Review: Unfit for Command–Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Leadership, Politics

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5.0 out of 5 stars If 5% is true, it’s over–wake up call for future wanna-bees,

October 11, 2004
John E. O’Neill
I agonized over this book. It is assuredly a destructive mean-spirited, politically-motivated revenge sort of book, and one is tempted to put it in the fire bin with the grossest sort of pornography, satanic writings, and other forms of trash without which we can do quite nicely (see my review of “Forbidden Knowledge”).

However, as a retired Marine, as a crusader for Dean (one of the 20% of the moderate Republicans ready to jump ship), and as a proponent for public intelligence as a means of keeping honest both the secret intelligence producers and their White House masters, I have to come down in favor of this book for two simple reasons:

1) If just 5% of this book is true, and I think at least 50% is, then Kerry–whatever his merits–took conniving and mis-representation to levels never before achieved, and is, as the book suggests, unfit for command. When I look at the genuine bleedling and pain that goes with most purple hearts (Zinni and Franks, for example), the blatant gamesmanship that this book documents, against the medal created by George Washington for the heroes of Valley Forge and other key battles, just makes my blood boil.

2) This book–and the many books dissecting Bush and Cheney–should also serve as a wake-up call for wanna-be Presidents. Hilary will never be President–the Secret Service retirees will surely publish what they know.

There are two bottom lines here: morality matters as a fundamental aspect of character and consistency; and there are no secrets anymore whenever more than one person is engaged in acts that are ultimately not in the public interest.

As we go into the election, we have more than one evil to contend with. Kerry is unfit to command; Bush picked or got hijacked by some truly dangerous neo-conservatives and inherently dishonest corporate cronies; and the Republican and Democratic party leaderships have both conspired to keep the best men (John McCain and Howard Dean) away from the candidacy, while illegally blocking the Green and Reform Presidential candidates from sharing the debate forum on television (see my reviews of three books: Running on Empty, Doing Democracy, and Gag Rule).

This book is a form of “capstone” that represents rock-bottom in American politics. It makes it clear that we are all voting for the least of all weevils (pun intended), and that this is one little weevil that should not make it to the White House. It makes me angry that this great Nation should come down to this. It makes me angry that we get the government we deserve, and the books we deserve, and this book captures all of that, America at its most base–this book *is* America, consequently every American should be ashamed that we have allowed it to get to this abyssmal point.

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Review DVD: Gandhi (1982)

6 Star Top 10%, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, DVD - Light, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Leadership, Religion & Politics of Religion, Reviews (DVD Only)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Basic Introduction to Achieving World Peace,

August 25, 2004
Ben Kingsley
Edit: The core point below is that clashes of millions of adherents of different religions, i.e. Catholic versus everyone else, Muslim versus Hindu, are not new, and the past does indeed demonstrate that force of arms is an ineffective means–indeed a pathological means that makes it worse–for addressing such schisms. Gandhi, and Gandhi alone, has shown the way with proven success at the level of Nations and Peoples.

9-11 focused some of us, but not enough of us, on the monumental issues of war and peace such as have not occurred since World War II–the Cold War being, as Derek Leebaert documents so well in “The Fifty Year Wound”, a false war, one with enormous costs to all mankind.

I bought this video recently–having seen it many years ago–to refresh my memory on the essence of Gandhi and his proven concept of non-violent resistance. The DVD capped several years of reading in the non-fiction national security arena (see my other 470+ reviews on war and peace), and has proven to be the ultimate primer as well as the ultimate Master’s Seminar.

This is the movie to watch if you want to get down to fundamentals; Gandhi’s three basic lessons of war and peace as shown so beautifully here are these: 1) the only devils are in our own minds; 2) the separation of Pakistan and India, like the separation of Palestine and Israel, violated the civil order between Muslims and Hindus, and destroyed all that Gandhi had achieved: peaceful coexistence of peoples within a single nation; and 3) in the end, after great pain, truth and love inevitably triumph.

Although I was tempted to fast-forward to the current six-front 100-year war between radicalized Islam and militarized America on the one hand, and between impoverished billions and corporate America on the other, I paused to reflect on the past first. It was the Spanish who first committed genocide against the American Indians, who expelled the Muslims and then the Jews, who sponsored the Inquisition and the Crusades. It was the British who stupidly pitted Muslim against Hindu in their attempts to assert their imperial will–nothing makes them look as stupid as the movie’s coverage of how the “Empire” forbade the locals to take salt from their very own sea: the Indian Sea.

