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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2015

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2015

    Yes, a new thread for the books and other stuff we recommend to readers.

    There are annual threads now for each year since 2007, it should help searching for a review.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default do you hear the people sing

    Battle Studies by Colonel Ardant Du Picq


    The Wars of French Decolonization by Anthony Clayton

    "Sing me a song
    You're a singer" Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell

  3. #3
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Two commanders creating a working web

    I am 80% through reading 'Taking Command' the autobiography of General Sir David Richards and will post a review at the end. It is an easy read for an armchair observer, but I would not have compared him to General Stanley McChrystal, as Professor Anthony King does in this WoTR review:http://warontherocks.com/2015/01/mil.../?singlepage=1
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-24-2015 at 06:01 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    Default

    Razib Khan (a blogger really worth reading; mostly blogs about genetics, but a good deal of history and current affairs thrown in) has a piece about "The Fall of Carthage". Some speculations that am sure will be of interest to SWJ readers...see here.

    http://www.unz.com/gnxp/institutions...ly-beat-genius

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Default

    Overall I agree but one has to put the issue in the context of ressources, especially manpower. One city was founded as a far away colony while the other established itself among the large Latin population as center of power. The relative large demographic base, with a strong web of alliances partly with people of similar ethnicity and language was crucial enabled it's institutions to absorb crushing defeats, and the other way around. In other cases, few ressources and good institutions against a genius at war could mean the destruction of a state and end of a people. Waging war in a foreign land with a large proportion of your small manpower ended not so much time ago very badly for another great seapower, Athen. One city-state which was actually quite famous for it's insitutions.

    In Churchill days for example the Americans could 'always do the right thing' after they tried everything else because at that stage they had ample ressources in time, capital and manpower to overcome doing the wrong things. Most political entities aren't that lucky.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-23-2015 at 07:12 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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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default midnight was the barrier, back in 1963

    On the German Art of War: Truppenfuhrung: German Army Manual for Unit Command in World War II by Bruce Condell and David T. Zabecki (Editors)

    Civilization and Barbarity in 20th CenturyEurope by Gabriel Jackson

    "I seek to cure what's deep inside,
    frightened of this thing that I've become" Toto, Africa
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 02-07-2015 at 10:10 AM. Reason: umlaut verboten ist

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Anabasis by Xenophon. A gripping story told in a manner which won early praise and great fame. The narration feels quite modern apart from the long speeches, of which some are however rethoric highlights.

    Lots of perspectives and aspects to discover but I was mostly attracted the decision-making on this journey. So much uncertainty with so many different actors and motives and such fluidity of constellations. Obviously for the modern man there are no pure good guys in it, especially if you read between the lines.

    Maybe another interesting angle is the military one. I've read Il sergente nella neve and Taktik im Russlandfeldzug shortly before it and it makes for strange comparisions. For example the Hellenes find themselves in a 'wandering pocket' of old with the enemy strenght in cavalry, light infantry or both as well as their geographical position making escape in small groups or alone hopeless. The huge tactical disadvantage of being composed largely of heavy infantry unable to flee however means that it is a lot easier to convince the men to fight towards a common objective. Some details of the retreat match those in the sergente of the neve especially of course the chapter in which they battle the snow in the mountains. Aspects of the lodging (first comes, first occupies) or provisions are seemingly timeless.

    Obviously there is much more, for example the issue of leadership and the ability of the Greek to quickly replace former leaders even in very large numbers. Despite (or perhaps because?) the many internal debates their units prove to be robust and are quickly reorganized and adapted to the current needs. For the most part they are quick to support other units operating in 'combined-weapons' formations which get 'suppressed' by enemy units on dominant terrain and rapidly maneuver against the threat with the rest. Weapons like the increased use of long-range missile weapons are an important part of the success but certainly the questions of morale, leadership and tactics, even politics and interpretors, are far more so.

    There is more to write but give it a try first.
    Last edited by Firn; 02-12-2015 at 01:38 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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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default apocryphalypse now

    Thunder in the Sky: Secrets on the Acquisition and Exercise of Power by Thomas Cleary (Trans.), Chu Chin Ning (Fwd.)

    Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and South East Asia by Joe Studwell

    "Diamonds and dust
    Poor man last
    Rich man first" AC/DC, Sin City


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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default Sacred Violence

    Sacred Violence: Political Religion in a Secular Age

    Taken from the book's introduction:

    "This book addresses the complex relationship between ideology or political religion and the recourse to political violence and irregular warfare in the 21st Century. The focus of this work is the emergence of the ideology of Islamism and its adaption by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates to the strategic practice of jihadism, both in the Muslim world and among the Western diaspora. In exploring this case, the thesis applies the precepts of war developed by Carl von Clausewitz and his most important modern interpreter, Raymond Aron, to the evolution of jihadism, its tactics and its justification."


    A fascinating book, focused in large part on the UK experience, it challenges many of the liberal Western assumptions made about both multi-culturalism as currently practiced in Europe and the role that religion plays in some societies.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default that's cambodia, captain

    The War Managers by Douglas Kinnard

    The 14-Hour War: Valor on Koh Tang and the Recapture of the SS Mayaguez by James E. Wise Jr. and Scott Baron

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    Default can't you hear the thunder

    Vietnam: the other war we need to remember - newspaper article - Hugh White - The Melbourne Age, 4/14/15

    Arthur Calwell Speech - online pdf - 4/5/65

    "The gentleman's name is Wong." Arthur Calwell, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debate, 2/12/47.

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default to serve nam

    NICAP: The UFO Evidence by Richard H. Hall (ed.)


    Our Dumb World by the Onion

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    Registered User Roy Batty's Avatar
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    Cool

    All of Shakespeare's English history plays. They're full of martial pomp, skullduggery and sly dealings, royalist egomania, spectacle and flourish...and contain some of his most memorable characters, such as Richard III, Falstaff, and Henry V.

    In historical sequence, they are:

    Richard the Second
    Henry the Fourth, Part One
    Henry the Fourth, Part Two
    Henry the Fifth
    Henry the Sixth, Part One
    Henry the Sixth, Part Two
    Henry the Sixth, Part Three
    Richard the Third

    ...I'm leaving out Henry the Eighth and King John because they're annoying.
    Homo Homini Lupus

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Berkshire was a mighty success in the last fifty year and any long-term shareholder's slice has become much more valuable. Two special letters were written by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman to look fifty years back and fifty ahead. Munger came up with a handy list of the 'Berkshire system' which has some queer similarities with Truppenfuehrung of all things and some of the stuff in the Human face of War. Obviously there are also vast differences between one 'business' and the other, and I'm no fan of, let us say, Clausewitz for Business. Still in some cases the essence is surprisingly similar.

    The management system and policies of Berkshire under Buffett (herein together called “the Berkshire system”) were fixed early and are described below:

    (1) Berkshire would be a diffuse conglomerate, averse only to activities about which it could not make useful predictions.

    (2) Its top company would do almost all business through separately incorporated subsidiaries whose CEOs would operate with very extreme autonomy.

    (3) There would be almost nothing at conglomerate headquarters except a tiny office suite containing a Chairman, a CFO, and a few assistants who mostly helped the CFO with auditing, internal control, etc.

    (4) Berkshire subsidiaries would always prominently include casualty insurers. Those insurers as a group would be expected to produce, in due course, dependable underwriting gains while also producing substantial “float” (from unpaid insurance liabilities) for investment.

    (5) There would be no significant system-wide personnel system, stock option system, other incentive system, retirement system, or the like, because the subsidiaries would have their own systems, often different.

    (6) Berkshire’s Chairman would reserve only a few activities for himself. [ For a 'few activities' a rather long and remarkable list follows]
    ---------------

    Why did Berkshire under Buffett do so well?

    Only four large factors occur to me:

    (1) The constructive peculiarities of Buffett,
    (2) The constructive peculiarities of the Berkshire system,
    (3) Good luck, and
    (4) The weirdly intense, contagious devotion of some shareholders and other admirers, including some in the
    press.

    I believe all four factors were present and helpful. But the heavy freight was carried by the constructive peculiarities, the weird devotion, and their interactions.
    P.S: Could not resist to post a picture of Berkshire's HQ team, which handles many key tasks of company currently Nr. 5 in US market cap with 'unbelievable efficiency' to quote Buffett.



    To be true two could not make it, so it is not quite complete...
    Last edited by Firn; 04-27-2015 at 09:31 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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    Default Savage Continent

    Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe

    http://www.amazon.com/Savage-Contine.../dp/125003356X

    This book certainly shattered the narrative I had regarding Western Europe after WWII. I was quite familiar with cases of retribution and starvation in the West, but not to the scale depicted in this very informative book. Actually the level of chaos and violence in Iraq and Afghanistan in the aftermath of our invasions paled in comparison to the level of violence and chaos in many parts of Europe. High rates of starvation, continued genocide against the Jews (and other groups), U.S. abuse of German prisoners, millions of refugees that took years to resettle, etc.

