It's David McCollough so what else needs to be said?
It's always been my contention that the United States of America is the result of a series of MiraIt's David McCollough so what else needs to be said?
It's always been my contention that the United States of America is the result of a series of Miracles. Go through the history of the country and seemingly inconceivable events commonly occur to save the nation. This is certainly evident in "1776" which covers the campaigns of George Washington and the Continental Army from the great victory at siege of Boston through the disasters which lost New York to the amazing Battle of Trenton; from late 1775 to early 1777. During this period Washington, in a display of truly remarkable leadership, somehow managed to keep the army intact against all odds. McCollough tells the whole story using first person accounts from soldiers and citizens of both sides putting the reader on the ground in each situation.
This is one of those books that makes you proud you are an American. Read it and have your children read it; it is that kind of book. ...more
I have spent a lot of time reading non-fiction books about historical subjects. I tend to stay in one historical area for far too long. In light of thI have spent a lot of time reading non-fiction books about historical subjects. I tend to stay in one historical area for far too long. In light of this, I decided to fill in the gaps, choosing books to read concerning subjects I know little about. I've read a couple of hundred books about World War II, for instance, but I had never read a book about the Korean War. This oversight was corrected when a friend purchased for me "The Coldest Winter" by David Halberstam. I've read Halberstam before, he always put you right in the middle of the action and knew it would be a good read going in. My eyes were certainly opened concerning the Korean War. I had never been a fan of Douglas MacArthur, in my opinion one of the most overrated generals ever to wear the army uniform. The book opens with the Chinese attack across the Yalu River against American and Republic of Korea forces at Unsan. The ROK's disintegrated but the Americans fought hard and held on as long as they could. It is a little known battle but Halberstam's riveting account puts the reader right in the action. After covering the battle, the Halberstam takes the reader back to the beginning, giving all the history which brought on a war between the US and China. He gives the political reasons why Truman thought it important to involve the US in a civil war in the middle of Asia, the reckless incompetence of Douglas MacArthur and his chief toady, Ned Almond, the determination of Matt Ridgway who replaced MacArthur and save the American effort which was falling apart. Halberstam does not neglect the little guys, the grunts on the line who lived day to day as best they could allowing the nation of South Korea to exist to this day. They were heroes and are well covered in the book. I would suggest that anyone interested in the Korean War would also enjoy Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" involving the politics which led John Kennedy to go to war in Vietnam. I would consider them Vol. I and Vol. II of post-war US history and both are excellent. ...more
I liked "1919." It is a good book of history explaining the ins and outs of the Paris peace conference at the end of The Great War, World War One. TheI liked "1919." It is a good book of history explaining the ins and outs of the Paris peace conference at the end of The Great War, World War One. The peace treaty effort was led by the "Big Four:" Woodrow Wilson, president of the U.S., Loyd George, prime minister of Britain, Georges Clemenceau, the prime minister of France and Vittorio Orlando, prime minister of Italy. Each of these men, fairly petty politicians in their own right, acted as gods looking down on the world and determining the borders for nations around the world. Each had a different motivation for his point of view. Clemenceau wanted protection against further German aggression, George waned to bolster the British empire, Italy wanted Turkish land and an African empire and Wilson wanted the League of nations.
The result was predictable as the world was divided, borders were drawn guaranteeing turmoil and countries and people were wronged. The decisions made led to turmoil in the world which has lasted to this day, such as in the Baltic countries or the Middle East.
Totally naive in the art of international relations, Woodrow Wilson, before even arriving at the negotiations, released a bull into the China shop by issuing his Fourteen Points, a list of ideals he expected the negotiators to adhere to and which he had to read at one point because he could not remember them. One of the points, the right of self-determination, promised oppressed people of the world the opportunity to form their own nations an unrealistic promise he would not keep. This was particularly tragic to the people of Armenia, the Kurdish people and others who have been the object of genocide and are still fighting for self-determination nearly a hundred years later.
