Tower of Babble / The Weight of the Mustard Seed – BONUS POST

The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Tower of Babble, How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos” by Dore Gold, published in 2004.

“It is telling that the United Nations could not even reach a working definition of the very thing [“aggression”] that it had been created to prevent… [and to the book’s writing] Rather than outlawing terrorism, the United Nations was finding ways of condoning it as a legitimate form of political expression.”

This was an oversimplified, disorganized book-long rant on the United Nations’ history of handling conflicts in the hotspots of the world. It is possible the author thought that high schools might use this as a textbook, or perhaps this too-cursory volume would be a quick, easy reference tool– for newly minted UN employees, foreign correspondents or foreign service officers– to be used to acquire a little context on the places to which they would be traveling to, or assigned in the future.

The author provided summaries of the UN’s role in major international hostilities and events, such as those of the Palestinians and Israelis, India and Pakistan, North Korea and South Korea, and China and Tibet, among other countries with tribes warring within, between and among; plus the Korean War, Congo in 1961, Hungary in 1956, the Suez Canal Crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Six-Day War in 1967, UN Resolution 242, the First Gulf War, the Iran-Iraq War, human rights abuses of the Kurds in the 1980’s, the Oil-For-Food Program and Kofi Annan’s various misdeeds, genocide in Rwanda, anarchy in Somalia, genocide in the Balkans, Hezbollah’s terrorist acts in Lebanon, and Hamas in connection with refugee camps in Lebanon.

Yes, this book could be a starting point. However, it takes years to get a well-rounded education in geopolitics. Readings in modern international history should include, if possible, numerous personal accounts of each of the major stakeholders in the conflicts.

In the too-long introduction (which should have been included in the book-at-large), the author argued that the United States was justified in punishing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003. He wrote, “… the UN’s failures mean that in some situations the U.S. is compelled to protect world order by itself, or within more limited coalitions outside of the UN.” For arguments against the war, see this blog’s posts:

  • From Jailer to Jailed
  • Second Chance
  • Halliburton’s Army
  • The Good Fight
  • The Greatest Story Ever Sold
  • Fire-Breathing Liberal
  • Sleeping With the Devil
  • Talking Back
  • Waiting For An Ordinary Day

and the post below.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Weight of the Mustard Seed, The Intimate Story of an Iraqi General and His Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny” by Wendell Steavenson, published in 2009. This slim volume contained a rambling, disorganized collection of descriptions of a patriarch and his family, his colleagues, and a “where are they now” epilogue.

The patriarch, Kamel Sachet, had a successful military career largely similar to hundreds of other Muslim Iraqi men born just after WWII– until their lives and those of their families were turned upside down or cut short by Saddam Hussein’s regime, which began in 1979.

The ruling Baath Party favored funding education and economic diversification to reduce total dependency on oil revenues, and was not averse to Western cultural influences.

Nevertheless, according to the author, with the increasing governmental crackdown on dissidents through the years, the Iraqis chose to either drown their sorrows with alcohol or become more religious. The women stopped wearing makeup, and covered up their bodies with clothing; the men prayed five times a day and memorized passages of the Koran.

Tribal or religious leaders were replaced by political (Baath) leaders. Traditionally, from the cradle to the grave, Iraqis were told what to think, how to behave, how to live. For the most part, they were not independent thinkers.

The Sachet family, which had nine children, took solace in the tenets of Islam. The head of the elementary school where the wife taught told her that she needed to be an active Baath Party member, or she would be fired. So she began to attend the mandatory weekly meetings and paid her financial dues.

The author interviewed a major in the military (a doctor, really) in the army medical corps who had met Mr. Sachet, a then-lieutenant colonel in a military prison in 1983, during the Iran-Iraq war.

The doctor was in a military prison perhaps because he was a Shia from the shrine of Kerbala. He was fortunate in that his friends in high places got him released after he signed a statement confessing to a few misdemeanors, including “… having improper relations with the nurses at Rashid hospital…” Sachet was there because he refused to join the Baath Party.

The two were both released after some months of torture and humiliation. The former was forced to witness six executions of soldiers accused of desertion. The accused each got thirty bullets to the head.

By spring 2006, there was anarchy in Iraq, as the Americans, Kurds, Sunna and Shia were loath to lead the country: “… everyone had a gun and every political leader, sheikh and neighborhood don had an army / bodyguard / militia.”

Read the book to learn of the personal stories of the victims.

Father Son & Co.

