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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2010

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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2010

    U509: If you haven't got it already, I'd really recommend tracking down a copy of David Zabecki's The German 1918 Offensives: A Case Study in the Operational Level of War (2006). It's excellent and well worth a read; he's got a great deal of new stuff in there. It's also quite heavily noted so you can follow him to other sources for anything that catches your interest.

    I read a couple others recently that were also very good, though only tangentially related: Paul Harris's new biography of Haig (Douglas Haig and the First World War) is, I think, about as balanced a view of the man that I have ever seen -- not shy of criticizing Haig, but doesn't ignore things that were worth praising. Andy Simpson's Directing Operations: British Corps Command on the Western Front was also excellent.

    Ian

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A long time since I read on this subject, IIRC Professor Geoffrey Parker wrote about this (I have an emailed a friend more familiar with this subject) and there was a series of books on European warfare, edited by Prof. Geoffrey Best IIRC. Fuchs might know more as his grasp of history is wider than mine and of course the wars centred in what was to become Germany.

    Added after reply email:

    Geoffrey Parker has written some very readable and yet scholarly books on 16th and 17th century European History which are in print - or at least widely available.

    Geoffrey Elton (better know as GR Elton)'s 'Reformation Europe' in the Fontana paperback series of the 1960s/70s is still the best and clearest intro for the non-specialist.
    That book takes you roughly just past the 1555 Augsburg treaty.

    JH Elliot's 'Europe Divided' is the very clear, well-organised sequel to Elton in the same Fontana series; he's also a lively but reliable author best known for 'Imperial Spain'.
    Europe Divided takes you to 1598, death of King Philip II of Spain.

    The following volume in the Fontana series - I forget the title ('Europe in Crisis' ?) - is by Parker and takes you up to the Westphalia treaties of 1648. My special subject at college was the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1568 - 1648, about which he has written a lot e.g. 'The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road' (1970s).

    .

    Parker is required reading especially after he extended/developed the concept of a military revolution first touted by Michael Roberts in the 50s. I would also recommend anything written by Jeremy Black esp.; Rethinking Military History, Warfare in the Eighteenth Century, Europe and the World 1650-1830, and A Military Revolution? Military Change and European Society 1550-1800 among others.

    As for (G) Elton I have never much liked the "Whig historian" which see Herbert Butterfield and The Whig Interpretation of History

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    Recently read...


    David Bellavia (with John Bruning), House to House: An Epic of Urabn Warfare

    Mark N. Woodruff, Unheralded Victory: Who won the Vietnam War?

    &

    Robin Moore, Task Force Dagger: The Hunt for Bin Laden

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    Council Member Wargames Mark's Avatar
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    Eastern Approaches, by Fitzroy MacLean

    Complexity: A Guided Tour, by Melanie Mitchell
    There are three kinds of people in this world:
    Those who can count, and those who can't.

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    Default Second the MacLean book

    Wargames Mark,

    Eastern Approaches, by Fitzroy MacLean
    Excellent book, the authors tour descriptions through Stalinist USSR are really amazing and the chapter on the conflicts in Yugoslavia i.e. Bosnia is an excellent primer on why the communities fought.
    davidbfpo

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    Did a couple over leave (in between struggling through some old Wilber Smith's ... that guy could do with a good editor):

    Finally finished The Men Who Persevered (Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam) by Bruce Davies and Gary McKay and The Tiger Man of Vietnam by Frank Walker. Preferred Barry Pettersen's telling of his own story in Tiger Men than the effort by Walker.

    Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton ... good read about the events surrounding the capture of John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan.

    Just getting started on Orson Scott Card's Empire ... it was the inspiration for a great XBox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex last year and after finishing off COD Modern Warfare 2 last night there's also a little bit in that. Gotta love a good military conspiracy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    Recently read...


    Robin Moore, Task Force Dagger: The Hunt for Bin Laden
    Burn it ... Burn it with fire

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    Default Funny thing happened on the way to the sok...

