public understanding combine to create not one but two devastating Achilles’ heels for US economic security policy-making.

5) Rubin excels at documenting the direct relationship between poverty and inner-city distress and poor education of important segments of America’s population, and its economic well-being. He extends this analysis internationally, focusing on how vital it is to extend the fruits of prosperity across all nations and peoples, if the US is itself to have sustainable economic stability and prosperity.

6) The book is a case study in decision-making, a manual of how to and how not to approach problems for which, as he notes with frequency, there are no certain outcomes. I was very impressed by his acute sensitivity to the fact that most subordinates are incapable of speaking utter truth to their bosses–they pull their punches. This is equally true, as he explicitly notes, of Chief Executive Officers invited to meet with the President. Rubin appears gifted in his ability to draw out the concerns and negatives from all subordinates, with a special kindness extended by him to the most junior or front-line subordinates, a kindness that is repaid in full with honest opinion.

7) I noticed some very strong observations from Rubin on the inability of the Department of State and of the Central Intelligence Agency to provide him with core information that he needed on Indonesia, among other fiscal hot spots. Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore turned out to be much more useful to him in understanding the context and possibilities. From this Rubin draws the lesson that the Department of State needs to get smarter about economics, and that a new kind of Foreign Service Officer is needed, one that is not just following political matters, but economic matters. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that State needs to migrate from the old POL-MIL mind-set, to a new POL-ECON mindset. CIA must of course get much better at understanding demography, public health, economics, and infrastructure issues down to the province and township letters, something that will require them to finally take Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) much more seriously, and to become competent in 29+ languages.

8) “Rubin’s Rules”, actually prepared by his staff as a going-away gift when he departed Treasury, are listed on page 251, with an 11th rule on page 252, and are alone worth the price of the book. They will not be repeated here, they are precious.

9) Rubin is critical of the private sector for having over-invested in Third World ventures without doing the due diligence related to risk assessment, and he ventures into some discussion of the importance of defining and communicating best practices, codes and standards for debt management, bankruptcy, deposit insurance, and bank supervision. I could not help but reflect on how much more important the ISO might become if it also becomes central to economic security and stability by contributing a standards process that helps reduce and mitigate risk for all.

10) There are many other gems in this book, from his review of “deficit economics” (and why it is an idiot idea writ large), to how Monica Lewinsky cost the US taxpayer much more than the cost of the impeachment proceedings, to the need to always review old assumptions, to the dangerous reliance by Wall Street on models (as with Long-Term Capital Management failure), to the need to redefine GDP calculations (in addition to deducting negative investments like prisons and health care that others have recommended, Rubin suggests that the presence or absence of positive investments related to environmental sustainability need to be included).

This is a solid serious book about core economic security issues. I venture to say that no one could run for President, or be an effective President, without absorbing all that Robert E. Rubin has to teach us. His assistant author, Jacob Weisberg, is to be congratulated for helping bring this extraordinary work to the marketplace. We all benefit.

See also with reviews:
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Al On America

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Review: The Great Unraveling–Losing Our Way in the New Century

4 Star, Economics, Politics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Read Preface and Introduction, Skip the Rest,

September 24, 2003
Paul Krugman
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add comment and links.

New Comment: the author was ahead of his time. See new links below.

The book is worth buying for the Preface and Introduction alone. The rest of the book is a somewhat irritating replay of every column the author has ever written, and not nearly as well done or as riveting as, say, Tom Friedman’s replays in “Longitudes & Attitudes”. However, if you have not read the author’s columns, his bite-size descriptions of irrational exuberance, crony capitalism, the failure of the Federal Reserve, fuzzy math, how markets go bad, and global spoilage, then they are all certainly worth browsing.

The Preface has three core ideas: 1) the elites are ruling badly and not beneficially for the majority of the population including all the voters and most of the stockholders; 2) politicians and corporation chiefs are getting away with blatant lies to the public because of a media that avoids critical inquiry; and 3) open sources of information–all that lies in the public domain–are more than adequate for anyone to get a grip on reality.

The Introduction is a bit scarier and more pointed. The author joins Mark Hertsgaard, author of The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World in suggesting that the radical right is creating nothing less than a Reichstag in America. In the author’s view, and he quotes Kissinger in chilling terms, the radical right is a revolutionary power that is very deliberately and with malice at all times, rejecting and undermining the democratic rules of the game. In the author’s words, the radical right is “a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.” The author goes so far as to suggest that the radical right considers elections as “only a formality” and that they will do anything–including subversion of the Constitution–to “win” those elections and reap the domestic and foreign “looting rights.”

Disclosure: I used to be a conservative Republican and used to think such ideas were simply over the top. I have been radicalized by the last 200 books I have read (and reviewed on Amazon) and I have to say, while the third of the nation that is close-minded and ideologically-blindered on the right may give the author short shrift, the other two thirds–the drop-outs and splinter parties, and the failing Democrats–they should take Krugman very seriously. He is an economist, teaching at Princeton, not a journalist nor a sensationalist, and in my view, when one combines his book with that of Clyde Prestowitz, a Presbyterian elder and solid Reagan Republican and fiscal conservative (Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions), with that of William Greider, writing on the immorality and social costs of capitalism as we practice it today (The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy), one can only conclude that the Republic, and that for which it stands, have been hijacked, are being looted, and the American Democratic experiment is on very thin ice.

The index to this book is helpful in running down specific individuals, corporation, and organizations that have committed crimes against the Nation that the author has addressed in his many columns for the New York Times, as repeated in this book.

See also:
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
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 Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart

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Review: The Two Percent Solution–Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Best Practices in Management, Change & Innovation, Congress (Failure, Reform), Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Future, Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Survival & Sustainment

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Re-Opens the Door to a Bright Future for America,

September 24, 2003
Matthew Miller
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

This book is politically and economically *explosive*. It joins The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (Halstead & Lind) and The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Ray & Anderson) as one of my “top three” in domestic US political economics, and it *also* joins The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy (William Greider) and Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (Clyde Prestowitz) is my “top three” for international political economics.

This is a cross-over, transformative book that should be meaningful to everyone in the world, but especially to those Americans who wish to break out of the vicious downward spiral caused by partisan politics and voodoo economics–by elected politicians corrupted by special interests and consistently selecting short-term fraudulent “solutions” at the expense of long-term *sustainable” solutions.

By “2% solution” the author means 2 cents of every dollar in the national budget, or roughly what we have already wasted or committed to waste on the misbegotten Iraq invasion and occupation. The author crafts a viable proposition for thinking really big and coming to grips, in time to avert the looming disaster of the baby boomer pensions and the collapse of health care and education, with the four biggest issues threatening the national security and prosperity of the United States of America: universal health care; equal education for all, a living wage for all, and sustainable reliable pensions for all.

He sums it up in a gripping fashion: if we don’t fund smart well-educated kids across the entire country, then we will not have the productivity we need to expand our pension funds and care for the boomers when they hit retirement. Smart kids now, safe retirement for today’s adults. Any questions?

He is candidly (but politely) blunt when he states, and then documents, that both the Republican and Democratic party leaders (less Howard Dean) are lying to us about the answers that are possible (Prologue, page xiii). His book is an earnest–and in my judgement, hugely successful–attempt to create what the author calls an “ideologically androgynous” agenda for achieving social and economic justice in America with a commitment of just two cents on the tax-revenue dollar.

On the issue of teaching, he documents the “teacher gap” as one of the primary reasons for varying levels of performance–a gap that is more important than genetics or environment, and that is also resolvable by sound educational policy and funding. He brutally undresses both the Bush Administration, which is leaving every child behind, and the Democrats, who are “more symbol than cure.” Republican hypocrisy and Democratic timidity receive an equal thrashing.

On living wages, he documents the 25 million that are not covered; on pensions he documents the coming collapse of Social Security and other “off budget” and unprotected funds.

He provides four reasons why we have a dysfunctional debate (and one can surmise: why we need to change the Presidential election process in order to achieve truly open and substantive debates): 1) paralysis from political party parity; 2) old mind-sets and habits shared by *both* Republican and Democratic leaders (less Governor Dean); 3) the failure of the national press to be serious and critical and to contribute to the debates; and 4) the tyranny of charades funded by political contributions.

