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Old 07-16-2017   #41
Bill Moore
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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   #42
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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 09-13-2017   #43
Mike in Hilo
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Default Comments on Moore's Review of Herrington

Bill,

Herrington's book is an outstanding memoir of what it meant to be an adviser at the time, and your review captures the essence. I was on the CORDS team in the adjacent province, Tay Ninh, at the same time, and I concur in your conclusions. Hau Nghia, also the setting of Bergerud's The Dynamics of Defeat, was a difficult province, with its rubber plantation workers among the earliest (1946) groups to be organized as Viet Minh cannon fodder. I might point out that Phoenix in Hau Nghia Province, as throughout the Region, was largely a failed enterprise. This is confirmed in the Hau Nghia monthly province reports (available on-line), Phoenix input to which is assuredly Herrington's, in which the writer justifiably, bitterly complains about Phoenix being a revolving door, with apprehended VCI routinely given ridiculously light sentences.


You may want to read Herrington's' second VN book, Peace With Honor?, which takes the reader through to the unfortunate 1975 end. I cannot forget my Vietnamese counterparts asking me in those last months, "We don't need your material assistance, we need US tactical air support; will we get it?" It gave me no pleasure to tell them that was out of the question.

Cheers,
Mike.
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Old 09-15-2017   #44
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Default wake of the flood

The Hidden History of the Korean War by I.F. Stone


Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone


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Old 09-27-2017   #45
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Default the grasshopper lies heavy

In a Time of Torment 1961-1967 by I.F. Stone


Polemics and Prophecies 1967-1970 by I.F. Stone


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Old 10-01-2017   #46
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Default The China Mirage

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia
by James Bradley

https://www.amazon.com/China-Mirage-.../dp/0316196681

The “mirage” he refers to in his book is the perception the U.S. public had of China based on a 1930s American propaganda pamphlet that described China as a great nation that loved America and embraced Christianity. I can’t recall reading another book in recent times that was so well written, yet so very simplistic and dishonest overall. This book certainly is not authoritative history, rather it’s simply a diatribe about how the U.S. “needlessly” got involved in three wars in East Asia.
The mirage argument has some merit, but he gives it far more weight than it deserves. Bradley argues this “mirage” shaped U.S. policy to such an extent it led us needlessly into WW2, the Korea War, and Vietnam. To be fair, the author presents some interesting facts on our early diplomatic history with China, and power of lobbies on U.S. foreign policy in East Asia. However, as a whole the book is almost completely void of the broader historical context that shaped strategic decision making.
He implies we should have supported or acquiesced to Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere in East Asia. He claims our oil embargo against Japan as his justification for his claim our war against Japan was unnecessary. No doubt, the oil embargo accelerated Japan’s time line to aggress beyond Northeast Asia, Japan already had plans to take over the Dutch Indies to secure raw materials to sustain their war effort in China. Bradley does not discuss agreements made between Japan and German in the 1930s, then culminating with the Tripartite Pact in 1940. Bradley only focuses on East Asia, but assuming he believes our intervention in Europe in WWII (yes finally actualized after the attack on Pearl Habor) was just, doing so would have prompted Japan to declare war on the U.S. The underlying argument I’m making is war with Japan was going to happen regardless.
Throughout the book, Bradley expresses his support of Mao, as though he was more legitimate than Chiang. A historian would have pointed out that both leaders were deeply flawed. Oddly enough, the left still embraces Mao in the West, while Maoism is largely rejected in China today. After the Civil War Mao killed 45 million of his own people to establish his “legitimacy.” In contrast, Chiang’s Taiwan, while initially a dictatorship was much more successful, and eventually blossomed into a prosperous democracy. The argument that Mao was a nationalist more than a communist has been refuted by history, even the Soviets found his methods excessive.
Bradley claimed the Flying Tigers were insignificant and only conducted one raid of note, and that the investment in logistics to sustain this outfit was simply based on the influence of the China lobby in Washington, D.C. and not for sound military purposes. I have no expertise on the Flying Tigers, but the historical summaries I looked up recently provide an alternative view. Historical accounts state that the Flying Tigers destroyed 2,355 Japanese planes and compared to the loss of 127 American planes. Supposedly this record was never beaten? Maybe they haven’t have a decisive strategic impact, but it certainly contributed to Japan’s culmination.
Bradley leverages the same tired arguments regarding the U.S. involvement in Vietnam War. In his view Ho Chi Minh wasn’t really a communist and wanted to be friends with the U.S. Our involvement in the Vietnam War was complicated and arguably our strategy was deeply flawed. All U.S. Presidents during that time period admitted we couldn’t win without an effective government in the Republic of Vietnam. While true, that doesn’t mean Ho or his successor were any better. Strategically, they were much better at indoctrinating their people and mobilizing them in pursuit of a dream that rapidly dissipated once the communists won. After winning, Le Duan said he would turn Vietnam a bastion of Stalinism. Contrary to the legitimacy claim based on nationalism, he forced his people into collective communes that went strongly against the grain of Vietnamese culture. Like all communist economic theories, it failed, people starved and revolted. The Vietnam government was forced to make reforms in the mid-80s. Another so-called legitimate leader and his legacy bite the dust.
Today Bradley argues China is not an aggressive country, and that we simply misunderstand them. I suspect we do misunderstand them, and not everything China is bad, but many nations in East Asia think China is increasingly aggressive based on China’s behavior, not a propaganda booklet. In the end, I think Bradley is either naïve or a fraud, what he is not is a historian.
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Old 10-02-2017   #47
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Default Bandit Mentality: Hunting Insurgents in the Rhodesian Bush War by Lindsay O’Brien

