Review: Pakistan on the Brink–The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

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Ahmed Rashid

5.0 out of 5 stars REF A — 12 Years of Lessons Learned in Time for 2014, October 13, 2013

This is an extraordinary book that required a great deal of time, not in the reading, but in the reflection. This will be a longer review than usual, even for me, because this book contains all of the insights that the US and the Coalition have refused to embrace for the past twelve years. It is never too late to learn.

The author opens with a well-known quote on the dangers of drawing a line between fighting men and thinking men, lest one end up with the fighting being done by fools and the thinking by cowards. To this I would add another group, the “deciders,” who in the absence of any familiarity with fighting or access to intelligence with integrity, end up making decisions whose true cost in blood, treasure, and spirit crosses the line dividing legitimate actions “in the national interest” from “crimes against humanity.

Positive up front: US under Obama has given more of everything and progress has been made across both military (stronger Afghan army, degraded Taliban) and socio-economic (education, health, media) domains. To that I would add elections. Afghanistan is about to experience the most extraordinary election cycle it has ever been my privilege to observe.

In contrast, the author finds that Pakistan has worsened in every possible manner, in large part because the US has not understood Pakistan, has lacked a strategy (or the intelligence with which to devise a coherent sustainable strategy), and in failing, the US has allowed Pakistan to drag itself down and Afghanistan to be a regional albatross – a cancer on all others.

The author is quite blunt in describing an incoherent even infantile US decision-making environment characterized by “contradictory policies, intense political infighting, and uncertainty.” In being inept, the US opened the way for regional players to manipulate, exploit, and exacerbate.

Chapter 1 on the Bin Laden raid is utter nonsense, this may be the price the author pays to maintain access and avoid being assassinated. See instead The Bin Laden Story 00-90 at Phi Beta Iota.

The author points out that by 2014 the Coalition engagement in Afghanistan will have been longer than WWI and WWII. In my own mind this highlights the fact that the US in particular, but the Western nations in general, have lost their integrity. They are incapable of collecting and analyzing the truth, thinking holistically, evaluating true costs over time, or devising a sustainable strategy that ultimately achieves the desired end-state: peace and prosperity. A churlish skeptic would point out that no, the West has achieved precisely what it wants, public theater at home, a massive transfer of wealth from the individual taxpayer to the military-industrial complex, and personal enrichment of most policymakers, at least in the USA. Either way, the larger publics lose at home and abroad.

Pakistan and Afghanistan matter not only to Central Asia, where other countries such as Uzbekistan are beginning to implode, but to the Middle East and India. At the very end of the book the author ponders how Afghanistan might follow the Turkish example of Islamic/secular regeneration, and I cannot help but wish that 12 years ago the Coalition had had the brain to leave the British home and make Afghanistan a collaborative effort among Muslim nations led by Turkey.

QUOTE (19) “After a decade, NATO has achieved none of its strategic aims – rebuilding the Afghan state, defeating the Taliban, stabilizing the region – so what assurances can it now plausibly give that it will do so by 2014?

The author defines Afghanistan today (2012) as a corrupt and incompetent government, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and inoperable justice system, high on drugs and illiteracy, with a police force that has the highest desertion rate in the world.
The sucking chest wound: no indigenous economy. Bush specifically refused to invest in roads, dams, water, and power. Karzai has been a complete failure [the author gives Karzai credit and cause across the book, outlining the many ways in which the US failed to develop a relationship of trust with him.]

Pakistani military is out of control and the deal breaker. Nothing the US or other can do will overcome an arrogant ignorant Pakistani military continuing to support extremists and their violence within Afghanistan.

QUOTE (22): “If the west is to depart Afghanistan by 2014 and leave behind relatively stable regimes in Kabul and Islamabad, it will need a multidimensional political, diplomatic, economic, and military strategy.”

Answering this challenge is the purpose of the book.

My nine page detailed summary for professionals coping with Afghanistan and not having the time to read this excellent work, is posted at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Books Cited by the Author:

Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign
Power Struggle Over Afghanistan: An Inside Look at What Went Wrong–and What We Can Do to Repair the Damage

Books I Have Reviewed Circling AF-PK-Islam:
Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security
Surrender to Kindness: One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace
Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West
Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond
Uncomfortable Wars Revisited (International and Security Affairs)
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam

Also Recommended:
Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

20131014 RASHID Pakistan on the Brink Review by Steele [Short & Long]

- – – – – LONG REVIEW (SUMMARY) BELOW THE LINE – – – – -

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Oct 13

Review: In My Time – A Personal and Political Memoir

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Dick Cheney

3.0 out of 5 stars Here’s the Documented View of Others, and Then Some,August 30, 2011

At three stars–everyone deserves to tell their side of the story, I am pleased to note that this is the ONLY review that is in the middle, all others being on the extreme of blind hate or blind faith.

These ten books serve as my alternative reading list on Dick Cheney and his regime–I believe that George Junior had the best of intentions and was played like a fiddle by Cheney, while also undermined by his own family and the two-party mafia.

Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
My review extracts from the book and itemizes over 20 impeachable offenses, many involving the deliberate degradation of Colin Powell, all of which merit retrospective indictment, investigation, and public confession of the truth.

The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
My review extracts core insights by this author on how Dick Cheney was able to make millions of smart people do stupid things.