The book includes an excellent and understandable review of both economic and social justice theory. Of special interest is the author’s discussion of the Rawls Rule for social justice, which is to imagine everyone in an “original position” behind a veil of ignorance where no one knows what their luck will be in the future–the design of the social safety net should provide for the amelioration of any injustice that might befall anyone, and a social promotion system that prevents wealth concentrations that are not beneficial to the larger society–to wit, we must “set some limits on the power of luck to deform human lives.”

The author concludes the book by suggesting that the public is ready for a revolution in U.S. political economic affairs, and in so doing points out how ill-served the U.S. public is by surveys that confuse myopia with honesty–surveys that ask generic questions without revealing the scope of the problem (40 million affected, etc.) with the result that the public is not informed of the depth of the problem–or, as the author suggests–they would *want to do something about it.”

This is a sensible, heartening book. It is a book that gives hope for the future and that displays a proper respect for the good intentions and ability to think of the average citizen. It is a book that, if adopted by any Presidential candidate–or by all of them–could radically alter the public debates that lie before the public in the period leading up to the 2004 election. Every American should read this book and the four books cited above. If Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said, “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry,” then Matthew Miller just became the first tutor to the new Nation.

New Comment: Between a Tobin tax on every Federal Reserve transaction, an end of income taxes on individuals, and this author’s idea, I am quite certain that we can find and apply a trillion a year against global and domestic high-level threats from poverty to transnational crime, while winding down the military, secret intelligence, prison, and hospital complexes. This is one of the books I would recommend the next President read sooner than later.

See also, with reviews:
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives

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Review: The Soul of Capitalism–Opening Paths to a Moral Economy

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Economics, Philosophy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Parts the Seas, Restores Hope & Morality to the American Way,

September 13, 2003
William Greider
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

The author has written a book that outlines an implementable vision worthy of the Nobel Prize.

If you buy just one book this year, if you read just one book prior to voting in the primary and general elections of any country, this is the book. It combines common sense, a deep understanding of the flaws of a capitalist system that has been hijacked by unethical elites, and an extraordinary diversity of interviews and sources that I found compellingly sensible and straight-forward.

Politically and economically, this book offers the citizen-voter-consumer-stockholder an objective and balanced account of exactly what is wrong with the existing American way of capitalism (both at home and abroad), and how we might, over time, fix it.

Most importantly, the author destroys all of the myths and lies about the rising American standard of living, and demonstates that when one revises the Gross Domestic Product calculations to substract rather than add the negative products such as prisons and health care stemming from unsafe products and practices, the over-all national economic indicators have been steadily declining for over thirty years.

The author is brilliant–truly brilliant–in studying the work of others and putting together a case for redefining capitalism and the financial accounting for capitalism to include social costs and benefits as part of the evaluative calculus. He excells at understanding and explaining the benefits to be had by introducing long-term sustainability, worker-friendly labor and management cultures, and balanced work force composition (save the middle class) and compensation (end the looting of America and its pension funds by an out of control corporate elite).

In discussing the soul of capitalism, the author is in fact discussing America’s soul. His book is not only a handbook for grassroots and collective bargaining actions by all communities and assocations, it is a reference point by which Americans specifically, but all national in all nations, should be judging their political and economic and social leaders. People *can* take back the power, but first they must understand that the existing economic situation is so unstable and unhealthy that it virtually guarantees life on Earth will end within the next 100 years.

Although the book clearly mandates a reordering of both the American economic and the American political systems, and the author addresses those, he placed the bulk of his emphasis at the grass-roots level, and discusses how specific organizations and communities across America are “by-passing Washington” and establishing revolutionary new covenants for community-based, labor-friendly, sustainable economics.

The book as a whole draws a clear distinction between what one might call Bush Economics (loot the commonwealth, enrich a very tiny elite that already has most of the wealth) and Dean Economics (recover the $500 billion a year in unwarranted corporate subsidies and financial fraud, restore the social side of the capitalist value system, share the wealth, sustain the environment).

The author is a man of faith. Throughout the book, but especially when discussing the Social Gospel movement and reform theologians with close ties to extreme suffering in communities that have lost everything, he can inspire tears of both sadness at what we have done to ourselves, and joy at the possibilities for the future if we the people take back the power.

