From Parameters, Spring 2001, pp. 140-65.
Go to Spring issue Table of Contents.
Go to Book Review Index.
MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero. By Stanley Weintraub. New York: The Free Press, 2000. 385 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Brigadier General Harold Nelson, USA Ret., former US Army Chief of Military History and member of the US Army War College faculty for eight years.
Professor Stanley Weintraub's book is perfectly suited to the needs and tastes of the readers of this journal. He keeps a tight focus on the strategic dimensions of the war in Korea, and he breathes life into the events he describes by giving us clear pictures of the human dimension of leadership at the top. He assumes a level of knowledge about the war and its global context that would require the average American to do a bit of homework, but Parameters readers should be able to enjoy every aspect of his interpretation without reference to more basic studies. Those who seek tactical detail should look elsewhere--General of the Army Douglas MacArthur didn't get bogged down in such details, and this book is true to its object. It is neither a full-scale biography nor a comprehensive history of the Korean War. There are plenty of both--MacArthur didn't "fade away" and the war is far from "forgotten"--and this bookfills a significant need.
I first felt the need for a book such as this when we taught a "MacArthur Relief" case study at the Command and General Staff College back in the 1970s. Some wanted to see that effort as a course in civics, with emphasis on the theory of civilian control of the military. Those who took a broader view recognized that there was a lot more at work, including lack of consensus on the role of military force, perceptual differences where "communist" actions and intentions were concerned, and profound personality-driven conflicts. We wanted to learn how wars are shaped from the top down, with many forces at work. Professor Weintraub has presented those forces masterfully. He demonstrates that MacArthur had tremendous regard for airpower and amphibious operations yet stayed so distant from the details of operations that he did little to influence tactical outcomes. Weintraub teaches us that Mao was the communist to watch, even though most eyes turned toward Stalin in 1950, and he helps us understand how anti-communist attitudes had distorted nearly everyone's views. He depicts the complex interaction of powerful personalities with tremendous mastery: Harry S. Truman and Douglas MacArthur aren't the only key players. Syngman Rhee played an interesting game. Matthew Ridgway was far more than a simple soldier--and the same could be said of Ned Almond. Dean Acheson was not just observing from the sidelines. All of these powerful players, and many others who shaped decisions and events, are depicted in sufficient detail so that we get a sense of the human dynamics.
I next felt the need for a book such as this when we taught case studies in senior leadership at the War College in the 1980s. MacArthur's "genius" was predictably discovered by enthusiastic students each year, and the Inchon operation was inevitably--and appropriately--cited as key supporting evidence. Professor Weintraub does a fine job laying out the importance of MacArthur's intractable commitment to that operation as the main reason it was tried. He spares no praise where praise is deserved. But he goes beyond Inchon, questioning MacArthur's insistence on subsequent amphibious operations against the east coast of the Korean peninsula--a decision that removed combat forces from the pursuit following the liberation of Seoul and weakened UN forces available in North Korea when the Chinese intervened. He also reminds us that MacArthur surrounded himself with "yes men," was terribly vain, and pushed the careers of undeserving subordinates--hardly the traits one would seek in an ideal senior leader.
I next needed this book when I was Chief of Military History for an Army Chief of Staff who was pledging "No more Task Force Smiths." I could dig out the necessary facts and figures on the undermanning and lax training of the Occupation Forces in Japan from James Schnabel's Policy and Direction: The First Year. But that official history put most of the blame on Washington--both the politicians and the Pentagon generals. Weintraub reminds us how much MacArthur was to blame, not only with his hands-off approach to day-to-day issues related to readiness, but in the bluff and bluster he put into his briefings when men such as Army Chief of Staff General Joseph Lawton Collins came to visit his command. Schnabel emphasizes the optimistic reports Collins filed when he returned to Washington. Weintraub reminds us that Collins had been a major when MacArthur was Army Chief of Staff, and that General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, ostensibly MacArthur's boss as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been promoted to lieutenant colonel during those years. He also reminds us that MacArthur "never materialized at field exercises, where pampered and poorly trained garrison soldiers could not figure out how to erect tents, break down a rifle, assemble chow wagons, or maintain themselves in any way without indigenous assistance." Thank God the Army wasn't saddled with any superannuated five-star generals unwilling to be team players when we were saying "No more Task Force Smiths."
There are a few areas where some soldiers might disagree with Professor Weintraub's interpretations. He makes much of the fact that MacArthur maintained his headquarters in Tokyo, flew to Korea infrequently, and seldom ventured far from the airfield on those trips. Given Washington's interest in military events in the Far East and the nature of communications capabilities at the time, we might see parallels between MacArthur's stay in Tokyo and Eisenhower's stay in England after D-Day. In both cases, the dialog with higher headquarters and uncertain conditions in a geographically limited theater kept the commander bound to his established headquarters longer than he would have liked. The difference is that Eisenhower was actually engaging in dialog, while MacArthur ignored the Joint Chiefs of Staff whenever it suited him and filtered the information going forward from his headquarters. I think the problems with MacArthur's headquarters were more a function of objectivity than of positioning. I doubt that the war would have gone any better had he moved to Seoul, and I fear that he would have had yet another excuse for ignoring Washington.
Professor Weintraub makes a pretty good case for the argument that Major General Edward M. "Ned" Almond's X Corps was kept separate from Lieutenant General Walton H. "Johnny" Walker's Eighth US Army in order to justify promotion for Almond while depriving forces to Walker--a general disliked by MacArthur. That may be the whole story, but I think MacArthur actually believed he could handle any intervention the Chinese and Russians might thrust into Korea. He counted on air supremacy to allow his forces to reduce the communists by attrition, and he seemed to believe that UN ground forces could handle the survivors. Until the Chinese struck with overwhelming blows, he was preparing to shift to stabilization operations in Korea, using X Corps for that task while Eighth Army returned to Japan to resume occupation duties and prepare for other contingencies. If we fault MacArthur for intelligence failure, we should recognize the consequences of that failure among the "might have beens."
But these are minor criticisms. Make room for this book on your shelf and in your schedule. You will be glad you did.
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. By Herbert P. Bix. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. 800 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and a military correspondent.
In Tokyo on a gray November afternoon in 1971, Emperor Hirohito of Japan sat before foreign correspondents in the splendor of an audience room in the Fukiage Palace and defended his role as a constitutional monarch throughout his reign. Noting that his grandfather, the Emperor Meiji, had established a constitutional monarchy in the late 19th century, Emperor Hirohito asserted, "I acted that way during wartime and at all other times."
When an American correspondent rose from the semicircle facing the emperor to ask whether His Majesty had not stepped out of that constitutional role in deciding to end Japan's fighting in World War II, the emperor caught the thrust of the question as it was translated into Japanese. The usually shy monarch sat bolt upright and looked directly into the eyes of the questioner, his body language exclaiming, "Yes, there's something I want to say about that."
In this first ever press conference for foreign correspondents, the emperor reached back to 26 February 1936, when young army officers rebelled against the government. "Some of the leaders of the government were missing," he said. "Therefore, I had to take decisive action on my own." Turning to August 1945, when Japan's political and military leaders were split over whether to accept an Allied demand to surrender, the emperor said, "Prime Minister [Kantaro] Suzuki left everything to my discretion, so I had to make a decision."
Even there, however, the emperor sought to slip back into his constitutional role, adding, "But the decision was taken on the responsibility of Prime Minister Suzuki."
Herbert Bix, the author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, flatly rejects the contention that Hirohito was merely a figurehead. Bix asserts that from Hirohito's ascension to the throne in 1926 to Japan's surrender in 1945, "He was at the center of his nation's political, military, and spiritual life in the broadest and deepest sense, exerting authority in ways that proved disastrous for his people and those of the countries they invaded." Contrary to the emperor's avowal, Bix insists that almost everything Hirohito did in those years "departed from the precedent set by his grandfather, the Meiji emperor." In particular, he made critical decisions that led Japan into war with the United States and Britain. "Having made his choice," Bix asserts, "Hirohito dedicated himself totally to presiding over and guiding the war to victory at all costs."
This account by Bix, a historian at Harvard and Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, stands in marked contrast to a widely accepted view of Japan's emperor. Edwin O. Reischauer, the Harvard don and onetime American ambassador to Japan, wrote, "All power stemmed from the emperor, but he exercised no power." Hugh Borton, a respected historian, thought so little of the emperor's role that he was barely mentioned in Borton's book, Japan's Modern Century. Frank Gibney, a journalist with five decades of experience in Japan, wrote last year: "There is no doubt that Hirohito the man wanted peace. There is equally no doubt that this shy, reclusive family man, who could be goaded to act decisively only in extremis, lacked the courage to enforce his wishes." Sam Jameson, then of the Los Angeles Times and perhaps the most meticulous foreign correspondent in Japan in the postwar years, wrote in his 1989 obituary of Hirohito that "neither he, nor any of the 123 rulers . . . who preceded him, had really exercised the power that seemingly had been given them."
