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

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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: High Noo–20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them

6 Star Top 10%, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Priorities, Public Administration, Survival & Sustainment, United Nations & NGOs, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Straight-Forward, Understandable, URGENT, “Strong Buy”,

August 29, 2003
Jean-francois Rischard
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to aadd comment and links.

Comment: This is still the best strategic overview and a book I would recommend all. See the others below.

Having read perhaps 20 of the best books on global issues and environmental sustainability, water scarcity, ocean problems, etc, over the past few years (most reviewed here on Amazon) I was prepared for a superficial summary, political posturing, and unrealistic claims. Not this book–this book is one of the finest, most intelligent, most easily understood programs for action I have ever seen. The book as a whole, and the 20 problem statements specifically, are concise, illustrated, and sensible.

The author breaks the 20 issues into 3 groups. Group one (sharing our planet) includes global warming; biodiversity and ecosystem losses, fisheries depletion, deforestation, water deficits, and maritime safety and pollution. Group two (sharing our humanity) includes massive step-up in the fight against poverty, peacekeeping-conflict prevention-combatting terrorism, education for all, global infectuous diseases, digital divide, and natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Group three (sharing our rule book) includes reinventing taxation for the 21st century, biotechnology rules, global financial architecture, illegal drugs, trade-investment-competition rules, intellectual property rights, e-commerce rules, and international labor and migration rules.

The author's core concept for dealing with these complex issues intelligently, while recognizing that “world government” is not an option, lies with his appreciation of the Internet and how global issues networks could be created that would be a vertical complement to the existing horizontal elements of each national government.

The footnotes and index are professional, but vastly more important, the author's vision is combined with practicality. This is a “doable-do” and this book is therefore my number one reading recommendation for any citizen buying just one book of the 360+ that I have recommended within Amazon. Superb.

See also, with reviews:
The Future of Life
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Green Chemistry and the Ten Commandments of Sustainability, 2nd ed
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

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2003 Information Peacekeeping & The Future of Intelligence: The United Nations, Smart Mobs, and the Seven Tribes

Articles & Chapters, Civil Affairs, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Information Operations, Information Society, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public), Security (Including Immigration), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, United Nations & NGOs, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
PKI UN Smart Mobs Seven Tribes
PKI UN Smart Mobs Seven Tribes

Chapter 13: “Information Peacekeeping & the Future of Intelligence: The United Nations, Smart Mobs, and the Seven Tribes” pp. 201-225

Review: The Search for Security–A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

6 Star Top 10%, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Culture, Research, Force Structure (Military), Future, History, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Security (Including Immigration), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Coherent, Holistic, and Above All, Sane,

July 4, 2003
Max G. Manwaring
This book is a gem, and it is worth every penny, but it is a pity that it has not been priced for mass market because every U.S. citizen would benefit from reading this superb collection of chapters focused on how to keep America both safe and prosperous in a volatile world of super-empowered angry men, ethnic criminal gangs, mass migrations, epidemic disease, and water scarcity.President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma, himself a former Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, provides a non-partisan foreword that clearly indicts both Democrats and Republicans for what he calls a “zig-zag” foreign policy that is guided by TV images and weekly polls, rather than any coherent and calculated evaluation of ends, ways, and means.

Divided into three parts, the book first addresses the Global Security Environment (2 chapters), then discusses elements of a grand or total strategy (5 chapters), and concludes with a prescription (2 chapters). Every chapter is good.

Chapter 1 by Richard Millet does an outstanding job of discussing the global security environment in terms that make it crystal clear that the highest probability threats are non-traditional threats, generally involving non-state actors in a failed state environment. These are not threats that can be addressed by a heavy metal military that is not trained, equipped, nor organized for humanitarian or constabulary operations. Among his most trenchant observations: America can not succeed when the local elites (e.g. Colombia) are not willing to pay the price for internal justice and stability; sometimes the costs of success can exceed the costs of failure (Afghanistan?); what America lacks today is any criteria by which to determine when to attempt coalition building and when to go it alone; the real threat is not any single government or non-state organization, but the millions of daily decisions (e.g. to buy cocaine or smuggle medicine) that incentivise crime and endless conflict.

Chapter 2 by Robert Dorff dissects existing U.S. national security “strategy” and shows clearly, in a non-partisan manner, that the U.S. does not have a coherent inter-agency capability for agreeing on ends, ways, or means. He calls what we have now–both from the past under Clinton and in the present under Bush, “adhocery” and he makes the compelling point that our failure to have a coherent forward-looking strategy is costing the U.S. taxpayer both money and results.

