In the face of an increasingly radicalized polity at home, there is something strangely ironic about the idea of the United States government thinking through the process of how to deradicalize extremists. And I have to confess that my latent libertarian (note the small “L”) is a bit discomfited with the idea of the US Government attempting to change the way anyone thinks.
But this RAND monograph by Angel Rabasa, Stacie Pettyjohn, Jeremy Ghez, and Christopher Boucek asks some pointed and challenging questions about the de-radicalization process, whether it is a valid approach, and what the fundamentals of a wise and effective effort might look like.
Among other things, the authors recognize that Islam is not a culture, and that radicals themselves are the products of their own home cultures. They argue that the de-radicalization process is going to differ from country to country and in some cases from individual to individual.
A fascinating read.
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Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, by Paul Frieberger and Michael Swaine
Picking up this classic 25 years after the fact is a worthy reminder of how the PC industry developed. More important, what keeps this work relevant is how it hints at the current ossification of the industry, suggesting that even in the days when the business was driven by the excitement of almost constant innovation, hubris was never far from the surface.
The question that plagues the reader as you plow through the book is whether innovation has died in the PC business because there is nothing left to innovate, or whether business and creeping conservatism has killed the innovation.
Love or hate Apple, it has shaken free the bonds of care and liberated itself to take billion dollar bets on disrupting industries. Yes, vision is important. But having the testicular fortitude to act on your vision is what separates the leaders from the followers.
Reading Fire in the Valley, one is thus struck by how the companies in the industry need to regrow their cojones.
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How is the merger of the State Department and the USIA working out? Was it the right thing to do? While this report is getting a little dusty, it is fascinating in that it harkens to a time when the US had few enemies upon whom to focus information efforts.
Reading this work begs a question: how have the U.S. efforts in The Long War suffered (or benefitted) as a result of the elimination of an independent broadcast public diplomacy agency? Clearly the time has come for an assessment of how such efforts have fared under three successive Secretaries of State (Powell, Rice, and Clinton.)
A pdf booklet on how the U.S. Army arranges and runs formal dining situations. We live in a society that has all but forgotten the basics of protocol. This is an error – protocol is more than just gratuitous formality in many societies in the world.
In China especially, protocol is alive and well. International business is steeped in protocol, and the value of learning what it is and how it works is substantial. Even if the source is the U.S. Army.
This book offers a brief but gripping account celebrating the role air power played in the successful evacuation of 1,500 U.S. and Vietnamese servicemen from a trap laid by the North Vietnamese Army in Vietnam in 1968.
While crediting the personal heroism of U.S. aviators in the effort, historian Alan Gropman (a Tufts Ph.D. and Air Force colonel) does not whitewash the “severe” losses suffered in crews and aircraft the Air Force suffered, and calls commanders for task for poor coordination and control of the effort.
As the ground war in Vietnam was handed over to local Vietnamese forces as a part of Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy, the leaders of the Republic of Vietnam could still call on a substantial U.S. air contingent to support operations.
This book is designed to prove the necessity of air support to ground operations. In this it succeeds. Where it has appeared to fail is in convincing the leadership of the Department of the Air Force to shift focus to air support and interdiction instead of the Cold War imperatives of air superiority and strategic bombardment.
A subtle and thought-provoking read.
An oral history of aerial interdiction during the U.S. Air Force’s three largest conflicts of the 20th Century, delivered by three of the period’s most decorated generals.
This pdf book recounts India’s efforts to have its emergent status and its sheer size recognized in the UN through a permanent seat on an enlarged Security Council.
Last one before the weekend. Enjoy!
Cover of The Sources of Innovation
The Sources of Innovation is functionally a companion volume to MIT Professor Eric von Hippel’s later work, Democratizing Innovation, that focuses on users as sources of innovation. In The Sources of Innovation he takes a wide look at a company’s entire supply chain, from material inputs competitors and users, and isolates cases where innovation has come from all.
Von Hippel has changed the debate about innovation, but arguably not enough attention has been given to his work. Too much of the current literature continues to focus on traditional sources of innovation, all of which suggests that a wise competitor would look beyond its own resources for useful and novel ideas.
Also available from Amazon here.
The RAND Corporation believes that planning for national defense has to change in an age of terrorism. In this fascinating monograph, RAND takes on the challenge and proposes new ways to plan for contingencies in a world where we no longer have the luxury to predictability.
But nations are not the only entities dealing with asymmetric threats. A quick read through the book suggests that business facing new asymmetric challenges may have something to learn from RAND’s approach.
This pdf book draws an empirical line between good government relations and bad. The conclusions – that lobbying is better than bribery when one has the choice – are not prima facie surprising. The power of this publication comes from the data that support the conclusion.
This is an absolute must-read for any company crafting its government relations in the developing world and emerging markets, including China, and for any public affairs specialists at public relations firms.
This pdf book is a detailed RAND Corporation assessment of Japan’s innovation capabilities, and a comparison between Japan’s capabilities and those of the United States.
Japan has quietly faded as a rival to the US in innovation, eclipsed by its own economic malaise and the brighter corona of China’s rise. The cooler heads at RAND, however, know not to discount Dai Nippon as a global player in innovation. A fascinating read.
The United States bestowed the Medal of Honor upon twelve U.S. Air Force airmen during the Vietnam War. This book introduces each of the twelve and describes what they did to win their awards.
