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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2012

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2012

    I just finished We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren.

    He was part of an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2009 and 2010. His conclusion as expressed in the book was that the PRTs, or at least his, did absolutely nothing, nothing at all to improve the situation in Iraq. Nothing...except spend lots and lots of money to no purpose.

    I remember when those things were just getting started and there was much earnest discussion on SWJ and other places on how they should be set up, run, administered, financed, judged etc. In the event, it was all useless. The object of the PRTs wasn't to actually do anything, it was to appear to have been doing something so reports could be generated and careers advanced; and that was done by spending money. Nothing had to show for it, it just had to be spent.

    That took up about half of the book. The rest of it was just his impressions of FOB life and seeing Iraq from the inside of an MRAP. Those parts were ok but the value of the book was the depiction of the amoral attitude many people in both State and the Army took toward civil development. The Career Centric Small War.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Just started Daniel Yergin's The Quest.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Default Karl Marlantes - What it is like to go to war

    Interesting perspectives in this book. Would enjoy an in depth discussion on this content with interested parties. Either here in a separate thread or privately. Any interest?

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    From Third World To First - The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew

    We believed the long-term future for Singapore was to rejoin Malaya, so we merged with it to form Malaysia in September 1963. Within a year, in July 1964, we suffered Malay-Chinese race riots in Singapore. We were trapped in an intractable struggle with Malay extremists of the ruling party, United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), who were intent on a Malay-dominated Malaysia. To counter their use of communal riots to cow us, we rallied the non-Malays and Malays throughout Malaysia in the Malaysian Solidarity Convention to fight for a Malaysian Malaysia. By August 1965 we were given no choice but to leave.

    The communal bullying and intimidation made our people willing to endure the hardships of going it alone. That traumatic experience of race riots also made my colleagues and me even more determined to build a multiracial society that would give equality to all citizens, regardless of race, language or religion. It was an article of faith which guided our policies. (from the Preface)
    The line editor at HarperCollins, New York, has meticulously Americanized my English. She has also made me politically gender correct. Whenever I wrote "man", he has become "person" or "people". I thank her for making me appear less of a male chauvinist to Americans. (from the Acknowledgments)
    From Third World To First - Amazon

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Interesting perspectives in this book. Would enjoy an in depth discussion on this content with interested parties. Either here in a separate thread or privately. Any interest?
    I am. I read the book and liked it, but give me a few days to get to the library so I can review.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Two books I recently read that I think were very good.

    The Great Rifle Controversy: Search for the Ultimate Infantry Weapon from World War II Through Vietnam and Beyond, by E.C Ezell.

    This book was written in 1982 and is probably known by most around here but I liked it and learned a lot about technical detail and bureaucratic dynamics. Two things, of many, stood out for me. First the author said American military rifle development was not a story of innovation, but mostly a story of incremental product improvement. He hoped that future decades would change that and see some real innovation. That was written in 1982 and the ensuing 30 years have seen...incremental product improvement.

    The second thing was that I think the Senate committee that investigated the M-16 rifle introduction debacle concluded that there had been negligence rising to a criminal level but the program was structured so diffusely that no individual or small group of individuals could be held responsible. When I read that I realized how little things had changed in 50 years.

    The other book is:

    Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq by James R. Arnold.

    The book is a study of 4 small wars, Philippine Insurrection, Algeria, Malaya and Vietnam. Mr. Arnold is an excellent writer and can use a sentence to convey an idea where others (like me) need paragraphs; so he has quite a lot of valuable things to say about these conflicts in not so many pages.

    For example, he said that one of the primary reasons for the success of the much debated "Surge" in Iraq was that AQI overplayed its hand by its homicidal fanaticism. I haven't read that in too many other places and it is interesting to contemplate what would have happened if their political platform had extended much beyond maniacal killing.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I am. I read the book and liked it, but give me a few days to get to the library so I can review.
    Give us a heads up when you have

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    Blitzkrieg legend

    The best book I have read on the operation. BTW: Found an intersting interview of the author regarding a German wandernden Kessel/wandering kettle/moving pocket



    Truppenführung

    There has been written so much about the second book, especially the timeless chapters that I don't want to repeat them. However Appendix E, a German analysis of FM 100-5 (the 1944 issue, I guess) done in 1952 was a bit of a surprise

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    Default The Human Face of War, by Jim Storr, in paperback

    Hat tip to Mark @ Zenpundit for a reminder this classic book is now in paperback and cheaper to buy:http://www.amazon.com/Human-Face-War...9259943&sr=8-1

    With two highly rated reviews and one by Fuchs here:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Human-Face-W...9392849&sr=1-1

    Taken from Fuchs:
    ..I still rate it as one of the most impressive military books of the last decades..
    Mark's short review:
    I am intruding on Scott’s post to add my strong endorsement. If you are serious about strategy, particularly if you are a member of the armed forces with responsibility for operational planning or unit leadership, The Human Face of War by Colonel Storr is on the short list of must-read books. It no longer costs a zillion dollars, so go buy it.
    Link to Zenpundit's reviews:http://zenpundit.com/?p=5397

    I too baulked at buying the hardback and borrowed a library copy. In places it is a hard read, generally it flows and abounds with examples to satisfy. So I'll get a paperback copy one day soon and read again, plus add markers so I can ask Jim what he meant.
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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    I just picked up An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith and The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes on Nook. I have been meaning to read both for some time. I probably need to read Friedman as well.
    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    Terry Pratchett

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post

    For example, he said that one of the primary reasons for the success of the much debated "Surge" in Iraq was that AQI overplayed its hand by its homicidal fanaticism. I haven't read that in too many other places and it is interesting to contemplate what would have happened if their political platform had extended much beyond maniacal killing.
    This isn't all that new - it is closely connected to the "Iraqi agency" argument that has picked up steam recently, but it really started at least as far back as Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who said the Anbar Awakening was the result of the Sunnis having to be the ones to make the decision that they had finally had enough.

