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The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War
The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War
von Roy, Jr. Morris
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Great Poet, Great Soul of the Civil War, 19. September 2000
The magnificent Civil War-era poet Walt Whitman is well served by this fascinating study by Roy Morris, Jr., of Whitman's experiences during the war. At the beginning of this book, Morris observes that Whitman considered his work during the conflict, visiting thousands of wounded and ill soldiers at hospitals in and surrounding Washington, D.C., "the greatest privilege and satisfaction" of his life. As a result, this period in the colorful poet's colorful life deserves more attention much than it has received.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I fundamentally disagree with this point by Morris: "Of the comparative handful of American writers who personally witnessed the Civil War, Whitman was the unlikeliest candidate to become its recorder. Not only was he nearly forty-two years old when the war began, but he also was a poet, a philosopher, a freethinker, a mystic, a near Quaker, and a homosexual." For precisely those reasons, Whitman was the ideal chronicler of the greatest and most tragic crisis in American history. As an outsider, Whitman was able to view the war with detachment, often critical of Northern politicians and generals but invariably sympathetic to the young men on both sides who did the actual fighting, suffering, and dying.
According to Morris, Whitman may or may not have been intimate with the numerous young men whom he named and described in his Civil War notebooks, but: "For all the breadth and variety of his friendships, Whitman was essentially a lonely man." In mid-December 1862, a few days after the Union Army of the Potomac's horrendous defeat in a battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman read a newspaper report that his brother George was a casualty of combat. Walt left New York almost immediately for Washington, where, after an exhausting three-day trip, "he trudged dispiritedly from hospital to hospital, hoping to find his wounded brother." Whitman eventually located George, who had already returned to duty as an officer, and then spent several days, recording impressions in his notebook. According to Morris, Whitman also began "to write poems that spoke in the drawling voices of the men themselves, in accents he first heard around the campfires at Fredericksburg." Except for a few brief sojourns to New York, he stayed in the capital until the end of the war. He took a modest-paying government job to support himself, but Morris reports: "Visiting the hospitals quickly became the focal point of Whitman's day." According to Morris: "At the end of 1862 there were approximately thirty-five hospitals in and around Washington, accommodating some thirteen thousand suffering soldiers." Morris provides a fascinating digression into the state of American medical science in the early 1860s, which, according to Morris, "was not much advanced from the Middle Ages," and it is ugly. What is more important for our purposes, in Morris's words, is that Whitman "found the hospitals - and the handsome young men within them - surprisingly fertile ground for his art." In February 1863, Whitman's article about the hospitals in Washington, entitled "The Great Army of the Sick," appeared in The New York Times, and, a few weeks later, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed Whitman's article "Life Among Fifty Thousand Soldiers." Whitman continued to visit hospitals and to write about his experiences for the next three years.
Some of Morris's brief vignettes of Whitman's ministry eloquently capture the essence of the poet. At one point, for instance, "Whitman suffered a temporary crisis of faith." Morris explains: "He betrayed the strain on his emotions in a heated conversation with Unitarian minister William Henry Channing....Pacing the floor and wringing his hands, Whitman suddenly exclaimed: "I say stop this war, this horrible massacre of men." And Morris writes: "Sitting in the dark in the hospital ward, holding the hand of a dying young man, he is at once doctor and nurse, mother and father, friend and lover, angel and Death." But it is Whitman's writing that attracts our greatest attention. After watching a train of wagons carrying the wounded enter Washington, Whitman wrote: "This is the way men come in now, seldom in small numbers, but always in these long, sad processions." Whitman later produced an eyewitness account of the victorious Union armies' massive Grand Review through Washington on May 23 and 24, 1885, and the triumphant atmosphere starkly contrasted with the parades of ambulances entering the city Whitman had observed on several occasions. Whitman wrote that it was "too impressive to be described," and "the rank & file was the greatest sight of all." If Whitman thought that the Civil War brought out the best in American society, he also believed that the Gilded Age which followed brought out the worst: "The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater....The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress'd speculators and vulgarians."
Whitman predicted that "the real war will never get in the books," but it did, and Whitman, himself, is an important source. According to Morris, Whitman "ended the war as 'the Good Gray Poet,' (the title of a tribute to his Civil War service published in 1866), a beloved, almost mystical figure who personally embodied for millions of Americans a democratic ideal of sharing and brotherhood that remains undimmed nearly a century and a half later." From the cover, a reproduction of a photograph of Whitman with long hair and a full gray beard which makes him look like an Old Testament prophet, to the final page, this book is splendid and should appeal equally to admirers of Whitman's art and to the multitude of Civil War enthusiasts. Whitman was not merely the war's greatest poet; as Morris ably demonstrates, he also was one of its greatest souls.


Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II: A Multicultural History of America in World War II / Ronald Takaki.
Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II: A Multicultural History of America in World War II / Ronald Takaki.
von Ronald T. Takaki
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Making the "Arsenal of Democracy" More Democratic, 23. Juli 2000
Within the vast literature of World War II, one of the most interesting categories includes books about home-front life in the United States. Although this conflict has been called the "good war," Ronald Takaki, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and a leading authority on the history of race and culture in the U.S., asserts: "The 'Arsenal of Democracy' was not democratic: defense jobs were not open to all regardless of race." Making high-paying jobs in the defense industry available to people of color is, perhaps, the most important theme in this book. According to Takaki, Americans of all races and ethnicities "insisted that America live up to ideals and founding principles" and "stirred a rising wind of diversity's discontent, unfurling a hopeful vision of America as a multicultural democracy." Relying on reminiscences of Americans of color who lived and worked during the war, drawn from a wide variety of printed sources, as well as interviews Takaki conducted, it is quite an achievement!
