Review: The Biodiversity Crisis–Losing What Counts

5 Star, Environment (Problems)
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5.0 out of 5 stars

World-Class in Every Way,

November 5, 2001
American Museum of Natural History
This is very much an edited work, with most of the entries being but two or three pages in length. All of the authors are world-class proven naturalists and related professionals, and the photography that accompanies each work is top of the line. Of all the bio-diversity books available, this one appears to be both the easiest to digest and the most pleasing to the eye.Biodiversity is an option-generator. More diversity, more options for the future. See also Howard Bloom, World Brain.

Hyperdisease happens more often than we might think, and is very relevant to concerns today about the collapse of public health. See also Laurrie Garrett, Betrayal of Trust.

Biological elements are being inserted into commercial off the shelf products with unanticipated effects, some of which are damaging to humans. One noteworthy example: Corning added an ingredient to its tubes to make them less brittle, and scientists were finding their experiments infected and contaminated. Corning would not reveal what had changed, claiming it was a trade secret. Independent investigation finally determined that there was a synthetic chemical mimicking estrogen and having the effect of an estrogen injection on the cells exposed to the Corning tubes. Buyers beware–there would appear to be some disclosure standards required!

Mass catastrophes have occurred many times over history, eliminating up to 75% of all living things, with varied outcomes in the millions of years thereafter. See also David Keys, Catastrophe, on the most recent, the Dark Ages, circa 535 A.D.

Naturalists and natural science–the study of nature in its own environment, are endangered. Most universities are failing to support this vital area of study, with a result that our understanding of nature stems largely from lab work and computer models that are far removed from reality. See also John Paul Ralston, Voltaire’s Bastards.

I highly recommend this book. It is both discouraging (so much yet to be done to stabilize the world) and encouraging (many good things being done by many small groups).
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Review: Roosevelt’s Secret War–FDR and World War II Espionage

3 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mish-Mash with Some Raisins,

November 4, 2001
Joseph E. Persico
Intelligence professionals will be very disappointed by this book, citizens interested in Presidential approaches to intelligence, somewhat less so. The author’s brilliant biography of William Casey, OSS Veteran and Director of Central Intelligence under President Ronald Reagan, was a much more satisfying book. What we have here is by and large a mish-mash of the works of others, together with an original composition on FDR’s involvement in intelligence that is uneven–partly because the subject did not put much in writing, and partly because the author chose to rely primarily on secondary published sources.From the perspective of one interested in “Presidential intelligence,” that is, how does a President manage various means of keeping informed, the book is a must read but also a shallow read. We learn that FDR was a master of deception and of running many parallel efforts, balancing them against one another. We learn that FDR was remarkably tolerant of amateurism and incompetence, while good at finding the gems these same loose but prolific intelligence endeavors could offer.

Perhaps most importantly, we gain some insights into how Presidents, even when properly informed by intelligence (e.g. of Pearl Harbor in advance, or of the lack of threat from domestic Americans of Japanese descent) must yet “go along” and provide either inaction pending the public’s “getting it”, or unnecessary action (the internments) to assuage public concern.

There are enough tid-bits to warrant a full reading of the book, but only for those who have not read widely in the literature of intelligence and/or presidential history. The British lied to the President and grossly exaggerated their intelligence capabilities, in one instance presenting a man “just back from behind the lines” when in fact he was simply on staff and lying for effect. We learn that the Department of State was twice offered, and twice declined, the lead on a global structure for collecting and processing intelligence. We learn that FDR himself concluded that Croatia and Serbia would never ever get along and should be separate countries.

On the NATO side, we learn that Eisenhower went with bad weather and the invasion succeeded in part because of a successful deception and in part because of Ike’s courage in going forward in the face of bad weather–fast forward to how weather incapacitates our high-technology today. Most interestingly, we learn that FDR finally approved Eisenhower as leader of Overload, in lieu of his favorite, General Marshall, in part because he recognized that the allied joint environment required a general and a politician in one man.