The Book of the Week is “Father Son & Co., My Life at IBM and Beyond” by Thomas J. Watson Jr. and Peter Petre, published in 1990.

Curiously, the word “mainframe” never appeared in this volume. Not even once.

Born in 1914, Watson Jr. (hereinafter referred to as “Jr.”), who grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, was the oldest of four siblings. His father (Watson Sr., hereinafter referred to as “Sr.”), who played well with others, executed a financial turnaround of Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (renamed IBM in 1924).

Sr. instituted a corporate culture of “investiture socialization”– training, educating, and fostering cooperation among employees and rewarding them for performing well. They had air-conditioned offices and factories (rare for the 1930’s) in Endicott, in upstate New York. Their corporate campus afforded them the use of a country club that offered free concerts, a dining room, two golf courses, a shooting range, and library.

Top management encouraged even the lowest-level workers to make suggestions for improving working conditions. On one occasion, an anonymous complaint that reached Sr.’s desk alleged that a heating system in a plant was being renovated too early in spring, making the work environment freezing, and there was one toilet for fifty employees. Jr. was sent to personally investigate. He wrote that he began remedying the situation within one day.

The first half of the twentieth century is obviously a bygone era in employment. The non-union IBM was competing with other employers that provided labor-union: benefits, compensation and job security for their workers.

Sr. was practically the only corporate executive in America in the Depression years who agreed with FDR’s policies. One hard and fast rule under the “cult of personality” which Sr. developed, was that alcohol was prohibited in all IBM offices at all times, including lunchtime off-campus, and even special occasions.

IBM initially sold scales and meat slicers business-to-business, but switched to leasing of, and tech support for, electric typewriters and punch-card machines. That last product automated all accounting functions and processing of sales data.

In 1940, Sr. testified at a Congressional hearing on “technological unemployment”– the unfortunate, economically adverse situation in which people are thrown out of work when processes get automated. Sr. argued that his company was good for the economy, as it stimulated consumerism.

During WWII, IBM contracted with the War Department to manufacture machine guns, and keep tabs on a slew of battle-related statistics: “… bombing results, casualties, prisoners, displaced persons, and supplies.”

IBM found that the most cost-effective way to run its international business through its subsidiary, World Trade, was to assemble machine-parts in various countries so as to force interdependence among them and share the wealth. Immediately after WWII, though, there were disastrous financial losses in Europe especially, until infrastructure could be rebuilt.

By then, the company had about 22,000 employees, most of whom worshipped Sr. His photo hung on the walls of their offices. Nevertheless, at the time, he was smart enough to listen to IBM’s vice president of engineering. The latter was virtually the only manager who had the foresight to raise the alarm early, on the coming obsolescence of the medium of punch-cards, which took up scads of storage space but allowed instantaneous data-viewing. The technologically superior, compact medium of magnetic tape stored data which were invisible until viewed on a monitor. It was unclear how long the transition from punch-card to tape would take, but entrepreneurs were already making inroads on the extremely expensive experimentation required.

In the 1950’s, the U.S. government commissioned IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do a joint defense project called SAGE. In 1957, the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik showed SAGE to be “… a costly fantasy, the SDI of its day. Before long, we found ourselves vastly overarmed, faced with the danger of mutual annihilation.”

In 1967, in the wake of racial tensions in America, IBM built a plant in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York City. It was part of a social program that was modestly successful; suggested by a task force comprised of white business leaders who assisted a black community board with economic development.

The author admitted that IBM had become a monopoly of sorts by the 1970’s. “The [anti-trust case against IBM] dragged on for twelve years, until the Reagan administration finally dropped it in 1981… the natural forces of technology etched away whatever monopoly we may have had.”

Read the book to learn about the role played by IBM with regard to other major negative and positive economic trends driving America over the course of more than half a century, plus more biographical information on the author and his family.

ENDNOTE: Alarmists on both sides of the economic spectrum shouldn’t have nearly as much fodder with which to propagandize, if they heed the lessons from this book, lessons that smack of deju vu all over again :

  • Some people might say Moore’s Law has run its course in the United States (See the post, “Moore’s Law / Elon Musk”).
  • Microsoft learned the most lucrative lessons from IBM in preparing its own legal defense against the Justice Department’s antitrust accusations.
  • The national healthcare system of the United States can only improve in the coming decades– eliminating one major cost for employers that was seriously hampering their bottom line.
  • The way IBM began to do business internationally decades ago, is still in existence. And
  • supply and demand will compel Americans to find solutions to seemingly overwhelming problems, such as those relating to energy, environmentalism and education.

