Book Review: Countdown: M Day by Tom Kratman


This is the second installment in the countdown series, hopefully there are plenty more still to come as this just built onto the already strong premise of the first book. The premise of this book is that after the completion of the mission in the first book the company Stauer created found a home in Guyana and incorporated as M-Day Inc., now the company must defend Guyana and itself from an invasion by Venezuela. Hugo Chavez wants the invasion to distract his people from their deteriorating situation at home. There is a lot more action in this book than the first of the series. This book continues Kratman’s thinly veiled attacks on liberalism and post-modern thought.
This is still a great read though and I recommend it highly. There are also some really great parts but they are included in the Spoiler below the fold:


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Book Review: The Roman Army at War: 100 BC – AD 200 by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy

 


I thought this book would be more than it turned out to be, unfortunately, I was mistaken. The author states in the forward that it is an expansion of his doctoral dissertation and it is obvious throughout that this is indeed the case. Neither that or my disappointment make this a book not worth reading though, it is in fact worth reading. The first chapter alone makes it well worth the purchase price. Dr. Goldsworthy has produced perhaps the best, and most concise description of the organization and structure of the roman army outside of Vegetius or Polybius that I have found.

The book is divided into six sections on the organization of the Roman Army, Romes opponents, campaigning, Roman generalship, small unit tactics, and motivating the Roman soldier. The first five are well written and draw logical conclusions from the available evidence. Where the book falls flat, in my opinion, is the last chapter and its discussion of the factors that motivated individual Roman Soldiers. Dr. Goldsworthy is up front about his adherence to and belief in the SLA Marshall/Dave Grossman theory of combat that killing another human is an unnatural act and the vast majority of solders throughout history have been unable to bring themselves to do it. I will be honest an admit that I have serious problems with that theory. Indeed, to my mind history shows us that there is nothing unnatural about the act of man killing man, even tough some academics would like it to be so. The prevalence of violent crime in the world gives the lie to the idea as well. Dr. Goldsworthy paints a picture of the Roman army in battle in which 75% of the Legionnaires listlessly wave their swords about while the other 25% picks up their slack and wins the battles. It is patently ridiculous that up to 3/4 of the participants in a close-quarters melee battle of antiquity can indulge their supposed squeamishness and avoid active, overt participation in battle. By this theory, all the ancients are lying to us and so are most of the other historians and participants of warfare down to the present.

Aside from the final chapter, this is a well written, well researched book that has much to offer the student of the Roman army and I recommend it on that basis. I have expressed my reservations about the final chapter but I will leave it to the individual reader to believe his assertions about killing or not. I would just highly recommend anyone believing it do some personal research into the veracity of the claims of SLA Marshall and the lack of evidence that he actually conducted any of the research he claimed he did prior to writing Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command, upon which all subsequent claims that men don’t kill are based. Or better yet, join the military, go to war and engage in ground combat and then tell me that people have a hard time killing.

Where are the honest Nazi’s?

I was reading an article in the current issue of the Journal of Military History and it hit me once again that there are no memoirs from Germans in World War II that are really honest about what they thought. The article in question is Hagermann, Karen. Mobilizing Women for War: The History, Historiography, and Memory of German Women’s War Service in the Two World Wars Journal of Military History, Vol. 75 no. 4 (October 2011), 1055-1094. I actually don’t have a problem with the article itself, it is written well although I don’t necessarily agree with the vaguely feminist premise of the article itself, it is pretty interesting.

What struck me is that the memoir described in the article detailed a familiar theme of German WWII memoirs. Namely, that of the idealistic German marching off to war to defend the Fatherland and becoming increasingly disillusioned as the war goes on by the atrocities they witness but being too scared, afraid, duty-bound, obliged, or cowardly to do or say anything about it. What you never hear about except when others are described in these memoirs is the Nazi who not only enjoyed, but positively relished, killing people, especially people considered racial enemies and demonized by the state.

Where are they all?  I don’t recall ever hearing of a memoir published by a German, even under a pseudonym, that describes someone like this.  Given the number out there that talk about how disgusted they were and the sheer numbers killed in the Holocaust alone, never mind in reprisals, I would assume that there had to be some Germans that liked killing people, but who?

Does anybody know of a WWII German memoir written by someone who even admits participation in atrocities, much less enjoying it?  I can’t think of any.

Book Review – Iron Kingom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

This massive tome lays claim to being a complete history of Prussia, and if he doesn’t achieve it, he doesn’t miss it by much. It is fairly large at over 700 pages but Dr. Clark has a pleasant writing style that makes the book easy to read. He is not so much recounting events as using the historical events to tell the story of Prussia.

The book opens with the retelling of the Allies abolishment of Prussia as a political unit in 1947 then goes right to the beginning of Prussia with the establishment of Prussia as a political unit under German sovereignty under the Great Elector in the years just prior to the Thirty-Years War. He follows the history of Prussia from its initial conquest by the Teutonic Knights to its incorporation as part of Brandenburg during the Reformation and the conversion of the Knights to Lutheranism. He then traces the the way in which the Elector of Brandenburg got the rights to call himself King in Prussia to King of Prussia and eventually Emperor of Germany.

Almost half the book covers the history of Prussia from the Napoleonic Wars onward. This makes it a little unbalanced in my opinion, but it is also understandable as there are many more records from then forward and it is easier to know what happened. I especially like that the author refuses the temptation to speculate on the might-have-beens as I call them. He points out events that he thinks were pivotal but does not devote space to discussing the what-ifs had different decisions been made. He presents a straightforward recitation of the events of Prussian history in an entertaining manner that also lets the reader make up his own mind about causes because the retelling of events themselves are extremely well balanced.

In conclusion, Dr. Clark has written what is perhaps the best one-volume history of Prussia I have found. I especially liked it’s focus on Prussia as being the dominant factor in German history, and it was. This is an extremely readable book that is useful to both academics and non-academics alike. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone who considers himself a student of German history.

Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day POster

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain and France. It is a day to remember the end of the fighting in World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. It is also the day set aside in the US to remember all veterans, not just those of World War I but also those that served in our nation’s other wars and those that served during peacetime. It takes something special to serve your country and a little bit more to do so voluntarily. There is always the possibility of going to war and giving your life for your country while in the military. I hope that everyone takes a moment today and remembers the sacrifices of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and fought for the United States. If you meet a vet today, shake his hand and thank him for his service. Remember, less than 1% of the US public serves, yet they do so to protect that other 99%.

US Department of Veterans Affairs site about Veterans Day