Review: State of the Future 2009

5 Star, Economics, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Reference with a Priceless CD,
September 25, 2009

Jerome Glenn, Theodore Gordon, and Elizabeth Florescu

This book, which includes a CD with a ton of additional information and visualization, is worth every penny of the asking price. It brings together global statistics, illustrations, and expert depictions of alternative scenarios.

Although it focuses primarily on Energy & Economies, it is closely tied in with achieving all of the Millenium Goals set by the Member Nations of the United Nations, and cacn easily be scaled up and out as more resources are applied.

I get this book as a core reference, along with Lester Brown's State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World (State of the World). When combined with High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them and the UN High Level Threat Panel report (also free online), A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change one has an instant core library for the bottom line: the future of life on Earth.

Continue reading “Review: State of the Future 2009”

Journal: Marcus Aurelius Flags Force Protection Blinders

Military, Peace Intelligence
Full Story Online
Full Story Online

Protection Rackets

By Christopher Dickey | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Jul 31, 2009

In Afghanistan, Americans should deploy Pvt. Social Worker and Maj. Sociologist.

PBI:  The conclusion first:

“You have to learn to discriminate if you're going to win,” said Villalobos. “And in Afghanistan, that's the problem. You don't know how to do that. You don't speak the languages; you don't understand the cultures. And then you have two other problems. First, you are the invader, the outsider.” And that's not going to change. “And second, you add to this the problem with your own record of human-rights violations.” Villalobos mentioned the Iraq horror picture show at Abu Ghraib in 2004 and the long history of abuses at the Bagram military base.To achieve anything in that sort of environment, soldiers have to be willing and able to move around among the public. But the “force protection” that is at the heart of so many U.S. military tactics and procedures makes that awkward if not impossible. You can't convince the people you can protect them from the insurgents, after all, if you look like you're not sure you can protect yourself. They just ask why you're there in the first place. And that question is increasingly hard to answer.

PBI: Now the middle meat:

“Afghanistan,” said Villalbos, “is super complicado.”

“In the old days, your problem was to defeat the enemy, and it didn't matter which way you did it,” the veteran guerrilla told me. “We had rural societies that were cut off from each other; you could eliminate your enemies without people seeing, and you could create a long peace that way. But in a world that is more interconnected, the idea of human rights has become more universal, and there has developed a direct relationship between human rights and military effectiveness.” Is McChrystal reading Villalobos? They seem to be very much on the same page.

As Villalobos sees it, the power to intimidate is much more limited than it used to be, and the risk of too much intimidation is that you will scare civilians right into the arms of your enemies. (Indeed, this was one of Al Qaeda's big mistakes in Iraq.) “Too much discussion about human rights has been about ethics,” said Villalobos, “and it's not only an ethical problem, it's an operational problem. The army of the future needs officers that are sociologists and soldiers that are social workers.

PBI:  Read the beginning and other bits by clicking the Newsweek logo.

+++++++Marcus Aurelius Comment+++++++

Quite possibly, much of the force protection problem can be traced to a terrorist attack on a US bus Honduras in the late 1980s.  That influenced future Southern Command (Latin America)  commander GEN George Joulwan who later was European command commander during the Balkans interventions.  GEN Joulwan's very robust view of force protection arguably set the tone for much of what our forces are doing today in the CENTCOM AOR.

+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++

“Force Protection” is code for “Friendly Casualty Aversion” as well as the US Army's old mind-set of not allowing commanders any latitude in the way of mistakes–zero tolerance paved the way for micro-management and micro-reporting, and that is how the US Army trains, equips, and organizes.  It became effective at killing indiscriminately and very ineffective at winning and holding ground and the hearts and minds on that ground. The Battle of Jutland and the “Rules of the Game” lessons learned and not learned by the British Empire apply equally to the American Empire. What this boils down to is that the Americans have substituted technology for thinking and doctrine for strategy. There is no good strategic reason for being in Afghanistan, nor is there a good strategic reason for continuing to spend $1 trillion a year on a 1950's force structure model, and now toward $90 billion a year on a secret intelligence community optimized to cover Soviet communications and little else.  At the same time, between partisan ideology, Wall Street special interests, and bureaucratic corporatism, US foreign policy can safely be said to be–we quote Madeline Albright–the equivalent of “gerbils on a wheel.”  See the other book below by Morton Halperin, a book that includes as one of the “rules of the game,” “Lie to the President if you can get away with it.”  With a lack of integrity so prevasive, America is her own worst enemy.

Andrew Gordon
Andrew Gordon
Morton Halperin
Morton Halperin

2006 State of the Future

6 Star Top 10%, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Solutions), Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Public), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Clear Map of the Future and What We Do Wrong Now,

September 8, 2006
Jerome C. Glenn and Theodore J. Gordon
I have been much taken with the integrity and wisdom of the Honorable David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, who has been telling Congress that they are not providing for the future and that today's budget is inconsistent with sustainable national security and enduring national prosperity. He is right. This is the book he should buy and give to every Senator and every Representative, along with E. O. Wilson's “The Future of Life” and J. F. Richard's “HIGH NOON: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them.”

