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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2011

  1. #1
    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2011

    I just started Marin Van Creveld's The Changing Face of War: From the Marne to Iraq, which I have mixed feelings about so far. Although it is promising to provide me a picture of how war has progressed and transformed from the beginning of the 21st Century to today.

    I'm also reading Michael Handel's Master's of War, which has some good readings of the classics of warfare and international relations in it.

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    Council Member Xenophon's Avatar
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    I'm reading Van Crevald's Supplying War. It's reinforcing my thesis that logistics is the most boring subject in the history of ever.

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    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Just finished reading "A Chance in Hell" by Jim Michels about 1-1 AD and the Anbar Awakening. Quick read with some salient points about the steps then COL MacFarland took with his brigade prior to the surge.

    http://www.amazon.com/Chance-Hell-Tr...5318596&sr=8-1

    About half way through "A Question of Command" by Mark Moyar. I thought the chapter on reconstruction was a reach but the book has picked up since then. His theory, that the success of an insurgency/counterinsurgency is leader centric is a interesting read and it is a nice break from the people vs enemy debates in COIN books today.

    http://www.amazon.com/Question-Comma...5318693&sr=1-1

    Just starting Georgina Howell's "Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert." Been wanting to read this one for a while and, thanks to the last book I just finished on TEL, I am more motivated to dig into Howell's take on Bell.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gertrude-Bell-...5318799&sr=1-1

    Finally, I finished Michael Korda's excellent biography of T.E. Lawrence, "Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia." I believe Korda's biography is the most balanced out of all the ones out there. He compares and contrasts the current crop of biographies in existence on Lawrence and incorporates a good deal of Lawrence's correspondence to support some of his interpretations of Lawrence's life. Well worth the read if you have any interest in TEL at all.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hero-Life-Lege...5318874&sr=1-1

    Back to my Kindle!
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    The Secrets of Saddam's Nuclear Mastermind by Mahdi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer
    Obeidi was the mastermind behind Saddam’s nuclear weapons project (he often reminds one of an Iraqi Albert Speer), a project which was dismantled after the 1991 war and evidence of which was hidden in Obeidi’s back garden under a lotus tree in a green plastic drum and remained there until the 2003 invasion. Obeidi is honest about what drove his work; patriotism, fear of Saddam and his henchman Hussein Kamel (who was in charge of the programme) and a genuine scientific and professional enthusiasm for solving a puzzle. The book sets out in some detail the travails -technological, human and international- the nuclear programme had to contend with and the shady world of industrial and military espionage. The roles of black-marketers- such as the shady Pakistani known only as Malik- and of western industrialists such as the German and Swiss private entrepreneurs (like those at H&H Metalform) who wilfully ignored the implications of their assistance is ably spelled out. Obeidi and his team often trod the same path as A. Q. Khan and at others innovated in quite ingenious ways (i.e., regarding centrifuge technology). Indeed, it is hard not to empathise and share the joys of Obeidi and his colleagues at the first successful test of their centrifuge. Life under the Saddam regime, however, is not forgotten and the reader often feels the same paranoia that the author must have felt too. At times Obeidi was even called upon to conduct espionage himself such as when he flew to the U.S. and the University of Virginia’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to try to obtain a copy of the Zippe Report on centrifuge technology, originally published in the 1950s and unavailable in Iraq;

