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  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What are you currently reading in 2018?

    A new thread for 2018, prepared early on a quiet day.

    The 2017 thread has a low number of 60 posts, but had 56.5k views.
    davidbfpo

  2. #2
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default i met a man who wasn't there

    Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer


    The Dawn Watch by Maya Jasanoff



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    A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, by Richard Haass

    A good book on World Orders and why the current order is in disarray, with recommendations for foreign policy to help manage the transition from the current world order to world order 2.0.

    The World America Made, by Robert Kagan

    Still working my through this book, but it is a well written argument on how America reluctantly became a world power, and historically as one of the most powerful countries in the world shapes the world order.

    He describes the American people as being rife with potent national myths that both inspire and mislead. For example, he points out we have been one of the most powerful and expansive peoples in history, yet we think of ourselves as aloof, passive, generally inclined to minding our own business.

    I'll provide further thoughts on both books in the Strategy in the 21st Century over the next couple of weeks.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    I'm currently listening to an audiobook of the Xenophons Anabasis. What a gift it is to be able to follow the steps of men living roughly 2500 years ago! And what a pleasure to listen to such finely crafted language.*

    [13] Now what it really means to have such a dream one may learn from the events which followed the dream—and they were these: Firstly, on the moment of his awakening the thought occurred to him: “Why do I lie here? The night is wearing on, and at daybreak it is likely that the enemy will be upon us. And if we fall into the King's hands, what is there to prevent our living to behold all the most grievous sights and to experience all the most dreadful sufferings, and then being put to death with insult?

    ....

    [36] Be sure, therefore, that you, who have now come together in such numbers, have the grandest of opportunities. For all our soldiers here are looking to you; if they see that you are faint-hearted, all of them will be cowards; but if you not only show that you are making preparations yourselves against the enemy, but call upon the rest to do likewise, be well assured that they will follow you and will try to imitate you.

    [37] But perhaps it is really proper that you should somewhat excel them. For you are generals, you are lieutenant-generals and captains; while peace lasted, you had the advantage of them alike in pay and in standing; now, therefore, when a state of war exists, it is right to expect that you should be superior to the common soldiers, and that you should plan for them and toil for them whenever there be need.

    ....

    [41] If, however, we can turn the current of their minds, so that they shall be thinking, not merely of what they are to suffer, but likewise of what they are going to do, they will be far more cheerful.
    *Of course the speeches were sometimes written how best they would have sounded on those occasions, but that changes for me little.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-07-2018 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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    Default Ancient Texts

    Also, credit to the translator.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHR View Post
    Also, credit to the translator.
    Indeed. Some terms may be old-fashioned or not so precise but this fits my personal bias for, well old texts...

    And still today much can be read between the lines.
    ... "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 davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Weighty & Wise: partnering with the locals

    The actual book title is 'True to Their Salt: Indigenous Personnel in Western Armed Forces by Rob Johnson', which I volunteered to review for the publishers - hence a thread for visibility purposes.

    The book was published in 2017, by Hurst & Company of London. it is in hardback only, price UKŁ25 and 512 pgs. See:http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/true-to-their-salt/

    It is available via Amazon.

    This is a weighty book, with 418 pages of text, an extensive bibliography and an index - even if the author says it is a short and preliminary study!
    The author, Rob Johnson, is the Director of The Changing Character of War Programme at the University of Oxford; he was a British Army infantry officer, a military historian and has been an adviser on ‘Small Wars’ to the British Army, the US Army and the US Marine Corps.
    The purpose of the book is to establish a clear, enriched understanding of how non-Western personnel contributed to the successes and failures in historical and contemporary conflicts. Whether in military intervention, counter-insurgency and the development of local security forces (summarised from pg. XI & XIII).
    The historical survey, mainly from the British, French and American experience, touches upon all the factors that today cause so much concern, for example loyalty and trust that came to the fore in Afghanistan with ‘green on blue’ attacks. There is a reminder that one of the biggest imperial era crises was the ‘Indian Mutiny’, when regular locally recruited army formations mutinied and led to a bitter repressive campaign. The explanation of the slave West Indian Regiment is a revelation; whose successors proudly feature in a local commemoration service every year in Birmingham, UK.
    The importance pre-1914 of irregular or frontier units is amply explained, they were often recruited from defeated enemies, for example the Ghurkhas. In both world wars mobilization of imperial manpower resources became a key factor. In the Middle East in WW1 13 of the 17 British and Imperial divisions deployed in Mesopotamia and Palestine were Indian. Once hostilities were over 85,000 Indian soldiers were deployed to end the 1920 revolt in Iraq.
    Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, is amply covered (pgs. 251-269); his two writings ‘are also detailed and often brutally honest guides to the challenges an adviser could face’. Captain Barry Petersen, an Australian adviser to the Montagnards in Vietnam is given attention (pgs. 326-329). He concluded “advisers were best” and this would have strained the regular armies – all too evident more recently. (Added his book was ''Tiger Men: An Australian Soldier's Secret War in Vietnam', pub. 1988 and in 2011 another book 'The Tiger Man of Vietnam'. Her arrived secretly in 1963, unknown when he left).
    The long, gruelling East African campaign 1914-1918 against the German Schutztruppe is covered briefly; each company had 5 German officers and 150 Askaris (local term for soldiers). These were the troops von Lettow-Vorbeck led in a brilliant guerrilla campaign, one fought with almost no external direction and at a huge local cost – to the native porters primarily.
    There are similar chapters about WW2, the post-colonial struggles and the building of Afghan and Iraqi forces 2003-2014. In Afghanistan we have seen the repeated creation of a national army and experiments with irregulars, local police and mercenaries such as the Kandahar Strike Force.
    Today we consider partnering and invariably overlook what happens when there is an exit – odd considering the many examples as the empires ended. Let alone the debacle in Mosul when ISIS launched their attack. The Harkis episode in Algeria is well-known and sits alongside the less well-known end of British rule in Aden in 1967.
    Is this a “how to do it operationally” guide? No, and the concluding chapter explains why. Partnering, advising and recruitment – let alone fighting – will never be in an ideal environment.
    Will these options for those who intervene and seek to use cheaper and abundant manpower meet both our objectives and those of the locals?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-31-2018 at 12:12 PM. Reason: Added re Petersen books.674v when stad alone post.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Review: The House of Government. A Saga of the Russian Revolution

