December 30, 2009


Aid, Matthew M., The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency (New York; Bloomsbury Press, 2009) ("In the end, the fear among a number of retired NSA officers is that the agency's domestic eavesdropping program, in addition to generating much unwanted negative publicity for the agency, almost certainly diverted much-needed manpower and fiscal resources from NSA's foreign-intelligence-gathering mission to what the agency officers generally believe to have been a poorly considered and legally questionable domestic monitoring operation that apparently has produced little in the way of tangible results, despite claims to the contrary from the [Bush] White House." Id. at 299. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Desiderius Erasmus).

Danner, Mark, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War (New York: Nation Books, 2009) (This is a collection of some the author's thoughtful essays on political violence. "But firmness can stop armies and save lives." Id. at 327 (quoting President Clinton). "In Bosnia, of course, such 'firmness,' in the form of aerial bombardment, came from a paralyzed America only after three years of genocidal war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. In Kosovo, the firmness came in the same form; but it did not 'stop armies,' at least not for seventy-nine days, and it is a difficult argument to make that it saved lives--or at least that it saved Kosovar lives." "American lives of course it did save. Amid the carnage of Kosovo, and the more than 1,200 dead civilians in Serbia, not a single American airman or soldier, indeed not a single member of the Western alliance, died; not one suffered injuries. And here we reach the bleak underside of President Clinton's 'moral imperative' as it was played out during those seventy-nine days of bombing. For Kosovo certainly comes as close as yet achieved to that grail which American leaders have been so long seeking: the politically cost-free war." Id. at 327-328. "'From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and it is ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.'" Id. at 554 (quoting, George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature," in The George Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays and Reportage (New York: Harcourt, 1961, 371.).

Favret, Mary A., War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("I will be arguing that the generation of writers from Cowper to Coleridge--artists as celebrated as William Wordsworth and forgotten as the anonymous poets of the periodical press--helped to construct the first wartime of modernity. C.K. William's poem ["The Hearth," in C.K. Williams, The Singing (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), 65-66.] alerts us to his overlooked history, the continuity between the way war figures in romantic writings and the way war figures today. But the wartime so constructed does not obey the enclosing actions of periodization; instead it presents a more unsettled and unsettling temporality. Shot through with expressions, imagery, and figures of speech assembled over two hundred years ago, wartime is a present experience handed down from a past uncertain of its future. We have inherited what wartime looks and sounds and feels like from this other time, which remains both strange and familiar." Id. at 4-5. "As it looks back over two centuries, War at a Distance tells how military conflict on a global scale looked and felt to a population whose armies and navies waged war for decades, but always at a distance. For those at home, the task was to find sentient ground for what often appeared a free-floating, impersonal military operation, removed from their immediate sensory perception. . . . As a wartime phenomenon, British Romanticism gives its distinctive voice to the dislocated experience that is modern wartime: the experience of war mediated, of time and times unmoored, of feeling intensified but also adrift." Id. at 9).

Kagan, Donald, The Peloponnesian War (New York: Viking, 2003) ("The defeat of Athens in the war was also a blow to the prospects for democracy in the other Greek cities. The influence of political systems on the people outside them is closely connected with their success in war. The democratic constitution of a powerful and successful Athens was a magnet and a model for others, even in the heart of the Peloponnesus Athens' loss in the war against Sparta was taken as proof of the inadequacy of its political system; Athenian failures were seized upon as democratic errors; ordinary human mistakes and misfortunes were judged to be the peculiar consequences of democracy. The Spartan victory over the democratic coalition at Mantinea in 418 was the turning point in the political development of Greece toward obligarchy rather than democracy, but the final defeat of Athens reinforced the trend." Id. at 488-489. "It is both legitimate and instructive to think of what we call the Peloponnesian War as 'the great war between Athens and Sparta,' as one scholar has designated it, because, like the European war of 1914-1918 to which the title 'the Great War' was applied by an earlier generation that knew only one, it was a tragic event, a great turning point in history, the end of an era of progress, prosperity, confidence, and hope, and the beginning of a darker time." Id. at 489-490.).

Kagan, Donald, Thucydides: The Reinvention of History (New York: Viking, 2009) ("In 1947 the American Secretary of State George C. Marshall said: 'I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and with deep convictions regarding certain basic international issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the Fall of Athens.' Ever since, Thucydides' History has had a strong and continuing influence on those who think about international relations and war." Id. at 1 (citation omitted). "Since most people live in states, and it is states that determine how they will be educated and since politics controls even the most important human faculties such as strategy, economic management, and tactics of persuasion, politics, to some degree, controls all fields of knowledge. Politics, after all, lays down what people may or must do and what they may or must not do." Id. at 231-232. "Surely the twentieth century has demonstrated the decisive importance of whether we live under a totalitarian regime or under a democracy, whether we are at war or live in peace, whether we win the wars that we wage or lose them. One need not be an Aristotelian or even an ancient Greek to understand the centrality of politics to the human condition." Id. at 232. "Herodotus deserves the title of 'the father of history,' but Thucydides was the father of political history. . . . His History raises for the first time countless questions about the development of human societies that remain very relevant today. He looks deeply into the causes of war, drawing a distinction between those openly alleged and those more fundamental but less obvious." Id. at 232.).

