'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SERE school for Republicans

Being the political junkie that I am, it always amazes me to watch or read about Republican candidates trying to gain the favor of the old-line media. Now when I went to SERE school many years ago as part of my flight training...that's Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or as we called it POW school, we were taught that everything we read or saw was a propaganda plot and to believe 1/2 of what we saw and none of what we heard...pretty good advice for the current CLM..that's Criminal Liberal Media.  I rarely believe anything I read online in the NYT or WaPo and almost get physically ill trying to read their editorial pages....I mean Paul Krugman gets a Nobel Prize??? Oyyy, clearly no better than a crackerjack prize.

Seriously, do ANY of the Republican candidates think they are going to get a fair shake by the likes of ABCBSNBCNNMSNBC? REALLY?? John McCain is a good guy and a true American hero, but he was utterly WRONG, FOOLISH and NAIVE to believe the entire liberal media machine wasn't going to hammer him in 2008 to protect and advance their anointed Obamassiah.  They tried to stick him with some ridiculous scandal about an affair with a lobbyist....and when that didn't stick, they went after his running mate.  The hit job the media did on Sarah Palin is epic even by CLM standards...I really wanted to probie slap Charles Gibson for his punctilious condescending interview nee quiz show interview he gave Sarah...but I shouldn't have been surprised.  Anyone who considers Sarah Palin less intelligent that Joey "Big F--in Deal" Biden is clearly in their own little propaganda world. He thought they loved him in 2000, and they certainly loved him anytime he crossed swords with George W...but there is no way, no how that the media is going to do anything but lie, cheat, steal, and coverup to protect Barry O in 2012. They literally made him out of nothing and they (the CLM) cannot bear to be proved wrong by their guy losing in a landslide.

So no matter how bad the economy gets or even if Iran gets the bomb, everything will be Bush's fault, the Tea Party will be evil racists and all Republicans will want to kick puppies and eat babies. From Hermann Cain to Rick Perry...any Republican should assume the media is their enemy and treat them accordingly...they certainly should expect every media encounter to be a potential maccaca moment if the likes of Diana Sawyer or Ed Schultz had the chance.

So what should they do? Take a page from Ronald Reagan and go around them...use the internet, talk radio and, of course my favorite news outlet Fox News to ignore and show the utter obsolescence of the CLM. I seriously wonder...who watches network news anymore? The last time I did, it was so vapid I had to change the channel to E! News daily...it was more topical. I have not even wanted to watch the ENDLESS debates this fall because I knew they would be moderated by idiots from CNN, CBS and other CLM outlets...I just catch the highlights, or lowlights as it were the next day.

SO, today's lesson...believe none of what you see on the CLM this political season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grouchy Guy Magnum Opus

If you are a junior officer, intelligence analyst, policy maker, policy wonk, or just a concerned citizen, go buy Ralph Peter's new book Lines of Fire.

I have been reading Mr. Peters' works for nearly five years, and this volume-a compilation of his best columns and articles from the last 15 years- is simply outstanding.

To be clear, Mr. Peters is curmudgeonly, cantankerous, and sooooo not politically correct...which is of course, why I love his work.  NOT to say I don't disagree with him, or actually consider him a pipe dreamer on some issues (see his article on "Blood Borders").

But anyone who is intellectually honest can only be duly impressed with his prophetic writings on terrorism, insurgency and the types of enemies and conflicts the US would be fighting in the 21st century...from his writings in the early to mid 1990s!  Mr. Peters was clearly a man ahead of his times and his concepts and understanding on the emotional, religious, and tribal nature of terrorism and insurgency are not only profound, but the truth!

The distinction he makes between political and apocalyptic terrorists should be posted on the inside of every government office that deals with terrorism.  His ideas will make people on the right and left very uncomfortable-not surprising since I think Mr. Peters pretty much drew fire from both Code Pink and Don Rumsfeld over his columns during the Iraq War-but he calls it like he sees it and makes it clear what needs to be done to win against Islamic terrorists and their supporters.

Two essays really stand out...his 25 Do's and Don'ts of fighting terrorists (see the article "When Devils Walk the Earth")is almost worth the price of the book, just to use as a comparison for how the US is and has dealt with Al Qaeda and Islamism in general.  His other essay on the "12 Myths of 21st Century War" is one of many articles that should be required reading of every serving officer in the US military.

What I really enjoy about his reading is his writing style, ability to create intellectual snark, and the way he can gut an idiotic touchy-feely notion with literary flair.  The book was not only a joy to read, but a thought-provoking look at the threat we face, where our military and intelligence community have failed to understand how the world is and works and more importantly, how the politicians have ignored the nature of our enemies and what must be done to secure America.

Pick up this book and read it, re-read it, highlight it, and think about it.  You will be glad you did.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another Hit Series

Brain Candy Break!
Yes, before I begin the end of the year push to try and pump up my reading list-(Oy, I am behind from last year's pace)- I took a brain break with Larry Correia's new book Dead Six, the beginning of another new series that he is co-authoring with Mike Kupari.

This book is another Correia rocket ride, where you just strap in and hang on for over 600 pages of guns, action, violence, fairly chaste romance, and a fairly predictable plot done exceedingly well.  This is the real strength of Correia's books.  I pretty much figured out where the story was gonna go, at least in the big picture, but I happily went along for the ride anyway.  I won't give too much away, but there are a few surprises and enough twists to make the journey most excellent.  The most annoying certainty is that it ended with the usual sequel setting cliff hanger...and darn it, I was ready to pick up the next book that won't be out until next summer...rats, rats, rats.
One of Correia's major strengths is his ability to make what could become cardboard characters lovable and endearing.  Yes, not words associated with guys, guns, grenades and explosives, but if I don't like the characters in a novel, ehh, what's the point?  More important is the author's ability to make the secondary characters equally compelling, something other authors don't do nearly as well, the major exception being Nora Roberts-(Yes I said Nora Roberts)-who probably has the best secondary characters EVER in her novels.

An interesting concept I noticed as a wanna-be writer is the use of the two main characters switching 1st Person POV throughout the book.  Now I know James Patterson does an excellent job of switching between 1st and 3rd Person POV in many of his books, but to have two 1st Person POVs in the same book, even in the same scene and have it done well pleasantly surprised me and made the story flow extremely well.