    I approached a wiry, bespectacled librarian with the catalogue number, and he disappeared into a closed-off area of the library. When he returned several minutes later, he handed me a lengthy form and a ballpoint pen.
    “You have to fill this out first,” he said. “For security purposes. And I will need some identification.”
    This put me in an uncomfortable position, because filling in such forms would leave a dangerous paper trail. American intelligence agents would surely be very interested to learn that two Iraqi men had asked to see a centrifuge report at the University of Virginia. We couldn’t afford to leave such a revealing piece of evidence, particularly at the very outset of our secret program.
    “Would it be possible to ensure that the report is indeed here,” I asked, “before I fill out all these forms for it?”
    The librarian gave me an annoyed look, then returned to the back section of the library. We waited at his desk for what seemed like hours. Next to me, Dr. Farid fidgeted and began to sweat.
    “Do you think he will call the authorities?” Dr. Farid whispered.
    “Don’t worry,” I said. “We are in a university, making an everyday request. He is probably having trouble finding the report.” But I shared his nervousness. The word “security” triggered a subconscious reaction of fear in both of us. In Iraq, it usually meant just the opposite. Dr. Farid’s seemingly irrational notion suddenly took hold of me. What if a request for the Zippe report triggered an automatic security alert? If the librarian made a phone call and we were questioned, our cover story that we were from the University of Baghdad would hardly hold up. I thought of the awful consequences if Hussein Kamel learned we had exposed ourselves through such a foolish blunder. To my relief, the librarian finally returned with a thick sheaf of papers in one hand.
    “Here it is,” he said, holding it back from us.“Now please fill out these forms.”
    “Could I see it for a moment to be sure it is the right document?”I asked.
    He handed me the report and watched closely as I took it to a nearby table and flipped through its pages. As I had hoped, it was a key piece of literature. It did not contain blueprints or dimensions of centrifuge pieces but offered a broad view of the engineering principles behind the magnetic centrifuge. It was exactly the primer
    our team needed. But there was no way of reading it without filling out the release forms, and almost certainly no way of copying it. I noticed the librarian glowering at me several feet away. I intently scanned the chapter headings of the report while trying to appear as though I were only riffling through the pages.
    “Is that what you are looking for?” the librarian asked impatiently.
    “I’m still not sure,” I said.
    I knew I had only a few more seconds to look at the report. Then I came to an appendix that listed the recipients of the report when it was first issued in 1960: the holders of the precious few copies. Scanning down the list, I recognized the name of a Milan based professor [from whom Obeidi acquired the report via his onetime colleague Dr. Giorgio Morandi, in Milan] associated with the Italian nuclear program. That was the piece of information I needed. (p. 77-78)

    Obeidi also goes into some depth about Saddam’s attempts at deception during the IAEA inspections in the post-1991 period. At the Rashidiya complex a first inspection by IAEA inspectors discovered trace amounts of uranium, Obeidi ordered that the entire (former) centrifuge complex be demolished and soil excavated which may have been contaminated. It was then rebuilt.
    When the inspectors returned unannounced about two weeks later, everything appeared as they had last seen it, down to the placement of the drafting tables and machines and the coffeemaker. I stayed away, but my staff later told me the inspectors had arrived with a triumphant and slightly accusatory attitude. They took dozens of samples from the walls, floor, insulation, and ground soil, and then left to send them to Vienna for confirmation. They must have been truly puzzled when the material later tested negative for abnormal uranium levels. I imagine they remain puzzled about it to this day.(p. 150)
    [...]
    By 1994 the inspectors had largely dismantled Iraq’s nuclear capabilities. But they had not discovered key ingredients of the centrifuge program. In addition to hiding elements of our procurement network, the Oversight Committee had avoided turning over any blueprints or documents related to detailed design. The inspectors were unaware of our plans for a longer and more advanced centrifuge. They still knew nothing of the crash program before the 1991 war or how close we had come to producing a nuclear weapon. The government continued to claim that the centrifuge program was conceived and developed at Tuwaitha and to deny the true purpose of the Engineering Design Centre. The organizational structure of our centrifuge team was still in question. The inspectors had not been able to confirm my role or interview me as the program’s supervisor.(p. 156-6)

    Though not explicitly about the internal power struggles – especially between Hussein Kamel and Uday & Qusay Hussein- the book, by necessity, reveals much about the organisational and personal political manoeuvrings that formed the backdrop to the defunct programme. Hussein Kamel subsequently defected to Jordan and revealed hitherto unknown aspects of the nuclear weapons programme including the role of Karl Heinz Schaab in providing Iraq with blueprints for centrifuge technology. However, the nature of Saddam’s regime made rational policymaking a fantasy. In 2002 Britain and the US charged Iraq with reviving its WMD programme. Unfortunately, most of the industrial plants and research centres that had worked on the WMD programme were now working on conventional weapons programmes (ballistic missiles) but with the same technology. It was obvious what it looked like to Britain and America (whether or not we were justified in attacking Iraq, it didn’t help its case either).

