Review: Longitudes and Attitudes–Exploring the World After September 11

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World

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5.0 out of 5 stars “Net Assessment” of 9-11, Arabs, & Prospects for Peace,

December 1, 2002
Thomas L. Friedman
Although the entire book is rife with gems of insight, it is page 300 that richly rewards the reader who accepts some of the inevitable repetition between the columns and the diary to complete the book: “The Israeli army terrorism experts confided…(that) you can have the best intelligence network in the world, but there is no way that Israelis will ever be able to penetrate Palestinian society better than Palestinians. .. Only the host society can penetrate itself enough to effectively restrain or delegitimize its own suicide bombers. Outsiders can’t.”In one paragraph, this thrice-winning Pulitzer Prize winner has marked the third major failure in the Administration’s strategy against global terrorism (the first was the failure to cordon off Tora Bora in Afghanistan with reliable U.S. troops, because the U.S. Army can’t do mountains; the second was to declare war on Iraq against the President’s best instincts but yielding to the Vice President’s obsession, if Bob Woodward’s account in “Bush at War” is correct). Although the U.S. is spending upwards toward $200M to destabilize Iraq, and perhaps another $100M in global bribery of local liaison services (themselves penetrated by terrorists, or supporting terrorism), we have failed to establish the kind of deep credible relations that lead to sustained and effective counter-terrorism by the host countries. Pakistan is an excellent case in point–it consistently gives lip service to US demands, and fails to bring home the Al Qaeda leaders passing in and out of Pakistan at will.

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.

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Review: The Future of War–Power, Technology and American World Dominance in the Twenty-first Century

5 Star, Future, War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars Smart Thoughts Important to Future of National Security,

April 8, 2000
George Friedman
The authors begin by noting that there is “a deep chasm between the advent of technology and its full implementation in doctrine and strategy.” In their history of failure they note how conventional wisdom always seems to appreciate the systems that won the past wars, and observes that in the U.S. military there is a long history of transferring power from the political and military leadership to the technical and acquisition managers, all of whom have no real understanding of the current and future needs of the men who will actually fight. They address America’s vulnerability in both U.S. based logistics and in overseas transport means-“Destroying even a portion of American supply vessels could so disrupt the tempo of a logistical build-up as to delay offensive operations indefinitely.” They have a marvelous section on the weaknesses of U.S. data gathering tools, noting for example that satellites provide only a static picture of one very small portion of the battlefield, rather that the wide-area and dynamic “situational awareness” that everyone agrees is necessary. They go on to gore other sacred oxes, including the Navy’s giant ships such as the carrier (and implicitly the new LPH for Marines as well as the ill-conceived arsenal ship) and the largest of the aircraft proposed by the Air Force. They ultimately conclude that the future of war demands manned space stations that are able to integrate total views of the world with control of intercontinental precision systems, combined with a complete restructuring of the ground forces (most of which will be employed at the squad level) and a substantial restructuring of our navel force to provide for many small fast platforms able to swarm into coastal areas.
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