Review: American Interests in South Asia (Ho Ho Ho)

3 Star, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Security (Including Immigration), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Nicholas Burns (Editor) , Jonathon Price (Editor) , Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Foreword) , Brent Scowcroft (Foreword)

3.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Universe — Divorced from Reality, September 20, 2013

I am in Afghanistan with the opportunity to think about all of the external and internal realities impacting on 2014, and this book attracted my immediately interest, along with Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure: A War Doomed By The Coalition’s Strategies, Policies and Political Correctness. If I had the time I would buy and read both books, but sadly I have to focus on the here and now with just two comments:

01 All of these big names write great stuff, but I have to ask myself, who are they writing for? Who, if anyone is listening? Among all these great ideas, there is not a single one that has been implemented, funded, sustained, or effective. So why do we have smart people and think tanks? Are they a form of public entertainment, of public self-stroking, completely removed from the reality that the White House and Congress are so lacking in moral and intellectual fortitude as to be a constant danger to both the Republic and all other nations?

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Reference: Joe Nye on Cyber-Power

Computer/online security, Cyberscams, malware, spam, InfoOps (IO), Intelligence (government), White Papers

Download PDF 1.1MB 30 pages

Nye, Joseph S. “Cyber Power.” Paper (30 Pages)

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School,

May 2010

Power depends upon context, and the rapid growth of cyber space is an important new context in world politics. The low price of entry, anonymity, and asymmetries in vulnerability means that smaller actors have more capacity to exercise hard and soft power in cyberspace than in many more traditional domains of world politics. Changes in information has always had an important impact on power, but the cyber domain is both a new and a volatile manmade environment. The characteristics of cyberspace reduce some of the power differentials among actors, and thus provide a good example of the diffusion of power that typifies global politics in this century. The largest powers are unlikely to be able to dominate this domain as much as they have others like sea or air. But cyberspace also illustrates the point that diffusion of power does not mean equality of power or the replacement of governments as the most powerful actors in world politics.

DOWNLOAD PDF (30 pages, 1.1 MB) from Harvard Site

Phi Beta Iota:  The author served as deputy director of the National Intelligence Council and as an Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  He coined the term “soft power” and is arguably the most astute and coherent observer and analyst of traditional relations among nations now serving in the upper ranks of the elite that pupport to be serving the public interest.


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Review DVD: The AMERICAN Ruling Class

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Congress (Failure, Reform), Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Justice (Failure, Reform), Leadership, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Reviews (DVD Only), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Remarkable–Provokes & Entertains

December 10, 2009
Robert Altman, James Baker, Bill Bradley, Harold Brown, Hodding Carter, William Coleman, Walter Cronkite, Barabara Ehrenreich, Vartan Gregorian, Robert Hackney, Doug Henwood, Mike Dedavoy, Joseph Nye, Samuel Peabody, John Perkins, Pete Seeger, Lawrence Summers, Arthur Sulzberger, William Taft,  Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn

This DVD is superb and also subversive. I doubt that the “stars” in this movie, particularly James Baker, Bill Bradley, Howard Brown, and Larry Summers, really knew what they were getting into, since their words–and their bland denials–ring so false in this context.

I put the film in while trying to deal with Microsoft’s latest “update” that cost me half the morning, and I recommend it very strongly as a Christmas present or for classrooms and book clubs.

My notes:

+ A Peabody, whose ancestors came on “the boat” and also founded Groton, laments that whereas all the leaders used to pass through Groton, now there is no real “source.” I am reminded of Lee Iacocca’s Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.

+ Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all “content.”

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Review: The Powers to Lead

5 Star, Diplomacy, Leadership
Powers to Lead
Amazon Page

Superb Mix of Scholarship & Pragmatism,

February 26, 2008

Joseph S. Nye

Anything by Joe Nye stops my work and receives my undivided attention. This is an absolute gem of a book, a mix of world-class scholarship and world-class pragmatism. It goes to the top of my leadership list on Amazon.

The book opens with the observation that two thirds of US citizens believe their is a leadership crisis. The intellectual center of the book is its focus on “smart power” defined as a balanced mix of soft and hard power that is firmly grounded in “Contextual IQ,” a term credited to Mayo and Nohria of Harvard.

The author defines leaders as those who help a group create and achieve goals. He states that leadership is an art, not a science. I especially liked the early phases, “good contextual intelligence broadens the bandwidth of leaders.” He likens the relation of leaders and the led to surfers and the wave–can ride it but cannot move it this way and that.