The racial aspect of the war was summarized by a black draftee who declared: "Just carve on my tombstone, 'Here lies a black man killed fighting a yellow man for the protection of a white man.'" Takaki explains that the Army's policy of segregating black soldiers, "symbolized white domination in America." In addition to discrimination in housing and training programs, according to Takaki, "blacks were given "servile work assignments," and "[s]killed blacks found themselves occupationally downgraded." Takaki also writes: "At the beginning of the war, blacks were in especially dire economic straits...The war revived the American economy as an 'arsenal of democracy.' But, as it turned out, defense jobs were not democratically distributed; most of them were reserved for whites only. Seventy-five percent of the war industries refused to hire blacks." Although Takaki does not provide the source of that statistic, it is not implausible. Takaki explains: "Confined to the unskilled and the service occupations before the war, African Americans wanted the better and higher paying factory jobs generated by the war." In 1941, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph organized a march on Washington for July 1. Meeting with President Roosevelt on June 18, Randolph told FDR that 100,000 people would participate. A week later Roosevelt signed an executive order prohibiting "discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or Government." However, Takaki writes that, "as black and white workers followed the defense jobs into the cities, they often clashed violently." For instance: "By 1943, Detroit was a racial tinderbox." On June 20, after a scuffle in a crowded park, "urban warfare" erupted between whites and blacks, and it took 6,000 federal troops to restore order. Five weeks later, according to Takaki, in New York City, where "blacks were still being excluded from many defense industry plants, "Harlem exploded," resulting in six deaths and 500 injuries. During the war, 45,000 Indians, more than 10 percent of the Indian population, served in the U.S. armed forces. Indian workers also were attracted to work in defense industries, but, according to Takaki, they "often received lower wages than that of whites." "Almost 20 percent of all reservation Native Americans in the armed services came from the Navajo Nation in the Southwest." According to Takaki, in 1941, nearly 40 percent on the Navajos' annual per capita income of $128 came from wages, mostly from temporary government employment." "Pushed by poverty, the Navajos were also pulled into the military because they possessed something uniquely valuable to the U.S. military - their tribal language." In May 1942, "the first group of Navajo code talkers was sent to San Diego for training." According to Takaki, the Navajo code talkers "hit every beach from Guadalcanal to Okinawa." Many Mexican Americans worked in agriculture, which was considered a "war industry." The had more difficulty, however, breaking into other fields. A 1942 study of the airplane industry in Southern California reported that "payrolls showed almost no Mexicans employed." Later in the war, Mexican Americans were able to get jobs in steel, armaments, and aircraft, but "they found themselves relegated to the low wage jobs." Their efforts were not always welcomed. On June 3, 1943, "after some fights between young Mexican Americans and servicemen in downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of soldiers and sailors went on a rampage... [chasing] young Mexicans dressed in zoot suits, condemning their victims as draft dodgers." Incidents such as this had great propaganda value to the enemies of the United States. According to Takaki, "the Japanese media gleefully reported the violence as another example of racism in America." According to Takaki, "only 85 Italians were detained as security threats, and a proposed evacuation of 'enemy' Italian aliens was ruled out." In contrast: "The 120,000 Japanese on the West Coast were evacuated and imprisoned in concentration camps; 40,000 of them, born in Japan, were classified as 'enemy aliens.'" A decade before he became a crusading Chief Justice of the United States, California Attorney General Earl Warren "urged federal authorities to evacuate Japanese from sensitive areas of the West Coast," warning that the Japanese 'may well be the Achilles heel of the entire civilian defense effort.'" The Japanese American evacuees were transported to internment camps in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, California, and Wyoming, mostly in remote desert areas. During the war, nevertheless: "33,000 Japanese Americans...decided to seek equality and justice by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces."
World War II had many dimensions. For every book such as James Bradley's marvelous Flags of Our Fathers, which depicts Americans in war at their very best, there needs to be another such as Ronald Takaki's Double Victory telling a different part of the story. While millions Americans fought against Nazism, Fascism, and Japanese imperialism around the world, millions of others were struggling at home to make the United States fully live up to the ideals and founding of American democracy. Appreciating World War II as a multicultural event is essential to a complete understanding of the American experience in the war.


The Cold War: A Military History
The Cold War: A Military History
von David Miller
  Gebundene Ausgabe

2.0 von 5 Sternen Far from the Final Word on the Cold War's Military History, 20. Juli 2000
Any author seeking to write a military history of the Cold War has undertaken a very formidable task. The intense and extensive military rivalry - and its related political, economic, and diplomatic competition - between the American and Soviet superpowers and their respective allies lasted nearly fifty years and was "fought" on practically every continent. So the fact that David Miller's The Cold War: A Military History is highly selective in the themes it addresses does not, in principle, trouble me. As a practical matter, that is the only way that a military history of the Cold War could be fit into one volume. But this book is not really history. It is, instead, a collection of relatively short essays, mostly about weapons and weapons systems developed and used to arm the Cold War military forces. As an introduction to those subjects, this book probably has some value, but it is not the narrative of Cold War military events which the title suggests.