Of course, there will always be leaders who, grateful for term limits, lacking courage– adopt the attitude of the character Linus in the “Peanuts” comic strip: No problem is ever so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.

Outsider in the White House

The Book of the Week is “Outsider in the White House” by Bernie Sanders with Huck Gutman, published in 1997, with an afterword added in 2016. This was a combination bragfest / rant of a political-career memoir.

In 1981, Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He was a member of the Independent party. The then-board of aldermen (equivalent to a city council) consisted of eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Citizen Party member. They outvoted him at every opportunity. Nonetheless, he was able to get rid of sweetheart contracts, and establish:

  • competitive bidding;
  • a Little League;
  • a tree-planting initiative on city streets;
  • a summer concert series;
  • a Progressive Coalition that helped get board-of-aldermen candidates elected, who would help him. [In 1982, three of six Wards of Burlington won their elections. But the Coalition never did get a majority on the board];
  • community-oriented entities (such as the Burlington Women’s Council, and a Youth Office that included a Teen Center, to implement local initiatives such as Operation Snow Shovel); and music and cultural events.

Sanders improved city services in law enforcement, firefighting and sanitation. He secured programs for TRULY affordable housing (unlike in New York City). Although he was the mayor of a city, he delved into the foreign-policy issue of then-president Ronald Reagan’s wasting of taxpayer dollars in Latin America. For, those dollars could have been better spent taking care of U.S. citizens in his city.

In 1988, Sanders ran as an Independent candidate from Vermont for the U.S. House of Representatives, against a Republican and a Democrat. He nostalgically reminisced that they ran “… civil, issue-oriented campaigns. The debates were respectful and there was no negative advertising, no desire to ‘destroy’ the other person.”

As a Congressman in the 1990’s, Sanders attempted to legislate raising minimum wage, and blocking the elimination of a subsidy for home heating for the poor. He actually sponsored legislation to:

  • help dairy farmers in his state;
  • block a raise in pay (compliments of American taxpayers) given to the Lockheed-Martin board of directors and CEO;
  • create more affordable housing; and
  • stop insurance-company discrimination against the poor.

In 1996, Sanders wrote that Republican leaders went hog-wild in bashing: gays, immigrants, affirmative action, abortion and welfare. On that last issue, they made serious cutbacks which resulted in savings that were STILL less than an increase in military spending of about $60 billion over a six year period.

Sanders considers himself a socialist. His political philosophy toward economics seems to harken back to a 1940’s term that ought to be used more often–a label given to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: “NCL” or Non-Communist Left. Sanders wrote not one word about his views on any Soviet dictator. There was no indication whatsoever that he espoused the political system of Communism.

Schlesinger summed up NCL thusly: “The welfare state, I observed, did not at all mean direct government control over the economy. It was perfectly compatible with the free market. It meant simply the establishment of basic national standards of living for all citizens… The electoral process offered the means by which noncapitalists– farmers, workers, intellectuals, minorities– could invoke the state to defend themselves against capitalist exploitation.” Such process “… brought about a relative redistribution of wealth that defeated Marx’s prediction of the immiseration of the poor…” which leads to class resentments that boil over into violence when dissatisfaction reaches critical mass.

Read the book to learn more about Sanders’ political career. The following parody sums up Sanders’ description of the American political culture of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, just as the original theme song from the TV show “All in the Family” fondly recollects American popular culture of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS

sung to the tune of “Those Were the Days” with apologies to the Estate of Gene Raskin.

Boy, the way Bill Clinton played.

Bills for war, tax cuts and trade.

Guys like Bush, they had it made.

Those were the days.

And you were told what you were then.

The Apprentice, Idol, Seinfeld, and Friends: made us long for a man like Ronald Reagan a-gain.

GOP smeared the welfare state.

Social media squelched real debate.

Gee, our online lives ran great.

Those were the days.

Message in A Black Hole – BONUS POST

Message in A Black Hole
sung to the tune of “Message in A Bottle” with apologies to The Police.
A song Trump is singing now.

