Review: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

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Elinor Ostrom

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014

I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.

On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.

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May 28

Review: Wrong Turn – America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency

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5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Regarded in Afghanistan, A Real Gem, November 22, 2013

This book is in our J-2 Library in Afghanistan, and it is a very well-regarded gem.

This is a vitally important book. The author drives the value-proposition home with his Afterword, entitled “Truth as a Casualty of COIN.” His core point: lies kill military efficiency (including military learning). Those who would cite the vast spectrum of presidential and DoD directives and concepts and so on clearly are as out of touch with reality as the well-intentioned dolts that signed off on all that junk. Prior to reading this book I articulated — and had checked by colleagues at the US Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and across Special Forces — some harsh comments in my summary critical review of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.

Being a strong critic of defense idiocy and corruption myself, coming off 20 years of trying to get the US Intelligence Community to actually produce ethical evidence-based decision-support, this book by a former commander who is now teaching history at West Point should be required reading in all the schools from entry-level to war college.

The author opens early with his view that the COIN understanding of “the population” is delusional (he is being kind). The population is indeed the center of gravity, but if one is going to substitute technology for thinking, ideology for policy, and corrupt puppets for indigenous leadership, then one should expect to implode. As I have lectured here are there, including to civil affairs cannon fodder at Fort Bragg, “no amount of tactical excellence can make up for strategic decrepitude.” (see the definition of the latter term of art in my review of Clausewitz and Contemporary War).

The book focuses on the disconnect between a military trained, equipped, and organized to fight wars, and the “light infantry” variant that pretends to win hearts and minds while kicking down doors and running air strikes on civilians. The fact is that if there is no Whole of Government endeavor, if the Department of State is the Department of Nothing as Andrew Cockburn recently slammed Boffo Haircut (who gave up his integrity when looking into CIA’s role in Iran Contract and the cocaine crack explosion), then the military is on a fool’s errand at great expense in terms of blood, treasure, and spirit.

I am reminded of DIME by the early portion of the book. We need all four — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. The fact is that we have a military that is dysfunctional and corrupt to the bone across strategy, policy, acquisition and operations, and a “paper tiger” across the other three domains.

There are five short quotes I have selected that capture the essence of the book, which I will follow with a final comment and eight other recommended books.

QUOTE (117): “When a state gets its strategy right in war, tactical problems tend to be subsumbed and improved within it.” This is an entire book waiting to be written — and the obverse of my comment to the civil affairs gladiators.

QUOTE (118): “But sometimes, in a war that involves limited policy airms, there may well be alternatives to victory.” Here I would point out that until last year the morons in DC conflated Al Qaeda and the Taliban — I do not make this stuff up. These are the same people that did not know Iraq was a Sunni minority ruling over a Shi’ite majority.

QUOTE (127): “The counterintelligence narrative posits that savior generals have game-changing effects, but it over-states their influence on the course of the war.” Yes, to which I would add, it is not helpful to have a Zionist bimbo sharing your bed and a G-2 without the balls the call a counterintelligence foul when he sees one.

QUOTE (128): “…hearts and minds counter-insurgency carried out by an occupying power in a foreign land doesn’t work, unless it is a multigenerational effort.” To understand the details, search for my Marine Corps University short paper (summary of a 1976 thesis), < 1992 MCU Thinking About Revolution >. No one in DC gets any of this.

QUOTE (132): “American strategy has failed in Afghanistan because it became tapped by the promise that counterinsurgency can work only if it is given enough time…” See my summary review of Colin Gray’s utterly gripping Modern Strategy — time is the one strategic variable that cannot be bought nor replaced. The corruption of US foreign and national security policy, deepened by the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago by a mix of Texas energy, New York money, CIA, and out of control elements of the rest of the US government, has wasted 50 years and destroyed the Republic. Time matters. So does integrity.

I am not going to summarize the most precious part of the book, pages 133-135, read these in the library or a bookstore if you cannot take the time to ingest the entire book.

I’ve had to work my way through multiple generations of flag officers divorced from reality and inattentive to the public interest. I dare hope that the serving Chief of Staff of the US Army is paying attention, and that this particular colonel might rise to be one of the thinking generals. Certainly I cannot count more than five in my lifetime out of the sixty or so I have known (Zinni is one of best and on record as saying that the US IC provided him “at best” 4% of what he needed to know as CINCENT). Consider helping me with the following SSI monograph under development, search for < 2013 ON REVOLUTION — Helpng Transform the US Army Consistent with CSA Guidance >

Buy this book, read it, display it, and share it. Let that be your act of loyal dissent this week.

Semper Fidelis,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

See Also:

Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
Uncomfortable Wars Revisited (International and Security Affairs)
Losing the Golden Hour: An Insider’s View of Iraq’s Reconstruction (An Adst-Dacor Diplomats and Diplomacy Book)
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project)
The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It
Surrender to Kindness: One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace

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Nov 22

Review: Lethal Incompetence

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Jeff Bordin

5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, Credible, Legitimate, and Damning of All Who Betray the Public Trust, August 24, 2013

I have this book in front of me, and will be doing a detailed review over the next week or so. I have already gone through it quickly, and concluded that it offers the single best compilation or literature review of all of the psychological and social reasons why military “leaders” end up being treasonous gerbils, combined with the deepest direct field research I know of to buttress the author’s speculative hypotheses and proven conclusions.