I also take issue with the book's narrow focus: According to Miller, "central Europe best symbolizes what went on during the Cold War and is the most likely place for the fighting to have started." That assertion will come as a surprise to men and women who served in the American armed forces in Korea and Vietnam, as well as to their Soviet counterparts who served in Afghanistan. Miller's approach probably works for most of the period called the "high Cold War," which lasted from the first Berlin crisis in 1948 until the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But from that point in time until the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989, I would suggest that the Cold War in central Europe was relatively stable. In contrast, during the last three decades of the Cold War, there were serious and lengthy Cold War conflicts "by proxy" in Vietnam and Afghanistan, as well as "hot spot" crises elsewhere in Asia, as well as in Africa and central America. Any book purporting to be a general military history of the Cold War which focuses exclusively on central Europe is going to mislead, and that is precisely what I consider one of this book's most serious shortcomings. Miller's emphasis on events in central Europe also is of limited value because he devotes too much space to the possibility of conventional war. During the formative period of the Cold War, from the end of the Second World War in Europe until the first Berlin crisis, the Soviet Union maintained huge tank armies and infantry forces in eastern Europe. Precisely in order to deter conventional war, first the United States and, later, Great Britain and France, developed atomic weapons. We will never know, of course, what would have happened if the Soviet Union's tanks and infantry had invaded western Europe, but I believe it is virtually certain that the United States would have responded with strategic and/or tactical atomic weapons. Indeed, according to Miller, "at least in public, NATO regarded battlefield nuclear weapons either as a reasonable response to Soviet first strike or as a last resort in the face of imminent conventional defeat." Nevertheless, Miller deserves credit for making this significant point: "The perceived threat from the Soviet Union caused the European nations and those of North America to draw together through NATO in a way which had never previously proved possible, even in the face of war." Miller writes: "In the mass of documents released since the end of the Cold War, no evidence has been found of any Warsaw Pact defensive plans, except for a few formulated in the three final years, after President Gorbachev had insisted that the General Staff prepare them. Instead, all plans concentrated on a series of massive attacks, which were aimed at securing Soviet control of the entire west-European land mass." That is interesting! However, this next point demonstrates Miller's discussion of protracted conventional war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations is superfluous. Miller writes: "According to Soviet and East German planning documents, the major plan for the Central Front aimed at reaching the German-French border in between thirteen and fifteen days, and then of overrunning France so that the leading troops arrived at the Atlantic coast and the Franco-Spanish border by the thirty-fifth day." Does anyone believe that the United States would have permitted the Soviet Union's tanks to race across Germany and then on to the Atlantic without using every weapon in its nuclear arsenal to prevent? When Miller decided to concentrate on weapons and weapons systems, in my opinion, he also should have decided to provide more information about their awesome expense because continuously developing and upgrading equipment was the key feature of the political economy of the Cold War. Only in his final chapter does Miller address "The Financial Cost," which may, in the long run, prove to be the most important aspect of the entire Cold War. But he provides virtually no details, except to state: "The true costs of defence equipment were virtually impossible to calculate." Miller concludes: "What was certain...as judged by the eventual collapse of the U.S.S.R., was that the cost proved to be unaffordable." I believe that will be one of the great historiographical debates of the coming century: Whether Soviet Communism was simply an ideology whose time came and went or whether the economic demands of the Cold War simply proved too much for the Soviet state to sustain? Furthermore, I believe Miller might have offered some comments about the nearly-indiscriminate distribution of weapons by the Cold War antagonists to Third World countries because I believe that is going to prove to be one of the most serious legacies of the Cold War.
I would recommend David Miller's The Cold War to novices and students who want some basic information about weapons, weapons systems, and their impact on certain issues of strategy. But, the title notwithstanding, this book is far from the final word on the Cold War's military history.


After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam (Vintage)
After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam (Vintage)
von Ronald Spector
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Battles "decisive...because they were so indecisive", 17. Juli 2000
In the first paragraph of the introduction to this vivid study of one year in the Vietnam War, historian Ronald Spector asks: "How did the United States lose the war in Vietnam?" In 1968, according to Spector, the U.S. faced a dilemma: "Even while American forces were experiencing success on the battlefield and in the contest for the countryside, American GIs were beginning to show signs of coming apart under the continued strains of fighting a costly stalemated war for objectives that were never clear or compelling." Spector persuasively argues that this was the critical year in the conflict.
Although Spector is correct that the Tet Offensive in January of that year was not the complete surprise that some contemporary observers reported, the extent and ferocity of the attacks were a public relations disaster for the American military command, which had been issuing generally optimistic reports about the war. Spector reports these grim statistics: "More than 40,000 civilians had been killed or wounded in the fighting, and 1 million new refugees had been created." As Spector puts it succinctly, "the Tet Offensive had shown that no place in Vietnam was truly safe." In late March 1968, President Johnson met with an informal group of elder statesmen and advisers referred to as the "Wise Men," and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson warned: "We cannot do the job we set out to do in the time we have left, and we must begin to take steps to disengage." The President bitterly complained that "the establishment bastards have bailed out," but the Wise Men were merely articulating the consensus public sentiment: The United States could not win the war, so it had to get out! Both the political and military leadership of the American war effort changed in March 1968. President Johnson first announced that General William Westmoreland, the top commander in Vietnam, would be promoted to Chief of Staff of the Army, a move widely viewed, according to Spector, "as a clear sign that Washington had lost confidence in Westmoreland's leadership." A few days later, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. But little changed on the ground. According to Spector: "Over the eight weeks following the March 31 speech, 3,700 Americans would be killed in Vietnam." According to Spector, American combat forces "faced a formidable enemy." He quotes a Navy corpsman attached to the Marines: "You'll never hear Marines say the North Vietnamese aren't tough. They're probably the toughest fighters in the world as far as I'm concerned." They also were determined. Spector reports: "A study commissioned by the Defense Department in 1967 had concluded that 'the enemy's morale was well-nigh indestructible and therefore not likely to be significantly lowered by pressures on soldiers in battle." Spector explains that "the continued presence of 550,000 American soldiers in South Vietnam continued to provide the Communist soldier with his strongest incentive to keep fighting." Endemic South Vietnamese corruption undermined the American effort. According to Spector: "Although South Vietnam received lavish U.S. aid after [Ngo Dinh] Diem consolidated his power in 1955, much of the aid money found its way into the pockets of Army officers, provincial officials, and members of the Ngo family." Spector provides these details: "Beside the sale of jobs and misappropriation of funds and materials, South Vietnamese generals engaged in a wide array of other rackets, including the use of their military forces to protect or promote criminal activities...Drug trafficking was widespread, and many of Saigon's top officials and generals were rumored to be heavily involved in smuggling and protection of the opium trade...Another source of profit was trade with the Viet Cong. Large quantities of food, gasoline, medicines, and equipment, much of it supplied by the United States were sold to the Communists by South Vietnamese soldiers, usually through middlemen. " In the summer of 1968, a major riot occurred at the largest military prison in Vietnam, the U.S. Army stockade near Long Binh. According to Spector, "the rioters [were] almost all blacks...Virtually everyone in Vietnam, from newspaper reporters to stockade guards, joined in labeling the...uprising primarily a race riot." Spector explains: "The most common source of dissatisfaction was the feeling that African- Americans were discriminated against in promotions and job opportunities. A universal complaint was that blacks were overrepresented in combat units. It was also widely believed that in line units African-Americans were always assigned the most dangerous jobs....Another source of friction was the alleged discrimination on the part of the military police, most of whom were white." According to Spector: "With the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968, signs of racial polarization and tension became clear and unmistakable." In addition to racial troubles, Spector writes that, "by the end of the year an even more serious problem, growing drug abuse, had also made its appearance." According to Spector, although "[m]arijuana was as readily available in Vietnam as whisky or cigarettes," its "[u]se of marijuana was a crime subject to fairly harsh punishment, including possible imprisonment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice." He adds: "By the end of 1968 more and more GIs were turning to drugs to help them escape the heat, tedium, fear, and loneliness of Vietnam and to hold on to thoughts and memories of life 'back in the world.' The younger the GI and the lower his rank, the more likely he was to be a drug user."