Just a castaway, but I don’t want to concede, oh.
With more votes, I’ll get back in the lead, oh.
More lawyers than anyone could bear.
I haven’t any shame so I don’t care, oh.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole, yeah.
Message in a black hole, yeah.
Years have passed since I’ve won the globe
but I resist liberals’ every probe.
I hope my supporters can keep me in power.
I can win again and
I can break those Dems.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole.
Message in a black hole.
Oh, message in a black hole, yeah.
Oh, message in a black hole, yeah.
Rallied this morning.
You know what I saw.
Lots and lots of ballots in states that I adore.
Seems I’m in love with being loved.
Lots and lots of lawyers.
I can’t stand being snubbed.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I’ll send an SOS to the world.
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my
I hope electors get my message in a black hole, yeah.
Message in a black hole, yeah.
Oh, message in a black hole, oh.
Oh, message in a black hole.
Sending out an SOS.
Sending out an SOS.
Sending out an SOS…

In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

The Book of the Week is “In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo” by Michaela Wong, published in 2001.

Various dictators have looted the Belgian colony alternately known as “Zaire” and “Congo” in recent centuries. The late 1800’s saw light-skinned people enslaving the dark-skinned to try to enrich themselves by poaching, harvesting, mining or drilling for the colony’s ivory, rubber, timber, cocoa, diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, uranium and oil on behalf of King Leopold II of Belgium. However, many died of malaria, typhoid or sleeping sickness.

Belgium was still greedy even after Congo, still racked by unrest, declared its independence in 1960. The Soviets wanted a piece of the action, sending troops in to pretend to quell the violence. The United Nations troops entered, throwing soldiers with good intentions, after bad. For the next thirty years, what did change was that the United States and other countries wasted an inconceivably large amount of money supporting the lavish lifestyles of the Congolese dictator and his family and friends, until the CIA discreetly decided it was time for the dictator to go.

In late September 1960, Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (Mobutu, for short) came to power. That translates to “the all powerful warrior who goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.” He ran the nation’s one political party, called “Movement for the Revolution.” He had the charisma, and lack of academic-smarts but plethora of street-smarts of the late American president Ronald Reagan.

However, Mobutu used divide and conquer in his palace politics– telling naive individuals that others were slandering them behind their backs. They believed him. He also assigned the same tasks to subordinates who hated each other without telling the others of the duplicated project-teams. When they learned that the boss had favorites other than them, petty jealousies arose. The hostilities between Mobutu’s underlings kept them busy fighting among themselves, and kept him in power.

Mobutu held rallies all the time. He created jobs galore for his people, in the rubber and cocoa industries. Foreigners who had previously been running operations that exploited Congo’s resources, fled the country. The new native Congolese who were given businesses to run, had no clue how to run them. When the economy crashed, Mobutu, his family, his cronies and his private army had no worries, because their real estate in Brussels, Paris and South Africa, and their Swiss bank accounts remained safe.

In the mid 1980’s, the journalists and diplomats in Kinshasa could spot the Congolese elites by their SUVs and mobile phones from Telecel. Congolese peasants, in order to eat, were forced to grow vegetable gardens throughout the city.

In the 1990’s, desirous of a better life, native Congolese were able to obtain student visas that allowed them to secretly become low-level restaurant or construction workers, or drivers in Brussels. They fled their native country rather than collectively revolt in order to fight for it, having adopted the pessimistic attitude of every man for himself. They had seen with their own eyes that “… politics is a game played by conmen and hypocrites.”

Congo’s cycle of dictatorship had yet to be broken due to the education system, which didn’t teach Congolese history. The younger generation knew nothing of how their recent leaders had come to power. “Knowing nothing about the past of course, frees a population from any sense of blame for the present. How convenient was all this forgetting…”

May 1997 was crunch time similar to that in 1986 in the Philippines and Haiti. In Kinshasa, Tutsi youths were shot in the streets, Japanese journalists sought photo opportunities, journalists of other nationalities and Belgian tourists sought haven in the Hotel InterContinental.

Read the book to learn much more about the history of Congo and its one nuclear reactor, Mobutu, the Congolese people in the 1990’s– rich and famous, poor and unknown, their black markets, their Mutual Benefit Society, their religions, corruption at their airport and with the IMF and World Bank, and about the lingering colonialist nostalgia of Belgium and France.

Do No Harm / Since Yesterday – BONUS POST

The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Do No Harm, Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery” by Henry Marsh, originally published in 2014. In this personal account, the author– a British brain surgeon– described his horribly depressing career. He recounted how he removed brain tumors from, and clipped aneurysms of, his most memorable patients through the decades. Even when a tumor was benign, it would keep growing and inevitably kill the patient unless taken out. Even when a large aneurysm had yet to burst, there was a chance (incalculable, as every patient is different) that it would burst in the patient’s lifetime.