The book is a little dry in the first chapters as the negotiations are detailed and complex but well defined (negotiations are boring by nature and reading about them just as boring). Then the book becomes more current as each country, area and people are dealt with by the Big Four. What happened to each, why it happened and the effects, many of which continue to this day, is well covered and quite compelling. This is the kind of book that digs into the facts and tells history the way it actually happened. ...more
I have always been a fan of Barbara Tuchman. If you want to read an excellent book on the American Revolution, she has provided us with "The First SalI have always been a fan of Barbara Tuchman. If you want to read an excellent book on the American Revolution, she has provided us with "The First Salute" which might be one of the best books on that subject. Her other books are all equally excellent. I have lately been reading the few of her books that I've not perused up to his point. One such is "The March of Folly" which is basically about how a government can pursue and objective against it's own self-interest.
"To qualify as folly" according to Tuchman, "the policy adopted must meet three criteria:
1. It must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. 2. A feasible alternate course of action must have been available. 3. The policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime."
"Folly" covers the original governmental folly, the Trojan War, plus three classic examples of folly: the misbehavior (putting it mildly) of the six Catholic Popes which brought about the Reformation, the loss of America to the British Empire in the American Revolutionary War and American involvement in Vietnam. In each case she covers the original involvement, how it progressed in face of alternative choices and how, when the situation started to go very badly, the government in each circumstance failed to see the folly and doubled down bringing about disaster.
I particularly was looking forward to Tuchman's handling of Vietnam and I wasn't disappointed. Tuchman cleared Eisenhower of any complicity in the folly as he avoided the trap of sending in troops when the clarion call was sounded to save Viet Nam from Communism. She credits fully John F. Kennedy, as the originator of the folly, for sending in the first combat troops. She cites Kennedy as wanting to withdraw but not until 1965, after his reelection fight (funny how it seems that no president wants to save the lives of the troops until after their reelection, FDR did the same thing in wanting US troops committed somewhere in 1943 BEFORE the election - whether they were slaughtered or not mattered not). She also credits Lyndon Johnson with the escalation and greatest degree of folly from any of the US presidents.
There are two points that I would disagree with. First, Tuchman blames the original US involvement on John Foster Dulles for the pressure he applied originally to force the US into Viet Nam. This is Tuchman's point of view and she is free to hold it. However, Blame must always default to the Chief Executive Officer, after all, Eisenhower resisted the same pressure when Kennedy and Johnston did not. The other point is, something that was not known in 1984, when "Folly" was published, that Tet was a huge American victory. North Viet Nam got cocky and decided to place all of their assets on one throw of the dice. It ended with the North Vietnamese army crippled and the Viet Cong wiped out. When the offensive failed, as the NVA commanding General Vo Nguyen Giap later admitted, the high command was going to recommend treating with the Americans as they had shot their bolt but then American public opinion decided that the Tet Offensive had been a tremendous American defeat. Tuchman mentions Walter Cronkite standing in a Vietnamese street and broadcasting that America could no longer win the war as the deciding factor and it was. Tuchman faults Nixon for continuing the folly long after he promised to end it.
Obviously, George Bush and Barrack Obama have never read "The March of Folly." Bush (as Lyndon Johnson) repeated the folly of Vietnam in Afghanistan and Obama (playing the part of Richard Nixon) promised to end US involvement immediately upon taking his oath of office (five years later the death toll there has been higher under Obama than it was under Bush). Those who don't learn the lesson of history are doomed to repeat and this has never been truer than Bush, Obama and Afghanistan.
A potential folly, Obamacare, looms as it meets the first two but not the third of Tuchman's criteria (The policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler) as it has not yet extended past the administration of its originator, Barrack Obama (however, it does meet the first two criteria.
This book should be required reading in every 8th grade social studies class (do they even still teach social studies in the US?) and required reading by every person running for office. I could not recommend "The March of Folly" more highly....more