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 Amazon.com) 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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Review: Understanding International Conflicts–An Introduction to Theory and History

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, Post 9-11 Update, Excellent Adult Foundation,

January 10, 2003
Joseph S. Nye
First, it is vital for prospective buyers to understand that the existing reviews are three years out of date–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 Amazon.com) 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.

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Review: The Paradox of American Power–Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone

4 Star, Diplomacy, Economics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Strategic Insights, Operationally Disappointing,

March 11, 2002
Joseph S. Nye Jr.
My highest complement for a book used to be how many pens I broke on it. This book leaps into a new category. I actually had to read it three times, short as it is. It is brilliant, with paragraphs of such substance that multiple readings are needed to “unzip” the implications. This is not an undergraduate text although it could certainly be used as such, to open deep discussions.Among the strategic thoughts that I found most valuable were these: 1) a plenitude of information leads to a poverty of attention; 2) in the absence of time or means to actually review real-world information, politics becomes a contest of competitive credibility (with the Internet changing the rules of the game somewhat); 3) Japan has vital lessons to teach Islamic nations–that one can adapt to the new world while maintaining a unique culture; 4) we are failing to adapt our democratic processes to the challenges of the Earth as well as the opportunities of the Internet.

This last merits special attention. I found in this book an intellectual and political argument for restoring democratic meaning to our national policies. From its evaluation of the pernicious effect of special interest groups on foreign policy; to its explanation (“When the majority are indifferent, they leave the battlefields of foreign policy to those with special interests.”); to its prescription for healthy policies: a combination of national discussion (not just polling), with a proper respect for the opinions of others (e.g. foreigners), the author clearly sets himself apart from those who would devise national policies in secret meetings with a few preferred pals.

Throughout the book, but not given any special chapter as I would have preferred, the author is clearly cognizant of the enormous non-traditional challenges facing the community of nations–not just terrorism and crime, but fundamentals such as water and energy shortages, disease, genocide, proliferation, trade injustices, etcetera.

Operationally, the book is slightly disappointing. Despite the fact that the author has served as both the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (and perhaps left the operational bit to his Vice Chairman, Greg Treverton, whose book, “Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information” I recommend be read in conjunction with this one), and as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, I did not see two things in this book that would have bridged the gap from strategic reflection to operational implementation:

1) How must we change the manner in which our nation handles information? What should our national information strategy be, to include not only a vast new program for properly collecting, processing, and understanding foreign language materials that are openly available, for but improving our K-12 and undergraduate education with respect to foreign affairs?

2) How must we change the manner in which our nation authorizes, appropriates, allocates, and obligates the taxpayer budget? While noting that we spend 16 times as much on military hard power as we do on diplomatic soft power, the author left this issue largely on a single page.

On the topic of values and accountability the author excelled. Although I would disagree that values by themselves are the foundation of national power (“knowing” the world, in my view, is the other side of the coin of the realm), the author sounds very much like Noam Chomsky with a social make-over–we have to be honest on human rights and other core values, and not act nor permit our corporations to act in ways that are antithetical to our true national commitment to decency and honesty. The section on new forms of accountability and transparency being made possible by changing in information tools and practices are valuable–admitting non-governmental organizations to all bodies; accelerating the release of records into the public domain, and so on.

We learn from this book that the author is an avid admirer of The Economist, that he thrives on Op-Ed reading (I have never seen a more comprehensive use of Op-Eds in the notes), and that he is largely accepting of the World Trade Organization and other multi-lateral groups, most of which have not yet accommodated themselves to the new world of citizen-centered policymaking. As good as the notes are, the book would have benefited from a bibliography. The index is acceptable.

If we part ways on any one thing, it would be that I am less sanguine about any foreign policy, however much it might use “soft power,” being successful if it persists with the notion that we can cajole and seduce the world into wanting what we want. We’ve done that with Hollywood, and McDonalds, and chlorine-based plastics, and it is not working to our advantage. It may be that America must first recognize its own demons, adjust its global goals accordingly, and interact with the world rather than striving for a grander version of the “Office of Strategic Influence” that recently got laughed into oblivion. We appear to agree that the U.S. Information Agency must be restored as our two-way channel between our people and all others. I would dramatically expand USIA to also provide for a Global Knowledge Foundation and a Digital Marshall Plan on the one hand, and the education of all women on the other (Cf O’Hanlon’s “A Half-Penny on the Federal Dollar”).

This book opens the great conversation, and in doing so, renders a valuable service. Missing from the public conversation is the Department of State. Both the politically-appointed and the professionally-trained leadership of the diplomatic service appear to have been cowed into silence by a mis-placed coda that confuses abject compliance with loyalty to the larger national interest. If this book can draw State back into the public service, into a public debate on the urgency of protecting and expanding our most important soft power tools, then the author’s ultimate impact on the future of American security and prosperity will be inestimable.

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