A well produced paperback (358 pgs) from UK-based Helion & Company:http://www.helion.co.uk/bandit-menta...-a-memoir.html

This is a refreshingly honest account by a New Zealander who volunteered to serve in Rhodesia’s British South African Police Support Unit, as the insurgency gained momentum 1976-1980. The Support Unit was the still largely civilian police’s para-military unit (1200 strong), with black African other ranks & NCOs and officered by regular, white police officers and those whites doing National Service.

What motivated him to serve? Simply ‘a selfish love of combat and life with a complete lack of routine…I was hooked on the adrenalin rush…adventure for the sake of adventure’ (Pg.267). Plus the opportunity between six week tours in the bush to drink, party and relax. By 1978 even with his experience no-one bothered to persuade him to stay, so the author left and ended up as an adviser to newly recruited UANC fighters, known as security force auxiliaries.

Little has been written about the ordinary black African role in Rhodesia’s insurgency; I exclude the Selous Scouts who were mainly turned ex-guerrillas. Loyalties were not fixed, the author recounts in the autumn of 1976 a captured guerrilla recruit claimed to be a serving policeman’s wife (Pg.79). Their motives were mixed, paid employment, revenge for some; they were loyal to the Support Unit and the BSAP – who ‘watched over them’ and like the French Foreign Legion ‘gave solid service in return’ (Pg.172).

The stance of the majority, rural African population in the Tribal Trust Lands facing violence from the guerrillas and the Rhodesian security forces was to steadily change. The Africans would claim ignorance of the guerrilla’s presence to actively supporting them. A good illustration at a Rhodesian firepower demonstration from an old African man asking ‘He said that if we are so powerful, why are there so many CTs in the bush? A good question’ (Pg.80).

Counterinsurgency warfare success is based on the security forces protecting the civilians from the insurgents; Rhodesia simply had extremely limited spending power, let alone forces able to live with the rural Africans and protect them (Pg.132). Personally I doubt the white Rhodesian government had the motivation to ever protect "their Africans", an attiude that hardened as the war developed.

This is a book which rightly concentrates on hunting insurgents, although criticisms of the Rhodesian approach abound, for example the lack of any briefing and debriefing (Pg.289). It helps to explain why Rhodesia failed to survive as the numbers of disaffected Africans grew, with so many leaving to join the nationalist guerrillas the security forces could not “hold the line”.

Worth reading, in part for the author's recollections and what can be learnt today. "Holding the line" is an appropriate phrase, yes a negotiated settlement was reached in 1979, but the "line" was simply full of holes and lacked after the Portuguese exit in 1974 strong foundations.

*Copied to Rhodesian COIN thread*.
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Old 10-02-2017   #48
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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   #49
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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   #50
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Default set the controls for the heart of the sun

War Commentaries of Caesar by Rex Warner (translator)


Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties by Robert Stone


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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #51
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Default An ex-BSAP adds his review of Bandit Mentality

Cited in part (from Post 47):
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
A well produced paperback (358 pgs) from UK-based Helion & Company:http://www.helion.co.uk/bandit-menta...-a-memoir.html

This is a refreshingly honest account by a New Zealander who volunteered to serve in Rhodesia’s British South African Police Support Unit, as the insurgency gained momentum 1976-1980.
Thanks to a "lurker", ex-BSAP at the time for this comment:
Quote:
I concur that the book was a good read, as I could reference places and situations the author mentions.

