The Original Medical Thriller, Still Going Strong,
Good Instincts, Spotty Presentation,
I found this book very much on target with its principal thesis, to wit, that the United States is too quick to take pre-emptory and often covert or illicit action against short-term threats, and that we pay a very heavy price over the long run for doing things like reinforcing despotic regimes, overturning anti-American regimes, and so on.
However–and I am one of those who first learned to admire the author when he was an authority, in the 1970’s, on the causes of revolution–I found the presentation spotty, with errors of fact and perception in those areas where I have a solid background, specifically the U.S. Marine Corps on Okinawa, and the clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency. Neither of those two organizations is as evil or disorganized as the author seems to believe, and frankly, I found his bibliography with respect to both domains to be mediocre.
[Since reading this book I have been absorbed in a book not yet available in the US, Gold Warriors, by the Seagraves, and have been stunned by the crimes they document–to wit, the theft by the US, secretly and without the taxpayer finding out, of all the gold and other treasures looted by the Nazis and the Japanese during WWII, subsequently using this “black money” to fund global political corruption on a grand scale–all on the part of the U.S. Government, with specific assistance from the CIA, Treasury, and others. Their book comes with two CD-ROMS containing 60,000 documents in support. I am persuaded, and this book, among others I had forgotten on CIA money laundering and occasional drug running, causes me to credit Chalmers Johnson with more accuracy on his accusations than I in my naivete first appreciated. His documentation still leaves much to be desired, but I perceive that he is more on the mark than off.]
This is a helpful book. If it were the only one it would be important in its own right, but in the light of books such as Daniel Ellsberg’s “SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers,” or Derek Leebaert’s much more profoundly researched and documented “The Fifty-Year Wound: The True Price of America’s Cold War Victory,” it falls from the front rank to the second shelf.
Among the critical points where the author is original and heed must be paid, is in his evalution of competing forms of economic management, and his very strong condemnation of the manner in which the US tries to impose a specific form of capitalism on the Asian economies, to their great detriment.
His book reinforces concerns others have articulated with respect to administrative secrecy enabling terrible policies to be enacted in the name of the people; to the military-industrial complex and its negative roles in arming and inciting to repression selected military around the world; to US guilt in human rights violations, to include the provision of encouragement for repression in both Indonesia and South Korea; and with respect to the value of North Korea to those in the US who want to fabricate a case for an anti-missile defense that most informed people agree is absurd in its concepts and extortionary in its pricing.
I am quite glad I read this book, quite glad to be reminded of the brilliant long-term contributions of the author to the field of Asian studies and the causes of revolution, and certain that those who specialize in studies the pathology of power–especially of imperial power such as is now enjoyed by the United States, will find much food for thought in this book.
Superb Focus on Culture Underlying Catastrophe,
The editors write: “One of the common sources of the policy-practice defect is its construction on culturally bound assumptions. In disaster contexts, aid often gets delivred in inappropriate forms and according to unsuited principles.” The book excells at looking at the uneven record of disaster preparedness, and the lack of understanding to local contexts that often help turn disasters into catastrophes.
I recommend this book as a primary reference for national security practitioners as well as state & local responders. The … billions now in the Homeland Security budget was not designed with this book’s lessons in mind, and will in all likelihood do more damage than good when we are tested again.
The message of the book is so important it merits emphasis–no amount of money is going to prevent catastrophe–absent a commitment to creating a culture of attention and interoperability and information sharing, we will create our own catastrophes each time we are challenged by what could have been nothing more than a localized disaster.
Bitter Truths that Destroy Swiss Integrity-Neutrality Myths,
Three aspects of this book stood out for me:
1) The glorification of secrecy as an end in itself, justifying almost any position–in substituting secrecy for morality the Swiss have aided and abetted war crimes, not just by the Nazis, but by many other evil people and organizations.
2) The lesser known aspect of Swiss misbehavior in rejecting hundreds of thousands of refugees, condemning them to certain death, while also bank-rolling and arming Hitler, essentially rescuing Germany from certain defeat in the early days, while prolonging the war toward the end.
3) The fact that today Switzerland continues to be the financial haven of choice for dictators and genocidal war-mongers of all sorts.
I happen to like Switzerland and admire the Swiss, but this book is a good spanking and it will be a test of their character as well as their “situational awareness” to see if in the aftermath of 9-11 they recognize the possibility that some forms of money should not be laundered, some forms of client should not be served–as one famous plastic surgeon once said, “you make your money on the ones you do, you make your reputation on the ones you do not.”
Outstanding! Could Save the Business of America….,
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.
