Last Update 6/27/14

Return of a King by William Dalrymple, Vintage, 2013, $17.95, ISBN 978-0-307-94853-3  

When the British invaded Afghanistan and occupied it during the period 1839-1840, they took an unenviable trait of imperial powers and practiced it to its worst possible form. There is almost nothing they did right and literally no faction in the occupied country stayed on their side for very long, usually because the British disregarded tradition, seduced their women, cut off the subsidies they needed to maintain their border patrols, and alienated everyone personally including their puppet ruler. They replaced a pro-British ruler for reasons that even the author can’t quite seem to understand, and almost bankrupted the Raj, as well as losing and taking an extraordinary number of lives in useless battles.  Then, when it was clear that the country was rising against them, they made even more stupid mistakes, cutting themselves off from their supplies, walking into ambushes about which they had been warned, refusing to move from an indefensible position to a fortified castle, and so on. Possibly the worst campaign ever conceived and mishandled by the British during their entire period of empire. 6/27/14

Greek Pottery Painting by Paolino Mingazzini, Hamlyn, 1966  

Greek pottery dates from around 1500 BC forward. This heavily illustrated survey shows the development of the depiction of humans and animals, demonstrating that it progressed much faster in Greece than it did in Egypt. The author attributes this to the Greek encouragement of experimentation as opposed to the more ritualized Egyptian manner. In addition to the often impressive painting there is also the various shapes of the vases, bowls, urns, and other objects upon which they were painted. I’ve always had a fondness for gracefully executed vases and there are some beautiful objects pictured here. Many of these are in amazingly good condition. 6/24/14

Under Two Flags by William M. Fowler Jr., 1990 

This is a history of the navy, or navies if you prefer, during the Civil War. It covers the blockade, the siege of Norfolk, the capture of New Orleans and the campaign on the Mississippi River, and other events including, obviously, the first clash of ironclads. The Confederacy never had much of a navy and lacked the industrial base to build one. They were also hampered because the very states’ rights attitude which led to the secession also made it difficult to force them to work together for a common goal. The Union suffered from tentative and incompetent leadership and a misunderstanding of the ability of naval power to operate successfully in a blockade or the capture of the lower Mississippi without coordinating with land forces.  This is a very comprehensive and entertainingly written account. 6/16/14

Tolkien and the Modernists by Theresa Freda Nicolay, McFarland, 2014, $40, ISBN 978-0-7864-7898-9

I would guess that there have been more academic books about Tolkien than any other fantasy writer, although J.K. Rowling is probably getting close. This somewhat short book attempts to associate Tolkien with other modernist writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, while at the same time contrasting it as being much more optimistic than most of his contemporaries. The themes discussed are ones I've seen dealt with before - Tolkien's distrust of the coming of the industrial age, his attitudes toward alienation and nostalgia, etc. The prose is more accessible than most academic efforts although if you're not familiar with the other writers the author discusses, you probably won't be able to follow some of the arguments. I didn't glean any new insights but it's a competent and readable discussion of Tolkien's place in literature. 6/12/14

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century by William H. Patterson Jr., Tor, 2014, $34.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1961-6

Although Robert A. Heinlein was probably not as good a writer as SF fans would like to think he was, his work is nevertheless quite interesting for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the evolution of his opinions on various subjects through the course of his career. This is the second volume of a biography - I haven't seen the first - which covers the years 1948 to his death, and in rather impressive detail. Most of his significant writing took place during this period. 1948 was the year he married his third wife, Virginia, who remained with him for the rest of his life. This covers his flirtation with Hollywood, the cult popularity of Strange in a Strange Land, and the controversial Starship Troopers. It would be an oversimplification to call Heinlein either a conservative or a libertarian, although he shared views with both those movements. Intensely private during his lifetime, much of this information was completely new to me. Filled with anecdotes and with a massive set of notes on the text, this and its predecessor are almost certainly going to be the definitive biography of one of science fiction's most outstanding figures. 6/8/14

Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck, Bantam, 1960 

This is a collection of Steinbeck’s dispatches as a war correspondent. In his introduction, he mentions that because of war time censorship and an unwritten code which required that morale not be undermined, they provide a limited and sometimes imaginary description of what actually happened.  The essays have a micro focus, that is, they deal with things like rumors on a troop transport, news from home, the mechanics of preparing an attack, and so forth. They provide a very different perspective than you get from reading more conventional news reports or histories, and of course Steinbeck’s prose is always a delight. The introductory essay is perhaps the best part of the book, however, with its examination of how the truth gets altered during conditions of war. 6/2/14

Under the Bed, Creeping by Michael Howarth, McFarland, 2014, $40, ISBN 978-0-7864-7843-0

This is a scholarly study of gothic imagery and tropes in children's fiction. The fiction discussed here varies from Collodi's Pinocchio to Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Peter Pan and Little Red Riding Hood. Obviously all of these were familiar to me and would be to most readers, which is a plus since most books I've read recently about children's fantasy concentrate on much less well known titles. The author examines the reasons why gothic - or scary - elements are so common in children's literature and contends that they serve a useful purpose in personality development. The author draws heavily on psychological theory but the text is surprising accessible even for those with no background in either that field or in literary criticism. One of the better titles from this publisher, and I wouldn't have expected that given the subject matter. 5/29/14

The Tirpitz and the Battle for the North Atlantic by David Woodward, Berkley, 1953   

This account of the short career of the German battleship Tirpitz opens with a summary of German naval developments during the two world wars. The ship spent most of the war in the area of Norway where its very presence forced the Allies to position a number of capital ships, effectively removing them from places where they could have done more good. Convoys to Russia were harassed by aircraft, submarine, and less powerful surface vessels with the battleship held in reserve, in part because Hitler feared losing it.  The book also covers the last days of several other major German ships, none of which survived the war.  It constitutes a brief but thorough summary of the surface naval war in the Atlantic. 5/28/14

Discworld and the Disciplines edited by Anne Hiebert Alton & William C. Spruill, McFarland, 2014, $40, ISBN 978-0-7864-7464-6

The title should tell you that this is a collection of essays about the work of Terry Pratchett, creator of Discworld. I'm not at all surprised that there should be such interest in the books on literary grounds. Despite their humorous tone, they often contain some very serious commentary on human nature. This collection of essays looks at various aspects of the books, although they tend to deal more with style than substance, which in this case is a valid area of endeavor. The essay on philosophy and politics was the most interesting for me, and the one on semiotics the least. There is a pronounced tendency toward academese which might turn off some readers, but if you can bear with it and if you're a Pratchett fan, you'll find some interesting insights and observations sprinkled through the text. 5/19/14

Victorian Inventions by Leonard De Vries, American Heritage, 1972  

This is mostly a picture book reproducing drawings of inventions developed during the Victorian era. There are different varieties of bicycles and unicycles, steam vehicles, railways and tunnels, balloons, life preservers, automatic stairs, lamps, telescopes, a milking machine, musical instruments, and many more. The illustrations are worth the price of the book alone and the accompanying text is informative and sometimes quite funny.  This is a very entertaining collection of some of the odder aspects of that period in history. 5/16/14

European Enamels by Isa Belli Barsali, Hamlyn, 1966

Another category of art I was unfamiliar with, illustrated with many full color plates. Enamel, which is a kind of glass paste, could be colored and thus become decorative, but it was also very practical because it protected the underlying metal. It was, however, a very delicate operation in Medieval times because of the vulnerability of the paste to contamination. Not surprisingly the vast majority of the pieces shown here are religious in nature, and not as varied in subject matter as was the case at other periods in history.  Mildly interesting because of the descriptions of the process, but the art itself seemed to me rather unexceptional. 5/13/14

The Great Crash 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith, Time, 1954

Galbraith’s book about the fall of the stock market and the onset of the Great Depression is short, concise, and illuminating. He points out that the stories about numerous suicides are not true and that investors did not throw themselves from high windows in despair at their losses. The author disagrees with the contention that the depressed economy led to the Crash, although he also argues that it is simplistic to say that the Crash caused the Depression. The collapse of the land speculation market in Florida in 1928 should have put the brakes on speculation, but for some reason the lesson was largely ignored. One of the things I hadn’t realized was that when the drop started, the ticker tapes couldn’t keep up to the massive volume of trades, so people didn’t know how bad things were until it was too late to do anything about it, although there wasn’t much they could do in any case. The mass self delusion of the public in the buildup to the crash seems bizarre now, but it could happen again. 5/10/14