    My review of Yuri Slezkine's great book about the Russian revolution is up on Brownpundits.

    http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/02/...of-government/

    Excerpts:

    Yuri Slezkine is a Russian-American historian (he is also technically Portuguese-American, since he first emigrated from Russia to Portugal and then came to the US with a Portuguese passport) who has written a number of interesting books, and “The House of Government; a Saga of the Russian Revolution” is his latest and greatest offering. At over 1000 pages, it is not a lightweight book, literally or metaphorically. What he does is follow the lives of a large number of Bolshevik revolutionaries, from their origins as young rebels (they were almost all very young; very few were over 40 when they took over the largest country in the world) to the heady days of the Bolshevik revolution, to the civil war that followed, the first compromise (the NEP), the second and more serious attempt at “true communism” (the five year plan), the terrible violence and suffering of collectivization, the victory of communism under Stalin, the insane purge and auto-annihilation that followed that victory, the second world war, the desiccation and death of revolutionary ideology, and, perhaps most strikingly, the coming of age of the next generation without any sincere transfer of the purported official ideology, leading to the final, inevitable collapse of the entire experiment...

    ...The Bolshevik revolution (aka “The October Revolution”) was, strictly speaking, the second Russian revolution; the first was the popular upheaval that overthrew the Czar in February 1917 and that led to a few months of genuine freedom (and chaos). The second was the Bolshevik coup that overthrew the provisional government and established the dictatorship of the (relatively small, certainly not a majority in terms of popular support) Bolshevik party. The party may not have had vast popular support (the Socialist Revolutionaries, SRs, certainly had greater popular support, as indicated by their showing in the only elections ever held in Russia that year) but they had the clearest conception of what they wanted, and the most willingness to use violence to achieve it. This group established control, won the civil war, and created the Soviet Union. Which brings us to the first thing this book is not; it is not a history of the Soviet Union. The reader is expected to know that history in some detail already. There is a lot of detail about what happened, but not a lot of summary history. It will help if you read some general books about the revolution before or alongside this great work.

    ...The other (and more significant) organizing principle of the book is religious. Slezkine describes the Bolshevik party as

    “..millenarian sectarians preparing for the apocalypse. .consecutive episodes in the Bolshevik family saga are related to stages in the history of a failed prophecy, from an apparent fulfillment to the great disappointment to a series of postponements to the desperate offer of a last sacrifice. Compared to other sects with similar commitments, the Bolsheviks were remarkable for both their success and their failure. They managed to take over Rome long before their faith could become an inherited habit, but they never figured out how to transform their certainty into a habit that their children or subordinates could inherit.”

    This, in brief, is the whole argument of the book, the rest is details

    ...Why did the Soviet religion fail to survive where other millenial sects (even those that made very specific promises of apocalypse that obviously failed to arrive) continue to thrive for 100s and even thousands of years? Slezkine’s answer is not about economic or state failure, but about something more fundamental: unlike other millenarian sects, Bolshevism failed to bring the family under its control. ‘One of the central features of Bolshevism as a life-structuring web of institutions was that Soviets were made in school and at work, not at home”.

    ...; Christianity attached itself to the law of Moses and kept devising new
    ways of monitoring the family. Muhammad codified and reformed Arabian
    common law. Marx- Engels- Lenin- Stalin had nothing to say about everyday human morality and left their disciples no guidance on how to be good Communists at home.

    Communism failed because it did not destroy or successfully coopt the family. Whether you agree with Slezkine or not, you should read this book. It is much much more than its primary thesis. The devil is in the details, and the details are all here. Lives, books, movies, art, everything.
    Well, everything but the economics. Ironically for a book about an economist philosophy, Slezkine has little or nothing to say about economics. The striking thing is, it does not seem to matter.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-26-2018 at 05:17 PM. Reason: Fix quote

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