Thursday, April 19, 2012

Obama's Wars


by Bob Woodward

Obama's WarsPublication Date: September 27, 2010


In Obama's Wars, Bob Woodward provides the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward tells the inside story of Obama making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

At the core of Obama's Wars is the unsettled division between the civilian leadership in the White House and the United States military as the president is thwarted in his efforts to craft an exit plan for the Afghanistan War.

"So what's my option?" the president asked his war cabinet, seeking alternatives to the Afghanistan commander's request for 40,000 more troops in late 2009. "You have essentially given me one option.... It's unacceptable."

Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself

by Pamela Constable
Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with ItselfPublication Date: July 19, 2011


A volatile nation at the heart of major cultural, political, and religious conflicts in the world today, Pakistan commands our attention. Yet more than six decades after the country’s founding as a Muslim democracy, it continues to struggle over its basic identity, alliances, and direction. In Playing with Fire, acclaimed journalist Pamela Constable peels back layers of contradiction and confusion to reveal the true face of modern Pakistan.

In this richly reported and movingly written chronicle, Constable takes us on a panoramic tour of contemporary Pakistan, exploring the fears and frustrations, dreams and beliefs, that animate the lives of ordinary citizens in this nuclear-armed nation of 170 million. From the opulent, insular salons of the elite to the brick quarries where soot-covered workers sell their kidneys to get out of debt, this is a haunting portrait of a society riven by inequality and corruption, and increasingly divided by competing versions of Islam.

Beneath the fa├žade of democracy in Pakistan, Constable reveals the formidable hold of its business, bureaucratic, and military elites—including the country’s powerful spy agency, the ISI. This is a society where the majority of the population feels powerless, and radical Islamist groups stoke popular resentment to recruit shock troops for global jihad. Writing with an uncommon ear for the nuances of this conflicted culture, Constable explores the extent to which faith permeates every level of Pakistani society—and the ambivalence many Muslims feel about the role it should play in the life of the nation.

Both an empathic and alarming look inside one of the world’s most violent and vexing countries, Playing with Fire is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand modern Pakistan and its momentous role on today’s global stage.

The Interrogator: An Education

The Interrogator: An Education



Publication Date: June 28, 2011


To his friends and neighbors, Glenn L. Carle was a wholesome, stereotypical New England Yankee, a former athlete struggling against incipient middle age, someone always with his nose in an abstruse book. But for two decades Carle broke laws, stole, and lied on a daily basis about nearly everything. “I was almost never who I said I was, or did what I claimed to be doing.” He was a CIA spy. He thrived in an environment of duplicity and ambiguity, flourishing in the gray areas of policy.








“The Interrogator”: Six Questions for Glenn Carle


By Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine

A career clandestine-services officer in the CIA, Glenn Carle drew an unusual assignment in the fall of 2002. He was sent to serve as the case officer of an Afghan merchant who had been seized and rendered, and who was believed to be Osama bin Laden’s “banker.” Carle quickly discerned, however, that the Agency’s suspicions were unjustified — what followed was a frustrating effort by Carle to win his release. In The Interrogator: An Education, Carle describes his struggle against the lethargy and self-protective instincts of the U.S. intelligence community. In the process, he discloses a great deal about the renditions process and the Agency’s reticence to acknowledge or act on its own mistakes. I put six questions to Glenn Carle about his book:

1. Your book was published following a year-long struggle with the CIA Publications Review Board, which insisted on redacting large amounts of material before it approved the work for publication. Even the fact that you speak fluent French has been blacked out. But a great deal of what was redacted is perfectly obvious or can easily be derived from the public record — for instance, we note in “Unredacting The Interrogator” that CAPTUS is in fact Pacha Wazir, that you first interrogated him at a location jointly operated by the CIA and Moroccan intelligence near Rabat, and that the prisoner was then removed to the CIA’s Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan. The PRB claims that it redacts to protect national-security-sensitive materials. Do you think the heavy redaction of your book was appropriate?

Click here: “The Interrogator”: Six Questions for Glenn Carle—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche

Crazy Like Us


by  Ethan Watters

Free Press; 306 pages, 2010


The U.S. exports plenty of things that much of the world would gladly send back: the Golden Arches, Jerry Bruckheimer movies and Baywatch, to name a few. But in addition to the cultural flotsam that drives the rest of the world crazy, America is literally exporting its mental illnesses. "In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been, for better and worse, homogenizing the way the world goes mad," writes journalist Ethan Watters. He traces how conditions first widely diagnosed in the U.S., such as anorexia and PTSD, have spread abroad "with the speed of contagious diseases." The growth of Big Pharma and the widespread adoption of U.S. health standards have made the ailing American psyche the primary diagnostic model. By 2008, for example, GlaxoSmithKline was selling over $1 billion worth of Paxil a year to the Japanese, who didn't know they had a problem with depression until drug marketers informed them. Though Watters' indignation can be wearying at times, he is on to something worth pondering.

When Gadgets Betray Us


Official selection of the Scientific American Book Club and the Science Fiction Book Club


When Gadgets Betray Us
 Technology is evolving faster than we are. As our mobile phones, mp3 players, cars, and digital cameras become more and more complex, we understand less and less about how they actually work and what personal details these gadgets might reveal about us.

Robert Vamosi, an award-winning journalist and analyst who has been covering digital security issues for more than a decade, shows us the dark side of all that digital capability and convenience. Hotel-room TV remotes can be used to steal our account information and spy on what we've been watching, toll-booth transponders receive unencrypted EZ Pass or FasTrak info that can be stolen and cloned, and our cars monitor and store data about our driving habits that can be used in court against us.

When Gadgets Betray Us gives us a glimpse into the secret lives of our gadgets and helps us to better understand—and manage—these very real risks.






















Watch Robert Vamosi on Bloomberg TV and TechCrunch

The Activist's Guide to Building a Green Movement + Changing the World


The Young Activist's Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the WorldPublication Date: February 22, 2011


If you want to make a significant and sustainable impact on the health of our planet, this powerful and practical guide can help. Author and activist Sharon J. Smith shares proven strategies and lessons learned from the winners of Earth Island Institute's Brower Youth Awards--America's top honor for young green leaders. Here are all the tools you need--from planning a campaign and recruiting supporters to raising money and attracting media attention--to turn your ideas into actions and make changes that matter.

Throughout this book Sharon spotlights stories from youth like Jessie-Ruth Corkins, who saved her school $90,000 by greening its heating system for a science project, and Billy Parish, whose small student group became one of the most influential coalitions in America addressing climate change. These eco-heroes have made headlines for passing legislation, founding nonprofits, and raising millions of dollars for sustainability--all before their twenty-third birthdays.

Between War & Peace: How America Ends Its Wars


Between War and Peace: How America Ends Its WarsPublication Date: January 11, 2011


An emperor bows abjectly before his conquerors on the deck of a battleship. As smoke yet rises from a bloody battlefield, a dejected general proffers his sword to his victorious opponent. Frock-coated ministers exchange red leather–bound treaty books in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. These are iconic images of war’s end, but even when they are historically accurate, they conceal more than they convey. Not all wars end decisively. Indeed, the endings of most wars are messy, complicated, inconclusive, and deeply intriguing. As the United States attempts to extricate itself from two long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing could be more relevant than a look back at the ways America has ended its major conflicts in the past. It is a topic that has been curiously overlooked.

Edited and with an introduction by Col. Matthew Moten, a professor of history at West Point, Between War and Peace explores the endings of fourteen American wars, from the Revolution to the first Gulf War. Here, with incisive insight, narrative flourish, and strategic detail, some of America’s leading historians examine the progress of America’s wars: their initial aims—often quite different from their ends—their predominant strategies, their final campaigns, the painful journeys out of war, and the ramifications of the wars’ ends for the nation’s future.