    Quote Originally Posted by Spud View Post
    Burn it ... Burn it with fire
    I, too, have come to the same conclusion. There was much in it that was factual nonsense whilst the rest of it appeaered to be pure fantasy. Don't get me wrong, much of it does reek of virsimilitude but of a strained variety. Still, it was interesting nonetheless.

    Just finished reading Sniper One, by Sgt Dan Mills. Scorching stuff!!

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Blink by Malcom Gladwell
    Not a COIN book per se, but extremely relevant to much of what we discuss here and I recommend the book highly.
    Reed
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    FM 31-23 Stability Operations - U.S. Army Doctrine. December 1967

    CSM Tommy Smith handed me a copy as I was heading out the door for Afghanistan, and just got around to cracking it open today. An excellent manual all about dealing with insurgency. Term not found in the glossary? "Counterinsurgency."

    Thanks Sergeant Major, I approve and share your endorsement of this "lost" bit of doctrine.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Dead Aid (By Dambisa Moyo)

    This has been a very contentious book expatiating on the futility of financial aid to the poverty-stricken world for the most part. What also adss to its controversy is the foreword by Niall Ferguson (who is known to have been appallingly unapologetic stance on the British colonisation of the developing world). I haven't read the book, but it has purportedly generated a huge fuss in amongst many NGOs

    http://www.dambisamoyo.com/deadaid.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    FM 31-23 Stability Operations - U.S. Army Doctrine. December 1967

    CSM Tommy Smith handed me a copy as I was heading out the door for Afghanistan, and just got around to cracking it open today. An excellent manual all about dealing with insurgency. Term not found in the glossary? "Counterinsurgency."

    Thanks Sergeant Major, I approve and share your endorsement of this "lost" bit of doctrine.
    FYI - there's a thread on the board from '07 that is mostly links to digital copies of vintage COIN and stability doctrine

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    Just finished ARABIAN ASSIGNMENT written by David Smiley commander of the British involvement in the Middle East during the 60’s. Of particular interest was his work in Yemen. I had forgotten that the U.S. favored the Egyptian invasion while the British supported the Saudi backing of the Emir’s guerrillas. Smiley’s constant struggles with the various tribes’ he tried to unite, helps to provide a window into politics in that country today. Also slogged through Tom Chamales’ fictional account of his life as a captain leading the Kachin Rangers while serving with the OSS in Burma, NEVER SO FEW. Very wordy at times (like cutting through elephant grass with a penknife) but loved the ending.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-21-2010 at 11:37 AM. Reason: Part on Yemen copied to the Yemen thread. TKS!

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    Currently reading One Hell of a Ride and just finished Theodore Roosevelt and World Order. The latter is an interesting look at TR's approach to international police power (read overseas interventions), while the former is a pretty good look at 1/4 Cav's operations in 1969.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    I am currently reading Reconciliation in Afghanistan by Michael Semple, The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen, I am American (And so can you) by Stefphen Colbert. Good times.

    Also, I miss Applebee's.

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    Default Iraq

    Currently in the queue:

    Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice, by Jarret M. Brachman

    Voices from Post-Saddam Iraq: Living with Terrorism, Insurgency, and New Forms of Tyranny by Victoria Fontan

    Suicide Bombers in Iraq, by Mohammed M. Hafez

    Al Anbar Awakening, vol. II: Iraqi Perspectives, ed. by Gary W. Montgomery and Timothy S. McWilliams

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    Leaderless Jihad - Marc Sageman
    A Problem from Hell - Samantha Power
    The Sling and the Stone - Col Thomas Hammes

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    The next 100 years George friedman

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    I have recently read a number of literary gems and I hope two of them at least will be read by the members of the SWC. Firstly, Adrian Greaves’, Lawrence of Arabia: Mirage of a Desert War. Written by a respected scholar whose usual specialisation is the Anglo-Zulu wars it sets out to critically analyse the “myth” of Lawrence so familiar to readers of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He does so by analysing the military campaigns in which Lawrence participated in the context within which they occurred as well as placing Lawrence in his place amongst the other principals. It is an important corrective to much of Lawrence’s own “propaganda” as well as the popular myths about the Arab Revolt. Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Lawrence-Arabi.../dp/0753823667

