Superb From Right of Center–VERY Satisfying Competent Collection
January 10, 2010
Melvyn Leffler and Jeffrey Legro
Of the three books I bought to explore this particular theme, this was the best by far and the only one to earn five stars. Twelve chapters, twelve authors, not a single runt in this litter. The notes are outstanding.
Early on as I go through the book fast I am impressed by the balance between skepticism of the traditional thinking and spending habits (one size fits all heavy metal military) and a focus on the importance of having a broad capability that can respond to and impact on a diversity of threats most of which cannot be easily anticipated.
Some highlights, generally identifying the specific author
The premise is that JFK went against the national security establishment, notably the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex, and was assassinated by deliberate plan of the CIA, with Richard Helms, David Atlee Philips, David Sanchez Morales, and Desmond Fitzgerald specifically culpable for high crimes of treason.
As with 9/11 and the documented culpability of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Larry Silverstein, and Rudy Gulliani, there is insufficient proof in this book for conviction, but it is more than ample to demand a very intrusive and comprehensive investigation of the CIA, the Secret Service, and the FBI. I *want* to believe Helms when he says CIA did nothing not ordered by a President. However, if the premise of this book is proven, CIA should be abolished, its HQS demolished, and salt plowed into the earth at Langley.
The book’s most positive account is of the back-channel dialog JFK developed with Khrushchev, Castro, and the Pope, dialog that not only defused the confrontations of the time, but also ended the Cold War. The theology of peace, the role of Monk Thomas Merton, the role of Norman Cousins (author of The Pathology of Power – A Challenge to Human Freedom and Safety), the role of the Pope and Pacem in Terris, and the strength JFK drew from a single meeting with Quakers are moving. This is in many ways a resurrection of JFK and both an epitaph worthy of his unsung accomplishments, and a call to arms for achieving closure–truth and reconciliation–with respect to his assassination by US Government personnel committing treason.
Gems by Kennedy, can safely skip the rest, January 7, 2008
Paul Kennedy (ed)
I’ve had this book in my library for many years, but finally pulled it down for a flight to Oklahoma. Bottom line: the gems from the editor in the introduction and conclusion are alone worth the price of the book, you can safely disregard virtually all else. At the end of this review I list some more useful books on grand strategy that merit being read in their entirety.
This book is 17 years old, and hence does not reflect the 4th generation through 7th generation warfare thinking of Max Manwaring, Steve Metz, myself and many others, nor does it reflect the globalization versus jihad and the class war of immoral capitalism.
+ Grand strategy is about LONG-TERM interests, not a single Administration’s “legacy.”
+ Grand strategy demands the integration of the political, economic, and military (this is not good enough. The US military uses DIME for diplomatic, informational, military, and economic, but my own matrix, documented in my early papers at OSS.Net, distinguishes among:
The ten grand strategy LONG-TERM policies are:
+ Moral resources join human and technical and economic resources as being fundamental to ways and means.
+ Husbanding and managing natural resources for the long-term is vital.
+ Diplomacy is vital (the US spent $30B on this in 2007, against $950B on waging war–in 2008 the Department of State is being down-sized to help pay for the Iraq debacle–this is plain NUTS.
+ Flexibility and frequent adaptation are essential (as opposed to the village idiot mantra, “stay the course”)
+ A true grand strategy has at least as much to do about maintaining a prosperous peace as it does with executing a costly war.
+ Balance in all things among military and non-military, short and long term etc. is critical attribute of sound grand strategy.
+ The US is now strategically vulnerable on all fronts, not least because we allowed our corporations to externalize costs and eliminate home-front capabilities without regard to national prosperity or security.
+ The elements of grand strategy have a multiplier effect on one another. If they are left unattended, the Nation hollows out.
+ Armed forces should be able to deal with multiple contingencies, not just a worst case scenario (see my Joint Forces Quarterly article on the need for four forces after next: Big War, Small War, Peace War, and Homeland Defense.
+ The debt and future unfunded obligations that the Bush-Cheney regime have imposed on future generations are not just irresponsible (the author’s view) but constitute high crimes meriting impeachment (my view).
I would love to see the editor of this book convene a grand strategy summit in early 2008, in order to place before We the People, and the varied contenders for the Presidency, a balanced budget 10 years into the future, as a foundation for a national conversation.
Under Clinton as well as Bush, the USA made love to 42 of 44 dictators, and prostituted itself to the Saudis and the Israelis.
Under Bush-Cheney, failed states went from 75 in 2005 to 177 in 2007. It is my personal view that Bush should be locked in a closet, Cheney impeached and hanged if convicted (see my itemization of his documented crimes at Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency, and McCain made our caretaker president with a Democratic vice president. In grand strategy terms, Bush the idiot and Cheney the war criminal have not only burned the White House to the ground, they have burned our seed corn, mortgaged our future, alienated the entire planet, and disgraced the Republic.
