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  1. #1
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default What Are You Currently Reading? 2013

    Moderator at work

    A series of new thread created to enable easier searching, so this once huge thread has now been split into years, starting with 2007. For an odd reasons it shows 132k views, no matter (ends).


    So much of what we deal with today is shaped by the Cold War. At the confluence of politics and human nature one finds insurgency and terrorism. Not everywhere at the confluence, but in the dark corners where people perceive conditions to be insufferable and little effective legal recourse to address the same.

    We all need to understand the Cold War better, to get past the spin and to better understand the realities. I look forward to giving this "Fifty Year Wound" a look.

    Equally, Santa left me "Einstein - His Live and Universe" by Walter Isaacson." I find Einstein's insights on what I call "thinking about thinking" to be unparalleled. The military attempts to reduce thinking to a battle drill, and in so doing increases efficiency and uniformity at the expense of lost creativity and understanding (both being by their very nature neither efficient or uniform).
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-05-2013 at 05:07 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default What has changed and what has not ...

    Slogging through "the Changing Character of War", Ed. Hew Strachan & Sibylle Scheipers. Interesting thoughts on the definition of war and its political aspects.

    A number of chapters in this book come to the conclusion that the practice of war has changed over the past 500 years. The most striking factual changes in this respect are, first, the unlocking of the relationship between war and the state and, second, the unlocking of the relationship between war and the nation. However, this change is not to be misunderstood as a sudden dissolution of the 'normal' trinity consisting of war, the state, and the nation, and the dawn of a new, less orderly, and mor chaotic era of war. Rather, the interlocking of war and the state was, according to David Parrott, an exceptional case in the history of war that prevailed only for the rather short period from 1750 to 1950.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  3. #3
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Four plus one

    I tend to read books in groups, invariably on holiday, so these four were read late in 2012.

    'Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, The Nazis and The West' by Laurence West, pub. 2009 by BBC Books in paperback. Cleverly written from the summits to the battlefield, in places hard to read and Poland gets a special mention:http://www.amazon.com/World-War-Behi...+laurence+rees

    'Political Demography: How Population Changes Are Reshaping Internatioal Security and National Politics' Edited by Goldstone, Kaufman & Toft, pub. 2012. A variety of chapters to chose from and an issue politicians prefer IMO to avoid thinking about:http://www.amazon.com/Political-Demo...ional+Politics

    Now for fiction books, both are political/military/technological thrillers.

    'Kilo Class' by Patrick Robinson, pub. 1998 (bought second hand); by no means comparable to 'The Hunt for Red October', but in places a taut read:http://www.amazon.com/Kilo-Class-Pat...trick+Robinson

    Finally the latest Tom Clancy tome 'Threat Vector', pub. 2012. I can't resist these, although the plots are becoming formulaic and one twist was easily identified. Once again China is the enemy, this time reliant on cyber warfare. The best review, 700 pgs. read in two and half days:http://www.amazon.com/Threat-Vector-...tor+tom+clancy

    Awaiting attention, now for six weeks plus, an Eastern Front WW1 slim book 'Blood on The Snow: The Carpathian Winter War 1915' by Graydon Tunstall, pub. 2010. Likened to the 'Stalingrad of WW1' and I've been in that part of Poland. Very mixed reviews:http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Snow-Car...inter+War+1915
    davidbfpo

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    several years late, but I loved reading http://contemporarylit.about.com/b/2...sun-shuyun.htm

    As someone who read (and completely believed) Edgar Snow's Red Star over China in high school, this was an education.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Wild beasts and their ways : reminiscences of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (1890) by Samuel White Baker.

    Some great hunting stories and tales written with keen observation by a man who had time and money to travel in an age when the world was a different place. Sometimes his opinion is a bit off but he certainly shows that you can observe a lot by just looking - especially when you gralloch and skin an animal.

    Parts of his study on wildlife are first-class. The simple yet effective way he comes to the conclusion how (old world) vultures find their game with their sight and the sight of other birds is just one of many. It is needless to say that this book does often not reflect always the PC of our age .

    His discussion about guns and bullets are of course old-fashioned but the principles are still relevant:

    1) You have to place your bullet into the right way (anatomy!)
    2) It has to penetrate into the right area to do it's job (He prefered heavy solid harderd or heavy solid soft spherical lead for the most dangerous game)
    3) There the bullet should wreak havoc.
    4) It should be matched to the animal while erring on the right side. (He mentions a lot of cases, some witnessed when the rifle and it's bullet just didn't the job. Sometimes with deadly results ...)

    I only differ about the exit wound. Having one just helps to track it in the worst case, but of course it is much easier today. His attacks on 'Express' rifles with fragile hollow bullets are very understandable. Still today, with all our technology some hunters I know use have made a mess by hitting the shoulder of animal like a red deer with too soft of a bullet for the velocity . (Bad shooting is of course a vastly bigger problem. It can happen to everybody it just happens much more to some ...)