This book is HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended if you like Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, or bacon.  I would rank it NEARLY as high as his AWESOME Monster Hunter series and a must read for guys who like books for guys.  I haven't gotten into his other series, the Grimnoir Chronicles, which is about magic and private detectives yet, but maybe soon.

In the meantime, back to those boring history books (as my son calls them) as I sample the new wave of World War II volumes being published this fall.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Midway Revisited

I was anxiously awaiting Craig Symonds' new book on the Battle of Midway.  Having read both Miracle at Midway and Incredible Victory, I wasn't sure what Professor Symonds could offer.  I haven't read the newer edition of Shattered Sword, which relates an almost exclusive Japanese viewpoint of the battle.  But I was very interested to read this volume since this was the first book on the battle in nearly 25 years and I wondered what Professor Symonds had to say.  Yes, that's right Craig Symonds was my academic adviser when I was at USNA and one of my favorite professors.  SO, yes, I could be a little biased.

However, I have to say that Professor Symonds not only brought out some details of the battle that I don't remember in the other books, but does an excellent job of putting Midway into the context of the naval campaign fought between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the first six months of 1942.  Specifically, Professor Symonds narrates how Adm Chester Nimitz brought the US Pacific Fleet from the depths of Pearl Harbor to turn back the Japanese at Midway.  The early American carrier operations, Doolittle's Raid, and the Battle of Coral Sea are all placed in operational context by Symonds, including the Japanese and American planning for the battle.

Operationally, the crucial day of June 4 is outlined in excellent but not overwhelming detail, and Symonds pulls no punches in his critique of both Japanese and American leadership.  I actually understood the story of the Hornet air group and how they became lost during the battle and played no role in the sinking of 3 Japanese carriers that crucial morning.  More interesting is what happened after the air group got back and how the Hornet captain and group commander essentially gun-decked the after action report to cover up the navigational error.  More fascinating is the detail on the attrition of the American air groups and how even the victors were nearly out of airplanes and pilots by the time the battle was over. 

Professor Symonds also busts many of the "miracle myths" of the battle by showing that Nimitz actually had a well thought out plan, based on pretty solid intelligence, and an acute understanding of what his forces were and were not capable of carrying out.

This was indeed a fresh take on this battle and an excellent addition to the growing literature on the naval side of World War II.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and Apple

So the internet is filled with retrospectives today on the passing of Steve Jobs, the co-founder and creative genius behind the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  One of the best is from Wired.

BUT, here's my perspective, as a Mac user for 25 years...yup, that's right...25 years.  I have owned:
  • The 2nd generation Mac with 512K memory and the double sided 3.5 inch 800K floppy (astronomical amounts of memory in those days) - 1986
  • A Performa 630-  COLOR..and so cool-about 1991
  • A Powerbook 100..with attached floppy...the great-grandfather of the MacBook Air...and that little rollerball was so cool-1991-  This little gem got me through my first Master's degree
  • A Powerbook 165C My first color laptop.-1996
  • The color iMac-cheesy, but oh so functional-1998
  • The FIRST flatpanel iMac- my transition to OSX-2001
  • A white iBook- which survived my son's first year of college- more or less-2002
  • A 17" Macbook Pro- which I still have, love and am loath to replace- 2005- this was for my second Masters
  • 13" Macbook Air- the wife's first laptop JUST for her...she loves it-2010
  • and.....my iPad (1 week ago) which is probably going to be come my 75% solution for most of my computing needs.
  • PLUS my iPhone..greatest phone ever.
So, there you have it, I have been with Apple through the good times, the bad times, and the insanely great times.  Through it all, Steve Jobs did one thing...he turned technology from a geek toy, to a gadget, to an accessory, making data and information accessible to people in ways they couldn't even fathom.

I am happy to say I have never owned a PC, but since I have used one at work, I can definitely say, the Mac is indeed a better experience.  Better technology?  Not so much anymore, and in fact, in some aspects PCs are better.  More software?  No, but the internet is going to make the basic OS a commodity before too long..when you can buy OSX for less than $100, can Bill Gates keep selling Windows for $200-$300 forever?  I don't think so.

But the Mac is indeed an experience, and I can positively say that in my 25 years of experience I have had 1, yes exactly 1 bad experience with a software upgrade for my Apple products-- a very bad time with my iPhone 3G and iOS 3.0....which just goes to show, you should never use the x.0 version of ANYTHING.  But I have never had a problem installing software, printer drives, attaching new devices...it all just worked...the first time.  And I have (knock on wood)  NEVER had a computer virus...nope not in 25 years. NOT ONE...can any Windoze user say that?  I don't think so....And that's why I kept coming back.

Was I thrilled with everything Apple and Steve Jobs did? Nope, I thought the colored iMacs and iBooks were a little silly, even though I bought one...and when Steve was forced out and Apple tried to make clones, I know that was gonna be a fiasco.

But overall, I smiled with satisfaction when Apple became, for a short time, the most valuable company on the planet this year.  I remember in the early 1990s when they were going bust and we were all going to be doomed to Windoze slavery.

So rest well Steve Jobs...you have made technology usable to millions of techno-challenged people (like my spouse) who would NEVER have typed a command line or dealt with MS-DOS.  Oh, and she loved buying iPods in red...chick-technology.

That's when you know the product and technology has arrived, when the color of the product is the most important issue, not whether the technology will work. 

This is the first Mac model I owned...8Khz Processor, 512K RAM, 800K floppy and...wait for it....you could hook up a 20MB external hard drive....I still have it...in my attic and IT STILL WORKS...kinda cool the old days when a System, Finder, MacWrite and a few files fit on a single 800K floppy.
The iPad2...a combination e-reader, email machine, web browser...who know what.......64G of memory, touch screen which is really impressive...music, email, pictures, videos...25 years of Apple has come a long way

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Week In Military History

Hmm, I was so busy watching Navy's OOHHHH so close loss to South Carolina, I completely forgot the significance of September 17.  Now, for the usual Civil War historian in me, I usually mark Sept 17 as the date of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the Civil War.

But what I really should have remembered was that date as the beginning of the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.

This battle, the largest airborne drop and paratrooper battle in history, involving 3 Allied Airborne Divisions and 1 Independent Brigade was a fiasco from the start.  I can only imagine what the New York Times today would say about it!  Or some talking head on CNN......sigh.  So many brave men sacrificed for a flawed plan, poor execution, and plain bad luck.  In today's world, Monty might have been fired....which might not have been a bad thing...just sayin'

Of course, I wouldn't mention a battle without mentioning some of may favorite books.

