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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2015

  1. #61
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Jun 2008

    Default hopeless

    Quote Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
    I know about 1965, but I just meant that their ISLAM really is a little bit syncretic (mostly East Java), so they are sometimes held up as the poster-boys for how Islam will become all multi-culti thanks to the "tolerant Muslims of South East Asia".
    Okay then, but it's good to know that people who can kill half a million of their neighbours can still be considered relaxed.

    I am sure you know more than me about these things and can enlighten us further
    Yeah, I kinda doubt that.
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 12-02-2015 at 06:05 AM. Reason: quote

  2. #62
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Jun 2008

    Default go fish

    How are emerging complex situations going to be effectively addressed when there seems to be an insistence that the power of the narrative is derived from its (almost uniformly binary) simplicity?

  3. #63
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    Oct 2005


    The Long March
    The True History of China's Founding Myth
    by Sun Shuyun

    This book was enlightening from both a historical perspective and because it provided very personal views of the numerous people the Sun interviewed as she followed the path of the Long March. I have read several books in recent years that put Mao that characterize Mao more honestly than the popular myths spun in the West about him. One of his strongest points was his ability to write, to propagandize and inspire, and he had many U.S. journalists, but especially Edgar Snow helped create the myth of Mao in the West. Once a narrative is established it takes time to change it, now researchers have that opportunity to examine the conflict with less bias. Sun is one of those authors. A few excerpts:

    She provided interesting insights on the German Otto Braun who the Comintern put in command of the Red Army (there were German advisors on both sides, but Braun appeared to be mercenary, while the Germans advising Chiang were nurturing an important relationship so Germany could retain access to resources critical to developing their war machine). Despite Braun's apparent incompetence (he is blamed for communists' defeat before the long march) they referred to him as the supreme emperor.
    He was Stalin's envoy, and Moscow's support was paramount for the Chinese communists-ideologically, politically, financially, and militarily.
    Beckoned to today's discussion on women in combat, the communist had no qualms about this. There is a lengthy discussion the women cadres and fighting units.
    "You could not easily tell us apart on the outside," she said. "We all had our heads shaved so the enemy wouldn't know they fighting women. And we all wore caps."
    The Fourth Army formed the "Independent Woman's Regt," led by a beautiful Chinese woman who was a good leader. One example when they ran into a regt of a local warlord.
    She organized attacks from several directions to confuse them. Then she told the women to call and plead with the men to turn their weapons on their officers. To their complete surprise, the firing stopped and white flags came up--Five Hundred Peasant Women Defeat Regt-- ran the headlines in the local newspapers.
    On the march through Tibet the communists oddly complained about the Tibetan's irregular tactics (also discussed why the Tibetans hated the communists).
    We could hear their tribal horns calling them to battle from the cliffs and mountains. More battles than we ever had with the Nationalists. The Tibetans would not fight properly. They attacks us at the rear. Once they isolated a few of our men they pounced on them like vultures on corpses.
    Note these are interviews with participants, and of course they only saw the civil war from their perspective, so I doubt the Maoists had more battles with Tibetans than the Nationalists, but they certainly had a hard time marching through that region.

    There are several pages on the American journalist Edgar Snow, who wrote the widely popular book "Red Star over China" that put Mao and the communists in a positive light in the West. It also helped shape the Chinese people's view of the communists.
    Mao was deeply grateful to Snow and gave him the highest praise a Chinese could. He said Red Star over China had a merit no less than that of the Great Yu, the mythical emperor who was supposed to have brought China's floods under control and saved the people. A genius of propaganda, Mao knew the importance of the pen, but even he did not expect Snow's pen could be so powerful--it profoundly influenced the fate of the Red Army, the Communist Party, and Mao himself.
    Throughout the book there were stories of terror and suffering during the long march. Mao's forces killed thousands of Chinese deliberately, but other incidents were simply due basic human instincts.

