Review: A Letter to America

5 Star, Democracy, Electoral Reform USA, Politics
Boren
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Elegant essay with embedded references, March 6, 2008

David Boren

Edit of 14 Mar 08: FRAUD ALERT. I like and admire David Boren, but I am now fed up with his sanctimoneous appearances calling for “bi-partisanship” while failing to recognize all the other parties that have been–with malice aforthought–shut out of the political process. “Bipartisanship” is CODE for”save the two-party spoils systme.” ENOUGH. Anyone who cannot explain the difference between Transpartisanship and Bipartisanship is a FRAUD.

This is an elegant intelligent book of reflection, but I have to say up front that is misses the core point: the need to end the strangle-hold of the two parties that dismissed the League of Women Voters from the presidential debate process because they had the temerity to want to ask questions not provided in advance, and to include third, fourth and fifth parties. I know many people will be reading this book, and perhaps also this review, and the mere existence of the book as a focal point for dialog is worthy of five stars.

There are eight specific electoral reforms that could be easily passed, four in time to impact on November 2008, the others for impact in 2010. The fact is–and I saw this demonstrated in Oklahoma where I went to see for myself how Michael Bloomberg fared. He was, in my view, made to look the fool because no one there knew the difference between bipartisanship (code for keeping the the two party spoils system alive) and transpartisanship, which buries the two party mafiosos and restores sovereignty to the people.

I funded the Earth Intelligence Network at the same time that Jim Turner, Ralph Nader’s first hire, created the Transpartisan Policy Institute. We identified the top experts on the ten high-level threats, and we have devised tranpartisan answers to 52 tough questions not a single candidate can answer coherently today. In my view, there is still a need for an independent transpartisan team to run for the full range of positions, and demonstrating in advance of election they can balance the budget.

This book deserves five stars, but it is futile unless Senators McCain, Obama, and Clinton will sponsor the simple eight point Electoral Reform Act, and we discuss openly the degree to which Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Dough Feith are impeachable for their role in telling 935 explicitly documented lies, and in the case of Cheney, 25 explicitly identified high crimes betraying the public trust.

Here are ten other books I commend to anyone concerned about our future.
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
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

I will end on a positive note: there is no lack of money–for one third of what we spent on war this year, we could have begun the rapid eradication of the ten high-level threats to humanity, and catalyzed the creation of new wealth everywhere.

Bipartisanship is NOT the right answer. Electoral reform and Transpartisanship, such as represented so ably by Reuniting America, is the best possible path to restoring America the Beautiful.

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Review: Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century

5 Star, Diplomacy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Starting Point for 21st Century Security Strategy Dialog,

October 2, 2000
David L. Boren
I know of no finer collection of relevant views on our current and prospective foreign policy challenges. In the foreword to the book, William Crowe, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, observes that “A reappreciation of government is also in order.” He clearly articulates both the range of challenges facing us (most of them non-military in nature), and the disconnect between how we organize our government and how we need to successfully engage.His bottom line is clear: we are not spending enough on the varied elements of national security, with special emphasis on a severely under-funded and under-manned diplomatic service.

From Gaddis Smith and Walter Mondale to Sam Nunn and Robert Oakley, from David Gergen to David Abshire to David Boren, from Kissinger to Brzezinski to Kirkpatrick, in combination with a whole host of lesser known but equally talented practitioners, capped off by comments from five Directors of Central Intelligence, this books sets a standard for organized high quality reflection on the future of U.S. foreign policy.

Most interestingly, there is general consensus with David Abshire’s view that we are in a strategic interregnum, and still lacking for a policy paradigm within which to orchestrate our varied efforts to define and further our vital interests.

David Gergen clearly articulates the shortfalls in our national educational, media, and political patterns that leave the vast majority of Americans ignorant of our foreign interests and unsupportive of the need for proactive engagement abroad. Reading this book, I could not help but feel that our national educational system is in crisis, and we need both a wake-up call and a consequent national investment program such as occurred after the first Sputnik launch.