Sink the Bismarck by C.S. Forester, Bantam, 1959   

This is the third time I’ve read this brief account since I bought it from the Tab book club more than fifty years ago. It is a concise but thorough history of the short career of the famous German battleship which was either sunk by the British or scuttled by its crew, depending upon who you talk to. The book is nonfiction but Forester took some liberties in order to make it a better story, inventing dialogue rather than fiddling with facts. The movie version did the same to an even greater extent. The Bismarck almost made it safely to the North Atlantic. A single torpedo from a British plane disabled its rudder or the British fleet would never have caught up to it after the first encounter, where it destroyed the battleship Hood. Capital ships could do a lot of damage, but they could also be sunk, and a single loss could have severe effects on the morale of both sides, as was the case here. 5/4/14

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power by Howard K. Beale, Johns Hopkins, 1956  1699 

Some books about historical events have a kind of narrative flow that makes them read like stories. Others just present a wealth of factual material in a more or less organized fashion. This is one of the latter, which means that it wasn’t the kind of book I read in a short period of time. The topic is pretty clear from the title; Roosevelt was influencing foreign policy even before he was President. I have never had a particularly high opinion of him and this book dropped it even further. Teddy seems to have become mentally frozen at around eight years old and throughout his life threw tantrums, played soldier, lauded militaristic and expansionist views with complete disregard for the costs in lives and personal liberty, and was generally an awful person. Among other things he excused US brutality in the Philippines on the basis that it was an unavoidable necessity when dealing with “backwards” people. The book is full of quotes but it feels more like a reference work than an interpretive history and as such, it often becomes tedious to read. I started it over a month ago and just finally reached the end. 4/28/14

Ghosts of the Tower of London by G. Abbott, David & Charles, 1980   

A collection of supposed sightings of ghosts at the Tower of London, which I may be visiting later this year. Most of the brief accounts here – which took place mostly during the 1960s and 1970s – are superficial and clearly have alternate explanations ranging from the power of suggestion to an overly active imagination. Some are probably hoaxes. None of them are remotely believable. But this slim little book has several photographs, drawings,  and diagrams of the area and buildings which are actually quite interesting. 4/25/14

Maiolica, Delft and Faience by Giuseppe Scavizzi, Hamlyn, 1977   

This is a short little art book about tin-glazed earthenware, which has three different major names depending upon where it was done. There is a brief history of each European country where it was popular, illustrated with numerous full color plates. It marked the period during the  Renaissnce when these items began to be considered as pure works of art independent of their practical use. Many of the objects pictured here do have such uses – plates, jars, etc. – but they were meant to be decorative pieces that might be useful rather than useful items which could be decorative. Some of the patterns are very fanciful and might have appeared on the cover of a recent fantasy novel. Others had religious, natural, or abstract themes. Moderately interesting text but it covers so much territory that it is necessarily superficial. 4/24/14

A Treasury of American Scrimshaw by Michael McManus, Penguin, 1997  

Scrimshaw is a form of ivory carving peculiar to the whaling industry. In fact the author contends that if it is not done by whalers, then it’s just ivory carving and not scrimshaw. It also encompasses a good deal more than the inscribed teeth that I’ve seen in the past. Tools, giftware, sewing and smoking paraphernalia, and various other things were all carved from whale bones and teeth, mostly by bored sailors who had hours to kill. This is a brief history of the art, the best known practitioners, and naturally is full of color photographs of the actual work. It’s much too expensive to collect authentic scrimshaw so this annotated album is the best substitute. 4/15/14

