Equal Rights Libertarian

Home » 2017 » May

Monthly Archives: May 2017

20170527 – Why They Do It

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.14.47 AM


The main idea here is to investigate cases of high profile white color crime by using availability and even eagerness of people like Bernie Madoff to provide information and interact with author. The result of investigation is a nice presentation of causes of actions that are seemingly irrational such as selling business information for insignificant amount and loosing as result multimillion careers. The book also reviews history of creation of white color crime and how the very notion of insider trading, business report falsification, and misleading statements changed over the last century, becoming significant factor in business behavior.


Prologue Managing in the Gray

The prologue is about author establishing contact with a few famous white collar criminals and surprising interest they expressed in maintaining such contact and opening up about their life and causes of their actions that would normally be incomprehensible for outsiders. Probably the most intriguing part here would be an attempt to answer question why individuals in possession of multimillion income and wealth risk everything and get caught committing illegal actions that would bring them very small amount of money comparatively with their wealth, if any money at all.



  1. “Not… bucket-shop operators, dead-beats, and fly-by-night swindlers” Pillars of the Community

It starts with the story of KPMG senior manager who was convicted for insider trading: providing tips to his friend in exchange for purely symbolic amounts of money in return. Then author retells story of the first crusader against white color crime Edwin Sutherland who started this crusade in 1939 when accounting tricks, insider trading, and such just were not considered a crime. Moreover company typically preferred to cover up even accounting fraud, considering publicity more damaging than fraud itself. Eventually this crusade led to success when in 1960s white color crime began to be treated as crime.

2 “Guys… don’t drop out of windows for no reason” Creating the White-Collar Criminal

This is about change in attitude to white color criminals in USA where by late 1980s it become cause of massive investigations and publicity, especially use of RICO against financial crimes pioneered by Giuliani in New York. This change in attitude also started expanding throughout the world, significantly changing business practice.


3 “Inherently inferior organisms” Bad People Making Bad Decisions

This chapter looks at criminality and historical development of its understanding starting with Lombroso and going all the way to contemporary research of brain actions and free will. The summary is: people are complex creatures and could not be divided into good and bad by their biological endowment.

4 “I thought it was all going to pass” A Press Release with Consequences

This chapter used to demonstrate that white color crimes are often defined by purely legalistic environment when individuals not doing anything that would even remotely could be called bad by normal morality get nevertheless into serious legal trouble. This demonstration is done by using example of pharmaceutical company executive who made very cautious announcement about results of drug testing, which lawyers successfully turned into crime.

5 “If you don’t take it then you will regret it forever” The Triumph of Reason

This refers to XIX century thinker Gabriel Tarde who promoted idea that criminality is not biological, but rather social phenomenon and that people learn it from each other. Here is a nice diagram for morality by profession and development:

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.15.23 AM

The interesting thing here is that moral philosophers are highly moral theoretically, but in real live circumstances their behavior not that different from others. Eventually human behavior seems to be defined by cost benefits analysis, but there is a catch. Either costs or benefits are not necessarily monetary or even quantifiable, reside in the head of human who is making the decision, and not observable externally, consequently making behavior unpredictable.

6 “I never once thought of the costs versus rewards” Intuitive Decisions

This is about relations between complex machinery of human brain and decision-making, which often happens at subconscious level with conscious reasoning used just to justify it.

7 “I never felt that I was doing anything wrong” Overlooking Harm

This is about famous psychological experiments with choice of who would get hurt: 5 people vs. one with train accident, fat person on the rail and such. The important point here is that harmful decision-making is a lot easier in abstract rather than in reality, with manual effort to implement it making it even more difficult.

8 “If there was something wrong with this transaction, wouldn’t people have told me?” The Difficulty of Being Good

This is about sometimes occurring conflict between norms and laws. In such cases business executive can easily get in conflict with law by acting in usual way according to accepted norms without even thinking about it. Author uses a few cases including McKinsey’s Kumar, Tico’s Kozlovski, and DVI’s Garfinkel to illustrate it.



