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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2014

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2014

    A new thread, simple theme.
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    Shadows in the Desert - Ancient Persia at War, Kaveh Farrokh

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    Just finished reading, "Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American Paperback"
    by Cecil Currey

    A good read that provides insights on his influence in the Philippines, most significantly helping getting Magsaysay elected, and then his subsequent operations in Cuba and Vietnam. It is also talked about his time in OSD where he lead the Special Operations Office, and called for the military to develop what we call today an irregular warfare capability. It does reinforce the adage that if you want to get a new idea read an old book. 99% of what we discuss in SWJ, often as though they're new ideas are covered thoroughly in this book, and he dealt with the same bureaucrats we are dealing with today. Very interesting comments on McNamara and others based on first hand accounts. I was principally interested in his work in SE Asia, but learned a lot about our failed efforts in Cuba during the Kennedy administration. According to Lansdale and others our secret efforts to oust Castro were only secret to us, the Cubans and Soviets were obviously well aware of them, and when the U.S. escalated those activities after the failed Bay of Pigs fiasco that is what generated the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 01-02-2014 at 04:48 AM.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    One final thought about the strategic implications of the relative political, economic and military situations. It is rather difficult to find the right words and paint the right picture while keeping it short. Possibly the simpliest way is to visualize it as a game of cards, taking a page out of good old CvC book.

    We see therefore how from the commencement, the absolute, the mathematical as it is called, no where finds any sure basis in the calculations in the art of war; and that from the outset there is a play of possibilities, probabilities, good and bad luck, which spreads about with all the coarse and fine threads of its web, and makes war of all branches of human activity the most like a game of cards.
    After getting the set, partly open, partly hidden you can have, by luck and effort a clearly stronger one then your adversary and rightly guess so but there still is this 'play of possibilities, probabilities, good and bad luck, which spreads about with all the coarse and fine threads of its web'. Even if you have a clear advantage (which you may not know) winning is all but trivial. To win, in the surest and 'best' way you still need to play with as much skill and effort as you can and hope for as much luck as possible.

    Personally I think this mind picture is quite fitting. The leader of the weaker side, once he stepped into the wrong 'war framework' , played 'va banque' in many occasions like the Manstein plan for the invasion of France as the more conventional options of playing the game were very likely dealt with by superior strenght and much longer economic legs. The increasing craze for gadgets or 'Wunderwaffen', miracles indeed, later in the war matches the disperation and the hope to get somehow a good enough lucky punch.

    On the other side the other side tended to play it out quite conservatively apart from some higher risk, higher reward plans like Market Garden. Why risk a temporary but embarrasing and painful setback if you could play it slow but safe. With far more ressources to spare the (Western) allies/USA could also cover the risk from the gadget front to a great degree and for example invest massively into a scientific adventure like the Manhattan project. I wanted to wade into prospect and game theory and its partly fitting implications but topic, time and shortness force me to leave it there.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    In part:

    Are you aware of Eeben Barlow's blogsite:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecuri....blogspot.com/

    He is a SWC member too, so may notice your post.
    I've recently found Mr Barlow's blog, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading from the first post up until the most recent. I'll cross my fingers that he might one day publish his book on Kindle or Kobo, but as I know first hand, it's not always as easy as simply formatting, uploading and publishing.

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    For Christmas I received the following books (I recommend reading No. 1 before No. 2, No. 3 is optional, depends what you're into you kinky buggers)

    1. Not Mentioned In Despatches (I had to ignore most of his befehlstaktik vs auftragstaktik nonsesne- he has a habit of making the same points over and over again- and his manoeuvre warfare agenda but it is still a very worthwhile read.)

    2. Nine Battles to Stanley (The perfect accpaniment to "Not Mentioned..." and contains an analysis of boths sides)#

    3. The Steampunk Illustrated Bible (Yeah? And?)

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    "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters, 1939-1942" by Clay Blair. I picked it up for $5 in new condition at a Tampa Bay used bookstore and have been grinding through its 864 pages at a steady clip. http://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-U-Boat.../dp/0679640320

    This is the first volume of a massive two-book effort. The second volume details the period of 1942-1945 when fortunes were reversed and the German vessels became the hunted.

    Like John Lundstrom's "The First Team: Pacific Air Combat from Perl Harbor to Midway", Blair's work is very detailed and draws from a wide range of sources to paint a picture that contrasts those put forth by many historians.

    Blair asserts that the German WWII U-boat effort was not as effective as many historians otherwise believe, and he does so with a really good narrative style which has made the book much easier to read than Lundstrom's resource.

    I always found submarine warfare an interesting, if only peripheral topic to read on, but I have really enjoyed the various movies like Das Boot. Blair's work is a good book that covers a lot of ground while still providing details where they matter--at least for my taste.

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    1. Patton and Rommel, Dennis Showalter. Good read, and a good introduction to both. Read D'Este's Patton biography, to which this doesn't compare, but didn't know much about Rommel. Showalter does a good job of showing Rommel's genius for knowing where to be on a battlefield, and how he was Johnny on the spot over and over again. He shows the limitations of that too, but not as fully. Showalter's writing style annoyed me though, he threw in all kinds of contemporary analogies (Monica Lewinsky IIRC!) which now read as very dated and forced.

    2. Men Against Fire, SLA Marshall. I know (thanks to the old thread on here actually) that his combat participation stuff is widely debunked, and he played fast and loose with the facts. But I figured if General Van Riper is convinced of its value, it's gotta be worth reading. Enjoying the book, but taking it with a big grain of salt.

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    I finished now the paper summing up the book Farm to Factory by Robert C. Allen to understand more about the pre-war Soviet economy. It is interesting to compare the early Soviet experience with the later (early) Chinese one of which I got a decent understanding thanks to The Chinese Economy by Barry J.Naughton.
    Soviet economic performance is usually dismissed as a failure. In contrast, I argue,the Soviet economy performed well. Japan was certainly the most successful developing economy of the twentieth century, but the USSR ranked just behind it. This success would not have occurred without the 1917 revolution or the planned development of state owned industry. Planning led to high rates of capital accumulation, rapid GDP growth, and rising per capita consumption even in the 1930s. The collectivization of agriculture was not necessary for rapid growth--I argue that industrial development would have been almost as fast had the five year plans been carried out within the frame work of the NEP–but it none-the-less nudged up the growth rate.
    Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, authors of Why Nations Fail have a blog entry based partly on his graphs.


    The important leap in Allen’s conclusion, and the reason why his thesis is ultimately unconvincing is that as Gerschenkron noted long ago in Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective, partly in the Russian context also, backward economies can grow rapidly and may do so using a variety of arrangements. This is made feasible because they are benefiting from catch-up and technological convergence. The fact that Soviet Russia took advantage of catch-up opportunities and transferred resources from its massively inefficient agriculture to industry implies neither that central planning was efficient in the short run nor that it could be a steppingstone for more growth-enhancing institutional structure in the long run.
    Without entering into the debate itself, in which many questions are still open it is certainly interesting to note the effect of big shift from the surplus labour in agriculture into the producing sector and mostly heavy industry. Female labour was also moblized to a far greater degree. This was enabled by the steady increase in capital investment coupled with ruthless policies and more (technical) education for a far greater part of the population.

    The many modern factories built in that period were heavily influenced by the American way of mass-production and given the policies of the regime and the many basic needs of the population and economy aimed at producing decent-enough quantiy then quality. Military production received very considerable attention quite early and the factories seem to have been easy to switch to war production. Basic ressources were rather readily accessible with capital being the bottleneck, although food production suffered initially very severly under a bundle of radical Soviet policies, resulting in widespread famines, especially in the Ukrainian SSR.