Aegean Dream by Dario Ciriello, Panverse, 2011, $17.95, ISBN 978-0-9837313-0-6

This account of life in Greece is a kind of travel book at heart. Dario and Linda Ciriello decided to set up a small business on a Greek island a few years ago. They studied the area and their subject matter, learned to speak Greek, and thought they were going completely prepared for the project they'd chosen. It's impossible to anticipate everything, of course, but particularly the intricacies of power and influence that exist just as much in rural communities as in the political centers of the world. Although some of the local people were helpful and friendly, others had their own agendas, or were hostile to outsiders, or just contrary. They encounter laws and whims they hadn't anticipated, a lawyer who is either incompetent, mendacious, or both, and a host of other problems independent of those one would normally expect to face when starting a new business. At the same time, they establish friendships with others they meet and enjoy the beauty of the island - which is demonstrated by a good sized selection of photographs included in the book. Some of their encounters are amusing - although I imagine they were less so at the time. Some were so frustrating that you can feel the exasperation. The project failed but it was not without its rewards. 4/14/14

The Age of Rococo by Terisio Pignatti, Hamlyn, 1969 

Rococo was a style of art that began to replace baroque in early 18th Century Europe. It’s an ornate form that was less rigidly structured and tended toward pastels rather than bold colors. There was also a tendency, particularly in paintings, to emphasize nature and the bucolic life. This slim little history is illustrated with many color plates of paintings, furniture, buildings, and sculpture representative of the variations in style across Europe. Although I find much of it too busy for my taste, there are other examples I like much more, particularly in the field of architecture. 4/9/14

Environments in Science Fiction edited by Susan M. Bernardo, McFarland, 2014, $40, ISBN 978-0-7864-7579-7

A collection of academic style essays whose general commonality is that they examine how space or setting influences the societies and people in the story. The stories on which the essays are based are quite varied including Karel Capek, Samuel R. Delany, George Orwell, Melissa Scott, Philip K. Dick, and others including a few writers who really aren't associated with the genre although some of their work is technically SF. None of the contributors are likely to be familiar to the SF community. For the most part, these avoid the excesses of academese and are accessible to people who only speak English. In a few cases I thought the writers were ascribing a level of hidden meaning that probably exceeded what was really there, intended or otherwise, but I actually didn't find anything to which I strongly objected in any of the entries, which is rather unusual. One of the better collections of its type. 4/8/14

War Underground by Alexander Barrie, Ballantine, 1961   

This is an account of underground warfare during World War I. Trenches were obviously the centerpiece of the war in Europe but the British and later some of the other parties involved also began digging clandestine tunnels to run under the enemy lines. Eventually this led to the construction of counter tunnels and there were numerous armed clashes beneath the ground as forces ran into one another, or blew up the opposition’s tunneling efforts. There were several battles where the existence of tunnels had a major effect on the outcome although others were disasters from the outset. Barrie provides a comprehensive and very human account of these efforts, one of the lesser known aspects of that conflict. 3/30/14

Ivories of the West by Massimo Carra, Hamlyn, 1970    

Ivory carvings have survived in significant numbers even from prehistoric times. In Egypt and other parts of the present Mideast, ivory was considered a jeweler’s material distinct from those materials used for statues of the pharaohs or gods, so much of the ivory art was more concerned with ordinary people and their concerns, and thus provides a somewhat different perspective about those times and places. This is a brief summary of the history of carved ivory, with lots of full color plates illustrating the text. The author contends that the collapse of the Roman Empire actually produced a fresh flowering of this and other art forms as artists attempted to adapt to a newly emerging way of life. Some of the sculptures, particularly from the early Christian period, are very detailed and well preserved. Ivory remained popular throughout thousands of years despite being very difficult to work with. I’m fond of scrimshaw so I found this a particularly pleasant book in which to browse through the pictures. 3/25/14

Letters to the Pumpkin King by Seanan McGuire, NESFA, 2014, $30, ISBN 978-1-61037-304-3

Seanan McGuire is the author of quite a bit of above average urban fantasy and, as Mira Grant, some even more impressive SF/horror fiction. This is a collection of poems and blog entries - they're really too short to call most of them essays. As such, they are smartly written, coherent, and very varied in subject matter. It's a good way to get some insights into the way the author thinks, sometimes about how she writes and sees the field and her place in it, and sometimes just presents her opinions and observations about unrelated matters. They're interesting to read but more for content than style. The poetry is more or less the other way around, although content is important there as well. I've never really felt comfortable commenting on verse, even stuff I like very much. These seemed about average to me with a few that I thought were quite nice, a few that I didn't care for. The combination of the two very different modes of writing is unusual. 3/19/14

