A review of Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflictby David Tucker

All American citizens have a stake in defeating terrorist attacks, sabotage, and subversion against the United States. But what are the best ways to go about it? Most of us don't have specific and comprehensive answers to the question. We elect people to office who appoint people to advise them about such things, and these advisers gather together experts to advise them. The experts typically disagree with one another in various small and large ways, leaving important judgments to be made by the non-experts, including the voting public. This is a book by an expert about terrorism, sabotage, and subversion and the better and worse ways of dealing with them. The "New Conflict" in the title is a phrase representing a way some other experts think about these threats and the best responses to them (John Arquilla, John Robb, and Philip Bobbitt are notable scholars, who, among others, have given this way of thinking the currency it has). Tucker disagrees with them; his book explains why. The disagreement matters because it points to irreconcilable ways of fighting terrorists.

David Tucker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Among other things, he teaches some of the people who are fighting the terrorists attacking the United States. Broadly speaking, those experts who think that we are facing a new kind of terrorist threat and are engaged in a "new conflict" argue, in Tucker's words, that "for the first time since the emergence of the modern nation-state system…non-state actors have become the principal threat to states and their peoples." This alleged epochal change is allegedly made possible by two main factors: technological developments and the globalization that follows from them. The two key technological developments are in destructive power on the one hand and communications and information on the other. These latter technologies enable these non-state enemies to disperse into networks that have an advantage over the cumbersome hierarchical states they are attacking. The U.S. and other states are doomed to lose in their battle against these non-state enemies, "unless they become more like the enemies they face, for ‘it takes a network to fight a network.'"

Tucker painstakingly analyzes the three kinds of threats and demonstrates that they do not represent a "new conflict," that in many ways (which he describes) centralized hierarchical states have advantages over the decentralized non-state networks attacking them, and that all in all a superior maxim for successful strategy would be "it takes a hierarchy to fight a network." One of the appealing conclusions he comes to is that vigilant citizens can play an important role in preventing terrorist attacks and dealing with the consequences of them when they do occur. In his words:

Perhaps the best immunization from the harms of a catastrophic attack is citizen involvement in civic and political life, including a willingness to discuss the possibility of such an attack. The same civic organizations that play a role in dealing with the physical aftermath of an attack should play a role now in preparing for the political aftermath. This would be a boon to our political well-being, whether the attack ever comes or not.

                      —Christopher Flannery

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A review of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama, by Steven F. Hayward 

This is a study of 17 presidents, covering a century of American history, from 1913 to 2012. It is no arbitrary whim that led Hayward to start with Woodrow Wilson, who represents the birth of the modern presidency. Since Wilson, Progressive theory has persistently discredited the very idea of constitutional government, and presidential governance has increasingly been characterized, not by executing the constitutional duties of the office of president, but by employing "mass rhetoric" to "lead" the nation.

Once the active and interested citizen who is the audience for this book has read the first two chapters, giving him the framework of Hayward's thinking, it's the kind of book he can pick up with the evening's restorative to remind himself why he always liked Silent Cal, or why the sight of Jimmy Carter somehow makes him feel a little downhearted. The chapters on the presidents range from 7 pages (George H.W. Bush) to 21 pages (Bill Clinton). The standard by which Hayward measures the presidents is "the single most important factor that should be considered in evaluating presidents and would-be presidents: Does the President take seriously his oath of office to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States'?" Hayward answers this question by considering the presidents' public statements about the Constitution, their record of abiding by its limits, and their Supreme Court appointments.

Let it never be said that Steven Hayward, a visiting professor at Ashland University, has succumbed to grade inflation. Of the 17 presidents graded, 6 of them get straight F's (Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama [with an asterisk, because he still has time—theoretically—to redeem himself]). Showing that he is not merely a punitive grader, Hayward gives out one A+. Buy the book to find out who earned it and to whet your appetite for the coming presidential election.