Review: Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure – A War Doomed By The Coalition’s Strategies, Policies and Political Correctness

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John L. Cook

4.0 out of 5 stars Deep Insights, A Couple of Misses, Certainly Recommended as Core Reading, November 8, 2014

A hold over from my time in Afghanistan, I finally got around to reading this book on a long flight and give it a solid four stars. There is some very good eye opening stuff in this book, including some facts I itemize below that I plain did not know before. However, the author is also very wrong on a couple of key points, I address those at the end of my review when I suggest ten other books to also read. I do respect this book and the author’s candid useful appraisal, and recommend it to anyone thinking about how criminally insane our US national insecurity/fraud system really is. We are our own worst enemy, and as Martin Luther King said before he was assassinated for saying so, “the greatest purveyors of (illegitimate) violence in the world.”

At a meta-level, this is a five-star read and absolutely worthy of being included in any orientation collection. Meta points I salute:

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Nov 8

Review: Swimming with Warlords

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Kevin Sites

4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read travelogue, some nuggets, some flaws, October 22, 2014

Previously I have reviewed, very favorably, two other books by this author, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. Both of those books were authentic works of genius and the true measure of the author.

This book is a quick-read double-spaced travelogue, some nuggets on corruption, suicide, humanity, but some severe flaws as well. Almost a three for lacking an index and getting some key facts wrong.

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Oct 22

Review (DVD): Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

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Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Colm Feore

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 for stars, 4 for plot, 3 for authenticity, October 5, 2014

As a former Marine Corps infantry officer and also a former CIA clandestine operations officer, one of the first to chase terrorists full time (in the 1980’s), I found the movie engaging but annoying. The producers obviously did not think enough of the USMC or the CIA to actually have a consultant able to catch the many small and some large mistakes in procedure (weapons on a helicopter are supposed to be muzzle down, always) and tradecraft.

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Oct 5

Review: Creating a Learning Society

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Joseph Stiglitz, Bruce Greenwald

4.0 out of 5 stars Glass Half Full — Cannot Be Ignored But Also Off the Rails, September 4, 2014

Among all economists in the English language, I hold Joseph Stiglitz to be among the most enlightened and virtuous. When I formed a “dream” coalition cabinet in 2012, he was on it. His co-author is of less interest to me — finance geeks have been demonstrably impotent these past fifty years — and particularly those who fall prey to mathematical formulas lacking in social integrity — and I believe with book would have been stronger had Stiglitz either gone it alone, or collaborated with an educator such as Derek Bok. The book is also rooted in old lectures, starting in 2008, and it is focused on Kenneth Arrow’s work, which is best appreciated on its own merits. See, for example:

Moral Hazard in Health Insurance (Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series)
The Limits of Organization (Fels Lectures on Public Policy Analysis)
General Competitive Analysis, Volume 12 (Advanced Textbooks in Economics)

The weakest point of this book, which does indeed have much to offer for anyone who cares about the future of academia, commerce, governance, and society, is that is “assumes” integrity on the part of the government, and that industrial policies are somehow going to corrupt deep ethical and intellectual failings across all major forms of organization (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit). This is the same mistake made by Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update and the Club of Rome. The *losing* alternative to the Limits to Growth assumption that top-down government would deal responsibly with climate change and other high level threats focused instead on education from the bottom up — the central point of Will Durant’s 1919 doctoral thesis, now available as Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition.

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Sep 4