Archive for January, 2018


January 17, 2018

Washington Times on January 16, 2018 published a review of Max Boots latest book: The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, Liveright, US dollars 35.00, 768 pages. Excerpts from the review by Gary Anderson below:

Edward Lansdale is probably the greatest cold warrior that most Americans have never heard of. Max Boot has written a fascinating account of how this California college humorist, frat boy and advertising executive evolved into a counterinsurgency expert before the term was even coined. He was a virtual shadow American proconsul in both the Philippines and South Vietnam in the 1950s wisely advising both Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay and South Vietnamese leader No Dinh Diem on how to deal with Communist inspired insurgencies.

His success in the Philippines was spectacular and made his reputation. In Vietnam he was originally successful, but saw his influence wane for reasons beyond his control. However, he became the father of today’s American counterinsurgency doctrine even though few American advisers have been able to replicate his skill in influencing foreign leaders.

Max Boot has become one of the master chroniclers of American counterinsurgency efforts, and his biography of Mr. Lansdale is a tribute to a guy who recognized the threat of insurgency in a post-World War II environment where most American leaders saw only brute force as a solution to any political-military problem.

Mr. Lansdale argued that success was dependent on getting the people to stop supporting the insurgents, and have some hope that the government was a better alternative. Eliminating insurgents militarily was only a secondary part of the Lansdale approach. It worked in the Philippines because Mr. Lansdale developed a unique brand of trust with that nation’s leader.

When he was asked to do the same things in South Vietnam, Mr. Lansdale was initially successful in developing a personal rapport with Prime Minister Diem. However, Mr. Lansdale eventually lost influence with Mr. Diem due to the machinations of Mr. Diem’s brother No Diem Nhu and his manipulative wife Madam Nhu.

Mr. Boot also points out that the differences in culture and language worked against Lansdale in Vietnam — he never developed a facility for foreign languages — but he was still able to develop a close personal relationship with Diem. Unlike the island archipelago of the Philippines, South Vietnam’s insurgents had sanctuary in North Vietnam and China that would prove fatal to the south in the end.

Mr. Lansdale eventually became an Air Force major general and Pentagon official; but he was never able to replicate the success inside the Washington Beltway accomplished in Asia, and he watched the American tragedy in Vietnam unfold despite several attempts to change policy on trips to Saigon before it fell to the Communists.

Mr. Lansdale’s ability to develop personal relationships with foreign leaders and guide their policy-making has never been fully replicated by his modern American adviser successors in fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His philosophy of attempting to separate the civilian population from the insurgents has now been codified in U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. He was a firm believer that American constitutional democracy was far superior to the kind of authoritarianism that the Communists offered and believed that local forces, not Americans, should lead the fight.

This book should be read in Baghdad and Kabul, not only by Americans, but by local leaders.

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps colonel who served as a civilian adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan.


January 7, 2018

In 1974, during the Cold War, when the United Nations (UN) was influenced by the Soviet Union, its satellites and Third World totalitarian regimes the attempt was made to control global business. The Commission on Transnational Corporations was created to formulate a ”code of conduct” for these corporations. The Swedish social democratic government was in the forefront to support the work of the Commission. The ”code of conduct” work was even led for a while (1976 – 1982) by a Swede, Sten Niklasson (b. 1939).

Fortunately for the global economy the nations represented in the Commission failed to agree for many, many years. It was not until the year before the Soviet empire began to collapse (1988) that a a code was presented in draft. It contained 72 lengthy paragraphs and the Commission wanted to assume the functions of an international institutional machinery to implement the code (the draft had a number of sections: first General, then Economic, Financial, and Social, and Treatment of Transnational Corporations, finally Inter-governmental Co-Operation and Implementation). After 20 years (1994) the commission still exists. But the failure to adopt the code led to the commission being transferred from the Economic and Social Council of the UN and buried in the Trade and Development Board.

Now the United Nations tried a new approach. In 1999 Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, offered The Global Compact for business covering the fields of human rights, labor standards and environmental practice in nine principles. The response, however, from world business has been muted. Only one comment was published, from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In this comment 1999 was pointed out that The Global Compact of the United Nations lacked a tenth or fourth set of principles, the economic responsibility incumbent upon every company to its customers, to its employees and to its shareholders. Without this principle no business could function.


January 5, 2018

Fox News on December 31, 2017, published a commentary on the Iran protests against the Islamist tyranny by Christian Whiton. Excerpts below:

Protesters took the streets in more than a half-dozen cities in Iran for a second day [at the end of 2017] risking their lives to challenge the Islamist tyranny that has prevailed in the country since 1979, when it held American diplomats hostage.

The protests began as demonstrations against austere economic conditions but have now grown to express general opposition to the Islamist government.

…we…see spontaneous protesters crying “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani,” referring to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Protests have even spread to Qom, the intellectual heartland of the 1979 Islamist revolution and the onetime base of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he successfully worked to destroy Iran’s secular government before 1979.

The last widespread and sustained protests in Iran occurred in 2009, after fraudulent elections. At the time, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shamefully sat on their hands, saying and doing nothing to support the protesters.

…Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement that challenged and eventually brought down communism in Poland in the 1980s, credited President Ronald Reagan’s unabashed support for the movement’s success.

Elsewhere in the Soviet bloc, a dissident named Natan Sharansky was rotting in a Russian prison when he and his fellow prisoners heard that President Reagan had referred to the Soviet Union as an evil empire destined for the ash heap of history.

Sharansky later remarked: “For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now.”
Clearly, the moral support of the American president can make a big difference in influencing political outcomes abroad.

If President Trump acts now he will not just be engaging in an act of idealism, but working in a pragmatic way against our Iranian adversaries.

Christian Whiton is a senior fellow for strategy and public diplomacy at the Center for the National Interest and the author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.”

Comment: Iran is one of the challengers to the West on what Sir Halford Mackinder termed World Island (Europe, Asia, Africa). Any weakening of the regime in Teheran is welcome news. One can only hope that the protests in Iran are the beginning of the end of oppression in a country that openly threatens to destroy Israel.