Recommended President's Reading List
I'm a fan of the "Five Best" book selections offered by different professionals each week in the Wall Street Journal's Books section. I found the latest warfare picks all entirely applicable to the situation we face in Iraq.
- The Irish Guards in the Great War, Rudyard Kipling (1923). Yes, there were great wars that were, in fact, cataclysmic in nature. (I personally believe that Western civilization began its rapid decline as a result of WWI.) Kipling lost his son in the Battle of Loos. In this this recounting of wartime details, he states, "tales...carry each their separate significance to each survivor, intimate and incommunicable..." Kipling expresses the cosmic nature of war and its effect upon the survivors .
- Lost Victories, Erich von Manstein (1958). Manstein was dismissive of the concept of turning points and contends that the war was never winnable for Germany because of the leaders prosecuting it. The toppling of Saddams's statue, Qusay, Uday and al-Zarqawi's murders, and purple thumbs aside...it don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing, to borrow from Ella.
- Some Desperate Glory, Edwin Campion Vaughan (1981). In this, Vaughan's diary of eight months spent in the trenches, he includes a relentlessly stark account of WWI's bloodiest, most futile battle, at Passchendaele. Someday, the books on Fallujah and Samarra, et al., will reflect these same sentiments. Battles well-fought on both sides, but a useless glorification of military operations for no useful purpose.
- Storm of Steel, Ernst Junger (1920). Junger's memoir of his WWI service. Includes a poignant moment when he claims he declines to kill an enemy soldier who shows a family picture, thereby affirming his own humanity. Whether this is an imposed memory is up for debate. One thing one does get from the book: it's not good to be imperial when you lose. Words we might consider in our present self-righteous approach. It holds out the hope, however chimerical, that enemies may coexists if their shared humanity can ever trump their ethnic or racial animosities.
- But Not for the Fuehrer, Helmut Jung and Mike Nesbitt (2004). This self-published, "brutally honest," memoir is labeled "the most shocking" of the quintet here. Jung was a private in the Seventh Panzer divison, and he recounts among other things, his pleasure at committing retaliation torture against his erstwhile torturers, which included Russian women soldiers. The gloss states, "(f)ighting for survival apparently can include the thirst to commit atrocities." Cruel as the German's vengeance was, Jung said he and his comrades all "felt better" afterward.