Review: The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

2 Star, Atlases & State of the World
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Robert Kaplan

2.0 out of 5 stars Neither new nor original nor reliable, September 1, 2013

I am getting pretty sick of Stratfor and the pimps of empire. There is nothing new in this book other than self-promotion. For better more original reads consider, among many, many others:

Zones of conflict: An atlas of future wars

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Geography and natural resources are a starting point. How the population develops — including the degree to which it is educated, liberated, and empowered to innovate, matter. Deeper books along these lines include:

Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition

Politics Among Nations

In the end it boils down to clarity, diversity, integrity, and sustainability. I am quite tired of pundits recycling old knowledge, a practice made poissible by an ignorant public (including ignorant policy makers and deeply unethical politicians as well as a captive media that is both ignorant and complicit).

Best wishes to all,
Robert Steele
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

Vote and/or Comment on Review
Vote and/or Comment on Review

Review: Execution Premium

4 Star, Best Practices in Management

Execution PremiumOne Side of Wisdom, Needs to be Read with Prahalad Et Al, August 25, 2008

Robert S. Kaplan

I strongly recommend this book for any executive with ambitions to both rise and to help grow a sustainable and increasingly profitable (or effective) organization, i.e. this applies to non-profits and government and academia as much as to commercial enterprises.

The book MUST be read in partnership with The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks, both emphasize strategy and business processes, and they are each unique in how they approach the urgency of getting an executive grip on both strategy and business processes or the blood and guts of operations.

Where I am increasingly disappointed (only one star worth) with the business literature is with its relative isolation from all the other literatures. Business is one of eight “intelligence tribes” (learn more at Earth Intelligence Network and OSS.Net,): the others are government at all levels, Military and National Guard or Gendarme, Law Enforcement, Academia, Media including bloggers and new media, Non-Profits, and Civil Society including lasbor unions and religions.

Where the Innovation book adds to this book by Kaplan and Norton is in its focus of co-creating value with all indiviudals–cutomsters, suppliers, employees, regulators. Both, however, lack the sense that can be found in, for example:

The exemplar: The exemplary performer in the age of productivity
The Knowledge Executive
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (Helix Books)

I also find both completely lacking in their appreciation for the green to gold, cradle to cradle sustainable design ENVIRONMENT of business, as well as the toxic immoral environment that most businesses accept rather than challenge. See for instance:

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

Finally, while strategy as well as information and intelligence (one in inputs, the other outputs) are buzz words in the business world, this book does well at demanding an Office of Strategy but does not reflect the best knowledge of strategic thinking such as represented by Colin Gray in Modern Strategy and other recent publications; and neither really appreciates external unstructured ANALOG or human information, although the innovation book tries with a second hand appreciation of humans.

A huge paradigm shift is coming, and the value of morality as a basis for trust (Nobel Prize awarded for the guy that gamed that trust lowers the cost of doing business) is upon us. We are now ready to create the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth that Buckminster Fuller envisioned. See Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace for a sense of what 55 others are saying on this vital FOUNDATION for business enterprise.

Review: Daydream Believers–How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power

5 Star, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Iraq, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Religion & Politics of Religion, War & Face of Battle

Daydream BelieversTogether with a Few Other Books, All You Need to Know, March 21, 2008

Fred Kaplan

The author is kinder to the protagonists than they merit.

I give the author high marks for making the case early on in the book that the world did NOT change after 9-11, and that what really happened was that the coincidence of neo-conservative back-stabbing and Bush’s well-intentioned evangelical village idiot view of freedom and democracy.

The author does a fine job of reviewing how after 9-11 we were faced with two choices, the first, going for empire (“we make our own reality”) or revitalizing alliances. The neocons in their ignorance called for regime changes, but the author fails us here by not understanding that both political parties love 42 of the 44 dictators, those that “our” dictators.

The author has many gifted turns of phrase. One talks about how their “vision” turned into a “dream” that then met “reality” and was instantly converted into a “nightmare.”

