Review: Surprise, Ill, Vanish – The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

3 Star Not Worth Reading In the past I might have given this book 4 stars despite its flaws, but my standards have  gone up (I demand holistic analytics and true cost economics now for 5 stars) and the author makes too many mistakes in areas where I have superior knowledge. Also new is the …

Review: The Cost of Loyalty – Dishonest, Hubris, and Failure in the US Military by Tim Bakken

3 Stars for Deep Whining,  Makes 1 Point Over and Over and Over Again

I am third generation John Boyd, and a harsh critic of military waste and dishonesty — a military that consumes 60% of our disposable budget, cannot win wars, and has ignored the strategic thinking of Doug Macgregor, Tony Zinni, myself, and many others — as well as the acquisition thinking of Pierre Sprey, Chuck Spinney, and Winslow Wheeler. I bought this book expecting to learn something new.

I finished the book and wrote the following:

  • 30% grudge
  • 30% documented shortfalls generally citing others
  • 30% over-the-top misrepresentation and plain dumb-ass ignorance
  • 10% outright whining

The further I got into this book the more annoying I found the author, to the point that I would fire him rather than let him poison more young officers with his combination of grievances and ignorance.

This is a man who conflates conservatism with authoritarianism, and who cannot understand why the US Army would want its Superintendents to be themselves graduates of West Point.

He wants to be eligible for the top positions, considers most if not all of his military faculty counterparts to be underqualified, and is upset over the turnover (which I consider a feature — real world officers are rotated in and out of the faculty).

I went back over the book — being a voracious reader myself I have read and reviewed many of his sources, all of which are better than this book (particularly the US Army Strategic Studies Institute monograph, Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession, 2015).

Here is the book plan:

  • Started with a grudge
  • Fleshed out with countless examples, most from other works
  • Makes some good and important points
  • Overall a tiresome whiney book of no value to the military profession or its civilian critics

The author is delusional in suggesting that a civilian university is in any way better than a US military academy. The dishonesty as well as the perversion and the political virtue signaling and posturing across the academy is broader and deeper than any flaws to be found at any US military academy.

I discussed this book with both one of top three supervisors, a graduate of US Naval Academy Class of 1968, and with an Army Colonel with whom I shared clandestine operations training On balance we agree that the book is more of a grudge book than a solutions book, and, interestingly, that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is part of the problem, because it makes “truthfulness” a form of insubordination if the military superior decides that the “truthfulness” is “disrespectful” in any way.  I found that interesting because I do believe the US military — apart from being wasteful and badly managed — is also given too much latitude by the courts, and patriots serving in the military who wish to challenge treason by their superiors have a very difficult time doing so.


Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Defense)

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on War Complex—War as a Racket

Review: The New Rules of War – Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder by Sean McFate

Amazon Page

Sean McFate

3 Stars — Company Grade Officer Dabbles as Mercenary, Earns PhD, Pens a Sophmoric Best Seller Catering to Deep State Interests

Reviewed by Robert David Steele

This book is at best a ten page article with ten cute “rules” half of which are wrong. There are some useful observations in the book but it loses a second star and drops to three because it is completely lacking on multiple fronts. There are two kinds of “strategic” authors: opportunists, and visionaries. The author falls into the first category.  He has no interest in — and no idea about — making things better (nor does he have a holistic analytic model), he is simply seeking to profit from “durable disorder” and advance his career within the Deep State / Shadow Government system that promotes people like him instead of people like Col Dr. Doug Macgregor.

The ten rules:

Rule 1: Conventional War Is Dead
Rule 2: Technology Will Not Save Us
Rule 3: There Is No Such Thing as War or Peace — Both Coexist, Always
Rule 4: Hearts and Minds Do Not Matter
Rule 5: The Best Weapons Do Not Fire Bullets
Rule 6: Mercenaries Will Return
Rule 7: New Types of World Powers Will Rule
Rule 8: There Will Be Wars Without States
Rule 9: Shadow Wars Will Dominate
Rule 10: Victory Is Fungible

There is no point to my spending time criticizing this book. I knew immediately after looking at the bibliography and index that this was a book by a man-child seeking to impress his mentors (Petraeus and McChristal and whoever runs Atlantic Council these days) and no doubt he has done so — this is their brand of pablum.  This is an Op Ed book, not a PhD book, and certainly not a book with anything to offer the President of the United States of America or anyone actually desiring to Make America Great Again.

