Book Review: The Month That Changed the World: July 1914 by Gordon Martel

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Given that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, there has been a virtual flood of new books and scholarship on the war in the past few years. A flood that I sincerely hope does not stop anytime soon as the renewed emphasis on the war is starting to change the traditional view of the war. One area that has gotten particular emphasis this year is the Origins Controversy, as in, what really caused the war and … Read more…

How History Repeats Itself

I apologize in advance for the blatantly political tone of this piece but I am flabbergasted by what I see happening on the eastern periphery of Europe and the anemic reaction to state on state aggression by the rest of the world.

I read this piece by Justin Logan from the Cato Institute this morning and was struck immediately on how similar in tone this piece is to the rhetoric of the pre-WWII America Firsters.  Is Estonia Worth a War?

I just ask myself are people so blind or so willing to seek peace at any cost that they will not stand up to tyranny until the cost of stopping it is orders of magnitude greater than if they had stood up for principle at the beginning?  The same kinds of arguments against involvement in WWII were made by isolationists in the US and appeasers abroad as Hitler’s Germany slowly re-armed and swallowed its neighbors in the years prior to WWII.

Largely the same process is in action in Russia today.  Whereas Germany felt slighted and unjustly treated after WWI modern Russia feels slighted and mistreated after the unsatisfactory (from their perspective) end to the Cold War.  It is interesting that roughly a generation passed between 1918 and 1939 and roughly a generation has passed between 1989 and 2014.  Russia was stripped of large swaths of territory in the wake of the fall of communism and Germany was stripped of territory, actually split into two separate blocks by the Danzig Corridor, in the wake of Versailles.  The German people felt they were not defeated, (hence the popularity of the stab in the back myth), while many Russians today feel that they were betrayed from within by Gorbachev and Co.  Hitler was an ideologue that fed on and amplified public perceptions of being unjustly handled by the Allies and Putin has done the same in Russia.  As Germany expanded it was only weakly opposed by the Allied powers and we are seeing the same sort of reaction in the West to Putin’s actions.

History seems to be repeating itself before our eyes as yet another European ideologue and dictator forges ahead towards war and an attempt to dominate its neighbors.  Is the West going to stand idly by and allow it to happen again until the cost of stopping it is immeasurably higher?  The stakes are higher this time around because Russia is a nuclear power.  The time to stop Putin and Russia is now and a serious demonstration of Western resolve would achieve without bloodshed what will costs thousands, if not millions of lives later on.

Has the West learned nothing from history other than that War is bad?  There are things worse than war, and if the Western leadership does not find their spine soon they will see what those things are.

 

US Secretary of State Announces “Peace in our Time.”

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Obama: Nuclear deal blocks Iran’s path to bomb In an ironic twist showing that the 60+ years since World War II have only fostered institutional amnesia the US and five other powers buckled and agreed to appease Iran in talks about its nuclear program.  Agreeing that sanctions will be eased in return for Iran behaving US Secretary of State John Kerry channeled former British Prime minister Neville Chamberlain by paraphrasing him and tweeting:

 I just wonder if he is going to wave a piece of paper around when he gets home too?

neville-chamberlainHas the world really forgotten that appeasing tyrannical regimes is a recipe for getting heartbroken and sore?  Why would any sane, rational person think for a minute that Iran would give up the nuclear program they have defended so fiercely over the past decade+ in return for access to less than $10 billion dollars of oil revenue?  My guess is that Iran already has enough fissile material for at least one but probably more bombs and thus it suits them to play nice right now in return for concessions.  Remember, Hitler agreed to only take the Sudetenland in September of 1938, because he was not quite ready for war.  But then he turned around and occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia in spring 1939 and kicked off World War II less than a year later.

Should I be worried about being recalled to active duty to go fight in the next world war?

A rebuttal to “Killology”

In the past 100 years man has gone from a man, to a killer ape, to a man again. I find it hard to believe that he ever was a killer or lover of mankind, but more like a hungry creature who needed a reason to do anything other than satiate himself. First of all, we don’t have evidence to prove that the Battle of Gaugamela was “a giant shoving match.” We do have evidence that modern soldiers have misfired their rifles on purpose in order to avoid shooting the enemy, but many conclusions can be drawn from this. I would argue that Europeans have gone through four stages in … Read more…

The Significance of The Northern Crusades in History

Modern historians tend to overlook economic factors when investigating historical motivations. The first Northern Crusade (The Wendish Crusade), as commonly narrated, was a branch of the Second Crusade, undertaken on behalf of St. Bernard de Clairvaux’s furious pulpit outreach to retake the holy land. Ideological motivation is difficult to overlook when analyzing historical empires: the majority of empires and religions are so closely intertwined that it is almost impossible to separate them. This is true of Roman Catholicism no less than for the Vedic seers who wrote the Rig Veda, the Achaemenids who patronized Zoroastrianism, and the cult of Quetzalcoatl in Aztec Mexico. Early Islam and Maccabean Judaism are virtually … Read more…

Book Review: July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

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I have probably read 30-40 books exploring the origins of World War I in the past 5-6 years and I thought that just about everything relevant there was to be known about the events of the month leading up to the war were known and historians have just been stirring the ashes and finding trivia in trying to determine a more accurate chain of causation. July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin disabused me of that notion.  This work has made me aware of several things about the critical month between the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of World War I that I am amazed have not … Read more…

Pearl Harbor Day

The US Ships on Battleship Row burning in the wake of the Japanese attack on the morning of December 7th, 1941.