Chapters 3-7 are each little gems. In Chapter 3 Max Manwaring suggests that our existing assumptions about geopolitics and military power are obsolete, and we are in great danger if Americans cannot change their way of thinking about national security issues. He suggests five remedies, the most important of which is the establishment of a coherent inter-agency planning and operational control process for leveraging all sources of national power–political, diplomatic, economic, military, and informational–simultaneously and in balance. In Chapter 4 Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring offer a fine discourse on why legitimate governance around the world must be “the” end that we seek as a means of assuring American security and prosperity in the face of globalization. Chapter 5 by Leif Rosenberger addresses the economic threats inherent in globalization, including free flows of capital, concluding that fixed exchange rates divorce countries from reality, and that the US must sponsor a global early warning system dedicated to the financial arena. Chapter 5 by Dennis Rempe is good but too short. He clearly identifies information power as being the equal of diplomacy, economics, and military power, going so far as to suggest an “International Information Agency” that could eventually become a public good as well as an objective arbiter of “ground truth.” I like this idea, in part because it is consistent with the ideas I set forth in NEW CRAFT, to wit that we need to migrate from secret intelligence intended for Presidents (who then manipulate that intelligence and lie to their people) toward public intelligence that can be discussed and understood by the people–this makes for sounder decisions. Chapter 7, again by Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring, discusses deterrence in terms of culture, motive, and effect–they are especially good in pointing out that traditional deterrence is irrelevant with suicidal martyrs, and that the best deterrence consists of the education of domestic publics about the realities of the post-Cold War world.

The book concludes with 2 chapters, the first by Edwin Corr and Max Manwaring, who discuss how values (education, income, civic virtue) must be the foundation of the American security strategy. They then translate this into some specific “objectives” for overseas investments and influences by the U.S., and they conclude that the ultimate investment must be in better educating both domestic and international audiences. They recommend the legitimacy of all governments as a global objective; End-State Planning (ESP) as the way to get there; and a new focus on holistic and long-term programs rather than “adhocery” as the best way to manage scarce means. One can only speculate how differently Afghanistan and Iraq (and Haiti, now discarded for a decade) might have turned out if the US had rolled in with a Marshall Plan or Berlin Airlift equivalent the minute organized hostilities ceased. Robert Dorff closes the book by pointing out that state failure is not the root cause, but rather the symptom, and that the U.S. must intervene before a state fails, not after.

I recommend this book, together with Colin Gray's “Modern Strategy” as essential reading for any national security professional. The publishers should consider issuing a more affordable paperback (books cost a penny a page to produce, perhaps a penny a page to market, so anything over $5 on this book is pure profit). This is a book, like Harry Summers on strategy, that should be available for $15 in paperback–if it were, I would buy 200 for my next conference.

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Review: Statecraft as Soulcraft

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Culture, Research, Democracy, Education (General), Information Society, Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Insights into What Makes Nations Great,

February 28, 2003
George F. Will
Although George Will can be an extremist in some of his views, he has a good mind and is gifted as an author and orator. This is nowhere more evident than in this collection of 20th century essays, where he focuses on “statecraft as soulcraft.” Thomas Jefferson understood that an educated citizenry was a Nation's best defense, and the Vietnamese have clearly demonstrated that a nation with a strong strategic culture can defeat the United States when it practices the American way of war (lots of technology, little public support for the war). Today we are beginning to understand that the moral aspects of national character are 3-5 times more important than the physical and economic and technical aspects. Michele Borba's new book, Building Moral Intelligence, together with George Will's dated but still powerfully relevant book, comprise the urgently needed elementary education for all adults who would be responsibile citizens–or leaders of citizens.
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Review: The Politics of Fortune–A New Agenda For Business Leaders

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Resilience, Congress (Failure, Reform), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Intelligence (Public), Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Could Save the Business of America….,

December 13, 2002
Jeffrey E. Garten
The author, dean of the Yale business school, has rendered a most valuable service to the business leaders of America, and in the process opened the possibility that new forms of business education, new forms of business practice, and new forms of moral global governance might yet emerge in America.Originally inspired by the “double-whammy” of 9-11 and Enron on business–(the one costing America, by Fortune's estimate for businesses alone, $150B in additional security measures, or close to 1.5% of the Gross Domestic Product; while others suggest 9-11 has reduced profits by 5-6%), the author provides an easy to read, well-documented overview of why CEOs have to engage in rebuilding the integrity of business, protecting the homeland, preserving global economic security and free trade, taking on global poverty, and influencing foreign policy.

The author excells at pointing out, in the most gracious way possible, how all of the preconceptions of the current administration, and in particular its penchant for unilateralist military bullying, have proven both unworkable in achieving their intended results, while also unsuitable in being translated to economic gains. Military power does not translate into economic power or added prosperity.

This book is *loaded* with common sense and specific ideas for getting business leadership back into the global stabilization dialog. The author focused on two ideas that I consider to be especially important: the need to reexamine how the taxpayer dollar is being spent on national security, with a view to redirecting funds (I add: from military heavy metal to what Joe Nye calls soft power: diplomacy, assistance, intelligence); and on the urgency of restoring the independence and expanding the mandate of the U.S. Information Agency so as to overcome the acute misperceptions of the US fostered by Saudi-funded schools for youths being taught to hate, and little else.