Soft power, his signal contribution to the global dialog on international relations, is concisely defined as att5ractive power, yielding the power to ask instead of compell. He cites McGregor Burns in communicating that bullys who humiliate and intimidate are counter-productive, that “power-wielders are not leaders.”

There is a fine review of leadership styles, attributes, and a reference to female leadership rising (I have long said that women make better intelligence analysts because they have smaller egos and a great deal more emphathy and intuition). He provides a matrix for evaluationg inter effectivenesss and ethics in relation to goals, means, and consequences.

I was struck the emphasis on emotional intelligence and the needed ability to rapidly evaluate loyalty networks that might not be immediately obvious. He distinguishes between public politics and private politics.

The book concludes with a really extra-special and lengthy disucssion of leadership ethics and morality. The last two pages prior to top-notch notes and bibliographies are 12 take-aways on leadership (he had the wit to avoid making them the 12 commandments) consisting of a fragment that I list below, and explicative annotation that I do not–the book is worthy of buying for these two pages and the moral-ethical conclusion alone, but certainly this is an important book that should be read any anyone seeking to lead others.

1. Good leadership matters
2. Leadership can be learned.
3. Leaders help create and achieve group goals.
4. Smart leaders need both soft and hard power skills.
5. Leaders depend on and are partly shaped by followers.
6. Appropriate style depends on context.
7. Consultative style costs time, but has three major benefits.
8. Leaders need both managerial and organizational skills.
9. Leadership for crisis conditions requires advanced preparations, emotional maturity, and the ability to distinguish between operational, analytical, and political contexts.
10. Information revolution is shifting context of postmodern organizations from command to co-optive style.
11. Reality testing, constant information seeking, and adjusting to change are essential but (buy the book).
12. Ethical leaders use consciences, common moral rules, and professional standards, but conflicting values can create “dirty hands.”

I have just two nits with this book, neither of which is a buy-stopper:

A. On page 94 there is an annoyingly facile and superficial reference to the 9-11 commission citing cultural dissonance as one reason the FBI and CIA did not share information. As one who has both read and written extensively on this topic, not only have we all identified numerous examples of internal failures (e.g. the FBI rejected two walk-ins, one in Newark and one in Orlando, prior to the event; CIA sent line-crossers in and conclusively established there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, but George Tenet parked his integrity on the same shelf Colin Powell used, and let the White House lie 935 times to the public and Congress). I have an edited book scheduled on Cultural Intelligence for 2009, this is an important topic, and merits better treatment from the author.

B. This book could usefully be expanded, or followed by another book, to integrate the books I list below, and the world-changing conditions they represent.
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
The Knowledge Executive
The Collaborative Leadership Fieldbook
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
Five Minds for the Future
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

Having said that, I consider this to be one of the author’s top three immediately current and relevant books, and relatively priceless if we can get “Mr. Perfect” to read it (more than once), along with the author’s two recent works, Understanding International Conflicts (6th Edition); and The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone.February 26, 2008

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Review: Understanding International Conflicts (6th Edition)

5 Star, Security (Including Immigration)

Nye ConflictsFirst Rate, Post 9-11 Update, One of Two Core Works

June 10, 2007

Joseph S. Nye

First, this is a five-star tutorial on international relations that has been most recently updated after 9-11. If I were to recommend only two books on international relations, for any adult including nominally sophisticated world travelers, this would be the first book; the second would be Shultz, Godson, & Quester’s wonderful edited work, Security Studies for the 21st Century.

I really want to stress the utility of this work to adults, including those like myself who earned a couple of graduate degrees in the last century (smile). I was surprised to find no mention of the author’s stellar service as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council–not only has he had full access to everything that can be known by secret as well as non-secret means, but he has kept current, and this undergraduate and affordable paperback was a great way for me–despite the 400+ books I’ve read (most of them reviewed on in the past four plus years–to come up to speed on the rigorous methodical scholarly understanding of both historical and current theories and practices in international relations. This book is worth anyone’s time, no matter how experienced or educated.

Each chapter has a very satisfactory mix of figures, maps, chronologies, and photos–a special value is a block chart showing the causes for major wars or periods of conflict at the three levels of analysis–international system, national, and key individual personalities, and I found these quite original and helpful.