    This isn't wrong, but the problem with focusing specifically on this point, is that it is used to argue that an increase in US troops (called "the surge") was not responsible. The problem is that it considers each element of what happened in Iraq in 2007-2008 in isolation, trying to figure out which one was the cause of the reduction in violence. In reality, all of these things were connected, and without one you probably wouldn't have the other. Yes, the Iraqis had to make this decision for themselves, but it is not a coincidence that it also came at a time when the US finally was able to provide a viable alternative to AQI. Likewise, an increase in US forces was important, but more important was how those forces were used, and demonstrating to Iraqis that they had an alternative to al Qaeda that would keep them alive. "The Surge" was not just dumping additional bodies into Iraq and calling it a day. It was an ongoing, interconnected process in which the actions of the US, Iraqis, and al Qaeda all had an effect in reducing the violence at the time and weakening AQI.

    To get back to the topic of the thread though, I just finished Execute Against Japan: The US Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. I am reading Gunther Rothenberg's The Art of War in the Age of Napoleon. After that will be John Lynn's Bayonets of the Republic: Motivations and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I just picked up […] The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes on Nook.
    Have you seen the Keynes vs. Hayek videos put together by the Mercatus Center at George Mason? I can’t guarantee they’ll be up your alley but I really enjoy them. [LINK 1] [LINK 2]
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Have you seen the Keynes vs. Hayek videos put together by the Mercatus Center at George Mason? I can’t guarantee they’ll be up your alley but I really enjoy them. [LINK 1] [LINK 2]
    I will check them out, thanks.
    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    Terry Pratchett

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Have you seen the Keynes vs. Hayek videos put together by the Mercatus Center at George Mason? I can’t guarantee they’ll be up your alley but I really enjoy them. [LINK 1] [LINK 2]
    The second one was great.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    I watched both videos and they were both pretty good. I guess I am a bigger nerd than I had previously suspected.
    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    Terry Pratchett

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Nerds can be cool too.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Nerds can be cool too.
    So true...





    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    Terry Pratchett

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    "A Different Kind of War - The United States Army in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM October 2001 - September 2005". Dr. Donald P Wright, May 2010. Link:http://www.amazon.com/Different-Kind...2087775&sr=1-1

    If you want a peek into the details, from the Army perspective, of how we got where we are today, the actions taken, the thinking and intentions, the early signs that we were on the wrong track, etc, this is a fascinating read and a great resource.

    Not sure where they are available, I was fortunate to pick up a copy while at Leavenworth last week.

    The sections on Pages 268-9 on "Measuring Progress" and "Enabling Good Governance: The Constitutional Loya Jirga" discussing the era (where I believe we made a hard right turn in the wrong direction on a road paved with good intentions) of late 2003 and early 2004 are telling.

    The Bush Administration saw the accelerated development of Afghan security forces in January 2004 as the key to transition, funding the $2.2B "Accelerating Success in Afghanistan;" the key to "begin decreasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan as soon as possible."

    Meanwhile no one seemed to question why Karzai had a Constitutional Commission prepare a constitution in ADVANCE of the Dec '03 Loya Jirga:
    Tensions flared over the strength of the presidency in the new system to be established by the constitution. But the disconnect was ultimately ratified by consensus (my translation, by the Northern Alliance majority seeking to secure their monopoly on governance) rather than by individual ballot.
    Then, following a summary of the successes of building greater ANA security forces, the Constitutional Loya Jirga, and:
    the creation of a new strategic-level headquarters in Afghanistan that introduced a new approach. CFC-A's counterinsurgency campaign focused on winning the support of the Afghan people to ensure that much of the progress made since 2001 was not undone by a growing enemy threat"
    (emphasis added).

    Despite these successes, Taliban and al-Qaeda forces continued to oppose the Coalition and the ATA as the spring of 2004 ended. As the summer began, the number of attacks continued to rise..
    You can't make this stuff up. We had just put legal authority to illegitimate, Karzai-led, Northern Alliance based ATA, and were ramping up our efforts to create a centralized security force to secure this centralized system of governance; all with unprecedented powers vested in the new President. Successes. Yet the insurgency grew in response. We were deluding ourselves then, and we continue to delude ourselves today and refuse to make the cause and effect connections between our actions and their results as we are so blinded by our own good intentions.

    This is a good resource, and appears to be candid, detailed and accurate. Also filled with dozens of naive incongruities such as the ones laid out on these critical two pages.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-18-2012 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Add link and cited texts in quotes
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I too baulked at buying the hardback and borrowed a library copy. In places it is a hard read, generally it flows and abounds with examples to satisfy. So I'll get a paperback copy one day soon and read again, plus add markers so I can ask Jim what he meant.
    I admit to being a fan of Storr's writings. I paid a right leg to get a copy when it first came out and have piqued the author's brain on a few things.

    Right now, I am reading Fukuyama's The Rise of Political Order. It should be required reading for anyone who puts a uniform on.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    "A Different Kind of War - The United States Army in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM October 2001 - September 2005". Dr. Donald P Wright, May 2010. Link:http://www.amazon.com/Different-Kind...2087775&sr=1-1
    Here it is for free in PDF form, courtesy of the USA.

    usacac.army.mil/CAC2/CSI/docs/DifferentKindofWar.pdf

    Just cut and paste.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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