The author adds to our knowledge of how Rumsfeld empowered Andy Marshall, and how the inner circle quickly grew enamored of the delusion that they could achieve total situational awareness with total accuracy in a system of systems no intelligent person would ever believe in.

The author highlights two major intelligence failures that contributed to the policy bubble:

1. Soviet Union was way behind the US during the Cold War, not ahead.
2. Soviet economy was vastly worse and more vulnerable that CIA ever understood.

The author helps us understand that the 1989 collapse of the Berlin War created a furor over the “peace dividend” and the “end of history” that were mistaken, but sufficient to bury with noise any concerns about Bin Laden and Saudi Arabian spread of virulent anti-Shi’ite Wahabibism from 1988 onwards.

By 1997 Marshall and Andy Krepinevich were staking everything on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), high speed communications and computing (still not real today), and precision munitions.

The author provides a super discussion of Col John Warden’s “five rings” in priority order: 1) leadership and C4I; 2) infrastructure; 3) transportation; 4) population (again, war crimes); and finally, 5) the enemy. The author is brutal in scoring the campaign designed by Col Warden a complete failure. It…did…not…work (in Gulf I).

I cannot summarize everything, so a few highlights:

+ Taliban quickly learned how to defeat US overhead (satellite) surveillance–remember, we do not do “no-notice” air breather imagery any more, except for easily detected UAVs, with mud as well as cover and concealment. .

+ Excellent account of the influence on Rumsfeld of George Tenet’s failure to satisfy him during a missile defense review. It became obvious to all that the U.S. Intelligence Community a) no longer had a very high level of technical mastery on the topic; and b) was so fragmented as to make the varied analytic elements deaf, dumb, and blind–not sharing with each other, using contradictory data sets, the list goes on.

Page 187 is the page to read if you are just browsing in the bookstore:

Summarizing 2007: “Not so much a return to realism as a retreat to randomness.” Also: “Grand vision was shattered by reality. Policies were devised piecemeal; actions were scattershot, aimless.” And: “put forth ideas without strategies; policies without process; wishes without means.” Devastating.

So many other notes. Here are a tiny handful:

+ Speechwriter Michael Gersen connected with Bush on an evangelical level, wrote major speeches, in the case of a foreign policy speech, without actually consulting any adult practitioners.

+ Joseph Korbel was both Madeline Albright’s father and Condi Rice’s educational mentor–talk about a non-partisan losing streak!

+ American Enterprise Institute and Richard Perl used Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky to impress Cheney and subvert Bush by reframing the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians as the first 21st Century war between terrorism (the hapless Palestinians) and democracy (the Israeli’s).

+ He credits Eliot Abrams with devising the unique linkage between American Jews whose numbers and influence have been declining, and the Evangelical Christians whose influence peaked with Bush-Cheney.

+ He slams General Tommy Franks for providing assurances and making promises he could not keep with respect to settling and stabilizing the towns by-passed or over-run by the US Army.

+ The author is misleading in his account of the Saudi-Powell discussions on how an election would lead to radical Islamics in charge (as opposed to despotic, perverted spendthrifts).

+ Rumsfeld Lite going into Iraq meant that a quarter million tons of ordnance was looted by insurgents, which is what cost us four years time. General Shinseki is vindicated.

+ For the first time I learn of a planned Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

+ The author introduces Ahmed Chalabi but does not fully understand this man’s crimes as well as his special relationship with Iran. Iran used him to get the USA to depose the Taliban and Sadaam Hussein, , and to lure the entire US military into a quagmire.

+ Department of State, Mr. White in particular, got it right every time.

+ Legitimacy and stability must come before elections.

+ Hezbollah win in Lebanon dealt a crushing blow to the Bush delusions.

+ Bush refused to deal with Syria and Iran throughout. I am reminded of how Civil Affairs was told in the first five years of the war to blow off the tribal leaders and imams, and only now are they being allowed to get it right.

+ Useful account of three failed Public Diplomacy tenures (Charlotte Beers, Margaret Tutwiler, Karen Hughes (who waited six months so her son could leave for college–so much for the importance of that job….)

