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.”
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Needed Treatise, But Too Expensive,September 21, 2011
EDIT of 11 December 2011: Gene Poteat, President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) has an excellent review of this book in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue of Intelligencer. The following quote is from his review, it captures the essence with perfection:
“The weakness and deteriorating standing of America in the world today is the failure to take into account the role of information, disinformation, ideas, values, culture, and religion plays in the influence and conduct of foreign and national security policy.”
While the above glosses over the corporate capture and abject corruption of all three branches of the Federal government, it certainly summarizes and recommends the book in question. See also my graphic, “Information Pathologies,” loaded above next to cover.
In the midst of an economic depression, it is a real shame to see a book that is so very relevant to unscrewing the Republic, and also see the same book terribly over-priced. At 230 pages this book should be offered at 24.95, and a donor should be found to permit the author to speak to the Department of State via the Secretary's Open Forum, with a free copy of the book to every person attending.
The author is the founder of the Institute of World Politics, a rather unique institution that offers three Masters programs and that strives to do what no other university can claim: to teach a mastery of all of the instruments of national power, and to teach how culture, ethics, strategy, and philosophy can come together to drive Whole of Government planning, programming, budgeting, and execution so as to advance both the prosperity and the protection of the Republic.
This book came to my attention after I found and truly enjoyed another book out of the Institute of World Policy, by Cultural Intelligence for Winning the Peace by Juliana Geran Pilon. Everything I read about the Institute, or by those associated with it, offers a very strong, coherent, culturally-compelling vision of how to advance positive values inherent in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.
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.
The Nobel Prize to Yanus was a righteous one–unlike the political idiocy of awards to Al Gore and Barack Obama. I can only hope that the Norwegian public shames its overly political Nobel Committee into getting back on track with awards such as this one.
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.
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.
An Utterly Superb Intellectual Contribution–a Major New Reference
January 10, 2010
This book is a gift to humanity, a foundational reference of such extraorindary value that I earnestly believe it should be required reading for every single liberal arts program in the world, and used as a core book in all graduate international relations programs.
Part I reviews the history of peace movements; Part II reviews core themes of peace within religions, populism, democracy, social justice, responsibility to protect and wraps up with three cahpters on a moral equivalent, realizing disarmament, and realistic pacifism.
The footnotes, the bibliography, and the index are world-class. The paper is glossy and annoyingly unreceptive to ink, but as a library volume or one that does not allow notes, this is an absolute top-notch production at a phenomenally reasonable price. I have the note mid-way: utterly brilliant blending of works of others within own architecture–superior scholarship.
HUGE EYE-OPENER; Pashtun Peace Army in Pakistan-Afghanistan, the Servants of God, discussed on pages 193 and 313. I've been working Information Operations (IO) and used to do Covert Action and I am pretty sure neither CIA nor DIA have a clue that this is a major historical movement that could be reactivated.
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: