Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The 1% Solution

As I’ve been off-line for a week I exchanged some loose bits of greenish paper for tightly bound organized white paper which are apparently called “books”.

The larger and thicker of the two was "Fiasco", a highly detailed account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq that illustrates and illuminates the strategies, tactics, thoughts, experiences and actions of those directly involved—from generals to corporals. Frankly it’s a bit of a slog, but then such is both the soldier’s and the documentarian’s life. The efforts of the soldiers and commanders and the efforts of the author are worth an effort from the reader.

The more compact book is “The One-Percent Solution" by Robert Suskind. Its title explains the doctrine Cheney espoused immediately after 9-11; that basically any conceivable threat to the US should be regarded as a certainty and acted upon. The book then goes on to illustrate how this singular doctrine both energized and confounded the prosecution of the “war on terror”.

It is written like a fast-paced movie, akin to Fox’s “24”. The bulk of the book concerns the actions of intelligence officials, but it is interspersed with moments of deep narrative, exposition, insight and comment about the nature and practice and impact of intelligence and personality and how these factors shape policy as a whole.

The terrible thing about this book is that it is thrilling and all too real. My impression from this book is that Bush et al are not overstating the case that there are extremists in the world constantly plotting to kill innocent people en-masse in pursuit of their respective causes and to affect change, and the administration and government are certainly obliged to counter them.
On the other hand the “1% Solution” is clearly not the means by which the US (or anyone else) should defend itself. Suspicion alone is not grounds for action, especially when that suspicion is based on a personal conviction. Sadly or rather horrifically this book illustrates both practically and philosophically, by example, how poorly equipped our current leaders and political infrastructre are to deal with the problem they so often claim is exclusively within their expertise and jurisdiction.

This book, through real examples and judicious commentary, explains the harsh and bizarre realities of governance and politics that surround not just the “war on terror: in particular, but policy in general—how it is formed and promulgated.

There is little outright blame in this book, but a lot of exposure. It is very explanatory, but inconclusive. It is above all eye-opening. Read it!