At every turn in the book one reads about the connection between capitalism and democracy–between corrupt capitalism and the falseness and injustice of American democracy and foreign policy (see our reviews of Paul Krugman’s “The Great Unraveling”, Jonathan Schell, “The Unconquerable World”, and Mark Hertsgaard, “The Eagle’s Shadow”)–and between moral capitalism and democracy restored.

Drawing on the work of David Ellerman, William Greider discusses the master-servant relationship between corporate employers and human employees, and concludes, as does Ellerman, that all of the injustices of capitalism are based on a legalized fraud. “The ‘fraud’ is the economic pretense that people can be treated as things, as commodities or mahcines, as lifeless property that lacks the qualities inseparable from the human self, the person’s active deliberation and choices, the personal accountability for one’s actions.”

Three additional notes (this review barely scratches the surface and cannot do justice to the wealth of knowledge the author is communicating in a very effective manner):

1) If the labor unions come together to use their pension funds as sledge hammers, they can do a great deal of good in both reforming Wall Street and nurturing labor-friendly and environmental-friendly corporate behavior.

2) The retired population in America represents an untapped national asset–a wise President would find ways to use this virtually unlimited pool of social and functional talent to revitalize communities, schools, families, businesses, and non-profit endeavors.

3) Both the corporate governance model and the enforcement model are so severely flawed that they must be over-turned. Corporations should not have legal personalities that eliminate accountability for the individuals managing them, and the enforcement process needs to be turned on its head, focusing on incentives for higher social performance rather than punishments for the occasionally prosecuted rogue corporation.

In relation to foreign economic relations, the author provides a superb complementary reading to Clyde Prestowitz’s book, “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions.” As he puts it so nicely, in today’s world walls do not work and there is no place for corporations to hide once the anger of the people is aroused. America must not only clean its own house, but in so doing, in restoring the morality of capitalism and the realiy of democracy, America will again be a land of ideals instead of hypocrisy, a land of liberty instead of looting, a land that inspires the world instead of corrupting it.

America, and the world, are at a turning point. I pray that no fewer than 50 million Americans will read this book, and I urge every faithful Amazon customer to buy 5 copies of this book and give them out as part of re-engaging every adult in the vital process of restoring democracy and restoring morality to capitalism.

High recommended books, with reviews:
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
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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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

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

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: Defense Facts of Life–The Plans/Reality Mismatch

6 Star Top 10%, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Public), Military & Pentagon Power, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Core Ideas Relevant to Imminent Defense Reform,

August 31, 2003
Franklin Spinney
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add comment and link.

Comment: This book should be updated and reprinted in time for November 2008.

Chuck Spinney, who made the cover of TIME in the 1980’s as a whistle-blower on defense waste and mismanagement, has in this book presented a readable, well-documented and well-illustrated account of how virtually every single weapons and mobility system now in the Pentagon system is over-priced, over-weight, over-budget, and not able to perform as advertised. Although out-of-print, there are hundreds of copies of this book that can be obtained via Amazon’s used book channels, and the author is writing a sequel that will be easier to understand if this book is digested first.

In addressing the plans reality mismatch, the author is very effectively demonstrating that doctrine, technology and the budget are completely divorced from both real world threats, and real world logistics.

With superb assistance from the editor, James Clay Thompson, who has converted the author’s Pentagon-speak to plain English, the author documents the insanity and the irresponsibility of how we continue to spend the taxpayer dollar on so-called defense. I say so-called because the Emperor has no clothes. We can invade a country, but we cannot stop terrorism or keep our electrical system going reliably.

Just one little vignette illustrates how jam-packed this book is with facts. Discussing the F-15 and the move toward replaceable units as a means of reducing forward-deployed repair specialists and spare parts, the author blows the lid off the whole system. It all comes down to the three computers each squadron of 24 F-15’s needs to diagnose its 1080 line-replaceable units. 1) It turns out the three computers work 80% of the time. 2) It takes up to 30 minutes to connect the computer to an interface test adapter. 3) It takes an average of three hours and as many as eight hours for the computer to carry out a diagnostic reading of a single line-replaceable unit. 4) Very often the computer fails to replicate the problem, with lack of resolution fluctuating at between 25 and 41 percent of the time. 5) At the time Spinney wrote the book, and probably still today, not a single Air Force avionics technician was re-enlisting, because they could get three times the money, and a much better quality of life, by taking their taxpayer-funded training into the private sector.