+ USA sent $230 million in aid to Lebanon, while Iran poured in $1 billion via Hezbollah (meanwhile, the Chinese do the same everywhere else).

Page 191 is glorious: Bush’s strategies were “based on fantasies, faith, and a willful indifference toward those affected by their consequences.”

Page 192: the real divide is “between the realists and the fantasists.”

The author quite properly slams the Democrats for not having an original idea, plan, program, bill, budget, or moral thought.

He ends by suggesting that multinational consensus is still the true litmus test for the sensibility and sustainability of any endeavor.

On this note, I conclude that five stars are right where this book should be. Incomplete, but original and provocative. Bravo.

Other recommendations:
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
DVD Why We Fight
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
The Price of Loyalty : George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy

Vote on Review

Threat Archives on Public Intelligence (1992-2006)

Threats

2004

NO

ThreatBjorgoRoot Causes of Terrorism

2004

US

ThreatKaplanThe Saudi Connection to Terrorism

2004

US

ThreatKnappAl Qaeda and the Mass Media (PSYOP Briefing)

2004

US

ThreatKnappAl Qaeda and the Mass Media (Reference)

2004

US

ThreatKnappDistortion in Islam and Jihad

2004

US

ThreatKnappDiversity in Islam

2006

US

ThreatDalyAl Qaeda Against Saudi Oil

2006

US

ThreatJohnsonBattle of Algiers and Its Lessons

2006

US

ThreatSeagravesGold Warriors: New Epilogue, Further of US Theft of WWII Gold Loot

2006

US

ThreatSeagravesGold Warriors New Chapter Seventeen

2006

US

ThreatSteeleWho Is to Blamce?  The Vice President and Us

2006

US

ThreatSternAl Qaeda Approach to US Muslims

2006

UK

ThreatStoryCrunch Time for CIA, Banks, and Related Thieves of $742 Trillion

2005

US

ThreatEllisScenarios for Next Generation Crises in Latin America

2005

US

ThreatGAOGAO Report: US Not Addressing Islamic Fundamentalism

2005

US

ThreatOSSSomalia Piracy Quick Report

2005

US

ThreatOSSReport on Remote Detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices

2005

US

ThreatOSSPRC Trade in Latin America

2005

US

ThreatRay & GrossThe Perfect Storm

2005

US

ThreatSteeleWorksheet for Book Review on Crossing the Rubicon

2005

US

ThreatSteeleMother Nature as Terrorist

2005

US

ThreatSteele9-11: Who’s To Blame?  One Man’s Opinion

2005

US

ThreatThompsonIs the Terrorism Threat Over-Rated?

2004

US

ThreatDalyGlobalization & National Defense (Ecological Economics)

2004

US

ThreatLouisianaPre-Hurricane Katrina Study and Conclusions

2004

US

ThreatPalmerThe Real Axis of Evil: 44 Dictators

2004

US

ThreatPetersEarly Warning of Disease From Pattern Analysis

2004

US

ThreatSeagraveTranscript of Video on Stolen Gold Held by US Treasury & Citi-Bank

2004

US

ThreatVlahosAttachment to the Muslim Renovatio Memorandum

2004

US

ThreatVlahosThe Muslim Renovatio and U.S. Strategy

2004

US

ThreatVlahosThe Muslims Are Coming

2004

US

ThreatVlahosInsurgency Within Islam

2003

US

ThreatDanzipCountering Traumatic Attacks

2003

PRC

ThreatOSSPRC Treaty & Trade Penetration of Latin America

2002

US

ThreatEmerson & SteeleAmerican Jihad Map

2002

US

ThreatSteeleACFR, 19 Cities: 9-11, U.S. Intelligence, & the Real World

2000

US

ThreatSteeleGeorgetown/AWC: Non-Traditional Threats

1998

US

ThreatSteeleTAKEDOWN: Targets, Tools, & Technocracy

1994

US

ThreatSteele6th National Threat Symposium: New Directions in Information Sharing

2005

NGO

ThreatNGOChanging Face of Global Violence

2005

NGO

ThreatNGOHuman Security Audit

2004

US

ThreatPeltonRobert Young Pelton on Dangerous World

2004

US

ThreatSteeleThree Book Review Relevant to Global War on Terror (GWOT)