The non-governmental organizations come in for special scrutiny, and the author has many good ideas, not only for promoting better business-NGO partnerships, but for auditing the NGOs and not ceding to them the moral high ground. As he points out, many organizations that oppose globalization or specific business practices do not have any standards or transparency with respect to who funds them, how decisions are made, and so on.

Finally, the author concludes with a focus on business education. While citing many improvements made by many schools, he notes that a comprehensive study and reengineering overall has not occurred since the late 1950's and early 1960's, and that the time is long past when graduate business education must be completely revamped. He is exceptionally astute and credible throughout the book as he explores the many things that CEOs need to know but do not receive training on, to include understanding and dealing with government, NGOs, citizen advocates, and the real world. As he notes, Master's in Business Administration tend to train students for the first years in the corporation, not the long-haul. He places some emphasis on the need to consider continuing education as an extension of the original program, and I immediately thought of an MBA as a limited-term license that must be renewed by recurring personal investments in education.

As someone whose opening lecture line to citizens and businessmen is “if the State fails, you fail,” I found this book extraordinarily valuable and urgent. We get the government we deserve. If citizens do not vote, if businessmen do not think of the larger social goods and social contexts within which they operate, then the government will prove incapable and at some point the party will be over.

Yale has always had an extra helping of morality and humanity; in this book the dean of the business school ably makes the case that business leadership and engagement in national security and global stabilization is the sine qua non for continued prosperity. He's got my vote–if I were a mature student looking for a place to learn, he's put Yale right at the top of my list.

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Review: The Fifty Year Wound–The True Price of America’s Cold War Victory

6 Star Top 10%, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Government), Diplomacy, Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), History, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Sanity–Hard Look at Cost of Cold War,

December 1, 2002
Derek Leebaert
This is an extraordinary book, in part because it forces us to confront the “hangover” effects of the Cold War as we begin an uncertain path into the post 9-11 future. It begins by emphasizing that the Cold War glorified certain types of institutions, personalities, and attitudes, and ends by pointing out that we paid a very heavy cost–much as General and President Eisenhower tried to warn us–in permitting our society to be bound by weaponry, ideology, and secrecy.Two quotes, one from the beginning, one from the end, capture all that lies in between, well-documented and I would add–contrary to some opinions–coherent and understandable.

“For the United States, the price of victory goes far beyond the dollars spend on warheads, foreign aid, soldiers, propaganda, and intelligence. It includes, for instance, time wasted, talent misdirected, secrecy imposed, and confidence impaired. Particular costs were imposed on industry, science, and the universities. Trade was distorted and growth impeded.” (page xi)

“CIA world-order men whose intrigues more often than not started at the incompetent and went down from there, White House claims of ‘national security' to conceal deceit, and the creation of huge special interests in archaic spending all too easily occurred because most Americans were not preoccupied with the struggle.” (page 643)

Although the author did not consult the most recent intelligence reform books (e.g. Berkowitz, Johnson, Treverton, inter alia), he is consistently detailed and scathing in his review of intelligence blunders and the costs of secrecy–in this he appears to very ably collaborate the findings of Daniel Ellsberg's more narrowly focused book on “SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He points out, among many many examples, that despite Andropov's having been head of the KGB for fifteen years, at the end of it CIA still did not know if Andropov has a wife or spoke English. He also has a lovely contrast between how little was learned using very expensive national technical means (secret satellites) and open sources: “So much failure could have been avoided if CIA has done more careful homework during the 1950s in the run-up to Sputnik; during the 1960s, when Sovieet marshals were openly publishing their thoughts on nuclear strategy; or during the 1970s and 1980s, when stagnation could be chronicled in the unclassified gray pages of Soviet print. Most expensively, the CIA hardly ever learned anything from its mistakes, largely because it would not admit them.” (pages 567-568).

The author's biographic information does not include any reference to military service, but footnote 110 suggests that he was at least in Officer Candidate School with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. The biography, limited to the inside back jacket flap, also avoids discussing the author's considerable experience with information technology. Given the importance of this critique of all that most Republicans and most 50-70 year olds hold very sacred, we need to more about the man goring the ox. Future editions should have a much expanded biography.

Bottom line: America muddled through the Cold War, made many costly mistakes, and developed a policy-making process that is, to this day, largely uninformed due to a lack of a comprehensive global intelligence capability, or a sufficient means of consulting diverse experts (as opposed to the in-town intellectual harlots). If ever we needed a clean-sheet look at how we make policy and how we provide decision-support to that policy process, this is the time. The “fifty-year wound” is still open, and the author warns us it will not heal without a reappraisal of how we do the business of national security.

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