Keegan, John, The American Civil War: A Military History (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) ("What makes this poem ["Come up From the Fields, Father"] of Whitman's so heartrendering is that everything in it entirely genuine. Whitman knew what happened to boys shot in the chest; he knew how such news affected families, since he often meet them on their visits to the hospitals; he knew what terrible truths the consoling letters sent to families concealed, since he had often written such letters himself. Even though he was not a witness of battle, he knew what results battles caused, since he saw them on the hospital wars. Whitman was a great poet of the Civil War, because he understood the purpose and nature of the war, which was to inflict suffering on the American imagination. The suffering . . . was felt particularly by those not present. The whole point of the war was to hold mothers, fathers, sisters, and wives in a state of tortured apprehension, waiting for the terrible letter from the hospital that spoke of wounds and which all too often presaged the death of a dear son, husband, or father. It was a particular cruelty of the Civil War that because neither side had targets of strategic value to be attacked . . . its effect had to be directed principally, indeed for years exclusively, at the man in the field and at the emotions of those who waited at home. Torturing the apprehensions of the non-combatants was a new development in warfare, produced by the rise of an efficient postal service. Before the days of rapid and reasonably certain postal communication, soldiers could be banished to the mind's recesses after they marched away, because the nearest and dearest knew that they would receive no news of their fate until the war was over, if indeed then. The only certain news of a soldier on the campaign came by default, when he did not return home. Whitman caught at the truth in an entry in one of his notebooks, 'The expression of American personality through this war is not to be looked for in the great campaign and the battle-fights. It is to be looked for . . . in the hospitals, among the wounded." Id. at 3i8-319. Now, of course, we have television, digital video recorders the internet, and You-tube. The war is constantly there, though many, lacking immediate family members on the line, chose to ignore it for quite a while. We may not romanticize the American War in Iraq or the American War in Afghanistan, but, for the most part, we view these from too far a distance. At least as long as it is someone else's father, mother, son, daughter, husband or wife that is in harm's way. Also, see the reviews "Exporting Warfare," The Economist, October 3, 2009, and James M. McPherson, "Brutal Terrain," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, November 1, 2009.).

Packer, George, Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) ("for most Americans, September 11 and all that it unleashed dominated the decade. This revealed, among other things, our besetting narcissism, the vice that leads us to imagine ourselves the best or the worst but at any rate the center of everything." Id. at x. From "Stop Making Sense": "Clarity and conviction are wonderful things; I wouldn't want to be told that I can never have them again. But a better test of mental health and civic responsibility just now may be whether you can endure inconsistency, hold a fact without manipulating its shape, use words that will expose the falseness of your own thoughts, and accept that you will be embarrassed tomorrow by much of what you think and say today." Id. at 22.).

Parker, Christopher S., Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("My central argument is that black veterans' willingness to challenge white supremacy and resist Jim Crow rested to a significant extent upon their military experiences. They drew, first, on their perception that their service in the military made them full members of the political community; it merited full citizenship. Second, they drew on their military experiences, which exposed them to opportunities that bolstered their sense of agency and opened their eyes to the possibility of black-white relations in which they were considered equals. Finally, the confidence they gained from serving during wars in which they were forced to fight against the enemy in the field at the same time that they battled racism in the ranks sustained their commitment to fight white supremacy as well as their confidence to do so." Id. at 4-5.).

Rosier, Paul C., Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge. Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (An interesting read, a juxtaposition, for those interested in foreign relations and foreign relations law. "[The] tension between racial nationalism and civic nationalism and American Indians' use of patriotic rhetoric to mediate it emerged most clearly during the Cold War. But since much recent scholarship on the intersection of race and the Cold War has ignored Native Americans, the story of Indian-white relations remains segregated from the narrative of twentieth-century American history and international history. Exploring the involvement on Native Americans with the local, national, and international politics of the Cold War era, I trace the evolution of Native Americans' contemporary identities in the crucible of the Cold War, from the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War. . . . The heart of this book considers where the Cold war took place for Native Americans, how they conceived of its relevance to their lives, through what institutions they mediated its pressures, and how it shaped their national and ethnic identities and thus their vision of American citizenship and patriotism. In addition, I trace connections between U.S. domestic Indian policy and U.S. Cold War foreign policy and examine how the struggles of Native Americans to preserve their ancestral lands helped to shape Americans' conceptions of the Cold War at home and abroad, in particular American citizens' awareness of their new global role in constructing an empire for liberty abroad and American politicians' engagement with Third World peoples intent on securing their independence from imperial rule." Id. at 7-8. Speaking of The American War in Vietnam: "As the novelist James Baldwin wrote in 1968: 'A racist society can't but right a racist war--this is the bitter truth. The assumptions acted on at home are also acted on abroad, and every American Negro knows this, for he, after the American Indian, was the first 'Viet Cong' victim.' Vietnam was not about politics so much as it was about 'racial hatred,' as Kipp put it." at 249. And then there is The American War in Iraq: "The frontier has gone restless now. . . . We'll ride 'em [Iraqis] down like Cherokee. --Second lieutenant in Iraq, 2004." Id. at 276.).