2003

US

ThreatCopelandAnalysis of the New Paradigm for Terrorism

2003

US

ThreatManwaringStreet Gangs: New Urban Insurgency

2003

US

ThreatManwaringWar & Conflict: Six Generations

2003

US

ThreatPeltonSummary of Presentation on World’s Most Dangerous Places

2002

US

ThreatBettsThe Next Intelligence Failure: The Limits of Prevention

2002

NL

ThreatJongmanWorld Conflict and Human Rights Map 2001-2002

2002

US

ThreatWheatonTransitions from Authoritarian Rule: A Model

2002

US

ThreatWheatonVirtual Afghanistan: Modeling a Transition from Authoritarian Rule

2001

US

ThreatGodsonGovernments and Gangs

2001

US

ThreatHeidenrichEarly Warning & Complex Monitoring of Ethnic Genocide (Slides)

2001

US

ThreatHeidenrichEarly Warning & Complex Monitoring of Ethnic Genocide (Text)

1998

US

ThreatTransnational Enemies: Threats Without Names

1998

US

ThreatGlaebusMetaphors & Modern Threats: Biological, Computer, Cognitive Viruses

1997

US

ThreatFialkaWar by Other Means: Economic Espionage In (Against) America

1997

US

ThreatSchwartauInformation Warfare: The Weapons of the Information Age

1997

US

ThreatTenneyCyber-Law and Cyber-Crime: Spamming Methods and Costs

1996

US

ThreatKeuhlSchool of Information Warfare Threat and Strategy: Shifting Paradigms

1996

US

ThreatO’MalleyCountering the Business Intelligence Threat

1996

US

ThreatStrassmannU.S. Knowledge Assets: The Choice Target for Information Crime

1996

US

ThreatWinklerElectronic Industrial Espionage: Defining Ground Zero

1994

US

ThreatWhitney-SmithRefugees: Weapon of the Post Cold War World–Counter Offensive: IW

Review: Imperial Grunts–The American Military on the Ground (Hardcover)

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Military & Pentagon Power

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Admiring of Grunts, Deep Between the Lines Slam on Washington,

October 3, 2005
Robert D. Kaplan
Most important in this book is Kaplan’s documentation of the fact that transformation of the U.S. military is NOT taking place–Washington is still enamored of multiple layers of rank heavy bureaucracy, the insertion of very large cumbersome task forces in to every clime and place; an over-emphasis on technology; and a lack of appreciation for the urgency of providing security, food, water, and electricity IMMEDIATELY so as to start the cycle of counter-insurgency information collection from volunteers. The author is brutal in his indictment of the bureaucracy for failing to provide the linguistic skills, four years after 9/11, that are far more important to transformation than any weapons system. He is also brutal on the delays in approving operations in the field that are associated with layered bureaucracies that come with joint task forces, and completely detrimental to fast moving tactical success at the A Team level.

Key here is the conclusion that American power can only be exercised in a sustained way through discreet relationships at every level from neighborhood and village on up to provinces and tribes. The emphasis here is on discreet, humanitarian, tangible goods and services including security. When America introduces major forces, it spikes resistance and delays the achievement of its very objective. What jumps out is the need to change how the US achieves its presence around the world. The author recommends a change in the State Department model of embassies focused on countries–State tends to be co-opted country by country and loses sight–if it ever had it–of regional or tribal nuances. The author also recommends a sustained peaceful presence at the provincial and village level around the world, through a combination of modern civil affairs and humanitarian assistance cadres and retired military given leave to choose a place they get to know and stay there to finish out their careers and then be “on tap” for retired reserve plus up.