    A very nasty surprise in industrial production was in store for the invader, which could only deploy part of his industrial power. (Obviously there is a great deal of propaganda and illusions in it, but the surprise was certainly there. Notice the very lenghty discussion of the oil problem and it's strategic implications for Mr. Hitler. Fits perfectly with what Tooze worked out).
    Last edited by Firn; 01-03-2014 at 09:28 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

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    Quote Originally Posted by Granite_State View Post
    Read D'Este's Patton biography
    +1. D'Este's book is fantastic.
    "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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    Default that's entertainment

    Van Halen: Exuberant California Zen Rock 'N' Roll by John Scanlan

    review - examiner.com



    The Apocalypse Now Book by Peter Cowie

    review - variety



    Dictator's Homes by Peter York

    review - the age

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    A Soldier's Tale: The Bloody Road to Jerusalem by Uri Avnery.

    This book unites two classic works on the War of 1948, first published in 1949 and 1950 and adds an introduction and some commentary.

    The first book, 'In the Fields of the Philistines' was a huge success. Still today it feels fresh and captive, pulling you sometimes right into the actions and giving you the impression of looking out of the eyes of somebody else. The style is powerful and able to paint memorable and fitting pictures for the mind. The author later explained how the book was crafted.

    I wrote before the action, during the action, and after the action. When an exhausting battle was over, my comrades would lie down and snore. I picked up my pencil and paper and wrote. I wrote on the ground, in the trenches, and on the hood of a jeep. I wrote in the canteen surrounded by hundreds of noisy comrades and I wrote in bed at night.

    I wasn’t writing a diary. A diary is a dialogue with yourself, a record of your most intimate thoughts. But my articles were meant to be published. I knew they would appear the next day in black and white in the newspaper. All these reports appeared in the paper Yom Yom (Day by Day), the evening edition of the great Israeli daily paper Haaretz (The Land).
    He was involved in many important battles during the war, first around the road to Jeruslam and later in the South and becomes a member of the famous Samson's foxes. Mounted on Jeeps, perhaps influenced by the SAS experience in North Africa, the small unit is highly influential because it is a rare combination of mobility and firepower. Some themes become a bit repetitive, like the conflict between front line troops and the 'shirkers' back home and his view about politicians. He sounds indeed like the radical voice of the 'youth'.

    'The other side of the coin' was written in one go after the war and offers sometimes a stark contrast to the first book. It combines the story of his recovery at a hospital with intermitting memories, handling themes which didn't make it into the field reports. To avoid the military censorship it was tagged as literature, and it does certainly contain actions and orders which show dark sides. For example civilians get shot following orders from higher up with the intention to get others to flee and to stay away.*

    All in all it offers a multifaceted view of the conflict from a soldiers eyes and ears, with acts heroic, good, curious, strange, bad or ugly.

    *As Ariel Sharon died I took a look at his life and his controversial role as leader of unit 101. Having read the book the Qibya massacre does no longer stand out that much as it is put into a bloody and murky context of other war crimes inflicted by people on both sides.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-15-2014 at 07:15 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

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    Just finished Lawrence in Arabia. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...ence-in-arabia

    My review:
    The author has collected a lot of information (some of it new, a lot of it not well known) and it would have been a 5 star book if he had stuck to telling great stories; but he also wants to right historical wrongs and sell the book as some sort of "explanation" of how and why the modern Middle East became what it did. In this respect, he rarely rises above the "Guardian" level of fashionable BS; it would have been so much better if he had tried to just calmly tell us the stories without attempting to justify the sub-title (War, deceit, imperial folly and the making of the modern middle east) since this is actually NOT a book written at that level and shouldn't pretend to be one.
    And dont expect this to be a good description of the long and confused war fought in that region from 1914 to 1918. Several major events are mentioned and some British defeats are described in greater detail, but almost always without any systematic description of the fronts, the opposing armies, or the bigger economic or military picture in the region (touched upon, but not systematically described, analyzed, etc.).
    Still, worth reading if you want to know more about some very interesting characters (first and foremost Lawrence, but also Kurt Prufer, William Wales, Aaron Aaronson, etc) and their adventures in the region. But unless you are willing to blindly trust the author's ability to pick and choose what to highlight and what to ignore (and I would not), you cannot take this anecdote-heavy account as a balanced and accurate account of the forces at play, much less a good analysis of why things turned out the way they did.