Now I fast forward to our current circumstances, with special reference to Jonathan Schell’s “Unconquerable World,” perhaps complemented by Clyde Prestowitz’ “Rogue Nation” (the US), and Chalmers Johnson “Sorrows of Empire”–and the other 470+ books relevant to war and peace today. Bottom line: boy, have we screwed this up. First off, invading Afghanistan made Al Qaeda stronger, not weaker. Second off, invading Iraq has made America weaker, not stronger, and inflamed the Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern Africa, the Pacific Rim, and the Muslim populations in the Americas.

We need a Gandhi. I cannot think of any modern leader who is even close, although the current Pope has certainly tried. This movie depicts, in terms stark and relevant, the opposite of 9-11–the clash of mobs driven by ideology or religion, completely oblivious to the core facts that Gandhi tried to teach: non-violence, love, truth, the Golden Rule. All else is evil.

If you have time for just one serious DVD, this is it.

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Review: Battle Ready (Study in Command)

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Insurgency & Revolution, Leadership, War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Clancy Has Offered Recently, Zinni is Superb!,

June 10, 2004
Tom Clancy
For the serious, this book absolutely merits a careful reading, together with Dana Priest’s “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military,” and–for a fuller and free overview–my varioius reviews on emerging threats, strategy and force structure, and why our current “military only” approach to foreign policy is ineffective.There are some tremendous gems in this book, some of which I summarize here.

1) Zinni is mpressive in his grasp of grand strategy, of the urgency of understanding the threat, devising a full approach that mixes and matches *all* instruments of national strategy, and that focuses–as Zinni learned to focus in Viet-Nam, on the hearts and minds of the people rather than the force on force battles (a means to an end, not an end in themselves).

2) Zinni’s understanding of war comes across very early in the book when he describes the six completely different wars that took place in South Viet-Nam, each with its own lessons, tactics, and sometimes equipment differences–nuances that conventional military policy, doctine, and acquisition managers back in the US still do not understand: a) Swamp War, b) Paddy War, c) Jungle War, d) Plains War, e) Saigon War, and f) DMZ War.

3) Zinni has read SLA Marshall on “The Soldier’s Load”, and he notes that the equipment that the South Vietnamese carried was lighter and better for their needs–the US military-industrial complex burdens our Armed Forces with overly heavy things, too many of them, that actually impair our ability to fight. Perhaps even more fascinating, Zinni sees that buying equipment for our troops locally cuts the cost by 4/5th. Not what your average US contractor wants to hear, but precisely what I as a taxpayer am looking for–with the added advantage that this puts money into the local economy and helps stabilize it.

4) Within the center of the book, there are rich lessons about war-fighting and peace-making that will stand the test of time. Most impressive is Zinni’s focus on pre-emptive relationship building across the region.

a) Relationships matter, and relationships forged in advance go a very long way in avoiding misunderstanding and defusing crises. If you have to fight, relationships are the single best means of reducing the fog of war and assuring good integration of effort across cultures, nations, and armies.

b) Speed and mixed forces matter. Zinni was the master, in four different timeframes, of using speed and properly mixed forces to achieve effects not possible with larger forces arriving late. In Viet-Nam he worked with “the Pacifiers”, especially reinforced company-size units that had been specially augmented with flamethrowers, extra machine guns and mortars, and their own engineers and scouts, all trained for instant deployment. At Camp Hansen, during the times of race riots, he learned the value of a fast, big guard force *combined with* constant and open dialog with the troops in distress. In humanitarian operations, he learned that rapid delivery of food tended to rapidly reduce the violence–get the food flowing fast, and reap the peace benefits. And finally, in developing the Marine Corps variant of special operations capable forces (not to be confused with the uniquely qualified Special Operations Forces), he developed the original capabilities of doing special things “from the sea.”

c) Non-state entities, both tribal threats and non-governmental organizations, are the heart of the new battle. Repeatedly Zinni comments on how poorly we do in terms of thinking about strategy, operations, and tactics for the sub-state war, and how badly we do at intelligence about tribes, and at coordinating with non-governmental organizations. Zinni finally discovered the true value of Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations as a flag officer, and ended up nurturing the creation of Civil Military Operations Centers, and a new language, such as “Humanitarian Relief Sectors” instead of “kill zone.”