A third theme in this book, one that Ralph Peters also makes in “NEW GLORY,” is that a lot of these countries are NOT countries and should not be countries. Many borders imposed by colonialism are simply lunatic when taking into account historical and geographic and related ethnic realities. It *makes sense* to have regional summits that re-locate borders in a manner that respects historical, geographical and cultural realities, and to do so with a massive Berlin Airlift/Marshall Plan application of the benefits of peace. Ceding southernmost Thailand and the insurgent southern part of the Philippines to Malaysia, and establishing an Indonesian-Malaysian Muslim Crescent, makes sense. Similarly, in Africa and in the Middle East, there is good that could come of a deliberate recalculation of borders.

A fourth theme, and I share his admiring view of Special Operations and the Marine Corps, is that of the separation of the military ethos of service and dedication to mission, from that of the Nation at large, where Tom Friedman in “The World is Flat” declares that we are suffering from a new generation that is, in a word, apathetic. We need to return to universal service, with options for serving in the Peace Corps or the local constabulary at home. America has lost its civic integrity.

A fifth theme, one that corrected a misimpression I have shared, was of the rather special nature of the National Guard elements of the U.S. Special Forces and the Army civil affairs teams. They come out in this book as being among the best of the best.

Sixth, I found the author’s field appreciation of citizen militia in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere to be quite illuminating. Washington is wrong to rush the transition to a centralized Army in places where tribes and militia still hold sway and can be used to provide provincial stability. We ignore the possibilities of unconventional indigenous forces at our peril.

Seventh, as on page 230, the author highlight those occasions when our unconventional warriors point out that Toyotas are better than Humvees, commercial cell phones are better than military communications alternatives. Across the book, a few good men and women with independent authority and cash resources to do instant compensation and instant aid authorization come across as vastly superior to Washington-style contracting and major joint force insertions.

Eighth, throughout the book, force protection mania is killing us and gutting our counter-insurgency potential. This comes out especially strongly in Colombia, where A Teams are forbidden to go tactical with the forces they are training, and are limited to training within safe encampments only. Force protection is a modern variation of the Soldier’s Load-we are so nuts about force protection and heavying up that we are shackling our troops and our small unit leaders and completely avoiding the military value of “fast and furious.”

Ninth, national and military intelligence are not meeting needs of front-line grunts. Bottom-up intelligence collection, including passive collection from observant civil affairs teams and foot patrols, is what is really working. We appear to need a whole new concept of operations and a whole new doctrine for field intelligence, one that floods areas with non-official cover and overt personnel, one that puts analyst and translators heavy-up into the front lines.

Sidenotes include great admiration for SOUTHCOM, accustomed as it is to getting along with the short end of the stick; and derision for PACOM, “twenty years behind the times, afraid of messy little wars and of a transparent humanitarian role for SF.” The author regards the Global War on Terror (GWOT) as a convenient “set up” for a future war with China, not something I agree with but evidently a perception within the military that has specific outcomes from day to day. Other side notes include a brutal indictment throughout of “Big Army” and also of the US Air Force which is obsessing on more super-bombers and unwilling to fund what really works well, long-haul transports, AC-130 gunships (Puff the Magic Dragon), and more air controllers in the field with the grunts.

Super book! NOTE: I have the sense that some in the SF community have taken an intense dislike to Kaplan, and vote against the review as a way of voting against Kaplan. Fair enough, but for what it’s worth, the review is a good summary intended to be helpful to all in appreciating what I take to be some pretty useful themes.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

2004 Kaplan (US) The Saudi Connection: How billions in oil money spawned a global terror network

09 Terrorism, Government, Historic Contributions, Law Enforcement, Media
David Kaplan
David Kaplan

GOLDEN CANDLE AWARD: Mr. David Kaplan

OSS ’04: To Mr. David Kaplan, for his extraordinary exploitation of legal and ethical sources of information in the pursuit of investigative journalism on behalf of U.S. News & World Report.  His studies of North Korean government corruption and of Saudi Arabian government sponsorship of terrorism, represent the best practices in his field.

Today he is Editorial Director for the Center for Public Integrity, one of our Righeous Sites (click on Cover Photo to go to the Center).   In addition to overseeing the Center’s editorial work, he serves as director of its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Below is the core story as he told it personally at OSS ’04.

David Kaplan
David Kaplan