According to Spector, 1968 "ended as it had begun, with bloody yet inconclusive struggles on the battlefield and continued diplomatic deadlock." In Spector's view: "The battles of 1968 were decisive... because they were so indecisive...[T]he Vietnam War remained what it had been and would remain until 1973: a stalemate." Spector concludes: "After 1968 both sides recognized that they could never completely destroy or drive out the opponents from the mountains, jungles, rice paddies, and villages of South Vietnam." To paraphrase Spector's opening question: How did the United States ever think it could win this war?


Fire In the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age
Fire In the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age
von Paul Bracken
  Taschenbuch

2.0 von 5 Sternen The Emerging Cold War with Asia, 15. Juli 2000
Yale Political Scientist Paul Bracken proclaims that "a world of new military powers is appearing right before our eyes." Bracken proceeds to explain: "Asia's new military might was already a major factor in international politics." According to Bracken, "Atomic bombs get the West's attention," and he adds: "Whether Asia, and the world, can contain the international dynamics unleashed by weapons of mass destruction will be the other great challenge of the twenty-first century." I thought that this book had great promise, but it was very disappointing. Much of what Bracken writes is correct but obvious, and some of what he has to say is incorrect, if not utter nonsense. For instance, Bracken asserts: "The problem is that the United States isn't thinking about what it will be like to live in a world where five to ten Asian countries are nuclear powers, with missiles that can hit distant targets." According to Bracken: "In 1995, China had about fifty missiles aimed at Taiwan. Now, 200 missiles are there. In a few years, a thousand missiles are likely to be pointed at [Taiwan]." Bracken is far from unique in recognizing that the proliferation of nuclear weapons will be one of the most important international-security issues of the 21st century.
According to Bracken: "An unbroken belt of countries from Israel to North Korea (including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and China) has assembled either nuclear or chemical arsenals and is developing ballistic missiles." He then asserts: "The ballistic missiles and atomic, chemical, and biological weapons coming to Asia are all disruptive technologies. They nullify Western advantages in conventional weapons." According to Bracken: "Ballistic missiles break down the entire strategy of forward engagement from fixed bases;" and "Without bases, there can be no concentration of military power. Weapons cannot be stored, let alone massed for use. No bases, no weapons. It is America's singular military weakness in Asia." All of this assumes that, at some point in the relatively near future, the United States will need to fight a land war in Asia or the west Pacific. I believe that is exceptionally unlikely. On the next point, I believe that Bracken is absolutely wrong on cause and effect. He writes: "Industrialization and globalization increase military potential. That is the record of the 1990s." That is a specious reading of receny history. A number of countries, in Asia and elsewhere, have industrialized without militarizing. Bracken is correct, however, that the international arms bazaar is one of the most serious problems in the world: "Now countries can buy almost whatever they want from others, using international markets greatly abetted from the forces of globalization." According to Bracken: "Atomic bombs, because they offset the vast superiority of U.S. conventional forces, are the premier disruptive technology at work in the world today." If that is correct, it is a curious reversal of the early Cold War pattern, when the United States's atomic weapons countered the Soviet Union's vast superiority in conventional forces. Bracken speculates that "arms races in Asia might take a form very different from those of the cold war. China, for example, has no need to take on the United States in strategic nuclear forces. It only has to be strong enough to threaten vulnerable U.S. bases in Asia." In my opinion, that is a fundamental misreading of the strategic realities. U.S. bases may be vulnerable, but they are ultimately protected by the deterrent strength of the United States' massive nuclear superiority. For example, if North Korea were to attack an American base in Asia, or an American ally such as South Korea or Japan, with an atomic, chemical or biological weapon, the U.S. could, and almost certainly would, retaliate with nuclear weapons, and every military installation, economic asset, and population center in North Korea could be reduced to a smoking, radiating ruin within minutes. The dilemma lies in what the United States would do if North Korea launched a serious conventional attack against an American ally. That would recreate the problem the United States faced in the 1950s in Europe: what provocation is a sufficiently serious threat to American interests to justify employing nuclear weapons? According to Bracken: "The shaky control of Asian nuclear forces increases the danger of accidental or unintended war." That is one of Bracken's most significant observations. "Transitions of power could be especially dangerous...An upheaval in the government could open the way to military adventures with catastrophic consequence." Bracken states the obvious: "Asia is rife with sectarian disputes, which are likely to take on a more ominous character in an environment of weapons of mass destruction." Israel's long standoff with its Muslim neighbors and the India-Pakistan rivalry are the most obvious examples of this point. Bracken probably also is correct when he writes: "The rise of Asian military power makes for a new relationship between the west and Asia." Nevertheless, according to Bracken: "The rise of Asian military power does not argue for a U.S. pullback from the world military. It argues instead for a restructured U.S. military, one that can operate at greater distances from home and is less reliant on vulnerable forward bases;" and "[T]he United States cannot continue to base its fighting power in these installations because they are becoming too vulnerable to attack." As I asserted above, this is the real dilemma: When is an attack on American interests sufficiently serious threat to justify using nuclear weapons?
