Editor’s Shelf


From Parameters,  Winter 2007-08, pp. 110-112.


Since the events of 9/11 it would appear that every facet of the global media is to some degree searching for the answer to America’s “intelligence failure;” not in any attempt to provide solutions, but rather, to cast doubt and incrimination. True, the conduct of some phases of the war on terrorism seems to have afflicted a number of those in positions of authority with a paranoia obfuscating many of the nation’s historic virtues and strengths; individuality, self-confidence, candor, esprit, and empathy readily come to mind. It is in such times of national-doubt that the strong and innovative look for solutions shunning the negative. Two books that have recently crossed my desk reflect this spirit of innovation and strategic foresight. Thomas C. Bruneau and Steven C. Boraz have edited an excellent anthology analyzing the strategies, techniques, and policies pursued by intelligence services in the United States and other democratic states around the globe. Reforming Intelligence: Obstacles to Democratic Control and Effectiveness contains a number of case studies examining the traditional tension between a democracy’s demand for open government and an intelligence service’s desire for secrecy. Although focused primarily on established democratic states, the United States and United Kingdom, a number of the authors provide insight into developing democracies such as Brazil and Taiwan. This timely collection, written and edited by experts in the intelligence arena, is certain to provide readers with many of the “hard truths” required for greater understanding of the mystical and secretive world of national intelligence. The second book, Transforming Military Force: The Legacy of Arthur Cebrowski and Network Centric Warfare, is authored by Dr. James R. Blaker, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Analysis and previous Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force. Whether the reader agrees with the author’s definition and description of transformation and network-centric warfare or not, all will acknowledge that the inspiration and driving force behind these efforts was Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN, Retired. The author draws on a number of sources to chronicle Cebrowski’s vision to include the admiral’s writings, presentations, testimony, media interviews, and personal conversations. Of particular value to this reviewer was the ability to determine (for the first time) how Cebrowski pictured each of the services’ transformation programs fitting in the overall plan for transformation within the Department of Defense. Hopefully, Art Cebrowski’s untimely death in 2005 has not stymied his unwavering search

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for new and efficient approaches to the exercise of military power. It is this continuing quest that serves as testament to a great man and visionary; a man who truly understood the relationship between military power and morality.

If America is genuinely seeking innovative answers to the asymmetric threats that we now face on a global basis there is a place we might go to begin our search and achieve greater understanding of our enemies. Are they terrorists, insurgents, patriots, or simply rascals? The world of books is slowly sinking under an ever-rising flood of hyperbolic ranting and declarations of moral and religious insight and national right that only serve to obviate any real understanding of the threats we face. Fortunately, there are still a few voices of reason and comprehension out there. The following are a few of the recent publications that deserve the attention of our readers. Augustus Richard Norton has penned Hezbollah: A Short History. The only negative associated with this excellent presentation is the fact that it is a “short” history (159 pages of actual text). The author has masterfully provided a legitimate counterpoint to the “simplistic stereotype” most Americans have of Hezbollah and its purposes. Drawing on more than three decades of experience in Middle Eastern affairs, Norton unfolds a fair and dispassionate tale of an organization he classifies as a political party, rather than the standard mantra of terrorist. There is little doubt that many in America and around the world will smart at what they may interpret as a sympathetic portrayal of an organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, Lebanese, and Americans. Of special interest to the novice is Norton’s insight into the relationship between the Shia and Sunni communities that Hezbollah has nurtured for decades. This brief examination of an organization (movement) that has succeeded militarily, politically, and socially on one of the world’s most volatile frontiers gives readers greater understanding of the myriad of challenges facing any legitimate government in this part of the world.

Our friends at RAND Corporation continue to provide readers with insight into the security challenges and interactions influencing today’s international environment through the publication of well-researched and innovative works. Among the plethora of RAND publications are three new books examining the motivations and influences responsible for the growth of terrorism around the globe. The first, Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risk by Angel Rabasa, et al. is based on a study of failed or failing states and ungoverned areas that serve as incubation sites for any number of terrorist organizations. The members of the study group have used a two-tiered framework to analyze eight cases from around the world illustrating the conditions in ungoverned territories conducive to terrorists or insurgents. The authors then distill these conditions down to three specific types of territories having a direct impact on America’s security interests. The book stands alone as one of the few works in years to not only identify the myriad of challenges arising from these areas, but for actually presenting strate-

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gies based on a solid analytical framework capable of countering such threats. The book is a strong contender for the libraries of any reader concerned with America’s role in the war on international terrorism. The second offering in this trilogy is the monograph Breaching the Fortress Wall: Understanding Terrorist Efforts to Overcome Defensive Technologies by Brian A. Jackson, et al. The authors base their thesis on the belief that there is a critical need to develop and maintain the technical countermeasures capable of combating terrorist violence and thereby ensuring homeland security. The members of the project examine a number of terrorist organizations and their attempts to defeat or counter the technological systems utilized by the United States and its allies to guarantee security. By analyzing a number of case studies detailing terrorist attempts to counter the technologies currently used, the authors are able to present a picture of potential weaknesses, thereby providing the basis for improving design and capability. The authors have provided a work that should be of great interest to any security policymaker or student of domestic security issues. The third offering is a monograph companion to the previous one, Sharing the Dragon’s Teeth: Terrorist Groups and the Exchange of New Technologies by Kim Cragin, et al. The authors examine the partnerships that various terrorist groups have formed, especially with regard to mutually supportive technologies. They analyze several case studies related to how 11 terrorist organizations in three distinct regions of the world have shared technologies and knowledge. The fact the authors choose regions where the terrorists are fairly robust means that the technologies and the exchange processes between groups have a good probability of succeeding, if only on a limited scale. The authors conclude that if legitimate governments are going to be successful against these organizations and their technological capabilities, they must take positive action to improve current threat assessments, create innovative ways to counter such groups, and make the possible use of these technologies too expensive in terms of cost-benefit for the terrorist groups.

Michael Innes offers readers a second edited work on the theme of ungoverned territories in Denial of Sanctuary: Understanding Terrorist Safe Havens. The author has gathered several of the world’s top experts to explore the root causes and consequences associated with the use of sanctuaries by terrorists. The authors emphasize that the denial of sanctuary or safe havens in traditional counterinsurgency strategy has placed undue emphasis on physical territory. They go on to explain that to totally comprehend the role that sanctuaries play in today’s global environment it is necessary to explore multiple secret worlds, filled with extremists, soldiers, criminals, and spies. Worlds that the authors believe are far more complex and varied than traditional doctrine and strategy would suggest. This book, along with Rabasa’s work, is essential reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of the role that sanctuaries and safe havens play in the strategy of the international terrorist. — RHT  


For details on publishers and prices of books mentioned, see “Off the Press” in this issue or call Parameters at 717-245-4943 (e-mail: usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil).


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Reviewed 12 December 2007. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil