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Recommended Reading & Viewing

SWJ Blog – The Generals… Readable but Flawed?


In his groundbreaking 1976 book The Face of Battle, eminent historian John Keegan argued that the history of battle should focus on more than the generals and their decisions.

Keegan had grown weary of military histories explaining the outcome of battles and wars singularly on what generals decided. Instead, Keegan emphasized the complexity of battle, its chaos, and most importantly the role contingent factors played in the outcome of battles and wars.

Keegan’s book helped popularize what would become known as the “new military history” that sought to explain and understand warfare not solely through the eyes of the general, but from myriad other military, social, cultural, and political factors.

Tom Ricks’s new book The Generals regresses from Keegan and takes us back to a less complicated form of military storytelling in which wars’ outcomes were determined solely by the performance of army commanders.

HistoryGuy99 –The Liberator: One Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssy across Nazi Europe 

A few months ago I learned that best selling author, Alex Kershaw, was about to publish a new book about World War II. Alex, had already gained a reputation for his accurate portrayal of war in three earlier best selling books. When his latest, The Liberator  arrived, it immediately went to the top of my growing must read pile. where within a fortnight; I settled down to read about one man’s 511 day and 2000 mile journey across the blood stained surface of Nazi held Europe. The story is more than one mans journey, but describes in moving detail, the men of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regt. of the 45th Infantry Division, who fought from the beaches of Sicily, on to Salerno, and Anzio, then into the belly of Vichy France and into the deadly forests of Vosges; and finally ending inside the hell of Dachau, where to a man, they reached their breaking point.

The Glittering Eye – How Not to Negotiate 

….My understanding is that the president’s proposals rest on three legs:

  1. Raise taxes on the highest income earners while leaving the remainder of the “Bush tax cuts” intact.
  2. Leave Social Security and Medicare alone.
  3. Make raising the debt ceiling automatic.

I wasn’t entirely surprised at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reaction (he broke out laughing). My immediate reaction was that the president had opened with the insult price.

Milpub (Seydlitz89) –Fall 1942 – The Turning Point of the War in Europe 

….One gets the impression that the Russian Front was not seen as a single theater, but rather as five separate fronts: Finland, Army Group North facing Leningrad, Army Group Center facing Moscow, Army Group B at Stalingrad, and Army Group A in the Caucasus. Thus each individual front competed individually with those in the West and keeping Italy in the war was Hitler’s priority towards the end of 1942. This possible perspective regards only the operational decisions, not those involving logistics, production, genocides, and other matters that Hitler reserved for himself. That the situation with Army Group B was dangerous was recognized relatively early on with the 20 November order to establish Army Group Don from the staff of the 11th Army under the command of Field Marshall von Manstein to take command of Army Group B and other forces coming in. This headquarters was to be tasked with reestablishing the front on the Don/Volga. This distinction is important, it was not first to reestablish contact with Stalingrad, but to re-establish the front as it had existed prior to the Soviet offensive, it was assumed that those forces in Stalingrad would remain in place. A withdrawal from Stalingrad and the Volga was never seriously considered until it was too late. Manstein and his staff were at Vitebsk and due to the weather and rail conditions were unable to arrive in theater until 24 November.

The Committee of Public Safety –Entrails of deceit and Entrails of deceit (cont.)


….Whaley had written specialized studies of deception for the Central Intelligence Agency (later declassified and published as Codeword Barbarossa and Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War) as well as books on magic (Encyclopedic Dictionary of MagicWho’s Who In Magic). Bell was a painter and art critic who’d started writing about terrorism during the 1960s, especially as practiced by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Whaley and Bell had direct experience of fields where deception was the coin of the realm. They’d picked up more experience during their fruitless efforts to get academia and government to properly study deception.

As a side-effect of their experience as well as their target audience, Cheating and Deception discusses many of the manifestations deception can take on in everyday life. It includes specific explorations of the role of deception in magic, warfare, gambling, sports, business, science, and art. True to the spirit of their topic, Whaley and Bell even manage to sneak their more scholarly theory of deception into Chapter 2.

They claim their theory is the only general theory of deception ever devised.

Gene Expression –TreeMix: Who were the West Eurasian ancestors of Ethiopians?


Lions of Judah?

David Ronfeldt – Why the Republicans lost: excessive tribalism — a partial TIMN interpretation and Q’s & A’s about “TIMN in 20 minutes” (6th of 7): space-time-action (STA) orientations 

Thomas P.M. Barnett- Lesson in eBook marketing 

The Agonist (Kattenburg)-Writerly Reads

New York Times Review of BooksThe Jihadis of Yemen 

The American Conservative – On the Value of Old Educational Models and Revenge of the Reality-Based Community  

The Wilson QuarterlyBloody New World 

Scientific American– Why Is it Impossible to Stop Thinking, to Render the Mind a Complete Blank? 


