WARNINGS by Richard A. Clarke


Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes
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Why we should heed the warnings of qualified experts and how the failure to do so in the past has led to avoidable disasters.

Bestselling nonfiction author and novelist Clarke (Pinnacle Event, 2015, etc.) worked as a counterterrorism adviser for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, but his warnings about the threat of an attack by al-Qaida were repeatedly ignored. Eddy, a former director of the National Security Council, is the CEO of Ergo, a global intelligence firm. As the authors demonstrate in a narrative that occasionally bogs down in figures and numerous bulleted sections, just as the Trojans failed to heed the warnings of a Greek attack by the mythical Princess Cassandra, the warnings of modern policy advisers are often ignored. Some of the major examples of the past century include the attack on Pearl Harbor, the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. In current-day usage, the label is often attached to stock analysts who specialize in predicting the direction of the markets. The authors cite Meredith Whitney, “a young analyst at a mid-tier research house,” as a perfect example of a modern Cassandra in action. “Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble between 1999 and 2001,” they write, “the stock market appeared to be as strong as ever.” But Whitney, shocked to discover that Citigroup, one of the world’s largest banks, was paying out more to investors than it was earning in profits, downgraded its rating, “the equivalent of a call to sell the stock.” In August 2008, Fortune described Whitney as “the woman who called Wall Street’s meltdown.” Further warnings by experts on a variety of issues—e.g., the growth of artificial intelligence or meteor strikes—are also being ignored. Clarke and Eddy suggest the need for a watchdog group to monitor threats and recommend appropriate responses.

Of great interest to policy wonks and would-be political analysts, perhaps less so for general readers.

Pub Date: July 25th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-248802-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2017


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