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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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Black Sun by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke


Chinese Negotiating Behaviour by Richard H. Solomon


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Old 01-03-2017   #3
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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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Cold War Anthropology by David H. Price


Perilous Interventions by Hardeep Singh Puri


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Old 01-11-2017   #6
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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 06-22-2017   #7
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Default Can't believe I am just reading this

Confession, I've found it increasingly difficult to make it through books seeking to explain extremism to me. But I picked up "The Ugly American" on a whim during my last trip to the library, and tore through it with great speed and enjoyment!

Two main thoughts:

1. The damning assessment of US approach to foreign service is as true today as it was in the 1950s setting of this tale of Southeast Asia.

2. We are as wrongheadedly fixated on Islamist ideology today as we were on Communist ideology then.

A good read and an important message.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 06-28-2017   #8
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Default wasted

Flower of the Dragon by Richard Boyle


Army In Anguish by Haynes Johnson and George C. Wilson


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Old 06-30-2017   #9
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Default maps and legends

Infantry In Vietnam by LTC Albert N Garland USA ret (editor)


A Distant Challenge by LTC Albert N Garland USA ret (editor)


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Old 07-16-2017   #10
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Default Originals

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
by Adam Grant

https://www.amazon.com/Originals-How...move+the+world

I was looking for some light and entertaining reading for a recent trip, and I found it in the well researched Originals. While the book does provide insights on what it promises to deliver such as how to push through a new idea, break the status quo, and how to recognize a good idea (something managers are not good at, but through a simple exercise they can improve dramatically), etc., it provides much more than this.

Surprisingly I found insights, even if indirect, for the practice of small wars. One example is his discussion on the narcissism of small differences resulting in a condition known as horizontal hostility. It goes a long way in explaining why Islamic VEOs impose such suffering upon on their own people. Common goals often drive groups apart. It is these fractures that are called horizontal hostility. Even though the groups share a common objective, radical groups often disparage more mainstream groups as impostors and sellouts. The more strongly you identify with an extreme group, the harder you seek to differentiate yourself from more moderate groups that threaten your values.

Then he points out, that even when groups care about different causes, they often find affinity when they use the same methods of engagement. This may explain why terrorist groups exchanged terrorism tradecraft with other groups that were not ideologically aligned over the years.

There was another section that spoke at some length on how to mobilize a resistance movement. For example, people prefer to challenge state sponsored oppression / terror as a group. Instead of facing the terror of standing out as lone resister, people were able to see themselves as members of a group based on seeing symbols in many locations that indicates others feel the same way. It’s easier for wan to be rebels to rebel when it feels like an act of conformity. The book provides several examples.

The author does have a website where he addresses some of these topics.

http://www.adamgrant.net/
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Old 09-12-2017   #11
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Default Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages

Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages
Stuart A. Herrington

This book is basically the author’s memoir of his experiences as an advisor to the Phoenix Program in Vietnam (after the Tet Offensive). In some respects his story supports my impressions of the war. More importantly though, his story is a narrative that those who have worked as advisor from the Cold War through the War on Terror will readily identify with. As a reluctant warrior, he gave it his all to win his war in the villages, and in the end provided his insights on why that would never be enough. In my view, his reflections apply equally to our conflicts today.

The book’s preface frames the general U.S. view going into Vietnam. Similar to Iraq, we initially entered with great confidence and self-assurance. JFK
s "bear any burden speech," set the national mood at the time. This was amplified by the Green Beret motto, De Oppresso Liber, which symbolized the challenge of the sixties and our involvement in Vietnam. This mood helps propel us to endeavor to protect the “freedom” of the South Vietnamese and disprove Mao’s maxim that all “political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” While the author focused his story on his experiences at the village level as an advisor to the Phoenix Program, it provided a unique optic to the larger picture in post Tet Vietnam.

The author’s description of the Phoenix program parallels our current operational concepts tied to: interagency and intelligence fusion, the find, fix, finish, analyze methodology; and village stability operations. Conceptually it all made sense, but due to cultural realities and the sand running out of the hour glass it was bound to fail when the locals started questioning the willingness of the U.S. to continue their support. This book provides a professional education on conducting effective intelligence operations to identify and neutralize adversary shadow government structures. It indirectly addresses effective practices to counter propaganda also.

The Vietnamese people in the villages for the most part were indifferent to the governments in the North and the South. They made decisions based on pragmatic realities and generally sided with whatever side they thought was winning at the time. Most villagers had no use for communism, but they also despised their own government due to its corruption. No one should buy into the myth that corruption doesn’t matter in COIN and FID, it can be the decisive factor. The government of South Vietnam did itself no favors.