    In Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence wrote movingly of his tragic experience while in the hands of the Turks [the Derra Incident]. Other authors muddled the facts of his arrest and then went on to write in considerable detail, describing his alleged torture and male rape by Turkish guards. Others orientated their books to a consideration of the effects of the ‘incident’ on Lawrence’s psyche. Lawrence claims he eventually escaped the Turks’ custody after a number of hours of torture but no one actually knows what really happened. The answer is simple: no one is ever likely to know, which is exactly what Lawrence intended. The hole alleged affair appears to be little more than a fabrication”
    . (p. 144-5)

    Similarly, though with an opposite intention (i.e., that of rehabilitation, if that was needed) is John Bierman and Colin Smith’s, Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia and Zion which examines Orde Wingate’s post-war reputation (somewhat tarnished when Slim’s autobiography was published) by examining his role in the three theatres within which he made an impact. It refutes much that has been said about him while portraying him as the complex man that he was rather than in the either/or (genius/upstart) colours that many of his contemporaries painted him in later (post-war) years. It is by no means the last word but, rather, should be read prior to consulting the other works on him. Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Night-Win.../dp/0375500618

    [Wingate on T. E. Lawrence, his distant relation, and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom]
    The vanity of the principals plus a great amount of romantic dust has been allowed so far to obscure what really did happen. A ragged horde of at most a few thousand and often only a few hundred Bedouin, paid in gold for approximately two days’ fighting per month ... caused the Turks a certain amount of embarrassment and anxiety...In return for the highly paid assistance of this small rabble of Hedjazi [sic] Bedouin, we have handed over to the “Arabs” the whole of Saudi Arabia, and the Yemen, Iraq, Trans-Jordan and Syria. A more absurd transaction has seldom been seen”
    (p. 131)

    [Wingate to Wavell re. guerrilla ops in Burma]
    Guerrillas are born and not made. Essentially, a guerrilla is a man who prefers death on his own terms to life on the enemy’s.
    (p. 243)

    In terms of “popular” history I have also read Patrick Bishop’s 3 Para: Afghanistan, Summer 2006 book link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/3-Para-Patri.../dp/0007257783, Cdr Ade Orchard’s Joint Force Harrier weblink: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joint-Force-.../dp/0718153995 and James Ashcroft’s, Making a Killing: The Explosive Story of a Hired Gun in Iraq weblink: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Killi.../dp/1852273119.

    Naturally, these are British works for a British audience but, I believe, provide a much needed perspective on a war in which American cultural capital often decides the manner in which we perceive the (long) war. All three are excellent as personal vignettes of different aspects of the Long War and, as above, the following synopses are each accompanied by a sample quotation.

    Bishops’ 3 Para is a snapshot of of small unit cohesion, espirit d'corps and skill at small arms while also enlightening in terms of the experiences of young men in a foreign land, i.e., Helmand Province Afghanistan(in many respects an Afghan counterpart to Dan Mills’ Iraq based, Sniper One). In fact one almost gets the impression that the ghost of Kipling watched over these young men and women.

    The engineers’ activities building up the camp inevitably attracted the attention of the Taliban, who would harass them with fire. During August the sappers built the Hesco wall, complete with sangars, around the base. To the south, they cut back the corn and maize fields surrounding the helicopter landing site to a distance of 100 yards, robbing the Taliban of cover. Despite this, the HLS was still vulnerable, and on the 17th August [Major Jamie] Loden ordered a dawn patrol to clear the area. The objective was to deter the Taliban from hiding weapons in advance of any helicopter resupply. One of the attackers’ techniques was to cache rifles and RPGs in buildings and fields along likely patrol routes. This gave them the freedom to move around unarmed, pick up the weapons, carry out the attack, then drop the arms and assume the guise of civilians.
    By now the Paras had a reasonable idea of how their enemy were organised. It seemed that they operated in sub-units of about ten men. In the course of the fighting in that summer the Taliban had evolved more sophisticated tactics, firing simultaneously from several angles and using a variety of weapons. Above all, they had developed very fast reaction times. Any patrol was ‘dicked’ immediately. If the Paras stayed for more than ten minutes they could expect to be ambushed – hence the short times allowed for vehicle checks and intelligence-gathering encounters with the locals.
    (p214-5)