Metaphorically speaking, some people would say that the outgoing president of the United States is a tumor in the nation’s brain. The author wrote, “You can never know for certain from a brain scan exactly how a tumor will behave until you start to remove it. It might be hard or soft, dry or bloody…” Prior to diagnosis, the most common symptom patients experience is headaches– which are uncharacteristic for them in daily life.

In order for a brain surgeon to acquire experience, he needs to actually practice on real patients, and make mistakes. Even when the surgeon does everything right in treating the patient, something could go wrong, anyway. In addition to stressing over his patients, the author had to deal with bureaucracies. But regardless of the healthcare system an industrialized country has (government-run, commercial, or a combination thereof), it’s comprised of: “… government targets, self-serving politicians, tabloid headlines, scandals, deadlines, civil servants, clinical cock-ups, financial crises, patient press-groups, trade unions, litigation, complaints and self-important doctors…”

Read the book to learn of the author’s trials and tribulations in treating patients not only in Britain, but also in Kiev.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “Since Yesterday, The 1930’s in America, September 3, 1929 – September 3, 1939” by Frederick Lewis Allen, originally published in 1939.

“To hear angry Republicans and angry Democrats talking, one would have supposed the contest was between a tyrant determined to destroy private property, ambition, the Constitution, democracy, and civilization itself; and a dupe of Wall Street who would introduce a fascist dictatorship.” Such was the nature of the 1936 presidential election in America.

Clearly, propagandizing hasn’t changed in ninety years. Presidents want to have it both ways: they take credit for all positive economic news, and blame their predecessors for all negative economic news.

At the dawn of the 1930’s when the economy went south, Americans held very strong opinions about their political preferences, heavily influenced by the propaganda they read in newspapers and magazines. Not much has changed, except that now they can force their opinions on the world at the speed of light. Immediately they think they’re experts from watching the idiot box and/or reading the Web; the attitude is, “I’m not an attorney, not a doctor, and not an economist, but I play one on social media, because I can, and because I’m right.”

Other similarities between the Depression Era and recent times include:

  • Golf was a popular businessman’s game.
  • Fans of professional sports worshipped their star players, like in baseball, tennis, and golf– Babe Ruth, Bill Tilden, Bobby Jones, etc.
  • Automation due to new technologies (such as steam, gasoline and electric power, inventions and farm machinery) and urbanization were eliminating jobs in industry, agriculture, and textiles more than offshoring ever would.
  • Listeners worshipped a pundit on the radio– Father Coughlin– a hate-spewing demagogue from the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak (but he broadcast on only one station, not a national network, so he became nationally known only in his later years in the 1930’s).
  • All players in the banking industry were financially interdependent so when the system collapsed, they all fell like dominoes. Then-president Hoover established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in order to bail out only his corporate cronies, as he didn’t believe in stimulus money for individuals.
  • In summer 1932, Howard Scott and his inscrutable theory of Technocracy was a fad. The author wrote, “Yet in the meantime it had offered an object-lesson in the readiness of the American people for a new messiah and a new credo” just as “Wikinomics” (see the post in this blog) was supposed to be the next big thing.
  • The political agenda behind COVID has forced Americans to relax online similar to the way the Depression brought on: the five-day (rather than six-day) workweek, construction of sports and recreational areas of all kinds, and provision for transportation to get to them.
  • Beginning in late 1936 into 1937, in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, a bunch of rivers overflowed their banks due to humans’ misuse of land; in the third week of September 1938, 682 people died in an unexpected hurricane that destroyed regions unprepared for flooding, in New England and Mid-Atlantic states.
  • Between 1931 and 1936, there were actually more people leaving the U.S. than coming in, for various reasons, and the U.S. birth rate was slowing.
  • Ultra-rich Americans who refused to face inconvenient facts were the ones who hated FDR when he was elected president.

Proposals distorted in propaganda that played out in the Depression Era, whose outcomes are yet to be seen in recent times, included:

  • In the 1930’s, in order to allow men to keep their dignity, the government put them to work instead of giving them handouts. In their first few years of existence, FDR’s alphabet soup of mostly federal (rather than state or local level) jobs and programs was nonpartisan. However, eventually, the Democrats provided maximum funding as election day approached. On the whole, the financial relief worked well, except in Pennsylvania, where there was gross misuse of funds.
  • FDR’s policies sought to mitigate environmental damage done by people, and prevent future natural disasters with his introduction of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and his signing of the Taylor Grazing Act into law. These kinds of measures simply require political backing and money– the sooner a sufficient amount of both are thrown at them, the sooner the problems will be solved!
  • In February 1938, FDR floated a proposal to make seventy years the mandatory retirement age of all federal judges– including U.S. Supreme Court justices– and increase the number of justices from nine to fifteen. That unpopular proposal hurt FDR’s reputation.