    All in all a great read for the hunting-less season.
    Last edited by Firn; 01-03-2013 at 05:57 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 welcome to the magic theatre

    It is not for everyone. John Gray's Straw Dogs.

    The prevailing secular worldview is a pastiche of current scientific orthodoxy and pious hopes. Darwin has shown that we are animals; but - as humanists never tire of preaching - how we live is ‘up to us’. Unlike any other animal, we are told, we are free to live as we choose. Yet the idea of free will does not come from science. Its origins are in religion - not just any religion - but the Christian faith against which humanists rail so obsessively.

    [...]

    Some readers have seen Straw Dogs as an attempt to apply Darwinism to ethics and politics, but nowhere does it suggest that neo-Darwinian orthodoxy contains the final account of the human animal. Instead Darwinism is deployed strategically in order to break up the prevailing humanist worldview. Humanists turn to Darwin to support their shaky faith in progress; but there is no progress in the world he revealed. A truly naturalistic view of the world leaves no room for secular hope.

    [...]

    The Buddhist ideal of awakening implies that we can sever our links with our evolutionary past. We can raise ourselves from the sleep in which other animals pass their lives. Our illusions dissolved, we need no longer suffer. This is only another doctrine of salvation, subtler than that of the Christians, but no different from Christianity in its goal of leaving our animal inheritance behind.

    [...]

    Having lost the skills of sewing, fishing and making fire, the indigenous people of Tasmania lived more simply than even Aboriginals on the Australian mainland from whom they had been isolated by rising sea levels around ten thousand years ago. When the ships bearing European settlers arrived in Tasmania in 1772, the indigenous people seem not to have noticed them. Unable to process a sight for which nothing had prepared them, they returned to their ways.

    They had no defences against the settlers. By 1830, their numbers had been reduced from around five thousand to seventy-two. In the intervening years they had been used for slave labour and sexual pleasure, tortured and mutilated. They had been hunted like vermin and their skins had been sold for government bounty. When the males were killed, female survivors were turned loose with the heads of their husbands tied around their necks. Males who were not killed were usually castrated. Children were clubbed to death. When the last indigenous Tasmanian male, William Lanner, died in 1869, his grave was opened by a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, Dr George Stokell, who made a tobacco pouch from his skin. When the last ‘fullblood’ indigenous woman died a few years later, the genocide was complete.

    Genocide is as human as art or prayer. This is not because humans are a uniquely aggressive species. The rate of violent death among some monkeys exceeds that among humans - if wars are excluded from the calculation; but as E.O. Wilson observes, ‘if hamdryas baboons had nuclear weapons, they would destroy the world in a week’. Mass murder is a side effect of progress in technology. From the stone axe onwards, humans have used their tools to slaughter one another. Humans are weapon-making animals with an unquenchable fondness for killing. (from Straw Dogs by John Gray)

    Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals - Amazon

    John N. Gray - Wikipedia

    ***

    Straw Dogs review by Terry Eagleton:

    John Gray's political vision has been steadily darkening. Once a swashbuckling free-marketeer, he has, in his recent studies, become increasingly despondent about the state of the world. With the crankish, unbalanced Straw Dogs, he emerges as a full-blooded apocalyptic nihilist. He has passed from Thatcherite zest to virulent misanthropy.

    Not that nihilism is a term he would endorse. His book is so remorselessly, monotonously negative that even nihilism implies too much hope. Nihilism for Gray suggests the world needs to be redeemed from meaninglessness, a claim he regards as meaningless. Instead, we must just accept that progress is a myth, freedom a fantasy, selfhood a delusion, morality a kind of sickness, justice a mere matter of custom and illusion our natural condition. Technology cannot be controlled, and human beings are entirely helpless. Political tyrannies will be the norm for the future, if we have any future at all. It isn't the best motivation for getting out of bed.
    Guardian review of Straw Dogs by Terry Eagleton - Guardian - 7.11.2002

    Terry Eagleton - Wikipedia

    ***

    The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma Translated by Red Pine.

    Many roads lead to the Path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.
    The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma - Amazon

    ***

    Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse.

    I was amazed to see a small and pretty doorway with a Gothic arch in the middle of the wall ... Probably I had seen it a hundred times and simply not noticed it. Perhaps it had been painted afresh ... it seemed to me in the dim light that a garland, or something gaily colored, was festooned round the doorway, and ... over the door I saw ... bright letters dancing and then disappearing, returning and vanishing once more.

    MAGIC THEATER
    ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY (from Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse)
    Magic Theater - american-buddha.com online library

    Steppenwolf - Amazon

    Steppenwolf (novel) - Wikipedia

    Steppenwolf (Hawkind) youtube
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 02-01-2013 at 07:46 AM.

