Review (Guest): Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

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cover kill anything that movesNick Turse

5 of 5 stars. I was there, he is right on some things. By George James Kalergis on September 8, 2013

There is some evidence for his proposition. He greatly overstates the incidence of rape and deliberate murder of civilians however. He makes it sound as if this was a routine/daily occurrence. In my year there in combat, I did not see one incident such as this.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my experience in Vietnam as a result of reading this book. It has some elements of truth to it, especially concerning the inflated body counts and influence from the chain of command for bodies. However, from my experience he has looked for (and found) many individual instances of abuse of civilians in that war and made it seem that was much more of a regular occurrence than it was.He doesn’t point out the danger we were in from women and children who would set booby traps or shoot at us. It was a nightmare scenario and I’m sure many soldiers lost their lives because they were not cautious enough with women and children. Read the rest of this entry »
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Jan 18

Review: Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War

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Lars-Erik Cederman, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Halvard Buhaug

5.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY – a modern version of the causes of revolution literature from the 1970′s, January 12, 2014

I am absolutely delighted to see this book published, and to also see it win awards. In the 1970′s there was a strong political science literature on the causes of revolution (see a few examples below) as well as on governance alternatives intended to achieve dignity and equality such that revolutions do not occur. A few examples:

Harry Eckstein, Internal War: Problems and Approaches
Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel: Fortieth Anniversary Edition
Chalmers Johnson, Revolution and the Social System

The book earns five stars but could reasonably be reduced to four stars for failing to have a holistic analytic model and any substantive reference to true cost economics.

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Jan 12

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: 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 (Guest): Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith

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James Billington

4.0 out of 5 stars What is reason and logic? By what standard is paradise measured. March 4, 2008

By Henri Porter

By Henri Porter

Anyone who reads this and is still a bit unsure should read Yevgeny Zamyatin’s book WE and Djilas’ The New Class: An Analysis Of Communist System. If they are looking for the philosophical approach to the book, they should read Voegelin and any of his works that deal with the philosophical underpinning of what Billington is addressing in this fantastic work. Billington is a Rhodes Scholar. He is a visiting Professor to Harvard and Princeton. His works on Russia are definitive. This book being his best, is his dedication to Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground and Demons. It is scary and brilliant. It answers the question of the two opposing “secret” warring groups one the proponents of freewill the others proponents of the collective and or the secular super powerful state. All this and according to Billington’s work, the most startling aspect, is that journalists are the very agents of this revolutionary activity. Puts a very scientism spin on things like global warming and afro-centrism.

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Feb 3

Review (Guest): The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa

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Jeremy Keenan

Phi Beta Iota:  See Berto Jongman: Algeria Fronting for US in Fabricating Al Qaeda Threat and Legitimizing US Military Occupation of Sahara? for a short-hand version of the book.  On balance and sight unseen we give the book four stars for provocation, while respecting the guest review below as being meritorious in its own right.

2.0 out of 5 stars Could be so much better, good premise, but unfortunately not based on too much fact, November 12, 2011

By Andrew Wasily

I like the premise of this book, that is basically why I bought it and read it. Unfortunately, Dr. Keenan has not based his book on much fact, but more conspiracy, and a belief that the United States is smart enough to enter into a grand conspirarcy with Algeria to dupe the region. I would have liked more of a cultural analysis about the threat of the United States military entering into the Sahara and Sahel.

The argument seems to me that the United States created the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and has focused much more military attention on Africa and African terrorist threats. The U.S., especially the military, can be very naive and see national interest in a fight against terrorists such as AQIM in the Sahel, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or al Shabaab in Somalia. If you look closer, these “terrorist” groups are very small, have little traction among the local population, and are hoping that the U.S., French, UK, give them some military attention so that they can become stronger (make this a war against the U.S.). A direct attack on these groups by the U.S., can only cause more conflict. There is very little the U.S. can do against these groups as terrorists. Africans and the international community likely needs to see these groups as criminal networks, insurgencies, and on the brink of losing legitimacy. It would seem to me that the U.S. and international community has to invest in police training, rule-of-law and court system reform, building new jails and training staff to properly treat inmates. The response to a supposed “terrorist” threat is what AFRICOM senior leaders know will be funded by Congress . . . you cannot justify programs by building capacity and working on rule-of-law.