This book is a hybrid, attempting to mesh presidential history with intelligence history, and perhaps this should gain the author some margin of tolerance. Unfortunately, in focusing on the relationships among the various intelligence principals and the president, he seriously passes over the enormous contributions of military as well as civilian and allied intelligence to the larger undertaking, and one is left with the narrow impression that American intelligence consisted largely of a number of self-serving clowns vying for Presidential favor.

The flaws inherent in a Federal Bureau of Investigation dominated by J. Edgar Hoover, and the lack of cooperation between the FBI and other major intelligence activities that continues today, are noted throughout the book.

Bottom line: worth buying and reading to gain insight into the challenges facing a President who can become isolated from reality by a corporate staff, but nowhere near the quality of Christopher Andrew’s For the President’s Eyes Only, or any of many good histories of espionage in World War II.
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Review: Waging Modern War–Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Stabilization & Reconstruction, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), War & Face of Battle
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5.0 out of 5 stars

Most Miss Point: Book Excells At Highlighting Our Weaknesses,

>November 3, 2001

Wesley K. Clark

Every citizen should read this book so they can instruct their elected representatives and vote for military reform. As things now stand, we will lose the war on terrorism over time because of the perennial flaws in our system that this book identifies.Don’t Bother Us Now. The U.S. political system is not structured to pay attention to “early warning”. Kosovo (as well as Croatia and Serbia beforehand and later Macedonia) were well known looming problems, but in the aftermath of the Gulf War, both Congress and the Administration in power at the time said to the U.S. Intelligence Community, essentially: “don’t bother us anymore with this, this is inconvenient warning, we’ll get to it when it explodes.” We allowed over a hundred thousand to be murdered in genocide, because our political system was “tired.””Modern war” is an overwhelming combination of micro-management from across the varied nations belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; a reliance on very high-tech weapons with precision effect that are useless in the absence of precision intelligence (and the lawyers insist the intelligence be near-real-time, a virtual impossibility for years to come); and an obsession with avoiding casualties that hand-cuffs our friendly commanders and gives great encouragement to our enemies.

Services versus Commanders. The military services that under Title 10 are responsible for training, equipping, and organizing the forces–but not for fighting them, something the regional commanders-in-chief must do–have become–and I say this advisedly–the biggest impediment to the successful prosecution of operations. The detailed story of the Army staff resistance to the use of the Apache helicopters is the best case study I have ever seen of how senior staff generals with political access can prevent operational generals with field responsibilities from being fully effective. In combination with the insistence of the services that forces be held back for Korean and Persian Gulf threats that might not be realized, instead of supporting a real war that existed in Europe, simply stated, makes it clear that there is a “seam” between our force-creating generals and our force-fighting generals that has gotten *out of control.* The fog of war is thickest in Washington, and the greatest friction–the obstacles to success in war–are largely of our own making.

Lawyers, Fear, and Micro-Management. Just as we recently witnessed a lawyer overruling the general to avoid killing the commander of the Taliban, General Clark’s war was dominated by lawyers, a fear of casualties, and micro-management, from Washington, of his use of every weapons system normally left to the discretion of the field commander. This has gotten completely out of hand. Within NATO it is compounded by multi-national forces whose commanders can refuse orders inconsistent with their own national view of things, but reading this book, one is left with the clear understanding that General Clark was fighting a three-front war at all times: with the real enemy, with the media, and with Washington–his NATO commanders were the least of his problems.

Technology Loses to Weather and Lacks Intelligence. Throughout the book there are statements that make it clear that the U.S. military is not yet an all-weather military, and has a very long way to go before it ever will be. Aligned with this incapacity is a high-technology culture that suffers from very weak maintenance and an almost complete lack of intelligence at the level of precision and with the timeliness that is needed for our very expensive weapons to be effective. Nothing has changed since MajGen Bob Scales wrote his excellent Firepower in Limited War, pointing out that artillery still cannot be adequately supported by the intelligence capabilities we have now.

