All Articles Individually Below the Line
Loch Johnson (editor)
4 out of 5 stars In Thirds: Interesting, Politically Correct, Pap
WARNING NOTICE: This is not a current book. It is a reprint of the 2010 publication that was out of date across many chapters when it was originally printed. The Routledge book, Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies is the far better book if you want something that is both current and moderately innovative.
I’ve given up on this book. I got through the first fifteen entries, and had a paragraph on each, but finally concluded that on the one hand, the book consists largely of old contributions that have been recycled into a new (2010) collection, and on the other hand, the publisher and editor tried to cram so many contributions into one book that they are all shallow. The average grade across the first fifteen is a C, with two A’s and one D. On balance I am increasingly dismayed by the incestuous circle of self-citing “scholars” and a handful of practitioner-authors who are all on the same party line and largely ignorant of everyone else. There are too many errors of omission of both fact and of alternative authoritative references from outside the incest circle.
If you have an interest in my many other summary reviews of books on the craft of intelligence (decision-support), seek out free online Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most). All of my reviews always lead back to their respective Amazon pages.
Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World
Every dying Empire has its truth telling prophet and America had its own with Chalmers Johnson. Johnson correctly compared the decay of the American empire, with its well over 600 overseas military bases, with the fall of the Roman Empire whereas the Senate becomes a wealthy corporate club and irrelevant compared to the ruling Military Industrial Congressional Complex
Chalmers Johnson was a truth teller and prophet in a political environment where few would stand up to the interests and secrecy of the Pentagon and the intelligence community ~ and since his passing in November of 2010, many of his prophetic fears have been realized in the Obama administration.
Johnson, author of Blowback, Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis,The Last Days of the American Republic, talks in this video interview about the similarities in the decline of the Roman and Soviet empires and the signs that the U.S. empire is exhibiting the very same symptoms ~ overextension, corruption and the inability to reform. (Watch at least the first 20 minutes and also the very end where he predicts an economic collapse)
Johnson’ s main points were; The United States is treading the same three steps as the former Soviet Union;
- Inability to deal with corporate corruption.
- Imperial over-stretch is leading to fiscal insolvency ( 600 plus bases throughout the world )
- Inability to reform, thus accelerating the inevitable fall.
5.0 out of 5 stars Much Less Complicated Than Expected, a Great Workbook,April 16, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
I bought this back in December 2011 when I was scrounging around for books on panarchy (see for instance, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. It stayed in my pile as other books moved because my first impression was that it was more complicated than I cared to deal with and might – shudder — even include mathematical formulas. I was wrong.
This is a very straight forward book that I recommend as a read-ahead or work book for any group seeking to radically evolve their internal decision making processes away from the current standard of “I talk, you listen; I decide, you obey.” It has clear charts, the right amount of white space, and I put it down thinking very well of the book.
Panarchy is an evolution of the whole systems approach to anything, with the clarity and integrity of FEEDBACK LOOPS among the elements being the core of any successful system. If everyone does not talk; if everyone does not listen; if everyone does not decide; if everyone does not act in harmonization with all others, system failure is inevitable.
Interesting to me, because Harrison Owen is a friend and mentor, this book is a restatement, in panarchic terms, of his path-finding work, Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide–I also recommend his more recent Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World.
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift Book, Gift Idea, Gift Economy, Get a Grip,February 18, 2012
I received a copy of this book as a gift, and gladly so since the top review at this time is unfairly dismissive while also confessing that the reviewer only read the first third of the book (but evidently not the preface (first page) that states plainly (first sentence, actually), “The things we know about food have a lot to teach us about how to have a healthy relationship with information.”
Having just reviewed The Telescreen: An Empirical Study of the Destruction and Despiritualization of Consciousness, and so many other books here at Amazon, I easily connect the point in last night’s reading: that food, medicine, education, and the media are all “co-conspirators” in dumbing down a human population whose brains started out as enormous pools of potential creativity, to this book. The information — and the food and the medicine and the tabloid garbage we are ingesting — is killing us.
What the first reviewer completely misses is that this is the first manifesto, beyond The Age of Missing Information, to actually focus on how out of control our relationship is to the world of information. As a lifetime professional in these matters I can state clearly that not only are governments substituting ideology for intelligence and corruption for integrity, but so are all the other communities of information (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government / non-profit. We live in a totally corrupt world where — right now — banking families (Rothschild et al) own the banks and the banks own the two-party tyrannies (or the outright dictators) that own government, and they own the the corporations, with the 99% being expendable fodder for 1% theft from the commonwealth. This book is a cry from the heart, and an eloquent one at that.
Phi Beta Iota: Mr. Johnson is the author of Integrity at Scale, free online, whose many ideas are being integrated into the vision for a Smart Nation Act and the hub of the Smart Nation, an Open Source Agency and global Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making (M4IS2) network of networks. He is a party to the on-going push to establish the Open Source Agency and create a more competent and ethical America.
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As I look at the Open Source idea, I find myself experiencing a fair amount of dissonance between a methodological vision of open source intelligence, at one level, and at a very different level, an aspirational vision that sees it as a way of disinfecting a misguided and corrupt set of bureaucracies.
One mission is potentially endorsable by the powers-that-be. The second mission is not. Ask people to endorse both and it isn’t likely that either will move forward. If corruption prevention is to be the mission, the open source agency will have to find a home outside of government. If transparency of intelligence is the mission, then perhaps it can find a home inside government.
My second source of dissonance has to do with design and scale. Open source intelligence is potentially as vast as all the server farms Google will ever own. How does a relatively modest site, squeezed in between State and Watergate, ever acquire the heft to handle the challenge? The scope of the mission and the scope of the agency seem out of sync with the scope of the real estate footprint.