Talbot Mundy: Messenger of Destiny edited by Donald Grant, Donald Grant, 1983   

This is primarily an extensive annotated bibliography of the author’s published work, along with a short biography, a memoir by Mundy’s widow, and a few other essays. There are reproductions of the covers of the books as well as a handful of interesting photographs from Mundy’s childhood and following his emigration to the US. The biography is by Peter Berresford Ellis, who would also write a much more lengthy biography and who writes fiction as Peter Tremayne. I would like to have seen brief plot summaries as well because several of the titles are hard to locate, but otherwise it’s a handsome and useful volume. 3/18/14

The Pentagon Propaganda Machine by J. William Fulbright, Vintage, 1971   

Senator Fulbright was a frequent critic of the Pentagon, not because of their performance of their mission but because they extended it into a very expensive campaign to convince voters and legislators that more and more money needed to be spent for the armed forces. Fulbright saw this as a move towards militant aggression – which turned out to be spot on – and a move toward militarization of the police, which we have seen as well. This used to be a bi-partisan concern. Fulbright is particularly concerned that military “seminars” for the public were being used to discuss political questions that were not the business of the military, and that they were one sided, outdated, and often factually inaccurate.  Some of the points made here are outdated forty years later, but many of them are still problems, some have grown far worse, and the underlying premise is unfortunately all too true today. 3/13/14

Early Decorative Textiles by W. Fritz Volback, Hamlyn, 1969 

Another art book, part of my effort to broaden my perspectives. This slim little book is about woven artwork. Given its fragile nature, cloth art work is not nearly as likely to have survived intact as has sculpture and painting. Many of the plates here are fragments of the original piece. The author suggests that styles in woven art spread much more easily than did other forms, perhaps because textiles were a more viable and practical trade good. I’d have to say that visually most of these are not particularly impressive but it’s an artform I hadn’t really thought about prior to reading this. 3/12/14

The Heritage of Heinlein by Thomas D. Clareson and Joe Sanders, McFarland, 2014, $45. ISBN 978-1-4766-7498-1

I re-read most of Robert Heinlein last year so this book arrived just in time to let me compare my most recent reactions to the opinions of two of the more respected people writing about the genre. In their comprehensive retrospective, which is wonderfully free of academic doubletalk, they examine essentially all of Heinlein's fiction, including the recently discovered For Us, the Living. For the most part, their opinions differ from mine in only the most minor ways, although I liked the later stuff rather less than they did and the young adult novels perhaps a shade more. They provide valuable insight into the books, some interesting criticisms, and while the book is relatively short considering the amount of material they are covering, they don't make any notable omissions. I was surprised that the discussion of Double Star, which I now consider Heinlein's best novel, does not mention that it was a rewrite of The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. Otherwise, I am very favorably impressed. 2/17/14

What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton, Tor, 2014, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3193-9

This is as collection of well over one hundred blog entries by Jo Walton, most of them discussing science fiction books or authors, particularly C.J. Cherryh and Lois McMaster Bujold but a wide variety in general. They make no pretense to be academic literary criticism. They are the author's reflections upon things she's read, or re-read. A few of them don't involve the genre at all or only peripherally. Although I didn't agree in every case - and it would be miraculous if I did - I could see Walton's point even in those instances where my reaction to a particular work was rather different. She has what I believe is a very sensible attitude toward reading and is one of the few people other than myself whom I've heard actually say that she rereads books that she didn't like the first time. I meant to read the first few entries before bed last night and didn't finally put the book down until I was well past the half way mark. It was like having a conversation with a really interesting person. 2/15/14