This book contains no foot- or endnotes and only a short bibliography, so it clearly was written for a general audience. Nevertheless, practically none of Bracken's observations are profound, and some of his conclusions result from superficial, if not wrongheaded, analysis. However, this book cannot be completely dismissed. My criticisms notwithstanding, the issues Bracken raises are of vital importance. The world, may in fact, be on the verge of another cold war, one which could be every bit as unstable as its earliest manifestation during its most virulent period, between the late 1940s and the middle 1960s.


Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
von H. R. McMaster
  Taschenbuch
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Waging War Without Consideration of Costs and Consequences, 12. Juli 2000
This carefully-researched, highly-detailed study of military policymaking during the formative period of the Vietnam War focuses on events between November 1963 through July 1965, when the Johnson administration made a series of disastrous decisions leading to the commitment of American ground troops, which resulted in over 50,000 deaths during the next decade. H.R. McMaster, a career Army officer with a Ph.D. in history who served on the faculty at the U.S. Military Academy, asserts that President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff disagreed about policy and then lied to the American people about that policy. Using "[r]ecently declassified documents, newly opened manuscript collections, and the release of the official history of the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] during the Vietnam War," McMaster's disturbing narrative of dishonesty and intrigue casts the highest civilian and military officials of the government in a very unfavorable light. McMaster seeks to understand and explain "decisions that involved the United States in a war that it could not win at a politically acceptable level of commitment." It is an a ugly picture.
According to McMaster: "Under the National Security Act the Joint Chiefs of Staff were 'principal military advisers to the president, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.'" However, McMaster writes, McNamara never had a good relationship with the Chiefs because they "were unable to respond to McNamara's demands fast enough, and their cumbersome administrative system exacerbated the administration's unfavorable opinion of them;" and "McNamara quickly lost patience with the Chiefs' unresponsiveness and squabbling." According to McMaster, although President Kennedy "was willing to send U.S. military 'advisers' into South Vietnam and mount covert operations in North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, he drew the line at U.S. combat units." McMaster writes that November 1963, when both Ngo Dinh Diem and Kennedy were assassinated, "marked a turning point in the Vietnam War." According to McMaster: "McNamara soon established himself as the most indispensable member of Johnson's cabinet." McMaster writes: "McNamara believed that "military pressure would aim to convince Hanoi to stop supporting the Viet Cong." But the Chiefs warned that McNamara's plan "would be insufficient to 'turn the tide' against the Viet Cong." In McMaster's view: "At the end of March, after the president had approved McNamara's strategy of graduated pressure, discontent within the Joint Chiefs of Staff bubbled to the surface." This may be McMaster's most damning criticism: "Each Chief's desire to further his own service's agenda hampered their collective ability to provide military advice... The Chiefs desperately needed a leader to bring them together." However, the appointment of Army General Earle Wheeler as Chairman of the J.C.S. "was immensely unpopular with many Pentagon officers, particularly those outside the Army." According to McMaster: "Differences of opinion among the Chiefs stemmed, in part, from their institutional perspectives as heads of their services. It seemed that each service, rather than attempt to determine the true nature of the war and the source of the insurgency in South Vietnam, assumed that it alone had the capacity to win the war." By the summer of 1964, according to McMaster, the JCS had been reduced to serving "more as technicians for planners in the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] than as strategic thinkers and advisers in their own right." In 1964 and early 1965, President Johnson focused on getting elected and advancing his domestic agenda. On November 1, 1964, the Viet Cong attacked the American airfield at Bien Hoa. According to McMaster, Chairman of the JCS, General Earle "Wheeler reported to McNamara that the Chiefs believed that, if the United States did not take action against North Vietnam immediately, it should withdraw all forces from South Vietnam." McMaster writes with brutal frankness: "On the first day of his four-year term, Johnson hid the truth about Vietnam for the sake of a domestic political agenda. McNamara assisted his dissembling." In late January 1965, according to McMaster, President Johnson "authorized the resumption of destroyer patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin" "[i]n hopes of provoking a North Vietnamese attack." According to McMaster: "In February 1965 President Johnson made decisions that transformed the conflict in Vietnam into an American war...[T]he president's decision, at the end of February, to introduce U.S. ground combat units into South Vietnam represented an irrevocable commitment to the war." McMaster then makes this disturbing assertion: "Although the JCS thought that the president's policy was fundamentally flawed, their actions supported and reinforced it." This is the essence of McMaster's indictment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "The body charged with providing the president with military advice and responsible for strategic planning permitted the president to commit the United States to war without consideration of the likely costs and consequences." According to McMaster: "When the Chiefs endeavored to carry out the president's instructions [in April-May 1965], interservice differences over how to fight the war in Vietnam resurfaced.." As a result, McMaster writes: "American soldiers, airmen, and Marines went to war in Vietnam without strategy or direction." According to McMaster: "The 'five silent men' on the Joint Chiefs made possible the way the United States went to war in Vietnam." McMaster asserts: "The Joint Chiefs of Staff became accomplices in the president's deception and focused on a tactical task, killing the enemy. General Westmoreland's 'strategy' of attrition in South Vietnam was, in essence, the absence of strategy." McMaster concludes: "The war in Vietnam...was lost in Washington, D.C., even before Americans assumed sole responsibility for the fighting in 1965 and before they realized the country was at war; indeed, even before the first American units were deployed."
