'87 Sir

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

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..