Checks & Balances Not Working, Need Robust Economy,
May 31, 2006
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
This will strike the most critical as a “formula” book, covering the “seven challenges” of constitutional democracy, new definition of national security, full participation in the world, an economy that works for all, health care for all, equal opportunity for all, and restoration of our values. I do not consider it a formula book. In the context of the other 700+ books I have reviewed as the #1 Amazon reviewer of non-fiction related to national security and competitiveness, I can safely say that no other person in America has written a book quite as relevant, quite as competent, to our declining dollar and our vanishing democracy. I am, incidentally, a moderate Republican.
The Senator, whose brother Jack was in my view assassinated for wanting to end the arms race so profitable to Wall Street, and whose brother Bobby was in my view assassinated for wanting to make government work as intended, is quite correct when he opens by suggesting that the checks and balances intended by our Founding Father are NOT WORKING. Excessive secrecy on the part of the Executive branch, combined with an abdicating Congress and a compliant Judiciary (the latter just rules against freedom of speech for government employees, penalizing those who denounce government waste, fraud, and abuse), have put not just democracy, but the fiscal and military health of the Republic at risk.
The Senator is very strong in emphasizing that national security today is too narrowly focused on a military mis-fit to terrorism, at the same time that we have lost the international moral authority that has long caused America the Good to be America the Safe. He articulates a complex but understandable approach to national security as being an integrated results of proper economic, educational, energy, infrastructure, counter-proliferation, and moral choices.
He sums up the failure of our global diplomacy (our unilateral pre-emptive diplomatic charade) as saying that we cannot deal with our enemies is we do not first deal fully and fairly with our friends.
He joins C.K. Prahalad (The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid) and Jeffrey Sachs (End to Poverty) as well as Alvin and Heidi Toffler (Revolutionary Wealth) in discussing how globalization is NOT a threat if we invest in our people’s education, training, and health. Critics of this book confuse universal health care with free health care. What they do not understand is that health care costs are a form of imposed slavery, preventing individuals from reaching their full potential because they cannot move from one employer to another without losing health care–or if they have none, they lose the ability to heal and jump back into the work force. The Senator focuses wisely on preventive health care. He does not actively condemn the mis-management of the current U.S. health system, but one need only look at the jump in medical tourism to India and Singapore, where major operations cost one tenth to one fifth of what they cost in the USA, to understand that our health system, like our military systems and our prison system, is dysfunctional.
There is a solid focus in this book on life-long education, and a strongly stated concern about the rise in inequality that accompanies failures in education. The top 1% and 10% of the American households are capturing MOST of the wealth in America, at the same time that middle and lower class earnings are dropping. The Senator advocates an increase in minimum wages (what some call “living wages” at the same time that he recognizes that illegal immigration is part of what is keeping wages down (and cost to government up).
He focuses on 2006 as an opportunity to put the country back on track. Based on my drive across the Nation (from Missoula, Montana to Oakton, Virginia) I would say that the Nation is ready. I was stunned by the number of common sense people, from Harley Davidson mechanics to truck stop waitresses, that think that this government has lost its mind and is a major part of the problem. As I read this book I also read in the news about how the White House is approving unlimited surveillance of all domestic communications; the Director of National Intelligence can exempt corporations from Security and Exchange Commission accountability and reporting; and government employees have no freedom of speech, even to report crimes by their superiors. This country does appear to be going insane, and Washington, D.C. is the central nuthouse.
As the author states, government is supposed to be a guarantor of individual rights and equality (all men created equal and the rest of that good stuff in the Founding documents), but the Republicans (the extremists that have disenfranchiese we moderates) have been mounting a determined assault of government, seeking to reduce its role in protecting the majority, while favoring the special intersts that can afford to bribe our Representatives with houses, yachts, and private jet trips to play golf in Scotland…and of course cash. [I also recommend Tom Coburn’s book, “Breach of Trust” in which he documents the corruption of the Republican and Democratic party leaders who demand that representative vote the “party line” rather than what is good for their district). Washington is BROKEN.
The Senator’s final recommendation is brilliant: the U.S. budget must become more transparent. I call this “reality based public budgeting.” What he is really talking about is the degree to which the budget is concealed from the public with escoteric earmarks, off budget funding, and budget decisions that bear no resemblance to our needs, but instead respond to bribery from special interests, and the ideological fantasies of extremists.
Overall this is a book that is full of common sense, that is thoughtful, that is easy to read and to understand. I put the book down thinking that the author is indeed a “great man” in the classical Churchillian sense of the word. He has a great mind, and he would make a good President. He has earned my total respect.