This part starts with reference to LIBOR fixing as an example of business as usual leading to criminal activity. In this case culprit feel no guilt and do not even try to hide activities they consider just normal business activities.

9 “You can’t make the argument that the public was harmed by anything I did” Misleading Disclosure

This provides examples of misleading disclosure such as MBS’ Litvak misleading investor about price of shares, Obama’s about “keep your doctor and insurance”, and Roosevelt while driving country into WWII. The last two had kind of justification for their actions being for the bigger good, obviously in their own opinion. This staff works for politicians, however it did not work in case of Bilzerian, who conducted acquisition of company without fully disclosing his ownership level. For him similar justification and being absolutely convinced that it would not hurt anyone, did not work so he went to prison.

10 “Unfortunately, the world is not black and white” Financial Reporting Fraud

This is about the gray area of financial reporting in which good accountant can easily shift data about company performance one way or another. Author provides a charming diagram showing how small losses are shifted within statements so company image with investors would not suffer:

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.15.34 AM

11 “You go from just being on top of the world” Insider Trading

This is about insider trading which is only recently become a crime. Author provides example of how it practically become a minefield for business when businessmen could be blown up without really being guilty in anything.

12 “I thought we were freakin’ geniuses” Deceptive Financial Structures

This is more sophisticated case of intentional building of super complex financial structure in Enron. This structure allowed such distortion of financial statements that it became impossible to identify real financial position of the company, feeding illusion of it being profitable, when in reality it was drawing in debt.

13 “You couldn’t stop because you would wreck everything” The Ponzi scheme

This is about evergreen Ponzi schema with two examples illustrating it. One example of Marc Dreier who was clearly running a Ponzi all the way until he was caught trying to present himself as another person in order to obtain more money. Another one is of Sanford bank, where it was not clear if it really was Ponzi schema or it was legitimate business that was ruined by government interference.

14 “When I look back, it wasn’t as if I couldn’t have said no” Bernie Madoff

The final chapter is about the king of all Ponzi schemas – Bernard Madoff. This is a very interesting case when initially legitimate business had stumbled and its owner could not accept failure, even if it would have very limited if any impact on his wealth, so he moved business to Ponzi, initially hoping it will recover in a cycle or two, but then just continuing deeper into criminality because of inability to face reality.

Conclusion Toward Greater Humility

The conclusion is about seeking better ways to avoid pitfalls of white color crime. One of them is improvement of business ethics that in contemporary conditions should substitute old time control of community that would make any misconduct widely known, preventing future business. Another one is to seek disagreement and pay attention to dissonance. Finally author stresses importance of compliance and prevention of feeling of invincibility that often develops in people in high places.


It is an interesting account of while color crime development that actually occurred after WWII. There are two very different groups of criminals here: one is people involved in real crime when they intentionally lied to investors, created Ponzi schemas, and such and another one: people who become criminals due to complex rules violation. Author seems to be making no real differentiation between these two groups, but I think such differentiation is critical. The first group should be prevented from cheating, while the second one should not be subjected to complex rules in the first place.

Actually I do not believe that government should use its power of violence to establish rules. The rules should be established by business people who are participate in the market. This way the rules will be meaningful and minimalistic.

The government should use its power of violence to collect and distribute information to market participants. Otherwise the existence of some supreme rules maker that does not depend on business success or failure gives bureaucrats huge amount of power without any responsibility and encourages them to suppress business activities or at least chill them. The opportunities for bribes consequently become very high and I am sure they are exploited in direct proportion with the power of bureaucracy. Good example is the case of Madoff and any other Ponzi scheme. If instead of making this illegal, the government violence should be used to obtain complete record of transactions and present this record in the digestible form for everybody, which would make the problem immediately obvious. Actually the move away from transparency of statements to transactional transparency would make white color crimes all but impossible.



20170520 – Weapon Wizards

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 11.30.35 AM


This book is about very unusual circumstances of Israel – the small country under continuing thread of annihilation with population culturally primed for educational and intellectual achievement. The main idea of this book is to review history of Israeli achievements in military technology and how it was done.