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, 71 years ago this morning at 0755 Hawaiian time the Japanese Navy began its attack on the US Navy Fleet anchorage in Pearl Harbor Hawaii.  The attack lasted for two and a half hours and cost the lives of 2,402 Americans and 64 Japanese.  The navy lost 6 Ships sunk, 4 of which were Battleships  and additional 13 sips were damaged to a greater or lesser degree. Let us all take a minute today to reflect on the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war it started.  Most importantly, let us remember the men who lost their lives that day and the hundreds of thousands who followed them … Read more…

Book Review: Holy Wars: 3000 Years of Battles in the Holy Land by Gary Rashba

HOLY WARS: 3000 Years of Battles in the Holy Land is one of the better primers about conflict in the Holy Land to appear within the last few years.  It consists of 17 chapters covering the initial Israelite conquest of Canaan in 1400 B.C. to the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 1982.  The more recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered in the epilogue.  The work is 288 pages and includes extensive notes at the end of each chapter as well as a well sourced bibliography and index.  The Kindle edition, which is what I have, was mostly free of editing errors and the only complaint I have is … Read more…

Tactical Aspects of Battle: A Discussion

Image from the Broadside Blog at http://www.militarytimes.com/blogs/broadside/2011/11/01/halloween-and-military-tactics/

There is a very interesting pair of essays in the Baen free non-fiction compendium for 2011. The essence of these two pieces is the geo-strategic position of the United States in the early 21st Century and what the American prospects for maintaining global dominance are. This piece is not necessarily about geopolitics but it did get me thinking about another idea I have been tossing around in my head for the past few years, and that is tactics. Specifically tactics and the way their use affects the course of battles both classical and contemporary. Too often, tactical considerations are given short shrift in accounts of battle. For example, it is … Read more…

The Developing Situation with Iran – The Craziness Continues

I don’t necessarily want to make a habit of talking contemporary issues on a regular basis but the events in, around, and about Iran over the past few weeks have really got me thinking.  There are a couple of points I would like to bring up. The US administration and European leaders don’t seem to really have a clue what they are doing.  They keep making statements about what they will not tolerate, and hen tolerate it anyway.  This has been going on for years and on the US side started with the Clinton administration as far as I can see.  A clear line has not been drawn and stuck to, that is probably the root of Iran’s boldness, … Read more…

Book Review: Makers of Ancient Strategy – Edited by Victor David Hanson

This book was conceived as being a sort of prequel to the modern classic, Makers of Modern Strategy, edited by Peter Paret and first published in the 70’s and updated in the 90’s. As Dr Hanson states in his foreword the scholars who wrote the various essays presented in the book did so with an eye to drawing lessons from antiquity that are relevant to the challenges faced by modern states and statesmen. They have succeeded admirably. It is not as hard to do as you might think despite the fact that modern war is fought with the benefit of tanks, night vision, aircraft, and satellite communications. Modern commanders Face … Read more…

Europe and Modern War

Saw an interesting piece awhile ago on the South African Business Day website called: GIDEON RACHMAN: Threat of war seems unreal in an age of peace. The essential point is that although war seems to have been eradicated in Europe, don’t count it out if the Euro crisis gets as bad as it possibly can. I think it is naive in the extreme to think that because there has not been a major war in Europe for the past 65+ years that one cannot happen.  We should keep in mind that it was 49 years between the Congress of Vienna ending the Napoleonic Wars and the Prusso-Danish war of 1864 … Read more…

Book Review: The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

The Guns of August is one of the classic histories of World War I. It was originally published in 1962 and has remained a mainstay of accounts of the opening months of the war ever since. The book reads more like fiction than reality as Mrs. Tuchman brings the main players alive through her descriptive style of writing. She effortlessly recounts the events of August, 1914 and tries to bring the reader into the mood of that month when world shaking events were happening. Not all of her conclusions about the cases of the war have withstood the test of time and she repeats some stories that have since been … Read more…

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 … Read more…

Book Review: The Age of Total War: 1860-1945 by Jeremy Black

The notion that a book is “thought-provoking” is often thrown out there for works of non-fiction, and of those that are described as such that I have read most very seldom are.  This book is different, Dr. Black has written not so much a history as a treatise challenging historians, particularly military historians, to reexamine the history of conflict in the examined period with the idea of total war uppermost in their minds.  It seems a counter-intuitive thing to do at first, but he provides plenty of examples of why the wars under consideration were not total or were only partially total at best.  This includes World War II, which … Read more…