The classic, of course is Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far, written in the early 1970s based on extensive interviews with the participants.  Ryan's account has never really been equaled or surpassed, in my opinion, and was made into one of my all time favorite war movies, the last truly well done Hollywood block buster patriotic movie that EVERYONE in Hollywood had a part, before they became all pinko commie tree hugging liberals...I mean seriously, can you picture Robert Redford in a movie about the Battle of Fallujah???? I didn't think so.

Ryan's book was kind of a door stop, and didn't offer a lot of strategic and operational analysis, but did present the soldier's eye view that made his earlier works some of the best military history of all time.

Recently a new book has emerged that attempts to capture more of a sense of the battle as a campaign than Ryan's book, and it succeeds in that sense, but it was generally not as satisfying as Ryan's.  Bennett presents a more complete picture and analysis of the battle, presenting what for me was the new information that the other two British Corps from British 2nd Army had a much bigger role in the battle alongside XXX Corps than Ryan captured in his book.  And, since it is the first really new book on the battle in almost 30 years, it does deserve some attention.

There are several division histories that cover the battle, particularly new histories of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division, and plenty of memoirs and "I was there" types of books.  Some of them are quite good, but not really about just the Arnhem operation.

But the real prize, as far as recent scholarship for me, was this book.  Kershaw looks at the battle entirely from the German perspective, a completely fresh take that really does a marvelous job of describing how the German Army in the West...routed and nearly destroyed during the retreat from France, comes very close to destroying the entire First Allied Airborne Army, and does effectively destroy the elite British 1st Airborne Division.  An excellent bookend to Ryan's book, this one is highly recommended.

So we should always remember these gallant soldiers from the sky, particularly those British lads who fought tanks and half-tracks with rifles and machine-guns while valiantly holding the Arnhem bridge for nearly 9 days.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rant for this week

So, I love to have intense political discussions with my office mate, who is a self-described
"moderate" and can't understand conservative politics.  Of course I tell him I define moderate as a liberal who's too wussy to say so, but I digress. 

When we begin discussing the 2012 GOP field, he expresses his dismay that many of them have {gasp} strong opinions on topics, particularly conservative opinions.  That got me thinking about how all the "pundits" and talking heads are saying the Bachmann is whacko or Perry is looney and it reminds me of 1980.  The chatteratzi tried to portray Ronald Reagan as a whacko or loon or just crazy old coot that would get us in a nuclear war with the Rooosians.

But a strange thing happened...the economy tanked, Reagan turned out to be not so scary and he went on to win two elections in landslides.  Could history repeat itself?  Well that's a good question, and it really depends on if the GOP wants to have an honest conversation with Americans and not treat them as amiable dunces like the Obamazombies usually do.

Here's what I mean:
1.  Does anyone honestly think Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are JUST FINE and don't need major overhaul?  Now, I'm not talking about throwing Grandma off the cliff, although that's usually what the Demagugeocrats do, but seriously, does anyone think that Americans, including Grandma, will continue to get those monthly checks in another 10 years?  NOT a chance.  Rick Perry at least had the guts to call Social Security what it is A PONZI SCHEME.  Only the most die hard New Deal Democrat actually believes there is a Social Security Trust Fund...cause brother, the Easter Bunny done made off with it had he and Santa Claus are livin' it up in Tijuana.  Major changes need to be made...and they will be wildly unpopular and really piss people off...but the alternative is worse....means testing, tax increases, raises in the eligibility and retirement ages...all will need to happen, and they will likely piss off every constituent group.

2.  Someone in the GOP needs to pledge that their first act in office will be to officially call for the repeal of Obamacare.  This disaster is going to not only wreck our economy and vastly increase the welfare state, but it was bad legislation that was rammed down our throats.  I would bet unemployment would drop 2 points just by removing this weight on businesses and government spending.

3.  Secondly, the GOP needs to pledge to roll back everyone of Obama's job killing environmental regulations, especially the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Again, the envirowhackos will scream about dirty air and dirty water, but really, does anyone think that will happen?  There are plenty of environmental regulations that do not have the taint of Obama politics and desire to destroy the oil and gas industry. Use the old Reagan tactic...:"Do you like paying $4 a gallon for gas when it was less than $2 when Obama took office?  Why do you think gas prices have doubled when consumption hasn't?"

4.  Finally, the GOP needs to hammer everyday from now to election day that GOVERNMENT does not create jobs or wealth.  Every dollar the government spends is either taxed or created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve.  ONLY private sector jobs and a lot of them will reduce our deficit, end our housing crisis and restore American confidence, not STIMULUS, QUANTITATIVE EASING or GREEN JOBS (green being the color of taxpayer dollars).  The entire edifice of Keynesian economics and the New Deal, along with the Great Society needs to be shown for what it is..a FAILURE who's time has come, as Ronald Reagan says to consign it to the trash heap of history.

So, that's my rant for the day....

More history later....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Revolutionary Summer

This seems to be Revolutionary War summer for my reading list.  I have been reading two outstanding books, Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer and Independence by John Ferling.  As always, I like to read history from a contemporary point of view, that is to consider the events as they unfolded to the participants, with all the attendant miscues, miscommunications and foibles that people continue to have. 

Most importantly, I like to consider how great people (like our dead, white, male, slave-holding Founding Fathers) happened to think and how they made decisions based on the information they had and the societal conditions in which they lived, in this case colonial America in 1776.

This of course, always makes me think of what MIGHT have happened.  As Ferling points out in his book (which I am still reading), not all of the colonists or signers of the Declaration of Independence initially wanted to break from Great Britain and King George III.  In fact, as Ferling points out, if the British government or Parliament had made some different, less militant choices in dealing with the colonists, especially after the Boston Tea Party of 1773, there might have been a reconciliation between the colonies and mother country.

I have only started the Fischer book, but I can already see why he won the Pulitzer Prize in History for this volume.  The survival of the Revolution through 1776 is a story that needs to be told to Americans more, especially high school and college students.  I know that takes valuable time away from environmental indoctrination and learning about the important cultural contributions of Che Guevara, but nonetheless, I think it's important.  There were several moments in 1776 where the British could have trapped and destroyed the Continental Army, especially in the fighting around New York City, and the escape of Washington's army from encirclement in Brooklyn really does seem providential at times.