The introduction is mainly about Israel culture of survival among multiple hostile nations and populations that used any methods conceivable from massive conventional attacks to individual stabbings to annihilate Israel and its Jewish population. Simply put without superior weapons and tactical superiority Israel would cease to exist and its population would become victims of the new Holocaust.

  1. Beginning in a Bunker

This is history of the birth of Jewish military industry in the British controlled Palestine. It starts with the story of underground munitions factory, then moves to the creation of air force and ends with the review of Israeli – French cooperation in 1950s that allowed Israel to be reasonably well armed. The French help ended in 1967 when De Gaulle imposed arms embargo. Luckily for the Jews the new sponsor – USA come to help and up until presidency of Obama remained reliable supporter.

2: Creative Drones

This is story of creation of military drones and of Israel becoming by far the most effective producer and seller of this form of armament. It is a good example of success of enterprising individuals in fight against bureaucratic state. Obviously this advantage would not stay forever and everybody now has and uses drones including terrorists.

3: Adaptive Armor

This chapter is about another important weapon that Israel seems to be good at producing – tanks. Israeli constantly in contest with the latest anti-tank weapons that Soviets and now Russians supply to Hamas and Hezbollah. This contest produced multiple improvements in tanks design with very important new addition – active protection against projectiles.

4: Chutzpadik Satellites

This is about another technology that would normally be out of reach for small country – satellites. Driven by unreliability of support from even the friendliest country – USA, Israel managed to develop technology and by the end of 1980s become one of a few countries with military abilities in the near orbit space.

5: Rocket Science

This header is a bit misleading because it is not that much about rockets as about stopping them from coming. The rockets here are Hamas and Hezbollah rockets trying to hit Israelis. Eventually Israelis responded with anti missile system Iron Dome, which main achievement is automated tracking system capable identify incoming projectile, its direction, level of threat it posses, and shoot it down if and only if it is the real threat.

6: Intelligent Machines

This is about Israel incessant fighting with terrorist organizations and the strategy of choice that Israel uses – targeting killing of leaders, while minimizing damage to everybody else. A good chunk of the chapter describes how Israeli military evolved tactics to scare off voluntary human shields by using first low charge ammunition before actually bombing military facilities protected by civilians.

7: Cyber Viruses

This is about Israel proficiency in cyber warfare demonstrated by Stuxnet virus that slowed down Iranian nuclear program. Another example was bombing well-defended Syrian reactor that required highly coordinated and eventually effective actions of intelligence, cyber measures, commandos, and air force.

8: Diplomatic Arms

The final chapter is about Israel use of its proficiency in weaponry for economic and diplomatic purposes. It looks in details at one such case: attempted sale of Israeli military system to China and how it was stopped when USA expressed its opposition.

Conclusion: Armageddon and the Future of Weapons

The conclusion of this book is quite obvious: Israel will continue attempts to stay at the top of military technology because it is constantly under attack and any negligence leads to immediate punishment in form of successful operation by enemy. The latest example during recent Gaza war is unexpectedly massive and somewhat effective use of tunnels by Hamas. Authors end this book by stressing the high value of education embedded in Israel culture, which gives them hope that Israel will continue to be successful in the future.


I am not that optimistic about future of Israel if it will not change it approach in very significant way. Israel is good at technology and the next generation of warfare with massive use of autonomous and semi-autonomous system is already here in form of Iron Dome and some other systems that are under development in Israel, so at this point Israel probably not in such a bad shape. However strife to annihilate Israel and its people is continuing and if your enemy can lose infinite number of times and easily recover with help provided by the “world community”, but your loosing once means end of game, then someday this “one in a thousands” case will occur and you cease to exists. The only way out for Israel is to win the war once and for all so it’s Muslim neighbors fully accept reality of Israel existence and stop trying. The only way it could happen is if they really and truly believe that the stakes for them are the same – loosing means annihilation. I afraid that we’ll see the end of game coming in the next 20-30 years when Iran and maybe even some non-state terrorist organization acquire the nuclear weapons and try to use them.