On the book, the author portrayed a very “Gung Ho” approach to events and I find it strange that he was allowed to get away with a number of things he actually did. I believe there was quite a bit of literary licence used. Initially, contacts and events were as one would expect, but as the book progressed so did the valour and attitudes. It may be me reading between the lines as the author was decorated for bravery.

In the book, he emphasized his position as being one of trust and honesty when dealing with matters, but then at the end he mentioned that he “sold up” his collection of stolen arms to pay for his trip back to New Zealand.

I did however, enjoy the book and would recommend it.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #52
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Default The Force of Reason

The Force of Reason
by Oriana Fallaci

https://www.amazon.com/Force-Reason-...70_&dpSrc=srch

It has been awhile since I have read a book written with this much passion. She is a self-described Christian atheist, whose isn't left or right politically, but she viciously attacks the brain dead far left incapable of reason. More to the point she describes what she sees as an existential threat to Europe, the Eurarabia trend, where European culture is rapidly being displaced by Islamic culture, enabled by feeble far left politicians.

Quote:
I write not for money, I write out of a sense of duty. A duty which is costing my life to dispel the silly and cynical lies dispensed to us like arsenic inside the soup.
Although she has a history of leaning left politically, she rejects the new left (my words), which is incapable of independent thinking and void of logic.

Quote:
"Though the daughter of secularism, (besides a secularism begotten by liberalism and consequently not consonant with dogmatism), the Left is not laic. Whether it dresses in red or black or pink or green or white or in all the colours of the rainbow, the Left is confessional. Ecclesiastic. Because it derives from an ideology of religious character. That is it appeals to ideology which claims to possess the Truth. . . Like Islam it considers itself sanctified by a God who is the custodian of the Truth. Like Islam it never acknowledges it faults and its errors, it considers itself infallible and never apologizes. Like Islam it demands a world at its own image, a society built on the verses of the Prophet. . . Like Islam it does not accept different opinions and if you think differently it despises you. It denigrates you, it punishes you. Like Islam, in short, it is illiberal."
In sum this book is about resistance to Islamic fascism. She argues Troy is burning in Europe, but she has great faith in America to oppose this evil.

Quote:
"The war that Islam has declared on the West is not really a military war. It's a cultural war. A war, Tocqueville would say, that instead of our body wants to strike our soul. Our way of life, our philosophy of Life. Our way of thinking, of acting, of loving. Our freedom.
Don't be fooled by their explosives. They are just a strategy. Those death lovers don't us just for the pleasure of killing: they kill us to break our spirit.
Quote:
The decline of intelligence is the decline of Reason. And everything which now happens in Europe, in Eurabia, is also a decline of Reason. A decline which before being morally wrong is intellectually wrong. Refusing to admit that all Islam is a pond inside which we are drowning, in fact, is against reason. Not defending our territory, our homes, our children, our dignity, our essence, is against Reason.
I enjoyed the passion, the prose, and agree with her message.

The moment you give up your principles, and your values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period. Oriana Fallaci

To learn about this fascinating author who sadly passed away in 2007, the following links to one short story and one of medium length provides some insights to her life.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/b...e-stefano.html

Oriana Fallaci, Right or Wrong
By NINA BURLEIGHNOV. 3, 2017

Quote:
Her interviews remain studies in speaking truth to power. Interviewing Ayatollah Khomeini, she famously called the chador a “stupid, medieval rag” and took it off, provoking the Ayatollah to leave the room. (It is a testament to her journalistic power that he came back the next day.) She badgered Ariel Sharon about the meaning of the word “terrorist” and accused him of having been one himself. She got Henry Kissinger to compare himself to a cowboy, alone “with his horse and nothing else.” Nixon, De Stefano writes, “was not at all pleased by the cowboy metaphor.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...hought/305377/

She Said What She Thought
Mark Steyn December 2006 Issue

Quote:
One would have been only mildly surprised had her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini followed the same trajectory. After traveling to Qom and cooling her heels for ten days waiting for him to agree to see her, she was ushered—barefoot and wearing a chador—into his presence—and found what she subsequently described as the most handsome old man she’d ever met. In his own way, Khomeini must have dug the crazy Italian chick. The meeting was terminated when she tore off “this stupid medieval rag” and hurled her chador to the floor, but he agreed to finish the interview a day or two later.