In the last chapter, the author reflected on why he thought we couldn’t win. Ranging from the loss of political will to sustain the effort, corrupt local governance, etc. Yet, he notes that when we pulled out of Vietnam the South Vietnamese military had very high morale based on their recent heroic efforts that defeated 13 North Vietnam divisions that conducted the Easter Offensive. They were in fact a proven and highly effective fighting force. However, they still needed U.S. support (material and air support) to stave off a large conventional invasion from the North that was supported by the USSR. It is sad to think we could have perhaps won if we honored the commitment we made to the Vietnamese people. What a different world it would be today if we didn't go through 10 plus years staring at our belly buttons and reflecting after the war.

Cultural differences were significant, the Americans and Vietnamese lived in two very different worlds in so many ways it was remarkable they were able to do anything together. It was worse when the advisor couldn't speak Vietnamese and had to rely on interpreters. Very few of the terps could effectively translate what the advisor what said. This is no different than our current experience in the Middle East.

Also like today, the Phoenix advisors attempted to force different Vietnamese intelligence, military, and police units share information with one another to root out the VC infrastructure. The Vietnamese were not inclined to support this due to distrust, ego, etc. Finally, since the Americans anticipated the Vietnamese military would have its hands tied after the Paris Peace Accord was signed, they tried to transfer the Phoenix program from the military to the national police. As expected, this proved to be a major failure due to the high level of corruption in the national police. In the end, our forces and Vietnamese allies had numerous tactical successes, but victory is not measured by tactical successes alone. Everyone will draw their own conclusions after reading this book, and whether you agree with mine is secondary from what you will learn reading this book.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 09-13-2017 at 02:12 AM.
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Old 10-02-2017   #12
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Default What are you currently reading in 2017?

I recently read a brilliant, new book (272 pgs) by a RUC / PSNI veteran of 'The Troubles': 'Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat the IRA' by William Matchett and available via:http://www.secretvictory.co.uk/ Plus the usual outlets.
It is worthy of a new thread, especially as the US Army adopted the 'Attack the Network' theme - which was taken from Northern Ireland.

As the title suggests this is about the missing dimension of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland 1969-1999. The author served for thirty years, mainly in the police’s intelligence department, the Special Branch and then became a police adviser in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.

For many, notably politicians, especially Provisional Sinn Fein, The Good Friday Agreement 1998 (which led to a peace settlement in 1999) was a successfully negotiated compromise between the paramilitaries, Ulster political parties, the British and Irish governments. The author argues strongly that was not true: The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) by the early 1990’s ‘had run out of road’ and needed a face-saving exit. Half the IRA was in jail and most of the rest fugitives living in the Irish Republic (pg.8).

The author’s argument is that a rule of law approach endured – and the best weapon in the counter-terrorism armoury was the intelligence war conducted by the Special Branch (SB). Not to neglect the role of the Army, who had primacy over the police for seven years (1969-1976); with 30,000 serving in 1972, dropping to 15,000 in 1998. The police grew from 3,000 to 13,000 in the same period (pg.146) and in 1986 the SB had 640 officers or 5% of the force (pg.206).

The beginning of the end was the PIRA attack on Loughall police station, the PIRA attack was identified – minus many details – and the SAS ambushed them, killing eight hardened killers. PIRA was totally clueless how the SB knew. Attacks would still happen and 85% of mainland attacks were prevented (pg.219).

There is a mass of detail. I would draw attention to him writing 60% of gathered intelligence came from agents (pg. 22), 20% technical, 15% surveillance and 5% routine policing & open sources (pg. 98). Arrests occurred 96% of the time (pg.23) and the specialist uniformed support unit (E4 HMSU) had an impressive record: 99.5% of covert operations confronting armed terrorists resulted in arrests (pg.220). PIRA volunteers knew in a year’s time they would behind bars or dead. The SAS who dominated covert operations along the border between 1986-1992 killed twenty-one of PIRA’s top operators (pg.231) and in 1997 in South Armagh, the heart of ‘bandit country’ a PIRA sniper team were arrested by the SAS and E4 HMSU.

‘Agents were the decisive factor’ and eventually surveillance, armed response and tactical co-ordination were added – a combination that forced PIRA to capitulate (pg.112)

Much has been written on ‘suspect communities’ and today is often applied to Muslim communities in the UK. The author argues what emerged, under PIRA leadership and strategy, were ‘counter-societies’ that harnessed subversion and political militancy to accompany and support terrorism (pg.69-71). The aim was to make Nationalist areas un-policeable and therefore ungovernable.

The criminalization policy, also known as “Ulsterisation”, led to the PIRA recognizing the criminal justice system and having to defend their actions in criminal courts (minus juries) under public scrutiny (pg. 157). Behind the scenes and yet to become public documents were seven reports by senior Security Service authors (pg. 163).

There are chunks of the book which are controversial, the "shoot to kill" episode and the book fades out as peace approached. Perhaps it is too early even today to place more information in the public domain?
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Old 10-05-2017   #13
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Default don't get high on your own supply

In The Shadows Of The American Century by Alfred W. McCoy


The Language Of The Third Reich by Victor Klemperer


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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #14
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War Commentaries of Caesar by Rex Warner (translator)


Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties by Robert Stone


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