I swung by here to check what others have said, and am quite disappointed by the shallow ignorance of the only review present. Here are a couple of quotes that capture my philosophy and hence my valuation of this book:

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. Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York)

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell

This book is a tad hyper-critical (of Dick Cheney for example — certainly a traitor but by no means stupid) and too close in format to the original thesis, or it would be a six star book. If I were Czar, every person responsible for the public interest would receive the wisdom and ethical instruction in this book, in one form or another, to include comic book form if necessary.

My detailed review will be posted within the week. I could not let the first review stand uncontested.

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Aug 24

Worth a Look The Program from Hell [Indictment of the US Army Human Terrain System (HTS) -- Over-Sold, Under-Performing]

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The Program from Hell

Authored by John Stanton

This is a story of ongoing alleged fraud, waste, abuse; a murder, KIA’s, WIA’s, cover ups, a hostage taking, and incompetence at the highest levels of the US Army’s TRADOC G-2. It is Mash meets Catch-22 (the movies)…

The United States Army Human Terrain System has been mired in controversy since its inception. Billed as an anthropology program, it went dangerously off track soon after its first mission. Collected for the first time in this volume are many but not all of the reports written by independent journalist John Stanton. They are based on over 110 sources spanning over a four year period from the summer of 2008 to 2013 during which nearly 115 pieces were written. Collectively it is a story about civilian and military leadership that was negligent in the line of duty. The Human Terrain System richly deserves the title, The Program from Hell.

Offered as a Kindle Edition.

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Aug 24

Review: Using Data Sharing to Improve Coordination in Peacebuilding: Report of a Workshop on Technology, Science, and Peacebuilding

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Andrew Robertson and Steve Olson (eds.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent First Step, Four Disappointments, January 2, 2013

This is one of the more useful reports to come out of the US Institute of Peace and its collaborative effort with the National Academy of Engineering and I highly recommend it for either free reading online at the National Academies Press (individual) or for library purchase for the information, intelligence, diplomacy, civil-military, stabilization & reconstruction, and decision-support sections.

The goals are worthy but overly scientific & technical (the cultural part always comes first): to apply science and technology to the process of peacebuilding and stabilization; to promote systematic communications among organizations across political and other boundaries; and to apply science and technology to pressing conflict issues. La di dah. I just want to know if there is a dead donkey at the bottom of this particular well.

Secondary and equally ambitious goals that their current staffing model cannot support:
1. Adopt the agricultural extension services model to peacebuilding
2. Use data sharing to improve coordination in peacebuilding
3. Sense emerging conflicts (at least they realize the secret intelligence world does NOT do this)
4. Harness systems methods for delivery of peacebuilding services.

FOUR STRONG THEMES MAKE THIS BOOK VALUABLE:
1. Data sharing requires working across a technology-culture divide
2. Information sharing requires building and maintaining trust
3. Information sharing requires linking civilian-military policy discussions to technology
4. Collaboration software needs to be aligned with user needs.

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Jan 2

Review: Making Friends Among the Taliban

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Jonathan P. Larson

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Eye Opener, Should be Mandatory Reading for War Colleges, Diplomats, and White SOF,November 9, 2012

I received this book as a gift. It is a bracing book and although short, at 130 pages, it merits slow and deliberate consideration. I got goose-bumps at multiple points and put the book down reflecting on how sad it is that our foreign policy and our military occupations are not better informed about the information peacekeeping (a term I coined in the 1990′s) possibilities of low-cost humans who speak the language and understand the nuances of conflict at the individual level.

This book is in every possible way, the absolute counterpart, contrast, and nay-sayer to the CIA-managed drone program that kills indiscriminately, at great expense, from which we will reap a continuing harvest of hatred, fear, and enduring mistrust.

Although I have read other books, and list them with Amazon links below, that offer similar insights, this is a first-person story with specifics that I consider so provocative and so valuable that I recommend it as assigned reading for every Special Operations A Team member, for every Special Operations schoolhouse, for every War College where we fail to teach White SOF as an alternative, and for every diplomat and international development employee, both at entry level and mid-career. I would go so far as to suggest that a week could usefully be spent by every conference group and foreign affairs class, on this book and the others listed below.

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Nov 9

Review (Guest): The Open Source Everything Manifesto – Transparency, Truth & Trust

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Robert David Steele

5.0 out of 5 stars PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN!,June 24, 2012

B. Tweed DeLions “B.T.”

If there’s a single Founding Father of the Open Source movement, Robert D. Steele is it. Everyone else has been playing catchup. And if you don’t know what the Open Source revolution is, you need to read this book. You don’t even need to know why! You need to buy it, read it, and then you’ll *know* why. No other book on Open Source can open your eyes the way this one can. That’s because there’s no potential use of Open Source intelligence that Steele hasn’t anticipated. Collective Intelligence is coming! It’s an unstoppable force. And it will change everything. So if you like to know about things like that in advance, you need to buy this book.