    When General al-Saadi came back on the line, I informed him that we had experimented with aluminium rotors during our early efforts with the Beams-type centrifuge, but with a larger diameter than the tubes Iraq had recently ordered for rockets. I said that aluminium rotors could not be used for the magnetic type of centrifuge with which we succeeded in enriching uranium in 1990. After we hung up, I had second thoughts. I consulted with one of my junior engineers, Jamal, from the centrifuge days, who reminded me that Professor Zippe had used aluminium in early magnetic centrifuge work at the University of Virginia during the late 1950s. I called General Saadi back to correct myself. It was extremely important, I said, to give the inspectors the right arguments for the implausibility of the aluminium tubes allegation. We could not categorically state that aluminium tubes were unsuited for magnetic centrifuges. We needed to present a very detailed case. I knew that Dr. Faris was making a thorough investigation into the tolerances and specifications of the aluminium tubes, in order to show that they were indeed intended for artillery rockets.(p. 188)

    Obeidi’s fate after the 2003 invasion would be comical were it not for the very real dangers that the chaos in Iraq posed. For instance, he was courted by competing intelligence agencies while Obeidi himself tried to secure his safety through David Albright. Meanwhile US Army troops stormed his home (he was on the most-wanted list) oblivious to his dealings with the CIA (who were queued by Albright). He was finally spirited away to Kuwait and then the US. Fascinating stuff.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Psychology of Counter-Terrorism

    This is an edited volume by Andrew Silke, with a variety of generally superb chapters and yes SWC member Randy Borum writes the second chapter. Full of gems and an easy read.

    Link to publisher's USA website:http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415558402/

    Link to editor's academic bio:http://www.uel.ac.uk/law/staff/andrewsilke.htm
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Family Of Secrets-The Bush Dynasty-by Russ Baker

    Just finished reading it, and will turn right around and read it again!....some book to say the least. Link to several author interviews and book comments.

    http://www.familyofsecrets.com/

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    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Just started up this one by Pete Blaber of Delta fame. So far very impressed with his outlooks and philosophies. Enjoyable read after about 1/4 of the book and work picking up if you have some time.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Men-Me...5917129&sr=8-1
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    "Tracking - a blueprint for learning how", Jack Kearney

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    Quote Originally Posted by sullygoarmy View Post
    Just started up this one by Pete Blaber of Delta fame. So far very impressed with his outlooks and philosophies. Enjoyable read after about 1/4 of the book and work picking up if you have some time.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Men-Me...5917129&sr=8-1
    I read this one a while back. It's a good read, although it does start echoing Not a Good Day to Die once you hit the Anaconda section (which is understandable since he was one of the main sources for that book).
    "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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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    First to Fight by Bob Breen.

    Vietnam '65 - '66.
    About the 173rd Airborne Brigade with 1 RAR (infantry battalion) and a Kiwi gun battery attached.
    Breen describes quite nicely the very different operating methods between the US and the ANZACs.
    In his words:

    The paratroopers were saying to the Viet Cong, ‘You know where we are, and when and where we will strike, take us on and pay the price.’

    The Diggers said to the Viet Cong, ‘You will never know where we are but we will find you and kill you.’
    The Americans were hell bent on massive company and battalion size engagements and willing to pay a price for a high body count, while the Diggers preferred to spread out into large company operating area’s to kick out platoon size patrols. They where less willing to pay in blood for a body count.
    Neither philosophy was ‘perfect’ but:

    Given the missions of the day, the ‘bottom line’ was that the Paratroopers were killing Viet Cong and the Diggers were not.
    The diggers seemed to shine in their ability to deny the enemy of initiative through well planned patrols over large areas. Once that strength was realised and appreciated they were wisely used in that way while the US battalions were used to do what they do best, kick arse with lots of noise.

    Here’s a taste.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    Actually nothing but, recently I read ''The Thorn Birds " by Colleen McCullough I don't know if you remember the movie? and in the queue ''Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo, classics!

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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Fire Strike 7/9

    Quite an entertaining and easy read.

    Seems to confirm a lot of issues discussed here, like body armour, very short range patrols (beyond 500 m or so from base is getting into uncharted bandit country), complete reliance on fire support (largely air) etc.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    Default Books on tape count, right?

    Listening to Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton.

    It's been slow lately, not much going on exept a little traffic enforcement, so books on tape are great. I've got 1776 to start on next.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Gents,

    Looking for an assist here, as I need some new nightstand material, and most of what I have is too clinical and dry right now.

    I am looking for the book that I think was discussed on SWC some time ago, which detailed American fighter pilots in WWII, and covered IIRC, their training. Does anyone remember the book in question? It came highly recommended because it was a very good and detailed work.

    I'd like to pick it up at the same time that I grab Stuka Pilot off of Amazon.
    Last edited by jcustis; 03-05-2011 at 03:30 AM.

