Review: Real-Time Diplomacy – Politics and Power in the Social Media Era

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Philip Seib

5.0 out of 5 stars Major Contribution Leaving a Great Deal More to Be Discussed, March 4, 2014

Diplomacy is a third-rate practice at this time, largely because the governments representated by diplomats lack intelligence with integrity and are also not held accountable for making grand mistakes with consequencies measured in trillions over time. The diplomats are messengers, nothing more. Indeed, I question the author’s assumption that diplomacy has ever been carried out with methodical deliberation — rather I believe that great power “diplomacy” has been imperial in nature, and is best represented today by Henry Kissinger and his immortal quotes:

Henry Kissinger: Military men are `dumb, stupid animals to be used’ as pawns for foreign policy.

Henry Kissinger: “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

What is most interesting about this book is its recognition that social media makes possible real-time intelligence (thinking, understanding, decision-support) and that social media now also makes possible real-time counterintelligence — the rapid detection of lies by the mandarins and their media submissives.

Alvin Toffler started this conversation with Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century. An entire literature has been created in the past decade centered on collective intelligence, with low-brow titles focusing on wisdom of the crowds and armies of davids.

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Mar 4

Worth a Look: Reset – Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future

Categories: 5 Star,Diplomacy
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The bestselling author of Overthrow offers a new and surprising vision for rebuilding America’s strategic partnerships in the Middle East

What can the United States do to help realize its dream of a peaceful, democratic Middle East? Stephen Kinzer offers a surprising answer in this paradigm-shifting book. Two countries in the region, he argues, are America’s logical partners in the twenty-first century: Turkey and Iran.

Besides proposing this new “power triangle,” Kinzer also recommends that the United States reshape relations with its two traditional Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This book provides a penetrating, timely critique of America’s approach to the world’s most volatile region, and offers a startling alternative.

Kinzer is a master storyteller with an eye for grand characters and illuminating historical detail. In this book he introduces us to larger-than-life figures, like a Nebraska schoolteacher who became a martyr to democracy in Iran, a Turkish radical who transformed his country and Islam forever, and a colorful parade of princes, politicians, women of the world, spies, oppressors, liberators, and dreamers.

Kinzer’s provocative new view of the Middle East is the rare book that will richly entertain while moving a vital policy debate beyond the stale alternatives of the last fifty years.

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Mar 3

Worth a Look: SINGAPORE Central to Great Convergence

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The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

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Political genius is never without controversy, or without mystery. This is what makes it so interesting and so rare. Is Lee Kuan Yew the feral, authoritarian figure that Western critics claim? Or a stoic pioneer in new approaches to developing a nation—uncorrupt, modern, almost scientific?American journalist Tom Plate first interviewed the founder of modern Singapore in 1996 in a continuing back-and-forth with LKY that led to the summer of 2009, when the former prime minister agreed to sit down for two days of unprecedentedly informal but intense conversations that led to this special book. This new edition includes fascinating excerpts from prior interviews, as well as the author’s assessment of the man who goes down in history as the world’s longest-serving prime minister—and as one of the most unforgettable political figures of modern times.

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Feb 5

Worth a Look: Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran

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Less than a decade after Washington endorsed a fraudulent case for invading Iraq, similarly misinformed and politically motivated claims are pushing America toward war with Iran. Challenging the daily clamor of U.S. saber rattling, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett argue that America should renounce thirty years of failed strategy and engage with Iran—just as Nixon revolutionized U.S. foreign policy by going to Beijing and realigning relations with China.

In Going to Tehran, former analysts in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, the Leveretts offer a uniquely informed account of Iran as it actually is today, not as many have caricatured it or wished it to be. They show that Iran’s political order is not on the verge of collapse, that most Iranians still support the Islamic Republic, and that Iran’s regional influence makes it critical to progress in the Middle East. Drawing on years of research and access to high-level officials, the Leveretts’ indispensable work makes it clear that America must “go to Tehran” if it is to avert strategic catastrophe.

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Feb 3

Review: Manufactured Crisis – The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare

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Gareth Porter

5.0 out of 5 stars Does for Iran What Truth Dig Did for Iraq, January 29, 2014

I *strongly* recommend this book to every citizen concerned about a government that lies all the time. The NSA debacle of recent time, on top of the CIA debacles (rendition, torture, assassination by drone) on top of the various other White House led debacles are all deeply disturbing.