The information age that was created by personal computers was just a kiddie car with a squeaky horn. By comparison, the open source revolution is a freight train. Its potential to change your world is orders of magnitude greater. This is not hyperbole. In fact superlatives can’t begin to express the ground-shaking potential of this next wave of human evolution.

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Jun 24

Review: We Meant Well – How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

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Peter Van Buren

5.0 out of 5 stars 5.0 out of 5 stars Six Stars & Beyond–Open Heart Surgury on a Corrupt Ignorant Government,September 29, 2011

FINAL REVIEW

The author himself begins the book with a reference to Dispatches (Everyman’s Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) followed by Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition, to which I would add A Rumor of War. This is a great book, an important book, and I salute the Department of State people with integrity that approved it for publication, while scorning the seventh floor craven autocrats that have bullied the author for telling the truth. This book is the real deal, and I have multiple notes along the lines of gifted writing, humble *and* erudite, quiet humor, ample factual detail, gonzo-gifted prose, an eye for compelling detail, *absorbing,* a catalog of absurdities and how not to occupy a country.

Late in my notes I write “Reality so rich it stuns. A time capsule, priceless deep insights into occupation at its worst.”

And also write down an alternative subtitle: “The Zen of Government Idiocy Squared.”

This is a book, from a single vantage point, of the specifics of “pervasive waste and inefficiency, mistaken judments, flawed policies, and structural weakness.” Speaking of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), the author says “We were the ones who famously helped past together feathers year after year, hoping for a duck.”

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Sep 30

Review: Surrender to Kindness (One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace)

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5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star and Beyond–Deep Soul-Moving Raw Truths

August 26, 2010

Joseph David Osman

I had the privilege of reviewing this book before it was published. Below is what I provided for use in publicizing the book, followed by my more detailed summary review provided here for the first time.

I have goose-bumps as I contemplate this book that I have just finished in galley form. The author is unique, a mix of Philip Caputo (Rumor of War), Robert Young Pelton (Come Back Alive), and Ralph Peters (Wars of Blood and Faith), with one huge difference–this man, this author, this son of Afghanistan who is red, white, and blue American–has given us the definitive book on all that is wrong with the American “way of war,” at the same time that he so clearly, so explicitly, so very simply, outlines the alternative path of how we can, we must, “wage peace” in Afghanistan. I am reminded by this author of Bonheoffer, of Gandhi, of Nelson Mandela. This is a book in which the souls of two nations come together, both dark and light, and we see in very personal terms, with deep cultural intelligence, that Afghanistan is unconquerable by force, but desperately seeking to connect and respond to kindness. It shames me that our government is so inept–and our population so abjectly disconnected from reality–that we have repeated Viet-Nam. Bagram Air Base is the Binh Hoa Air Base of my time; we once again seek to win hearts and minds while looking and acting like Darth Vader; and our military prisons are again filled with individuals framed by their enemies, imprisoned by gullible naïve uninformed Americans who mean well, but who are simply not trained, equipped, nor organized to wage peace.

Robert David STEELE Vivas
Co-founder USMC Intelligence Center, #1 Amazon Reviewer for Non-Fiction, Author on Intelligence

Highlights for me personally as a former Marine (1976-1996) who lived in Viet-Nam as a pre-teen from 1963-1967:

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Aug 26

Review: International Peace Observations

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5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal Work Cited by Dr. Walter Dorn
July 23, 2010
David Wainhouse

EDIT of 6 Sep 2010 to add comments on books once received.

I bought this book, a real bargain, at the suggestion of Dr. Walter Dorn, the “dean” of the peace intelligence scholars, who cites the book with great favor in his own forthcoming book, KEEPING WATCH: Monitoring and Technology in UN Peace Operations, which I am going through now in galley form.

Now that I am holding it in my hands, here are some comments.

1)  Published in 1966, it is a phenomenal, an utterly superb, historical review of League of Nations, Latin American Union, and UN peace observation missions from 1920 to 1965.  The book concludes with a major section on “Strengthening Peace Observations.”

2)  Right away I decide to donate this book to the George Mason University library without marking it up, nor am I reading it, having seen enough to understand why Professor Dorn recommends it so highly as a historical reference work.

3)  The book clearly needs a sequel, from 1966 to date, over 40 years of new conflicts and new peace missions, and I make mention of this hoping that someone reading this review will be inspired to take on the project with many collaborators.

Other related books I have reviewed:
Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future
Intelligence and the War in Bosnia: 1992-1995 (Perspectives on Intelligence History)
U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Industry: An Analysis of Risks
Peacekeeping and Public Information: Caught in the Crossfire (Cass Series on Peacekeeping, 5)
Public Information Campaigns in Peacekeeping : The UN Experience in Haiti

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Jul 21