20170513 White Trash

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 12.26.41 PM


The main idea of this book is to reject notion that America is the land of equal opportunity where all men are created equal and if they fail to achieve prosperity it is their own fault. In order to achieve this author provides quite detailed history of American white poor and contemptuous cultural attitudes to them from elite and middle class. Another key point here that this is not going away and so called “white trash” will stay with us for a very long time in the future.


Introduction: Fables We Forget by

Here author mainly discusses fables of “all men are created equal” and/or “America the best hope”. She stresses that poverty and underclass are always were part of America, from the very beginning of colonization and it never really went away even in the “golden” age of 1950s. She points out that America always was and still is not only “land of opportunity”, but also a damping ground for people not wanted in other places. This book is mainly about them.

Part I: To Begin the World Anew

Chapter ONE: Taking Out the Trash: Waste People in the New World

This is about original shipping of waste people to America. It starts with reference to Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) who wrote about America as mainly wasteland that presents plentiful opportunity to ship there waste people who may or may not improve it under semi military regime and eventually could provide a pool of soldiers and sailors who are not connected to anything. This vision was tried at Jamestown, but not very successfully. Mayflower puritans did a bit better by establishing something like theologically controlled society. In all cases the new colonies were pretty class-conscious society with strict enforcement of who is who.

Chapter TWO: John Locke’s Lubberland: The Settlements of Carolina and Georgia

This chapter moves to ideological underpinning of the new America obtained by colonists from John Locke in XVII century. She discusses his participation in creation of illiberal Fundamental Constitution for Carolina colonies that indorsed slavery and rigid hierarchical society. Practically it was beginning of long war against poor settlers and squatters. Author allocates quite a bit of space to Dismal Swamp that came to symbolize America as a wasteland that requires spending lives of multitude of poor people to achieve at least some improvement. Somewhat different was development in Georgia, which practically started with James Oglethorpe’s colony established in 1732. Here slavery was initially rejected and classic agrarian society consisting of citizen – farmers – soldiers was attempted. However even here unequal classes were quickly established. About 10 years after the first governor left, the slavery was allowed and Georgia moved in the same direction as other parts of the South.

Chapter THREE: Benjamin Franklin’s American Breed: The Demographics of Mediocrity

This starts with Ben Franklin, more specifically with his approach to demographic of poor who produced children regardless of means to support them. However in country like America at the time with unlimited pool of land additional children were the same as additional wealth for the society providing they are productive. In Franklin’s view the new Americans would eventually substitute slaves and indentured servants. However it did not work this way and author goes into discussion of why no self-made man is really self-made and nobody could be productive without at least some human capital transferred via family and upbringing. Author also brings in views of Thomas Paine who, while being clearly class conscious, nevertheless believed that idleness could be eliminated by independence, which together with access to natural resources would dilute class differences between Americans.

Chapter FOUR: Thomas Jefferson’s Rubbish: A Curious Topography of Class

This is continuation of review of founding fathers approach; this time it is Thomas Jefferson. His ideas of agrarian society of farmers without class distinction however required proper topography good for agriculture so places like Dismal Swamp could not help but produce poor, lazy, and good for nothing people. He still left some space for classes with at least some aristocracy at the top, albeit not heritable, but rather meritocratic.

Chapter FIVE: Andrew Jackson’s Cracker Country: The Squatter as Common Man

The final chapter of this part is about Andrew Jackson and his fight against East coast Elite, which become quite well settled and powerful during the first 50 years after revolution. Big part of it was not only fight against the Bank, but also squatters against landlords and westerners against East based government. Since squatters had no titles to the land and moved from place to place under pressure they become the lowest class of the period associated with multiple evil characteristics. Jackson was not really their supporter, but he was expansionist and new land inevitably provided opportunities for these people. Eventually by 1840 despised squatter turned into freedom loving westerner supported by all sides of political divide.


Part II: Degeneration of the American Breed

Chapter SIX: Pedigree and Poor White Trash: Bad Blood, Half-Breeds, and Clay-Eaters

This chapter moves to the next period when the main issue was slavery, but secondary and also very important was issue of poor southern whites spoiled by negative attitude to labor. At this point the issue of biology as defining factor of behavior started to become important and blood, especially mixed blood begin define attitude to people. It was at this point when notion of “white trash” was created.