Strategic Mobility Shortfalls, Tactical Aviation Constraints. Although General Clark judges the air war to have been a success, and an essential factor in facilitating “coercive diplomacy”, he also communicates two realities about U.S. military aviation: 1) we do not have the strategic aviation lift to get anywhere in less than 90-180 days, and his request for a 75 day mobilization was not possible as a result; and 2) our tactical aviation assets are so specialized, and require so much advance preparation in terms of munitions, route planning, and so on, that they cannot be readily redirected in less than a full day. A full day. This is simply outlandish.

We Don’t Do Mountains. No statement in the book hurt me more than one by an Army general telling General Clark that his plans for the ground campaign could not be supported by the U.S. Army because “we don’t do mountains” This, in combination with the loser’s attitude (no casualties) and the general reluctance of the services to put their high-tech capabilities like the Apache at risk in a real war, sum up the decrepitude of the U.S. military leadership and the Revolution in Military Affairs-Andrew Gordon in Rules of the Game has it exactly right-the post Viet-Nam and post Cold War era has left us with a bunch of high-tech chickens in control of military resources, and we need to find ourselves some rat-catchers able to redirect our military toward a lust for man to man combat in every clime and place-and the low-tech sustainable tools to do the job.

General Clark’s concluding words, on page 459: “In Kosovo my commanders and I found that we lacked the detailed prompt information to campaign effectively against the Serb ground forces. Most of the technologies we had been promoting since the Gulf War were still immature, unable to deal with the vagaries of weather, vegetation, and urban areas, or the limitations of bandwidth and airspace. The discrete service programs didn’t always fit together technically. And (sic) the officers who operated the programs were not qualified to work across service lines and did not understand the full range of national capabilities. I worried about the nature of Joint skills even among senior officers.” Are we ready? No.

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Review: The Invention of Peace–Reflections on War and International Order

4 Star, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slim, Pointed, It’s About Culture and Obedience to a State,

October 28, 2001
Sir Michael Howard
This is an essay with deep insights, but it is not a portal to other knowledge as it lacks any notes or bibliography. The author is one of our top strategists, historians, and teachers of war and peace and this is very much a capstone presentation.The settlement of disputes among groups whose grievances are so great they are willing to die rather than accept impositions from others, are a fact of life. As 11 September has shown us, we are vulnerable to unconventional attacks against civilians, within our own borders–this book is relevant and readable.

The core idea is that only organized nation-states that can command the loyalty and obedience of their citizens, are capable of preventing war and championing peace. The concepts of corporate peace and non-governmental peace are explicitly disavowed.

Legitimization and brutality are recurring themes in history–peace among nations occurs when mutual respect or fear legitimize the status quo, and incredible brutalities, including routine massacres of “infidel” civilians, occur when states fail to control themselves or their populations.

A major disruptive factor in today’s world is the combination of educated but unemployed masses within the Arabian and Islamic nations, and the globalization of communications–but it is a one-way globalization, firehosing the Muslims with corporate consumerist visions and impositions, while a Muslim Press Service has yet to form. Individual states–one could suggest that the United States is among them–failing to nurture a clear definition of citizenship, and the requisite loyalties–are destined to suffer internal fragmentation and external attack.

Strong militaries are needed to win wars, but overt military intervention is not the route to a sustainable peace in today’s complex environment–only diplomacy, cultural outreach, and mutually agreed consensus can create and sustain peace….this is the simple yet brutal message of this book, one our leaders have yet to grasp.

