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Old 12-26-2017   #1
davidbfpo
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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.
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Old 12-31-2017   #2
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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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Old 01-01-2018   #3
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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?
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Old 01-03-2018   #4
Bill Moore
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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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Old 01-07-2018   #5
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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.*

Quote:
[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.
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... "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"

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Old 01-08-2018   #6
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Default Ancient Texts

Also, credit to the translator.
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Old 01-08-2018   #7
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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.
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... "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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Old 2 Days Ago   #8
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Default rub a dub dub

A History of the Future by Peter J Bowler


The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell


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