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How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America

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A remarkably polite liberal critique of the unsuccessful efforts to sustain a tale of victorious triumphalism describing the role of the United States in the Cold War. Wiener's method is incremental, as he examines sites of memory that aspired to keep a certain hardline conservative vision of the Cold War alive, but which have mostly failed in their didactic role. A less polite person would note that the Cold War is the period that made "official version" a term of insult, and in which "national security" was used in bad faith by both parties to pursue their respective agendas. It should therefor be no surprise that people's memories of the abuse of their patriotism is still strong.That said, Wiener then looks at the memorials that are successful at some level, and points to those such as the Truman Library or the Vietnam Memorial, which allow individuals to project their own sense of the meaning of things on the great events of the geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington. This is only fair, seeing as in retrospect that real fight was not between Washington and Moscow (at least with the demise of Joseph Stalin), but between competing definitions of America. Even if the demands of Great Power competition could not be avoided, the whole conduct could have been done with less hysteria.On that note, the single most ironic portion of the book is that dealing with the Nixon Presidential Library, and how it celebrates Nixon's statecraft; the same diplomacy Wiener reminds us that self-described conservatives complained about demeaning America's imagined moral superiority. Wiener ends by noting that the examination of this sense of moral superiority will likely be part of the interpretive portion of any future Museum of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

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I'm not sure that I have much to add over and above what the other reviewers have spoken of. I will say that the portion dealing with the Florida Patriot War was the most informative for me personally, and makes me want to know more about Hispano-American jockeying for the region.
From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States

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The main topic of this book is strategic culture, as Asada examines how Alfred Thayer Mahan’s vision of the complementary nature of trade and strategic naval power influenced the Imperial Japanese Navy. The real meat of the book is period of managed naval armaments between the world wars, and the fissures this caused in the IJN. Asada’s biggest contribution is that he has ferreted out a fair amount of material on the personalities in conflict with each other, and turns the feuding members of the Japanese officer corps into personalities, as opposed to ciphers.
The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln

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While providing an overview of the archaeology and anthropology of the Central Illinois thru to when Abraham Lincoln grew up in the area, what the author does best is to provide a look at the travails of the American archaeologist trying to do significant work under tight time constraints and very limited funding. If nothing else, Mazrim's evidence emphasizes how much even even early American settlers after the War of 1812 were linked into wider trading networks stretching back over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Generals

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While I enjoyed this extended polemic calling for a revival of accountabiliy and enlightened professionalism in the higher reaches of the U.S. Army, I'm also going to admit that it probably didn't have quite as much impact as I thought it would. This being a function of being a regular reader of the author's blog and having read a good portion of Ricks' bibliography.Perhaps the single most enlightening portion of the book is that covering the period of post-Vietnam reconstruction, and how the pragmatists concerned with recreating tactical competance in the field-grade range of officer corps trumped those officers concerned with cultivating the philisophical foundations of professionalism that seem a part of generalship; thus helping to produce some of the empty military suits we've seen in the past decade.Frankly, if Ricks had wanted to do so, he could have emphasized somewhat more that there has been a vicious circle since World War II in terms of professional education. No one commanded a corps in the U.S. Army during World War II without having attended the War College. Too many of the hot-shot battalion and regimental commanders of that war never completed their professional education, and thus failed to learn a proper respect for thoughtfulness to impart to their successors.Though Ricks is mostly concerned about with how generals are trained to be appropriate partners for their political leaders, this also begs the question of what happens when the political leadership is unwilling to take the advice. Better generalship at the right time would have saved the U.S. much grief in Southeast Asia and the current round of U.S involvement winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq, but if you have presidents of the ilk of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush who cannot handle the military truth, it will do you no good to have a George Marshall at your disposal.Which gets to the final higher point that Ricks tends to gloss by (at least in the book); militaries are reflections of their societies and many of the problems of the Army after the Second World War have also been endemic to America at large. We have met the enemy and he is us is always a good maxim to keep in mind.
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Sly Mongoose

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While I’m probably not doing justice to this book, having taken several years to finally get around to reading it since the middle part of the series, most of my basic problems with the series are still in view. While the setting and the concept is cool Buckell’s tale of Maroon rebels in space still seems a bit sparse as opposed to spare, and the constant switching of venue means that none of Buckell's societies are ever as well developed as they could be, though he does complete his series on a satisfying note. The thought that comes to me is that the essence of this series could probably have been boiled down to three or four strong novellas, but the reality is that when these novels came out there was no market for novellas, so you go with writing novels whether or not you have the material to fill them.To get the maximum impact you should probably gather all three books at once and read them in one go.
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