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    Registered User Bulldog's Avatar
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    It's been a little while since I read it, but Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific fits that description.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Gents,

    Looking for an assist here, as I need some new nightstand material, and most of what I have is too clinical and dry right now.

    I am looking for the book that I think was discussed on SWC some time ago, which detailed American fighter pilots in WWII, and covered IIRC, their training. Does anyone remember the book in question? It came highly recommended because it was a very good and detailed work.

    I'd like to pick it up at the same time that I grab Stuka Pilot off of Amazon.
    I think the book you are talking about is The First Team by Lundstrom. It is about the Navy fighter pilot community and how they evaluated the Wildcat vs. the Zero and came up with tactics and training to vitiate the Zero's performance superiority before the war started. It was one of the most insightful books on the subject I ever read. The sequel is called the The First Team & Guadalcanal Campaign.

    You also might like The Jolly Rogers by Blackburn and Zemke's Wolfpack by Zemke. They are by a Navy squadron commander and USAAF group commander respectively. Both are extremely good works about leadership combined with the problems of flying and using groups of warplanes effectively.

    A book that I thought was great about the Pacific war was The Japanese Merchant Marine in WW II by Parillo. It was a completely fascinating work about a seemingly dull subject and its' importance.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default we don't do that at st.xavier's

    Just started: Wars of Empire by Douglas Porch, a solid read so far;

    Every good imperial commander knew that he must deliver success at low cost. History is not about supplying 'lessons' for the future. It tells its own story. But no modern commander in Kosovo or East Timor can ignore the perils of conducting operations, far from home, with a narrow political base of support, any more than could his predecessors in earlier centuries in Africa or Asia. (from the Acknowledgements)
    Wars of Empire - Amazon

    Douglas Porch - Wikipedia

    Also, Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban, not sure what to make of this guy's take on things;

    Mod makes a comeback in an entertaining explanation of brain functioning that cuts the two-hemispheres theory down to size and minces the mind into modules. Coming from a background in evolutionary psychology, Kurzban suggests that the human mind is not the unified operator of actions contributing to survival and success, as many claim and even more assume, but rather a multi-faceted system of functioning parts that are not always on the same side-or even aware of the same information. The modules perform different, often separate, functions, which can account for confusing, inconsistent, and apparently contradictory behavior and speech. (from the Amazon editorial blurb)
    Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite - Amazon

    Robert Kurzban - Wikipedia
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 03-05-2011 at 10:07 AM. Reason: speling

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    Just finished reading The Last Valley--Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Indochina by Martin Windrow, and I am impressed. Perhaps the definitive work on the subject. (I confess I haven't read Fall's.) Chronicles in great detail the uncommon leadership and humbling heroism of so many who sacrificed so dearly for a France which, in most cases, could not presume to make any claims on their loyalty--the Foreign Legionaires, the North and West Africans, and the Vietnamese. On the French side, more Vietnamese than Frenchmen died at Dien Bien Phu. A young Lietenant who fought valiantly, Pham van Phu, 5 BPVN (5th Vietnamese Paratroop Batallion), was to survive cruel and debilitating captivity to become, eventually, an ARVN general, comitting suicide on 30 April 1975 rather than face a repeat of the reeducation ordeal.

    Cheers,
    Mike.

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    "19 with a bullet", after couple of pages looks good, I´m gonna keep it unread for time abroad.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike in Hilo View Post
    Just finished reading The Last Valley--Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Indochina by Martin Windrow, and I am impressed. Perhaps the definitive work on the subject. (I confess I haven't read Fall's.) Chronicles in great detail the uncommon leadership and humbling heroism of so many who sacrificed so dearly for a France which, in most cases, could not presume to make any claims on their loyalty--the Foreign Legionaires, the North and West Africans, and the Vietnamese. On the French side, more Vietnamese than Frenchmen died at Dien Bien Phu. A young Lietenant who fought valiantly, Pham van Phu, 5 BPVN (5th Vietnamese Paratroop Batallion), was to survive cruel and debilitating captivity to become, eventually, an ARVN general, comitting suicide on 30 April 1975 rather than face a repeat of the reeducation ordeal.

    Cheers,
    Mike.
    Just wanted to second this recommendation. One of the best-written and most captivating works on DBP, but really works as a mini-history of the whole French Indochinese war. Covers the the French Expeditionary forces in depth, but also does a good job covering the Viet Minh force structure as well.

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