Bix's thesis is not new, even if he claims that some of his sources are original. David Bergamini, a journalist with Life magazine, placed Hirohito at the core of a cabal in his 1971 work Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. Edward Behr of Newsweek wrote in 1989 in Hirohito: Behind the Myth that the emperor was a "shrewd and skillful manipulator" who "was capable of decisive and ruthless action." A Japanese scholar, Daikichi Irokawa, wrote a scathing attack on the emperor in 1995, The Age of Hirohito.
This book by Bix suffers from questionable scholarship. There is no bibliography. Many of the extensive footnotes are given in romanized Japanese, rendering them useless to anyone who doesn't read Japanese. Factual errors are sprinkled through the text. To cite but one, he says Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was "designated to lead the attack" on Pearl Harbor; the admiral was in Japan when the surprise raid was launched.
Some of the author's historical judgments are also dubious. He underplays the role of Admiral Yamamoto, who sought to prevent the war but was overruled, mainly by army generals, and whose death at the hands of the Americans stunned Japan. Bix slights the motives of Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, who hated the United States because he had been badly treated while living in America as a boy. In a footnote, Bix contends that the Soviet Union "did most of the fighting against Nazi Germany" in World War II, a conclusion not likely to sit well with the American, British, and Canadian soldiers who landed at Normandy and fought to the Elbe.
Bix acknowledges that many of his conclusions lack documentary evidence--e.g., Hirohito "left behind no abundance of texts with his signature on them." His text is peppered with phrases such as "little is known," "difficult to assess," and "cannot be proven." This is not entirely the author's fault, as many documents were destroyed between Japan's surrender on 15 August 1945 and the arrival of the Occupation's advance party on 28 August. Consequently, Bix has contrived a case built on shaky circumstantial evidence.
In the end, this is an unconvincing book.
Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present. By Linda Grant De Pauw. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. 432 pages. $17.95 (paper). Reviewed by Dr. Lani Kass, Professor of Military Strategy and Operations, National War College, National Defense University, and a former major in the Israeli air force.
Battle Cries and Lullabies is an enticing volume--well-written, well-researched, and nicely presented. Its appealing title is neatly reinforced by a cover photo depicting a rifle-toting Afghani militia woman standing next to another woman, this one fully covered in the Taliban-approved chador, carrying a toddler in her arms. Its jacket touts the book as a "groundbreaking work, which covers thousands of years and spans the globe" to "demonstrate that warfare has always and everywhere involved women" in a variety of roles: "as victims and warriors; as nurses, spies, sex workers, and wives and mothers of soldiers; as warrior queens leading armies into battle, and as baggage carriers marching in the rear." The bibliography is impressive, citing more than 500 works. The book is further enriched by the author's excellent storytelling skills and breezy writing style, as well as by an interesting array of historical and contemporary pictorial illustrations. With some exceptions, such as the all-too-frequent use of the term "role conflation," the book is mercifully free of obscure terminology and academic jargon. Thus, it is eminently readable.
The book's stated aim is clear and seemingly noncontroversial, to provide the "historical context for current public policy debates over the roles of women in the military." In a further promise of objective analysis, Professor De Pauw draws a sharp distinction between history, with its purpose of discovering the truth, and public policy, wherein facts are used to support advocacy--that is, "not for illumination but as ammunition." Placing her work squarely in the former category, she notes: "Whether one applauds or deplores their presence and their actions, women have always been a part of war. To ignore this fact grossly distorts our understanding of human history." On this basis, she concludes--correctly, in this reviewer's opinion--that "describing what people have done in the past does not dictate any public policy conclusions for the present." Nor, one might add, does the past provide clear prescriptions for the future.
For all its initial appeal and promise, however, this book is, ultimately, disappointing. It belongs in the increasingly popular genre of social history which departs from the traditional historiographical focus on leaders and seminal events to highlight the perspective of the so-called common person--the object rather than the shaper of history. This is not the place to debate the merits of an academic discipline premised on the notion that a more accurate and more realistic insight can be gained from recounting disparate episodes, diverse firsthand experiences, and selective historical tidbits than could be derived from a more traditional analysis of official documents or a methodical assessment of the causes and consequences of historic events. Likewise, it is not particularly useful to debate whether "women's military studies" should be construed as a separate and distinct area of scholarship (although it is worth noting that the validity of this underlying premise is undercut by Professor De Pauw's own assertion that "throughout the centuries one of the most striking characteristics of women in combat and combat support roles is that they perform them not as women but as human beings"). Instead, the work needs to be evaluated for what it aims to be, namely, a serious scholarly endeavor designed to "find the women in war" and place them, "in all their diversity, in the context of the history of war."
Battle Cries and Lullabies succeeds in the former task--that is, finding the women in war. Despite the assertion that women have been deliberately "written out of history" (in order to provide men with an exclusive claim to the title of "warrior as a male identity corresponding to the female identity of mother"), the author marshals compelling evidence--from 6500 B.C. to the present--to prove otherwise. Indeed, the weight of evidence, including the 527 works cited in the bibliography, is such that the author's accusation of "collective amnesia" and deliberate exclusion of women from the historic record rings hollow.
Starting with the clearly articulated thesis that "women have always and everywhere been inextricably involved in war," Professor De Pauw lays out four categories into which women's military roles can be grouped: "victim and instigator, which are the classic roles for women in the drama of war"; "combat support roles performed by civilian camp followers"; "virago" which "involves women performing acts requiring `male' boldness and daring without challenging gender construction"; and, last but not least, "the single androgynous warrior role in which the woman assuming it becomes `a man among men' whether she changes clothing and other gender markers or not." Given this careful if somewhat pedantic differentiation, preceded, as it is, by equally didactic definitions of "what is a woman?" (including a lengthy discourse on "whores and dykes") one might expect the author to trace the evolution of these roles chronologically or thematically throughout the book. That, however, is not the case. Instead, the rich historical tapestry is woven almost casually, without the benefit of an overarching framework or systematic analysis to support the often-sweeping generalizations, broad conclusions, and bold assertions. Thus, the book falls short in accomplishing its second task, that of setting the context of the history of war in which women should be placed.
The book is at its best in the first four chapters, exploring the roles of women in prehistory, classical warfare, European warfare, and the Age of Revolution. The story is lucid and fast-paced, the evidence well presented and cogently argued. Surprisingly, as the narrative progresses toward such thoroughly documented historic junctures as World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and other Cold War conflicts, the quality dips, the focus becomes less sharp, and the depictions grow ever more tangential. Worse, the contextual settings in each of these more contemporary chapters are breathtakingly shallow. For example, World War II is introduced as follows: "World War II began with the German blitzkrieg, or lightning war, launched by Adolf Hitler. One of history's most powerfully charismatic leaders, Hitler embraced a Nazi philosophy that exalted war as ennobling. The doctrine of `compulsive masculinity' was carried to a new extreme and found receptive listeners in the nation that had lost, and was therefore blamed for, the horror of World War I."
Throughout, scant attention is given to the critical political, societal, economic, and technological factors shaping the evolution of warfare--and thus, presumably, the roles of women in war. The actual impact of such monumental upheavals as the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, communism, and nationalism on war and on women in war receives but a cursory treatment. Indeed, the work's greatest shortcoming is the paucity of clearly drawn linkages and inferences. In their absence, the lines between causes and effects--as well as the reciprocal dynamics between actual episodes and the context within which they occurred--are blurred. Consequently, the fundamental "how" and "why" questions raised by the well-textured narrative remain unanswered.
Any attempt to explore thousands of years of human history in 300 pages of text involves an unavoidable tradeoff between depth and coverage. It is also fraught with the risks of selective reporting, uneven analysis, and oversimplified inquiry. Battle Cries and Lullabies is deliberately and unabashedly selective. Regrettably, the underlying rationales are never fully explained or even made explicit. Whether this, by itself, crosses the line between history and public advocacy is, of course, a different matter altogether.
A clearly articulated and consistently applied analytical framework would have helped explain why certain episodes are selected while others are ignored or glossed over. Absent such a systematic approach, one is left to wonder why the author leads her readers through a lengthy search for the elusive Amazons, or dedicates so much attention to such relatively marginal issues as military prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases, while according only three pages to partisan warfare--especially after proclaiming the latter area to be "of particular interest since [it] offered the most visible combatant roles for women."
The book is further marred by wholesale generalizations and unsupported conclusions. For example, in the segment titled "Whores and Dykes," Professor De Pauw asserts that "as applied to military women in recent years, `whore' is an epithet used to describe any woman who does or might have the propensity to sleep with men, and `dyke' is the epithet that covers all the rest. The latter term also stretches to cover any woman who is not stereotypically feminine." In an equally sweeping--and no less jarring--generalization, the author claims that "contemporary conservative criticism of women with children serving in the military . . . carries the suggestion that these women are unwed mothers; that is, they are fornicators and prostitutes."
