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Old 01-02-2017   #1
davidbfpo
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Default What are you currently reading in 2017?

A new thread for 2017.

The 2016 thread has a very low number of posts, 38 but had 48k views. See:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=23778
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Old 01-02-2017   #2
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Default hammer of witches

Black Sun by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke


Chinese Negotiating Behaviour by Richard H. Solomon


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Old 01-03-2017   #3
omarali50
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A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (New Cold War History)
by Vladislav M. Zubok

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/..._Failed_Empire

I am more than halfway through this book, and it is interesting, informative and frequently enlightening (as in shedding new light on old topics).
Well worth a read (but then again, I am just an amateur reader, what do the experts say?)
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Old 01-09-2017   #4
Bill Moore
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Default America's Other Army

America's Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st Century Diplomacy, by Nicholas Kralev

https://www.amazon.com/Americas-Othe.../dp/1466446560

I have been to Foggy Bottom (Dept of State Headquarters in Wash D.C.) several times, and worked with numerous U.S. Embassies in different parts of the world, but I still gained valuable insights from this book that I haven't picked up elsewhere.

While the Department of State (DOS) as an organization is more dysfunctional than the Department of Defense, the people who serve in the Foreign Service for the most part are true patriots and exceptionally talented.

The author's intent beyond explaining the role of diplomacy was to put a human face on it, by interviewing numerous foreign service officers and Secretaries of State. I had the good fortune of listening to the author speak once, and he provided additional insights that unfortunately were not in the book, but the bottom line is he is was well qualified to write this book.

Since the book was written in 2012 there is a lot of attention given to shock that our operations and Iraq and Afghanistan generated in the DOS, and how they adapted.

Throughout the book there were insightful views from these officers you don't hear during the spin sessions when the public affairs representative presents the DOS's official position. Such as our strategic communications is overly focused on manipulating and spinning, which makes us look like hypocrites. What people around the world really want is for us to trust them enough to be honest with them. They don't have to like our policies, but we should honestly explain them.

The unpopular war in Iraq was an immense challenge for the DOS, even if the individual officers didn't agree with it, they still had to defend the policy. The impact on the Counselor Service was significant, since their mission was to increase to U.S. visitors and student visas, but at the same time now had to go through a very thorough and deliberate process to approve visas, which resulted in a significant reduction of visitors and students. The reason for doing so was understood, but the goal of increasing visitors while increasing security checks was extremely challenging.

One of the more interesting aspects for me was the lack of guidance these officers get when they get an assignment. Iraq was a perfect example, where officers were sent out to the various parts of Iraq with the goal of stabilizing the country. It was beneficial in some regards, because it gave the diplomats with the wherewithal to do so great latitude to figure out the problems and come up with creative solutions. For others, they struggled. This issue is bigger than Iraq though, the author points out that very foreign service officers in 2003 could explain how their activities tied into national interests and supported the goals in the National Security Strategy, but that number has reduced significantly. Largely due to efforts by Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton to produce Diplomatic and Development Strategies that nested with the NSS.

When Powell assume the SecState position, he was shocked to discover how unprepared the FS was to do their job. Understaffed, outdated technology, and no real training/education to prepare them for their positions.

The draw back to this modernization and growth is that the DOS is becoming a large bureaucracy, and as a result the diplomats who should be learning the local culture and gaining a deep understanding of the host nation's issues to inform U.S. policies are now increasingly becoming bureaucrats that have little time to engage with the locals. Instant communication is impacting the DOS as much as DoD. The ability to communicate instantly is resulting in more and more power consolidating higher up, striping Ambassadors and others of authorities they used to have. They call it e-hell (we're brothers in arms after all). Not in the book, but I remember Susan Rice stating she does strategy, not the Ambassadors, they just implement it what she tells them. A very dangerous place to be when we have the blind leading the country, and those informed of the situation marginalized. The author states there is a long term cost to pay when FS officers are neither expected nor challenged to become top foreign policy strategists and thinkers, figuring we can just bring in political appointees for that.
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Old 01-11-2017   #5
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Default i plot your rubric scarab

Cold War Anthropology by David H. Price


Perilous Interventions by Hardeep Singh Puri


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Old 01-11-2017   #6
omarali50
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My review of "Failed Empire" (which I think is a must-read book)

A must read for anyone interested in the history of the Soviet empire and its eventual (almost bloodless) fall under Gorbachev. The author presents an inside look at the Soviet side of events and some very interesting re-evaluations of the various leaders (from a Russian perspective). For example, the fact that Brezhnev was a much more grounded and sensible operator than his late drug-addled senile years would imply; that Gorbachev was a wooly idealist who was unfortunately or fortunately almost hopelessly inept at actually running things; that Bush senior was a competent executor of American interests; that Reagan's inner peacemaker/decent human being were far more important in bringing down the Soviet Union than his SDI or military buildup (which the author regards as almost incidental and of little significance in events); that money simply running out had a lot to do with the fall of the Soviet empire in East Europe; that failed ideology led to cynicism and a simultaneous nave optimism about social democracy in the 1960s generation, and so on.
The author has a Russo-centric view and for most Russians the fact that the Soviet experiment failed is not enough reason to accept that the Russian empire (which predated and undergirded the Soviet experiment) and the vast, ambitious and (sometimes at great cost and with great cruelty) expansion of the Russian peoples across Eurasia should also be setback THIS far as a result of that failure. Outsiders may wish to take a more forgiving view of Gorbachev, who managed to let all this happen without bloodshed.
Anyway, well worth reading. IN fact, a must read if you are interested in those times and those events.
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Old 01-17-2017   #7
Bill Moore
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https://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Warr...light+warriors

Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies, and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War
by James Kitfield

Throughout this book, the author focuses on how the military, law enforcement, and intelligence adapted to a new way of war despite the challenges posed by the failed policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations. It is a very human versus an analytical story, with numerous personal insights provided by some of the senior leaders involved. Some minor errors (related to what unit did what) in the book didnít distract from an overall balanced account of our nationís war on violent extremist organizations.

