Non-Fiction Archives

June 09, 2004

Lenner - Federal Principle

Andrew Lenner, The Federal Principle in American Politics, 1790-1833

I turned every page on Monday, so I guess I read the book (I did skim some.)

Lenner is a bright guy working with a relatively defined body of material and coming up with some clever insights about it. He examines the Federal Principle, and especially the role of Natural Law and the Law of Nations, in American politics from the 1790s through Nullification. In many ways this is a sequel to Jack Greene's Peripheries and Center, although Lenner is more interested in the working of dual sovereignty while Green told the story of how dual sov. was invented.

Lenner reminded me of the importance that Natural Law and the Law of Nations held for the founders, I might blog on that on the main blog later this week.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

Clancy and Franks - Into the Storm

Tom Clancy and General Fred Franks, Into the Storm

This is the first of Clancy's Commanders series. Clancy is teaming up with senior or retired military leaders and working through a brief biography and a case study of a major event, all as a way to study the meaning of command (and sell books.)

The third in the series is controversial, while waiting to get it from the library I decided to read the first two. Franks is an interesting fellow - he lost part of a leg in Vietnam but returned to active duty; he commanded the VII corps during the Gulph War, coordinating thousands of vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers in an attack on the Republican Guard; after the was he was one of the people who put together the "shock and awe" battle doctrine.

A few things jumped out at me from this. The first is that Franks certainly took the notion of command styles seriously; in every chapter he spends time explaining what a commander should do, how people should relate, and how they do relate to one another. Franks's style is low-key - no screaming and shouting - and he thinks that staff meetings should be vigorous. He sees a meeting as a chance for everyone to speak, for people to hash out their goals, and then for everyone to go execute.

Franks and Schwartzkof have very different command styles, and the difference in their styles was one of the problems in the Gulph War, for both men misunderstood the other.

The other thing that Franks and Clancy were pushing was that the Vietnam War really was very bad for the armed forces, destroying readiness, morale, and effectiveness, and that during the late 1970s and then 1980s the armed forces worked very hard and very effectively to reinvent themselves. My dad works with a retired Army general and is always effusive in his praise for the man's planning, decision-making, and people skills. Reading Franks' account of the Army training purpose, I was greatly impressed.

Franks and Clancy wrote the book in 1997, looking back at the Gulph War in terms of Vietnam. I read the book in 2004, looking back at the Gulph War in terms of the Iraqi invasion.

A couple of things jumped out at me. The first was that the Gulph War really was fought by Cold War tactics - the same tools that had been designed to slow or halt a Soviet wave coming through the Fulda Gap were turned around and used in the offensive to damage and almost destroy the Soviet-style Republican Guard. The Iraq War was fought with different maneuver elements, far fewer troops, and doctrine and technology that went even farther than the Gulph War had in giving information, navigation, and mission decisions to local units; in the Gulph War, only commanders' tanks had GPS and everyone else had to form on them while in Iraq I think everyone had it and could concentrate on what was around them and not on keeping formation.

The second was that I got a much better understanding of Wesley Clarke's critique of Rumsfield's plan for the war. Franks explains that the military planning starts with the mission statement, reviews the terrain, troops, and technologies available, and then works up a plan, adjusting the troop levels and the plan where appropriate. But, the whole very sophisticated and powerful planning process starts with the mission definition. Clarke complained that Rumsfield told his planners "Defeat Saddam Hussein" when he should have told them "Create conditions in Iraq condusive to creating a representative democracy." It is a subtle but huge difference - you can defeat Hussein with a small force and some risks - we did it. But it takes more warm bodies to create the security situation required for democracy, and it requires a different presence on the ground, control of different locations at the end of fighting - a very different mission.

I am glad I read it. I will read a couple of novels and then read the second in the series.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2004

Massie - Nicholas and Alexandra

Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, (New York: Atheneum, 1967)

I read Massie's Dreadnaught many years ago and liked it.

After reading Sheila O'Malley's rave about this I grabbed it and dropped it into my light non-fiction shelf. I also grabbed Massie's Steel Castles which I will read soon.

Massie has found a niche - he is immersed in the lives and personalities of world rulers at the turn of the twentieth century. He then tells the tale of the Belle Epoque and the Great War through those rulers, explaining the path to war in part through their personal foibles.

This approach works wonderfully for Nicholas and Alexandra. Massie argues convincingly that the Russian Empire fell because of Tsarevitch Alexis's hemophelia combined with the fact that both Nicholas and Alexandra were loving parents. From one medical fact and some personalities, all else follows. Otherwise, he suggests at the end, Russia was well on its way to becoming a constitutional monarchy during the Great War, with Nicholas ceding some power to the Duma as responsible reform, excluding the poor from political power for a while, and relying on the massive emotional pull of Orthodoxy and the Tsar to hold the nation together.

