[Or, well, three of them are. The other two are kinda a hodge-podge of war-related books.]
66. They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq by Kelly Kennedy:
This better-than-most Iraq story deals with a company of the 26th Infantry Regiment that in the 2007 surge suffered heavier casualties than did any other such unit. It was engaged in one of the most hostile sections of Bagdad; one popular NCO committed suicide; one platoon effectively mutinied; and altogether, the company passed through a grim year. About all that kept the men sane and fighting was a rare degree of unit cohesion, which we see through the eyes of a number of key people, well-characterized by embedded Army Times reporter Kennedy, who despite her service ties paints the Iraq War warts and all. An honorable addition to Iraq War literature.
Why you should read it: Because, if you read one book about the war in Iraq, this should be it. It is a very boots on the ground veiw of the war and gives real depth and insight into the lives of the soldiers who have fought and died in this war - and those whose fight still goes on, as disabled veterans.
“I can't – I don't understand. That's a human being there on the ground, and nobody cares.”
67. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran:
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and internal documents, Chandrasekaran tells the story of the people and ideas that inhabited the Green Zone during the occupation, from the imperial viceroy L. Paul Bremer III to the fleet of twentysomethings hired to implement the idea that Americans could build a Jeffersonian democracy in an embattled Middle Eastern country.
In the vacuum of postwar planning, Bremer ignores what Iraqis tell him they want or need and instead pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions—a flat tax, a sell-off of Iraqi government assets, and an end to food rationing. His underlings spend their days drawing up pie-in-the-sky policies, among them a new traffic code and a law protecting microchip designs, instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity production. His almost comic initiatives anger the locals and help fuel the insurgency.
Chandrasekaran details Bernard Kerik’s ludicrous attempt to train the Iraqi police and brings to light lesser known but typical travesties: the case of the twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance put in charge of reestablishing Baghdad’s stock exchange; a contractor with no previous experience paid millions to guard a closed airport; a State Department employee forced to bribe Americans to enlist their help in preventing Iraqi weapons scientists from defecting to Iran; Americans willing to serve in Iraq screened by White House officials for their views on Roe v. Wade; people with prior expertise in the Middle East excluded in favor of lesser-qualified Republican Party loyalists. Finally, he describes Bremer’s ignominious departure in 2004, fleeing secretly in a helicopter two days ahead of schedule.
This is a startling portrait of an Oz-like place where a vital aspect of our government’s folly in Iraq played out. It is a book certain to be talked about for years to come
Why you should read it: Told in a series of short naratives, this book details everything that went wrong - and right - in the War in Iraq. I dare you to read it and not feel apalled.
[No quotes can be found.]
68. Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by HR McMasters:
Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning new analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on recently released transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. It also pinpoints the policies and decisions that got the United States into the morass and reveals who made these decisions and the motives behind them, disproving the published theories of other historians and excuses of the participants.
Dereliction Of Duty covers the story in strong narrative fashion, focusing on a fascinating cast of characters: President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and other top aides who deliberately deceived the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Congress and the American public.
Sure to generate controversy, Dereliction Of Duty is an explosive and authoritative new look at the controversy concerning the United States involvement in Vietnam.
Why you should read it: Okay, this is like the book on the events leading up to Vietnam, and for anyone wanting to avoid a fiasco like that again it should be (and is) required reading. Granted, McMasters could probably tell the same story in half as many words, but it's damning evidence for McNamara - and, as I had just finished reading Area 51 before starting this, it has created something of an interesting image of LeMay in my mind that really means I have to find a biography about him one of these days...
"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C."
69. The Art of War by Sun Tzu:
The Art of War is the Swiss army knife of military theory--pop out a different tool for any situation. Folded into this small package are compact views on resourcefulness, momentum, cunning, the profit motive, flexibility, integrity, secrecy, speed, positioning, surprise, deception, manipulation, responsibility, and practicality. Sun-tzu's maxims are widely applicable beyond the military because they speak directly to the exigencies of survival. Your new tools will serve you well, but don't flaunt them. Remember Sun-tzu's advice: "Though effective, appear to be ineffective."
Why you should read it: Because, in a series of easy to remember aphorisms, this book really does tell you the basics of military strategy - the things that are so obvious that people often forget them. Definitely required reading.
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”
“There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.”
70. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 by Alfred Thayer Mahan:
Though technological advances over the last century have revolutionized warfare, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 remains a classic text on the history, strategy, and comprehension of commercial and military command of the high seas. The first president of the U.S. Naval War College, Alfred Thayer Mahan demonstrates through historical examples that the rise and fall of sea power and the wealth of nations have always been linked with commercial and military command of the sea. Mahan describes successful naval strategies employed in the past--from Greek and Roman times through the Napoleonic Wars--with an intense focus on England's rise as a sea power in the eighteenth century. This book provides not only an overview of naval tactics but also a lucid exposition of geographic, economic, and social factors governing the maintenance of sea power.
Why you should read it: Because it is The Art of War for naval battles. Granted, the last half of the book is a highly techinal discussion of specific battles, but the first part - the one dealing with the whys and the wherefores is both ingenius and easily accessible.
“The surer of himself an admiral is, the finer the tactical development of his fleet, the better his captains, the more reluctant must he necessarily be to enter into a melee with equal forces, in which all these advantages will be thrown away, chance reign supreme, and his fleet be place on terms of equality with an assemblage of ships which have never before acted together.”