5) Zinni makes some other observations throughout the book that are relevant now.

a) His respects Clinton as a quick study. Without disparagement, he makes it clear that Sandy Berger and Bill Cohen were mediocrities. He admired James Baker, who tried to do Marshall Plan kinds of things and could not get the beltway crowd to see the light. He is cautionary on General Wayne Downing (who went on with the Rendon Group to sponsor Chalabi–Zinni, on page 343, makes it clear he knew Chalabi was a thief and liar as early as 1998). He is admiring of Ambassador Bob Oakley.

b) With respect for foreign capabilities, among the insights are the integrity and capability of Pakistani and Bangladeshi troops, who maintained and then returned US complex equipment in better condition than it was received, with every single tool in every single kit present and accounted for; Italian military field hospitals; African troop tactical fighting discipline and capability.

6) The book wraps up with Zinni’s recommendations for change, all of which are on target: use retired Service and theater chiefs to constitute the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than the Service Chiefs with their parochial interests; earmark budgets for the theater commanders–inter-agency budgets; create an inter-agency strategy and operations center to make the government, not just the military, “joint.”

Zinni’s final observations deal with ethics and the obligation to avoid spin and always speak the truth. Zinni is smarter than the current crop of military leaders, who mistake loyalty to specific individuals with loyalty to the Constitution. He also differs from them in understanding that Operations Other than War (OOTW) is where it is at and will be for the foreseeable future.

Missing from the book is any reference to national and military intelligence, other than one small section where he notes it simply was not reliable and not available at the tribal level. Also missing from this book are any references to John Boyd, Mike Wylie, Bill Lind, or G.I. Wilson, all four of whom were, in my opinion, the legs of the intellectual stool that Zinni constructed for himself over time.

This is a serious book.

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Review: Faith-Based Diplomacy–Trumping Realpolitik

5 Star, Diplomacy, Leadership, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Religion & Politics of Religion, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

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5.0 out of 5 stars Award-Winner, Mind-Altering Information, Useful, Scholarly,

April 29, 2004
Douglas Johnston
Let’s start with the award. I was so impressed with this book that it received one of the ten Golden Candle Awards for most constructive and innovative work in the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) field. It represents the second book in a body of work that may eventually be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. The citation reads:To Dr. Douglas M. Johnston, president and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, for his path-finding efforts with regard to Preventive Diplomacy as well as Religion and Conflict Resolution. Among his many works, two stand out for defining a critical missing element in modern diplomacy: Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 1994), and Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press, 2003). He has restored the proper meaning of faith qua earnestness instead of faith qua zealotry, and this is a contribution of great importance.

With a foreword by no less than The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton, today a leader of the 9-11 Commission, the book drives a stake in the heart of secular “objective” negotiation and focuses on how faith (not zealotry, but earnest faith) can alter the spiral of violence in such places as Sudan, Kashmir, and the Middle East.

The editor and contributing author has assembled a multi-national and multi-religion cast of experts whose work in the aggregate completely supports the premise of the book: that the 21st Century will be about religion instead of ideology, and that what hopes we might have for reconciling “irreconcilable differences” lie in the balanced integration of religious dialog and conflict prevention, rather than in pre-emptive military action and unilateralist bullying.

I found two core concepts especially relevant to national security: the first is that we need an Office of Religious and Cultural Intelligence within the Central Intelligence Agency, and we need, as the authors suggest, to put religious attaches into every Embassy. The second, and this is a truly core concept, is “The price of freedom is cultural engagement–taking the time to learn how others view the world, to understand what is important to them, and to determine what can realistically be done to help them realize their legitimate aspirations.”

This is a brilliant, scholarly, practical, world-changing book. It joins Max Manwaring’s various books, but especially “The Search for Security,” Joe Nye’s earlier books on understanding the world and engaging the world with soft power, and George Soros as well as the several other books on my standard national security reading list. The conclusion of the book lists a number of means by which religion can impact on diplomacy and state-craft, and I for one have become a believer–this book completely altered my perspective on the role of religion as a peacemaker of substance and day-to-day practicality.