But it failed, and Massie tells us why.

For that reason it is a hard book to read - not just because the list of chapters ends with Ekaterinberg and we all know what happened there, but because the first four hundred pages are a train wreck happening in slow motion. In his classic anecdote of the bomb under the table, Alfred Hitchcock defined suspense as being when the audience knows that something terrible is about to happen, the characters on screen do not know it will happen, and so the audience is all worried to see if the characters will escape.

In Hitchcock's version, the audience knows there is a bomb under the table, but does not know if the people sitting at table will finish their conversation and leave before the bomb blows up. For Nicholas and Alexandra, we know that not only do they not stand up, they actually take steps that will make the bomb more explosive. And so we get to watch as well meaning people screw up by the numbers. It is a painful read; historians like to dissect failures so we can see what went wrong, but it can be hard to read about failure, especially for those of us with a limited capacity for schadenfrude (spelling?).

Good book - anyone who likes reading about people should read it.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Porter - Lion's Share

Bernard Porter
The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1983
2nd Ed. (London: Longman Group UK Limited, 1984)

I bought this a few years back on a whim while wandering through the course text section at University. I have been nibbling on it as my light history book over the last few months. I finally finished it, though I admit to being out of it and not reading the conclusion carefully enough.

Some useful information, will use it to change part of my discussion of Europe and the World when next I teach Western Civ, but my biggest thoughts on this have to do with Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress which I am still "reading" as a book on tape and which I will blog about once I finish listening to it.

Posted by Red Ted at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

Story - Joseph Story

William W. Story [ed] Life and Letters of Joseph Story (New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 2 vol. Orig pub 1851.

Most major political and religious leaders of the nineteenth century had their deaths followed by a volume of life and letters, commonly edited by a son or grandson. It was an act of fileopietism to create one of these volumes, and historians are very glad of that impulse.

William Story here combined the narrative of an autobiography written by his father with extracts from Joseph Story's letters, letters about Joseph story from his contemporaries, and comments on some of the more significant cases. It is a big book - each volume is some 575 pages - and luckily I was able to gut it, skimming for content and only commonplacing a few pages of notes.

More Joseph Story, some useful quotes including some letters on Christianity and the Common Law.

Now I get to think about how exactly I want to use Story in chapters two and three.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

Newmyer - Joseph Story

R. Kent Newmyer, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1985)

More Joseph Story. Newmyer emphasizes Story the conservative, starting with his Republican roots but framing his mature thought in Burkean lines, and even showing Story making approving references to Metternich. His Story is not the Madisonian Republican but the American Burke or Blackstone, appealing to the common law as the basis for a framework of jurisdiction that would restrain the Jacksonian devolution of the Republic.

Useful stuff.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004

Dunne - Joseph Story

Gerald Dunne, Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

I am reading up on Story because he figures prominently in chapter two and in the framing section for chapter three. I had, for example, filed him as a Federalist because of his buddies and his later whigdom. Dunne reminded me that Story had been a street-fighting Republican in the late 1790s and early 1800s - getting into at least one fistfight in 1803 - before making friends with Federalists while working on the Yazoo Land case and then being named to the Supreme Court.

Story appears to have been a National Republican - a Madisonian not a Jeffersonian - and he took this perspective into DeuteroFederalism in the 1810s and then into Whiggery in the 1840s.

It was a useful book, though I skimmed more than I read.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2004

Marty - Righteous Empire

Martin E Marty, Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America
New York, Dial Press, 1970

A pop-history review of American Protestant religious history. A couple of useful quotes to thicken the dissertation. He focuses on consensus and argues that Evangelicals were effectively everything. I focus on the tension between the one and the many and argue that Evangelicals were terrified that they would become nothing - a difference in emphasis that leads us to very different conclusions.

Good stuff, nice read, a little dated.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

Hanson - Soul of Battle

Victor David Hanson, The Soul of Battle

Not compelling. Popular history of Epaminidous of Thebes, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Patton. I got partway through Thebes and realized that I did not care to spend the time to figure out if he was blowing smoke by writing internal contradictions or if he had something useful to say.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2004

Wright - Beginnings of Unitarianism

Conrad Wright, The Beginnings of Unitarianism in America
Archon press
Repring of the Beacon Press, Boston, 1966 edition.

"Skim has the same number of letters as read."

Wright reviews the "Arminian" theology of the liberal wing of the New England Establishment from 1734 to 1805. Mostly an examination of the words and theology of the liberals, contrasting them with both Old Calvinists and Jonathan Edwards. Wright is smart, as were the Unitarians, and he makes some good points about both the similarites and differences between the two wings.

Things to remember: supernatural rationalism, much like Locke the Arminians believed that people must use reason to evaluate revelation, and that revelation existed and was really a revelation.

And so to run errands.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)