Spinney ends his book by saying, “In a nutshell, Pentagon economics discount the present and inflate the future. Put another way, the future consequences of today’s decisions are economically unrealistic plans that reduce current ability to meet the threat in order to make room (hopefully) for future money to meet a hypothetical threat. … The across-the-board thrust toward ever-increasing technological complexity is simply not working.”

It is not the book’s purpose to propose an alternative national security strategy and a commensurate change in how America devises its concepts, doctrine, and capabilities for making war and enforcing peace, but if one reads the book by Robert Coram, “BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” and also the book edited by Dr. Col. Max Manwaring et al, “Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the 21st Century,” a picture will emerge. People first, ideas second, hardware last. The ideas in this book, although ignored in the 20 years since they were first articulated, are certain to play a large role in the redesign and redirection of the U.S. national security community over the next ten years.

More recent books:
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy

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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

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

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: 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

Amazon Page
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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: Reefer Madness–Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market

3 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Economics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Articles, Lightweight Sequel to Fast Food Nation,

July 6, 2003
Eric Schlosser
Although the author is gifted, this is a very light-weight sequel to Fast Foot Nation and the author’s next book on prisons is therefore already suspect. This could have been a great book–indeed it could have been three great books–but in the rush to publish a second book in order to profit from the justifiable applause for his first one, the editor and publisher and author have all failed.There are three articles here: the first is about the inconsistencies of the drug versus the murder laws, the number of people in jail for marijuana, and the social implications of all this; the second is on the underground economy of illegal workers and profiteering abusive corporations (McDonald’s is especially evil in this depiction); and the third is about pornography but with a twist, focusing on how hotels and other major corporations are profiting.

The books ends with a very short but thoughtful observation regarding the need to change the law and punishment so as to back away from life-ending punishments for individual behavior that is merely self-destructive or distastement, and focus the heaviest punishments on those who commit economic crimes against society and entire sub-sections of society.

In each of these three cases, there are other books that are better–Deep Cover by Michael Levine on the futility of drug enforcement and the corruption of Drug Enforcement Agency “suits”; Forbidden Knowledge by Roger Shattuck, on pornography among other things; and The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald, on the sweetheart triangle between national-level white collar corporate criminals, big law firms, and a compliant Department of Justice that lets the richest bad guys off easy.

I would caution the author to not do this again–the next book had better be as good as Fast Food Nation, or he will fall into the second rank of serial writers rather than culture-changing authors, where he deserves to stay.

I would also encourage anyone considering buying this book to do so–it does have useful information–but more importantly, if you have not read Fast Food Nation, go to that page and think seriously about buying and reading it now–as McDonald’s gets blamed overseas for being the epidemy of all that is hateful to Islamics, as Kraft Food pays lip service to healthy food in its realization that Oreo cookies are killing kids, what Eric Schlosser did in Fast Food Nation is being appreciated more and more each day–with that book, he did indeed change national consciousness, an achievement that will stand in history as a turning point in creating a healthier America.

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Review: Normal Accidents–Living with High-Risk Technologies

5 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Economics, Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Science & Politics of Science

Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Of Lasting Value, Relevant to Today’s Technical Maze,

January 27, 2003
Charles Perrow
Edit of 2 April 2007 to add link and better summary.

I read this book when it was assigned in the 1980’s as a mainstream text for graduate courses in public policy and public administration, and I still use it. It is relevant, for example, to the matter of whether we should try to use nuclear bombs on Iraq–most Americans do not realize that there has never (ever) been an operational test of a US nuclear missile from a working missle silo. Everything has been tested by the vendors or by operational test authorities that have a proven track record of falsifying test results or making the tests so unrealistic as to be meaningless.

Edit: my long-standing summary of the author’s key point: Simple systems have single points of failure that are easy to diagnose and fix. Complex systems have multiple points of failure that interact in unpredictable and often undetectable ways, and are very difficult to diagnose and fix. We live in a constellation of complex systems (and do not practice the precationary principle!).