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Review: Transforming Leadership–The Pursuit of Happiness

5 Star, Leadership

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5.0 out of 5 stars Good News: It’s Possible; Bad News: Not With Today’s Lot,

July 26, 2003
James MacGregor Burns
Edit of 22 Dec 07 to add links.

This is quite a fine book. It will be especially valuable to that very rare breed of all-source intelligence analyst, those responsible for analyzing foreign leaders, and completely fed up with the sterile “biographic” analysis that lists job titles and honors. The author expands substantially on the very immature but promising field leadership analysis by discussing in detail the concepts and practices of “traits-based” or “value” leadership.

The author, himself already established as one of the best writers about leaders and leadership, breaks new ground in exploring the psychology of leadership, and creating a new inter-disciplinary and psychologically-rooted approach to understanding leadership at the national, organizational, and personal levels. He concludes that transformative leadership is all too rare; that it can redirect the fate of nations (Ghandi stands out as an exemplar), and that nurturing true transformative leadership rather than mere industrial-era task-mandating and monitoring leadership, is the core competency for navigating into the 21st Century.

The author is especially brutal when his idea are applied to the charismatic or ideologically-purified forms of leadership that pass for Presidential politics today. “At best, charisma is a confusing and undemocratic form of leadership. At worst, it is a form of tyranny.”

He spends a great deal of time examining the founding fathers of America and the process by which they defined both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitute, and his findings are quite remarkable (especially in light of recent attempts by Republicans in Texas and in the House of Representives to totally silence Democrats and override dissenting votes without voice):

1) The minority is an absolutely essential part of collective learning and the great dialog that leads to sound decisions. Repressing the minority is a prescription for disaster.

2) The pursuit of happiness, rather than property, was very deliberately selected by the founding fathers in order to focus on human values and collective learning, rather than property rights.

3) Rebellion from time to time is a feature, not a fault. “…the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” per John Adams. He specifically focuses on the importance of the loyal opposition as a means of enabling principled change by the majority in the cauldron of informed debate.

4) The right to abolish the U.S. Government is specifically reserved to the American people. The author notes that absolutist ideas inspire revolt, crowds have immeasurable power, and narrow ideologies with ritual tests of orthodoxy are an invitation to popular revolution.

After reviewing a number of leaders across history, the author quotes Roosevelt, who said “Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob” and then sets the stage for his concluding section, which suggests that leaders must embrace deep values that accept the happiness of the people as the ultimate challenge for the community, that they must empower followers rather than merely engage them, and that the ultimate challenge for all leaders of all nations and organizations is global poverty and the need to eradicate global poverty if billions are to find some semblance of happiness (and implicitly, stability that reduces the threat to the United States and Europe).

He quotes others in emphasizing that men in fear or want are not free men; that technology and money is not the answer to poverty, only values and liberation from fear and want, and–his final word, it the end it must be a “great people” rather than a “great man” that rises to the global challenge.

America! A Whole Earth. We can only imagine…

Bad Leadership:
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
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude

Good Leadership:
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
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 SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest

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Review: Supreme Command–Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime

4 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Leadership, War & Face of Battle

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4.0 out of 5 stars Isolates Leadership from Intelligence,

August 29, 2002
Eliot Cohen
Edit of 18 May to add links, images, and comment for the war college students.

This is a first-class book and everything that it offers is laudable. Unfortunately, it completely isolates the civilian political to military professional relationship from ethics, intelligence, or the public.

This is not to suggest that leadership cannot take place in the absence of intelligence–indeed, Churchill was at his greatest when he formed his private informal intelligence network to replace the static and myopic official intelligence channels that muddled along in the pre-war years.

However, to discuss Viet-Nam, for example, and not acknowledge what George Allen has documented so well in None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam, or Michael Hiam in Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars, to wit, the consistent manner in which policy-makers in Washington refused to listen to accurate intelligence estimates, while their Generals and Ambassadors in Saigon steadfastly “cooked the books,” leaves the reader with a distorted understanding of how the policy-military-intelligence triad actually fails, more often than not, on the policy side rather than on the intelligence side. The manipulation of truth from the Saigon end, and the refusal to listen to truth on the Washington end, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and American, as well as allied nationalities.

Ethics–and intelligence–matter, and no treatment of Supreme Command should fail to address how these two should be but often are not the foundation for the civilian-military relationship. Let me be blunt: until complete transparency is achieved in how we plan, program, and budget for national security, the military officer corps, not the elected politicians or the secret bureaucrats, are going to be the truth-tellers.