Chapter SEVEN: Cowards, Poltroons, and Mudsills: Civil War as Class Warfare

This is somewhat unusual look at the Civil war as class struggle. The classes in it were Southern aristocratic land and slaveholders with support of southern whites on one hand and Northern business elite with support of farmers and other middle class members who were threatened by emerging aristocracy.

Chapter EIGHT: Thoroughbreds and Scalawags: Bloodlines and Bastard Stock in the Age of Eugenics

This chapter is about Darwinian approach to poor and Eugenics movement that was based on practically agricultural approach to humans as just another group of domestic animals that could and should be bred to improve quality of stock. It discusses Du Bois who was trying to advance black development pointing out at the same time degeneracy of poor Southern whites and danger of rednecks. The author looks here on post Civil war South population including Northern whites that moved south and tried to benefit from reconstruction (skalawags). In addition to Du Bois author looks at Teddy Roosevelt, another enemy of rednecks. Teddy was eugenicist and supported political measures consistent with better breeding ideas. Author also covers multiple violation of human rights caused by supporters of these ideas.

Chapter NINE: Forgotten Men and Poor Folk: Downward Mobility and the Great Depression

This covers great depression, which dramatically increased share of poor in population at the expense of part of middle class that failed to survive economically. Probably this sudden increase in number and quality of poor population is not that bad explanation of serious movement of political power to support their needs. After all American democracy allows people smart enough to vote and numerous enough to win majority put into power somebody who would help them, even if it would happen at the expense of others, which what New Deal was all about.

Chapter TEN: The Cult of the Country Boy: Elvis Presley, Andy Griffith, and LBJ’s Great Society.

The post WWII history reviewed here brought in the new phenomenon – popularity of poor southern white culture and its representatives like Elvis and Andy. It was greatly enhanced in TV culture by representing it in relatively positive, albeit slightly intellectually challenged, view, while pushed down and suppressed in its racist expressions. It also touched on Johnson’s great society that was aiming eliminate poverty by giving out handouts, rather than eliminating poor by breeding them out of population.

Part III: The White Trash Makeover

Chapter ELEVEN: Redneck Roots: Deliverance, Billy Beer, and Tammy Faye

The next step in history of American poor whites are 70s and 80s when they were on the roll first surviving stagflation and their own Jimmy Carter, then nearly taking over the whole country with evangelical revival and extension of pop-culture.

Chapter TWELVE: Outing Rednecks: Slumming, Slick Willie, and Sarah Palin

The final chapter brings us to 90s and 2000s when first slick Willie Clinton from democrats and then Sara Palin from republicans seemingly brought the lower classes representatives to the top of political power or close to it. It was obviously false with Clintons who with their top schools lawyering were more pretending then really belonging to this class, but the fact they did it demonstrated growing political power of the bottom and correspondingly decrease in power of elite.

EFILDGUE: America’s Strange Breed: The Long Legacy of White Trash

This is pretty much restatement of the main thesis that America is not a classless society, never been and probably will never be one. In author’s opinion America’s classes, as in any other country, are defined by inheritance, wealth, and educations. These are not easily penetrated barriers and lots of people keep staying in their white trash status for many generations in the past without any indication that they will do better in the future.


I find this history of “white trash” quite interesting and educational. However I do not think that it proves that traditional idea of America is wrong. If something it actually demonstrates it is that America is the land of opportunity, albeit it is not easy to convert this opportunity into success. Moreover the history demonstrates quite convincingly that American system of imperfect democracy and generally wide freedoms allows peaceful revolutions via elections when people at the bottom find that opportunities are not as good as they should be. It happened a few time in American history from Andrew Jackson to Donald Trump and even if result is not always what is expected, it still corrects American system in such way that it provides more opportunity than it was the case before revolt.