SOO, should be a great and educational August.  Colonial and Revolutionary history are two holes I have always wanted to fill in my resume, so these books will go a long way to helping achieve that goal.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Obama gets his credit card cut...maybe

The fairly stunning swiftness with which the USA got our credit card smacked did not surprise someone as politically in tune as yours truly.  The S&P bubbas said they wanted $4T in budget cuts, but NOOOOO, Obama and his minions didn't want to cut a damn thing...nothing, zip, zilch, nada and were only dragged kicking and screaming like the petulant children they are by those evil Tea Party jihadists and their terrorist leaders, the US taxpayers....yup, that's right you and me.

I know the really, really "SMART" people in Washington, Manhattan, and Los Angeles like to poo poo us stupid hicks in flyover country, but really...who didn't see this coming...besides the Obama Administration, of course.

IN THE REAL WORLD, when you are in the hole, and getting deeper in the hole, you first of all, STOP FREAKIN' DIGGING...then start figuring out how to get out of this mess.

Of course, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, the Dummycrats want to raise taxes.... I mean seriously, aren't the imminent death of those evil, evil "Bush Tax Cuts" in 2013 enough?  How about the Billions and Billions of $$ in Obamacare taxes, fees, penalties, and general shakedowns that are coming?

HEY MORONS, get a clue, you could tax the ENTIRE US ECONOMY and not kill the debt. Of course, those evil corporate jets must goooooooo, but us poor oppressed taxpayers can pay for Obama's magical mystery tour.

Sadly, I believe the Armageddon is coming.  I have predicted for a while now that you can forget race, gender, ethnicity and the ol' favorite of the Democratic Party- CLASS, (although most of them have no class)...the next big fight, which is gonna be ugly, ugly is the generational war that Obama is quickly sparking between the Social Security gang (ala Baby Boomers) and all their children and grandchildren.  When little Joey is told his taxes are gonna double to keep Grandma getting her checks and medicine and he suddenly can't buy a house or send his kids to college...hmmmmm, how's that going to turn out???

Sadly, there are no easy, painless, silver bullets...cuts are coming, big cuts, painful cuts, cuz at some point politicians will fear younger voters instead of Grandma.  Look for Death Panels and other means of capping medical costs, just like everyone of those evil Tea Partyers said...especially that ditz Sarah Palin, I mean, who would do such a thing?

Do you know who is the most restrictive nasty medical insurance provider---yup Uncle Sam....wait until Grandma gets told she can only see certain doctors, because guess what....Many of them are already refusing to take on new Medicare patients and it's only gonna get worse.

There are some radical ideas...some way out there, some not, but unless we want to turn into Wiemar Germany (yup, that worked out well for the world) or Zimbabwe, we need to acknowledge that Obama's policies are a failure and it's time to put an end to Keynesian economics.

At that's what this grouch ol' taxpayer thinks....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Read this book

If you like monster movies, thrillers, shoot 'em ups, or simply pee standing up, BUY THIS BOOK!  I have been a fan of the Monster Hunter series since my pastor (yes, that's right, my pastor, sci-fi geek that he is) handed me the first book and said I would enjoy it.  I never read monster or fantasy books, but I have been addicted to this series ever since.

Larry Correia has now ascended into the ranks of personal favorites like Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and yes, JD Robb where I must consume the book like a bag of peanut M&Ms as soon as it is released...and since it's a paperback, I don't have to endure my local library waiting list cuz I'm too cheap to pay $25 for a hardcover novel. (Yup, I said it)  However, with Larry's stellar writing and very dedicated fan base--check out his Monster Hunter International website-- I expect his books will graduate to full-blown hard covers soon (darn it).

If you are familiar with the series, this book is ALL about Earl Harbinger, butt-kicker extraordinaire and overall grouchy old guy (hmmm, I knew there was a reason I liked him).  It has some twists, many turns and is nearly impossible to put down, even for bacon.

The GOOD NEWS is that Mr. Correia has now become a publishing empire with two other series in print and at least four more Monster Hunter books on the way, at least that's what his website says.

Good news for the Monster Hunter Nation....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Timely and topical book

I just completed Berlin 1961, a fascinating new book by Frederick Kempe on the crisis of 1961 in East Germany and the building of the Berlin Wall.  I wasn't sure what to expect since this is one area of historical knowledge I am lacking.  However, Kempe has done excellent research and pulls no punches in his critique of JFK and his first year in office from a foreign policy perspective.  From his vacillation and dropping the ball on the Bay of Pigs invasion, when a few Navy planes may have saved America and the Western Hemisphere from 50 years of Cuban mischief, to his shellacking by Khrushchev at the Vienna summit of June 1961, Kempe does an excellent job placing the superpower rivalry over Berlin into the greater context of Cold War American foreign policy in the early 1960's.

The book is also a scathing indictment of Communism and the cynical ploy by the East German communist leadership to imprison their own people.  The leaders in East Germany had a real concern that their "worker's paradise" was slipping away as people voted with their feet and fled to West Berlin and freedom in astounding numbers.  JFK's weakness in not stopping the wall, when he might have had the active or tacit support of many East Germans in keeping the border crossing open, condemned not only East Germany, but Poland and the rest of the so-called Warsaw Pact countries to another 30 years of misery in the failed socialist experiment.  More importantly, Kempe makes a compelling case that JFK's mishandling of the Berlin Crisis of 1961 led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Finally, Kempe paints an exceedingly unflattering portrait of JFK and the whole Camelot mystique peddled by liberals like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, JFKs pet historian .  Kempe pretty much calls Kennedy a womanizing light-weight who abused doctor prescribed drugs to treat a number of maladies, in particular a  chronic bad back that were never made public, and almost questions JFK's mental and emotional stability at the Vienna Summit.  Not to be a revisionist historian (you know how much I hate those), but a more fair and balanced look at the Democratic Party deity of JFK and the "Best and the Brightest" shows a bunch of politicians that were really no better or worse than previous or succeeding Administrations, even before the whole Vietnam thing starts to enter the picture.  I agree with Kempe that JFK often gets a pass from historians and the public not only for his "martyrdom" at the hands of an assassin, but his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Notwithstanding the implicit swap for withdrawing American missiles from Turkey that was not told to the general public for years after the crisis, recent scholarship has shown the Cuban Missile Crisis came much closer to disaster than previously understood.