Sheehan, Neil, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon (New York: Random House, 2009) (See Michael Beschloss, "Missile Defense," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, October 4, 2009.).

Thompson, Nicholas, The Hawk and The Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War (New York: Henry Holt, 2009) (George Kennan to Dean Acheson: "'In international, as in private, life what counts most is not really what happens to someone but how he bears what happens to him. For this reason almost everything defends from here on out on the manner in which we Americans bear what is unquestionably a major failure and disaster to our national fortunes. If we accept it with candor, with dignity, and with resolve to absorb its lessons and to make it good by redoubled and determined effort--starting all over again, if necessary, along the pattern of Pearl Harbor--we need lose neither our self-confidence nor our allies nor our power for bargaining, eventually, with the Russians. But if we try to conceal from our people or from our allies the full measure of our misfortune, or permit ourselves to seek relief in any reactions of bluster or petulance or hysteria, we can easily find this crisis resolving itself into an irreparable deterioration of our world position--and of our confidence in ourselves.'" Id. at 126 (quoting from Robert Beisner, Dean Acheson (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2006), at 413). George Kennan: "'There was more respect to be won by superior performance in the part of the underling than mediocre performance in the role of the king.'" Id. at 235.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books I-II with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1919, 1928, 2003).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books III-IV with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1920, 1930, 2005) (Hermocrates son of Hermon: "'The city of which I represent, Siceliots, is not the weakest, nor is it suffering most in the war; but I propose to speak in the general interest, declaring the opinion which seems to me the best for Sicily as a whole. As for the miseries which war entails, why should one by expressly stating all that can be said make a long harangue in the presence of those who know? For no one is either forced to make war through ignorance of what it is, or deterred from making it by fear, if he thinks he will get some advantage from it. What really happens is this, that to one side the gains appear greater than the terrors, while the other deliberately prefers to undergo the dangers rather than submit to a temporary disadvantage; but if it should turn out that these two lines of action are both inopportune, each for the side which adopts it, them some profit may come from exhortations which advise a compromise. And so with us at the present time, if we could be persuaded of the wisdom of this course it would be to our great advantage; for each of us began the war in the first place because we desired to promote our private interests. So now let us endeavour by setting forth our conflicting claims to become reconciled with each other; and then, if we do not after all succeed in securing, each of us, what is fair and just before we part, we shall go to war again.'" Id. at 309-311.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books V-VI with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1921, 2006) ("But Athenagoras, who was a popular leader and at the present time most influential with the masses, came forward and addressed them as follows: * * * 'Some say that a democracy is neither wise not equitable, and that those that have property are more competent to rule the best. But I say, first, that democracy is a name for all, oligarchy for only a part; next, that while the wealthy are the best guardians of property, the wise would be the best counsellors, and the many, after hearing matters discussed, would be the best judges; and that these classes, whether severally or collectively, enjoy a like equality in a democracy. An oligarchy, on the other hand, gives the many a share of the dangers, but of the advantages it not merely claims the lion's share, but even takes and keeps it all. And this is what the powerful among you and the young men are bent upon--a thing impossible to attain in a great city.'" Id. at 251-257.).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Books VII-VIII with an English translation by Charles Forster Smith (Loeb Classical Library)(Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1923, 1935, 2003) ("When the news reached Athens, even though the actual soldiers who had escaped from the action itself gave a clear report, they for long refused to believe that the armament could have been so utterly destroyed. When, however, they were convinced, they were angry with the orators who had taken part in promoting the expedition--as though they had not voted for it themselves--and they were also enraged at the oracle-mongers and soothsayers and whoever at that time by any practice of divination had led them to hope that they would conquer Sicily. Everything indeed on every side distressed them, and after what had happened they were beset with fear and utmost consternation. For having lost, both each man separately and as a state, many hoplites and horsemen and the flower of the youth, while they saw none like it left them, they were heavy of heart; and again, seeing no ships in the docks in sufficient numbers nor money in the treasury nor crews for the ship, they were at the moment hopeless of safety. They thought that their enemies in Sicily would sail with their fleet straight for the Peireaus, especially as they had won so great a victory, and that their foes at home, now doubly prepared in all respects, would attack them at once with all their might both by land and by sea, and that their own allies would revolt and join them. Nevertheless it was their opinion that, as far as their present circumstances permitted, they should not give up, but should both make ready a fleet, providing timber and money from whatever sources they could, and put their relations with their allies, and especially with Euboea, on a safe footing; moreover, that they should reduce the expenses of the city to an economical basis, and should select a board of elderly men who should prepare measures with reference to the present situation as there might be occasion. In the panic of the moment they were ready, as is the way o with a democracy, to observe discipline in everything. And as they had determined, so they proceeded to act; and the summer ended." Id. 191-193.).