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

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

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 – – – – -

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Oct 13

Review: In My Time – A Personal and Political Memoir

Tags:

Amazon Page

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.

Vote and/or Comment on Review

Comments Off
Aug 30

Review: Give Me Liberty–A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

Tags:
Amazon Page

Amazon Page

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.”

Comments Off
Dec 10

Review: The Sword of the Prophet

Tags:
Amazon Page

Amazon Page

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off
Oct 2

Review: Open Veins of Latin America–Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

Tags:

Amazon Page

Brilliantly Translated, Poetry of Pathos, Compelling, June 5, 2009

Eduardo Galeano

Kudos to Hugo Chavez for putting this book in the eye of the emerging consciousness of the US public–Obama will not read this book because he already knows the story, he is the front end of the Borg–the system, and so similar in policies to Bush as to possibly wake up the naive.

The book begins with one of the finest Forewords I have ever read, by Isabel Allende, and I offer just one quote from her spectacular introduction of the book:

“His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling.”

The translation by Bobbye Ortiz merits special note. This book sings in English, and the translator has done justice to the original.

A major recurring theme throughout the book is that of capital squandered by the few while the many actually producing the capital dies of hunger or disease.

I list ten other recommended books at the end of this review. Early on the author makes these points:

1. The indigenous bourgeoisie are the ones who have sold out their countries to the multinational corporations. Toward the end of the book re repeats this with a chapter on the guards that opened the gates.

2. “The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret–every year, [the equivalent of] three Hiroshima bombs.”

3. Quoting Lyndon Johnson: $5 invested in population control is equal to $100 in economic growth. This in the context of the author making the case that Latin America is under-populated in relation to Europe.

4. Imperialism and what I call predatory capitalism depends on, imposed, inequality and growing disparity on the countries rich in raw materials.

His early account of the European invasion by steel and horse and disease was unique in its time; see 1491 below for a broader more recent treatment. The indigenous population by this account dropped from 70 million to 3.5 million.

Among my notes:

1. The historical record is lie–laws were indeed passed protecting the indigenous natives, but never enforced, something history does not document as well.

2. “Ideological justifications were never in short supply.”

3. Spanish dressed up the natives in Andalucian costumes, some of the clothing we think of today as traditional was actually imposed on the natives.

4. Spanish and others moved drugs (coca) from strictly ceremonial use to the general population and then into massive export.

The history of Latin America is a history of sequential pillaging. First gold, then sugar, then rubber followed by chocolate, cotton, and coffee, then the banana–the tree of hell under United Fruit. And then Chilean nitrates, Bolivian tin, and finally the “black curse” of petroleum.

Sugar in particularly devoured both the soil and humanity, first in Brazil then in the Caribbean.

The ready use of slavery, both of indigenous natives and of imported Africans, created the economic bottleneck that survives to this day, where those actually extracting the raw materials are virtual slaves and do not derive the fruits of their labor.

The author contrasts the manner in which the US used the Homestead Act to grant land to individuals who were incentivized to develop the West, and the latifundo oligarchy that imposes perpetual poverty on generations of indigenous individual families.

Myself being a survivor of the Central American wars, and the duty officer the night land reformer Mark Pearlman was executed in El Salvador by an extreme right death squad, I read with interest about the recurring attempts to achieve agrarian reform, only to have push-back from the 14-500 families that “own” the land.

I am fascinated by the corporate war between Shell (Paraguay) and Standard Oil (Bolivia) in which the armies of those countries, and the poor of those countries, were the pawns in the “great game” of wealth confiscation.

The book is a catalog of all the dictators supported by the USA and enriched by US and European multinational corporations.

The second half of the book yields the following notes:

1. Industrial infanticide has been imposed on Latin America by protectionism and free trade (as opposed to fair trade)

2. Loans and railroads (with attendant land rights and obligations) deformed Latin America.

3. The International Monetary Fund (IMB) is the knife that slits the belly of each country to let in the maggots of immoral capitalism.

4. The Ministries of Labor in each Latin American country are the new slave traders.

5. “International charity does not exist.” The role of US aid is to help the US domestically. As of the book being written, only 38% of aid was actually targeted aid, all the rest existed to bring greater benefits back to the “giving” country.

6. What Latin America has been lacking all this time is a sense of economic community within its own continent.

7. The book was banned in Chile and Uruguay.

I end this summative review with two quotes–cliff notes for the President, if he has anyone active on Amazon:

Page 261. The task lies in the hands of the dispossessed, the humiliated, the accursed. The Latin Ameerican cause is above all a social cause: the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country. We are entering times of rebellion and change.

Page 285. “The system would like to be confused with the country.” and “In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism buts its vicious senility.”

Notes and index complete the work. A solid four hour read without interruptions. A great book for anyone desiring to know why the USA is being pushed back while China and Iran are displacing the West in the southern hemisphere.

