Monday, October 23, 2006

The Department of National Defense has lost their minds

If they go through with this insanity then there's no help for them. Critics slam Afghan naval mission Throwing sailors and air force members into ground combat a mistake, experts say

The human potential for peace : an anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence by Douglas P. Fry

The human potential for peace : an anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence by Douglas P. Fry attempts to make the case that humans are actually more peaceful than is usually thought. Fry is very heavy on the nurture side of the argument. Unfortunately most of the book is spent arguing about how different violent actions are not really war. For example if there are any taboos placed on the level of violence in conflicts for instance stopping if someone is seriously hurt this is not war. I guess this means that world war two wasn't a war because both sides could have used poison gas but didn't.

He does make some interesting points. Brooks like this are useful because it forces the opposition to look at the evidence again and to do more extensive research but besides that this is not recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Reinforcements to Afghanistan

Apparently those in authority noticed the disturbing trend described in 10 days and a AK-47. So now the Vandoos are going to provide security for the PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team]. The article can be found here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain Strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban and Al Qaeda by Mir Bahmanyar

Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain Strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban and Al Qaeda by Mir Bahmanyar is a very short book. It is part of Osprey's new fortifications series. I think Bahmanyar was having problems reaching word count. After describing aircraft being unsuccessful against these fortifications we get several pages of aircraft data. There is some very interesting information on both Soviet and American tactics for dealing with caves. Good stuff.

is recommended if you can find it for less than list price. Which you can do through the below banner.

Is available through Abebooks.

For more Afghanistan book reviews take a look at My Afghanistan bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

10 days and a AK-47

Here is a very disturbing news item on a problem in Afghanistan. Apparently NATO is so strapped for soldiers that they are reduced to agreeing to the Afghan government's plan to push teenagers with ten days and a AK-47 onto the firing line.

Most, if not all, were asleep at their posts when Canadian soldiers recently dropped by to inspect. When they were awake, some had errantly fired their rifles in the direction of the Canadians.

"Randomly throughout the night, there were shots going over our heads," recounted Warrant Officer Michael Jackson of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Shilo, Man.

"We knew it was them, but they said, 'No, no, it wasn't us shooting.'

Apparently they have a tendency to shoot first and identify what they're shooting at later. Not only does this put the Canadians operating with them at risk but also means they will be miserable for counterinsurgency since their likely to blow away some innocent civilians.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Holocaust bookshelf

Here are my current book reviews on the Holocaust. The links take you to my reviews. Don't worry about the posting date I'll put new reviews into the list as I write them. Last updated on September 14th 2007.

Bartov, Omer Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide, and Modern Identity

Cornwell, John Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact

Langerbein, Helmut Hitler's Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder

Rhodes, Richard Masters of Death: the SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust

Roseman, Mark The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration

Steinbacher, Sybille Auschwitz: A History

Steinberg, Lucien Jews Against Hitler (Not As A Lamb) - The Seminal Work on Jewish Resistance

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Waging Peace: a Special Operations Team's Battle to Rebuild Iraq by Rob Schultheis

Waging Peace: a Special Operations Team's Battle to Rebuild Iraq by Rob Schultheis describes the trials and tribulations of a CA (civil affairs) team in Iraq in 2004. The unit attempts to provide basic services to a section of Baghdad with occasional success. There are conflicts with insurgents and the army's own bureaucracy. The author does an excellent job describing the stressful lifestyle that soldiers lead even though not directly in combat. Apparently some of the unit with the author was sent back so hopefully there is a sequel in the works.

There are a few glitches the incorrect year is given for the first publication of the Marine Corps Small Wars manual and the incorrect definition of PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) is given.

Recommended it should also provide a perspective of what the Canadians are dealing with in Afghanistan.

Is available through Abebooks.

For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Demon of the Waters : the True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe by Gregory Gibson

Demon of the Waters : the True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe by Gregory Gibson describes an event from American naval history. The major portion of the text is discussing a new primary source about the mutiny which has recently come to light. Unfortunately after making such a big deal about the source we don't actually get the complete text of it. What seems to be a rather strange oversight if it was as important as the author makes out.

