Important History Not Understood By Most, November 22, 2013
The historical half is mind-glazing, the more recent chapters highly relevant to understanding the deep ignorance of the US Intelligence Community and the US policy (prostitution) community these past 12 years.
I have given the book four stars in part because it is not designed to illuminate the threat in visualizable terms, and it is not up to date. Now that Saudi Arabia has declared war on the USA and the West generally (joining with Israel in a truly bizarre satanic alliance), and on Iran and the Shi’ite portion of Afghanistan specifically, this book absolutely merits updating and republication, hopefully with some decent maps and graphics and tables this next time around.
Early on in a nut-shell: Wahhabism spread in the 19th century, first throughout the Arabian penninsula and then to the Indian subcontinent including what are now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Wahabbism is both a fundamentalist ideology that wins over deep converts, and a form of mercenary religion, buying its way into susceptible corners.
The most important point stressed throughout the book is that Wahhabism is outside the mainstream of Muslim society.
The big surprise for me, and one reason I am distressed at how badly we prepare people for service in this area, is the deep history of Wahhabism among the Pashtun. Today Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent Qatar and the United Arab Republic seem bent on funding a religious war in Central and South Asia, and no one seems to be paying attention to this emergent threat. I would go so far as to say we are now, in this region, where we were in 1988-1989 when the Saudis first began funding the global Islamic outreach program led by Sheikh Binbaz and represented in part by young Bin Laden.
For those who say that comparing the current war in Afghanistan to the Vietnam War is taking things too far, here’s a reality check: It’s not taking things far enough. From the origins of these North-South conflicts to the role of insurgents and the pointlessness of this week’s Afghan presidential elections, it’s impossible to ignore the similarities between these wars. The places and faces may have changed but the enemy is old and familiar. The sooner the United States recognizes this, the sooner it can stop making the same mistakes in Afghanistan.
After appointing Gen. Stanley McChrystal the new commander in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave him two months to write an analysis of the situation there in yet another review of U.S. strategy. But after rumors leaked out that McChrystal would ask for another increase in U.S. troops, it appears that Gates decided he would not wait for McChrystal’s finished report. On Aug. 2, he summoned McChrystal and his deputy, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to a hastily arranged meeting in Belgium which also included Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, NATO commander Admiral James Stavridis, McChrystal’s direct boss Gen. David Petraeus, and under secretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy.
On Aug. 5, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrellbriefed reporters on the results of the unusual Sunday meeting. According to Morrell, Gates instructed McChrystal to consider a few additional, and unspecified, issues in his report. Gates also instructed McChrystal to take more time, likely postponing the delivery of the report into September.
Finally, Morrell explained that McChrystal’s report will not include any discussion or request for additional “resources” (meaning U.S. troops and money) for Afghanistan. If McChrystal wants to make such a request, Morrell said, he will do so separately and at a later time.
Does the Job–We All Need to “See” This Book’s Pages
July 4, 2007
There are enough reviews here so that my summative review is not necessary. I will only say that this is a powerful book, and it reminded me of General Eisenhower’s order that all those living in the vicinity of the death camps be marched past the stacked bodies so they could see what their abdication of morality had allowed to happen.
This is mostly a book of photographs. If you want deeper text, including a spectacular (unintended pun)chapter on “Looking” and how it was the crowds that validated “spectacle lynching,” then you must also buy Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob. The title is misleading, but the content of that book is not–that is the deep academic and psychological review that complements this book.
If yoy only wish to buy one book, of lasting value for generations, buy this one. If you can afford two and want to study the underlying social and psychological environments that allowed whites to treat blacks as if they were animals, buy both.
Balanced Deep Trustworthy View of Policy-Intelligence Gaps,
February 8, 2002
George W. Allen
This book is destined to be a classic. There is no other person who spent over 17 years focused on intelligence about Viet-Nam, and very rare is the person who can say they have spent over 50 years in continuous intelligence appointments, 20 of them after retirement. It is a personal story that I consider to be balanced, deep, and trustworthy. While it has gaps, these are easily addressed by reading, at least on the intelligence side, such books at Bruce Jones’ “War Without Windows”, Orrin DeForest’s “SLOW BURN”, Douglas Valentine’s “The Phoenix Program”, Jim Witz’s “The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War”, Tom Mangold & John Penycate’s “The Tunnels of Chu Chi”, and the Viet-Nam portions of Jim Bamford’s “Body of Secrets.”I mention these books in part to emphasize that George Allen has produced a book that will stand the test of time and should be regarded as an exceptional historical, policy, intelligence, and public administration case study. It is truly humbling and sobering to read such a calm, complete, and broad treatment of the history of both American intelligence in relation to Viet-Nam, and the consistent manner in which policy-makers refused to listen to accurate intelligence estimates, while their Generals and Ambassadors steadfastly “cooked the books.” The manipulation of truth from the Saigon end, and the refusal to listen to truth on the Washington end, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Vietnamese, Loatian, Cambodian, and American, as well as allied nationalities.
This book is gripping. I could not put it down. It is one of the most serious personal accounts I have ever read where the vivid realities of intelligence, ignorance, and policy come together. The author excells at painting the details in context, and his many specific portraits of key individuals and situations are superior.
This book is relevant to today’s war on terrorism. Many of the same issues prevail–rather than enumerate them, I will give this book my very highest mark, and simply say that you cannot understand intelligence, or the intelligence-policy relationship, without having absorbed all this author has to say.
He’s hit it out of the park. Every voter who wonders what it will take to hold politicians accountable for “due diligence” in decision-making, needs to read this book.
Charlie Allen, at the time Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection, is one of the longest-serving professionals in the US Intelligence Community, and went on to become the Undersecretary for Intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security before finally retiring. This contribution was drafted by Dr. Joseph Markowitz at the direction of and with final editing by Mr. Allen.