This book is also relevant to the world of software. As the Y2K panic suggested, the “maze” of software upon which vital national life support systems depend–including financial, power, communications, and transportation software–has become very obscure as well as vulnerable. Had those creating these softwares been more conscious of the warnings and suggestions that the author provides in this book, America as well as other nations would be much less vulnerable to terrorism and other “acts of man” for which our insurance industry has not planned.

I agree with another review who notes that this book is long overdue for a reprint–it should be updated. I recommended it “as is,” but believe an updated version would be 20% more valuable.

Edit: this book is still valuable, but the author has given us the following in 2007:
The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters

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Review: Nickel and Dimed–On (Not) Getting By in America

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Photography Books (Countries)

Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars If You Can Afford to Eat Out, You Need This Book,

October 10, 2002
Barbara Ehrenreich
This is an extraordinary book that every American who can afford to eat out, or rent a video, or visit a doctor, should be required to read.I had no idea just how irrelevant the “poverty” line as a measure of true poverty–nor did I realize how constained people are, the 60% of America that earns less than $15 to $20 an hour, in seeking out other options.

The author does a really effective job of investigating and communicating the horrible realities of life where…managers and corporate regulations and plain meanness deprive hundreds of thousands of people of things many of us take for granted: the right to go to the bathroom, to pause for a few minutes, even to sit down quietly for a few minutes in a clean room.

Especially admirable is her focus on rent and the conditions that are imposed on the poor and lower working class (between minimum wage and $15 an hour)–not having enough money for a deposit, being forced to pay outrageous rents for decrepit motel rooms rented by the week, having to spend a precious working day finding a place to stay, etcetera.

This is a very valuable book, both from the perspective of someone who might benefit from a little humility and gratitude for their blessings and advantages; and from a policy point of view–our understanding of poverty and welfare and what it takes to allow decent hard-working people to have a *life* appears to be terribly, terribly flawed. As the author documents so ably, it is not enough to have a job in America, you need to have one that pays enough to cover rent, food, and medicine.

I was especially moved by the many details the author provided on how life at the lower levels brings on more and more hardships–not enough money for good shoes, bad shoes causing major spinal and related injuries and pain. The pain–the endless hours, the desperation for aspirin and other pain killers, cigarettes as the least expensive narcotic for the pain–this is very powerful stuff.

At a minimum, this book changes how I will evaluate politicians that speak in ignorance about welfare and poverty and safety nets–and it is going to substantially increase how much I tip and how I tip–from 15% to 25%, and in cash… This might be a good time to think of ourselves, and follow the Golden Rule–our welfare system should be what we would want it to be if we were the ones asking for welfare.

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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
Amazon Page

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
Amazon Page

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: A Sustainable Economy for the 21st Century (Open Media Pamphlet Series, 7)

5 Star, Economics, Survival & Sustainment

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5.0 out of 5 stars Primer on Key Issues for Next and Future Elections,

March 28, 2002
Juliet Schor
I am just blown away by the quality and utility of the Open Media Pamphlet Series, which brings very high-value thinking to the people in a very low-cost and easy to understand format.Juliet Schor, author of two books on related topics, and a lecturer at Harvard since 1984, does a lovely job, in 64 pages, of hitting on the key issues that voters must address as they move forward in taking back the power from political parties now held hostage by corporations.

Her reasoned and logical discussion of basic premises (sustainability, democractic control, egalitarianism), of key issues in the relations between workers and their corporate employers, of how to achieve environmental as well as social balance, and of the larger global issues including needed changes in federal law, provide the single best primer I have ever seen for anyone–at any level of understanding–who wishes to invest time in understanding what needs to be done to protect future generations who have no one to represent them other than the people.