The Joint Chiefs' submission to civilian control of grand strategy is understandable. But their interservice rivalries were inexcusable. I agree, therefore, with McMaster's most important point: The fact that Americans were dying in Vietnam while the Chiefs engaged in high-level turf battles constituted dereliction of duty. But, as McMaster also amply and ably demonstrates, there is plenty of blame to go around.


In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America's Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics)
In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America's Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics)
von Aaron L. Friedberg
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4.0 von 5 Sternen The Cold War as the Engine of American State-Building, 7. Juli 2000
In 1947, Hanson Baldwin, the military correspondent for The New York Times asked whether the United States could "prepare for the next, truly total war...without becoming a 'garrison state.'" According to Princeton Professor Aaron Friedberg, by the middle of the 20th, "the imminent threat of war produced pressures for the permanent construction of a powerful central state." Friedberg argues, however, that the size and scope of the federal government was held in check during the Cold War by a tradition and ideology of anti-statism. Although this book merely synthesizes previously- published works, it effectively argues that the apparatus of the American state grew less during the Cold War than might have been have been expected.
Friedberg examines "five main mechanisms of power creation: those intended to extract money and manpower and those designed to direct national resources toward arms production, military research, and defense-supporting industries." Friedberg explains: "In the span of only two decades the United States was engulfed in three waves of crisis as depression, world war, and cold war followed each other in rapid succession. The onset of each emergency produced a powerful impetus toward state-building." The early-Cold War debate about defense spending demonstrates Friedberg's point. He writes that "the American people wanted a state that was strong enough to defend them against their foreign enemies but not strong enough to threaten their domestic liberties," defending the country was expensive. In 1949, when President Truman wanted to hold defense spending for the next fiscal year, to $14.4 billion, the Secretary of Defense instructed the service chiefs to base their estimates "on military considerations alone," which resulted in a "wish list with a staggering $30 billion price tag." Truman's final budget message estimated the annual cost of sustaining his planned long-term force posture to be $35 to $40 billion. According to Friedberg, President Eisenhower's "commitment to holding down defense spending was a logical outgrowth of his essentially anti-statist philosophy of political economy," and, in June 1954, he warned that a massive new buildup would involving transformation of the United States into "a garrison state." In 1960, John Kennedy asserted that Eisenhower's "excessive attention to the budget" had "resulted in a serious weakening of the nation's defenses." Compulsory military service also generated intense debate. Senator Robert Taft warned that the adoption of universal military training would transform the United States into a "militaristic and totalitarian country." According to Friedberg, "the strongest and most consistent congressional opposition to came from the Republican party, and in particular from its conservative midwestern wing. It was in this part of the country that principled anticompulsion arguments struck their most responsive chord." According to Friedberg: "The widespread animosity to statism that characterized the early post-war period...played a critical role in blocking the creation of new, powerful governmental industrial planning institutions." Friedberg explains: "Even in the face of an enemy, and to a remarkable degree even in wartime, the American system has proven itself to be highly resistant to centralized industrial planning." Friedberg writes: "[T]he push for privatization, and the ideological language in which it was couched, also raised troubling questions about the legitimacy of the military's large-scale industrial activities, even those with long traditions. In the context of a worldwide contest with communism, private ownership of the means of production came to be regarded...as morally superior to any alternative form of economic organization." According to Friedberg: "The postwar privatization of American arms production was the end result of a protracted process of debate and political struggle...At the most general ideological level the burgeoning anti-statist sentiments in the 1940s and 1950s tended to strengthen the hands of the privatizers and to discredit those who advocated anything that savored of socialism." In discussing the structure of the U.S. research and development system and its performance during the Cold War, Friedberg asserts that the "large, open, and loose-limbed American system was well suited for promoting innovation, and it tended over time to outperform its more rigid, closed, and hierarchical Soviet counterpart." According to Friedberg: "[F]or nearly a half century, the pursuit of qualitative superiority [in military technology] was a central, persistent feature of the entire American defense effort." Friedberg explains: "Before the Second World War had ended and the Cold war began, senior American scientists and top military planners were already agreed that the preservation of a 'preeminent position' in weapons technology must be a central goal of peacetime defense policy." "The clear emergence of the Soviet Union as the most likely enemy in any future war added urgency and a clear focus to the discussion of the role of technology in American strategy." Friedberg reports: "'Atomic weapons used tactically are the natural armaments of numerically inferior but technologically superior nations,' declared one congressional enthusiast in 1951." He explains: "The Eisenhower administration elevated the substitution of firepower for manpower to the position of key organizing principle of national strategy. Atomic and thermonuclear weapons of every conceivable yield were...at the heart of Western defenses;" and "For the West, by the mid-1950s, preserving technological supremacy had become even more essential and urgent than it had appeared only a few years before." According to Friedberg: "Critics and enthusiasts alike agree that the American research and development system was highly productive of technological advances, that it tended over time to outpace its Soviet counterpart, and that the superior performance of the American system was connected in some way to its structure."
Was there ever a real likelihood that Cold War America would turn into a "garrison state?" The clear answer is: No. References to the garrison state were rhetorical devices used most often by congressional opponents of the concentration of power in the executive branch in Washington, D.C. But Friedberg is absolutely correct that anti- statist rhetoric had powerful antecedents in American history and, therefore, resonated deeply with the public. The specter of creating a garrison state was ominous, even when it was intentionally exaggerated.


