Review: Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Congress (Failure, Reform), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Misinformation & Propaganda, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Condemnation of Crude Corruption,

July 29, 2003
Robert Baer
Edit of 22 Dec to add links. Book is available in paperback.

Former spy Robert Baer, author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism, makes the leap from intelligence reformist to national mentor with his new book, “SLEEPING WITH THE DEVIL: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude.” Indeed, his last sentence has the White House laying in the moonlight with its legs spread, lustfully eyeing the Saudi wallet on the bureau.

This is an extraordinary compelling work, not least because it provides detailed and documented discovery not previously available, of how the U.S. government has over the course of several administrations made a deliberate decision to a) not spy on the Arab countries, b) not collect and read open sources in Arabic, c) not attempt to understand the sub-state actors such as the Muslim brotherhood, despite a long history in which these groups commit suicide to achieve their objectives, including the murder of several heads of state.

Baer’s most brutal points should make every American shudder: it is America itself that is subsidizing terrorism, as well as the corruption of the Saudi royal family. Baer’s documented estimate is that $1 dollar from every barrel of petroleum is spent on Saudi royal family sexual misbehavior, and $1.50 of every barrel of petroleum bought by America ultimately ends up funding extremist schools, foundations, and terrorist groups.

Baer has “gone back in time” to document how all of this terrorism began in the 1970’s, but despite its terrible local consequences (including the assassination of heads of state), was ignored by Washington as “a local problem.”

In one lovely real-life account, Baer, then duty officer at CIA while Iraq poised to invade Kuwait, found that the $35 billion per year system was useless, impotent. It came down to his calling the chief of station in Kuwait, who called a border guard, who lifted his binoculars and described the Iraqi tanks stopped for lunch. Baer says: “As I waited, I wondered: Is this what all that money for intelligence is buying us? A pair of binoculars?”

Baer joins with Robert Kaplan in concluding that democracy in Arabia would be an out and out disaster. The decades of Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism run amok cannot be resolved by democratic elections because the very people who most hate America will be elected. Baer observes that “strongman tactics” such as used by Saddam Hussein and by the Syrian leadership–including a “scorched earth” campaign against the internal terrorist groups–are a more stable “rule of law”. One can conclude that the US has made a mistake in destabilizing Iraq, and that the imposition of a democratic solution in Iraq will turn out to be vastly more difficult, and vastly more expensive, than the naive neo-conservatives understood when they set forth without bothering to establish who was in the majority within the population being “liberated.”

Saudi Arabia has bought and paid for all the White House and Congressional influence it needs. This is why the recently released 9-11 report contains no mention of the secret documentation of Saudi Arabian complicity in the terrorism that took 3,000 American lives. As Senator Shelby noted on PBS NewsHour recently (he has read the secret report), 93% of the blanked out pages, and specifically those on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism against America and other nations, is a “con man’s” effort to avoid “embarrassment.” As the families of the 9-11 victims have said, “we need to know.”

Baer is extraordinary. He was a success as a case officer (a clandestine representive of America dealing with traitors and terrorists under conditions of extreme risk), and he has now become a sort of “Patrick Henry” of the modern era, warning us in clear and compelling terms that White House corruption (a non-partisan recurring corruption) and Saudi Arabia are the twin swords upon which this great Nation may yet impale itself.

Other books Americans need to read (or at least read the reviews):
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
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition

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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: 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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Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Gore Vidal

5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002

This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal’s book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”

I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”

1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.

Continue reading “Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated”

Review: Resource Wars–The New Landscape of Global Conflict

5 Star, Congress (Failure, Reform), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Politics, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ground Truth That Will Be Ignored,

May 31, 2001
Michael T. Klare

This is a very thoughtful and well-documented book that has been 20 years in the making–although it was actually researched and written in the past three years, the author is on record as having discussed water wars in 1980, and should be credited with anticipating the relationship between natural resources, ethnic conflict, and great power discomfort well before the pack.