Why is this book timely as well?  Another neophyte President with minimal foreign policy experience is in the White House, and the missteps and blunders of this Administration are no less serious than the ones created by the great John F. Kennedy.  Dealing with tyrants and dictators is no easy matter, to be sure, but this book certainly shows that trying to reason or negotiate with cynical strong men is not always a sure thing.  To be sure, the Soviets were rational in their own way and wanted to avoid a war, having just lost 20 million people in World War II, but sadly, I am not so sure of the current leadership in Iran and other hot spots in the Middle East.

So, if you have a chance, read this book to understand the Cold War mentality and crisis facing the United States and our NATO allies in 1961 and why the Berlin Wall came to be one of the major symbols of Communist repression.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Did the Marines win at Guadalcanal on their own? I don't think so.

I really, really like it when a book teaches me something I flat out didn't know.  Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer is such a book.  I thought I knew quite a bit about the bloody six month struggle for Guadalcanal, certainly I know the mythology...the last stand of the Marines after the Navy left them on the beach...etc, etc.

This book lays to rest some of that mythology (not to take away the bravery of the Marines, I have too many jarhead friends) by the simple fact that more sailors died fighting over Guadalcanal than Marines..about 5,000 sailors versus about 1,500 Marines.

Hornfischer's book is an excellent amalgamation of Tom Clancy and Samuel Eliot Morrison.  He does an excellent job of describing how the U.S. Navy took some serious beatings by the Imperial Japanese Navy, even though the U.S. had radar and the Japanese did not. 

What's more interesting is that both navies were fighting with the escort ships, or what I call the little targets so to speak, cruisers and destroyers, because both sides had taken such a beating in the massive naval battles of summer 1942 and literally had no battleships or aircraft carriers they were willing to risk in the nasty knifefights that occurred in 'Ironbottom Sound' or 'the Slot', as the waters around Guadalcanal came to be called.

These nasty little knife fights are described in great detail, as well as the command decisions by both sides and their effect on the overall naval battle.  Once the Americans mastered the new technology of radar, the odds evened up a little bit and the Japanese were driven off after huge sacrifices, but the Americans never truly developed a countermeasure to Japan's awesome Long Lance Torpedoes.

If you enjoy naval history or just want to learn something entirely new about America's first real offensive of World War II, then this book is highly recommended.

Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day as it might have been

There have been lots of blogs and Facebook pages about the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the monumental invasion of Normandy that led to Allied victory in Europe.
However, as always, I believe it is important to remember that there was NOTHING inevitable about the success of D-Day. 

Prior amphibious operations were not overwhelming triumphs for the Allies.  The invasion of Salerno, Italy in Sept 1943, had nearly ended with the German Army pushing the invasion force back into the Mediterranean.  The invasion of Anzio just six months before had resulted in a stuck beachhead that was surrounded and besieged by the Germans and only relieved by the Allied offensive on Rome. 

Peter Tsouras makes a very compelling case in his counter factual history Disaster at D-Day, that just a couple of small changes to schedules, weather, and unit locations could have made all the difference in the world, literally, in how World War II ended.  The most compelling argument he makes is that one regiment, or even a panzer or panzergrenadier battalion located in a position to launch an immediate counterattack could have driven the Americans in Omaha Beach back into the Channel.  The Allies then would have been left with two separated and isolated beachheads instead of a continuous front, making the German defensive problem much easier.

In fact,  the German 21st Panzer Division did counterattack the British beachheads on the evening of the 6th, but the attacks were weak and uncoordinated and were defeated.  A full-fledged attack by multiple Panzer Divisions may have been a different story.

A chance intelligence windfall convinces Hitler the Normandy invasion is the real thing and you have a very different campaign when the Wehrmacht rushes reinforcements to the beachheads, in effect winning the crucial 'build-up' after the invasion.  The massive Channel storm of June 19th played a crucial role in the real-life Allied build-up and its effect could have been even worse if the Allied beachhead had been split.  Combine this with ineffective British generalship by Monty and his subordinates versus a rejuvenated Rommel who does NOT leave the front to visit his wife right before the invasion and you have the 'disaster' that Tsouras so vividly describes.

So, thanks be to those soldiers and sailors that prevailed on Omaha Beach, it was probably more important that they made it up those bluffs than we can possibly imagine today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

This day in 1861

Tomorrow, April 12, marks the beginning of the American Civil War, the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on your viewpoint or level of political correctness.

The National Park at Fort Sumter is having a pretty impressive program that, sadly, I will not be able to attend.

What's more interesting is the drama leading up to those first fatal shots.  Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis captured some of the drama of those days in their respective Inaugural Addresses.

Lincoln said:
 In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.....Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible...
 In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
  I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
 Jefferson Davis took a slightly different view:
An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest, and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth. We have entered upon the career of independence, and it must be inflexibly pursued.
What's really interesting is that Fort Sumter was not the most likely place to begin the war.  In fact, on April 11, when speaking to representatives of the Provisional Confederate forces surrounding the harbor, Major Robert Anderson, the U.S. Army garrison commander, had communicated that he would likely have to surrender the fort in 2 or 3 days for lack of provisions.  But the Confederates, learning that Lincoln was sending a supply ship to the fort, decided that 2 or 3 days was too long to wait and opened fire.

There are, of course, those conspiracy theorists who think that Lincoln provoked the South to fire first, knowing that support for raising the armies that would be needed to subdue the rebellious states would be tough to come by without some provocation.

The evidence does not support this assertion since the the previous Buchanan Administration had also tried to send a supply ship in January 1861 which turned back when fired upon by other South Carolina militia forces.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to ponder what might have happened if the Confederates had again fired on the ship instead of the port, causing the fairly peaceable surrender of the garrison.  Would the border states have still seceded?  What would the various other state governors done when requested to provide militia troops, especially the Northwest states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio? 

More than likely the war would have begun somewhere else, but would the North have been as united?

Interesting thought....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Study and Use of History

I came across this study the other day on the current state of teaching history at the secondary level in the U.S.

The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011

It is a fascinating account of how well U.S. history is being taught in high schools.

I don't know enough about the current standards So in Virginia, since we homeschooled, I know darn well my son got taught history from the Bill Bennett vice the Howard Zinn point of view.