On a much loftier plane, the author concludes in the last chapter--titled "Warriors for a New Millennium"--that "the threats to world security already upon us in the closing years of the twentieth century are not susceptible of military solutions." Whether that might be the case is, of course, a matter of conjecture and legitimate debate. The point is that there is little in the book itself to support a sweeping judgment on either side of the argument. Nonetheless, Professor De Pauw concludes that this new security environment calls for a kinder, gentler, more "androgynous" military. While "it remains to be seen whether established military organizations have the will to alter their traditional cultures rapidly enough to take up the role of the peaceful warrior," the author leaves little doubt that she sees such a transformation as both necessary and beneficial, not the least because it would make "women more conspicuous in the ranks and in leadership roles than ever before in history." The implications of such a conversion for US security and global stability--and its effect on the men and women who believe that their mission is to fight and win the nation's wars--is left for the reader to ponder.
Educating the U.S. Army: Arthur L. Wagner and Reform, 1875-1905. By T. R. Brereton. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. 224 pages. $45.00. Reviewed by Dr. William T. Johnsen, Associate Dean for Academic Policy, US Army War College.
The American military education system, particularly that of the US Army, is the envy of many militaries around the globe. The historical roots of that system can be traced to Brigadier General Arthur L. Wagner, officer, educator, and reformer at the turn of the 20th century. While Wagner played a vital role in nurturing the nascent professionalism of the US Army, he is little known beyond a small circle of historians who specialize in professional military education or the evolution of the US Army.
Historian T. R. Brereton seeks to remove Wagner from relative obscurity and establish his place in US military history. In this compact biography, Brereton traces the professional life of the Army's foremost tactician, reformer, and educator of his era from his graduation from West Point in 1875 to his untimely death in 1905. Equally important, using Wagner as a vehicle, Brereton chronicles the professional development of the Army in this critical period, especially the genesis of the Army's modern tactics and education system.
Brereton outlines Wagner's signal, oftentimes single-handed, contributions to the development and codification of tactical doctrine as the Army transformed itself from a post-Indian War constabulary to a force capable of waging a major war. Equally important, Wagner dedicated himself to developing an American way of war, and sought to wean the US Army from reliance on European tactics.
In addition to his prodigious efforts at codifying doctrine, Wagner played a major role in the early development of the Leavenworth Schools and the transformation of those schools from "the Kindergarten" to the progenitor of today's modern staff college system. Brereton details Wagner's prolonged battle against those in the "Old Army" who believed that experience alone (often gained at great cost in blood) was the only effective method of developing Army leaders. Wagner instead argued that education, the study of history, and intellectual development were better vehicles for preparing future leaders for the battlefield. Brereton also outlines Wagner's contributions in the founding of the US Army War College, although his influence was truncated prematurely by his death.
Brereton's narrative is clear and crisp, and he aptly portrays Wagner within the context of his time--whether inside the Army or as part of the Progressive Era then sweeping the United States. This is a balanced account. While the author obviously admires his subject, he does not indulge in hagiography, nor is he afraid to reveal Wagner's shortcomings. Brereton stakes no outright claims for Wagner's legacy, but by the end of the account the reader cannot fail to conclude that Wagner's influence shaped not only "his Army" but also the US Army that fought in World War I.
Why should an Army (or other service) officer read this book? Brereton's biography fills a much-needed gap in the historiography of the evolution of the US Army. Educating the U.S. Army complements Tim Nenninger's The Leavenworth Schools and the Old Army, Carol Reardon's Soldiers and Scholars, and Allan Millett's The General: Robert L. Bullard and Officership in the U.S. Army 1881-1925. Indeed, Brereton's book contributes immeasurably to our understanding of the process of change in this key period for the US Army.
While historical interest and clear exposition justify purchasing the book, this is history that speaks to today and tomorrow. Discerning officers and military educators can draw significant insights from Brereton's narrative. For example, a clear message is that today, as in Wagner's era, the military needs officers possessing not only intellectual capacity but also the ability to look from new perspectives and develop innovative solutions to complex problems. They also need to put their thoughts into writing and engage in the professional debates that frequently are the engine of reform. Today's Army, like its predecessor at the turn of the 20th century, needs to underwrite these debates and encourage a variety of viewpoints--even, perhaps especially, those that question existing assumptions or that do not "speak in one voice." Such discussions are vital during times of transformation.
Brereton's work also underscores the importance of the schoolhouse in developing and nurturing ideas and as a key venue for the debates that are necessary to transform the Army. Those inside the schoolhouse, whether faculty or students, can draw insights as well: the need to focus curriculum on critical thinking--on how to think, not what to think; the importance of students carrying out independent research projects; and the need to strike an appropriate balance between academic and military functions.
In Educating the U.S. Army, T. R. Brereton admirably performs the twin service of the historian. The biography stakes out Wagner's historical niche--whether in terms of the development of tactics, strategic thinking, or professional military education. Second, Brereton provides food for thought as today's Army transforms itself for the future.
Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict. By William Shawcross. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. 413 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Colonel George F. Oliver, Director of the US Army Peacekeeping Institute, and military advisor to the US Ambassador to the United Nations during many of the crises described in this book.
At the close of the 1990s, the United Nations was taking on ever-increasing roles. Deliver Us From Evil clearly outlines how this came about. Using the failures in Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda, the challenges of the UN's inspection mission in Iraq, and the successes in Cambodia and East Timor, William Shawcross depicts how the UN progressed into an organization that can manage the myriad tasks associated with rebuilding a nation. Some will argue that the UN is not an efficient organization, but this excellent book helps one understand the political nature of the organization and proves that, in many cases, it is the only organization that can do this important work. As this new century unfolds, the UN's utility, stature, and capability will only increase.
The end of the Cold War brought on new challenges and new solutions. As the world exited the 20th century, ethnic hatred, ethnic cleansing, genocide, religious conflicts, and power-hungry warlords replaced the East-West tensions. Added to this was a growth in democracy brought about by the end of colonialism. The transition was not and is not easy. There seems to be no end to these conflicts, yet the real challenge is how to solve them. Some would say ignore them, be an isolationist, while others advocate intervention. Emerging through this melee of global crises are international organizations that must deal with these new threats and global problems. Workable solutions must be found, and found quickly, before more people die; and as scenes of these disasters enter our living rooms, they evoke a cry for immediate intervention. First and foremost among the solution-finders is the United Nations. Shawcross says that the UN is the organization of the future, but its ability to handle these tasks is at the mercy of its most powerful member nations.
Today the United Nations is performing the role envisioned by the drafters of the UN Charter, but not without severe challenges. In 1946, the global community came together to create an organization that could deal with transnational crises so that atrocities like those committed in World War II would never happen again. No sooner had the UN been created, however, than it fell prey to East-West tensions. No solutions could be found that didn't raise the threat of veto by one of the five members of the Security Council. Consequently, the UN was virtually impotent until the Berlin Wall fell. As the wall crumbled, so too did the barriers that had prevented the United Nations from carrying out its intended purpose.
Shawcross provides a vivid and accurate portrayal of the "new generation" of crises facing the international community and the challenges facing the United Nations specifically. His stature as a prominent British author and journalist has given Shawcross broad access to global policymakers, especially the UN Secretary General. It is this access, combined with Shawcross's willingness to face dangerous and difficult situations, that provided the knowledge and insight for this moving and compelling book.
The author describes both the successes and the failures of the UN during the 1990s as it tried be all things to all nations. Many people perceive the UN as an intermediary organization working with and among nations, but this work clearly shows that the UN is a political body comprised of many nations. The UN's successes and failures are the results of nations coming together in attempts to deal with some extraordinarily challenging problems. Shawcross provides an in-depth look at most of the complex crises the UN faced in the past decade: Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Angola, Iraq, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Kosovo, and East Timor. His view of the "realpolitik" issues facing global leaders is eye-opening. Many Americans, particularly those serving in the US military, seem to have a negative opinion of the United Nations. After reading this book, you will view the United Nations differently. The UN faces challenges unlike those of any other international organization.
Shawcross is not complimentary of US policies, but his opinions are well founded and in most cases based on firsthand experience. Having personally been involved in many of the crises he describes, I found his opinions to be defensible and based on fact. His accounts of the political issues surrounding the crises in Sierra Leone, the Congo, and East Timor are the best I have read. After traveling with Kofi Annan on many trips, Shawcross may be overenamored of the attributes of the current Secretary General and overly critical of Boutros Boutros Ghali. But I tend to agree with Shawcross that Kofi Annan is the right person in the right place at the right time.
For those who want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations, this book is a must.
My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II. By Gabriel Temkin. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1998. 261 Pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Colonel Lawrence G. Kelley, USMC Ret., a former Russian Foreign Area Officer with extensive experience in the former Soviet Union and East Germany.