Despite substantial progress from its origins as a low-cost producer, and despite some early evidence of innovative potential, Korea faces considerable challenges moving beyond product evolution and into innovation on a scale that will transform its economy.
Nonetheless, this Demos book by Molly Web gives a positive prognosis, suggesting that innovation will become ubiquitous in Korea in short order.
Cover of On Being a Scientist
There has been much discussion here in Beijing of late around the ethical challenges that plague the Chinese academy and, as a consequence, that hamper China’s own progress in science, technology, and innovation. What is unfortunate, however, is that this discussion has occurred without reference to a tangible standard of ethics, perhaps for fear of introducing however backhandedly the taboo topic of faith-based moralities.
Ethical challenges in research are not limited to China, and the book On Being a Scientist from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is an attempt to build a rational case and framework for ethics in the academic professions. This should be required reading across the entire academic spectrum, and the Ministry of Education would do well to consider the wide usage of this text, translated appropriately, in every pre-doctoral program in the PRC.
Also available from Amazon here.
The UN’s take on the prospects for the global economy, made much closer to the proximate event. In the face of the shelf-load of books that have been written about the crisis and the aftermath, this is a resource that gives a much less dramatic, more balanced assessment, explaining why the world will experience a “synchronized downturn.”
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As we focus on China’s innovation, we also owe it to our neighbor to the south to make an assessment of its potential as an innovator as well. This book by Kristen Bound and published by UK think tank Demos, assesses the past, present, and future of innovation on the sub-continent, and in the process proposes a model of knowledge creation appropriate for India.
India’s challenges, we learn, are no less challenging than those facing China. They are simply different. Reading through books like this and China, the Next Science Superpower, one gets the impression that any discussion that handicaps either China or India in the competition for global leadership misses the point.
Indeed, if anything, it is about helping both nations overcome their specific challenges, and charting a course forward for companies and nations in a world where innovation is coming from all quarters.
The Kefaya Movement was a fascinating example of the kind of democratization that the U.S. was trying to encourage in the Arab world during the Bush administration. The problem with Kefaya, of course, was its rise conflicted with a host of other U.S. interests in the region, thus constraining the US from rendering assistance.
Regardless of those interests or their legitimacy, they betrayed the weakness and conditionality of the US commitment to its stated aims in the region. The team led by Natdia Oweidat at the RAND Corporation’s National Defense Research Institute takes the U.S. government to task for this problem, and calls on the U.S. government to bring its behavior and its rhetoric more closely into line in the region.
This book is the result of a request by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to the National Research Council (NRC) for a review and analysis of the science and technology industrial policies of six countries, in an effort to understand what impact those policies would have on U.S. national security and competitiveness in the coming two decades. The review covers Brazil, India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and, of course, China.
The book not only provides a fascinating overview of the science and technology strategies of the countries involved, it is also an interesting look into how the U.S. academy views U.S. science and technology strategy. Of especial interest (apart from the chapter on China, of course) are the final two chapters, covering the implications and recommendations.
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Professor Eric von Hippel of MIT makes his books readily available online, and perhaps none is more important than Democratizing Innovation. While most analyses of innovation focuses on the innovation process inside the company and inside the lab, von Hippel explains that companies also need to tap their users as sources of innovation.
Looking at how Apple and all of the companies involved with Android are getting their users to drive innovation through apps and widgets is a superb example. To von Hippel’s analysis, the future belongs to the companies that can appropriately bring users into their product development process.
Also available from Amazon here.
We are a bit rough on the air service in this forum (somewhat disingenuous for the scion of a USAAF veteran), but this book is a detailed reminder that the U.S. Air Force matured in combat in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, often in ways that confounded its leadership. An invaluable resource to anyone with an interest in military history generally, and US Air Force history specifically.
At the heart of China’s quest to be an innovative country lies the nation’s science establishment. Leaving aside corporate research and development in China, the PRC will depend on the output of its scientists to become a global leader in genuine innovation.
The question, then, is to what extent can China’s scientists support the nation’s aspirations? This book takes a hard, non-partisan look at that question.
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This short book is the proceedings of a workshop at U.C. Irvine where 40 Chinese and American education experts compared and contrasted the ways in which mathematics teachers are developed in the two countries. The issue the experts focus on is the matter “master teachers,” instructors who not only teach but who help other teachers develop.
As with Japan in the 1980s, there will invariably be a lot of hand-wringing about what the Chinese may or may not be doing “better” than Americans with their elementary and secondary education systems. Much of the focus will be on math, science, and engineering, and it does not take much foresight to anticipate debates about adopting wholesale Chinese approaches to education. This would be a mistake.
Nonetheless, it would demand willful hubris to assert that nothing is wrong with basic education in the U.S., and to try to deflect a search for creative solutions. This is what motivated the U.S. National Commission on Mathematics Instruction to ask whether the Chinese may have a better system than we do to find and keep good teachers teaching mathematics.
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While best remembered as the man who predicted that population would grow faster than the Earth’s ability to feed it (a theorem not yet entirely discredited, Green Revolution notwithstanding), the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was, along with Adam Smith and David Ricardo, one of the great framers of what is now known as classical political economy.
This 1836 edition of Malthus’ primary work on the subject is arguably the definitive version. It belongs in the library of anyone interested in the future of the world economy.
Once again, stepping outside of politics, scientists attempt to dissect terrorism from a perspective refreshingly robbed of rhetoric. A National Academies publication, pdf book available here.