Review: Voltaire’s Bastards–The Dictatorship of Reason in the West

4 Star, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Information Operations, Information Society, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Misinformation & Propaganda, Science & Politics of Science

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4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Going But the Deeper Thinking is Worth It,

September 22, 2001
John Ralston Saul

There is much in this book, depending on one’s particular interests, that can be skimmed or skipped. With patience, however, the book in its entirety is a rewarding experience for it calls into question much about how we organize ourselves politically, economically, and socially.
The bottom line, and very consistently with other great books such as “The Manufacture of Evil” on the low end and “Consilience” on the high end, is that Western thinking has been corrupted to the point that the West has become, as the inside flap says, “a vast, incomprehensible directionless machine, run by process-minded experts….whose cult of scientific management is bereft of both sense and morality.”
As my own interests run toward public intelligence and public effectiveness in guiding the polity, I found his several chapters related to secrecy, immorality, and the “hijacking of capitalism” to be especially worthwhile.
He concludes that secrecy is pathological, undermining both public confidence and the public dialog. Intelligence in his view is about disseminated knowledge, not secrets.
Throughout the book the author discusses the contest between those who feel that the people cannot be trusted–the elites who strive to remain in power by making power appear an arcane skill with rites and formulas beyond the ken of the people–and those who feels that the people–and especially the larger consciousness of the people–are more in touch with nature and reality and the needs of the people than these elites.
This is a difficult book to absorb and enjoy, but I recommend because it sets the broad outlines for the real power struggle in the 21st Century–not between terrorism and capitalism, but rather between the government-corporate elites with their own agenda, and the larger body of people now possibly ready to turn every organization into an employee-owned and managed activity.

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Review: Defense Policy Choices for the Bush Administration 2001 – 2005

4 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power

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4.0 out of 5 stars Core Reading, Treats Traditional Defense in Isolation,

September 21, 2001
Michael E. O’Hanlon
Every citizen needs to read and think about the future of national defense. This book is one of the core readings.

Among the recommendations in this book that make it essential reading for anyone concerned with streamlining and revitalizing national security, I consider the following to be sensible:

1) cost savings should not be achieved through the wholesale abandonment of overseas commitments (13);

2) achieve additional cost savings as well as increased operational utility by sharply limiting spending on the most advanced weapons and mobility systems, applying the savings to maintaining readiness and buying larger numbers of “good enough” weaponry (83);

3) citing Stephen Rosen-he could also have cited Colin Gray-he urges a slowdown in the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) while emphasizing that true RMA’s are less about technology and more about the very best mix of people, time, and information to produce innovation (88);

4) in this vein, he noted the continued excessive focus on mobility platforms rather than C4I or joint service experimentation (90);

5) homeland defense needs several billion more dollars per year (129), a recapitalization of the U.S. Coast Guard by with at least a $750 million a year increase (135), and a sharply increased focus on setting C4I security standards for unclassified communications and computing networks across the nation, with roughly $100 million a year additional;

6) politely put, National Missile Defense is best conceptualized as theater missile defense (TMD, 143); and

7) Taiwan would be a nightmare for all sides.
Among the assertions in this book that give me pause are

1) defense down-sizing in the past ten years has been successful, trimming a third of the budget and manpower while retaining quality and cohesion (p. 1);

2) that 3% of the Gross Domestic Product is adequate for defense spending and we do not need to go to the less-than-traditional 4% (3-4);

3) that the Marine Corps should be employed to relieve Army troops in the Balkans (57) or Korea (80);

4) that North Korean armored forces would have great difficulty breaking through Allied lines to Seoul (71);

5) that rogue nations like North Korea would attempt to provide their infantry with chemical protective gear when using chemical weapons (73);

6) that US airpower is both a rapid-response solution for distant threats as well as an overwhelming response for sustained threats (76, passim);

7) that arsenal ships are survivable in off-shore loiter mode (111); and

8) that an overseas deployment rate of 8% of the total force is too high (227).
Having said that, and with all my reservations about a book, no matter how talented the author, that does not preface its discussion of force structure with a review of the recommended strategy, and a discussion of the recommended strategy with a review of the real-world right-now threat, I have to rate this book a solid four in terms of seriousness of purpose and utility of content.