Fifty-five years ago the Red Army--at the staggering cost of 350 thousand killed--took Berlin, cleared Hitler's Reichskanzlei, unfurled a Soviet flag over the Reichstag, and jointly with the other Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich from OKW Chief Wilhelm Keitel in Karlshorst. In 2000 Israel officially declared Victory Day a national holiday. But unlike most states in the more political than geographic "West," that country will mark the occasion on 9 May, a day after our V-E Day. The difference is not arbitrary: 9 May is the day when, owing to the time difference between Berlin and Moscow, the Soviet Union celebrated--and the states of the former Soviet Union continue to celebrate--the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Demographic imperatives in Israel, where Soviet émigrés now make up a quarter of the populace, certainly influenced the decision, but it would be wrong to understand the government's move in terms of political expediency alone. To most former East European Jews who suffered through the wanton terror and destruction of World War II, the Red Army is and will forever remain the savior of the Jewish nation. Neither the memory of pre-revolutionary pogroms nor widespread anti-Semitism in the USSR--a resilient feature of life in its successor states as well--can dim the pride which Jewish frontoviki feel in the victory of that most powerful of Russian institutions during the most salient and viscerally existential crusade of their lifetimes.
My Just War is the eminently readable wartime memoir of Gabriel Temkin, a frontovik and, like many in his generation, the walking embodiment of mid-20th-century East European history. A Polish Jew born in 1921, he fled German-occupied Lodz in 1939 for the relative security of the USSR, experienced firsthand the onslaught of the Wehrmacht in Belorussia, served in a Soviet labor battalion, endured devastating Hungarian captivity, escaped and evaded behind the lines west of Stalingrad, and for two years (1943-45) fought the Germans and their Axis allies in a Red Army rifle regiment, ending the war in Austria. Temkin's retrospective, written from the vantage point of North America five decades after the fact, represents not a study, but a story with informed digressions. It provides a snail's-eye view of life in the ranks during some of the Red Army's proudest, most successful, and most costly moments. Reading Temkin's work reveals insights and attachments which most of us, reared in a secure, democratic society and without systematic victimization or pervasive angst, can appreciate only with imagination. For Temkin and many like him inside and outside the Soviet Union, the Red Army--and for that matter, the Communist Party, however fundamentally flawed--represented the last, best hope in a meager set of imperfect alternatives, and the only one that promised protection and a realistic chance of survival.
The Soviet Union's relationship with its Jewish citizens was always a troubled one. Jews comprised only one to two percent of the population in a country with more than 100 nationalities, but they made disproportionate contributions in virtually all the arts, sciences, medicine, and scholarship. Viewed more as a nationality than a religious grouping (few were observant in those years) they served the regime loyally, occupying prominent positions in the Party, the armed forces, the security services, and elsewhere in government and industry, even in the Soviet atomic weapons program. The irony of the situation lay in the fact that even a Jew born and raised in Moscow or Kiev, speaking Russian as his native language, embracing Russian culture, and making unprecedented contributions to the country he considered his own, remained largely a scorned outsider and a target of suspicion. For his entire life, he would carry an internal passport marked with the nationality "Jew," rather than Russian or Ukrainian. And periodically the regime would persecute him for this forced identification, as Stalin did repeatedly. A Russian Jewish acquaintance, now a US citizen, captures the chagrin of his own non-acceptance with the tongue-in-cheek quip, "I can't win. In Russia, I was always `a Jew'; in the West, I will always be `a Russian'!"
Temkin did not fight alone; many stood with him. Although the book jacket terms him one of the few Polish Jews to see combat in the Red Army, some 420,000 to 450,000 Soviet Jews also served in the war. Of that number, around 150,000 were lost (by comparison, about 300,000 Americans in Tom Brokaw's entire "greatest generation" perished), but the alternative to fighting was far worse. The "war within a war" on the Eastern Front, behind whose lines Hitler systematically annihilated those pseudoscientifically branded as Untermenschen, left them little choice. What is more, many distinguished themselves in battle: 305 Soviet Jews became general officers, and 135 Heroes of the Soviet Union, representing 2.2 and 1.2 percent of the respective totals. Temkin himself received three decorations for valor. He endured gripping fear in the process, yet what he dreaded most was not death in battle, but capture and recognition as a Jew.
Time and distance have healed the author's psychological wounds, and his text is largely devoid of invective. The book unemotionally depicts the reality that Red Army rifle units experienced in the war, warts and all. Notwithstanding his pride in defeating Hitler, Temkin does not hesitate to fault Soviet commanders for their all too great willingness to sacrifice massive numbers of troops, throwing them untrained and, at times, unarmed into the meat grinder. He stoically describes the debilitating results of inadequate field hygiene and minimal medical care. He charges that despite major improvements, the Soviet supply system failed to function properly even near the end of the war and provides a glimpse of the Lend Lease jeeps, trucks, and Spam furnished by the Western Allies, which he and his compatriots treasured but which Soviet historians systematically omitted from official histories. Finally, he describes the nature of the courage and shared adversity that bonded Red Army soldiers together more tightly than at any other time in their lives. Russian-speakers will particularly appreciate Temkin's endless catalogue of colorful troop expressions, although rendered in nonstandard transliteration, an editorial deficiency.
While commemorating a major tank battle on 3 May 2000, Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, flanked by his Belorussian and Ukrainian counterparts, proclaimed triumph in the war against Nazi Germany to have been "a victory of the Slavic peoples." Reading My Just War will suggest why such jingoistic and politically motivated rhetoric succeeded in alienating all the rest.
Gulf War: The Complete History. By Thomas Houlahan. New London, Conn.: Schrenker Military Publishing, 1999. 471 pages. $21.00. Reviewed by Colonel Frank R. Hancock, Chairman of the Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations, US Army War College.
As we observe the tenth anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, there will inevitably be a great deal of renewed interest in the conflict. A good place to start for novices and for historians as well is with Thomas Houlahan's Gulf War: The Complete History. The author used extensive research--including interviews with more than 200 commanders, staff officers, and enlisted personnel--to weave an interesting and illuminating history of the conflict, focusing particularly on the ground campaign.
Mr. Houlahan divides his book into nine sections. The first is a short tutorial on the diplomatic and military background of the Iraqi invasion. The author reviews the history of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq's rationale for invading Kuwait, the initiatives of the Bush Administration to garner international and domestic support for its policies, and the initial coalition military response to the invasion.
The second section concerns the planning and execution of the air campaign. Here the author analyzes the strategic concepts behind the air campaign and discusses in detail the aerial platforms, weapons, and tactics that the coalition and Iraqi air forces used. Houlahan credits the air campaign for paving the way for the successful land campaign, but takes issue with the perception that the air campaign destroyed the bulk of the Iraqi army. To make this point he cites the number of armored vehicles destroyed by fixed-wing aircraft. Early CENTCOM estimates claimed that before G-Day, that number was 2,600. However, later analysis showed that only about 600 were actually destroyed. When the Allied ground forces attacked on G-Day, they found that most Iraqi armored or mechanized brigades had lost less than ten percent of their armored vehicles to air attack. The point Houlahan clearly makes is that despite overwhelming air superiority and near ideal conditions for air-to-ground attacks, only ten percent of the Iraqi armored vehicles were destroyed by fixed-wing air attack.
The primary emphasis of Houlahan's book, however, is an analysis of the coalition's land campaign. The author narrates the fighting by the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions, the US Army's Tiger Brigade, and the Arab coalition forces in Kuwait, and what the XVIII Airborne Corps and VII Corps accomplished in Iraq. The US divisions that are highlighted in separate chapters are the 3d Armored, 1st Armored, 1st Infantry, 24th Infantry, and the 101st Airborne (AASLT). The 1st British Armored Division and the French Daguet Division also receive separate chapters. The US 2d and 3d Armored Cavalry Regiments are also given prominent mention in the narrative.
In his chapters on the land campaign, Houlahan looks at combat through the eyes of the battalion, brigade, and division commanders and their staffs. He analyzes the major engagements of each of the coalition ground units and gives the reader some insights into the decisions made before and during the engagements. From the details of the ground battles it is evident that the fighting was more fierce and unpredictable than is the common perception of the war. Bravery, mischance, well-trained American units, poorly trained Iraqi units, superior coalition leadership, and superior technology are all part of the calculus that made up what appeared to the world as an easy 100-hour rout.
Houlahan describes in detail the weaponry, operational concepts, and leadership qualities that were involved in the land combat. The superiority of the M1A1 tank over the T-72, and the lethality of the AH-64 attack helicopter and MLRS, are detailed. In particular the author explains the physics of the tank battles. He shows that the pre-war comparisons of tanks were misleading because it was not the quantity of tanks but the quality of tanks that mattered. The simple fact was that the US M1A1 and British Challenger were superior in armor protection, night-vision capability, maximum effective range, and fire-control systems. The proof of this qualitative superiority is the fact that the US Army and Marine M1A1s, along with the British Challenger, destroyed slightly more than 900 Iraqi tanks by direct fire while losing two tanks. Houlahan bluntly comments, "Our equipment worked . . . theirs blew up. . . . Why were we surprised?"
