Compelling, Insightful, Useful – Glosses Over Some Fundamentals
This book excels at offering a compelling overview of the severe deficiencies in US national security strategy, policy, and operations – it is one of the strongest indictments I have seen of our total inability to wage peace instead of war. Among the many high points covered by the author and included in my extensive notes:
01 USA has no Grand Strategy and no process for creating and executing a Grand Strategy. Deep in the book the author observes that not only is Grand Strategy the only means of fully employing all sources of national power, but it is also how one anticipates and avoids unintended consequences.
02 The elements of the US Government (USG) nominally responsible for waging peace – the Departments of State and Commerce, the US Agency of International Development (USAID), the US Information Agency (abolished in 1999) are under-trained, unsynchronized entities unable to deter conflict or build a lasting peace.
5.0 out of 5 starsWorld-Changing Book Documenting Intersection of Humans, Technology, and Policy-Ethics, February 2, 2015
This is a hugely important work, one that responds to the critical needs outlined by Micah Sifry in The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet) and others such as myself writing these past 25 years on the need to reform the pathologically dysfunctional US secret intelligence community that is in constant betrayal of the public trust.
Digital Humanitarians are BURYING the secret world. For all the bru-ha-ha over NSA’s mass surveillance and the $100 billion a year we spend doing largely technical spying (yet only processing 1% of what we waste money on in collection), there are two huge facts that this book, FOR THE FIRST TIME, documents:
5.0 out of 5 starsOur Best Thinking to Date — We Can Go Much Further, December 24, 2014
This is the pre-cursor book to The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO which I have reviewed most favorably and strongly recommend. This book — while free online as are all NDU Press books, is a very high quality production with some complex graphics and color photographs. It is fairly priced and absolutely recommended in print if you favor books you can hold in your hands.
There have been other books by military commanders but to the best of my knowledge only General Tony Zinni, USMC (then commanding the US Central Command with two wars and 12 task forces) and General Wesley Clark, USA (then commanding NATO during the Kosovo mess) have risen to what this book strives to be, a gold standard for whole of government multinational engagement.
In The Tyranny of Experts, the author of the seminal book The White Man’s Burden drills down into the history of economic development around the world in search of its causes. What he finds has little to do with any of the factors bandied about among contemporary development professionals.
“The conventional approach to economic development, to making poor countries rich,” William Easterly writes, “is based on a technocratic illusion: the belief that poverty is a purely technical problem amenable to such technical solutions as fertilizers, antibiotics, or nutritional supplements . . . The technocratic approach ignores what this book will establish as the real cause of poverty — the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights.”
Instead, Easterly maintains, the fundamental pre-condition for successful development is democracy paired with deep understanding of local history. He calls the establishment of the World Bank “the moment of original sin . . . in which the Bank disavowed the ideals of freedom . . .”
Academia has been good to William Easterly. Presumably, when he was forced out of the World Bank because of his outspoken criticism of the Bank’s support for corrupt regimes and pro-Western favoritism, he was looking for a platform on which he could continue his campaign to shift the consensus among development professionals from top-down “solutions” to support for bottom-up, grassroots initiatives. He’s gotten that platform, but his position on the faculty of New York University has also moved him to dig more deeply into the intellectual roots of his thinking. The Tyranny of Experts is one result.
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Eye Opener, Should be Mandatory Reading for War Colleges, Diplomats, and White SOF,November 9, 2012
I received this book as a gift. It is a bracing book and although short, at 130 pages, it merits slow and deliberate consideration. I got goose-bumps at multiple points and put the book down reflecting on how sad it is that our foreign policy and our military occupations are not better informed about the information peacekeeping (a term I coined in the 1990’s) possibilities of low-cost humans who speak the language and understand the nuances of conflict at the individual level.
This book is in every possible way, the absolute counterpart, contrast, and nay-sayer to the CIA-managed drone program that kills indiscriminately, at great expense, from which we will reap a continuing harvest of hatred, fear, and enduring mistrust.
Although I have read other books, and list them with Amazon links below, that offer similar insights, this is a first-person story with specifics that I consider so provocative and so valuable that I recommend it as assigned reading for every Special Operations A Team member, for every Special Operations schoolhouse, for every War College where we fail to teach White SOF as an alternative, and for every diplomat and international development employee, both at entry level and mid-career. I would go so far as to suggest that a week could usefully be spent by every conference group and foreign affairs class, on this book and the others listed below.
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Stars & Beyond–Open Heart Surgury on a Corrupt Ignorant Government,September 29, 2011
The author himself begins the book with a reference to Dispatches (Everyman’s Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) followed by Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition, to which I would add A Rumor of War. This is a great book, an important book, and I salute the Department of State people with integrity that approved it for publication, while scorning the seventh floor craven autocrats that have bullied the author for telling the truth. This book is the real deal, and I have multiple notes along the lines of gifted writing, humble *and* erudite, quiet humor, ample factual detail, gonzo-gifted prose, an eye for compelling detail, *absorbing,* a catalog of absurdities and how not to occupy a country.
Late in my notes I write “Reality so rich it stuns. A time capsule, priceless deep insights into occupation at its worst.”
And also write down an alternative subtitle: “The Zen of Government Idiocy Squared.”
This is a book, from a single vantage point, of the specifics of “pervasive waste and inefficiency, mistaken judments, flawed policies, and structural weakness.” Speaking of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), the author says “We were the ones who famously helped past together feathers year after year, hoping for a duck.”