Besides the actual story of the mutiny there is a good description of wailing both the mechanics of the hunt and its social impact on Nantucket. There is a nice section of explanatory notes a bibliography.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

CONPLAN 8022 and the fallacy of use

In today's Washington post William M. Arkin talks about the American war plans for dealing with WMD. Specifically why they may not be used in the North Korean case. The analysis is pretty good although he falls in to something which we could call the "fallacy of use". in other words since the American's have these plans they must use them. This is well stupid. After all its what got the Germans in trouble at the outbreak of world war one. Arkin doesn't understand the war plan process just because planning is being done it actually has nothing to do with future events. After all the Canadian and American military's had war plans to invade the other untill the 1920s'.

It would be like saying that I must use every number in the phone book or I shouldn't have one.

Tiberius Caesar by G. P. Baker

Tiberius Caesar by G. P. Baker was originally published in 1928 and recently republished. It is a sympathetic biography of the first "bad" Roman Emperor. The book is based on primary sources. There isn't much use made of coinage or archaeology. The book makes a decent case. A modern introduction putting the book in context would have been useful. I am rather surprised one was not included.


Is available through Abebooks.

For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia by Maria Ressa

Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia by Maria Ressa discusses the involvement of Al-Qaeda in southeast Asia and why the infrastructure was so important for the September 11th attacks as well as the training and carrying out of the Bali bombing. There are some excellent character studys of individuals for the government's and Al-Qaeda. For example the transformation of Singapore from refusing to admit that there was a problem to combating the challenge.

The response or lack there of the various Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines is discussed.

The book is recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Byzantium: the Empire of New Rome by Cyril Mango

Byzantium: the Empire of New Rome by Cyril Mango is a social history of Byzantium published in the 1970s' recently reprinted. Actually it may be overstating it to call it a social history it's more like a history of the intelligentsia since there aren't really sources for the common people. There's basically no military or political history but inexplicably there is a list of the emperor's as an appendix. The book mostly talks about forms of literature particularly religious texts some of this is actually interesting they did their best to force Greek and Roman mythical events into the old testament. There's no discussion of the empire collapse.

If you're interested in the intelligentsia's world view this is for you.

For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter is possibly unique in Napoleonic biography. It is the memoir of a conscript from one of the German states allied with Napoleon's France. The material is quite short primarily containing his experiences in the retreat from Moscow in 1812. The soldier doesn't really sugarcoat the relationship between soldiers and civilians both in Russia and Germany. You would not want him as a house guest. There's also an underlying Anti--Semitism to the work. There are explanatory endnotes not to sure why they weren't placed as footnotes which would be more convenient. Also included are six anonymous letters of German soldiers describing the retreat.

A very important work.

Encyclopedia Of Guerrilla Warfare by Ian F.W. Beckett

Encyclopedia Of Guerrilla Warfare by Ian F.W. Beckett is well what the title describes. Coverage is actually quite good there is material on topics prior to 1945 as well as the usual suspects. Their are things in the analysis that I can quibble with but nothing to major.

Beckett is one of those who splits the concept of guerrillas, insurgents and partisans. I'm not particularly happy with this idea it is often been difficult to decide which is which. Extensive bibliography.

Recommended highly.

Is available through Abebooks.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Canada's role in Afghanistan one month in

On Thursday I gave my 4th lecture on Canada's role in Afghanistan to the senior citizen class. So far I'm doing relatively good I think. I have actually gained one more student. I'm starting to notice some patterns.

They really don't like background. If I don't mention Afghanistan every 30 seconds they start losing interest. It is hard to teach counterinsurgency without mentioning Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare or Small Wars . I also seem to get the same questions over and over. For some reason I can't move the discussion.

Most of the class think we should shut the mission down. I'm in a rather conservative part of Canada so I'm surprised. Probably not good for the "new government" of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


This pretty much describeds my own philosophy of book purchases although around the $5 range. Inflation I guess.