    The author uses numerous primary sources, and does a good job of citing known and suspected numbers (which often varied greatly), and why there is a discrepancy. While I suspect most serious readers of SWJ realize that high levels of savage violence are quite possible in so-called civilized western society, no reader will have any doubt that what we're seeing in Iraq is not unique to Islam. In Europe, in the aftermath of WWII, there were also beheadings, setting people on fire, intentional starvation, destruction of entire towns, etc. A good, even if unpleasant read.

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default ain't no luck, i learned to duck

    The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

    Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    After the fine Where Iron Crosses Grow (now pretty cheap with Kindle) I picked up Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front. So far it is pretty good.

    Such a vast conflict within a 'world' war is so rich in detail of living, fighting and dying that it is difficult if not impossible to come to concise and clear conclusions. The author does, so far, a good job to put things into context. The importance which training, experience, often superb leadership on many levels, radios, a combined arms approach among others player should be by now well understood. This goes as well for the woeful operational and tactical preperation of Soviet units in midst of a reorganization, the almost non-existent tactical radio communication, lack of ammunition and fuel and so forth. A huge part of the Soviet soldiers were put by this combination in an ofen at best very difficult situation which greatly reduced their ability to fight effectively. So strangely the 'tank shock' is one of those things which stand out for me. The great difficulties if not inability of German tank and AT weapons to penetrate 'medium' and heavy Soviet armor, are actually similar to the one's with heavy Allied one. The sheer number of hits some KV suffered while fighting mirrors instances in France, with the crews of puny AT-guns and Tanks shooting and hitting skillfully and in vain till death. While there is a huge scope in training, organization, people's quality and so forth but one still needs the proper tools to do the job against such strong resistance. The whole package counts both ways.



    P.S: Both 'The Viaz'ma Catastrophe, 1941' and the 'The Rzhev Slaughterhouse' are now the available for Kindle at roughly half the price I payed for the hardcovers. The former is in my humble opinion especially valuable.
    Last edited by Firn; 05-20-2015 at 04:37 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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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    PAM 20-202 German Tank Maintenance In World War II enriches that side of the story.
    In the course of the war it became evident that the factors determining the operation of a tank maintenance service varied according to theater of operations, technical developments, etc. These varia-
    tions necessitated constant adaptation and improvement in the organic structure and equipment of the maintenance units. Consequently, no standard tank maintenance system having a general application could be evolved. On the other hand, some basic principles worth remembering can be derived from the German experience in World War II.
    It is worth to point out that the peacetime logic of a centralized 'factory maintance' was obviously more compelling and efficent in peace. It also made some more money. In war it was obviously different. From an social and economic point this aspect was fascinating:

    Since the advance dumps and army group depots were usually out of those parts for which there was a heavy demand, the tank maintenance companies began to send details to the depots to represent their interests. Upon the arrival of a supply train carrying spare parts, each detail tried to secure the parts its company needed most urgently. When more and more companies adopted this procedure the depots became the scenes of fierce struggles for priority items. As soon as a detail had secured some parts, it would contact its parent organization by radio or telephone. In a matter of minutes the trucks would be on their way to the depots to pick up the spoils.

    ...

    More arbitrary measures were often employed by some of the tank maintenance company commanders who believed that they were acting in the interest of their own unit. During the latter part of the war
    some of them even resorted to bribery. Others would contact manufacturers in the zone of interior outside of normal channels to procure parts directly at the source. Occasionally, even tactical com-
    manders took part in the hunt for parts when the number of serviceable tanks at their disposal began to dwindle.

    ...

    Such expedients obviously did more harm than good. Moreover, the persistent shortage of spare parts affected the morale of the tank maintenance personnel who, though capable and willing, were unable
    to accomplish their mission at a time when every tank counted.
    Last edited by Firn; 05-21-2015 at 08:45 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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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default don't fear the reiver

    To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

    Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The British Army and the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan

    I had the chance to read in the IISS Library, London 'Historical Experience: Burden or Bonus in Today's Wars - The British Army and the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan' by Eric Sanger; Publisher Rombach in 2014.

    A good read and valuable as the author was not a Brit writing about our war. To be fair the German section was not as interesting.

    No reviews on Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Exp...in+Afghanistan

    Useful Abstract:http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/29298
    davidbfpo

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