Here are some excellent quotes and the Grouchy Historian's commentary:
Nonetheless, at the college level, American history requirements are an endangered species. While history courses are widely available, and in many cases quite popular, basic requirements — mandatory core surveys — are vanishing. Fewer and fewer universities require American history, or any history at all, as part of the undergraduate general-education curriculum.
So of course my question is, what the hell are they learning?  I know they are teaching labor agitation and public disorder in Wisconsin, but seriously?  What do they learn in college-beer bonging and Facebooking 101?  No wonder these idiots voted for Obama......
Unfortunately, history education at the primary-secondary level is itself often on life support for many reasons, including that an alarming number of future history teachers pursue degrees in education, rather than majoring in history itself. Worse, most education schools make minimal efforts to fill the inevitable gaps in their content knowledge, preferring instead to focus on “learning theory” that encourages skills acquisitions — such as critical thinking — rather than knowledge acquisition.
W....T......F??????  How the hell does that work?  I mean I've heard a lot about BS education degrees (no that is not short for bachelor of science either) but really?  Sounds like my work is cut out for me when I start collecting that hearty retirement check from Northrop Grumman and become the grouchy history teacher.....how the hell can you have critical thinking skills with no knowledge or facts to critically think about....unless you are a professional member of the NEA.
The most pressing and common defect in state standards is the submersion of history in the vacuous, synthetic, and anti-historical “field” of social studies.  In fact, “social studies” is more than a method of organizing content: It is an ideology that has steadily evolved and adapted since the early twentieth century. However, its central concept remains immovable: Positing trans-historical (and often ahistorical) interpretive “concepts” over historical facts and context, it splits the past into arbitrary and thematic “strands.” It exemplifies the self-defeating “how-to-think not what-to-learn” mentality, favoring jargon-laden thinking and learning skills over specific content.
Hallelujah Brother...I HATE this whole social studies bullcrap thing that was even pushed on me sooo many years ago.  If you wanna study government, study government.  If you want to take a geography course, then do so.  Don't try to mash them all up.  Now I will be the first to tell you that geography and history, especially military history go together like chocolate and peanut butter, beer and pizza..darn I'm hungry...but you can't have one without the other.
But social studies is annoying and useless...brought to you, no doubt by that same evil NEA that wants to teach you about environmentalism, socialism and the evil male patriarchy.

Finally, I did appreciate that the study showed the effects of ideological biases from BOTH the right and the LEFT.  I would personally say that most secondary school texts I have seen tend to be more lefty, but perhaps the awareness raised by the recent kerfuffle in Texas (more on that in another blog post) has raised awareness that, gosh darn it, there actually is a lefty slant to teaching out kids about Caeser Chazez, Martin Luther King, and Barrack Obama, while minimizing George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan....gee, ya think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Federalist Papers-OH So Topical

WOW, absolutely magnificent reading in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers this week.  Our Founders, old white guys that they were, nonetheless had a keen understanding of the eternal nature of governments, government spending, and the need or desire for a large standing military.

Here is a prescient quote from the Anti-Federalist #8:
The power to borrow money is general and unlimited, and the clause so often before referred to, authorises the passing any laws proper and necessary to carry this into execution. Under this authority, the Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon, and it is probably, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. — By this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink. I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this country, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge.
DANG, who does that sound like?  The current Administration and previous Congress loved to denigrate that pesky Constitution, but clearly our Founders knew a little something about the government trough and the dangers of being in debt to Foreign governments.

What's more interesting is the overall knowledge base of our Founders.  Even more than politics, literature, and philosophy, they had a pretty darn good understanding of military history and the state of military science at the time.  From Federalist Paper #8:
The nations of Europe are encircled with chains of fortified places, which mutually obstruct invasion. Campaigns are wasted in reducing two or three frontier garrisons, to gain admittance into an enemy's country. Similar impediments occur at every step, to exhaust the strength and delay the progress of an invader.......The history of war, in that quarter of the globe, is no longer a history of nations subdued and empires overturned, but of towns taken and retaken; of battles that decide nothing; of retreats more beneficial than victories; of much effort and little acquisition.
And of course, the writer finished off with a pretty good assessment of American Security Strategy for the next 100 years or so:
If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation. Europe is at a great distance from us. Her colonies in our vicinity will be likely to continue too much disproportioned in strength to be able to give us any dangerous annoyance. Extensive military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to our security. But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts should either remain separated, or, which is most probable, should be thrown together into two or three confederacies, we should be, in a short course of time, in the predicament of the continental powers of Europe --our liberties would be a prey to the means of defending ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other. 
So, what does this all mean?  Should we just come home, build our wall and forget the rest of the world and its problems?  Unfortunately, that just isn't possible.  BUT what is possible is being able to engage the world in a stronger position, by being less dependent on what goes on in unstable and hostile regions of the world.  Let's face it, if Saudi Arabia and Libya didn't have oil or if we were energy independent would we give a rat's ass about what's going on there?  No, we would not.  If we didn't owe China billions, would we be putting up with their counterfeiting American products and their unfair trade practices?  NO

So what would our Founding Fathers think of our current financial and foreign policy dilemmas?  

Not much, I suspect........

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amatuer Hour in the Middle East

“Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.”  Karl Von Clausewitz

This pretty much sums up the buffoonery of Obama's Libya War.  I mean I'm no neo-con, although I did support the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but this is just nuts.

Say what you will about the Bush-Cheney Administration, and the lefty loons said plenty, they were FREAKIN' GROWNUPS who approached war and the commitment of the American military to combat as a serious life-or-death matter.  I mean really--can you see Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld giving two cents about the freakin NCAA brackets in March 2003?  No, me either.  

I don't disagree with the need to get rid of Mommar and his nutjob regime, but are we getting a better one?  And what does it say about this country and our leadership when we can't even hold our alliance together one week into the fighting?  And for goodness sake, who thinks putting the French in charge is a good idea?  Granted I like Sarko and he certainly has been more Clemenceau than Clouseau about this than Obama, but really?  When was the last war the French won?

