Review: Top Secret America – The Rise of the New American Security State

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Censorship & Denial of Access, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Information Operations, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, War & Face of Battle
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Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Stars–A Nation-Changing Public Mind Opener of a Book,September 2, 2011

I generally take a very jaundiced view of books that emerge from Washington Post columns I have already read, but this book surprised, engages, and out-performs the columns by such a leap that I have to rate it at six stars (10% of what I read and review), and call it a nation-changing book.

Early on the book captures me in a way the columns did not–this is a book with integrity. It is a book that sees the corruption in Washington and the inter-play of political fears of losing elections and the need to arouse public fears of the unknown. It is not just a book about the massive waste of taxpayer expenditures on a security state that harms more than it hurts, it is a book about loyal, sensible employees who are anguished at the idiocy of what they are asked to do, and in the many cases of those who broke ranks to speak to the authors, eager to have the public know the truth of the matter.

This is a book that seeks to arouse the public to do its duty, to have a conversation, to demand of the politicians in Washington a serious conversation, a serious assessment, of what it is we are about–as a nation, and with this pervasive security state program.

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Review: The Mission–Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Military & Pentagon Power, War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ground Truth Reading About Failure of US Policy Process,

February 14, 2004
Dana Priest
I did not buy this book at first, having read and thoroughly enjoyed the many long articles the author contributed through The Washington Post, all of which comprise the middle two thirds of the book. However, at the recommendation of a retired Army Special Forces Colonel, I finally did buy it, and I am glad I did.Unlike the articles, which focused on the questionable use of Special Forces to train forces within repressive regimes around the world, from Colombia to Indonesia to Central Asia, the book more properly focuses on the complete lack of a US inter-agency planning process, the complete lack of a US means of coordinating actions and spending by all US agencies, and consequently, the complete lack of a US national security and global engagement strategy that is so vital to protecting America from attack and protecting American interests in a coherent and sensible fashion.

While many critics read the book as if it were a glorification of the theater Commanders-in-Chief (CINC), and complain about the militarization of US foreign policy, a proper reading of this book clearly documents that the militarization occurs by default, as a consequence of the abject failure of the White House and the Department of State, neither of which, under either Clinton or Bush, are serious about global engagement.

The military *works* (when it's not being frittered away by elective wars and occupations). What I see in this superb book is a solid foundation for thinking about three essential reforms to American national security: 1) the creation of a Presidential level inter-agency strategic planning and operational coordination process–no, the National Security Council is *not* capable of doing that; 2) the redirection of theater commands and staffs to become truly inter-agency, with men of the caliber of Bob Oakley and Mark Palmer serving as Peace CINCs with military four-star deputies; and 3) the doubling of the Special Operations Forces through the creation of a “white hat” “armed peace corps” that can deliver sewing machines, water purification, and the myriad of other things, including law enforcement under combat conditions.

The book also does for Marine Corps General Tony Zinni what Ron Suskind's book “The Price of Loyalty” does for Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neil–it gives us some deep insights into Tony Zinni as one of the most extraordinary men to ever serve the American people, and a man who is clearly well-qualified to be one of the top five to ten people in any future Administration. Although I am a former Marine and know Zinni's reputation among Marines as both a warrior's warrior and a thinking general (there are very few of those, even in the Marine Corps), I had not realized the depth and breadth of his brilliance until I read this book. In particular I was moved by his intuitive demand for tribal-level intelligence, his focus on nuances and context at all times, and his insistence that a major aspect of US national security policy must be on the delivery of water, electricity, and the kinds of basics that can rescue failed states, legitimize governments, and create future democracies.

I recommend that this book be read together with Kissinger's book on “Does America Need a Foreign Policy”, Boren's edited book on “Preparing American Foreign Policy for the 21st Century”, and Halperin's 1980's but still relevant book on “Bureaucratic Politics & Foreign Policy.” Bob Oakley's edited work on “Policing the New World Disorder” and Mark Palmer's recent book on “Breaking the Real Axis of Evil” (44 dictators), and Joe Nye's two most recent books, will round out any intelligent person's feel for what needs to be done. This is a very high quality book, fully meriting five stars, because it explains both the harsh world we must engage, and the failure of our national policy process–regardless of who is President–in this regard.

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