20170506 – Dereliction of Duty

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 1.25.01 PM


The main idea of this book is to use detailed chronicle of events from the beginning of Kennedy administration until July 1965, the beginning of mass escalation by Johnson administration to demonstrate how inter-service rivalry, bureaucratic maneuvering, and plain political cowardice led to failure of military leaders to provide clear advice to political leaders against untenable semi-war intentionally designed not to win. It also demonstrates how typical bureaucratic career enhancing games taken to the level of the Country’s military leadership and involving military engagements could sacrifice lives of many thousands of people for some additional star or bureaucratic advancement for individuals at the top.


1 The New Frontiersmen and the Old Guard: 1961-October 1962

The story starts with the new president – Kennedy coming to power and bringing with him the big philosophical change in American politics. It coincided with establishment of Max Taylor, who was proponent of the new approach to military, as Army Chief of Staff. The political consequence was the change from Eisenhower’s doctrine of mass retaliation to Kennedy’s doctrine of flexible response. Eisenhower believed that competition between communism and capitalism will be resolved in economic and society building competition so military aspect should be limited to prevention of big war by the making it impossible to start small wars and then escalate them. This doctrine made it impossible to achieve expansion of communism by revolutionary methods of internal subversion. The mass retaliation doctrine required a small high tech and massively nuclear force with supplement of quick and effective support of counter-revolutionary forces wherever communists get real opportunity for break through. This doctrine stopped Korean War, kept in check multiple countries of the third world, preventing communist take over, even at the expense of respect for national sovereignty of these countries, and successfully prevented any serious wars for the 8 years.

Kennedy’s doctrine however was based on complex ideas of theory of games, flexible retaliation, proportional escalation, and formal adherence to international norms with massive undercover operations outside of these norms that would somehow remain secret. This doctrine required massive army since proportionality of response and prevention of use of nuclear weapons become more important than winning. This attitude put Kennedy on collision course with military leaders who came out of WWII with notion of winning, which he successfully overcame by using bureaucratic maneuvering to implant his supporters like Taylor in leading military positions and non-military wiz kids like Robert McNamara in leading civilian positions over military.

2 Havana and Hanoi: October 1962-November 1963

The first consequence of new Kennedy doctrine was American failure in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs when Kennedy’s ineptitude and his intention to hide American support to anti-Castro forces at any cost led to defeat of these forces and consequent conversion of Cuba into communist dictatorship and Soviet military base. The following missile crisis forced Kennedy to go to the brink of nuclear war and eventually delivered huge victory to the USSR that was successfully masked by American pro-Kennedy media as Soviet defeat. However indecisive Kennedy was in fight against communist Castro, he compensated by decisive intervention in Vietnam against Diem, who until then successfully contained communist forces by using not very nice methods of suppression. Kennedy administration organized the coup that killed Diem and by doing so caused disarray in anti-communist forces, opening door for massive intervention of North Vietnam, Kennedy administration leaders were ready to meet with sophisticated strategy of game theory.

3 New War, New Leader: November 1963-January 1964

After Kennedy’s assassination new president Johnson found himself between two opposite pressures. On one hand Democratic Party and left wing demanded limited military response initially unconsciously and later fully consciously supportive to “progressive” communist movement, while on other hand republicans and right wing movement stand by ready to exert massive political punishment for loosing Indo-China similar to Truman’s suffering for loosing China. The fear to win as much as fear to loose pretty much defined his policy of receding any initiative to communist forces and using retaliation by proportional escalation to contain their success.

4 Graduated Pressure: January-March 1964

This is the story of the initial attempt to gradually increase pressure not necessarily to stop communist forces, but rather to find acceptable accommodation with them. It was base on the strange reading of Caribbean missile crises result as a demonstration of success for gradual approach, rather than success of direct threat of mass retaliation that in reality it was.

5 From Distrust to Deceit: March-July 1964

This chapter is a nice demonstration of elite modus of operandi when their action based on sophisticating reasoning and mathematical approach deliver completely different result than elite expects: they just lie and distort result to fit to their narrative. In this case the main actor was McNamara who successfully interfered in communication between president and military leaders, which eventually made clear choice to give priorities to their career rather than to risk it by giving honest professional advice and resigning if their advice is not accepted.