    Joint Force Harrier provides an exploration of the experiences of a RN air Sqn employing Harrier GR7s based at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan during a six-month tour. It deftly explains the intricacies of close air support (ROE and such like) in that particular theatre along with the personal and international issues often encountered in coalition Warfighting.

    [On supporting an Apache atk helo team]
    As we overflew the target area for the first time, our immediate problem was to identify the specific compound where the Taliban gunmen were hiding out. I looked down from the cockpit as I pulled the Harrier into a turn. JTAC Hill was clearly visible, but there were a number of compounds that could have been where the insurgents were hiding out. One of the problems with picking out areas occupied by hostile forces from the air is that we can neither see nor hear firing that is perfectly evident to the troops on the ground. An additional problem in Afghanistan is that there are usually very few ground features clear and distinctive enough to use as markers. Then I had an idea. The Apache had been attacked by an RPG. The pilot was going to remember exactly where the weapon had been fired at him”.
    (p. 69)

    On the other hand Ashcroft’s Hired Gun. Ashcroft was a former British infantryman who was working in Iraq for a PMC and book is written from his unique perspective. It is revealing in terms of the machinations of the PMC business and how it interfaced (with all the attendant problems thereof) with regular forces and civil organisations- Iraqi and Coalition -as well as the “mentality” of a private contractor when compared to regular soldiers (though that is not his intent it does come through nonetheless). It also contains much by way of savvy cultural knowledge the likes of which would have been hard to come by in regular formations tied to Coalition military authorities.

    I was in a foul mood when I was summoned to the CPA to help Colonel [John] Hind [US Army] in one of his latest presentations before leaving the country. He had asked me for my input for a briefing for a two-star general about insurgent threats and we had ended up having a vigorous discussion in the Embassy chow hall. I refused to call it an argument because that implied to opposing but informed views, and as far as I could work out Colonel Hind was woefully ignorant. The problem was he insisted on lumping together all enemy forces under the politically correct title of AIF or ‘Anti-Iraqi Forces’. I tried to explain that the situation was more complex that that. Much of the rural ‘AIF sabotage’ against infrastructure targets was carried out by the very same tribes hired as guars in order to extort more money. When the sheiks demanded more money to ‘hire more guards’, the biggest mistake was to pay them. The situation would quieten down again until either the sheik wanted even more money, or the neighbouring sheiks were furious that they were being paid less. Then, all the tribes would be out blowing pipelines and claiming that they needed to hire more guard. We knew who was blowing up the pipelines because (a) insurgents would not wander into tribal areas because the tribes would kill them and (b) the inexperienced tribesmen often blew themselves up setting the devices (IEDs)”.
    (p. 239)

    I hope one of the technically savvy moderators is kind enough to add the appropriate links to the above. (Done and an invoice is en route).
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-06-2010 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Quote marks instead of bold & italics. Plus Amazon links.

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    Registered User Intel Geek's Avatar
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    Accidental Guerilla - David Kilcullen
    Starting With the Contras by Christopher Dickey today.

    I'm mostly just thumbing through With the Contras. I'm doing a paper on the 1978 war in Nicaragua and I'm hoping there's some good background info on the Sandinistas. I'm waiting for At the Fall of Somoza by Lawrence Pezzullo to arrive from Amazon.

    On Deck:

    The Gamble - Thomas Ricks
    The Peace to End all Peace - David Fromkin

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