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Review: The Paradox of American Power–Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone

4 Star, Diplomacy, Economics

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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Strategic Insights, Operationally Disappointing,

March 11, 2002
Joseph S. Nye Jr.
My highest complement for a book used to be how many pens I broke on it. This book leaps into a new category. I actually had to read it three times, short as it is. It is brilliant, with paragraphs of such substance that multiple readings are needed to “unzip” the implications. This is not an undergraduate text although it could certainly be used as such, to open deep discussions.Among the strategic thoughts that I found most valuable were these: 1) a plenitude of information leads to a poverty of attention; 2) in the absence of time or means to actually review real-world information, politics becomes a contest of competitive credibility (with the Internet changing the rules of the game somewhat); 3) Japan has vital lessons to teach Islamic nations–that one can adapt to the new world while maintaining a unique culture; 4) we are failing to adapt our democratic processes to the challenges of the Earth as well as the opportunities of the Internet.

This last merits special attention. I found in this book an intellectual and political argument for restoring democratic meaning to our national policies. From its evaluation of the pernicious effect of special interest groups on foreign policy; to its explanation (“When the majority are indifferent, they leave the battlefields of foreign policy to those with special interests.”); to its prescription for healthy policies: a combination of national discussion (not just polling), with a proper respect for the opinions of others (e.g. foreigners), the author clearly sets himself apart from those who would devise national policies in secret meetings with a few preferred pals.

Throughout the book, but not given any special chapter as I would have preferred, the author is clearly cognizant of the enormous non-traditional challenges facing the community of nations–not just terrorism and crime, but fundamentals such as water and energy shortages, disease, genocide, proliferation, trade injustices, etcetera.

Operationally, the book is slightly disappointing. Despite the fact that the author has served as both the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (and perhaps left the operational bit to his Vice Chairman, Greg Treverton, whose book, “Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information” I recommend be read in conjunction with this one), and as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, I did not see two things in this book that would have bridged the gap from strategic reflection to operational implementation:

1) How must we change the manner in which our nation handles information? What should our national information strategy be, to include not only a vast new program for properly collecting, processing, and understanding foreign language materials that are openly available, for but improving our K-12 and undergraduate education with respect to foreign affairs?

2) How must we change the manner in which our nation authorizes, appropriates, allocates, and obligates the taxpayer budget? While noting that we spend 16 times as much on military hard power as we do on diplomatic soft power, the author left this issue largely on a single page.

On the topic of values and accountability the author excelled. Although I would disagree that values by themselves are the foundation of national power (“knowing” the world, in my view, is the other side of the coin of the realm), the author sounds very much like Noam Chomsky with a social make-over–we have to be honest on human rights and other core values, and not act nor permit our corporations to act in ways that are antithetical to our true national commitment to decency and honesty. The section on new forms of accountability and transparency being made possible by changing in information tools and practices are valuable–admitting non-governmental organizations to all bodies; accelerating the release of records into the public domain, and so on.

We learn from this book that the author is an avid admirer of The Economist, that he thrives on Op-Ed reading (I have never seen a more comprehensive use of Op-Eds in the notes), and that he is largely accepting of the World Trade Organization and other multi-lateral groups, most of which have not yet accommodated themselves to the new world of citizen-centered policymaking. As good as the notes are, the book would have benefited from a bibliography. The index is acceptable.

If we part ways on any one thing, it would be that I am less sanguine about any foreign policy, however much it might use “soft power,” being successful if it persists with the notion that we can cajole and seduce the world into wanting what we want. We’ve done that with Hollywood, and McDonalds, and chlorine-based plastics, and it is not working to our advantage. It may be that America must first recognize its own demons, adjust its global goals accordingly, and interact with the world rather than striving for a grander version of the “Office of Strategic Influence” that recently got laughed into oblivion. We appear to agree that the U.S. Information Agency must be restored as our two-way channel between our people and all others. I would dramatically expand USIA to also provide for a Global Knowledge Foundation and a Digital Marshall Plan on the one hand, and the education of all women on the other (Cf O’Hanlon’s “A Half-Penny on the Federal Dollar”).

This book opens the great conversation, and in doing so, renders a valuable service. Missing from the public conversation is the Department of State. Both the politically-appointed and the professionally-trained leadership of the diplomatic service appear to have been cowed into silence by a mis-placed coda that confuses abject compliance with loyalty to the larger national interest. If this book can draw State back into the public service, into a public debate on the urgency of protecting and expanding our most important soft power tools, then the author’s ultimate impact on the future of American security and prosperity will be inestimable.

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