So what are we to do?  Well, here are my predictions:
  1. Hillary is toast.  This is going to be a fiasco no matter how it turns out, and as usual, someone must crawl under the bus, and it ain't gonna be Obama or Biden.  I don't think Hillary will last the year.  This could prove very dangerous for Obama politically, as I don't think she is done gunning for the White House and could be an "anybody but Obama" alternative for the Dems in 2012. 
  2. The lefty loons who supported Obama, hated Bush, and are now snarling at Obama will probably still support him, but he will have to really, really suck up to the unions, enviro-whackos, gays and whoever else is left on the FARRRRR left of the Democratic party to have a hope of winning in 2012.  The wishy-washy undecideds will abandon him on the economy unless unemployment goes wayyyy down and the center-right is just itching for the right candidate to replace him. 
  3. If the idiots in Gaza and such continue to piss off Israel, Bibi is gonna take this time and blow them away.  Maybe the Arab street will rise, up, but with Syria in turmoil, Egypt trying to settle and the Gulf States looking at Iran, Hamas will have no one to help them and even Hezbollah is probably looking over their shoulder.So let's hope that Ghaddafy, Khadaffy or whatever goes quickly, otherwise Obama is gonna make the U.S., NATO, the UN and most of the civilized world look like incompetent nincompoops.

Here's another little quote from my friend Clausewitz:
"The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Brain Candy Books

Took some time off now that I am done with the M.A. to catch up on some fiction.

I started with one of my favorite authors, JD Robb and the new In Death Book

I have read all of these books and they are all good, but, of course some of them are better than others.  THIS is one of the better ones, since I have to say the last couple have been sort of formulaic.  Of course the entire series is a massive formula, but it works, even through 25+ books.

Treachery in Death was literally impossible to put down and I really, really wanted Eve Dallas to open up a big can of whupp ass by the end.  Not a ton of secondary or primary character development, unlike some of the other books, but plenty of action.  Even though you know Eve is gonna win, you still want to follow all the details.  If you haven't started this series, you should.  If you have been a fan, pick up this book.

Brad Meltzer's new book is the first one of his novels I have read, since I have seen so many good reviews.  I was expecting a serious historical mystery, but it definitely was not a traditional historical mystery like, say Da Vinci Code.  I have to say that overall, I thought it was okay, but not great.  I was a little surprised by the end and the plot definitely kept moving along, but I think jumping into the middle of his books caused me to miss some plot build-up.  I will give him another look with some of his earlier works, since it appears his novels do peripherally build upon each other.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Federalist Papers---picking the torch back up

In Federalist Paper #7, Alexander Hamilton continues his discussion about the need for a strong Union to avoid potential territorial and/or commercial disputes between the states in they continued to operate under the Articles of Confederation.  In fact, the Commerce Clause, before it was abused by liberals and progressives to pass all manners of mischief up to and including ObamaCare was probably one of the singular achievements of the Constitution by unifying commercial activity and preventing potential dangerous interstate tariffs.  However, another interesting sentence comes to mind:
“The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and animosity. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of apportionment satisfactory to all? There is scarcely any that can be proposed which is entirely free from real objections. These, as usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties……. Delinquencies, from whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations, and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the tranquility of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.”
WOW, does that sorta ring true today, or what?  Why should the rest of the taxpayers bail out California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey or any of those other states that have made poor decisions and lived on the supposed never ending gravy train?  But, here it comes, expect more bailouts from Obama and Nancy before the election to try and keep public employees and BLUE states afloat….

Interestingly, Anti-Federalist #7 also address the issue of public debt and taxation, although it approaches the problem from a different point of view, arguing for the distribution of taxes between the states and Federal government and the use of an import tax as the primary means of Federal government funding…hmmm, if only that were true now:
The result of our reasoning in the two preceding numbers is this, that in a confederated government, where the powers are divided between the general and the state government, it is essential to its existence, that the revenues of the country, without which no government can exist, should be divided between them, and so apportioned to each, as to answer their respective exigencies, as far as human wisdom can effect such a division and apportionment….There is one source of revenue, which it is agreed, the general government ought to have the sole control of. This is an impost upon all goods imported from foreign countries. This would, of itself, be very productive, and would be collected with ease and certainty. — It will be a fund too, constantly increasing — for our commerce will grow, with the productions of the country; and these, together with our consumption of foreign goods, will increase with our population.”
Although issues of taxation are certainly dry and seemingly boring, they are, nonetheless, crucial to the economic health of the country, as we certainly know today…if only our current government carefully considered the implications of their tax (and spend) policies on the country….

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great Blogs I Found

Two really fantastic new blogs I found this weekend.

First, The Long Recall is a blog that traces Civil War history in real time- presented as a blog, with links and everything!  Very cool concept and way to bring Civil War history to life.

A companion blog,  Via Meadia covers topics ranging from politics to history in a conservative way, of course.

Both will become part of my daily reading.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I came to a fork in the road and nuked the crap out of the intersection

So, as the Grouchy Historian, I applied for the Doctoral Program in History at George Mason University, my local university.  Being a fairly self-confident individual, as my significant other will point out, I assumed that with 2 master's degrees, a B.S. from the Naval Academy and significant life experience, I would be a shoo-in for the old, professional white guy quotaHmmm, not so much.  I received the very lovely, impersonal form letter saying "Thanks for playing" this week. 

NOW, I will say this was a huge disappointment, but not a shock.  WHY, you ask, given the abundance of self-confidence?  Well, here's the story.  Now, to be fair, there could be other factors, but all in all, I can't help wonder about a bias toward on-line institutions.  I actually went to discuss my situation with a professor, who shall remain nameless, at GMU.  After introducing myself, and describing my background, I mentioned that I was finishing up an MA at American Military University, a major online school that is regionally and nationally accredited.  WELL, my goodness, you would think I told the man I had syphilis-- he stiffened right up (no pun intended), or should I say sniffened right up and began to look down his nose at me.  He hemmed and hawed, as my momma would say, and then generally dismissed my with a "good luck!" without adding the "you old coot from an insignificant university with no tenured professors and nationally recognized basketball team."

Now, I could have been THE Grouchy Historian and informed the little snot that I have been reading and studying military history since before he was born and have read, analyzed and dissected ALL of the books I observed on his bookshelf, most of which I also OWN-(yes I examine these things), but I held my tongue, being the great people person that I am.