Published in The North American Review CCXXVI. From the Lucile Project. I assume it's public domain if not let me know.


ONE may read of the amenities of book collecting, and so enjoy vicariously the cultivated delights belonging to a higher financial sphere. One may taste the calculated hospitality of the book­stores, skimming stacked tables discreetly, rapidly enough to escape the necessity of purchase. There are public libraries; there is the magnificence of the British Museum , the Louvre and the Library of Congress. But of all thrills attendant on the seeking, the buying, the borrowing of books, there is one supreme.

This is to buy a good book for ten cents at a second-hand book­store

All cities have their share of such bookstores. They also serve, in a world wherein there is no end to the making of books. They are a sort of intellectual repositories; wayside inns for books of passage; purgatories of paper and print; Potter's Fields for many books of no importance. In our own city is a second-hand book­store distinguished above its fellows by a five-tier, fifty-foot shelf devoted to ten-cent books, and flanking the sidewalk with a standing invitation. This is the daily Mecca of many pilgrim­ages and hopes, and the field for rich gleanings among the unconsidered stubble of the publishing profession.

There are seasons when people seem either to sell more books or buy less. Of a sudden at such crises, either before the blast of inventory or the cold chill of poor business, the store begins to erupt its surplus, and books that have been enjoying false security and fancy prices on inner shelves rapidly descend the social scale. Unable to justify their original rating, they are sold up to pay for their board and lodging. They drop to fifty cents, to twenty five cents. Finally they are poured forth on the ten-cent shelf in daily replenishments that keep it overflowing.

Here is the real dime museum of the day. Here is the true democracy of letters, and the melting pot of the brains of men. Here is the last judgment. Here must they find a kindly owner or face a final grave.

These books are venerable, used and worn, as is the wisdom of the world. They are doubtless full of germs, as by now are most of their authors. The great majority of them are overpriced at ten cents, but a greater majority I shall not buy. It is the remnant, the residue, that I seek after, and if I find one pearl a day in so many bivalves, my dime becomes a joyful offering.

A certain conscience must be developed in the buying of ten-cent books, else a library becomes a confusion of tongues. To buy all that are worth the modest price imperils the peace of the home, and books will overflow into cellar and attic. Four car­dinal principles prevail. First, to buy no book, however excel­lent, treating of matters outside the conceivable domain of inter­est. Here, for instance, is a book, not unduly obsolete, on basket weaving. Yet I do not weave baskets, nor at this moment intend to. Here is a solid book on dentistry, and again the Confessions of a Barber , yet I do not practise auto-dentistry nor cut my own hair. Such books are not for me, and in charity I must remember that others are here to buy ten-cent books to their own liking.

Secondly, no book shall be bought for binding alone. This is a hard rule; it has a harder corollary, that no book shall be bought because it matches others already acquired. I prize some half-dozen volumes of Belles-Lettres, part of a "universal library", so called, which fell to my lot in the past. Here are six or seven volumes of the Memoirs of Continental Courts in the same edition or one of sufficient cousinship. How richly would they swell the importance of that other five, adding substance and symmetry to the shelf! Yet the Memoirs of Continental or any other courts have no proper place in my library, and for that I cannot, shall not buy them.

Thirdly, I may buy no book which I may not possibly, conceivably, eventually read. This does not mean that I have read or expect to read all my books; to ask this is to challenge the reasonable expectations of human life. But as I have more ties that I can wear; as I own pipes that I may never smoke again; as flowers grow in my garden that will never be plucked or noted, so my library is to present an opulence of choice, a variety of in­terest and infinitude of resource. With a thought to this wide basis of eligibility and another to the scarcity of shelf space, I will buy with such discretion as is granted to me.

Fourthly, no book may be forgiven for poor binding or bad print, and scarcely for the lesser shame of unseemly binding. I will have books substantial and adequate; yea, though they cost but ten cents; books whose outsides are comely and whose insides are decent. And even this is not incompatible with our appointed price. Witness my five volumes of George Eliot, all dressed in good leather, explaining in their substantiality how they have lived to tell their tale again. Here is a charming copy of Rasselas , surely an oversight of the presiding deity of the shelf. Here are five volumes of Dickens containing thirteen of his novels, bound in leather and not in ill repair. Why so cheap? Presumably because the set is incomplete. Yet thirteen tales from Dickens are no mean education.