David Boren is clearly a decade or more ahead of most current commentators in his call for a new paradigm, for a new analytical framework, for the internationalization of American education across the board. I am reminded of the quotation from early America: “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry.” Interestingly, he cites Daniel Boorstein’s caution that we must not confuse information with knowledge, and in the next sentence notes: “I watched during my term as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while the CIA greatly increased its information, its raw data, but became overwhelmed and unable to separate the important from the unimportant.”

I would itemize just a few of the many, many useful insights that this book offers:

1) Diplomacy is the sum total of familiarity with the role, knowledge of the component parts of the overall national security policy, and the ability to design and implement comprehensive policies that achieve the national objectives;

2) Politicians and policy-makers are losing the ability to think objectively and act with conviction…they are too dependent on short-term domestic polling and opinion;

3) (Quoting Donald Kegan): Power without the willingness to use it does not contribute to world peace;

4) We must strengthen the domestic roots of national power if we are to have a sound strategy;

5) Future of U.S. education and strength of U.S. family unit will quite simply determine whether U.S. can meet the economic challenges of the 21st Century;

6) Our domestic insecurity and domestic violence-and resulting foreign perceptions and disrespect for our competence at home-reduce our effectiveness overseas;

7) U.S. is its own worst enemy, with declining attention to foreign policy matters;

8) Weapons of mass destruction are our only substantive vital interest today;

9) Hunger, pestilence, and refugees within Africa will affect all nations;

10) Corruption has replaced guerrilla movements as the principal threat to democratic governance;

11) Commerce rather than conflict will be the primary concern of 21st century foreign policy;

12) The environment joins trade and commerce as an essential objective for foreign policy;

13) Long-term non-military challenges, and especially global financial markets, require refocusing of our security perspectives;

14) Asia will edge out Europe as our primary trading partner;

15) China in Asia and Turkey in the West are linch-pin nations;

16) NATO will survive but we must take care not to threaten Russia;

17) The UN is not very effective at peacekeeping operations-it is best confined to idea exchanges;

18) Our military is over-extended and under-funded but still the best in the world;

19) For the cost of one battalion or one expensive piece of military equipment, one thousand new Foreign Service officers could be added toward preventive diplomacy;

20) Lessons from the Roman empire: its decline results in part from a loss of contact with its own heartlands, a progressive distancing of the elite from the populace, the elevation of the military machine to the summit of the power hierarchy, and blindness in perceiving the emergence of societies motivated by nationalism or new religious ideologies; and

21) We may need a new National Security Act.

If I had one small critical comment on the book is would be one of concern-concern that these great statesmen and scholars appear-even while noting that defense is under-capitalized-to take U.S. military competence at face value. I perceive a really surprising assumption across a number of otherwise brilliant contributions to the effect that we do indeed have all that we need in the way of information dominance, precision firepower, and global mobility (strategic lift plus forward presence)-we just need to use it with greater discretion. I do not believe this to be the case. I believe-and the Aspin-Brown Commission so stated-that we lack effective access to the vast range of global multi-lingual open sources; that our commitment to precision munitions is both unaffordable and ineffective (we ran out in 8 days in the Gulf, in 3 days in Kosovo); and that we fail terribly with respect to mobility-naval forces are generally 4-6 days from anywhere, rather than the necessary 24-48 hours. This book is a very fine starting point for the national dialogue that must take place in 2001 regarding our new national security strategy.

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2000 ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World

Books w/Steele, Budget Process & Politics, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Government), Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Democracy, Diplomacy, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Commercial), Intelligence (Extra-Terrestrial), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Justice (Failure, Reform), Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Strategy, War & Face of Battle
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This was my first book, still the most comprehensive professional look at what is wrong with secret intelligence and why it does not meet the needs of its avowed single customer, the President, nor anyone else in government and certainly not the public.

With great sadness, as of 2011 nothing has changed for the better–it has in fact become worse, as the new money has had the same effect as gasoline poured on a fire.  Secret intelligence and effective spies are urgently needed, but they must be secret and effective, not dependent of foreign intelligence services, and not ignorant of open sources of information in 183 languages we do not understand.

My latest thinking on this subject–what I would do if I were Director of National Intelligence or had one with a holistic public service mindset willing to listen–is covered by 2010: Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Trilogy Updated which should be read in sequence after first reading Journal: Reflections on Integrity.

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