The operational concept that drove the campaign--AirLand Battle doctrine--was developed by the US Army in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Houlahan says that this concept, which he describes as "Blitzgrinding," was an attempt to exploit the speed and lethality of air and ground power. The doctrine was offensive-minded in concept and designed to overcome the quantitative advantage of the Warsaw Pact. It exploited technological advances, providing increases in accuracy and lethality in our weapon systems, and counted on motivated and technically proficient American service members. Houlahan shows that by 1991 AirLand Battle doctrine had been perfected, and the US military had the equipment, leaders, and motivated and trained force to unleash it on the Iraqi army.
Three main points in this book have application for future US military forces. The first is that despite the accuracy and lethality of air-to-ground fire, the introduction of ground forces is still necessary to compel an enemy to capitulate. The ability of enemy ground forces to dig in, decoy, and deceive aerial forces makes ground units the final arbiter of engagements and campaigns. Second, it took the combination of valid doctrine, trained leaders and soldiers, and superior weapon systems to accomplish a quick and devastating victory. Trying to get by with high-tech weapons with poorly trained troops or a well-trained force with outmoded equipment will not lead to quick and decisive victories.
Finally, you don't know . . . what you don't know. In January 1990, the Cold War had ended and everyone expected a peace dividend with the New World Order. Eight months later we were deploying seven divisions to Saudi Arabia on our way to the biggest tank battles since World War II. As the US Army attempts to transform itself into a more deployable force, we must make sure that it remains capable of handling the "unexpected big one," as it did so well in the Gulf War.
Soldier and Warrior: French Attitudes toward the Army and War on the Eve of the First World War. By H. L. Wesseling. Trans. Arnold J. Pomerans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. 265 pages. $65.00. Reviewed by Dr. Douglas V. Johnson II (LTC, USA Ret.), a research professor with the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
I am delighted anytime anyone writes about our principal allies in the First World War. Aside from Colonel Bob Doughty's work on the French army, a gaping void remains in Americans' understanding of the French before, during, and after this conflict. That said, this work is unlikely to be popularly acclaimed or widely read, even though it has a good deal to tell us about changing French attitudes toward war and the social and political position of the army within French society. It is unlikely to be popular because of a fairly heavy academic style and, ironically, because it deals with the French. That notwithstanding, there is value in slugging through this work precisely because the issues confronting the American military establishment today are somewhat similar to those addressed here.
The loss of Alsace and Lorraine following the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War gave rise to a strong movement to recapture those areas, but the combination of the French army's miserable performance in that war and the passage of time gave fertile ground for pacifists to sow their contrary seeds. The result was a decline in respect for nationalism and consequently for the army within French society and the removal of nationalist teaching from the school system. This corruption of values caused alarm in other segments of French society and eventually engendered a reaction. The American parallel is a steady drumbeat of questioning the need for an army, an insidious movement toward a socialist pacifism that defines guns as inherently bad, and a growing view of the Army as reactionary. What is different in the case of the French is the degrees of change and reaction that took place. The concept of the army as the teacher of the nation, the keeper of essential values, was realized in major part through the return of nationalist teaching to the school system. Wesseling suggests that teaching stopped short of a militarism that dominated the political process, but it did lead to a militaristic attitude throughout the nation.
There is, in this story, another possible but unlikely parallel. As the wheel of French public opinion turned, there was a concerted attack upon rationalism and science. Americans are traditionally gadget-minded if not scientifically inclined. We possess a faith in technology that if somewhat overblown at times is nonetheless partly responsible for our economic and other successes. What occurred in France was a strange turn toward a form of irrationalism. Students of military history know well the portrayals of the cult of the offensive and its high priest Colonel Grandmaison. Wesseling is careful to explain the realities of Grandmaison's work, but does acknowledge the emphasis on use of words like "spirit" and "will" that allow for some misinterpretation.
Chapter 5, "The War: Image and Expectation," may well be worth the entire book as it offers a thorough review of who is writing what and what they are actually writing about war. It begins by noting that war was on the way to becoming an abstraction. While Europe enjoyed "peace" during the period 1870-1914, there was enough conflict in exotic distant lands to maintain a substantial level of hope for those wanting combat and enough to ensure a leaven of experience. The French successes in Africa and the Orient were enough to reawaken a positive interest in the army, although how much, Wesseling cautions, is not certain.
Wesseling concludes that his study is admittedly narrow in focus and examines attitudes through literature only, further noting that it is often second-rate writers who actually capture the popular imagination. He notes as well that the national and military revival connected with a religious revival (to Catholicism) and constituted "a single complex whose deepest roots lie in the rejection of modern society and its underlying rational and scientific inspiration." His final lines are from de Tocqueville, who, in noting French dualism, called France "the most brilliant and most dangerous nation in Europe and the one best designed to become in turn an object of admiration, of hatred, of pity, of terror, but never of indifference."
Operation Rollback: America's Secret War Behind the Iron Curtain. By Peter Grose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. 256 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Colonel Richard S. Friedman, USA Ret., who served in a variety of intelligence assignments in the Army and subsequently with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Early in 1946 the new American President, Harry S. Truman, became skeptical about the tenuous US wartime collaboration with Soviet Russia. In Moscow, Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, the multimillionaire who directed disbursement of American Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets during the war against Hitler became impatient with daily life under communism and the effort necessary to try to maintain cordial relations with Josef Stalin. The Ambassador sensed that he had worn out his welcome and late in January withdrew from his appointment and turned over the embassy to his deputy chief of mission, George F. Kennan.
Kennan had graduated from Princeton in 1925 and joined the Foreign Service, serving abroad almost continuously thereafter. Selected early in his career for training as a Soviet affairs specialist, he became a member of an exclusive group of Soviet experts in the Department of State.
In February 1946, shortly after Ambassador Harriman had departed, the State Department and Treasury sent two routine inquiries to the Moscow embassy asking for an "interpretative analysis" of recent Soviet statements about international financial institutions that could be used to develop US policy. The only unusual aspect of these inquiries at the time was that the officer responsible for the reply was George Kennan. He thought about the question for several days and then, on the eve of his 42d birthday, decided to seize the opening that had eluded him during years of bureaucratic drudgery. "Now, suddenly, my opinion was being asked," he said. At 9 p.m. on 22 February, Kennan sent a cable to Washington that was 8,000 words of elegant and descriptive prose. All during the Cold War, Kennan's dispatch, number 511, would be better known as "The Long Telegram." The cable was widely circulated in Washington and studied closely by Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal. Returning to Washington, Kennan was assigned to the National War College and tasked by Forrestal to produce an essay covering the material in his telegram. The theme of his article was this: "The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies."
Kennan's sabbatical at the War College was abruptly canceled at the end of 1947, and he was appointed head of the State Department's new Policy Planning Staff. Unable to withdraw his article, he agreed to permit its publication under the pseudonym "Mr. X."
In June the following year, President Truman and the National Security Council formally committed the US government to an unprecedented program of counterforce against communism, moving beyond propaganda and economic warfare to authorize "preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures," as well as "subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas, and refugee liberation groups." The Truman Administration directed that all such activities were to be carried out under ruses and deceptions and that the US government would "plausibly disclaim any responsibility." This program would take the name of Operation Rollback. The newly established CIA and all of the other US intelligence organizations wanted to have nothing to do with Operation Rollback; they firmly believed the mission and function of intelligence was collection and analysis of information, not the actions described above. So, initially, a new independent organization, the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), was created and conducted its activities until 1952, when it was absorbed into the CIA.
Peter Grose, author of the consummate biography of Allen W. Dulles, was a longtime foreign and diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, later executive editor of Foreign Affairs, and is now a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has produced a gripping account of the brave, patriotic, and resourceful Americans who, with refugees from the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, struggled against the Soviet colossus. Grose is sympathetic to the good intentions of these courageous individuals; however, he also describes the naiveté, folly, and ineptitude of so many of those who believed that their anticommunism alone would be able to overcome the conflicting ambitions and agendas of the refugees. The planned use of displaced persons and refugees, as related by Grose, is a melancholy tale of organizations thoroughly penetrated by the communist security services. The imaginative schemes to undermine the communist governments, while successful in a few instances (such as Radio Free Europe), produced comic results in others. In one case, the plan to employ World War II surplus meteorological balloons and prevailing air currents to carry propaganda leaflets east over the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia fell victim to a change in direction of the winds, causing in several cases puzzlement in Scotland when sheepherders received Russian-language pamphlets from the heavens. When General Walter Bedell Smith, the acerbic Director of Central Intelligence who thoroughly disapproved of these activities, learned of one balloon which malfunctioned and dropped its entire load of leaflets on a Rhine barge (which promptly sank), he observed, "That was the greatest achievement of psychological warfare in Europe."