Eight other books (all with my Cliff Note reviews) that I recommend as context:

Modern Strategy: Time is the one strategic variable that cannot be bought nor replaced.

Hope Is Not a Strategy: The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale Neither is ideological fantasy and flag officers that forget their Oath and confuse loyalty with integrity.

Security Studies for the 21st Century Policy makers are seriously stupid about reality, and all too prone to believe classified crap or make up their own (see next two books)

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers See my review on Ellsberg lecturing Kissinger how he would become like a moron in shutting out ground truth in favor of codeword.

The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People Reality 101, not taught in most war colleges

The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World General and President Ike Eisenhower warned us–we let it happen anyway.

Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025. Strategic Communications is seriously stupid and ineffective if we continue to support 42 of the 44 dictators, and allow Guantanamo and Abu Grahib to dominate how others see us

A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change Reality 102. LtGen Dr. Brent Scowcroft was the US member of this panel on high level threats, challenges and change. Here they are, in priority order:

01 Poverty
02 Infectious Disease
03 Environmental Degradation
04 Inter-State Conflict
05 Civil War
06 Genocide
07 Other Atrocities
08 Proliferation
09 Terrorism
10 Transnational Crime

See my many lists on emerging threats, intelligence support to acquisition, etcetera. See comment for the free weekly report on Global Challenges: The Week in Review, and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Analysis Model.


01) $60 billion a year for secret intelligence that can be ignored and only touches 4% of the relevant information in 183 languages we do not speak is institutionalized lunacy.

02) Spending $1.3 trillion a year on war when peace and prosperity for all can be bought for under $250 billion a year is institutionalized lunacy.

03) You are responsible for keeping policy makers honest–that is a core Constitutional, moral, and command responsibility…you owe your troops, and the average American, this discipline of mind and heart.

04) The collective intelligence of the public is vastly more aware, more conscious, more moral, and more relevant to national security that the idiot ideas that come from loosely-educated policy makers who got their jobs by blowing smoke up someone’s butt (or academics who lie to Congress when Service leaders are not willing to kick them down the steps of Capitol Hill and put their stars on the table).

05) The Chinese brought Dick Cheney’s plane over Singapore. Why have you not been told this? Search for the Memorandum <Chinese Irregular Warfare>. Waging Peace (Irregular Warfare) is the ONLY win-win.

06) DoD, for all its faults including an inability to pass an audit and $2.3 trillion “missing and unaccounted for,” works better than the rest of the government. DoD needs to become the inter-agency and coalition hub for global action.

07) Foundations, corporations, other governments, and international organizations spend close to $1 trillion a year in charitable giving and planned assistance. Wrap your heads around this: a Multinational Decision Support Center in Tampa, taking over the CCC building that is being vacated, could create and promulgate an annual Global Range of Gifts Table to guide, on an opt-in basis, how they spent that money, while using Civil Affairs Brigade as the hub for regional multinational Civil Affairs Brigades who help connect the one billion rich with the five billion poor at a household level of granularity, with needs from $1 to $10,000 being covered by individuals that will not give to foundations.

The world has changed. Most of what is in this book is history, and completely out of touch with how the Services must motivate and lead Digital Natives, the Web 2.0 generation, and how the Services must become brain-housing groups–thinkers as well as shooters–able to deliver Peace from the Sea, Peace from Above, and Peace one cell call at a time.

I welcome invitations to speak informally after hours on a not to interfere basis. You folks at the next generation of leaders–you will need to learn most of what you will use outside the normal curriculum. Amazon is a great place to start.

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Review: The Knowledge Executive–Leadership in an Information Society

7 Star Top 1%, Information Society, Leadership
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5.0 out of 5 stars7 Star Life Transformative Priceless–Order the Out of Print Service,

May 29, 2000
Harlan Cleveland
This book was a catalyst in changing my own focus from that of reforming the classified intelligence community, to that of creating a “virtual intelligence community” that served as an on-going educational program for government and business leaders. “If there was ever a moment in history when a comprehensive strategic view was needed, not just by a few leaders in high (which is to say visible) office but by a large number of executives and other generalists in and out of government, this is certainly it. Meeting that need is what should be higher about higher education.”
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