The book is actually in two pieces. 129 black and white pages that is comprised of an Executive Summary, a section on Global Challenges, a State of the Future Index, 40 pages on four global energy scenarios, a separate chapter on emerging environmental security issues (see my review of Max Manwaring's “Environmental Security and Global Stability”), and a final chapter on reflections as the project achieves its tenth anniversary.

The printed book also includes a table of contents for the CD-ROM of 5,400 pages with color graphics and global maps that are quite good, and the publishers are to be complemented for providing the CD material in both PDF form and Document form, the latter for ease of extraction of pictures and text for repurposing.

As I get ready to publish a book by Thomas J. Buckholtz entitled “INFORMATION METRICS: The GIST (Gain Impact, Save Time) of Successful Intelligence,” I cannot help but admire the manner in which the authors have leveraged the measurement of political, social, economic, and other indicators of quality and sustainability, a process that was first pioneered by Professors Banks and Textor in the 1970's.

The day will come when this book and the CD are available in a Serious Game that is both receiving near-real-time information feeds from all open sources in all languages, AND is connected to the real-world budgets of all governments and non-governmental organizations and private sector parties so that any individual can type in their zip code and their issue, and see the color-coded “threat condition” corresponding to whether or not their level of government or their organization is spending wisely, what I call “reality-based budgeting.”

The authors have done a superb job of documenting reality, and as I went through the book, I could not help but feel that we need a second book that evaluated national-level budgets in detail, to publicize the erroneous trade-offs that are being made without the public's real understanding or approval–too much money for a heavy-metal military and corporate tax loopholes, not enough for a global educational Marshall Plan and free telecommunications for the five billion poor (easily affordable for the half trillion the USA has wasted on the elective invasion and sustained heavy-handed occupation of Iraq).

In brief, this book, the CD, this project, are a *cornerstone* for building our future. Worth every penny, and worth several hours of a good read and reflection.

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Review: Cobra II–The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (Hardcover)

3 Star, Iraq, War & Face of Battle

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Authorized Details, Missing Core Information,

March 29, 2006
Michael R. Gordon
EDIT of 11 Dec 07: my original comments have been validated. Adding links now that this feature is available, and a few additional references.

The index in this book is *terrible*, my first clue, as the #1 Amazon reviewer of non-fiction about national security, that something is amiss. There is no bibliography. That's my second clue. The footnotes are solid on interviews and Op-Eds, and abyssmal on books by other people–we'll give them a bye on that one, considering this a primary reference that is a partial picture.

The one theme that comes across, and it is partly motivated by a proper sense of restoring honor and reputation for the Army, is the constant degree to which Army officers gave the civilians good advice, only to see it ignored. The Army Chief of Staff got it right on post-conflict nation-building and needed manpower; the Army flags got it right in telling Bremer that that single dumbest thing he could do was disband the Army and put 100,000 pissed off Iraqis with guns on the street–but by golly, Bremer went ahead and did it.

Overall I do not find this book worthy of four stars (not even close for five) for the following reasons:

1) It is largely a white-wash, granted with lots of excellent detail, but it tells the story from the CINC and DCINC points of view, and I have previously reviewed those books and found them lacking in complete candor and full detail.

2) The book completely ignores all the negatives that have long-since been documented–the fact that Charlie Allen at CIA did send in 35 line-crossers and proved conclusively there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction; the fact that Chalabi was a thief and a liar fired by CIA and then used by Iran as an agent of influence to lick the ears of the neo-cons and persuade Rumsfeld (with help from the Mossad, which knew a coincidence of interest with the Iranians when they saw one) that it would be roses in the streets and a cheap war. The book completely ignores the peak oil imperatives that drove Cheney and the ugly post war realities including Paul Bremer “losing” $20 billion in loose cash, and Afghanistan becoming the source of 80% of the world's heroin (turned into #4 quality by our ally Pakistan).

2) The book ignores technical details that are my litmus test for full veracity. The fact that the White House and the military refused to put a Ranger battalion in to block Bin Laden's ground escape, tracked by CIA for four days (see my review of Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander), the fact that Rumsfeld very stupidly gave the Pakistani's an air corridor to evacuate their officers and they instead evacuated 3,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda from Tora Bora in one night)….the list goes on.

The book gets the high points right (misreading of the foe, dysfunction of US military bureaucracy, over reliance by Rumsfeld on technology, the failure to recognize reality once in (insurgents instead of parades), and the Bush disdain for nation-building) BUT the authors also soft-shoe all the other issues, of which I see three:

1) The Administration lied to Congress, the American People, and the United Nations. A memo is now out in Lawless World that shows clearly that Bush and Blair agreed to go to war and all that followed was posturing–certainly an impeachable offense if ever there was one. See Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.