Flags of Our Fathers
Flags of Our Fathers
von James Bradley
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Six Ordinary Men: Symbols of World War II, 4. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Flags of Our Fathers (Gebundene Ausgabe)
The image of six military men, five Marines and a Navy medical corpsman, raising the American flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi during the brutal battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945, according to author James Bradley, "became the most recognized, the most reproduced, in the history of photography." However, Bradley, the son of John Henry Bradley, one of the flagraisers, reports that no copy of the photograph ever hung in their house, and that the elder Bradley "never confided the details of his valor" to his wife. Although John Bradley was reticent with his own family, his son writes: "The flagraising on Iwo Jima became a symbol of the island, the mountain, the battle; of World War II; of the highest ideals of the nation, of valor incarnate."
The conquest of Iwo Jima, a tiny, barren, isolated island in the north Pacific Ocean, was needed "to provide air cover and an emergency landing strip for the B-29 bombers flying from their base in Tinian to their targets in Japan." The assault began on February 19, 1945 with a difficult amphibious assault, the Marines' specialty. According to Bradley: "Eighty thousand American boys fought aboveground, twenty thousand Japanese boys fought from below." After the 36-day battle, which resulted in over 25,000 American casualties, including over 7,000 dead, Admiral Chester Nimitz declared: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue." The younger Bradley asks: "Why did [John Henry Bradley] almost never speak of the past, and then only painfully, between long excruciating silences?" He then answers: "The real story, as Dad saw it, was simple and unadorned: A flag needed to be replaced. The pole was heavy. The sun was just right. A chance shot turned an unremarkable act into a remarkable photograph."
This book is, of course, a mammoth bestseller, and I enjoyed every minute of reading it in an evening. I don't know whether it is a great book, but it is a great story, and any reader will be rewarded and inspired by spending a few hours with the fascinating story of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima.


The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
von Thomas L. Friedman
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Globalization: Central Feature of the Post-Cold War World, 4. Juli 2000
Readers familiar with Thomas Friedman's consistently superb work for The New York Times - first reporting from the Middle East and now writing a column on foreign affairs - know him to be exceptionally bright and articulate. Since 1994, Friedman has specialized in covering the intersection between foreign policy and international finance, so he is an ideal interpreter of globalization - the trend toward international economic integration through free-market capitalism. This book is a fine introduction to events profoundly impacting on our world, written in Friedman's characteristically clear and crisp prose. The "Lexus" in Friedman's title stands for "the drive for sustenance, improvement, prosperity and modernization," whereas the "olive tree" "represents everything that roots us, anchors us, identifies us and locates us in the world - whether it be belonging to a family, a community, a tribe, a nation, a religion or, most of all, a place called home." Much of Friedman's book is devoted to the theme of the Lexus and olive tree wrestling with each other in order to find a healthy balance. According to Friedman: "The challenge in this era of globalization - for countries and for individuals - is to find a healthy balance between preserving a sense of identity, home and community and doing what it takes to survive within the globalization system."
In Friedman's view, the "slow, fixed, divided Cold War system" is readily distinguishable from the "new, very greased, interconnected" world of globalization, in which free-market capitalism is spreading throughout the world. According to Friedman: "While the defining measurement of the Cold War was weight - particularly the throw weight of missiles - the defining measurement of the globalization system is speed - speed of commerce, travel, communication and innovation." In contrast to the Cold War's "overly regulated, walled up system," Friedman explains that globalization's three "democratization" - the democratization of information, the democratization of technology, and the democratization of finance - are changing the way business and everything else is done. In Friedman's view, "what is new...is the sheer number of people and countries able to partake of today's globalized economy and information networks, and to be affected by them." According to Friedman, "the Internet offers the closest thing to a perfectly competitive market in the world today." Friedman explains: "In the 1980s the Internet was a novelty. By the 1990s it was a useful technology. By the time the new millennium rolled around it was an indispensable tool for doing business." Friedman writes at some length about what he cleverly calls "the Electronic Herd," which is "made up of all the faceless stock, bond and currency traders sitting behind computer screens all over the globe, moving their money around from mutual funds to pension funds to emerging markets, or trading on the Internet from their basements." According to Friedman: "Countries cannot thrive in today's world without plugging into the Electronic Herd." Friedman explains that, with "the end of the Cold War system and the fall of walls everywhere, there suddenly emerged a vast global plain where investor herds from many different countries could roam freely." Friedman acknowledges that the effects of globalization are not entirely positive. For instance, Friedman acknowledges that the Electronic Herd is "potentially more volatile" than previous models, and that makes markets less stable. According to Friedman, "today, in the globalization era, the ability of the herd to transmit instability from bad countries to good countries has vastly increased." In addition, Friedman predicts that the system of globalization will "both environmental disasters and amazing environmental rescues." The prospect of environmental problems in the new world order is especially troubling. Friedman asks: "Can we develop a method of environmentally sustainable globalization?" He answers: "One hope is clearly that technology will evolve in ways that will help us preserve green areas faster than the Electronic Herd can trample them." Friedman adds: "But technological breakthroughs alone will not be enough to neutralize the environmental impact of the herd, because the innovations simply are not happening fast enough - compared to how fast the herd moves, grows and devours." Friedman places his hope in "super-empowered environmentalists" "who, acting on their own, can now fight back effectively against both the Electronic Herd and governments...[M]ore and more multinationals are realizing that to preserve their global reputation and global brands in the face of Internet activism, they need to be environmentally responsible." Friedman also offers this cautionary observation: "[I]n 2000 we understand as much about today's system of globalization is going to work as we understood how the Cold War system was going to work in 1946." Friedman's point, I believe, is that, although we have been able to give a name - globalization - tothe most powerful force changing the world, that does not mean that we are close to fully comprehending it. Some aspects of the globalized world are fully comprehensible and frightening. Notwithstanding the manifest benefits of globalization, there is an ongoing backlash against it. In particular, Friedman warns about "the real, immediate national security threat" from what he calls "the Super-Empowered Angry Man," such as the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan, the Unabomber, Osama bin Laden, and the Ramzi Yousef group in New York. Friedman implies, quite correctly I believe, that, the globalized world may be very exciting, but it also remains a very dangerous place. Friedman obviously believes that most of the globalization process is beneficial, and he probably is correct, but he also is not entirely objective. Friedman is not merely a pundit. He is a proponent for globalization. He writes: "You cannot thrive today without plugging into the Electronic Herd."
This book is excellent, and, all things considered, I believe it is superior to John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge's A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization, another introduction to globalization which I recently read and reviewed. However, I would recommend either. Whether one is a globalization proponent or opponent or neutral, the system is changing the world, and that behooves all of us to understand it better.


A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization
A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization
von John Micklethwait
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Toward a Global Community for the 21st Century?, 1. Juli 2000
I approached reading this book with the assumption that I would viscerally dislike it: I hate popular culture; I consider myself, at best, to be a technological agnostic; and my impression was the "globalization" is being generated by international-business buccaneers. However, I discovered that John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge, correspondents for The Economist, are adept popularizers of complicated contemporary concepts; they share a certain sense of humor; and, while championing globalization's purported benefits, they are willing to acknowledge some of its more serious problems. This book is, therefore, a solid, if not compelling, introduction to the subject.
Micklethwait and Woolridge do not offer dispassionate analysis of globalization and its impact on international business, politics, and culture. Indeed, the authors are advocates, and they are candid about their biases, declaring: "[T]he underlying message of this book is that globalization needs not merely to be understood but to be defended." The reason, according to Micklethwait and Woolridge, is: "Globalization has become, quite simply, the most important economic, political, and cultural phenomenon of our time." That's probably hyperbole, but, without debating that point, the first issue is: What is globalization? In its most basic terms, globalization is the trend toward integration of the world economy into a single market. And what drives globalization? Micklethwait and Woolridge answer: Technology, the capital markets, and management. They might have added: International financial institutions. According to Micklethwait and Woolridge, "it is certainly true that many important decisions about the world economy have been made by a small cabal of technocrats at four institutions in Washington, D.C.: the World Bank, the IMF, the U.S. Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board." Nevertheless, the process of globalization still has a long way to go. According to Micklethwait and Woolridge: "Consultants at McKinsey reckon that only a fifth of world outputs, or $6 trillion out of $28 trillion, is open to global competition in products, service, or ownership." The issue is whether this is a good thing. Micklethwait and Woolridge seek to dispel the following "myths" about globalization: (1) it is leading to the triumph of big companies; (2) it is ushering in an age of global products; (3) it has ended the traditional business cycle; (4) it is a zero-sum game (some people have to lose in order for others to win); and (5) geography does not matter in the new global economy. The authors also reject various criticisms of globalization, including the allegations that it contributes to "the rise of homogenized airport culture;" that it involves the "loss of democratic accountability;" that "countries ruin themselves by reducing taxes, benefits, and environmental controls in order to woo rootless companies;" and that it is epitomized by the "weakness of global institutions such as the United Nations." The book is full of anecdotes, some of which are quite revealing. However, anecdote is not argument, and some of the authors' anecdotes in defense of globalization are simply exceptions to accurate generalizations. Micklethwait and Woolridge also tend to make profound statements of the obvious. For example: "The full impact of events that took place roughly a decade ago, such as the collapse of the iron curtain and the introduction of Europe's single market, is only just beginning to be felt." On the other hand, Micklethwait and Woolridge occasionally display genuine insight. According to Micklethwait and Woolridge: "Much of the globalizing drive and energy of multinationals is provided by the management industry: the business schools, consultancies, and gurus." Are we certain we want these people and institutions creating the dominant ideology of the post-Cold War world? The authors give us further reason to pause and ponder when they write at some length about "cosmocrats," whom they define as the class of people "who have benefitted from globalization." Their description of this class includes the observations that they are "[c]osmopolitan in taste," "usually Anglo-American in outlook," and preach a "gospel of wealth." The authors then declare: "These people constitute perhaps the most meritocratic ruling class the world has seen." In my opinion, the cosmocrats sound like just another elite. The fact that they have mastered the international economy - which is the basis for their self-interested conclusion that their ascendancy is based on meritocracy - does not give them a moral right to rule. Micklethwait and Woolridge observe that the "cosmocrats are increasingly cut off from the rest of society," and the authors express this concern: "One of the great risks of globalization is that it fosters anomie - the normalness that comes from having your ties with the rest of society weakened...The most common complaint among Internet addicts" is that they are "isolated, lonely, and depressed." I was not persuaded by the concluding chapter, entitled "The Hidden Promise: Liberty Renewed." According to Micklethwait and Woolridge, the "belief in individualism, which was at the heart of both the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, was actually a fairly global movement." According to Micklethwait and Woolridge, "the recent history of globalization can be written as a story...of spreading a political culture that is based on individual liberty" Even if that is an accurate statement of the cosmocrats' ideology, there is no guarantee that they will prove to be good global citizens. In fact, the cosmocrats may already have failed their first test: Micklethwait and Woolridge acknowledge that "globalization has certainly been a mixed blessing for the environment."
In the final analysis, I am concerned about the prospect of building a global community based on an ideology that exalts exuberant (and sometimes rapacious) individualism. Micklethwait and Woolridge are globalization advocates, and they are at their strongest when they discuss economic matters. They clearly believe that it will be the key organizing principle for 21st-century business, but I remain skeptical about globalization's impact on international politics and culture. Nevertheless, I am glad that I read this book and then spent some time thinking about its powerful thesis. I believe we now need a serious, non-Luddite, left-liberal critique of globalization.


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