Very good, though also very depressing. As a retired military type I appreciated the skill with which the author translated a lot of military jargon i...moreVery good, though also very depressing. As a retired military type I appreciated the skill with which the author translated a lot of military jargon into clear English, making the story much more accessible for readers who haven't had occasion to learn that jargon, and did so without making the dialogue or narrative feel stilted. This story also addresses a pet worry of mine: the growing influence of hateful fanaticism in both domestic and world politics. The author did an excellent job of showing what it would be like - what it is like in too many places in the world - to live under an ideologically extreme government that uses terror, censorship, and deception to control its own people.(less)
Nicely done - the author analyzes several examples of urban guerrilla movements from the 20th century, spread among countries on four continents. His...moreNicely done - the author analyzes several examples of urban guerrilla movements from the 20th century, spread among countries on four continents. His prognosis is gloomy for would-be urban insurgents - his view, supported by his analysis, is that anyone intending to carry out a city-based guerrilla war is starting with two strikes against them and is unlikely to succeed unless the government against whom they are rebelling really blows it when it comes to counterinsurgency. On the other hand, modern technology has made it most difficult for insurgencies to hide and operate in wilderness areas that would until this generation have been safe havens, so disappearing into the crowds in cities may be the only option available. We shall see in the coming decades.(less)
Encyclopedic in narrative detail, but sometimes skimpy and arbitrary in analysis. Professor Van Creveld is one of the world's leading authorities on m...moreEncyclopedic in narrative detail, but sometimes skimpy and arbitrary in analysis. Professor Van Creveld is one of the world's leading authorities on military affairs, but this is not one of his better books - he has a point in his message that political correctness is often unrealistic and can be very bad when trying to win a war, but it's also possible to go too far in the direction of being contrary for the sake of being contrary, and he does. In particular, I believe, based on my experience during twenty years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, that he goes too far in basically dismissing women as being useless in combat. It is absolutely valid that there are physical requirements a combat soldier should be able to meet, and that a lower percentage of women than men may be able to do so; however, there are athletic women who are more than capable of keeping up with most men, and there are a lot of men who can't hack it. I knew some women Marines who I would have trusted completely to keep up on the march, shoot straight, hold their own in a fight, and stand watch while I was asleep. I'd suggest to the author that he go do some observation of women in the armed forces of the U.S. and other countries today, and do so with his eyes and mind open.(less)
A disappointment. If the author had stuck to his subject this would have been a pretty good book, but as it progresses he keeps injecting more and mor...moreA disappointment. If the author had stuck to his subject this would have been a pretty good book, but as it progresses he keeps injecting more and more crap that sounds as if he's channeling Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter - characterizing patriotic Democrats or liberals as imaginary (ironic, considering that of the veterans in Congress, the overwhelming majority are Democrats and most of the returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan who've chosen to go into politics have run as Democrats; that during the Vietnam era, both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered and served in Vietnam while Bush and Cheney pulled strings to stay home in the States; and that during the eight years the Republicans recently had the White House, they tried every year to cut VA funding and benefits for military families so they could give millionaires and corporations bigger tax cuts), throwing in an ever-increasing number of gratuitous slams against Moslems in general, even managing to work in some sexism and homophobia, and advocating unrestrained torture and reprisal killings (in apparent ignorance of the history that shows those tactics have always backfired, beyond being immoral). Master Sergeant Lynch sounds as if he would have made a pretty good Nazi. Even from a strictly military perspective, this guy leaves a lot to be desired as a leader, egging his subordinates on to hold and express contempt for a lot of their officers. I am a retired Marine, and that ain't how it's done, and being hell on wheels in combat doesn't excuse building his own little cult of personality.