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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #53
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Default Heading to Nirvana

I had a strong interest in peak performance physically and mentally as it relates to being a warrior, but the interest now is more in peak performance for life in general. Over the years the Special Operations community has explored these topics, but disappointedly never really embraced as part of our culture. However, there is interest now in using mediation to address PTSD.

The two most recent books I read are:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/03...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/14...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment

The first book provided some interesting insights on the how scientific research is evolving, how the tests are conducted, the associated bias that is difficult to eliminate, etc. However, it provided less than a chapter in total on how mediation is proven to change your mind, brain, and body. Frankly, there isn't sufficient scientific evidence yet, but according to the authors that is changing based on the large volume of ongoing research.

The second book I enjoyed much more. The author draws parallels in the latest views from the world of psychology and how they align with what Buddhists have discover centuries ago.

The author does a good job of explaining some the key tenants of Buddhism in plain English, such as mindfulness, emptiness, and nirvana. While in plain English, the concepts are not simple and the author doesn't simplify them. If you're interested in the topic, I would recommend this book.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #54
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Default drang nach osten

Military Misfortunes by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch


Endless Empire by Alfred W. McCoy, Josep M. Fradera, and Stephen Jacobsen (editors)


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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #55
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Default Review: Last Hope Island

Posted at Brownpundits.

Text:
The history of the Second World War continues to offer up new and fascinating details as archives are opened and dying old men occasionally decide to tell the truth before they die (the latter opportunity is now almost gone, the first is still a work in progress). Lynne Olson does a good job here of bringing to light an aspect of that titanic struggle that deserves its own book length treatment: the European exiles who found shelter in Great Britain (the “Last Hope Island” of the title) and the role they played in the war.

These exiles did not always come to England because England had stood by them; The Czechs had been sold out; the Poles, while unlikely to survive in any case, received little or no real help against the Nazis; the Norwegian campaign and Britain’s blunders and betrayals in that saga are already relatively well known (Churchill, responsible for some of the biggest blunders, was lucky to survive them and become PM; that he did survive them also proved fortunate for those who opposed Nazism, since blunders and all, he was still crucial to the survival of Britain and even the eventual liberation of Western Europe). Benelux and the French fell mostly to their own weaknesses, but Britain’s interventions were not without their share of blunders, minor betrayals and other embarrassments. This book reveals all these details, and shows how much of what did survive owed to individual initiatives, chance, and the vicissitudes of fate, and not to the brilliant performance of the British establishment. Though to be fair, the lesson here is not that Britain had a bumbling establishment, but rather how much stupidity and muddle-headedness attends any great war, especially before the kinks are worked out.
The role of the Poles in particular is worth highlighting (and tragic, now that we know what happened to that much-abused nation in the years that followed); it is already relatively well known that Polish pilots played an outsize role in the crucial Battle of Britain, but I did not realize how much resistance they faced before being allowed to play that role; what is less well appreciated, even today, is how critical their role was in the decoding of Enigma, far and away the greatest intelligence coup of the war. The role of the French in Enigma is also highlighted, as is the absolutely critical role they played in jump-starting the Western nuclear program.

(side note: i did not know that Marian Rejewski, the great Polish mathematician who first broke Enigma, died in near-obscurity in Soviet controlled Poland, living for 20 years in anonymity to avoid the fate of countless other returning Polish exiles, who were exiled to Siberia or killed outright by the Soviets).


The fact that MI6 was a bumbling, incompetent old boys club led by second-raters is made clear, as is the reason for their extremely exalted reputation (including among their enemies; Hitler was a huge fan); they benefited from (and shamelessly took credit for) the flood of intelligence they were able to get from the intelligence networks of many defeated nations (now headquartered under their supervision in London), first and foremost, the heroic Poles.
Interesting tidbit: Roosevelt talked about handing over the Norwegian port of Narvik to the Soviets after the war. That he was generally shameless (and ill-informed and foolish) about the fate of smaller nations is pretty well known already, and is highlighted in this book; incidentally, the “free world” may have dodged a bullet by having him die in time for the relatively more principled and less megalomaniacal Truman to take over, errors and omissions excepted.
The book follows the general progress of the war to its end, including the liberation of France, the probably avoidable Dutch hunger winter that followed Montgomery’s over-cautious and then over-ambitious blundering, and the much more clouded and frequently cruel liberation that attended the Soviet victory in the East. It ends with an account of the setting up of supranational institutions (starting with the Benelux treaty, then the larger and much more consequential coal and steel pacts, the EEC and finally the EU).


