Book Review “Red Team” by Micah Zenko

How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy.

Thanks for checking out our book review of Micah Zenko’s book Red Team.

OMG, You had me at the title ::heart::

Red Team

Come check out our off the cuff review on YouTube:

What Sticks Out to Me

Up front. I like to take pictures or screen shots of good excerpts from the books I bring you. This one was tough, I couldn’t make it out of the introduction without falling in love with a ton of quotes. Let’s just have a look below:

The origin story of “Devil’s Advocate”:

Something near and dear to my heart, one of the huge issues facing the military bureaucracy today “Not grading your own homework” which reminds me of the method that military officers promote themselves:

The beginnings of why orginizations create an environment which does not promote critical thinking, an example from GM:

And also the author using the word “Bosses” a lot. I understand the idea behind that. Generic term. I’m starting to NOT love talking about great examples of great bosses being great. Not a problem with the writer, but I’ve seen lots of “bosses” in the military that couldn’t lead themselves out of a paper bag that when you look on paper, at the reports they write about themselves they give you only the part of the story that makes them (in the words of my friend Rhiana? Right? or whoever) “Shine bright like a diamond”.  I know, I crack myself up. Anyways, lots of talk about bosses and commanders and military officers and CEO’s. You gotta be reeeeeaaaaaal careful when you look at their careers and their accomplishments when the only info you have is their own accounts of their greatness.

*****Side track: I’ve sat in secret briefings inside secret facilities with super high ranking people that were in charge of my team’s deployment. I don’t dislike this book but there is SOOOOO MUCH “this military officer, that military officer” that I want to throw up. That being said, in those briefings two things happened of note…

*ONE– My boss (an O-3) refused to let me brief the O-5 and O-6 type in the audience (probably smart on my boss’s part). The brief was pretty close to accurate, buuuuuuut to those of us ON the team it looked like it was written by a poorly informed journalist. For the sake of this secret briefing though let’s say that yes, sure, we briefed these big-decision-makers on our capabilities. So one, is that we gave a brief that wasn’t even accurate, we couldn’t get out of our OWN way to even say the equivalent of “hello” to the commanders correctly.

*TWO– The scary part is that THE FUCKING PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF MAKING OPERATIONAL DECISIONS AND DEPLOYING AND MANUVERING US AND PROVIDING SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE……….HAD NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT WE DID AS A UNIT!!!!!! …ok deep breath (I am currently telling myself) because this is not the first or the last time that this has happened in the military…

So while this book is all about helping an organization by red teaming and getting the command on board, I have not yet seen one case study (unless I missed it) about sending a moderately informed E-4 (lower ranking enlisted person, for my civilian friends) into a command briefing to speak his fucking mind. Much like the military war game “MC-02” which is discussed in this book (and an article like below) it is not fucking hard to derail an entire command with one lower ranking critical thinker. I would LOVE to talk to Micah about this, I’m sure this has crossed his mind but damn it if there isn’t so much emphasis on military officers in this book.

Pros/Cons

…took this section out today in favor of already having gone into a long rant above 😉

New Section* Who the fuck wrote this?

There’s a pretty good article, right up my fucking alley, that Micah wrote titled “Millennium Challenge” you can find here: at War On The Rocks. This is discussed in detail early in the book. It’s about some Red Teaming that the Government set up… oh by the way, the winner of the red teaming (war game) was basically in-effect chosen in advance. This is NOT the first time this has happened in our modern military. (Another similar author Richard Marcinko talks about this happening during his career during and after the Vietnam Conflict era, you can read about his fiction and non-fiction books on Red Teaming here at Wikipedia.)

LOVING that quote from the State Dept employee “…nothing else to do”. YUP! Sounds legit! 😀

Back to Micah, I checked out his Twitter feed @MicahZenko and if you are into staying super up to date on foreign policy than you might want to subscribe to his page. Lots of name dropping and politics, not into the he-said she-said politics myself but if you are looking for more twitter-ers to follow that he seems like a fun account to follow due to lots of calling the government out for screwing shit up. Seems to be, anyways.

Another site Micah writes articles for ForeignPolicy.com seems to have some killer headlines from him including “The US Military is Reporting Alternative Facts” and “The Crisis Manager’s Cheet Sheet for 2017” and more.

Conclusion

Very redundantly redundant. “They should have hired a Red Team and didn’t. They hired us to Red Team it but wrote the rules wrong so the Red Teaming was pointless. They used us correctly but they didn’t fix the security failures that the Red Team suggested that they fix.” Take that whole loop…. and fucking put that shit on repeat for the WHOLE book. There are a few, very few, case studies that go like this “It was Red Teammed, and every body learned and was happy”. SO…… if you think you will learn how to think like the enemy (like the title says) than you are wrong. This SHOULD HAVE been titled “Why Red Teaming Doesn’t Work”. They briefly skimmed the surface, but there was not very much how-to-ing going on about how to think like the enemy.

Now, this is not a bad book! If you are interested in security concerns, or you like reading about Washington politics that happen at high levels within bureaucracies, or you want to be a Penetration Tester or Red Teamer, they YES this book is for you. Available at Amazon through the link below for about 15$.

This whole book also fits under the umbrella of one of my favorite quotes “Those who build walls think differently than those who seek to go over, under, around, or through them” from Social Engineering. See our review of that, here.

-RW

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