    Mao's Western Legion was largely wiped out by the Mas, who were Muslim warlords. All but 400 of 20,800 men and women were either killed or captured, yet this tragic story has been largely left out Long March History.

    She interviewed one of Mao's soldiers who was captured and converted to Islam.

    You know, Mao's Little Red Book is not that different from the Koran. Both tell us to do good and no evil, help the poor, and make the world a better place. It is a pity you can't buy the Little Red Book so easily anymore, otherwise I would have my sons read it.
    Why did he think the Mas were so cruel to the Red Army then?
    Ma Fucai didn't hesitate. You can see the land is too poor to support many people. For their own survival they had to get rid of us. That was why their soldiers were so brave, as if they were on drugs. They were unlike any of thee warlord troops we fought before and we could not get any recruits.
    Just a few random quotes from my underlining in the book. Several comments about starving, killing innocents to get food, desertions, and yet a core of dedicated communists endured a very arduous march and then skillfully exploited a weakened Nationalist Army after the Japanese surrendered. The West didn't provide adequate support to Chiang largely because of the narrative Snow and Stilwell created. Certainly Chiang was not a good leader, but based on Taiwan's success compared to massive mass murder of Chinese in Mao's purges it certainly, at least in hindsight, calls into question our decision to limit support to Chiang.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-05-2015 at 02:54 AM.

  4. #64
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    The Wars For Asia 1911-1949, by S.C.M. Paine

    Amazon sums up better than I can.

    The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949 shows that the Western treatment of World War II, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War as separate events misrepresents their overlapping connections and causes. The long Chinese Civil War precipitated a long regional war between China and Japan that went global in 1941 when the Chinese found themselves fighting a civil war within a regional war within an overarching global war. The global war that consumed Western attentions resulted from Japan's peripheral strategy to cut foreign aid to China by attacking Pearl Harbor and Western interests throughout the Pacific on December 7-8, 1941. S. C. M. Paine emphasizes the fears and ambitions of Japan, China, and Russia, and the pivotal decisions that set them on a collision course in the 1920s and 1930s. The resulting wars - the Chinese Civil War (1911-1949), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1931-1945), and World War II (1939-1945) - together yielded a viscerally anti-Japanese and unified Communist China, the still-angry rising power of the early twenty-first century. While these events are history in the West, they live on in Japan and especially China.
    While it is close to 500 pages long, over a hundred pages are endnotes, and quite a few more are the bibliography. The actual narrative is only 300 pages, and it does an excellent job of explaining the strategies and interests of all concerned from the warlords, Chiang, Mao, Russia, Japan, and the U.S. It is a fascinating story that I highly recommend for those interested in China, East history, strategy, and military history.

  5. #65
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    The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy.

    This was a book I intended to read a couple of years ago, but couldn't find the time. This wasn't an easy read, since it is dense in facts and figures to support his theory of why nations rise and fall. For me, it further confirmed that strategy must be broader than how we employ the military as instrument.

    A couple of quotes to give you the jest.

    The argument in this book has been that there exists a dynamic for change, driven chiefly by economic and technological developments, which then impact upon social structures, political systems, military power, and the position of individual states and empires. The speed of of this global economic change has not been a uniform one . . . [due to] climate, disease, wars, geography, the social framework, and so on . . . . Because of man's innate drive to improve his condition, the world has never stood still.
    The second major argument in this book has been that this uneven pace of economic growth has had crucial long-term impacts upon the relative military power and strategical position of the members of the states system. . . . economic prosperity does not always and immediately translate into military effectiveness . . ., the fact remains that all of the major shifts in the world's military-power balances have followed alterations in the productive balances; and further, that the rising and falling of the various empires and states in the international system has been confirmed by the outcomes of the major Great Power wars, where victory has always goine to the side with the greatest material resources.
    Much of the book focused on the requirement for states to balance short-term security (maintaining defense capacity) against the longer term security of rising production and income. This is one reason I express concern about the COINdistas arguing we stay in force for 20 or more years in no win fights. We bleed out our national power while other states shore up theirs.