The Bush Tragedy
I am among those who feel Bush Junior was well-intentioned and played like a fiddle by Dick Cheney, who overturned Presidential decisions without a qualm. He is a Walker and a misfit in relation to the Bush Crime Family, Dick Cheney was closer to the Bushes than their own black sheep son, and he knew it.

9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition
Three months prior to 9/11, Dick Cheney scheduled a national counter-terrorism exercise for “the day” and put the command center on the piers of New York City instead of using the existing Command Center in the World Trade Center. Nine nations warned us of 9/11 in advance; the FBI blew off two walk-ins, one in Newark, one in Orlando, and CIA conspired to not share key information with the FBI. In all of this, one man alone, orchestrated the mix of institutionalized ineptitude and high crimes and misdemeanors: Dick Cheney.

A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies
Dick Cheney made the most of 9/11–he certainly Let It Happen (LIH), but he needed 935 lies to fully exploit it for his own ideological ends–CIA, less George Tenet, got it right with the defecting son in law and line crossers. Tenet betrayed what little CIA has left in the way of integrity the way Cheney betrayed the Republic.

Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
It started with Senator Phil Graham (R-TX) and came to its fullest depth of depravity under Clinton, but for Dick Cheney, this was the lesser criminal conspiracy–he did much more with military power to dishonor and deprive the Republic of blood, treasure, and spirit.

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
My review extracts key facts for public consideration.

Grand Theft Pentagon :Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror
My review summarizes the manner in which the Bush Crime Family in particular, Cheney as their hit man, has used the Pentagon to steal trillions from the public treasury.

The Mafia, CIA and George Bush
One of the better books underlying an entire literature on deep secrecy, off budget gold-based funding, and other impeachable offenses.

Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
My fellow case officer tells one of the best stories around. Personally I would like to see the Saudis avoid what has happened in Egypt and is about to happen in Syria, but unless they listen, they are next. We have been enablers as well as abject subjects.

As the #1 Amazon reviewer for non-fiction, I would enjoy reading this book and picking it apart as Colin Powell has, but this is one book I will never buy for the reasons outlined above. It is quite enough for me to have Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell, and Condolezza Rice, among others, call into question the veracity of much of this book.

I offer as a gift to the public my book review lists, all of reviews I have written, all findable online by searching for the exact titles. The first two are summary of all the positive and negative books I have reviewed in the past eleven years on Amazon. Below those two links are some of the applicable negative sub-lists (also within the negative list).

I hope Dick Cheney lives long and prospers–I mean him no ill will and no retrospective punishment, but before he dies, I would like to see him indicted and forced to appear before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to be subject to sustained interrogation by a real professional (no torture) to get all the facts on the table. As Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide has said so beautifully, “When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it.”

Relevant lists, search for exact titles on any search engine (all reviews lead back to their Amazon page):

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)

Within the above negative list, see especially:

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corruption

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Defense)

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Disinformation, Other Information Pathologies, & Repression

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Empire as Cancer Including Betrayal & Deceit

Worth a Look: Impeachable Offenses, Modern & Historic

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Bankruptcy of US Economy, Federal Reserve Malfeasance

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Class War (Global)

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate & Transnational Crime

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate Lack of Integrity or Intelligence or Both

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Religion

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on the War on Science

Ex-Bush Official Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: “I am Willing to Testify” If Dick Cheney is Put on Trial

It is what it is, they are what they are, what we make of all that is up to us. Read and think for liberty and justice for all…including Dick Cheney.

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Aug 30

Review: Give Me Liberty–A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

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5.0 out of 5 stars Major Contribution to Loyal Dissent & True Patriotism
December 10, 2009
The book comes in three parts, the first two by the author, the third a collection of well-chosen pieces by others.

I am totally engaged by the idea that liberty is a state of mind, that America the Beautiful is a state of mind, not to be confused with the Wall Street greed and two-party tyranny that is killing the Republic.

The author has done a moderately good job of reviewing the history, and that which she shares is most valuable. I especially like her quoting Robert F. Kennedy on how each generation must win its own struggle to be free, and later in the book, she cites one of the thousands across the country as observing that we have abdicated our citizenship.

The state of mind theme is carried on in a discussion of the difference between a free society and a fear society, and throughout parts I and II we see documented evidence of how America has become a fear society and how the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has been a virtual seizure of power by quasi-fascist mind-sets who may have the best of intentions but in fact have executed a “paper coup” or as the author also puts it, following a long (LONG) summary of restrictions on everything from permits for free speech to travel to voting rules and regulations, “civic death by a thousand cuts.”

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Dec 10

Review: The Sword of the Prophet

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5.0 out of 5 stars Much More Than a Novel, This Is the Real Deal
October 2, 2009
Phillip Oliver Otts
As a recovering spy who has published and agitated for intelligence reform over the years, I generally have little patience for spy novels less the George Smiley series by John Le Carre. Been there, done that. This book is nothing short of sensational, and at $9 a huge value.

This book is so very good that I am making it one of THREE books I recommend to future spies and those who wish to understand the human side of the spy world today (or course there are many others but this one is special). The other two are still:

1. The Craft of Intelligence: America’s Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World

2. Without Cloak or Dagger : The truth about the new espionage–

I liked this book on multiple levels. It does for the clandestine service, where we were obscenely proud of having the highest alcoholism, adultery, divorce, and suicide rates in the US Government, what James Webb did for the abuse of military forces by craven politicians in Fields of Fire.

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Oct 2