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    Updated a bit to clarify a couple of things: The author has collected a lot of information (some of it new, a lot of it not well known) and it would have been a 5 star book if he had stuck to telling great stories; but he also wants to right historical wrongs and sell the book as some sort of “explanation” of how and why the modern Middle East became what it did. In this respect, he rarely rises above the “Guardian” level of fashionable BS; it would have been so much better if he had tried to just tell us the stories without attempting to justify the sub-title (War, deceit, imperial folly and the making of the modern Middle East) since this is actually NOT a book written at that level and shouldn’t pretend to be one.
    And don’t expect this to be a good description of the long and confused war fought in that region from 1914 to 1918. Several major events are mentioned and some British defeats are described in greater detail, but almost always without any systematic description of the fronts, the opposing armies, or the bigger economic or military picture in the region (touched upon, but not systematically described, analyzed, etc.).
    Still, worth reading if you want to know more about some very interesting characters (first and foremost Lawrence, but also Kurt Prufer, William Yale, Aaron Aaronson, etc) and their adventures in the region. But unless you are willing to blindly trust the author’s judgement in picking and choosing what to highlight and what to ignore (and I would not), you cannot take this anecdote-heavy account as a balanced and accurate account of the forces at play, much less a good analysis of why things turned out the way they did.
    Some old-fashioned readers may also find his “postmodern” mean-spiritedness a bit jarring. A lot of “heroes” need to be taken down a peg, but there is an air of smug moral superiority about this author that some may find a bit off-putting.
    Still, worth reading for the detailed stories alone.http://www.brownpundits.com/2014/01/...nce-in-arabia/

    and my comments about Empires of the Silk Road http://www.brownpundits.com/2014/01/...the-silk-road/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-22-2014 at 04:39 PM. Reason: correction at authors request

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    Correction request above - done by Moderator.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-22-2014 at 04:39 PM.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    I have a book on my reading list (for class) titled Hanoi's War by Lien-Hang T. Nguyen that I will get to in a couple of weeks. I'm excited about reading this one.
    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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    Hanoi's War is a superb book.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default this is this

    The Whole Heart of Tao by John Bright Fey



    Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975 translated by Merle Pribbenow

    review - air and space power journal



    Crazy From The Heat by David Lee Roth

    review - publisher's weekly

    interview - vhlinks

    video

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    Default A huge pile of books ...

    and so little time to read .
    Wrong turn by Col Gian Gentile
    The end of history and the last men by Francis Fukuyama
    The soldier and the state by Samuel P Huntington
    The Routledge Handbook of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency by Paul B Rich and Isabelle Duyvesteyn (eds)
    The latest edition of The Journal of Military Operations (a big praise for that one)
    The latest Edition of The Military Review
    ...
    L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace. (Napoleon)

    It's always easier to ask for forgiveness than permisson.

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    I just finished War on the Waters by McPherson. It is a short history of two navies in the Civil War. It is a good overall narrative of the war on the salt and fresh water and does a good job of showing how important those operations were to the overall war effort, especially the huge and critically important contribution the Union Navy made to the defeat of the CSA.

    One thing of interest from the small war point of view is the problem the Federal forces had in protecting their river supply lines from Confederate irregular forces. The rivers could be considered the MSRs of their day-MSR Tennessee and MSR Cumberland so to speak-and the steamers plying them were subject to attack via field artillery and small arms from the shore. What the Union Navy did was to arm and armor (lightly armored , hence 'tinclads') other river steamers and use them for convoy escort and patrol. An example tactic cited was a column of cargo steamers on its way with a number of tinclads interspersed. That sounds familiar.

    http://www.amazon.com/War-Waters-Con.../dp/B0093A42XY
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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