    A very interesting book, and I may use its arguments to start a new thread for discussion. This book was written in the mid to late 80s, so the Cold War was still ongoing. Many of his predictions regarding the great powers at that time came true, including the relative decrease of U.S. power over time. However, I tend to think non-state actors, and states using unconventional warfare empowered by information technology may call aspects of his theory into question. Also the proliferation of high end technology to other states despite their financial weakness provides them with strategic options states didn't have in the past.

  6. #66
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    The Long March book is really great. A must read for anyone interested in the history of contemporary China. The Chinese revolution used to be one of my pet subjects when I was a teenager, and I was wrong about practically everything. This book as well as others like "Tombstone", the various Mao bios, Zhou En Lai by Gao Qenqian and several others helped to set me right

  7. #67
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    Oct 2005


    The Supe, by John Vermillion

    When Army General Harris Green begins to suspect that President Keith Rozanís halting leadership of the US military will lead to catastrophic results for the country down the line, General Green must ask himself an important question: Should a military leader forsake his commissioning oath when a president acts outside the bounds of the Constitution?

    Tipped off by White House aides that President Rozan has imminent plans to change the character, purpose, and future of the US Military Academy, General Green realizes he must take action. And he knows just the man with the courage and character to fight Washington from behind the Superintendentís desk at West Point: Marine General Simon Pack.

    Hardheaded and unswervingly devoted to his missions, General Pack resigned from the US Marine Corps out of revulsion at the rise of careerism among senior leaders. But with time running out, will General Green persuade him to return to active duty to save the Academyís futureóand the future of the US military?

    A thought-provoking and controversial story that asks hard questions about military-civilian relations, The Supe is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of the military in this country.
    The highlights are mine. I just read this book on a long flight after receiving it as a gift. For those with years of experience, you have most likely witnessed the power of good leadership to transform any unit into a cohesive team that pursues the highest standards. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the destruction of morale and effectiveness that bad leadership can wreck on an organization. General Pack in this novel is the strong leader that is brought back from retirement to purge the toxic effects of political correctness on West Point. The book is an enjoyable, yet serious, read that political and military officers of all ranks should read. In many ways it reminded me of the classic "Once an Eagle," and the hero officer in that story Sam Damon. This novel is much shorter in scope and focused on strictly on current events instead of covering the evolution of a soldier's profession over decades.

    Bottom line, I think most military professionals who visit SWJ will enjoy the book.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-13-2015 at 03:06 AM.

  8. #68
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    Default The New Spymasters by Stephen Grey

    A fascinating book that crams in so much, even if it has an overwhelmingly Anglo-US focus - the Soviet era KGB and East German HVA get a mention. The historical setting is good, using Russia in 1917 as one and Northern Ireland for another. Oddly very little from Israel.

    Then the 'new world' intrudes with the demise of the 'Cold War' and the 'new jihadist terrorist' threat taking centre stage.

    A few puzzling references appear to non-warfare threats, notably multinationals moving billions and whether in the future there is a national political requirement to spy on them. What would have been the impact of a spy in some of our banks prior to the 2008 "crash" ?

    The interplay between HUMINT and TECHINT (in all its varieties) is covered well.

    I have made a lot of notes to think further about and some online, anonymous research in 2016.

    Yes the author is a journalist and his Amazon bio states:
    Stephen Grey is a British writer, broadcaster, and investigative reporter with more than two decades of experience reporting on intelligence issues. He is best known for his world exclusive revelations about the CIA's program of "extraordinary rendition," as well as reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. A former foreign correspondent and investigations editor with The Sunday Times, he has reported for The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC, and Channel 4, and is currently a special correspondent with Reuters. Grey is the author of Ghost Plane.
    "Insiders" on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed their admiration for the book, including details they thought were not in the public domain.

    Amazon (US):

    Amazon (UK):
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-26-2015 at 11:05 PM. Reason: cross posted on the HUMINT thread

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