In this book, the author, drawing extensively on his intelligence and military background, has cleanly written an easy to follow book, that outlines a careful course of action for developing a new kind of global information sharing infrastructure. To be headquartered at the UN, this new infrastructure would make it possible for every organization (and through them, everyone) on the globe to share open-source intelligence equally as a free public resource. If it is successful, this new global brain could transform our world from its current insecurity-driven and corrupt corporate dominated lose-lose, economic and conflict trap, into a much revived win-win strategy for bottom-up collective survival in a peaceful and sustainable world economy.
At least that is the theoretical hope and vision. On paper, and in principle, it is a stunningly sexy and attractive vision, one that, should it prove operationally testable and feasible, could indeed have the important side benefit and advantage of creating new bottom-up wealth, energizing the world economy and easing world tensions by reducing mistrust and fear back down to the noise level.
In ‘Dynamics Among Nations’, Professor Hilton Root convincingly challenges the propositions of the liberal international consensus and re-frames the prevailing conceptualisation of development by introducing complexity thinking to the fields of political economy and international relations.
I highly recommend this intellectually stimulating and excellently written book to decision makers, researchers and students – as well as to anyone who is interested in gaining an advanced and well-informed understanding of the complex realities of development and global policy.
REF A — 12 Years of Lessons Learned in Time for 2014, October 13, 2013
This is an extraordinary book that required a great deal of time, not in the reading, but in the reflection. This will be a longer review than usual, even for me, because this book contains all of the insights that the US and the Coalition have refused to embrace for the past twelve years. It is never too late to learn.
The author opens with a well-known quote on the dangers of drawing a line between fighting men and thinking men, lest one end up with the fighting being done by fools and the thinking by cowards. To this I would add another group, the “deciders,” who in the absence of any familiarity with fighting or access to intelligence with integrity, end up making decisions whose true cost in blood, treasure, and spirit crosses the line dividing legitimate actions “in the national interest” from “crimes against humanity.
Positive up front: US under Obama has given more of everything and progress has been made across both military (stronger Afghan army, degraded Taliban) and socio-economic (education, health, media) domains. To that I would add elections. Afghanistan is about to experience the most extraordinary election cycle it has ever been my privilege to observe.
In contrast, the author finds that Pakistan has worsened in every possible manner, in large part because the US has not understood Pakistan, has lacked a strategy (or the intelligence with which to devise a coherent sustainable strategy), and in failing, the US has allowed Pakistan to drag itself down and Afghanistan to be a regional albatross – a cancer on all others.
The author is quite blunt in describing an incoherent even infantile US decision-making environment characterized by “contradictory policies, intense political infighting, and uncertainty.” In being inept, the US opened the way for regional players to manipulate, exploit, and exacerbate.
Chapter 1 on the Bin Laden raid is utter nonsense, this may be the price the author pays to maintain access and avoid being assassinated. See instead The Bin Laden Story 00-90 at Phi Beta Iota.
The author points out that by 2014 the Coalition engagement in Afghanistan will have been longer than WWI and WWII. In my own mind this highlights the fact that the US in particular, but the Western nations in general, have lost their integrity. They are incapable of collecting and analyzing the truth, thinking holistically, evaluating true costs over time, or devising a sustainable strategy that ultimately achieves the desired end-state: peace and prosperity. A churlish skeptic would point out that no, the West has achieved precisely what it wants, public theater at home, a massive transfer of wealth from the individual taxpayer to the military-industrial complex, and personal enrichment of most policymakers, at least in the USA. Either way, the larger publics lose at home and abroad.
Pakistan and Afghanistan matter not only to Central Asia, where other countries such as Uzbekistan are beginning to implode, but to the Middle East and India. At the very end of the book the author ponders how Afghanistan might follow the Turkish example of Islamic/secular regeneration, and I cannot help but wish that 12 years ago the Coalition had had the brain to leave the British home and make Afghanistan a collaborative effort among Muslim nations led by Turkey.
QUOTE (19) “After a decade, NATO has achieved none of its strategic aims – rebuilding the Afghan state, defeating the Taliban, stabilizing the region – so what assurances can it now plausibly give that it will do so by 2014?
The author defines Afghanistan today (2012) as a corrupt and incompetent government, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and inoperable justice system, high on drugs and illiteracy, with a police force that has the highest desertion rate in the world.
The sucking chest wound: no indigenous economy. Bush specifically refused to invest in roads, dams, water, and power. Karzai has been a complete failure [the author gives Karzai credit and cause across the book, outlining the many ways in which the US failed to develop a relationship of trust with him.]