Other books I recommend (you have to look for my summary reviews now, Amazon buries serious reviews with a few negative votes).
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy

Vote and/or Comment on Review

Comments Off
Jul 3

Review DVD: The World Without US – With Niall Ferguson

Tags:

World Without UsClever in a sophmoric way–selective, Inconclusive, and naive, February 14, 2008

Mitch Anderson

I have been going blind the past two weeks doing the index to the new edited work by Mark Tovey, COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, playing DVDs in the background.

This one fooled me right up to the end with its able review of the disconnect between most Arab oil going to China and Europe (so why should the US protect it), the great strengths of the German and Japanese economies, the great wealth of the Arab countries to whom we give most of our foreign military assistance….

I was especially intregued by his use of putative candidates for president promising to pull all our troops back and reinvest in the homeland, something Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been harping on.

Then he pulled the plug with, as I say, a clever but sophmoric conclusion that is NOT, as one “official” review would have it, conclusive at all–the DVD ends with a nuclear explosion and a replay of Hiroshima, with one Asian mother in the rubble asking another to tell her daughter (who is assuredly vaporized) that she loves here. Then she dies and the movie dies with her.

This happens to be my lifetime focus, so here are a few thoughts:

1) For what we spend on war all over the world, $1.3 trillion a year, we could use one third of it to retain essential military and law enforcement capabilites, one third of it to completely rebuild our homeland, and one third of it to invest in massive undersea, outerspace, paranormal, and inter-cultural innovation.

2) Washington DC is run by four crime families: the Clintons, the Bushes, the Republicans and the Democrats. They specialize in picking the taxpayers’ pocket, robbing the many to enrich the few. At the same time, Wall Street has migrated from being a fiduciary trust to being a financial intermediary, and as John Bogle spells out in his most recent book, these asset managers have skimmed off one fifth of the wealth as “fees” without any of the “owners” being any the wiser.

3) The ten high level threats to mankind have now been definitively established, and they are poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation (which is best practiced by the arms mongering of the five permanent members of the Security Council), terrorism (note how this is NINTH yet consuming the current White House), and transnational crime (the latter a $2 trillion a year endeavor, against $7 trillion in the “legal” economy and an almost certain $1 trillion in corporate fraud and tax avoidance and another $1 trillion in barter and intangible exchange.

The USA needs the following:

1) Electoral reform and a citizenship mindful of its civic duties.

2) Honest politicians committed to transparent open government and no legislation without pre-publication in detail.

3) A strategy that commits to eradicating the ten high level threats, and buy-outs or force-oputs for the 44 dictators, 42 of whom we love to love, two of whom we love to hate (one being Cuba, which has the best health care in the world, the only sustainable agricultural model without pesticide and with full employment, and oh yes, they can send 10,000 doctors to Venezuela without blinking.

4) Recognition that all ten threats, poverty for example, require the harmonization of twelve policis from Agriculture to Water (for example, US wastes roughly a third of the food it grows, which consumed water we cannot afford to lose).

5) Recognize that nothing the US or EUR do will matter unless we can create an EarthGame that serves as the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and presents in compelling terms sustainable architectures that can be adopted by the eight demographic giants who–if they repeat our mistakes–will consume the entire planet within 3 to five generations.

Enough. This is an annoying movie for its lack of nuance and serious understanding of the complexities as well as the opportunities that lie before us.

Better DVDs:
The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Why We Fight
Tibet – Cry of the Snow Lion
Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Snow Walker

Better Books:
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

Afterthought: anyone can search on the terms in brackets for more:
[Chinese Irregular Warfare Memorandum oss.net]
[Steele Joint Forces Quarterly Asymmetric]
[Steele Alternative Paradigm for National Security]
[Steele Presidential Leadership oss.net]

And of course there are the books I have written and the ones we are publishing and providing free online at Earth Intelligence Network.

Comments Off
Feb 14

Review DVD: The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Tags:

Richard NixonDrew Me In and Fasciated Me, February 4, 2008

Sean Penn

I was offered a free rental today, and casting around for something I had never seen before, I grabbed this one thinking it would be about how Nixon was outed from office, not actually assassinated. I put it in on background as I struggled with creating the index to a 550 page new book, and within 15 minutes I stopped and the movie had my undivided attention.

Sean Penn is perfect, deep, emotional, and inspires commitment to the movie and to his plight as a failure who is honest. As I am a student of how “honest” governments are in fact a form of legalized organized crime, I may have appreciated this movie more than most, but I do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. What price integrity?

Other DVDs that have captured my imagination (we are limited to ten links) include:
Death of a President (Widescreen)
Fight Club (Widescreen Edition)
A Man Called Horse
The Last Samurai (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Glory
Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc Edition)
Lord of War (Full Screen)
Hackers
The Snow Walker
Gandhi

Comments Off
Feb 4