Review: Violent Politics — A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Country/Regional, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), History, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Public), Iraq, Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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William R. Polk

5.0 out of 5 stars Chuck Spinney Raves About This Book…., June 12, 2011
By Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) – See all my reviews

Chuck Spinney, along with Pierre Sprey and Winslow Wheeler and a few others, one of the top twelve brains with integrity on US defense fraud, waste, and abuse, raves about this book, calling it “one of the very best books of the subject of guerrilla warfare and insurrection that I have ever read.” For myself, this would normally be a four, but since Chuck is one of my intellectual way points, I won't argue and go with five. I can see what Chuck likes so much about the conclusion–it is a summary of the “true cost” of a government that lacks both intelligence and integrity, and strives to perpetuate global war as a matter of momentum. The author does an excellent job of including in the “total cost” the mental and physical disability toll, the social toll, the foreign “collateral damage” toll, and of course the financial toll including all the borrowing that has been done “in our name” but not in our interest.

Continue reading “Review: Violent Politics — A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq”

Journal: William Polk AF Trip Report August 2010

08 Wild Cards, Officers Call
Chuck Spinney Recommends

The attached trip report documents William R. Polk's impressions of the current situation in Afghanistan based on interviews and discussions he had over a period of 10 days in August.  Polk, a highly experienced American diplomat, foreign policy specialist, as well as a being a highly-regarded scholar, is the author of Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq, which is one of the very best books I have ever read on the subject of guerrilla warfare.

This very informative albeit long document covers a variety of viewpoints, each of which merits careful reading.  I found the recapitulation of his discussions with Russian Ambassador Andrey Avetisyan and Mullah Abdul Salam, a former high ranking member to the Taliban, to be particularly interesting and important.

Chuck Spinney
Polk AF Trip Report Aug 2010

Phi Beta Iota: We read every word.  Talk about deja vu.  Everywhere we have ever been, the exaggeration of security and force protection, along with the absence of responsible informed strategy, leaves the Americans both out of touch with reality, and ineffective at waging peace.

Journal: William Polk on Afghanistan Non-Strategy Plus Consolidated Journal, Review, and Reference Links for Afghanistan

08 Wild Cards, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Law Enforcement, Military, Peace Intelligence
Chuck Spinney Recommends

William R. Polk recently sent out the attached letter to his distribution list.  It is a very comprehensive and I believe important review of Afghanistan.  I urge you to take the time to read it.  Appended to the end are a series of notes he used in the construction of his letter.   Polk know of which he speaks: his book Violent Politics (Harper Collins, 2007) is one of the very best books on guerrilla warfare, insurrection, and terrorism I have ever read.  You can learn more about Polk and his writings by visiting his website

Chuck Spinney, Kalamata, Greece

William R. Polk [personal web site]
669 Chemin de la Sine, 06140 Vence, France
(33) 493581627

June 27, 2010

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

On June 24, the International Herald Tribune published an editorial from its parent, The New York Times, entitled “Obama’s Decision.”  Both the attribution –  printing in the two newspapers which ensures that the editorial will reach both directly and through subsidiary reprinting almost every “decision maker” in the world – and the date – just before the appointment of David Petraeus to succeed Stanley McChrystal – are significant.  They could have suggested a momentary lull in which basic questions on the Afghan war might have been reconsidered.

That did not happen.  The President made clear his belief that the strategy of the war was sound and his commitment to continue it even if the general responsible for it had to be changed.

The editorial sounded a  different note arising from the events surrounding the fall of General McChrystal:   Mr. Obama, said The Times, “must order all of his top advisers to stop their sniping and maneuvering” and come up with a coherent political and military plan for driving back the Taliban and building a minimally effective Afghan government.”

In short, Mr. Obama must get his team together and evolve a plan.

Unfortunately, the task he faces is not that simple.

Continue reading “Journal: William Polk on Afghanistan Non-Strategy Plus Consolidated Journal, Review, and Reference Links for Afghanistan”

Journal: The List of Negatives Keeps Growing Report Card on Obama From a New Frontiersman

Government, Legislation, Reform
Report Card
Full Original Story Online

by William Polk

Probably like most of you, I am engaged in a daily attempt to make up my mind about President Obama. I was an early supporter.

And as a former Washington “player,” I am aware how difficult is his position. I began to worry when he failed to grasp what I have seen to be the early window of opportunity for a new administration — the first three months — when the government is relatively fluid. As the months have flown by, I have seen that there are many positive things, mainly in his eloquent addresses on world problems, notably his speech at the University of Cairo on world pluralism, but also quite a few negative things. With sadness and alarm I find that my list of the negatives keeps on growing.

Among them are the following:

(1) The commitment to the war in “Af-Pak” which (I believe) will cost America upwards of $6 trillion but perhaps only a few hundred casualties since we are relying increasingly on drone bombing. Just the money costs could derail almost everything Obama's supporters hoped and thought his administration would do.

(2) the choice of personnel is (to me) baffling:


I am waiting for the Obama we elected to show up. I hope this drama does not follow Samuel Beckett's script.

William Polk served as the Middle East expert on the State Department's Policy Planning Staff during the Kennedy administration. He is the author of Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency and Terrorism from the American Revolution to Iraq.

+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++

The essence of intelligence qua decision-support is “360 degree awareness” as well as historical and cultural depth, and a green-eye shade understanding of “true costs” not only in fiscal terms, but in moral, demogrpahic, environmental, and social terms.

It is our view that President Barack Obama isa good man trapped in a bad system, and that all he needs to do in order to restore America's integrity and fiscal as well as moral health is these two things:

1)  Demand of Congress the Electoral Reforn Act of 2009, a copy of which can be seen by clicking on the Frog to the left; and

2)  Demand of Congress the Smart Nation Act of 2009, a copy of which can be seen by clicking on the Frog in the middle.

There is nothing wrong with America, or the Earth, that cannot be fixed by restoring the Constitution and the Republic Of, By, and For We the People, the soverign people replete with common sense and public intelligence in the public interest.

There is nothing wrong with the Obama Administration professionally that cannot be fixed by the introduction of a Whole of Government strategic planning, programming, and budgeting process, as well as a transformation of national intelligence to provide all necessary decision support to the President AND everyone else.  Click on the Frog to the left for that White Paper, forthcoming in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Winter 2009-2010).

Electoral Reform
Electoral Reform

Electoral Reform is straight-forward.  It restores free and open elections in place of the two-party tyranny, and it restores the right to vote across every district.  This version does not contain a number of rightwous ideas from the Independent voters who now outnumber BOTH the Democratic and Republican voters.

The Smart Nation Act was devised the Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT-02), himself a professional intelligence officer and retired Army Colonel.  It enables “school-house to White House” decision support against all threats across all policies.

Smart Nation
Smart Nation

Finally, we have the urgent need to fix the inner workings of the White House and National Intelligence.  Many Commissions have reported on this since 1947, most notably and presciently Jim Schlesinger's in the 1970's, and more recently Aspin-Brown (completely ignored by successive Administraitons).  America is too complicated to be run by one cabal lacking in global knowledge.

Process Reform
Process Reform