Pakistani military is out of control and the deal breaker. Nothing the US or other can do will overcome an arrogant ignorant Pakistani military continuing to support extremists and their violence within Afghanistan.
QUOTE (22): “If the west is to depart Afghanistan by 2014 and leave behind relatively stable regimes in Kabul and Islamabad, it will need a multidimensional political, diplomatic, economic, and military strategy.”
Answering this challenge is the purpose of the book.
My nine page detailed summary for professionals coping with Afghanistan and not having the time to read this excellent work, is posted at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.
5.0 out of 5 starsAuthentic, Credible, Legitimate, and Damning of All Who Betray the Public Trust, August 24, 2013
I have this book in front of me, and will be doing a detailed review over the next week or so. I have already gone through it quickly, and concluded that it offers the single best compilation or literature review of all of the psychological and social reasons why military “leaders” end up being treasonous gerbils, combined with the deepest direct field research I know of to buttress the author's speculative hypotheses and proven conclusions.
I swung by here to check what others have said, and am quite disappointed by the shallow ignorance of the only review present. Here are a couple of quotes that capture my philosophy and hence my valuation of this book:
When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it. Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York)
During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell
This book is a tad hyper-critical (of Dick Cheney for example — certainly a traitor but by no means stupid) and too close in format to the original thesis, or it would be a six star book. If I were Czar, every person responsible for the public interest would receive the wisdom and ethical instruction in this book, in one form or another, to include comic book form if necessary.
My detailed review will be posted within the week. I could not let the first review stand uncontested.
5.0 out of 5 stars6 Star (My Top 10%) — The Book Susan Rice Should Read First, June 6, 2013
I received and read this book today, and while I am troubled by the author's buying into the Bin Laden story and the official 9/11 cover-up, this is a six-star book that easily provides one stellar concept that must be integrated into the fabric of every foreign policy — understanding the failures of the centers in each state with respect to the more traditional peripheries — and a deep broad articulation of why the US “war on terror” has actually been a thoughtless unnecessarily expensive and harmful war on tribes.
Ignore those who demean this book or this author. I generally consider Brookings to be expert at publishing dumbed down talking points for loosely-educated policy makers, but this book is easily in the top tier, a book Cambridge or Oxford would be comfortable published, and a book that ties in perfectly with Philip Allot's extraordinary book The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Read my review of that book as a pre-quel to reading this book, which I certainly recommend in the strongest possible terms.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent First Step, Four Disappointments, January 2, 2013
This is one of the more useful reports to come out of the US Institute of Peace and its collaborative effort with the National Academy of Engineering and I highly recommend it for either free reading online at the National Academies Press (individual) or for library purchase for the information, intelligence, diplomacy, civil-military, stabilization & reconstruction, and decision-support sections.
The goals are worthy but overly scientific & technical (the cultural part always comes first): to apply science and technology to the process of peacebuilding and stabilization; to promote systematic communications among organizations across political and other boundaries; and to apply science and technology to pressing conflict issues. La di dah. I just want to know if there is a dead donkey at the bottom of this particular well.
Secondary and equally ambitious goals that their current staffing model cannot support:
1. Adopt the agricultural extension services model to peacebuilding
2. Use data sharing to improve coordination in peacebuilding
3. Sense emerging conflicts (at least they realize the secret intelligence world does NOT do this)
4. Harness systems methods for delivery of peacebuilding services.
FOUR STRONG THEMES MAKE THIS BOOK VALUABLE:
1. Data sharing requires working across a technology-culture divide
2. Information sharing requires building and maintaining trust
3. Information sharing requires linking civilian-military policy discussions to technology
4. Collaboration software needs to be aligned with user needs.
The Routledge Handbook of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
Edited By: Paul B. Rich and Isabelle Duyvesteyn
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ‘counterinsurgency’ (COIN) has enjoyed a revival. The perceived failure of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a ‘backlash’ principally by advocates of the use of conventional warfare against insurgents, some of whom see COIN as not a ‘manly’ approach to warfare, as well as by Anti-imperialists who see COIN as a means of extending Western imperial power.
Paul B. Rich and Isabelle Duyvesteyn’s handbook of insurgency and counterinsurgency gives us an opportunity to survey the state of the art in ‘orthodox’ counterinsurgency thinking. This ‘orthodox’ approach appears to dominate the ‘counterinsurgency industry’ and could be argued to represent an ‘interpretive’ or ‘epistemic’ community. Peter Haas defines an epistemic community as a ‘network of professionals with recognised expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within that domain or issue-area’. This community tends to share common assumptions and intellectual beliefs and is influential because policy-makers may rely on their expertise.