Review (Guest): Dynamics Among Nations – The Evolution of Legitimacy and Development in Modern States

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Hilton Root

5.0 out of 5.0 Stars Complexity thinking that shifts the paradigms of international relations

By J. P. Massing on December 5, 2013

In ‘Dynamics Among Nations’, Professor Hilton Root convincingly challenges the propositions of the liberal international consensus and re-frames the prevailing conceptualisation of development by introducing complexity thinking to the fields of political economy and international relations.

I highly recommend this intellectually stimulating and excellently written book to decision makers, researchers and students – as well as to anyone who is interested in gaining an advanced and well-informed understanding of the complex realities of development and global policy.

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Apr 14

Review (Guest): This Republic of Suffering – Death and the American Civil War

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Drew Gilpin Faust

5.0 out of 5 stars Closure, or does the Suffering just still go on … ?, March 12, 2014

By Herbert L Calhoun “paulocal”

Quietly, this is an amazing book about the back side of war — the side we pretend not to know is really there at all — the ugly side, the painful side. It is a stunning academic treatise about that side of the “so-called” Civil War that the history books do not speak openly about: what happens once the glorification and breast-beating heroism of war ends?

What happened in the Civil War when that war ended — when the “real work of war” began — is that there were no bands playing; no protocols on how to respect the dead, no systematic way of identifying the bodies. Gawkers and wives were roaming the battle fields together in search of trinkets they could sell, or looking for their loved ones. The lucky dead had a letter or a picture in their breast pockets that would later identify them. That way, at least then their loved ones would be allowed the minimum level of closure, but this was not to be the case for most of the dead. Nor, arguably, was it to be the case for a nation that is still in need of closure from the Civil war.

This author tells us that the “real work of war” began when the flesh and stench of 5 million pounds of 620,00 death men and 1 million pounds of the flesh of 3,000 dead horses, all laying out in the hot sun stinking up the “land of the free and home of the brave,” had to be disposed of.

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Mar 12

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: They Were Soldiers – How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story

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Ann Jones

5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary book — Gabriel’s trumpet on true cost of war, December 3, 2013

A necessary book. The author has rendered a national — a global — service in documenting the psychological, social, and physical costs of war, costs that surpass the continually astonishing financial cost of war. SIX STARS (my top 10%)

I read this book this afternoon while waiting for a flight out of Afghanistan. The book hit me hard. Although I have been well aware of the staggering number of disabled veterans and suicidal veterans, most of what this book offers up was new to me and deeply disturbing.

The book also made me realize that as an intelligence officer save in a basement — the occasional big car bomb not-with-standing — my time in Afghanistan has been illusory, in that I have not at any time confronted the blood and guts pathos that this book lays out with a professionalism that is compelling.

The book also forces me to think of my three sons, the youngest of whom is contemplating joining the military after college. While I served and retired honorably from the Marine Corps, my wars were Viet-Nam as the son of an oil man and El Salvador as a clandestine case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. I’ve seen my share of dead people across all three, but I never personally experienced the deep gut-wrenching mind-altering pathos that this book lays down.

QUOTE (5): [This book] is about the damage done to soldiers, their families, their communities, and the rest of us, who for another half-century at least will pay for their care, their artificial limbs, their medications, their benefits, their funerals, and the havoc they dutifully wrought under orders around the world.”

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Dec 4

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 (Guest): War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

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Chris Hedges

5.0 out of 5 stars When Cultures of Violence get mixed with the Myths of War, November 19, 2013
This review is from: War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (Paperback)

War is a Force that Gives us Meaning

When cultures of violence get mixed up with myths of war

Chris Hedges is a scholar of immense talents, who has “been there, done that;” (and bought the Tee shirt). He is as familiar with the art of war as is Sun Tzu, and arguably much smarter. Plus his sensibilities are different: keener, and in the right place — more refined and more severely tilted towards an instinct for building a better more humane world. With his own considerable experiences as a war correspondent as backdrop, Hedges uses his award-winning literary skills and his “over-sized” intellect to enlighten us about things that we already should know about: That war is hell; and that everything that glorifies it is a monumental but soothing lie!

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Nov 19

Review (Guest): War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

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Chris Hedges

5.0 out of 5 stars When Cultures of Violence get mixed with the Myths of War, November 19, 2013

Herberg L. Calhoun

When cultures of violence get mixed up with myths of war

Chris Hedges is a scholar of immense talents, who has “been there, done that;” (and bought the Tee shirt). He is as familiar with the art of war as is Sun Tzu, and arguably much smarter. Plus his sensibilities are different: keener, and in the right place — more refined and more severely tilted towards an instinct for building a better more humane world. With his own considerable experiences as a war correspondent as backdrop, Hedges uses his award-winning literary skills and his “over-sized” intellect to enlighten us about things that we already should know about: That war is hell; and that everything that glorifies it is a monumental but soothing lie!

Why should we already know this? Because all of the “true” soldiers, all of the “true” military patriots — from George Washington down to Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Wesley Clark — have told us that it is so. And yet, as this author’s essay so aptly punctuates, we are all still intoxicated by war. It is a deadly insidious drug that we still just cannot give up. We readily “mainline it,” “we sample it,” “wallow in it,” tell lies about it, wish to be draped in its vicarious glory, and as a nation with an out of control military industrial complex, we have severely “OD-ed” on it.

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Nov 19

Review (Guest): BREACH OF TRUST – How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country

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Andrew J. Bacedvich

A disturbing but vitally necessary read. Take note, Mr President, and Congress too

By Timothy J. Bazzett on September 10, 2013

Andrew Bacevich’s latest offering, BREACH OF TRUST, is going to make a lot of people squirm – if people read it, that is. Because in this book he tells us flat out that an all-volunteer army in a democratic society simply does not work, and that the present system is “broken.” It is bankrupting our country, and not just financially, but morally. He tells us that Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the longest and most expensive wars in U.S. history, have evoked little more than “an attitude of cordial indifference” on the part of a shallow and selfish populace more concerned with the latest doings of the Kardashians, professional superstar athletes or other vapid and overpaid millionaire celebrities, reflecting “a culture that is moored to nothing more than irreverent whimsy and jeering ridicule.”

Bacevich cites General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who spoke about having “skin in the game,” meaning that when a country goes to war every town and city should be at risk. McChrystal went on to say the unthinkable: “I think we’d be better if we actually went to a draft these days … for the nation it would be a better course.”

Horrors! That dreaded “D” word finally uttered aloud. Well, I’d say it’s about damn time. And Bacevich agrees, noting that in his many speaking engagements over the past ten years “I can count on one hand the number of occasions when someone did NOT pose a question about the draft, invariably offered as a suggestion for how to curb Washington’s appetite for intervention abroad and establish some semblance of political accountability.”

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Nov 19

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: 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