This one may appeal to the wannabes with lifetime subscriptions to Soldier of Fortune, but to this Marine, it leaves an ugly aftertaste. I wish I hadn't bought this book.(less)
Just okay. This book is pretty basic and limited and it's a bit dated now, having been published in 1999; and based on my experience working with adol...moreJust okay. This book is pretty basic and limited and it's a bit dated now, having been published in 1999; and based on my experience working with adolescent gang members in a social services program and with adult inmates in two prisons, I see some major gaps in the information presented. The biggest is the linkage between prison gangs and street gangs, which are often so tight that for practical purposes there's no separation. The second is in the author's coverage of white gangs - he paints a fairly good picture of skinhead gangs, but completely omits the biker gangs and their ties to the white supremacist gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, which are often the most dangerous gangs around due to their propensity for extreme violence. Finally, he merely skims over the involvement of gangs in organized crime - the drug trade, home invasion robberies, prostitution, and protection rackets, for example. All in all, the author could have done a lot more with this topic.(less)
Excellent! I wish every high school student in America would read this book - but that would make life a lot harder for legions of politicians, huckst...moreExcellent! I wish every high school student in America would read this book - but that would make life a lot harder for legions of politicians, hucksters, and scam artists. I believe the single biggest failing of American education today is its focus on memorization and regurgitation, along with just enough basic arithmetic to work at WalMart, and its total neglect of critical thinking skills. If you have children or grandchildren in their teens or twenties, give them this book! Research has shown that young people embrace this kind of teaching when they are exposed to it in subjects like media literacy, framed in terms of enabling them to be less gullible and easily fooled by people trying to manipulate them.(less)
An authoritative, well-organized study of the subject. The author is a retired Canadian special forces soldier himself and the author of The Sharp End...moreAn authoritative, well-organized study of the subject. The author is a retired Canadian special forces soldier himself and the author of The Sharp End (1997), a memoir of his own service in the Canadian army and as a UN peacekeeper. In Fortune's Warriors, he explores the various parts of the field ranging from private soldiers working as bodyguards to dignitaries through private security consulting and contracting all the way to out-and-out mercenary service. This is free of the macho tone that saturates so many books on this topic; Mr. Davis' narration is calm, reflective, and balanced, acknowledging different perspectives on the morality, efficacy, and place in commerce and politics of the actions of private men and women at arms. In the final part of the book he examines the (at the time of its writing) future of private military service, hazards some thoughts as to what might lie ahead, and offers a proposal for an international system to regulate the private military industry through the UN which is both carefully thought through and at times the most clearly heartfelt part of the book. Unfortunately, this book was written and published in 2000, before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the following year. In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have followed in the wake of that horrifying day's events, the roles and actions of private military companies (PMCs) have gone far beyond anything that had been seen for centuries, and it would be good to have his thoughts on how they've unfolded. Judging by the contempt he expresses here for those who are less than professional in either skills or conduct, especially those who commit crimes against civilian populations, he would probably detest loose-cannon groups and individuals like Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe, apparently to protect the guilty.) For anyone who wants a comprehensive understanding of the state of war and global politics today, this book should be on your reading list. (less)
Outstanding! This is one of the best books I've found yet on this subject. The author doesn't take the caustic tone of some of his peers, but in a cal...moreOutstanding! This is one of the best books I've found yet on this subject. The author doesn't take the caustic tone of some of his peers, but in a calm, pleasant but firm way shreds the arguments offered by creationists, intelligent design "scientists", and others arguing that Christian doctrine, and by extension that of other religions, is logically coherent or has any evidence or science to support it.
It's ironic - call it projection - that those spokespersons for religion always characterize themselves as honest, loving, kind, and humble, and assign the opposite traits to those taking a secular stance, while even a brief examination of their behavior shows that the typical fundamentalist or evangelical uses slippery arguments and outright lies (as in their frequent assertion that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, when the Founders went to great pains to make it clear that it was not) to advance his/her faith, and is intolerant, hateful and vindictive toward all with different beliefs, and do all this with a breathtaking level of arrogant assumption that they're right and everyone else is wrong. At the same time, although some fall short, the best scientists and nonreligious philosophers are open-minded, scrupulously honest, and humbly open to the possibility that they may have to revise their views based on new evidence.(less)