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Thread: What are you reading in 2019?

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

    Default What are you reading in 2019?

    A new thread for 2018.

    The 2017 thread had 60 posts, with 86.9k views (up 30k since closed); in 2018 19 posts and 38.9k views.

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    Dec 2009


    A Covert Action: Reagan, the CIA, and the Cold War struggle in Poland

    An excellent book.

    It even includes an interesting angle on leveraging COTS technology.

    And right in the wheelhouse of Small Wars Journal when it comes to a discussion around crystal clear ideological war supporting existing indigenous popular movements.

    This book is probably worthy of a much more detailed review and discussion.

    Especially in light of a few SWJ forum members sharing their relevant thoughts in recent years about their concerns around political warfare, UW, and ideology today compared to during the Cold War.

    And how the role the US had against the Communist Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, now appears somewhat reversed in the GWOT against militant Islam.

    On a somewhat related note for those who are interested....

    The Covert Action book is a strategic/macro big picture complement to a tactical/micro level “fact based novel” I found a while back called Jinnick:

    The book and associated photos from the author share the story of ratlines using RVs/campervans for non kinetic support of Eastern European underground movements in the 1980’s.

    It’s a solid novel with some quite interesting photos that lend considerable credibility to the author’s direct involvement with those ratlines.

    Both books go well together, akin to co-authors Stan McChrystal’s Team of Teams(macro/strategic) and Chris Fussell’s One Mission(micro/tactical).

  3. #3
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    Oct 2005

    Default The Chinese Invasion Threat

    The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia, by Ian Easton

    When I saw the somewhat kooky cover, I almost rejected the book out of hand, but fortunately I noticed it was endorsed by a number of senior U.S. military officers (including a former U.S. Pacific Command Commander), Senior Taiwanese officers, and respected professors. Bottom line it based on deep research and well written. It will challenge a number of prevailing myths concerning one of the most dangerous flash points in the world.

    The Washington Times review is better than anything I produce off the cuff.

    Mr. Allison offers what amounts to the latest defense of the Cold War-era China policy built by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his successors, which essentially justifies continued concessions (appeasement) to the “rising power” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictatorship to uphold “stability” but not peace.

    Part of a new generation of China analysts, Mr. Easton is far more impressed with promise of Taiwan’s democracy and rejects policies that appease China, such as our self-constrained “unofficial” relationship with Taiwan. But Mr. Easton also makes clear that both peace and stability between the U.S. and China could end as soon as early in the next decade. For the first time since the early 1950s China is close to being able to attempt its never-abandoned goal of conquering Taiwan.
    Easton's book provides a detailed review of known Chinese and Taiwanese war plans, and the massive challenges that the Chinese must over come to successfully invade and integrate Taiwan. He provides a short analysis of the U.S. plan to invade Formosa (Taiwan's former name) during WWII, and based on the size and terrain U.S. planners estimated they would need 500,000 troops to successfully wrest control of it from the Japanese. Taiwan is a much tougher target today based on decades of defense planning and engineering. Easton also discusses other strategies that the Chinese may employ, but the focus of the book is on an actual invasion.

    Easton points out in subsequent blog posts and articles that a successful defense of Taiwan ultimately depends upon the will of the Taiwanese to resist/fight, and that means they need to counter Chinese psychological warfare, which attempts to convince the Taiwanese, Japanese, and Americans that resistance if futile. Throughout the book he provides a lot of insight on Chinese thinking, and how the Peoples Liberation Army is an instrument of the communist more so than a true Army. They have a number of shortfalls, and we shouldn't simply evaluate their military based on their budget and the number and type of weapons they have. Their senior officers are generally brain washed, and even those who aren't will not speak out after Xi's recent purges. While this promotes incompetence, it also promotes hubris for those who buy into their propaganda, which ultimately increases the risk of war.

    I found a couple of paragraphs in the last chapter of his book that capture my philosophical thoughts on the topic. However, for those who care about freedom, etc. Throughout the book he illustrates how the loss of Taiwan would present significant and tangible risks to U.S. interests.