It would be twice as valuable if it included a thorough discussion of what kind of Global Coverage intelligence investment is needed in order to make defense forces relevant and capable in the future; and if it included a discussion of how defense forces are but the most expensive instrument of national power, and must be designed and funded in consonance with the other instruments, and especially the severely underfunded diplomatic, economic, and cultural instruments.
The author, easily one of the top three citizen-reviewers of the national security spending program, ultimately recommends less expensive weaponry, a different two-war capability (“1+A+i”), selective reductions in overseas deployments, more defense and less nuclear offense, selective increases in homeland defense including the U.S. Coast Guard and joint experimentation, and a modest increase (roughly $25 billion) of the defense budget that would combine with his recommended savings to yield the $60 billion or so transformation delta that others have recommended.
I like and recommend this book. Out of context, however, it is a dangerous book, for it will lead an inexperienced President and a Cold War team to the conclusion that only a transformation of the traditional military (Program 50) is necessary. O’Hanlon has done it again-he has provided the baseline from within which a reasonable public debate about defense transformation might ensue. The military issues he addresses comprise both the foundation and one of the four corners of our future national security-my concern about this book is that it is completely isolated and makes no mention of the other three corners without which we cannot maintain a proper roof over our heads: intelligence (threat understanding), strategy, and Program 150 soft power-power that today is both silent and emaciated.

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Review: Wilson’s Ghost–Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century

5 Star, Consciousness & Social IQ, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Truth & Reconciliation

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5.0 out of 5 stars Strategic Context for Understanding 11 Sep Attack on America,

September 15, 2001
Robert S. McNamara
Of all the books I have read or reviewed in the past two years, this is the only one that comes close to addressing the bitter truth about the fundamental disconnect between our perception of ourselves as “the beacon of truth”, and the rest of the world’s perception of us as “interventionist, exploitative, unilateralist, hegemonic, and hypocritical.” Those that would seek to understand just how long our Dark Ages will last would do well to start with this book while also buying a copy of the map of “World Conflict and Human Rights Map 2000” available from the PIOOM Project at Leiden University. Beyond that, selected portions of the Shultz et al book on “Security Studies for the 21st Century”, where detailed comments are made about both knowledge gaps among our policymakers and non-traditional threats, are recommended.

There is no question but that the Attack on America of 11 September 2001 has awakened and even frightened the American public. It has elicited conventional assurances from other nation states. What most Americans do not understand, what this book makes brilliantly clear, is that two thirds of the rest of the world is glad it happened. I quote from page 52: “…at least two-thirds of the world’s people–Chinese, Russians, Indians, Arabs, Muslims, and Africans–see the United States as the single greatest threat to their societies. They do not regard America as a military threat but as a menace to their integrity, autonomy, prosperity and freedom of action.”
Whether one agrees with their depiction of two-thirds or not (or whether they see the Attack as a well-deserved bloody nose or an atrocity beyond the pale), the fact is that the authors paint–together with the PIOOM map–a compelling picture of billions–not millions but billions–of impoverished dispossessed people suffering from failed states, crime, slavery, starvation, water shortages–and an abundance of media as well as propaganda showing the US fat and happy and living the consumer society dream on the backs of these billions.
Of all the policy people I have followed over the years, Robert McNamara and Bill Colby are the two that have in my view matured and broadened the most after leaving the halls of power. The deep insights that I find throughout this book-a partnership expert between McNamara with the global reality and power game insights, James Blight with the scholarly underpinnings-are extraordinarily applicable to the challenges that we face in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 Attack on America. In particular, their dissection of the United Nations-what works and what does not-and their recommendations for future initiatives that are multilateralist and focused on the prevention and amelioration of the root conditions that are spawning our terrorist challenges, are vital reading for policymakers, diplomats, warriors, and financial magnates.