6 Across the Threshold: August 1964

Meanwhile the Joint Chiefs personal was changed with pushing out WWII fighting generals like LeMay and substituting them with bureaucratic generals like Wheeler. All this added to election complain where Johnson ran as peacemaker, successfully trying to present his opponent as warmonger. Interestingly enough it was in conjunction with attempt to demonstrate strength by providing limited military operations in Vietnam, when Gulf of Tonkin events of Vietnamese attacks on American destroyers were used to initiate congressional resolution, demonstrating Johnson’s strength, and repudiating Goldwater’s accusations.

7 Contriving Consensus: August – September 1964.

Direct strikes against North Vietnam resulting from Tonkin resolution did demonstrate Johnson strength, but did not change overall strategy of administration directed not at winning the war, but at convincing enemy to settle. This chapter details personalities, their history, and attitudes that led to continuing clashes between military and political leadership with military consistently giving way so the strategy of limited response with automatic transfer of initiative to the enemy remained operational.

8 Prophecies Rejected and the Path of Least Resistance September-November 1964

This is about actual predictions of supporters of limited semi war such as Rostow and attempts to analyze them using traditional methodology of war game. Such game SIGMA 11-64 was formally conducted and concluded that such limited engagement will not achieve objective of changing enemy behavior, but it would erode support for war in USA. The prediction was correct, but policy makers just ignored these results. The chapter also discusses some guerilla attacks on American troops and retaliation that had to be strictly calibrated to be proportional.

9 Planning for Failure: November-December 1964

This is about bureaucratic process of long term planning that administration conducted pretty much excluding military leadership. The special commission was created for this purpose, which produced report mainly reaffirming objective to save South Vietnam, but also including planning of how to spin events in the case of defeat. Overall all activities were conducted with accommodation to political requirements so prevent public from understanding that country is actually at war.

10 A Fork in the Road: December 1964-February 1965

At this point Johnson visited Vietnam where he tried to suppress internal political infighting between various groups in Vietnam leadership threatening withdrawal of American support. After concluding that South Vietnam would not stand on its own even with American air and logistics support, Johnson started introducing ground troops despite his preferred objective to established the great society programs.

11 The Foot in the Door: February-March 1965

At this point the war was turned into American war. However even after committing ground troops and starting to bomb Northern territory civil politicians retained detailed control over military operations, practically preventing military from winning the war. Meanwhile political situation within South remained fluid with internal struggles and even coup attempt.

12 A Quicksand of Lies March-April 1965

This chapter presents a nice catalogue of spin and outright deception that Johnson administration used to hide scale and nature of American growing involvement in the war. The conclusion here is that taken this entire together one had to accept failure of the bureaucracy to prevent its top leader – president from starting real war without consideration of its costs and consequences.

13 The Coach and His Team April-June 1965

This is about the process of Johnson’s continuation of dual efforts to increase military involvement and hide its scale from the public. It was policy doomed to be a failure in such open society as USA.

14 War without Direction: April-June 1965.

This is about one of the main causes of failure: deep involvement of the top leadership into operational issues that inevitably led to neglect of strategic issues that in turn led to long periods of wondering without clear detailed and achievable objectives that made it practically impossible to win war against determined enemy with clear knowledge of his objectives and readiness to pay any price to achieve them.

15 Five Silent Men duty: July 1965

The final chapter is about failure of military Chiefs to stand up to political leadership for what they believed is a case in Vietnam War. Obviously for these people their own career was more important than anything else for all practical purposes.


It is very a detailed and in depth analysis of American involvement in Vietnam from the point of view of interactions between senior political and military leaders who failed at all meaningful levels from strategic to operational to tactical. I think this raises the very important question of war and peace. I guess the founders were wise when they wrote into constitution that power to declare war belongs to Congress as the most populous and close to the people body, guaranteeing by this that it would not be done easily or for non-critical reasons. Unfortunately starting with Truman this constitutional wisdom was disposed off, leading to 70 years of failure. We lucky that these wars were relatively small and insignificant due to nuclear weapons and American technological superiority, but still costs of these wars, not only in human lives and dollars, but also in overall moral and cohesiveness of society was way too high. If such approach will continue in the future it will eventually get to the very dangerous levels.