The book is highly polemical, and the authors waste too much ink on long series to drive home their point.
For example: Tanks in Iran, nerve gas in Ira...moreThe book is highly polemical, and the authors waste too much ink on long series to drive home their point.
For example: Tanks in Iran, nerve gas in Iraq, epaulettes and steel helmets in Africa, military departments in South American universities, staff debate over air force doctrine in China, and millions of khaki conscripts in India are the manifestations that world conflict has now become synonymous with Western warfare.
Or: It is not reductionist or fantastic to ask why it is that even the most vociferous academic critic of the West would prefer to fly Swissair, check into the Mayo Clinic, scream obscenities in Times Square, run a red light in Omaha, swim with his girlfriend on a Santa Cruz beach, or live next to a US Army base in Texas - rather than board a Congolese airliner, leave his appendix in Managua General, use Allah's name in vain in downtown Jeddah, jump the curb in Singapore, wear a bikini and Speedos in Iran, or vacation near the home of the Korean National Guard.
Ok, alright, we get it, we understand, your point is clear, I don't need 6 examples when 2-3 suffice, the droning repetition of examples and parallels is starting to detract from your point, and I'm tired of reading now!
But, that aside, the book is thought provoking, and it did make me spend some time on Wikipedia reading the plot summaries of the Odyssey, the Iliad and the Anead. I read them all in high school, but it made me want a refresher on the stories, the characters, etc. It also made me want to reread some of the Greek drama and history that is on my bookshelf but hasn't been touched since high school (we'll see if I actually pick any of that up).
I think the authors deserve credit for shaking the hornet's nest, and the book is a good read for anyone interested in the current state of a liberal arts education in the US in modern times (the book was published in the late 1990s, but it's hard to imagine the situation has changed much since publication).(less)
My previous knowledge of Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs was based mostly on my middle school history class. From what I remember about that, Cortes an...moreMy previous knowledge of Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs was based mostly on my middle school history class. From what I remember about that, Cortes and ~300 horse-mounted Spaniards with steel swords marched in to Tenochtitlan, were mistaken for Aztec gods, and then slaughtered everyone in sight.
As it turns out, it was much more complicated than that. There were not ~300 Spaniards, there were thousands. Although Cortes began with 500 or so, he continually received reinforcements from Spanish colonies in the West Indies (i.e. Cuba), and he was also able to co-opt some of the soldiers sent to capture him for political reasons.
What was more surprising to me, Cortes rather brilliantly played the natives off one another. This was possible because while the Aztecs led the most powerful empire in central America at the time, they were not benevolent, and they were hardly in complete control. Their unending demand for tribute and humans for sacrifice alienated many of their neighbors, so much so that Cortes was able to use this (along with the respect his early military victories gave him among the locals) to peel off several cities from the Aztec alliance and bring them firmly into his camp. Thus, when Cortes finally sieged and then marched on Tenochtitlan, he had something like 200,000 soliders with him, to say nothing of all his porters, slaves, etc manning the supply chains and carrying the instruments of war.
What was even more shocking were the chapters on the first encounter between Cortes and Montezuma, which resulted in Montezuma hosting Cortes and his soldiers in Tenochtitlan for 6 months. During this time, Cortes continually undermined and subverted Montezuma, taking advantage of his curiosity and his belief that Cortes may have been on some sort of divine mission. This culminated in Cortes taking Montezuma prisoner in his own city for a time, effectively taking over its governance before being driven out to start his year-long campaign to finally take over the Aztec empire for Spain.
A lot of surprises in this book that didn't make it into my middle school history text book ... Cortes is portrayed as both a brilliant, bold strategist and also a brutal and barbaric warrior. The Aztecs are portrayed as both highly advanced (Tenochtitlan being the largest city in the world at the time of its discovery by Cortes) but also violent (the human sacrifices) and haughty (the way they treat neighboring cities and tribes).
Recommended for anyone looking for a good overview of the conquest of Mexico.(less)