Excellent reference and orientation work. Took five hours to read, with annotation–this is not a mind-glazer, it’s a mind-exerciser.

See also my varied lists, but especially (each has a summative review of mine for ease of quick study):
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
War Is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America’s Most Decorated General, Two Other Anti=Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of It
Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century

Review: Soft Power–The Means To Success In World Politics

4 Star, Diplomacy, Strategy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Dumbed Down, Inexplicit, Good for the General Reader,

April 29, 2004
Joseph S. Nye Jr.
If you don’t read a lot, and especially if you did not read the author’s two extraordinary works on “Understanding International Relations” and “The Paradox of American Power,”, this is the book for you. This is a dumbed down inexplicit version of his more carefully documented ideas from the earlier books, and especially the second one.I do want to emphasize that this book is worth reading if you only have time for one book (or you could read all my reviews instead–they are free), because I am going to be severely critical of the book in a professional sense.

First, this book does not focus at all on the most important soft power of all, that of a strategic culture. Others have documented how North Vietnam whipped the United States, not with firepower, but with political will deeply rooted in a strategic culture that was superior to that of the United States of America.

Second, despite the author’s earlier service as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the book gives cursory attention to intelligence reform, and does not mention, at all, open source intelligence (disclosure: my pet rock). It is especially weak in failing to point out that the Department of State’s one chance to be effective within US politics and the US policy arena lies with its potential dominance of legally and ethically available information in 29+ languages. The Department of State has chosen to be ineffective and ignorant in this area of collecting, translating, and interpreting to the American public all that we need to know about the real world, and if and when Colin Powell goes to the World Bank, which has transformed itself into a knowledge organization (see Stephen Denning, World Bank KM manager before he became world-famous story-teller, “The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations”, he is going to rue the day he failed to kick off a $125M budget for OSINT under State control.

Third, the book lacks substance in the sense of effective examples. A simple illustration: $100M can buy a Navy ship of war or an Army brigade with tanks and artillery (two forms of hard power) or it can buy 1,000 diplomats or 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers or a water desalination plant capable of distilling 100M cubic meters of fresh water a year (three forms of soft power), or it can buy one day of war over water (the typical failure cost of hard power).

The book has exactly one paragraph on corporate misbehavior, which as William Greider has documented in “The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy”, is the most evil and destructive form of “soft power.” This is a severe oversight.

The book neglects foreign aid in a strategic context, and shows no appreciation for open spectrum, open source software, and open source intelligence, the triad of the new global open society. There is no hint of how a Digital Marshall Plan might be the most powerful “soft power” device every conceived.

The book neglects non-governmental organizations, with no mention of the organizations that are giving soft power a whole new dimension today (the European Centre for Conflict Prevention or ECCP, for example) and the book makes no mention of the “good” side of religious activism, the soft power so ably articulated by Dr. Doug Johnson in his two seminal works on faith-based diplomacy and religion as the missing dimension in statecraft.

Finally, while the book makes useful reference to some Pew polls on global attitudes, they struck me more as space fillers than core reference material–four pages where one would do–and do not reflect the more valued-based and multi-dimensional near-real-time direct citizen surveying such as characterizes the next generation of surveying instruments (e.g. Zarca Interactive, whose DC area chief describes it as a tool for real time democracy).

This leads to my last comment: this book, perhaps deliberately so, but I suspect not, is out of touch with mainstream scholarship such as the last 50 books I have reviewed for Amazon. It is one massive “Op-Ed”, and its sources are virtually all “Op-Eds” (a number of them not written by the purported authors), with the result that this book gets an A for a good idea and a C-, at best, for scholarship. One simple example: the sum total of the author’s references on “virtual communities”, one of the most important ideas of this century, is one Op-Ed from the Baltimore Sun. There is no mention of the book by the same title written by Howard Rheingold, arguably the most talented chronicler in America if not the world of how this non-state communitas is changing the world.

Joe Nye has my vote as the new voice of reason within the Democratic circles, but he needs to be balanced by the Jonathan Schell, William Greider, Herman Daly, Paul Ray, and other European and Asian scholars. The world has gotten too complicated to be addressed by Op-Eds out of Harvard. It is time we got serious about harnessing the distributed intelligence of the Whole Earth, and we can start right here at Amazon, where most of the books not cited by this book have been reviewed by many people whose views, in the aggregate, are vastly more informed than the views of either the White House or its intelligence purveyors.

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