The aim is to buy good books, well bound and printed, books of genuine interest which I hope or intend to read; and to buy them for ten cents. Occasionally, it is true, I am tempted around the corner and pay as high as twenty-five cents, but no profound principle is violated by somewhat stretching the limit. What fortune, then?

Enough to satisfy imagination and a modest ambition. A stray volume of Duruy's History of Greece and Rome were no great catch, but to collect five more becomes an achievement; that five of the group are in sequence is nothing short of direct Providence. A copy of Scott's Antiquary suggests further search, and patience is rewarded with thirteen volumes of the Waverley Novels in the same edition. Thirty cents purchases five inches of Dr. Eliot's five-foot shelf, and compasses all classic English poetry. From these same shelves I have three Shakespeares, and one cannot have too many Shakespeares. The plays of Euripi­des, the Poems of Emerson, the Ingoldsby Legends, Marcus Aurelius, Don Quixote, Sartor Resartus, Xenophon on Socrates, Macaulay's History of England, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, who will grudge for a volume of these the price of a sandwich?

If a man can read he need not die ignorant. Twelve harmonious volumes of science have left the shelf for a better home with me. Here are Darwin 's Origin of Species, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Tyndall's Essays, Hegel's Philosophy of History, Bacon's Novum Organum, Huxley's Addresses, and others as imposing. Have I read them? No. Have you?

Outside the classics there is room for rash venture. Is Man­kind Advancing, a book much quoted years ago, turned up here and was worth another reading. Charles Kennedy wrote The Servant in the House, whose reputation justified the investment of twenty cents for two other plays from the same pen. Ten cents devoted to Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature was a happy accident. Odds and ends of poetry and short story have paid generous dividends. Sometimes one buys an odd volume of a series or of some many-volumed work, but there are many voluminous masterpieces of which one volume is enough.

Religious books are here, of course, in an abundance matched only, it seems, by the inexhaustible supply of Owen Meredith's Lucile. There are books of doctrine, hymn books, prayer books and polemics. The state of the Christian world makes its own confession at ten cents a copy. Not least significant is a copy of the Scriptures, once handsome and with its message still entire, which a piece of silver rescued from the underworld of books.

Indeed, if there be a moral to the ten-cent shelf it is this, that the best and most important memorials to human genius find their way eventually to this plentiful scrapheap. One not too particular as to binding and condition might find here fair representation of every writer of importance to classic English and American literature, history and philosophy. The novels of the day, the transient fads of philosophy or art, the technical treatises of trades, live on the sheltered shelves and name their own price. But in the open air, begging for an owner, herded with the least among books, are the wise thoughts of the ancients, the classics of literature, the fundamental studies of human wit and wisdom, and even the Word of the God of both Hebrew and Christian.Add, then, to the many joys of poverty this privilege, -- to spend much time and little money in treasure hunting on the scrapheaps of literature. Call it a waste of time if you will, but since there is time to be wasted, name if you can a better way to waste it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New name but same material

I figured I should change the name of the blog to something that was more accurate to what I am posting. It comes from someone in my department who borrowed some books, he was impressed by the massive amount of material I have.

If you scroll down you'll notice that I started an ongoing bibliography of my book reviews on World War Two. Links from each review will go back to the main page. Hopefully this will make browsing easier. I'll be doing other topics as well. My holocaust reviews are probably next. Let me know if it is useful.

Edward Gibbon, the Historian by J.W. Swain

Edward Gibbon, the Historian by J.W. Swain is an OK if rushed biography of Edward Gibbon the historian who was the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There actually isn't much here about the book itself most of the text has to do with various influences on Gibbon's life particularly religion, politics and philosophical outlook. the author does eventually admit that for modern historians the Decline is more interesting for its literary aspects them for its historical analysis.

Good but to short.

Is available through Abebooks.