Personally, I would have liked some more facts and figures and a few pages offering the author’s own summary of the lessons learned from each section, but that is just me.
All in all, a very readable, very interesting, fact-packed book about an important but somewhat neglected aspect of the war. It is possible that the weight of Soviet numbers, Russian asabiya and American industry would have led to the same final outcome and all other players (including even Great Britain) were relatively small fry, but it is also possible, even probable, almost certain, that the survival of that Island was critical, and that relatively small contingencies played a big part in that survival. One of those was the arrival on that island of some very determined, courageous and talented refugees from Nazi occupied Europe. This is their story.

By the way, brought to my attention by @cybertosser : some of the Poles ended up in Pakistan. One, Air Commodore Turowicz, played an important role in setting up not just the technical facilities of the Pakistan Air Force, but also our infant space program..

And Seapower:

This is not really a history of sea power in any strong sense. Stavridis mostly gives a somewhat superficial and cliched review of all the world's oceans (the books is organized ocean by ocean) and ends with some cliched remarks about the importance of sea power and that is about it. If you are interested in a history of sea power, this is not really the book for you.
Still, you will learn some new things (and several good book recommendations; he recommends books about every topic he covers) and it does have some nice anecdotes about his time in the US Navy and its activities around the world in the last 40 years.
Not much meat.

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Old 1 Week Ago   #56
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Default The Smear

The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote

by Sharyl Attkisson

from Amazon

Quote:
Ever wonder how politics turned into a take-no-prisoners blood sport? The New York Times bestselling author of Stonewalled pulls back the curtain on the shady world of opposition research and reveals the dirty tricks those in power use to influence your opinions
.

This book was written by someone in the know, and it will be very illuminating for many Americans who haven't been exposed to how our media spins so called news stories and shapes the opinions of Americans (and beyond). However, at the end of the day, the mostly far left media, despite employing a wide span of dirty tricks, failed to stop the successful Presidential bid of Donald Trump. Thankfully many Americans saw past the spin.

While she provides a lot of insight into the dirty tricks the Clintons (both Hillary and Bill) employed over the years, Republicans and others are also exposed.

My interpretation of the book, is Sharyl describes how politics evolved from mostly issues based competition to mostly personal attacks, and issues have taken a back seat. She exposes the millions of dollars spent on opposition party research, and then the elaborate campaigns to ruin the reputation of the candidates running for office. She points out that smear campaigns are driven by passion, money, and ideology. She adds a successful smear is interesting (sex, illegal activity), explainable in a sentence (crooked Hillary), and confirms what people want to believe.

Most importantly, unlike a democracy should work, agendas are set by those who can bring their persuasive arguments before a power broker, and money talks more than anything else in the cesspool of D.C.'s politics. She acknowledges smear campaigns in the U.S. go all way back to our founding fathers, but they have reached a new level. She argues the shift was made possible by 2010 Supreme Court decision in the "Citizens v. Federal Elections Commission. Until this decision, federal law imposed strict limits on how much a person could donate to a political campaign to limit the ability of the wealthy special interest groups to "buy" candidates. This decision eliminated those limits and even allows corporations and unions to give unlimited funds to non-profits to support a particular candidate. This resulted in the emergence of tax-exempt social welfare groups called superPACs.

In my view, this explains why our politicians can't sit down, roll up their sleeves, and negotiate compromised solutions across the aisle. They are bought and paid for, and therefore beholden to those who paid for them. Of course, this is why several individuals and corporations that donated millions of dollars to the Clinton campaign are so upset she lost.

Not only people are smeared, but so are the issues themselves. For example, fake science provides arguments on both sides of the global warming debate. A critical issue now masked in the fog (or smog) of fake science supported by moneyed interests instead of the interest of mankind.

There is some wisdom to the argument of kill all the lawyers, the vast majority of our political elite. Replace them with Engineers and doctors and others who make a living solving problems instead of creating them. I don't know if a deep state actually exists, but I'm convinced there is a deep meta-state consisting of the media and moneyed interest groups that seek to deceive the American people to protect their interests. No doubt a move is afoot to smear the author of this book, but if read it will expose how the system currently operates.
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