Social Entrepreneur 1996 – Ongoing
Author, Integrity at Scale: Big Answers for America’s Challenges, book manuscript, presently available at www.IntegrityAtScaleBlog.com. Today’s United States is not a competent nation. Yesterday’s civic habits are insufficient for today’s major challenges. America requires a redesign revolution and hasn’t the slightest idea how to begin. Integrity at Scale lays out a path toward competence that is independent of political ideology.
Social Security Reform Websites. Created two websites to help users understand Social Security’s long-range solvency challenges, www.sscommonsense.org and www.simcivic.org. The second website featured a java-based solvency model. These websites remain relevant and are retained for archival value.
Chalmers Johnson (RIP)
TomDispatch.com, 7 August 2011
Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire and Ten Steps to Take to Do So
1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism
2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us
3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases
. . . . . . . .
10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire (Abridged)
Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:
1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.
2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the “opportunity costs” that go with them — the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can’t or won’t.
3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.
4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters — along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth — that follow our military enclaves around the world.
5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.
6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world’s largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism.
7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.
8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ending empire would make this possible.
9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.
10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.
The Washington Note, 21 November 2010
Phi Beta Iota: The second article is a stunning review of the intellectual life of Chalmers Johnson, who was among many things a net assessments analyst for Allen Dulles. He pioneered the study of “State Capitalism” and considered the US to be a greatly under-performing economy for its failure to move away from military unilateralism and toward sustainable development.
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Reference–Does Not Add Weight to Reform, June 10, 2011
The author of this book, Loch Johnson, is one of two people who also served on the Church Commission-Brit Snider is the other, and he was, at the recommendation of Loch, joined to the Commission by Les Aspin and then appointed Staff Director on his merits. For this reason, what the book does not do is deliberate. The focus on the book is on rendering a historical account of a major endeavor to study the need for reform of the US Intelligence Community.
What the author misses up front is the reality that the Commission was the way in which Senator John Warner (R-VA) and then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney blew up the rather well-crafted efforts of Senator Dave Boren (D-OK) and Representative Dave McCurdy (D-OK-04), each the chairman of their respective Senate and House Intelligence Communities. The National Security Act of 1992 (I summarized the Act for the American Intelligence Journal) was a well-crafted endeavor. It was destroyed because Senator John Warner refused to consider anything that might reduce intelligence budget and personnel in Virginia (both a bloated at all locations), and Secretary Cheney was willing to tell any lie, oppose any good idea, that might reduce the military’s growing ownership of secret intelligence. Today, under DNI James Clapper, we have the most expensive and most ineffective intelligence community on the planet-only the vendors of vaporware get rich-the deal is that all retired IC leaders and most IC retirees get to double-dip with their clearances intact-good for them, very bad for the public.
Loch K. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunities
April 8, 2011
This book The Threat on the Horizon: An Inside Account of America’s Search for Security after the Cold War offers a detailed account of the creation and workings of the now nearly forgotten Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence Reform (1995-1996). Its author, Loch Johnson, is a recognized authority on intelligence issues and was on the Commission’s staff. This book is in part the result of a promise Johnson made to the Commission’s original head, Les Aspin before his death.
Some would dismiss this book as concerning a forgotten footnote in the history of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), but this would be a mistake. This book actually provides a detailed chronicle of the only real effort to introduce comprehensive reform in the IC prior to the 9/11 tragedy. It also explains in some detail why these reforms proved ineffective. Perhaps unintentionally, the book also provides an excellent picture of the structure and culture of the IC principals (CIA, DIA, NGA, and NSA) as well as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) immediately after the end Cold War. The problems of the IC principals in the mid-1990’s do much to explain the problems that beset them today and offer a cautionary tale about intelligence reform.
The story of this Commission’s efforts to seriously reform the IC demonstrates how by its composition and approach the Commission was more or less bound to fail. Its final recommendations were superficial and would have done nothing to change the moribund cultures and direction of the IC principals even if they had actually been enacted. Indeed as occurred with intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report which were for the most part enacted, their lack of substance would have made them ineffective.
Johnson attributes much of the problems with the Aspin-Brown Commission to the untimely death of Les Aspin in 1995. He has a point; Aspin was willing to invest a good deal of himself in the search for intelligence reform and clearly took the matter very seriously. This attitude was reflected in the way the Commission’s Staff went about the detailed work need for the Commission to be effective and in the way Commission itself went about fact gathering. Aspin’s successor Harold Brown was as brilliant as Aspin, but clearly did not take the Commission’s work as seriously.
By any standards this book is a very important one for those interested in reform of the U.S. Intelligence System and the reasons why such reform has always failed.
Others, notably Dr. Loch Johnson, de facto dean of the intelligence scholars in the English language, have explored both definitions and concepts for a theory of intelligence. Others, such as Jack Davis, have done much in the area of analytic tradecraft or the “art” of intelligence analysis (to match the “art” in clandestine operations and covert action).
Now the time has come to develop a science of intelligence. The first casualty must of necessity be the obsession with secret sources and methods, secret agencies, and secret clients. Intelligence is about decision-support, plain and simple, and the new science of intelligence will be developed along the lines of the services science developed by Dr. Jim Spohrer of IBM, and others. Dr. Spohrer provided the below in an email exchange today:
(1) “you can have a science of anything, if a community agrees it is important”
(2) “innovations that are based on sciences, not just management and engineering practice, can be advanced more systematically”
(3) “industry cares about innovation acceleration, can academia deliver a science? does the engineering and management exist in practice”
(4) “academia said we can establish a research area to help build the science under the engineering and management practice.”
A round-table is being formed and a new article will result.