Perhaps the best-known book about war is Carl von Clausewitz's posthumous philosophical treatise On War. In the English translation the most frequently quoted dictum of Clausewitz is, "War is the continuation of policy by other means." This definition would be simpler if that is what the author actually wrote and meant to say. What Clausewitz wrote is that "war is the continuation of political intercourse" (des politischen Verkehrs) "with the intermixing of other means"(mit Einmischung anderer Mittel). The original German text expresses a more subtle and complex idea than the accepted English translation, and certainly applies to the kind of war described by Peter Grose in this eminently readable and useful work.
Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance, and the Law. By Karma Nabulsi. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 293 pages. $72.00. Reviewed by Michael H. Hoffman (Lieutenant Colonel, USAR Ret.), the International Humanitarian Law Officer for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C.
Anyone who takes a hand in shaping the law of war may find it worthwhile to read this ideologically framed book. It will test your own assumptions about its origins and utility. The author argues that ideologies of centuries past shaped the rules of war as we know them today. The book's title, Traditions of War, refers to political philosophies justifying war and bestowing legitimacy on combatants. The author asserts that incompatible, irreconcilable traditions have shaped competing visions of the law of war. Competing visions may, indeed, present imposing new challenges in the century ahead, so this thesis merits consideration.
The law of war enjoyed a golden age at the beginning of the 20th century. High-profile diplomatic conferences crafted an elaborate framework of treaty-based rules that still shape thinking on this subject a century later. Basic rules of war were well known in military circles in the early 1900s, and it didn't require much adaptation for armies and navies to digest newer rules established at those conferences.
The law of war may be entering another, more cosmetic golden age as states take on another round of high-profile treaty-making. These efforts at traditional lawmaking may come to naught. The old legal framework has warped under pressure from emerging new actors in private armies, terrorist networks, gangs roving through the wreckage of collapsed states, and armed forces deployed on genocidal missions. None of them acknowledge or respect the old rules, let alone the state-centered system behind them. Given all that, we need functional, operationally oriented techniques to assess, develop, implement, and enforce the rules of war if they're going to have any future.
Meeting such challenges calls for a skeptical view of our current legal assumptions. For example, peace operations sag under the weight of unquestioned yet highly questionable assumptions, one being that peace enforcers answer to a higher cause than other combatants. Ergo, no one can lawfully oppose them, and hence no one is expected to. Thus, the ideology of peace enforcement has pushed more than one military unit into an operational quagmire. So, this book is useful for anyone willing to rethink his or her assumptions on this subject, even though some of its conclusions require quite a stretch.
The author's major focus is pre-20th-century intellectual history. The book identifies "martial," "Grotian," and "Republican" traditions of war, and all receive extensive coverage. The "martial" tradition (this term devised by the author) is said to represent a school of thought lauding war as inherent and desirable to the human condition. More to be expected is the author's section on the "Grotian tradition" (for Hugo Grotius, perhaps the most influential international lawyer of all time), which accords states sole custody of the international order and an exclusive franchise on war. The author believes that the law of occupation and guerrilla warfare was shaped in accordance with these traditions--and shaped to deprive opponents of any rights or legitimacy in the face of conquering armies. The author's sympathies are all with the "Republican" tradition, which is said to have grown from European nationalist movements in the 1700s and 1800s and led to rules more sympathetic to the resistance. According to this study, the Republican rules of war were quashed by the Grotians.
Nabulsi does not always document links between ideology and rules of war, and he makes an astounding, undocumented claim that the British pushed a "martial" line at the conference that adopted the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Most practitioners, myself included, are likely to take a far more sympathetic view of the rules of war embodied in those well-established conventions. Most who have used them in the field also find a utility having nothing to do with imperialistic advantage. Though new challenges may resist an easy fix, the basic rules are useful, hallowed, and (one hopes) enduring in their nobility.
Unfortunately this study does not quite deliver what the title promises. A wider examination of such traditions would require a look at the impact of politics and ideology on our modern rules of war, ranging from attacks on civilians to genocide to treatment of prisoners of war and the development of new military technologies. This book seeks to explain the rationale behind modern rules of war via intellectual traditions from centuries past. That, combined with the author's special interest in the law of military occupation (acknowledgments credit Yasser Arafat as political teacher and cite the author's experience on a Palestinian negotiating team), results in an unusual, sometimes far-fetched, somewhat truncated, but quite interesting look at the rationale behind the law of war.
Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. By Robert B. Stinnett. New York: The Free Press, 2000, 386 pages. $26.00. Reviewed by Dr. Conrad Crane, Research Professor of Military Strategy, US Army War College.
Americans have always been fascinated by conspiracy theories. At the top of our pantheon of paranoia are the myriad hypotheses surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Close behind are the continuing arguments that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deliberately provoked and allowed the destruction of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, in order to galvanize a reluctant American public into supporting national participation in World War II. This lingering suspicion is partly responsible for the recent drive to exonerate the commanders at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short, for their responsibility in the disaster on 7 December 1941.
The latest book expounding this well-worn theory is Robert B. Stinnett's Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. The author is a World War II Navy veteran who became a photographer and journalist for the Oakland Tribune. He has done some admirable and dogged primary research, filing innumerable requests under the Freedom of Information Act and spending many long hours searching in archives, and he demonstrates a journalist's knack for presenting a sensational story. The end result is an apparently damning indictment of FDR and his Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, many naval officers above and below Admiral Kimmel, and the military intelligence community. Unfortunately the author failed to do much basic secondary historical research and has a tendency to leap to conclusions based on questionable or erroneous interpretations of evidence. This is a dangerous book that will dupe unsuspecting readers who misinterpret the author's earnestness and technical explanations as signs of balance and accuracy, and it will perpetuate myths that should have long been forgotten.
At the core of Stinnett's case is a memorandum written by Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence, in October 1940. Stinnett interprets it as outlining eight actions designed to provoke Japan into war, and while he cannot prove FDR ever saw the document, Stinnett accepts it as the blueprint for the American actions in the Pacific leading to Pearl Harbor. Once he allegedly decided to sacrifice the Pacific Fleet, FDR carefully placed fellow conspirators in key positions, such as when he sent the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral Walter Anderson, to command the fleet battleships. Stinnett continues to weave his web of conspiracy by arguing that for decades naval and intelligence organizations have covered up the fact that key information from radio intercepts and code-breaking revealing exact Japanese intentions was withheld from Kimmel and Short to ensure their unpreparedness.
Stinnett does provide some provocative new information about the interception of radio transmissions from Japanese ships and has uncovered a number of misstatements by witnesses in the many official hearings that have been conducted to investigate the disaster. However, this is not enough to prove the existence of a conspiracy so widespread that it included eminent senior leaders like George Marshall and Ernest King of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distinguished intelligence officers like Edwin Layton and Joseph Rochefort, and a myriad of other naval officers including Commander Vincent Murphy, who just happened to be fleet duty officer at Pearl Harbor on the morning of the Japanese attack. Many of Stinnett's arguments are based on hindsight; for him any mistake or oversight that contributed to the surprise attack becomes part of the plot that victimized Kimmel and Short.
A look at the McCollum memorandum in Appendix A of the book reveals more flaws in Stinnett's analysis. The author admits that he can link FDR's actions to only six of the eight items on the list, and fails to explain that those that were actually executed occurred because of Japanese provocations or from understandable diplomatic or military motivations. Stinnett would have benefited greatly from secondary research in the standard works on FDR's foreign policy. Moreover, the McCollum proposal itself was designed to prevent war, not provoke it. A close reading shows that its recommendations were supposed to deter and contain Japan, while better preparing the United States for a future conflict in the Pacific. There is an offhand remark that an overt Japanese act of war would make it easier to garner public support for actions against Japan, but the document's intent was not to ensure that event happened.
Stinnett's technical explanations of the intricacies and revelations from code-breaking appear persuasive to those of us unfamiliar with the field, but he has not fooled the experts. Edward Drea, one of the most notable authorities on codes and code-breaking in the Pacific, recently savaged this book in the April 2000 Journal of Military History. In a detailed critique, Drea points out that Stinnett misrepresented messages decoded in 1945 as being available in 1941, erroneously assumed that just because a message was intercepted it could be and was deciphered, erred in his explanation about when the Americans broke key Japanese codes, and misquoted or distorted many messages.
Historians should be judges and not lawyers. When the public picks up a history book, they expect thorough research, truthfulness, and a balanced assessment of the facts. That is why so many readers can be misled or fooled by flawed works like Day of Deceit. Ultimately books like this threaten the integrity of the whole historical profession, as well as the credibility of the journals and reviewers who have praised it. They should know better. Since he was also a newspaper reporter, Stinnett's many inaccuracies don't do much for the reputation of that profession, either. This is a bad book that is best ignored, but because of American fascination with the theory it propounds, it will end up getting much more attention than it deserves.
Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865. Brooks D. Simpson. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. 576 pages. $35. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
Surprisingly, there are few good modern biographies of Ulysses Grant. Brooks Simpson's military biography of the top Union general--exhaustively researched, carefully organized, and meticulously written--does a good job of filling part of that void. Simpson, who has as good a reputation in the field of Reconstruction politics and presidents as in the Civil War, is working on a second volume covering Grant's postwar life. With the addition of that largely political perspective, we will have an excellent and comprehensive biography of one of the most intriguing figures in American history.