Kristan Wheaton, the Army field grade officer who predicted the Balkan meltdown years in advance but could not get command attention (he subsequently wrote a book,The Warning Solution : Intelligent Analysis in the Age of Information Overload that needs to be updated and reprinted. The bottom line: policymakers are dealing with $50 billion problems “right now” and the intellgence profession has not matured to the point that it can compell attention to $1 billion “peaceful preventive measures” as General Al Gray, USMC, called them in his article, “Global Intelligence Challenges in the 1990’s,” American Intelligence Journal (winter 1989-1990).
The OTHER big problem that the U.S. Government has, apart from the corruption of Congress and the two-party political systems that services special intersts at the expense of the public interest, is the casual acceptance by the U.S. Government of authoritarian regimes. Indeed, of 44 dictatorships on the planet, all but two (North Korea and Cuba) are “best pals” with the U.S. Government because they all support rendition and torture and being “tough on terrorism” in return for liberal unaccountable funds from the U.S. taxpayer.
Achieving a prosperous world at peace demands and end to the concentration of wealth by illicit means. That in turn demands an end to dictatorial governments and a restoration of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is in that context that this paper matters.
Huge Helping of Reason, Needs Salt,
Most compelling is his methodical aggregation of data from several sources to show that the cost of saving one life (he notes that we fail to distinguish adequately between a life saved for a few years and a life saved for many years, or between young lives saved for a lifetime and old lives saved for a brief span of time). Table 2.1 on page 30 is quite astonishing–of 45 major regulated risks, one (drinking water) costs over $92 billion per premature death averted; eight including asbestos cost between $50 million and $4 billion; seven including arsenic and copper cost between $13 million and $45 million; 14 including various electrical standards cost between $1 million and $10 million per death averted; and 15 cost less than $1 million per death averted.
What cost human life? Even on this there is no standard, and even within a single regulatory agency (e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency) there are different calculations used in relation to different risks being regulated. The author does a really fine job of comparing the public perception of the value of a life saved ($1.3 million for automobile-related risks, $103 million for aviation-related risks) with the values used by the government and the courts, which vary widely (into the billions) but seem to hover between $10 million and $30 million per life saved and without regard the the number of life-years actually involved.
The heart of the book is in its conclusion, where the author proposes a four-part strategy for dramatically reducing the cost of regulatory risk management, suggesting that we focus on 1) disclosure of information to the public; 2) economic incentives; 3) risk reduction contracts; and 4) free market environmentalism. With respect to the latter, he is strongly supportive of allowing the “sale” of pollution privileges between nations and industries and companies.
For additional observations on reducing risk to the future of life see my reviews of Joe Thorton on “Pandora’s Poison,” Raffensperger and Tickner on “Protecting Public Health & The Environment,” Novacek on “The Biodiversity Crisis,” Czech on “Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train,” Lomberg on “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Helvarg on “Blue Frontier,” and Wilson’s “The Future of Life.”
Cass Sunstein and Lawrence Lessig join Jerry Berman and Marc Rotenberg and Mike Godwin as America’s “top guns” in responsible law-making. This book makes a great deal of sense, is worth a great deal of money, and should guide the future evolution of regulatory and information-driven risk management.
Great Idea Formula Fails On This One,
A Breath of Sanity–Hard Look at Cost of Cold War,
“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.
“Net Assessment” of 9-11, Arabs, & Prospects for Peace,
Across many columns, the author hits again and again at the basics: “we have been allowing a double game to go on with our Middle East allies for years, and that has to stop.” Either they cease supporting terrorists in return for a dubious poverty-ridden peace at home, or they join the target list; we must invest heavily in both a Marshall Plan and a Voice of America *in Arabic* that consistently and constantly counters all of the lies about America and against America that the Arab regimes permit as part of their strategy for peace at home; lastly, more subtly, we must get serious about standing up for our values and not allowing rogue governments to abuse our friendship and tolerance while fostering hatred of America among their repressed, using America as the opiate of the down-trodden. The author seems to agree with Ralph Peters, author of “Beyond Terror” and “Fighting for the Future” in focusing on the importance of the Muslim outlands from Pakistan and India down through Malaysia and Indonesia, and he is especially strong at documenting the severe misunderstandings and misimpressions of America that persist across the Muslim world but especially in Arabia–otherwise serious people who really believe that bin Laden is good, 9-11 was justified, and everything will get better if America stops supporting Israel.
This particular book, down to earth and based on very direct observations, is a useful counter-balance to Bernard Lewis, “What Went Wrong.” Both distinguished authors agree that the Arab regimes are their own worst enemies and have brought their poverty on themselves–but where the historian seems to deem this sufficient to permit disengagement, the correspondent takes the other tack and calls for major generational-changing engagement, utilizing all the instruments of national power, from coercive diplomacy backed up by the very real threat of military intervention amongst our pupported allies, to massive economic, educational, and cultural assistance and outreach.