He covers oil in particular, energy in more general terms (to my disappointment, not breaking natural gas out from oil, a very relevant distinction for commodities brokers), water, minerals, and timber. His footnotes are quite satisfactory and strike a very fine balance–unusually good–between policy, military, and academic or industry sources.

Sadly, I believe that this book, as with Laurie Garrett’s book on the collapse of public health, will be ignored by the …Administration, which appears to have decided that real war is only between states, that energy is something to be increased, not moderated in use, and that real men do not concern themselves with ethnic conflict, small wars, or scarcity of any sort in the Third World.

As I reflect on this book, and its deep discussion of the details of existing and potential resources wars (it includes a very fine illustrative appendix of oil and natural gas conflicts, all current), I contemplate both my disappointment that the author and publisher did not choose to do more with geospatial visualization–a fold out map of the world with all the points plotted in color would have been an extraordinary value–and the immediate potential value of adding the knowledge represented by this book on resources and the Garrett book on public health threats–to the World Conflict & Human Rights Map 2000 published by PIOOM at Leiden University in The Netherlands.

What I really like about this book is its relevance, its authority, its utility. What I find frustrating about this book is that it is, like all books, an isolated fragment of knowledge that cannot easily be integrated and visualized. How helpful it would be, if US voters could see a geographic depiction of the world showing all that the author of this excellent work is trying to communicate, and on the same geographic depiction, see the military dollars versus the economic assistance dollars that the U.S. is or is not investing. The results would be shocking and could lead to political action as the community level, for what is clear to me from this book is that there is a huge disconnect between the real threat, our national security policies, and how we actually spend our foreign affairs, defense, and trade dollars from the taxpayers’ pockets.

A trillion dollar tax cut, or a trillion dollar investment in deterrence through investments in natural resource stabilization and extension? Which would be of more lasting value to the seventh generation of our children? The author does not comment–one is left to read between the lines.

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Review: Water–The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource

5 Star, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant–Puts Water in Context of War, Peace, and Life,

October 2, 2000
Marq De Villiers
I rank this book as being among the top ten I have read in the decade, for the combined reason that its topic concerns our survival, and its author has done a superior job of integrating both scholarly research (with full credit to those upon whose work he builds) and what must be a unique background of actually having traveled to the specific desolate areas that comprise the heart of this book-from the Aral Sea (“the exposed seabed, now over 28,000 square kilometers, became a stew of salt, pesticide residues, and toxic chemicals; the strong winds in the region pick up more than 40 million tons of these poisonous sediments each year, and the contaminated dust storms that follow have caused the incidence of respiratory illnesses and cancers to explode.”) to the heart of China (“According to China’s own figures, between 1983 and 1990 the number of cities short of water tripled to three hundred, almost half the cities in the country; those who problem was described as ‘serious’ rose from forty to one hundred.” The author provides a thoughtful and well-structured look at every corner of the world, with special emphasis on the Middle East, the Tigris-Euphrates System, the Nile, the Americas, and China; and at the main human factors destroying our global water system: pollution, dams (that silt up and prevent nutrients from going downstream or flooding from rejuvenating the lower lands), irrigation (leading to salination such that hundreds of thousands of acres are now infertile and being taken out of production), over-engineering, and excessive water mining from aquifers, which are in serious danger of drying up in key areas in the US as well as overseas within the next twenty years. The author provides a balanced and well-documented view overall. His final chapter on solutions explores conservation, technical, and political options. Two statements leapt off the page: first, that it is the average person, unaware of the fragility of our water system, that is doing the most damage, not the corporations or mega-farms; and second, that for the price of one military ship or equipped unit ($100 million), one can desalinate 100 million cubic meters of water. The bottom line is clear: we are close to a tipping point toward catastrophe but solution are still within our grasp, and they require, not world government, but a virtual world system that permits the integrated management of all aspects of water demand as well supply. This book should be required reading for every college student and every executive and every government employee at local, state, and federal levels; and every citizen.
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THE DOLLAR HAS NO INTRINSIC VALUE : DO YOUR ASSETS?