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Dec 1

Review (Guest): Routledge Handbook of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

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The Routledge Handbook of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
Edited By: Paul B. Rich and Isabelle Duyvesteyn
Routledge, 2012

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ‘counterinsurgency’ (COIN) has enjoyed a revival. The perceived failure of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a ‘backlash’ principally by advocates of the use of conventional warfare against insurgents, some of whom see COIN as not a ‘manly’ approach to warfare, as well as by Anti-imperialists who see COIN as a means of extending Western imperial power.

Paul B. Rich and Isabelle Duyvesteyn’s handbook of insurgency and counterinsurgency gives us an opportunity to survey the state of the art in ‘orthodox’ counterinsurgency thinking. This ‘orthodox’ approach appears to dominate the ‘counterinsurgency industry’ and could be argued to represent an ‘interpretive’ or ‘epistemic’ community.  Peter Haas defines an epistemic community as a ‘network of professionals with recognised expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within that domain or issue-area’. This community tends to share common assumptions and intellectual beliefs and is influential because policy-makers may rely on their expertise.

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Nov 27

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 (Guest): Westmoreland – The General Who Lost Vietnam – Includes Second Review With Contextual Detail on Failure of Intelligence (Including Soviets Owning US Crypto)

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Lewis Sorley

A Man Promoted Above his Ability September 12, 2011

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson VINE™ VOICE

I grew up during the Vietnam War. I was seven years old when General William Westmoreland was sent to Vietnam by LBJ to take charge of things there. I was eleven when he lost his job and by then, had lost us the war. Vietnam was in the news the entire time, on TV, in the paper, in Time Magazine – as was Westmoreland’s iconic chin. Being the son of military parents I’d early gotten the history bug and I was fascinated by what was taking place over in Southeast Asia, even if I didn’t understand it well. As I grew older, and things over there grew worse, I began to wonder how we could possibly lose such a war (as I thought it was) against such a small country.

Lewis Sorely’s “Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam” will tell you how. Sorely has the credentials for this book. He is himself a graduate of West Point. He served in Vietnam. He even served in the office of the Army Chief of Staff, General William C. Westmoreland, and taught at West Point. This isn’t just a book by some journalist trying to get at the bottom of things. Sorely has been “at the bottom of things” and he has done the leg work over a period of years, talking to 175 people in his search for the events he here recounts.

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May 18

Review (Guest): World in Crisis – The End of the American Century

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Gabriel Kolko

5.0 out of 5 stars Simplify, Simplify, Simplify,June 22, 2009<

By Tracy McLellan (Chicago) – See all my reviews

One could almost condense the whole of Kolko thought into a single sentence: “Political problems have political and social, not military solution.” He says this at least four or five times in the current volume, as he has even more often previously. A common criticism of Kolko is that he’s repetitive. This doesn’t speak to the fact that the deafening silence with which his work is greeted is a far harsher, and equally invalid, criticism. Kolko’s alleged repetitiveness is more grasp of nuance and comprehensiveness than it is lack of imagination.

World in Crisis: the End of the American Century is an implicit rejoinder to what Kolko himself calls the lunatics in the Bush regime. It is the typically unique type of excellence in political observation I, at any rate, expect of Kolko. The essays in the current volume are a second, yet enduring draft of history reviewing the political turmoil of the last four or five years. They examine the financial crisis, US foreign policy, Israel, the current and historical US alliance system, US intelligence agencies, and other US policies. The essays have appeared previously on ZNet, [...], Counterpunch, in anthologies, and elsewhere. All of them are updated for this book, because, as Kolko notes, they become obsolete almost as soon as they are published due to the accelerated trajectory of geopolitical, technological, financial, and sociological events.

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Jan 21