2) Tommy Franks did not give a rat's ass what the Joint Chiefs thought, and Franks was chosen to do exactly that, while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was chosen because he would accept the role of floor mat rather than doing what any self-respecting officer should do, which is resign and be noisy in public.

3) The book fails to do as good a job as The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill or State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration in showing just how mendacious and dysfunctional was the Cheney-Rumsfeld coup d'etat within the White House. David Ropkoph's Ruling the World, several other books, make it quite clear that Condi Rice and Colin Powell were rolled, George Tenet was a raving sycophant, and our military was too eager to please, while Congress was pathologically absent without leave (AWOL).

The authors really would have done a vastly superior job had they actually read and integrated the varied books, e.g. Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq, the various books readily available on the web of lies that led to war, on the incompetence of George Tenet, etc.

In all of this we do not see an adequate assessment of the role of Iran in carrying out what may be the greatest strategic deception of modern history, nor do we see any evaluation of the political-legal, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, or techno-demographic cost to America. This book closes as if the war is virtually over, the Army is reconstituted rather than hollow, and its time to discuss the lessons learned over a double scotch. Not so fast, bubbas.

In 2007 we have, apart from multiple books detailed how and why Bush and Cheney should be impeached, an entire literature on their alledged high crimes and misdemeanors on 9-11, and the follow gems:

Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders

This is not all on Cheney and the neo-cons. Any Congress stupid enough, limp enough, to allow Paul Wolfowitz to contradict the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army on a topic about which Wolfowitz remains copmpletely ignorant, is not a Congress fulfilling its Article 1 responsibilities. The whole lot of them should be dismissed in 2008, and we should start over with Independents in charge and leadership psotions in both the Congress and the Cabinet aportioned across at least five distinct parties.

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Review: The Rules of the Game–Jutland and British Naval Command

5 Star, Military & Pentagon Power

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Relevant to Post 9-11 and the Road to War with Iraq,

July 30, 2003
Andrew Gordon
In the aftermath of 9-11 and the concerted efforts by both the policy and intelligence leadership in both America and the United Kingdom to both deny that 9-11 was a failure on their parts, and to “sex up” the dossiers leading to an unjust war in Iraq, I really like and recommend this book to anyone remotely connected to national security decision-making.There are four major points in this book that neither the publicity prose nor the earlier reviewers emphasize, and I focus on these because they are the heart of the book and the core of its value:

1) Peacetime breeds officers, systems, and doctrine that are unlikely to stand the empirical test of war. As the author notes, every incompetent in war has previously been promoted to his or her high rank in peacetime. Systems are adopted without serious battle testing or interoperability (and intelligence) supportability being assured, and doctrine takes a back seat to protocol and keeping up appearances.

2) Technologists are especially pernicious and dangerous to future warfighting capability when they are allowed to promulgate new technology under ideal peacetime conditions, and not forced to stand the test of battle-like degradation and the friction of real-world conditions.

3) Doctrine based on the lessons of history rather than the pomp of peacetime is the ultimate insurance policy.

4) Robust–even intrusive and pervasive–communications (signaling) in peacetime is almost certain to denigrate healthy doctrinal development, has multiple pernicious effects on the initiative and development of individual commanders, and can have catastrophic consequences when it is severely degraded in wartime and the necessary doctrinal foundation and command initiative are lacking.

This is a very long book at 708 pages, and I would hasten to note that the book is worth purchasing even if only to read Chapter 25, pages 562-601, in which the author brilliantly sets forth 28 distinct “propositions”. The balance of the book is extraordinary in its detail and a pleasure to scan over, but its primary role is to absolutely guarantee the credibility and industry of the author.

Each of the 28 propositions, one sentence in length with varying explanatory summaries, is compelling, relevant, and most critical to how we train both flag officers and field grade officers of all the services. Were the author so inclined, I would encourage him to develop the final chapter as a stand-alone primer for military leaders seeking to learn from history and avoid the dangerous juxtaposition of too much technology and too little thought. While the author draws his propositions from an excruciatingly detailed study of the Battle of Jutland and the British naval cultures in conflict before and after Jutland, this book is not, at root, about a specific battle, but rather about the constantly forgotten “first principles” of training, equipping, and organizing forces for combat. Hard to do in peacetime with the best of leaders, a tragedy in waiting with the more common peacetime pogues in charge. “Ratcatchers”, the author's phrase for those who do well in war, are crushed by the peacetime protocols, and this is perhaps the greatest lesson of all: we must nurture our ratcatchers, even place them on independent duty to travel distant lands, but somehow, someway, keep them in play against the day when we need them.

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