However, now that I don't have to worry about diplomacy, not that anyone at GMU will ever read my blog, here is what really frosts my cookies.  Here is an email I received, from what is no doubt another young, snot nosed professor at GMU, when I asked about their PhD program and discussed my interests and background:
My research interests are war and American society, particularly the Vietnam War, but from social and cultural perspectives. The other problem I see with your application to our doctoral program is that your Master's Degree is from an online, for-profit institution that does not, in general, provide the academic rigor we would expect of a graduate program. My best guess is that our PhD Admissions Committee would refer you to our Master's program, but that is ultimately their decision to make.

Ok, let me put this as politely as I can- BITE ME LADY.  I mean seriously, does this lady study dope smoking hippies and draft dodgers from Vietnam, REALLY??  

Whatever, this disdain from this woman is nearly ridiculous.  Last time I heard GMU sure as hell wasn't LOSING money, so what does that make them?  OH, and don't most major universities now offer some of their classes on-line--what the hell does that mean?

So, being one seriously pissed off dude, I decided to do a little research.  Here's what GMU's website has to say about their accreditation:

George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. 

And here's what AMU's website says:
American Public University System is one of the few higher learning organizations that is both regionally and nationally accredited by federally recognized accrediting agencies.  Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association

SO, I put 2 + 2 together and got.

WHAT DOES REGIONAL ACCREDITATION MEAN?  [See WAC 180-78A-010] Regionally accredited institution of higher education means a community college, college, or university which is a candidate for accreditation or is accredited by one of the following regional accrediting bodies:
    •    Middle States, Association of Colleges and Schools
    •    New England Association of Schools and Colleges
    •    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools---AMU
    •    Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    •    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools---GMU
    •    Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Therefore, either GMU is the same as AMU or not?  SO, how do these little twerps get off looking down their noses at me?  Ever stood a mid-watch or watched your friends die for their country?  OYYYY, I really wanted to write a little pithy email, but have decided they aren't worth my time.

I will say that I thought AMU had an excellent program in Military Studies, which I felt was directly applicable to my job as an intelligence and military analyst, one of the reasons I applied for the program.  In addition, I had some really outstanding instructors who are NATIONALLY known and published authors in the fields of history and military science, including one of my old professors from Canoe U who is a retired Navy Captain, hardly a "diploma mill."  I worked my butt off for three years getting this degree while working full time, taking care of a family and generally contributing to society. 

To be perfectly snarky, I have not read ONE book by a GMU history professor, and since I don't care about dope smoking hippies, I probably won't, either.

Well, that's my rant.  Now I shall go my own way.  I like the way one author of a book I am reading describes himself- an "independent scholar".  Until I find a PhD program that is -oooh- dare I say "progressive" enough to recognize that the days of the brick and mortar education monopoly are over, well, I guess I will become one too......

"They may take our lives, but they'll never take our Freedom"

More on that topic later.......

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The eternal nature of war

Massive battles, biological warfare, ethnic cleansing, barbarism, ill-fated military expeditions......current headlines?  The story of the U.S. military in Iraq, NOPE....the story of the Peloponnesian Wars.

Victor Davis Hanson's book, A War Like No Other, offers a different perspective on this great cataclysm of the ancient world.  The thirty year war between Athens and Sparta continues to offer lessons to modern civilization and is often quoted or mis-quoted to push a particular agenda or point of view.  Hanson breaks the war up into thematic vice chronological discussion topics, although he does provide an excellent overview for the neophyte to follow along.  The eternal themes of statecraft, strategy, politics and leadership are well displayed in this war, which was immortalized by Thucydides in his masterwork, which is still studied by strategy classes.  (Sadly, I had to encounter this book several times in my studies, not a book for the faint of heart)

Hanson's interpretation is excellent and he does a fairly good job of trying to use contemporary examples to show the timeless themes of this great conflict.  Although not perhaps for the casual reader, the book is an excellent introduction or companion to Thucydides or any of the other modern histories of this war.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sadly, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation this year, and the remaining World War II vets are dying at a rapid rate.  This memoir by Dick Winters, immortalized in Band of Brothers (one of my favorite DVDs EVER) is good, but not great.  He does an excellent job of describing the training and formation of Easy Company and how the men bonded together to survive their first commanding officer, Capt. Sobbell.  His descriptions of his battle experiences are overwhelmingly modest, but bring to mind the vivid images of the DVD series, especially their actions on D-Day in destroying the German battery at Brecourt, where Winters earned the DSC.  Unfortunately, the narrative falls off when Winters leaves Easy Company to a battalion staff position and never really keeps pace with the first part of the book. 

None of this, of course, takes away from the bravery and service of these men.  I don't read a lot of memoirs, but I'm glad I read this one...it is an easy quick read and I would recommend getting it from your local library.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Founding Fathers were no dummies and no milquetoasts

This is a surprisingly good little novel about our Founding Fathers and the sausage making process that gave America its Constitution.  The author does an excellent job of portraying the near mythical figures of George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and others as mortals that not only had loft goals for their new republic, but the political acumen to make them happen.  Too many Americans think that shady deals, political arm twisting and backroom backstabbing are recent inventions of our political system.  This book answers that question by showing our Founders were no slouches to these tactics to get done what needed to be done, they were just more subtle and gentlemanly about politics.  Their wit, knowledge, learning and charm allowed them to end speeches with a silent "and the horse you rode in on." without erupting into fistfights or duels, although sometimes just barely.  The influence of slavery and the genuine anguish it caused the framers are also depicted with gritty realism, but no preachiness.

Although a rudimentary knowledge of the Constitutional Convention will make this book better for the average reader, I still found it fascinating page turner even with my rudimentary knowledge of the Constitutional Convention..

Monday, January 17, 2011

Excellent Biography of Abraham Lincoln

As the United States moves into the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I thought I should learn about our 16th President and one of our best commanders-in-chief.  Ronald White's recent biography of Abraham Lincoln, one of several volumes published to coincide with the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth is a truly outstanding book.  I normally don't read a lot of biographies, but this book made me glad I did.  White tells the story of Lincoln in great, but not plodding detail and he really does a marvelous job of letting Lincoln tell his own story through his writings speeches.  This is probably the biggest strength of the book, as White steps the reader through the development of some of Lincoln's best known works- his first and second Inaugural Addresses, his second Address to Congress, and of course, the Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation. 
White also does an excellent job of showcasing Lincoln's skills as a politician and executive, particularly his management of his occasionally contentious Cabinet members and his prickly generals of the Army of the Potomac.

In short, this is what biography should be, a well put together volume that lets the subject do most of the talking...I highly recommend it.