In 1935, FDR introduced economic change to the country by instituting the Social Security system, financial assistance only for Americans 65 and older. In 1965, LBJ introduced economic change to the country by instituting the Medicare and Medicaid systems, healthcare funding for only those Americans who are poor and / or 65 and older.

In the future, the United States government might be introducing a better overall system of healthcare funding for all Americans of all ages and income levels (which is obviously much more complex than any system that has ever been created before in this country, so it’s not going to be perfect the first time around). In order to pay for the improved system, the government will likely have to raise taxes on the rich.

Along these lines, economics 101 says a nation’s economy is strongest when it has a healthy, well-educated workforce.

Whether deliberately or not, the political agenda revolving around COVID has rewarded education-software makers by closing schools across the country. So ironically, by allowing the software makers to get richer (because, presumably, their higher taxes will be paying for the improved healthcare-funding system), the software makers are dictating education policy. So in the long run, the nation will have a healthy, poorly educated workforce!

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about the tenor of the times in 1930’s America, culturally, politically and economically.

Second Chance

The Book of the Week is “Second Chance, Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, published in 2007.

“American policy has divided its friends while uniting its foes, fear has been exploited to mobilize public support for policy, and strategic impatience and self-ostracism have narrowed United States diplomatic options.”

The author wrote the above about the George W. Bush administration. Yes, really. The author critiqued the presidencies of George H.W. Bush (Bush 41), Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (Bush 43) in terms of the natures of their administrations, and how they could have mitigated or even warded off the worsening political turmoil in America.

Bush 41 failed to follow through on American-foreign-policy vision and plans to foster international cooperation among Russia, China and other developing nations after he chased Iraq out of Kuwait in early 1991. He didn’t get to do so in a second term because he neglected problems at home.

During the Clinton administration, the media declared that America was trying to cultivate new enemies (maybe it was), one after another– Libya, Iraq, Iran, China, etc., while Clinton appeared to negotiate agreements such as the ones between Israel and the PLO, that actually turned out to be worthless pieces of paper. Unsurprisingly.

Other treaties that have been violated time and again, are those regarding nuclear non-proliferation. Various countries have continued to test nuclear weapons through the years, including France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. This has resulted in:

  • contaminating the earth, sea and air, and harming people;
  • teasing the other treaty-signers into giving the violators financial aid;
  • imposing ineffective financial punishment; and/or
  • pushing them to ally with their neighbors.

The Clinton years saw a two-faced policy with Russia. The president gave Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin generous financial and economic aid, but contrarily, by 1998, American Ivy-League economist Jeffrey Sachs had bankrupted Russia by persuading Yeltsin to execute his “shock-capitalism” tactics. Compounding of the corruption ensued with the intervention of the International Monetary Fund, which extended “loans” to Russia to bail it out. Capital flight from investors in the United States ensued. Unsurprisingly.

Bush 43 wrongly imposed “might makes right” on Iraq and Afghanistan, thinking democracy would magically assert itself in those war-torn countries. But– the author wrote– democracy requires the following laborious steps:

  • A government must respect the political and economic human rights of its citizens;
  • A government must impose rule of law to achieve and maintain a state of civility among its people, more or less;
  • The structures of power must write and abide by legal and Constitutional rules on which they must agree, more or less; and
  • There must be free and fair elections, which leads to a system whose leaders see the value of compromise and accommodation– rather than a winner-take-all stubbornness.

In his first term, Bush 43 and his sidekick Dick Cheney exploited the world for the purpose of acquiring raw power, and fun and profit at the expense of his own countrymen and America’s good relationships with its allies. In his second term, the president showed a “… basic lack of interest in peacekeeping, global poverty or ecology.” Middle Eastern countries destabilized by the Iraq War were driven into the arms of China as a financial partner, because– although China’s people are oppressed, China’s government isn’t embattled– it’s stable.

Read the book to learn of the author’s recommendations on the steps America should take to mend fences in the world, and of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that have arisen via the natures of the administrations of the aforementioned three presidents.