Book Review: The Revenge of Geography by Robert D. Kaplan

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In line with my current grad program pursuing an MA in International relations I have been reading a lot of books about current or semi current events. The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert Kaplan is one of these books.  The book is an examination of geopolitics.  That is, it takes a look at politics through the lens of geography.  The thesis being that while regimes may change the places people live and the terrain of those places generally does not and thus to a large extent geography has a somewhat deterministic effect on politics.  This is actually a … Read more…

Moral Relativism and War

If you are of liberal political leanings you will probably not like this piece as I am going to proceed to attempt to demolish several sacred cows of contemporary liberal thought.  I unreservedly admit that I am politically conservative and further admit that I am not trying to be unbiased in his piece.  I am essentially venting my spleen at the half-truths and outright lies I so often find in books that purport to be histories but that are in reality only thinly disguised attacks on historical actors.  I find it typically liberal that such attacks are often made on those that cannot defend themselves, such as historical figures long … Read more…

Book Review: Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate by Newt Gingrich

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Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would probably have been a more interesting book if it had introduced some new ideas.  Sadly, it does not.  The book is nothing more than a rehashing of the tired ideas that have been floating around in conservative circles for years. One would think that in 209 pages of text at least one original idea would appear.  The book is separated into 13 topical chapters with an introduction and a conclusion.  There is an extensive notes section and a surprisingly good index. The topics cover everything … 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.

 

Book Review: The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge

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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] The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge by Werner Otto Müller-Hill is one of those rare books that come out of war.  A diary written by someone to satisfy themselves with no expectation that it will ever get published.  As such, it provides an almost unique view into the mind of the person writing it.  The vast majority of war memoirs are self-serving and written to make a point.  Diaries tend to be less so, and this one … Read more…

Von Saucken – The Last Aristocrat

Today’s generation can be forgiven for seeing the Second World War’s common participants as engaging in a battle of ideologies. That being said, the Waffen SS were the ultimate outsiders who became the ultimate insiders. During the blitzkrieg into Poland the Wehrmacht saw them as little more than auxiliaries, along for the ride. It is therefore interesting to appreciate the fact that the majority of the Heer were not ideologues, and therefore why they were capable of constantly putting up amazing fronts against an opponent (Russia) that outnumbered them 13:1. The German military predated the rise of national socialism and shared few values with the Fuhrer and his henchmen. German … Read more…

When the Tigers Broke Free – Rape in World War Two

I am afraid that the top side is not completely satisfied with my work… They are naturally disappointed that I failed to chase the Hun out of Italy but there was no military reason why I should have been able to do so. In fact there is no military reason for “Shingle”. – Major General John P. Lucas     The Royal Fusiliers Company C were not the only men sacrificed for the imbibing hereditary duke beyond the Cliffs of Dover. The Battle of Monte Cassino and its sub theaters were a great multicultural event. The last time so many nations had uplifted and hurled themselves at an object was … Read more…

The Christ of Nations, 1920

In Polish history, war usually comes down to two conflicting scripts. From the Polish side, pushing geographical boundaries out in all directions, as far as possible. From the opposing side: eliminating the irritating roadblock begrudgingly acknowledged as “Poland.” This theme is perennial. It has not only been steel and fire that has determined if the land of the White Eagle was to be a flesh and blood state, or merely a state of mind; it was also the petitioning of the fighting spirit through ideological appeal. Literature in Poland has served such a purpose. Polish literature is not meant to appeal to outsiders. It is generally so nationalistic that neighboring … Read more…

Book Review: The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson

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If there is one book in the realm of history or political science any informed person needs to read this year then Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die is it. In this short book Ferguson goes right to the heart of why the West seems to be in decline and analyzes in short, incisive prose why that is so and perhaps what can be done to reverse it. The book itself is only 147 pages of text divided into an introduction, four topical chapters and a conclusion. There are twenty pages of notes but no bibliography or index, which is unusual for one of Dr. … Read more…

Book Review: Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard R. Beeman

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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] Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard Beeman is the tale of the First and Second Continental Congresses from the opening of the First until the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776. It was serendipitous that I received this book from the publisher when I did because the events leading to and surrounding the Declaration of Independence have recently become an area of interest of mine. The book is 418 pages of text separated … Read more…

Book Review: Dresden: A Survivor’s Story by Victor Gregg

[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] Victor Gregg’s Dresden: A Survivor’s Story is a short work describing the author’s experience as  POW who got caught in Dresden in February, 1945 when the Allies bombed the city in what would become known as the Firebombing of Dresden.  The attack essentially destroyed the city center and killed an estimated 25,000 German’s.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the attacks that also discusses the controversy surrounding them that has grown up since the war.  To sum up the controversy, general anti-war people claim they were a crime and … Read more…

Historical Resources on the Web

Updated 24 June 2014 — Below the fold is a list of historical sources on the internet, this includes both primary and secondary source collections.   I am constantly updating this list when I run across useful sites.   Please point me at sites I miss in the comments section.

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Book Review: The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan

I read The Reagan Diaries when they first came out and had occasion to reread them not long ago when I had nothing better to do.  I mainly read the book, not because I am a rabid Reagan conservative, although I have been so accused, but because Reagan was president when I was a kid in Junior and High School and he is also the first political figure who I really paid any attention to while they were in office.  I vaguely remember Carter being president, but only because my dad got angry every time his name was mentioned.  I learned some of my first curse words when Carter would come … Read more…

Book Review: The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, is one of the best economic histories I have read.  It seeks to be a global history of money and does a good job of it.  It is somewhat tilted towards Europe and Western countries but only because that is where the majority of financial innovation has come from, especially in the last 300-400 years.last 400 years. What I found especially interesting were his explanations of the way sophisticated financial instruments actually work.  It often seems as though investment and investing have a language specifically designed to confuse and confound the layman.  Dr. Ferguson’s explanations of derivatives and other financial instruments were understandable … Read more…

Who Are We Fighting?– Public & Military Perception Of Islam, Radical Islam, and The War On Terrorism

This is a guest post Since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by radical Islamic terrorists in 2001, a sense of enmity, fear, and distrust has grown between the West and the Islamic world. While the stated official policy of the United States has always been that the nation is fighting specific groups of militants and terrorists rather than Islam itself, all too often, civilians as well as members of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies show that they do not truly make any distinction. Spokesmen from military and public policy research centers, point out that all too often, ordinary Americans assume that all Muslims in … Read more…