Grant biographers naturally have to deal with ticklish issues like his repeated business failures, his drinking, and high Union casualties. Simpson is no exception, and he addresses such issues directly. He likes Grant, but he also recognizes failings in the general. The result is a balanced biography that neither whitewashes or explains away shortcomings nor portrays an uncaring, drunken butcher. That the explanations are not always satisfying reflects the murkiness of the issues rather than a failing on Simpson's part to address them comprehensively. To take the example of Grant's drinking, Simpson recognizes that Grant had a drinking problem--primarily a low tolerance for alcohol. Drinking may have contributed to Grant's pre-war resignation from the Army, but personality conflicts with his immediate superior played at least an equal role. Grant drank during the war, although compared to many contemporaries his use of alcohol was moderate. Several of the famous instances of drunkenness are improbable or patently false. Grant was conscious of the ramifications and never allowed drink to affect his duty performance. The various individuals that later claimed to have been protectors of the general's sobriety overstated both their role and effectiveness in that arena--the exception being chief of staff John A. Rawlins, who did have a self-appointed mission as Grant's sobriety monitor, but who was not as effective as he liked to think. If one wants more clarity than that, he will be disappointed; however, the fault lies in the subject, not in Simpson's treatment.
On the issue of casualties, Professor Simpson points out that Grant was always very sensitive to the human cost of war. He launched high-casualty attacks for specific reasons and never as a conscious part of an attrition strategy. At Vicksburg the early assaults were an attempt to overrun a presumably demoralized enemy without having to besiege him. When the assaults failed, Grant settled into conventional siege warfare. During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Grant launched attacks to fix Lee--Grant always feared Confederate use of central position to shift forces to other theaters--or because he was convinced he had an opportunity to break the Army of Northern Virginia. That the attacks failed to crush the Rebels and produced high casualties was unintended. Operationally, Grant repeatedly sought to turn Lee's right flank. That the Southern general was always able to interpose his army to foil the maneuvers was unfortunate but unavoidable. (Simpson at least partly accepts the popular contemporary explanation that Bobby Lee and his army were just better than anything Grant had faced in the West.) Some of the disasters, like Spotsylvania, were because of poor reconnaissance, coordination, or execution on the part of staffs or subordinates; however, Grant shoulders some of the blame for his instinctive desire to engage immediately and the consequent poor or incomplete planning and coordination. The general had a tendency to launch an attack at any perceived opening and did not necessarily think through what his opponent might be doing. Conversely, when Grant saw that he faced obviously disadvantageous odds, like at the North Anna River, he canceled attacks.
Simpson gives Grant due credit for his strengths. The general was obviously persistent and aggressive. He tended to think in terms of what he could do rather than in terms of what the enemy might be doing. He maintained good relations with Abraham Lincoln and kept his political master well informed about his plans and operations. Grant worked to rid himself of ineffective subordinates but understood the necessity of retaining some of the most important political generals. (Thus Nathaniel Banks and Benjamin Butler remained in command until after the 1864 elections.) Grant devised and executed a strategy that was both politically acceptable and effective. What emerges from this collage of positive and negative attributes is the portrait of a leader with human frailties but compensating strengths and character. I look forward to seeing this portrait expanded to explain Grant's presidency.
The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. By Misha Glenny. New York: Viking Penguin, 2000. 726 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. R. Craig Nation, Professor of Strategy, US Army War College.
An attempt to compose a modern history of the Balkans poses special challenges. The geographical and cultural contours of the region are difficult to define. Identifying general regional trends among the specificities of national development demands careful judgment. All things "Balkan" have become subject to compelling stereotypes, and the region is in the midst of a fundamental transition whose outcome remains uncertain.
Misha Glenny's effort to meet these challenges is in general quite successful. His history extends the scholarly literature by bringing the story of the region's modern development through the 1990s. It rests upon an impressive foundation, drawing on a wide range of sources in all major European languages, including numerous citations from Serbian and Croatian historical literature. Glenny does his best to combat stereotyping and present a balanced, analytical account. He writes with skill, and despite the book's length and complexity the text makes engaging reading. As an introduction to the region and a state-of-the-art history of the Balkans in the modern period, Glenny's work offers a useful synthesis that can be read with profit by specialists in search of fresh perspectives and by general readers striving to learn more about a part of the world that promises to remain a preoccupation of international diplomacy for some time to come.
A thesis of sorts is summarized in the book's subtitle. The modern history of the Balkans, the author proposes, is dominated by aggravated national rivalry born from the legacy of empire. Such rivalry has sparked a series of devastating wars and chronic intervention by the great powers, a cycle of conflict and dependency from which the region has yet to emerge. The argument is credible, but it is not really developed consistently. Though strong in detail, Glenny's work does not always succeed in capturing the evolutionary changes that have defined regional development over a span of several centuries.
Glenny fails to fix the contours of the region in such a way as to justify treating it as a whole for the purpose of historical analysis. Though the author's working definition (mainland Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania plus the "peripheral territories" of Slovenia, Vojvodina, Hungary, Moldavia, Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Greek Aegean and Ionian Islands) is probably as good as any, the precise connotations of the elusive designation "Balkan" are left obscure. As a result, the book generally fails to progress toward any kind of larger, more significant generalizations about its purported subject. It is organized as a series of episodes--nearly a hundred by my estimate--recounting colorful "little stories" that are often only marginally related.
Glenny's work is also influenced by contemporary assumptions and prejudices born of the violence of the 1990s. Recurrent references to the baleful role of the great powers on the peninsula is colored by frustration with the international community's inability to come to terms with Balkan conflict after the collapse of communism. A revisionist approach to the entire Serbian historical experience reflects currently fashionable anti-Serbian biases. The Yugoslav idea is ridiculed and the realities of both King Alexandar's and Tito's Yugoslavia are caricatured--the failure to examine the Yugoslav experience more carefully is arguably a very serious flaw. Not least, despite sincere protestation against stereotypical representations of the Balkans as a land of ancient hatreds and blood feuding, the author never misses an opportunity graphically to represent conflicts in the region in their most violent and degrading light. For many readers, the text will only reinforce the stereotypical representations that it sets out to debunk.
Most important, Glenny's The Balkans entirely lacks a historiographical dimension. The large scholarly apparatus is not used to explore alternative patterns of explanation, and in fact contending explanations are seldom offered. Though the author's judgment is solid, it would be more substantial if placed into a larger intellectual context. Other general histories of the region are sometimes mentioned but never discussed systematically, and no effort is made to explain what it is that makes Glenny's own account distinct.
The Western security community has committed to a long-term engagement in the Balkans that makes refined understanding of regional dynamics essential. Glenny's history offers a well-crafted survey of the region's modern history that can help sharpen such understanding. As an introductory survey it is solid, accessible, and fair-minded. As a contribution to substantial historical interpretation, its achievements are considerably more modest.
The Napoleon Options: Alternate Decisions of the Napoleonic Wars. Edited by Jonathan North. London: Greenhill Books, 2000. 208 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Colonel Robert A. Doughty, Professor and Department Head, Department of History, US Military Academy.
"Alternate" or counter-factual history usually elicits open contempt from professional historians. They recognize--much as Hollywood has shown us--that historical events are shaped by human beings who act and react based on what they see or believe is happening and that changes in a historical event would inevitably have engendered additional changes as the "actors" reacted to new circumstances. Predicting the nature and effects of these subsequent changes, of course, is impossible, and attempts to do so usually produce more confusion than clarity. Those of us who teach undergraduates are especially cautious with "what if" history, for it invariably oversimplifies a historical event and sometimes results in students not understanding what actually happened. Counter-factual history nonetheless can be provocative and can highlight the complexity of events and the importance of individuals or leaders at crucial points. It also can be fun and can remind us of the nature of history and the unpredictability of the human experience.
Such is the case with Jonathan North's book on key battles in the Napoleonic Wars. North has assembled a talented group of historians, many of whom are renowned internationally. Everyone who has ever done any work on this period is familiar, for example, with the works of Paddy Griffith, John G. Gallagher, and John R. Elting, and probably with the works of the other authors as well. With each focusing on a particular campaign or battle, the ten authors begin on a solid historical base and then enter the world of fiction by altering the course of events with deaths of key leaders, reversals of narrow margins of success or failure, or other changes. Each chapter provides an alternate sequence of events associated with a key encounter during the Napoleonic Wars.