9 Responses to “Recommended Reading & Viewing”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Zen:
    I’ve now got my review copy of Gregory Johnsen’s book on Jihad and Yemen, reviewed by the NYRB in one of your links above, and — all other considerations aside — it’s really well written and a pleasure to read. I see people comparing it to Wright’s The Looming Tower, and I’m not surprised.  I hope to review it here in the not too distant…

  2. zen Says:

    Excellent, Charles! I look forward to hearing your take on it!

  3. morgan Says:

    Methinks David Ronfeldt protests too much. His article would be just as relevant if he substituted “Democrats” for Republicans. The Democrats are busy creating their own tribes to maintain and increase their power. And they pay their “tribal members” for it with goodies such as food stamps and other governmental subsidies and bailout. And talk about vilifying their opponents? MSNBC and the mainstream media can show Fox News and talk radio a few tricks. They too, are a major tribe of the Democratic Party–a very critical one at that. His article just shows me that he is a liberal democrat crowing over the elections results.

  4. Dave Schuler Says:

    Thanks for the link, Mark.
    BTW, I think there’s abundant evidence that it’s possible to make one’s mind a complete blank while simultaneously campaigning for the Senate.

  5. david ronfeldt Says:

    mark — many thanks for the plug(s).  also, i much appreciated the pointer to bartlett’s article in the american conservative.  his emphasis on “epistemic closure” overlaps neatly with my emph on excessive tribalism.
    aha, uh-oh, a comment to deal with:
    morgan — i shall continue to protest, methinks.  most repubs i know who’ve read my piece have reactions like yours (some of which unwittingly confirms their own tribalism).  yes, dems have tribal aspects too,  it’d be interesting to do a comparison.  but i’m not up to it.  in brief, tho, my view remains that the dem leadership and pro-dem media are not as tribalized as the repub leadership and pro-repub media, nor are the former as tightly (clannishly?) bundled together.
    I’d like to see a de-tribalization in both parties (though not too much, for a bit can be beneficial).  i think the repubs would benefit a lot more.  abandoning that warlord-patrolled anti-tax pledge would be an advisable step for enhancing strategic and tactical maneuverability.
    oh, btw, i’m a budding quadriformist, not a lib dem. — onward, david

  6. Madhu Says:

    @ dave ronfeldt:
    But if there is Tribe A and  Tribe B and you write a piece criticizing Tribe A. when Tribe A protests, how is that evidence that Tribe B is more tolerant? Wouldn’t you have to write a piece criticizing both tribes and see how each react for that logic to be valid?
    The clannish or tightness might be exaggerated by the smaller size of the tribe, too. If one tribe is currently larger, then by definition it cannot see more clannish. But I hear you say, that’s just the point.
    Perhaps. But with tribes it’s the excommunicated that tell you a lot. Having been within both tribes at one point or the other of my life, it’s not fun to be on the outs with either, I can tell you. Very harsh to the excommunicated are the partisans on either side….
    The signing a pledge ensuring conformity seems like better evidence. Evidence on the other side might be more in the cultural or social realm. I think the tribalisms are more pronounced politically in one side, socially on the other.
    Everything seems very tribal and irritable to me these days – in all spheres – but that may be my own happiness on the periphery talking. I can’t see myself going back to the nonsense of either side any time soon. I want to be my own person, my own woman. I feel suffocated by either tribe. Dunno. Might be a personal hangup. 
    So I kind of agree with both you and Morgan, it seems.


  7. Madhu Says:

    By suffocated, I mean that certain topics of enquiry and thinking are off-limits and if you express an off-limit thought, your motives are questioned, your very being. Socialist: right, Racist: left?
    But I don’t have much energy for this sort of stuff anymore. I don’t think I much care. I’d like, John Robb-like, to discover new things and move one…. 

  8. Madhu Says:

    Maybe one current societal tribe is the tribe of the “I only hang out with people like me,” so that, if you are in such a crowd of whatever stripe, it feels very smug and circular.
    My favorite tribe to make fun of (I think it really shows) is academia and academics. Child of an academic, so I think it’s natural that I should find great fun in campus life and academia and think tanks. I’m not sure I’m entirely fair, about it, but I’m not sure I’m entirely unfair either.
    Maybe my tribe is the permanently “sit in the back of the classroom and make fun of everybody tribe?” Hmmm, the topic is wonderfully expansive! 

  9. david ronfeldt Says:

    hi madhu — i enjoyed your remarks! — onward, david

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