I admire the likes of GENs Petraeus, McCrystal, Dempsey, and Special Agent McCauley among others for their ability to build teams and solve difficult problems. Those who repeatedly claim the military is not innovative are either blind, or unfortunately served in bad organization that clung to rigid doctrines. Intelligence, law enforcement, and the military innovated significantly since 9/11. Much of it centered on networking, both technical and human.

The chapter on enhanced interrogation in the early part of the book effectively exposed Panetta for spinning the narrative on the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation program, by deliberately trying to take credit for the FBIís successful interrogation of a key AQ member, when in fact the CIAís method resulted in shutting him down. When you read how the CIA conducted the interrogation, you would think it was conducted by a couple of sadistic high school kids. The only reasoning behind it was to break down the subject. Nonetheless, it resulted in a multimillion dollar contract for these clowns to continue, which left a stain on America and the values it represents. However, that shouldnít reflect on the heroic work the CIA officers are doing downrange and the competence of their analysts, which the author emphasizes.

However, the real story in this book is about the men and women who transformed our security services and soldiered on despite incompetent politicians and failed policies. The author also demonstrates you can tell a good story without exposing classified information. Overall a decent and quick read.
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Old 01-17-2017   #8
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I am patiently awaiting the release of the first book about DET-A Berlin:

https://www.amazon.com/Special-Force...dp/161200444X/

I'm hoping it will provide some insight into how the Cold War was fought in Eastern Europe and how the Baltic States could be defended moving forward.

Until then, and while I'm focused on the Hacking 4 Defense Educator's Course starting here in Washington DC:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

....highly recommended and only $1.99 right now on Kindle. Awesome value.

https://www.amazon.com/Influence-Psy...dp/B002BD2UUC/

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just 5 Days:

https://www.amazon.com/Sprint-Solve-...dp/B010MH1DAQ/

The Lean StartUp:

https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Startup-...dp/B004J4XGN6/

Thinking Fast And Slow:

https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast...dp/B00555X8OA/

Steal Like an Artist:

https://www.amazon.com/Steal-Like-Ar...dp/B0074QGGK6/

Everything by Dr Tina Seelig(creativity & innovation):

Innovation Engine (Enhanced Edition with video & audio): A Crash Course on Creativity is only $6.99

https://www.amazon.com/Tina%20Seelig...rnid=618072011

I buy tons of books. These are some of the very best I've found in recent years on creativity, innovation, and problem solving.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #9
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The Perfect War by James William Gibson


Gunboat on the Yangtze by Glenn F. Howell


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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #10
omarali50
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Default To Rule the Waves

To Rule The Waves. How the Royal Navy Shaped the Modern World, by Arthur Herman.

My review:

The title overstates what the book is about, but if you are a bit of a British or naval history fan, this is a wonderful book to read. The "over-statement" part comes from the fact that the book does not in fact go into great detail about how the Royal Navy shaped the modern world. It makes that claim and offers good arguments for it, but they are not detailed arguments and they are not the meat of the book. The meat of the book is a history of the Royal Navy, from its beginnings in piracy, slave-trading, massacre and general high seas criminality (at least by later standards; standards enforced by the Royal Navy itself) to its final decline and fall in the postwar era (presided over, for a crucial period of time, by First Sea Lord, Lord Mountbatten, who performed the same service for another pillar of the British empire! though Herman does not bring up this interesting co-incidence).
The author (an American, who also wrote the very interesting "Gandhi and Churchill", as well other books I have not read) is not politically correct and goes out of his way to show this in his unabashed hero-worship and his straightforward admiration (as long as they were successful) of daring or resourceful ventures, no matter whether they were piratical or imperialist; but he also goes out of his way to describe them (and their consequences) warts and all, without any attempt to hide or underplay the horrors. This may not be enough to satisfy many postmodern readers, but I was happy that as long as you read on, you almost always get all sides of every story.
And this is a surprisingly comprehensive effort. Not just the adventurers and commanders and admirals, but also the intellectuals (including John Dee, Astronomer, mathematician and very prescient naval and imperial strategist!), the bureaucrats (Samuel Pepys is honored in great detail) and the ordinary seamen, get their due. The famous pre-20th century battles are all covered in detail, with the most hagiographic treatment (factually balanced, tonally hagiographic) being reserved of course for Nelson, climaxing with a detailed description of Trafalgar. While most of his hero-worship is factually accurate and the hyperbole is kept within bounds, he does go overboard with his comparison of Nelson with Napoleon, not just as wartime commanders but as a world historical figures, which is a bit too much.
The wars of the 20th century are described relatively broadly, though Jutland is covered in detail; as is "operation Catapult" and the sinking of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales in WW2. Otherwise, famous actions are generally covered in a few lines and sometimes not even mentioned (as with the battle of the River Plate, skipped completely).
The book ends with the Falklands war, told entirely from an elegiac British point of view, but given all that came before, perhaps this too should be excused.
Definitely worth reading if you are interested in the topic or in British history and recent world history in general (concurrent world events and politics is covered fairly well along with the naval story).
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #11
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Default here we are the princes of the universe

Propaganda by Edward Bernays


Make Love!* *the Bruce Campbell Way by Bruce Campbell


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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #12
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Age Of Anger by Pankaj Mishra


Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges


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Old 1 Week Ago   #13
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Default dear mr fantasy

The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud


The End of the World News by Anthony Burgess


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