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Review: The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Change & Innovation, Information Operations, Information Technology, Military & Pentagon Power
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of Asymmetric Advantage is NOT Technology,

October 28, 2001
MacGregor Knox
This is the only serious book I have been able to find that addresses revolutions in military affairs with useful case studies, a specific focus on whether asymmetric advantages do or do not result, and a very satisfactory executive conclusion. This book is strongly recommended for both military professionals, and the executive and congressional authorities who persist in sharing the fiction that technology is of itself an asymmetric advantage.

It merits emphasis that the author’s first conclusion, spanning a diversity of case studies, is that technology may be a catalyst but it rarely drives a revolution in military affairs–concepts are revolutionary, it is ideas that break out of the box.
Their second conclusion is both counter-intuitive (but based on case studies) and in perfect alignment with Peter Drucker’s conclusions on successful entrepreneurship: the best revolutions are incremental (evolutionary) and based on solutions to actual opponents and actual conditions, rather than hypothetical and delusional scenarios of what we think the future will bring us. In this the authors mesh well with Andrew Gordon’s masterpiece on the rules of the game and Jutland: we may be best drawing down on our investments in peacetime, emphasizing the education of our future warfighters, and then be prepared for massive rapid agile investments in scaling up experimental initiatives as they prove successful in actual battle.
The book is noteworthy for its assault on fictional scenarios and its emphasis on realism in planning–especially valuable is the authors’ staunch insistence that only honesty, open discussion among all ranks, and the wide dissemination of lessons learned, will lead to improvements.
Finally, the authors are in whole-hearted agreement with Colin Gray, author of Modern Strategy, in stating out-right that revolutions in military affairs are not a substitute for strategy as so often assumed by utopian planners, but merely an operational or tactical means.
This is a brilliant, carefully documented work that should scare the daylights out of every taxpayer–it is nothing short of an indictment of our entire current approach to military spending and organization. As the author’s quaintly note in their understated way, in the last paragraph of the book, “the present trend is far from promising, as the American government and armed forces procure enormous arsenals only distantly related to specific strategic needs and operational and tactical employment concepts, while continu[ing], in the immortal words of Kiffin Rockwell, a pilot in the legendary First World War Lafayette Escadrille, to ‘fly along, blissfully ignorant, hoping for the best.'”

Lest the above be greeted with some skepticism, let us note the 26 October 2001 award of $200 billion to Lockheed for the new Joint Strike Fighter calls into serious question whether the leadership in the Pentagon understands the real world–the real world conflicts of today–all 282 of them (counting 178 internal conflicts) will require the Joint Strike Fighter only 10% of the time–the other 90% of our challenges demand capabilities and insights the Pentagon is not only not capable of fielding, it simply refuses to consider them to be “real war.” Omar Bin Laden beat the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, and he (and others who follow in his footsteps) will continue to do so until we find a military leadership that can lead a real-world revolution in military affairs…. rather than a continuing fantasy in which the military-industrial complex lives on regardless of how many homeland attacks we suffer.
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Review: The O’Reilly Factor–The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life

5 Star, Culture, Research, Politics
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gets Many Big Things Right–But Revolution Fizzles,

October 28, 2001
Bill O’Reilly
This is a really great book with 20 short chapters that span the full range of American life from class, money, and sex to politics, race, religion and personal relations.

There are some really sharp insights here, and a fundamental honesty, that should inspire the majority of voters–those who earn an honest wage and go about their business while being polite to others.
Best of all, O’Reilly has beat the media system and earned the power to tell it as he sees it, without bowing to the censorship that characterizes most news programs today, obsessed as they are with entertainment.
There is a down side–this one man show is just that, and both his own Republican party as well as the Democratic party have both sold out to class, corporate money, and a status quo that has the average tax payer paying for all the perks at the top.
There is a lot of beef to O’Reilly, but as one who agrees with most of what is on his mind, I am left with the unanswered question: where’s the revolution? Where are campaign finance reform and a massive turn-out of voters able to take back the government and bring common sense back into government?

O’Reilly talks a good show, let’s see if he can take it to the next level and start both a web site and a popular reform movement.
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