Charles Grant's chapter on Bonaparte's campaign in Egypt, for example, has the British locating the badly positioned French fleet in Aboukir Bay. Although the British completely destroyed the French fleet in the actual battle, Grant has the British encounter much "friction" in their attempt to concentrate their fleet against the vulnerable French ships and miss a golden opportunity. Without naval supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean, the British cannot support the Turkish defenders of Acre, and Syria falls to the French. The result is a strong foothold for Napoleon in the Middle East and expansion of French power and influence throughout the Mediterranean. Peter Hofschröder's chapter on Quatre Bras focuses on the decision by a subordinate of the Prince of Orange, Constant Rebecque, to disobey Wellington's order to abandon Quatre Bras. In the actual campaign, Rebecque's forces remained at Quatre Bras, and Ney became embroiled in the fighting there and failed to strike the Prussians under Blücher in the rear. This enabled Blücher's forces ultimately to press Napoleon's flank at Waterloo and to weaken his attacks against Wellington's main position. In Hofschröder's chapter, however, Constant Rebecque obeys the order, Ney easily takes the key position, and Blücher moves his army to Gembloux, away from the fight along the ridge of Mont St. Jean. The final result is a French victory, a cease-fire, and then an armistice, with Napoleon remaining Emperor of France.
These two chapters, like the others, investigate alternate outcomes had key events taken a different turn. While no one can be certain what might have happened had the British actually missed the French fleet at Aboukir Bay or the allies actually abandoned Quatre Bras, no one can doubt that subsequent events would have been substantially different. Hence, the sophisticated reader can reflect upon the role of luck, the importance of judgment, and the frailty of human beings amidst the swirling events of history. In a time when some leaders approach military issues as if war is nothing more than an extension of politics and when computer-driven war games leave little room for chance or the unexpected, such a reflection is useful as we remind ourselves that not even unlimited information, superior technology, or perfect intelligence guarantees an anticipated outcome. War will always be a human endeavor, and its outcome will depend on leaders choosing options when their judgment is clouded by fear, confusion, uncertainty, and friction.
In short, North's interesting book reminds us that battles and chance have shaped history in the past and undoubtedly will continue to do so in the future.
Infantry Soldier: Holding the Line at the Battle of the Bulge. By George W. Neill. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. 356 pp. $24.95. Reviewed by Dr. Samuel Newland (Lieutenant Colonel, ARNG Ret.), Professor, Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.
Because 55 years have passed since D-Day, there will no longer be memoirs and reminiscences from the senior leaders of World War II. The senior leadership of that war, both friendly and foe, is now gone, casualties of time and age. Despite the passage of time, however, there remains a steady flow of firsthand accounts by the soldiers who fought this war. Some of these soldier memoirs are action-oriented, foot-slogging, battle-to-battle accounts, readable and welcome to the student of military history. Occasionally, however, an account comes along that is particularly insightful, that causes us to think about significant issues and problems of the war. Such is George Neill's book.
To understand the contribution of Neill's work, one must consider his background. In 1943, he was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in American diplomatic history, and an ROTC student. In March of that year, together with 89 other students, Neill received notification that he was to report for active duty. Unlike a later generation at that institution, the Berkeley ROTC students received this notification with enthusiasm. Neill was destined to be an infantryman, an assignment he seemed to relish. He eventually was assigned to the 99th Infantry Division, which had been partially stripped to provide fillers for two divisions in Italy. The 99th would be Neill's combat assignment.
An educated and thoughtful soldier, Neill took his position as a Browning Automatic Rifle operator with the division's 3d Battalion, 395th Regiment. The 99th Division arrived on the continent on 2 November 1944 and was assigned a position along the Belgian-German border. There its soldiers participated in a type of warfare quite different from the breakout and pursuit across France, a warfare reminiscent of actions on the Western Front during World War I. It was a war of foxholes, dugouts, and cold frontline patrols.
From 10 November through the beginning of the German Ardennes offensive on 16 December, this was Neill's war. He eloquently describes this bitter kind of war, the misery of the cold European winter, inadequate winter equipment (while better gear seemed available in abundance to the rear-area troops), and above all the isolation of the frontline soldier. This type of warfare tended to compartmentalize the troops into small units without any real contact with other elements of the division or its leadership. Neill confirms what others have charged about the Army's leadership in this period--that they all too often were not present at the front. Neill did see a lieutenant, but never his company or battalion commander. For him and his buddies at the front, the division headquarters was a remote entity that had no real knowledge about the terrain or conditions facing the individual soldier.
It was there, cold and feeling isolated, that George Neill determined to write about the experiences of the frontline soldier, the individual infantryman at that time in the war. Fifty-five years later, after completing college and a career in journalism, he produced this intriguing and accurate account of the war's last month before the Battle of the Bulge. In recreating his experiences he used his letters home, memories of his buddies, and a healthy bibliography of works on the European Campaign. He successfully produced an excellent account of an infantryman's war by one who fought it.
In many respects the war, at least the combat phase, was short for Neill. He participated in the opening phases of the Battle of the Bulge, but became a casualty when he seriously injured his foot in a shell hole. He spent the remainder of the war in a hospital or the rear area, but never forgot his buddies or the privations they suffered.
In all, this book is a good read about an American soldier, above average in intelligence and education, whose life is forever touched by his brief time in the war. The author writes thoughtfully and with the style of a man who proudly served his country in one of the most trying sectors of the European war. Soldiers and students of military history should read this one. It is well worth the time.
From Voting to Violence, Democratization and Nationalist Conflict. By Jack Snyder. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 382 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by David C. Bennett, Professor of International Relations, Department of National Security and Strategy, US Army War College.
In over 350 pages of extensively footnoted text, Professor Jack Snyder provides thought-provoking theories about the post-Cold War opportunities for advancing democracy. Using a time-tested methodology, Snyder employs historical case studies to support his arguments, applies his theories to contemporary examples, and concludes with strategies to avert nationalist conflict.
The author's thesis appears early and is clearly stated: successful enlargement of the community of democratic nations will foster a more peaceful era in world politics. Yet the author believes the journey toward this enlargement is fraught with risk, as nations in transition will continue to create fertile conditions for nationalist and ethnic conflict, redirecting popular political participation into antidemocratic detours.
Snyder defines nationalism "as the doctrine that a people who see themselves as distinct in their culture, history, institutions, or principles should rule themselves in a political system that expresses and protects those distinctive characteristics." His analysis of democratization, nationalism, and conflict results in the further definition of four types of nationalism: ethnic, civic, counterrevolutionary, and revolutionary. He then uses case studies to articulate the theories supporting these definitions.
In support of his analysis, Professor Snyder suggests that there is a direct relationship between the strength of political institutions (as well as all other elements of society) and the interests of a nation's elite. He theorizes that when the elite's interests are adaptable and the institutions are strong, civic nationalism emerges, as in Britain's democratization. The consequence of this balance is low internal conflict. When the elite's interests are adaptable and political institutions are weak, revolutionary nationalism dominates, as happened in France between the revolution and the First Empire, and open-ended external conflict ensues. Using pre- and post-World War I Germany as a model, the author suggests that when the elite's interests are not adaptable and the institutions are strong, counterrevolutionary nationalism occurs, with conflict in the same form as in the example of revolutionary nationalism. Snyder's final theory postulates that when the elite's interests are not adaptable and institutions are weak, ethnic nationalism takes over, as it did in pre-World War I Serbia, with a high level of conflict until domination of the ethnic homeland is achieved.
The chapter on Germany offers alternative explanations for the rise of counterrevolutionary nationalism, and makes credible arguments in support of the author's rationale. When reviewing and analyzing nationalism in Britain, France, and pre-World War I Serbia, Professor Snyder shows a preference for the British form of nationalism. However, he cautions the reader to keep in mind the wars fought by the United Kingdom to expand its sphere of influence. The author argues that, "in contrast to more reckless great powers such as Germany, France, and Japan, Britain stands out as prudent and cost-conscious in its strategic choices."
After providing a solid historical context in support of his theories, Snyder examines contemporary examples of democratization and the rise of nationalism. He begins by an examination of "nationalism amid the ruins of communism," using Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic as examples of successful transition, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ossetia, and Chechnya as exemplifying violent transitions. Reflecting on the breakup of Yugoslavia, the author suggests, "It would be misleading to argue that incipient democratization caused ethnic conflict in the early 1990s simply because of deep-seated hatreds and historically unreconcilable demands for self-rule on the part of Yugoslavia's constituent ethnic groups."
Shifting attention to the developing world, the author examines democratization, nationalism, and ethnic conflict in a variety of locations, including India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, Rwanda and Burundi. The complexities of the issues, and the many variables introduced in the democratization process of these diverse nations, might leave the reader a little perplexed. In each of these examples, Professor Snyder makes the point that ethnicity in itself is less the cause for conflict in emerging democracies than has been suggested in other studies or the media.
Overall, the author's conclusions and recommendations, while comprehensive and well supported, are more theoretical than practical. This particular book would be useful for an academic audience, but it offers implementation challenges for policymakers and practitioners. Professor Jack Snyder has provided an in-depth analysis of nationalism and ethnic turbulence challenging traditional views of the causes and evolution of such violence. He has done so eloquently, demonstrating extensive research, and in a convincing manner.
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Reviewed 15 February 2001. Please send comments or corrections to email@example.com