    It may be fairly observed that, in some ways, American foreign policy in Asia has evolved in an absurd fashion. Over the past two decades, Taiwan has become a vibrant full-fledged democracy, only to be treated like an international pariah state. Today, American diplomats are forbidden from recognizing Taiwan's ROC flag and calling the Taiwanese people and government by their proper names. At the same time, the People's Republic of China has become more authoritarian, only to be treated as if it were a respectable and even indispensable member of the community of nations. American policymakers have shown a remarkable deference to Beijing's cross-Strait interests.
    As a consequence of this unnecessary, self-imposed policy choice, an entire generation of young Americans has been brought up believing this is the natural order of things and it is somehow right and good that the principle of self-determination be denied to the Taiwanese people, who are being "provocative" every time they attempt to chart their own path. . . An amoral idea has been locked into the collective mind of American policy.

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    Default AMERICA and the FUTURE of WAR

    AMERICA and the FUTURE of WAR: The Past as Prologue, by Williamson Murray

    I found this book to be a helpful review of strategy and relevant history, both are shortfalls in the American culture today. All leaders and planners should read this book and discuss it its numerous cautionary stories of what happens when we drift to far from the essence of reality when it comes to war and strategy. How cool ideas like information dominance, network theory, and confusing by, with, and through as meaningful strategic frameworks are going to fail, and arguably have failed.

    He points out that without an understanding of their political, strategic, and international context, a discussion of military operations has no basis in reality, since it is these factors that shape military choices. We would be hard pressed to clearly explain those factors for Syria today. Maybe it is simple as Simon Sinek's book start with why, then how and what. The military today all too often starts with what in the form of concepts (tactics), and then confuse them with strategy.

    Based on this trend, I suspect Murray is right about his criticism of our military education.
    Most of the huge system of professional military education ignored history, the study of strategy, and military theory in favor of obtuse and superficial discussions on of area studies, international relations, and other topics favored by academics. As for war and the profession of arms, forget it.
    He repeatedly attacks our intelligence community and military writ large for its lack of foreign language and cultural knowledge and how this all to frequently leads to serious mistakes in judgment and faulty assumptions. He also criticizes the false claims of there will be no more wars. This has been a misguided view since at least the late 18th Century, and even in Pinker's misguided argument that violence around the world has been reduced, which is far from the case.

    Some of following are paraphrased:

    In 1792 a famous British statesman claimed they could reasonably expect 15 years of peace, yet in a matter of months they declared war on Revolutionary France. This particular statesman was far from stupid, he was reading the cards he could see, but even those he misunderstood due to the major social changes taking place in France he didn't understand.
    Another example of misguided, or muddled thinking, was the British assessment of Hitler. They assessed since he was a Corporal in WWI and knew the horrors of war he surely wouldnt lead his country into war again. Chamberlain and his fellow politicians lacked any understanding of the culture, context, and aspirations of Hitler and the German people.
    Jumping to our love of models:
    Thus, in every respect the rational actor model so beloved by American political scientists is utter nonsense. Had such a model existed in Germany in 1943, the Germans would have surrendered at that point, had such a model existed in Britain in June 1940, the British also would have quit before the Battle of Britain. As Clausewitz points out, theory "must also take the human factor into account and find room for courage, boldness, even foolhardiness. The art of war deals with living and moral forces.
    I am becoming more and more convinced our efforts to leverage design thinking and military planning processes to hopefully lead to better decisions will fail if we don't have knowledgeable people (culture, history, and strategy) in these groups. Processes can compensate for the lack of knowledge and unfounded assumptions that lead to stupid.

    One area where Murray's book fell short is there was no real discussion on deterrence, which admittedly is often shaped by the faulty rational man theory. Still, it is a critical component of our strategy.

  5. #5
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Mar 2006


    “Battleworn”. It is a memoir of UK combat medic Charlotte Taylor’s time in the slog that was Helmand Province.

    It is pretty choppy and ridden with cliches, making it harder for me to read than most combat memoirs, but I have read about her elsewhere and it rounds out other things I have read and watched about British operations in Helmand.

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