I am very concerned by any effort to militarize our response to the terrorist challenge-this is a long war that requires a fundamental restructuring of national intelligence and counterintelligence; a $100 billion a year effort to address the root causes of instability worldwide and a redirection of US foreign and defense policy away from unilateralism (for instance, we must now support the International Tribunal and an international island prison for those convicted of war crimes as well as acts of terror). Our military is still needed, but it too must be restructured to provide for four major capabilities all equally capable: CINCWAR, CINCSOLIC, CINCPEACE, and CINCHOME. I can only hope that this book, which I recommend highly, is read and understood before we start to throw money at the problem in counterproductive ways.
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Memorandum: Streamling National Security


This summarizes personal perceptions from a three day workshop at the Army War College on the topic of “Streamlining National Security Overseas and in the Homeland” as organized and led by Professor Michael Pasquarett.


Review: Fitzroy Dearborn Book of World Rankings, 4th Edition

4 Star, Atlases & State of the World

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4.0 out of 5 stars Gold-Plated, Short of Comprehensive, Worth Buying,

September 10, 2001
George T. Kurian
Although this book does not have country by country, and it has not been “modernized” with a special section on the Internet, I could not do without it. While I recommend The Economist Pocket World in Figures as the best value (one tenth the cost), I find that this…book is essential to any serious personal library. However, for what the book costs, I would like to see a web-based password-access database offered that would allow data extraction and chart creation. This book is superior to The Economist version in that it lists all countries for which data is available (generally 135-185), and it is a more diverse and well-presented collection of data.
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Review: Orbiting the Giant Hairball–A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

4 Star, Change & Innovation, Consciousness & Social IQ
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4.0 out of 5 stars Over the Top on Cute, Profound Insights, No Solutions

September 4, 2001

Gordon MacKenzieI would never have bought this book off the shelf, because it is way over the top with cutesy child-like drawings, hard to read type, and other affectations–it goes beyond charming toward excessive cosmetics. It was, however, recommended by someone I trust, and I am glad I read it.

The two most profound insights, insights every teacher and CEO should be required to repeat every day, are that our schools beat creativity out of our children, and our corporations suppress individual ideas and any attempts at diversity.

I read this book twice. The first time, like a cat circling a mouse, I would pick it up and read just one of the stories, expecting to collect enough evidence to discard it completely, and instead being drawn back for another story at random. The second time, more sequentially, looking for the meat to review.

Unfortunately, absent a major revolution in how we manage our organizations, this book does not suggest solutions. Very few can survive on their own unless they are willing to drop down to subsistence living. The sad fact is we have a school system designed over 100 years to deskill people to the point they could work in assembly line jobs (including white collar “company man go along” jobs), and in the same 100 years have focused on building companies in which everyone is replaceable, and no one person can hope to do the business development, product development, service, and billing for any given offering.

Certainly the Internet offers some prospects–say 20 years down the road–for networks of “virtual corporations” to take effect, but in the meantime, I have to judge this book as a really excellent pate de foie gras, just the thing with which to torment the corporate slaves who want to dream of freedom.

Great book, something we can use in another 40 years or so, if we have managed to get a grip on campaign finance reform, neighborhood cottage and networked industries, and radically restructured schools that get away from rote and celebrate the process of learning. Until then, most people are going to have to focus on keeping the job they have, however distasteful it may be, because the harsh reality is that in this day and age, it is the large inefficient organization that provides gainful employment for the majority of us that have not been schooled to be anything other than drones.

I’ll end on a positive note: there is something called the Davies J-Curve, a political science finding that suggests that people do not revolt to acquire greater freedom or anything else, but rather when they have experienced all that they wish, and then it is taken away from them. If we have a major recession that decapitates government and cleans out a good third of the small businesses and corporations that are hanging on by a string now, it may just inspire groups of people to revisit how they relate to one another.

One more positive note: if you are a realist, and you know that you have to accept drone status, but want to be cheered up and contemplate little ways around the margins where you can exercise some freedom muscles, this is the book for you. I enjoyed reading this book, and it may be unfair to evaluate it at the strategic level-there is no question that the author is an inspired original thinker, and I hope the day comes when he is the norm, rather than the exception.

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