  7. #7
    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Default book Carnivore: A Memoir By One of the Deadliest Soldiers of All Time

    Currently reading this book http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...words=carivore which I find to be both interesting and amusing. If you go to Amazon you can read reviews, most of which are negative. The author is definitely full of himself, but his descriptions and explanations of the workings of the M2 Bradley, M1 tank and the armored reconnaissance squadron are interesting. So is the information about what his troop and the rest of the his ARS did during the run up to Baghdad. The author's Sgt. Rock love fest with himself makes this book IMHO a 5 out of 10. For those not familar with the workings of the M2/M3 Bradley it's worth a read.

    Moved here at author's request: I gave the book a separate thread when I should have just added it here. My initial post gave the book a 5 out of 10. I'm thinking now 6 or 7 out of ten. Sure, at times he thinks he is all that and a bag of chips, but his story, the crews story, and the other soldiers in the 3rd ID Cav squadron are interesting. The book is easy reading unlike The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-22-2013 at 09:31 AM. Reason: 2nd passage added

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    For those interested in a view on counterinsurgency not coming from the usual suspects, you might take a look at David Donovan's new ebook, War of a Kind: Reflections on Counterinsurgency and Those who do it. Donovan is the author of Once a Warrior King, a well-regarded memoir of his experiences in a counterinsurgency program in Vietnam.

    WAR OF A KIND addresses key issues in counterinsurgency, but it does so without being a technical manual. Rather, it is a commentary based on personal counterinsurgency experiences from Vietnam with many years of thought applied afterwards. Real-life vignettes from the author and others illustrate many of the issues discussed. WAR OF A KIND will be of interest to those who work in counterinsurgency and to the general reader who wants to understand a style of war that affects American foreign policy and defense planning.

    Link to Amazon for 'War of a Kind', no reviews:http://www.amazon.com/War-of-a-Kind-...+david+donovan

    Link to Amazon for 'Once a Warrior King', with excellent reviews:http://www.amazon.com/Once-Warrior-K...+david+donovan
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-27-2013 at 02:11 PM. Reason: Moved to this thread, PM to author, added links too.

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    Default Donovan, welcome from the dinosaur den

    You caused me to download the Amazon and Kindle apps to my Android tablet - previously used to read pdf files. The funny thing is that I couldn't order the e-book directly using the Android (it wouldn't place the order). But, adaptation being in order, I ordered it on my desktop and it was automatically delivered to the Android.

    Warrior King was an excellent book.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default less than human

    I know I shouldn't be, but because I became so interested in the idea based on my recent research into primitive war I am reading "less than human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others"

    It has an interesting slant:

    In this book, I will argue that dehumanization is a joint creation of biology, culture, and the architecture of the human mind."
    Dehumanization is a scourge, and has been so for millennia. It acts as a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  11. #11
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default ‘Lawrence in Arabia’

    Lawrence in Arabia is on my reading list after yesterday’s Fresh Air interview with author Scott Anderson. Non-fictional T. E. Lawrence was actually even more interesting than semi-fictional T. E. Lawrence, if this interview is at all accurate.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I just placed my order on Amazon for Colonel Brian Petit's first (there will be more) book. I had the distinct pleasure to serve with Brian in both the Pacific and in Afghanistan. Brian is one of our great operators as well as one of our great thinkers. He has served in critical SOF assignments in Iraq, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. Perhaps as important he served in a critical SOF assignment at Fort Leavenworth where he was often the intellectual connective tissue between the Army and Army SOF.

    From the Amazon page:

    Going Big by Getting Small examines how the United States Special Operations Forces apply operational art, the link between tactics and strategy, in the non-wartime, steady-state environments called Phase Zero. With revised and innovative operational art constructs, US Special Operations offer scalable and differentiated strategic options for US foreign policy goals. This book analyzes light footprint special operations approaches in Yemen, Indonesia, Thailand, and Colombia. When a large military presence may be inappropriate or counterproductive, Colonel Brian Petit makes the case for fresh thinking on Phase Zero operational art as applied by small, highly skilled, joint-force teams coupled with interagency partners. The past decade (2002-2012) of operations focused on large-scale, post-conflict counterinsurgency. Less publicized, but no less important in this same decade, was the emerging application of nuanced campaigns, actions, and activities in Phase Zero. These efforts were led or supported by special operations in countries and regions contested, but not at war. This book fills a gap in the literature of how to adapt the means, method, and logic of US military foreign engagements in a diplomacy-centric world with rapidly shifting power paradigms. Going Big by Getting Small is not a yarn on daring special operations raids nor a call for perpetual war. It is the polar opposite: this book contemplates the use of discreet engagements to sustain an advantageous peace, mitigate conflict, and prevent crises.
    Show more
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    Link to Amazon.com, note no reviews:http://www.amazon.com/Going-Big-Gett...+Getting+Small

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    About the Author
    Colonel Brian S. Petit is a US Army Special Forces officer with worldwide experience in combat, conflict, and peacetime environments. He has written articles on special operations for Special Warfare and Military Review.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-20-2013 at 04:18 PM. Reason: Add Amazon link
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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