What finally did it for me was reading the author’s pretentious discussion of the deep state, which he gets completely wrong. The “deep state” he discusses is actually the Shadow Government (the combination of political parties and captured institutions that front for the Deep State) and I find it annoying that he seems to be deliberately avoiding any mention of Peter Dale Scott who is (along with David Ray Griffin) the top US authors on the topic of the Deep State. His critical comments, some of which are good, appear to be platitudes and he has managed to not read — or not cite — the works of any of the great critics of US foreign and national security policy or US defense acquisition. There is of course no discussion at all of the degree to which the USA has been subverted by the British Empire, Israel, Freemasons, and others. There is no discussion of the sorrows of empire or how easily we could create a prosperous world at peace if we simply got a grip on our integrity.

I am reminded of Thomas Barbett’s book, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century  that was better than this book but still half-baked — it took Barnett about three years to distill and refine his emerging ideas into something truly valuable. Perhaps the same will occur with McFate.

The author appears to have zero familiarity with any works outside his narrow Op Ed focus — such as those on non-military threats, non-military solutions, true cost economics, ethics, information peacekeeping, etcetera. His focus is “mercenary lite” — how do we shift funding from the conventional military to the private sector “ronin” that seek to gain budget share within the US military-industrial complex. I find his dismissal of both CIA paramilitary capabilities (when done right) and Special Operations Forces capabilities (when done right) to be cavalier and typical of the arrogance of the untested young who are being nurtured by powerful mentors as their next generation “insider” puppies.

The final reason I give this book three stars instead of four is for its lack of ethical gravitas and what I find to be unwarranted pretense in relation to his claimed exploits as a mercenary. It is in fact possible to create a prosperous world at peace, you simply have to — as General Al Gray wrote in 1989, in the article I ghost-wrote for him but he improved — invest in peaceful preventive measures. This young man is very ignorant across the board, and particularly in relation to the world of intelligence done right (which rarely occurs). I put the book down with annoyance.

This book is a mix of well-intentioned PhD prescriptions and street corner bluster.

Below I provide Al Gray’s article as I ghost wrote it and he improved it; my first strategic appraisal for the US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, and my most recent book on reinventing national security.

1989 General Al Gray with Robert Steele on Global Intelligence Challenges

2001 Threats, Strategy, and Force Structure: An Alternative Paradigm for National Security

Robert Steele: Open Letter to the President: Reinventing National Security – New Book

Readers seeking vastly more substance than can be found in McFate’s book can consider the books in the lists below that I summarize.

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive Future-Oriented)
Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative Status-Quo)
Worth a Look: Recent Books on 10 High Level Threats
Worth a Look: Recent Books on 12 Core Policies

As an after thought, here is one graphic on why get get it wrong (how we spend money) followed by a few graphics on how to get it right.

Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

How we spend money matters. How we spend money depends on our ethics — our values. Ethics is an operating system.  Right now the US Government and US society are running without ethics — we are a cheating, lying culture.

Review: Inside Trump’s White House by Doug Wead

Amazon Page

Doug Weld

3 Stars — Annoying Puff Piece that Glorifies Jared & Ivanka Kushner, Lacks Substance

I thought this book was going to be important so I looked at the index first (extremely good) and then the end notes (unprofessional and mediocre — URLs instead of full citations of author, title, publication, date). Then on page 7 the author calls Jared Kushner “brilliant” – this is the same Jared Kushner that was in the third out of five ranks in school, bought his way into Harvard, and took a $1B bribe from Qatar to save his failed business.

After reading the entire book I concluded that this book will appeal to the base at a gossip level, but it lacks substance and not only fails completely to calalog the President’s many accomplishments (the Washington Examiner‘s one article, “Trump’s list: 289 accomplishments in just 20 months, ‘relentless’ promise-keeping” has 100X more substance  than this entire book), it is also grossly disrespectful of the First Lady, putting her in as an afterthought and not giving her credit for passing the smell test with the public and making the election of our President possible in that important way.

It is clear to me that this book is a desperate counter to Vicky Ward’s utterly devastating and deeply researched Kushner, Inc. – Greed, Ambition, Corruption (my review here) and the primary purpose of the book is NOT to honor our President (or the First Lady) but to dissemble and deceive with respect to the disasterous, embarrassing, failures of the Clown Prince and #UnwantedInvanka.