Toward the end of the book, quoting the deputy editor of New Isvestia in Moscow, the author hits the final nail on the head: “It is not East versus West anymore. It is the stable versus unstable worlds…”
China, Russia, Islam, water, disease, crime–terrorism, I conclude, is a very small part of the threat, and our greatest challenge right now is to devise a holistic national security strategy that does not lose sight of the forest for the one burning bush. Overall, the author has provided as fine a net assessment as any President could ask for.
The Global Futures Partnership (GFP) is a strategic “think and do tank” that undertakes unclassified global outreach for CIA and other Intelligence Community elements on the most important issues facing the intelligence community today and in coming years. It conceptualizes and implements interdisciplinary and multi-organizational projects on key intelligence issues with leading thinkers from academia, business, strategy, and intelligence consultants.
Below is the citation for the award given to the visionary, founder, and core catalyst within the GFP, followed by two CIA seals: the one on the left leads to the pro forma page on GFP, sadly not offering access to its unclassified and often brilliant productions over the past several years, and the one on the left offers a link to a presentation on “Meeting 21st Century Transnational Challenges: Building a Global Intelligence Paradigm” by Roger George, possibly the most tangible evidence of GFP’s influence on CIA’s leadership.
OSS ’02: 21st Century Emerging Leadership Award. Global Futures Partnership, Central Intelligence Agency. Under the leadership of Carol Dumaine with her extraordinary vision, the Global Futures Partnership has created strategic learning forums bringing the rich perspectives of the outside world into the classified environment in a manner never before attempted. This official but revolutionary endeavor nurtures an outside-in channel for integrating a diversity of perspectives. It is a vanguard toward a future in which the lines between national and global intelligence, and between governmental and nongovernmental intelligence, are blurred into extinction.
The GFP is not to be confused with the Open Source Center (OSC). The first is a visionary outreach elements that seeks to share information and achieve multi-national sense-making, in one instance working with up to 35 countries. The OSC is a bureaucratic unit that classifies everything it creates and refuses to engage with any countries other than the standard English-speaking allies and a couple of others totalling eleven including the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, you get the idea….
The CIA leadership never properly supported the GFP. Its vision
There are two ways of looking at ICTs: as an instrument, and as an industry. As an instrument, affordable and usable ICTs can indeed transform the way societies work, entertain, study, govern and live – at the individual, organizational, sector, vocational and national levels. As an industry, ICTs represent a major growing economic sector covering hardware, software, telecom/datacom and consulting services.
Through both lenses – industry and instrument – the performance of developing nations lags that of developed nations, but interesting patterns of variation and pockets of excellence are emerging. For instance, countries like India and the Philippines have ICT industries that are exporting software and attracting outsourcing contracts – but they also have looming digital divides where ICTs are not accessible or affordable as instruments for a majority of the population.
This paper charts the industry and instrument aspects of ICTs in developing nations, using a comparative framework developed over the years by the author called the “8 Cs” of the digital economy (words beginning with the letter C): connectivity, content, community, commerce, culture, capacity, cooperation and capital (see below).
What does the twenty-first century “information society’ mean for all of us? This paper will examine information society developments primarily from an industrialized country perspective. However, it will acknowledge that the spread of networks means that developments in the industrialised countries have major implications for developing countries.
The paper will consider: 1) the key determinants of a ‘knowledge-driven economy’ and what this means for the broader concept of an ‘information society’ including the structure of information and communication technology investment, the system features of the new networks, the role of learning and new information exchange models and the weak links in the diffusion pathway. 2) the diffusion pathways for information and communication technologies and advanced networks will include an examination of business, government and citizen use of the new networks. 3) policy and regulatory priorities will emphasise the need for learning to acquire new skills and competencies, the need to reduce constraints on e-service delivery markets, and importance of improved monitoring of information society developments. 4) the potential for fostering public/private partnerships for mobilising information society developments for social and economic benefit. This section will give particular attention to the structure of incentives for public and private organisations to engage in such partnerships and the likelihood that such partnerships can substantially stimulate investment in sustainable network applications and services. 5) The paper will conclude with some observations on the dominant trends and the extent to which the twenty-first century ‘information society’ is likely to perpetuate existing asymmetries or give rise to a more equitable distribution of resources.
The following key issues will be explored under this topic:
1. The Nature of the Problem
A) The vulnerabilities of national and international infrastructures B) Infrastructure dependencies C) Infrastructure failures and attacks D) Models for information attacks E) The international dimensions of the problem F. The need for international cooperation
2. Strategic Defence Options
A) Preventing an attack B) Thwarting an attack C) Limiting damage D) Reconstituting after an attack E) Passive and active defences F) Some specifically international problems
3. Forms of International Cooperation
A) Standards B) Information Sharing C) Halting cyber attacks in progress D) Harmonizing legal systems E) Providing assistance to developing nations
4. Finding a Suitable Framework for International Cooperation
A) An ideal model B) Necessary characteristics of an approximate real-world construction C) Some difficult problems to overcome