I have a copy of the book on the way and will provide my usual detailed review as soon as it arrives. In the meantime, here is a snippet from a really superb review by Peter Jenikins at Lobelog:

BEGIN QUOTE:

Porter concludes: “US and Israeli policies have been driven by political and bureaucratic interests, not by a rational, objective assessment of available indicators of the motives and intentions of Iranian leaders”.

Another central theme, one that complements the hidden motive theme, is that intelligence material and intelligence assessments have played a baleful part in this saga.

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Jan 29

Review (Guest): A Manufactured Crisis – The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare

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Gareth Porter

Review By Peter Jenkins @ Lobelog

The subtitle of Gareth Porter’s new book, The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, is well-chosen. Large parts of A Manufactured Crisis are indeed untold till now. They amount to what the author terms an “alternative narrative”.

But don’t be misled by “alternative”. This is not the work of some crank who imagines conspiracies where none exist. One senses, rather, from the author’s meticulous sourcing and the extent of his research that what motivates him is a fierce hunger for truth and aversion to deceit.

Porter has been investigating the Iranian nuclear case for the best part of a decade. The result of his researches is both a fascinating addition to a growing corpus, unlike any previous work on the issue, and a disturbing indictment of US and Israeli policies. 

One central theme is that hidden motives have coloured these policies. On the US side, Porter explains, the end of the Cold War led to a federal bureaucratic interest in exaggerating the WMD and missile threat posed by Iran (and other emerging countries) to justify funding bids. During the presidency of George W. Bush some senior administration members also sought to exploit nuclear fears to “delegitimize” the Iranian government and engineer a pretext for enforced regime change.

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Jan 29

Review (Guest): Creating the National Security State: A History of the Law That Transformed America

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Douglas Stuart

5.0 out of 5 stars From National Interests to National Security April 24, 2011

ByKenneth J. Dillon

Many observers recognize that the U.S. Government has for decades placed too much emphasis on military might to the detriment of other interests. This book provides a sobering explanation of how such a skewed approach emerged. Stuart is an historian at Dickinson College and also adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College. He shows how the 150-year tradition of peacetime pursuit of national interests headed by the State Department gave way to the “Pearl Harbor System” of viewing the world through the perspective of potential threats to national security.

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Jan 18

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: American Interests in South Asia (Ho Ho Ho)

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Nicholas Burns (Editor) , Jonathon Price (Editor) , Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Foreword) , Brent Scowcroft (Foreword)

3.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Universe — Divorced from Reality, September 20, 2013

I am in Afghanistan with the opportunity to think about all of the external and internal realities impacting on 2014, and this book attracted my immediately interest, along with Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure: A War Doomed By The Coalition’s Strategies, Policies and Political Correctness. If I had the time I would buy and read both books, but sadly I have to focus on the here and now with just two comments:

01 All of these big names write great stuff, but I have to ask myself, who are they writing for? Who, if anyone is listening? Among all these great ideas, there is not a single one that has been implemented, funded, sustained, or effective. So why do we have smart people and think tanks? Are they a form of public entertainment, of public self-stroking, completely removed from the reality that the White House and Congress are so lacking in moral and intellectual fortitude as to be a constant danger to both the Republic and all other nations?

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Sep 20

Review: The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam

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Akbar Ahmed

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star (My Top 10%) — The Book Susan Rice Should Read First, June 6, 2013

I received and read this book today, and while I am troubled by the author’s buying into the Bin Laden story and the official 9/11 cover-up, this is a six-star book that easily provides one stellar concept that must be integrated into the fabric of every foreign policy — understanding the failures of the centers in each state with respect to the more traditional peripheries — and a deep broad articulation of why the US “war on terror” has actually been a thoughtless unnecessarily expensive and harmful war on tribes.

Ignore those who demean this book or this author. I generally consider Brookings to be expert at publishing dumbed down talking points for loosely-educated policy makers, but this book is easily in the top tier, a book Cambridge or Oxford would be comfortable published, and a book that ties in perfectly with Philip Allot’s extraordinary book The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Read my review of that book as a pre-quel to reading this book, which I certainly recommend in the strongest possible terms.

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Jun 6