Korda has this somewhat annoying style of moving in a non-linear fashion (not ideal for a historian), and repeating the same things over again. Also,...moreKorda has this somewhat annoying style of moving in a non-linear fashion (not ideal for a historian), and repeating the same things over again. Also, he falls into the biographical trap of overly sympathizing with his subject, to the point of absurdity sometimes. Whitewashing the fact that Lee owned slaves (and fought for the cause of slavery) by saying "but he didn't agree with the institution" is pathetically superficial. On the whole though, this is the most in depth biography of Lee I've ever read, so I felt it deserved four stars. (less)
It's difficult in Social Science to craft an all-encompassing theory which is capable of explaining all or almost all events. The "closest thing to a...moreIt's difficult in Social Science to craft an all-encompassing theory which is capable of explaining all or almost all events. The "closest thing to a law in IR" is Democratic Peace Theory, and even it has vulnerabilities which can be found with little probing. This is the framework through which we view Arreguin-Toft's book.
He asks the simple question: How can weak actors win wars against stronger ones? Traditional explanations include regime type ("democracies are incapable of winning asymmetric wars"), arms diffusion ("with modern weapons, they can even the odds"), interest asymmetry ("powerful states are not threatened by smaller ones, so they have less stake in the outcome"), and "social squeamishness" ("democratic constituencies don't want to fight barbarously"). Arreguin-Toft disassembles and dismisses each of these arguments, and creates his own. Strategic interaction between strong and weak states influences the outcome.
Through the case studies of Imperial Russia in the Caucuses, Britain in the Boer War, Italy in Ethiopia, the US in Vietnam, and the USSR in Afghanistan, we examine the strategic interaction of each side. When both sides fight the same way (conventional vs conventional; barbarism vs guerrilla), the stronger state will win. When the fighting is mixed (conventional vs guerrilla; barbarism vs conventional), the weaker state will win.
The logical conclusion of this argument is to believe that the United States and USSR should have resorted to barbarism in Vietnam and Afghanistan, respectively, in order to achieve victory. Arreguin-Toft addresses these cases, the latter of which runs counter to his theory. His final analysis describes how this is not necessarily the right move. "At best barbarism can be effective only as a military strategy: if the desired objective is long-term political control - e.g., nation-building, "peace" keeping, or other stability or transition missions - barbarism invariably backfires."
This is a book that should be required reading for diplomats, military officers, and Congressional representatives. (less)
Perhaps the best account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in print. This is a topic which has been covered extensively, and yet Dobbs was able to provide n...morePerhaps the best account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in print. This is a topic which has been covered extensively, and yet Dobbs was able to provide new information that I had never heard before. (less)
The book starts off a bit shaky, with Klay attempting to use poor structure and an abundance of acronyms in order to simulate a lower enlisted man's m...moreThe book starts off a bit shaky, with Klay attempting to use poor structure and an abundance of acronyms in order to simulate a lower enlisted man's monologue. This was very off-putting, but luckily the author abandoned it quickly. Overall the book is good. The short story format weaves a compelling narrative without becoming stagnant. While generally very realistic, Klay does move farther away from reality in some stories:
"That was the week I got my acceptance letter from NYU. I was certain I wouldn't have gotten in without my Marine Corps resume. To NYU, I was a veteran. Two deployments. That meant something to them."
I literally laughed out loud when I read this. As someone who got turned down by a dozen graduate schools (including NYU), I can personally attest that military service means precisely nothing to them. But the book is a work of fiction after all. (less)