zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Two for You: Mini-Recommended Reading

Two for You: Mini-Recommended Reading

These were too good not to share:

MilPub (Seydlitz89) -Soft Power, A Strategic Theory Perspective 

….Let’s start with the concept of power itself. Nye’s definition agrees with the realist Weberian definition of power, that being “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be able to carry out their own will despite resistance”. It is important to stress here that for me power is a social relationship of varied degree, not a state of existence, nor a physical entity. Power can exist at various levels and involve individuals or whole nations. Force, coercion, economic incentives and “attraction” or soft power, are all types of power relationships. Power is also contingent, in that that each power relationship is unique involving the history, culture and personalities of the different actors.

….Soft Power is defined by Nye as:

“the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.”Notice the link of soft power with policy and legitimacy. Here is where a whole series of tensions are introduced to the overall concept, which are not apparent with a casual reading. Power can involve simply two individuals, whereas policy involves distinct political communities, policy being simply seen as the collective interests of the political community (see On War, Book VIII, Chapter 6B). Legitimacy would require the targeted political community seeing the actions of the soft power wielding political community as “legitimate”, which is obviously a difficult goal to achieve. This assuming of course that the policy actually reflects the national interests of the political community involved. Let’s look at the source of this tension more closely. [….]

Read the rest here.

Strongly agree with Seydlitz’s points concerning legitimacy and the need for a dedicated, culture-oriented, agency with a long-term perspective removed from the emphasis on the tactical or the immediate and transient political benefit.

Ink Spots (Jason Fritz)- I love books 

….I had been a reader from my earliest days, but school seemed to take up much of my reading time until adulthood. My mother works for the public library in my hometown in eastern Pennsylvania, forcing me to spend much of my time among many and varied volumes. In this last tour of note, she was assigned the task of ensuring I had plenty to read (my father, bless him, was tasked with keeping my humidor stocked). I sent my mother lists before and during deployment and received in return large boxes of books, through our markedly improved post. Initially, my reading interests were varied. Already well steeped in the books of my profession – Clausewitz’s On War, Jomini’s The Art of War, works by Galula and Tranquier, and a seemingly infinite suite of Army doctrine – I took interest in the books of the war of which I was a participant. Michael Gordon’s Cobra II and particularly Tom Ricks’Fiasco became influential in my thinking of the war and how I addressed my small part of it. Possibly because of this mono-topical study or possibly in spite of it, I felt I needed to widen my reading (and beyond my exhaustive collection of Hemingway that dominated my fiction shelves).

In my first major package of books of that deployment (thanks, Mum!), I received the last Harry Potter, Nietzsche, Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Kateb, Dickens, Hobbes, Thucydides, Dante, de Tocqueville, Hiaasen, Adam Smith, Arendt, Huxley, Bryson, Isaacson’s biography of Einstein, a few non-fiction adventure books (I recommend from these Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy and The Last Expedition by Daniel Liebowitz and Charles Pearson), and most prominently Joyce’s Ulysses.  These were the books I felt necessary to begin a study of the human condition beyond war (except the adventure books, which were wisely the purview of my mother, and the Harry Potter, which I merely enjoyed). Except for the Joyce, which I read every day and still took the entire deployment to finish, this was 6 months of reading material.  When this package of knowledge was delivered to me during duty in my brigade’s operations center south of Baghdad, another captain on the staff expressed to me, “I love books!” Meanly, I thought, “Of course you do; who doesn’t?”  At the time, I thought it a stupid thing to say.

In retrospect, I disagree with my moderately younger self and declare that I, too, love books. It is not obvious. Not everyone does. And while I may love books in a different way than our maligned captain (my agape vice her philia, if you will excuse both the probably unnecessary distinction and probable blasphemy), her sentiment is one which I have come to embrace entirely and tirelessly. I do not just love reading, I love books. I love to hold a book in my hands, to feel the binding and the paper, to smell the ink. I love the plates and pictures. I love the font and the layout of the pages, even if they include irregularities (such as my nth-hand copy of Joyce’s Dubliners, where the printing is partially smudged throughout the middle third). I suspect that many of you do as well, the military scholar being a peculiar subset of the bibliophile that tends towards bookishness and book collecting, even if said collecting extends beyond the typical cast of characters that have contributed to the art of war and warfare. My personal interactions indicate that you are a well-read and erudite community that reads compulsively on topics for which we are paid to read and topics for which we enjoy and topics we read because we believe that it makes us a better person. [….] 

Read the rest here.

I share Jason’s love of books, as probably does everyone reading this blog or Ink Spots. However there is no shortage of people in this country for whom books are as irrelevant as an Irish linen doily or a whole horizon sextant, who are not technically illiterate, but meander through the post-literate life of cultural primitives.

Share

4 Responses to “Two for You: Mini-Recommended Reading”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    I love books the same way. People who do not will never understand us.

  2. Michael Robinson Says:

    Perhaps the glass is only half empty and there are more book lovers who are not aesthetic fetishists emotionally invested in ‘artists’ books’ or the ‘book arts’ than one might realize; an article by Nicholas Carr’s in the Journal yesterday, “Don’t Burn Your Books — Print Is Here to Stay” 
    “How attached are Americans to old-fashioned books? Just look at the results of a Pew Research Center survey released last month. The report showed that the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the past year, from 16% to 23%. But it also revealed that fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.
    What’s more, the Association of American Publishers reported that the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell abruptly during 2012, to about 34%. That’s still a healthy clip, but it is a sharp decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the preceding four years.
    The initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration. The technology’s early adopters, a small but enthusiastic bunch, made the move to e-books quickly and in a concentrated period. Further converts will be harder to come by. ”
    As Carr points out on his own blog in a related post, “The headline writer is a bit more definitive in his assessment than I am, but that’s not unusual.”  

  3. seydlitz89 Says:

    Thanks zen . . . concluding points to be added soon . . .

  4. Soft Power, A Strategic Theory Perspective | The Image Says:

    […] H/T Zenpundit […]


Switch to our mobile site