The author increases my disdain for this book with his glorification of Paula “give me your money and I will pray that you get wealthy one day” White, a snake oil salesman of the first order — “prosperity gospel” is absolute crap and this woman is an embarrassment to the Presidency. I suspect an investigation will determine that like Bono and the Clintons and others, less than 5% of what she receives in donations actually goes to good works.

Throughout the book there is clear evidence of glibness, shallowness, and a failure to understand both the externalities (Xi’s role in relation to Korea, Putin’s role in relation to Syria), a childish perception of the Nobel Peace Prize (for which I have been recommended), thinking it can be won with one meeting (the Obama standard gives some credence to that but in fact the terms of the will specific one individual who has done the most in the past year to demilitarize the world). Xi, Trump, and Kim, and Moon should win the prize eventually.

The author gets both Syria and ISIS wrong, to the point that I wonder if he ran the book past CIA to ensure he was not running afoul of the false official narratives. ISIS was created by the Mossad, Saudi Arabia, and CIA together, and any book that fails to communicate that is  intellectually and morally deficient.

The author puffs on how Pence got selected. My understanding, from a person party to the decision, is that Paul Manafort and Roger Stone recommended Pence to secure the evangelical Christians that were essential to victory. Pence is a a lazy, pretentious, back-stabbing delusional according to one biography, The Shadow President – The Truth About Mike Pence (my review here) and the author’s account simply does not stand up. I will be very disappointed if the President does not find a way to retire Pence and put in a woman of color, ideally Dr. Cynthia McKinney, toward our shared objective of a landslide victory that mobilizes blacks and women as well as Latinos, students, and the elderly.

Some insights are offered on Brad Parscale but they are overblown — Parscale was a nobody willing to work for half price when Kushner hired him to create low-rent corporate web pages, and today Parscale and Kushner appear to be skimming tens of millions of dollars from Trump’s donations, according to one account, “Are Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale Skimming Tens of Millions of Dollars from Trump Campaign Contributions?

The author disrespects all the other books written by insiders — including particularly Chris Christie whose transition work was destroyed by Jared Kushner, thus cutting in half what the President might have accomplished in his first term). I provide links to my other reviews below, any one of those books is more valuable  than this one.

On a positive note the author illuminates President Trump’s brilliance on Korea (there is only one brilliant person in the White House and it is not Jared Kushner) and captures the importance of how the President has “reinvented” presidential communications to the public. He fails to see of document the mediocrity of the President’s communications  team, or the absence of a Presidential dashboard process for monitoring what the entire public is thinking by location, demographic, and issue.

Bottom line: buy the book if you want the Kushner version of Trump. Ignore the book if you want deeply researched nuanced truth about our President.


Robert Steele: Book Reviews (Trump Era)

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation)

Six Star Reviews:

Chambers, John M.   Review: Trump and the Resurrection of America: Leading America’s Second Revolution

Christie, Chris   Review: Let Me Finish -Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics

Sims, Cliff   Review: Team of Vipers – My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House

Ward, Vicky   Review: Kushner Inc. – Greed. Ambition. Corruption

Five Star Reviews

Bageant, Jim   Review: Deer Hunting with Jesus–Dispatches from America’s Class War

Dobbs, Lou   Review: War on the Middle Class–How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Hartmann, Thom   Review: Screwed–The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class — And What We Can Do About It

Hughes, John F.   Review: Trumped! How Tweets, Trolls, and Memes Won the Presidency for Donald Trump

Norquist, Grover Review: Leave Us Alone–Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives

Sample, Tex   Review: Blue Collar Ministry–Facing Economic and Social Realities of Working People

Steele, Robert   Robert Steele: Book Review Essay – UNHINGED? Donald Trump, His Family, His Appointees, and Everyone Else [Wolff Fire & Fury, Lweandowsky & Bossie Let Trump Be Trump, Gingrich Understanding Trump)

Zito, Salena & BT   Review: The Great Revolt – Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics

Four Star Reviews

D’Antonio, Michael & PE   SPECIAL: Review: The Shadow President – The Truth About Mike Pence + Comment Trump Not Running in 2020?

Frank, Thomas   Review: One Market Under God–Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Kupeliam, David   Review: The Marketing of Evil–How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom

Woodward, Bob   Review: FEAR – Trump & The White House