The Last Adventurer by Peter Berresford Ellis, Donald Grant, 1984    

Last year I reread most of Talbot Mundy’s work, so I decided to re-read this biography as well. Mundy was an unusual figure, a scoundrel at times, a Theosophist, a naturalized American, a convicted ivory poacher, and a successful writer who was frequently compared to Rudyard Kipling, After a series of adventures  on the shady side of the law in India and Africa, he moved to the US and assumed the Mundy name – he was actually William Gribbon – and found his niche writing adventure stories for the pulp magazines, many of which ended up in hardcovers. His best known work includes the Jimgrim stories, King of the Khyber Rifles, the Tros series, and Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley. He was married five times and bankrupt nearly as often. Since he constantly lied about his past, the author had to dig through contradictions and external sources to discover the truth, and there are still many unanswered questions. One of the more colorful characters in literary history. 2/12/14

The Midget Raiders by C.E.T. Warren & James Benson, Ballantine, 1968 (originally published in 1954 as Above Us the Waves

This is an account of two related naval projects championed by the British during World War II. The first was miniature submarines, the second manned torpedoes.  Neither was a tremendous success but both had some solid accomplishments. The book is primarily about the experiences of the people involved and is less about the strategy to which they were put. A little of it is technical but not unbearably so. I found parts of the narrative very interesting and others rather boring. There’s a small selection of photographs that are reasonably interesting and illustrative. 2/8/14

Defeat at Sea by C.D. Bekker, Ballantine, 1955 (originally published in 1953 as Swastika at Sea

This is a short, episodic account of several crucial events culminating in the destruction of the German navy during World War II, written by a highly placed officer in that navy. Included are accounts of the careers of the Graf Spee, Bismarck, Scharnhorst, and other famous German battleships, an account of the submarine program, mine sweeping operations, and other naval activities. These were published as a series of short articles so they don’t have a great deal of depth, but it is interesting to read the interpretations from a German point of view. Interesting if you’ve never read about the subject before but of minor interest to anyone familiar with World War II naval history. 2/1/14

Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maszlow, Van Nostrand, 1968 

Humanistic psychology sometimes crosses the border into philosophy, and the author of this famous work acknowledges that fact. He argues that all of the elements of human personality are positively good or at least neutral, and that evil acts and thoughts result from frustration of those qualities – and since he’s a bit casual about defining his terms it’s difficult to really argue with that contention. Maszlow talks a great deal about self actualization, which includes the act of judging one’s self not by the opinions of others, the hierarchy of needs, and the mistaken idea that needs are necessarily irritating and negative. This isn’t as accessible to the general public as it could be because he uses a great deal of jargon and his prose style is pretty dense. I imagine it’s old hat stuff now, but it was fascinating when I first read it in college and still provocative today. 1/24/14

National Geographic, October 1889 

The fourth issue opens with the transcript of a speech about irrigation in California, not the most scintillating of topics.  A topographical description of Asheville, North Carolina, follows. The third article is more interesting, written by a man sent to survey progress on the Panama Canal. Panama was at this time still part of Colombia. He has a low opinion of the engineering skills of Ferdinand de Lesseps and considers him more of a politician than a designer. This was before the US took over the project and it is interesting that the article ends with the conclusion that no canal will ever be built through Panama. The final article is about a trip through the jungles of Nicaragua. 1/17/14

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, Grove, 1968  

The author was a psychiatrist and an influential member of the revolutionary movement that freed Algeria from French control. His description of the psychological balance between the colonizers and the colonized is excellent although his assumption that imposed religions – primarily Christianity in this context – rarely take hold because they are seen as the religion of the master class and therefore alien – is not entirely true. In fact, there are other scattered generalizations that can be readily challenged although for the most part his characterization is accurate.  Fanon believes that there is no possibility of reconciliation between the two peoples and that the colonists will inevitably have to be removed through violent means. There’s a good discussion of the way different elements within a colonized society work at cross purposes, but some of it is repetitive. Interesting, but rather dated. 1/14/14

Oceanic Art by Alberto Cesare Ambesi, Hamlyn, 1970   

I had had this picture in my mind of fairly primitive art from the Pacific Islands and there’s some of that shown in this colorful little art book, but there’s also a good number or rather more sophisticated pieces not only in execution but in conception, some of them reminiscent of the more representational abstract culture as well as paying great attention to detail. I did know that the origins of the Melanesian people were not known but I didn’t realize that linguistic studies have suggested they came originally from Egypt or India, although they displaced or wiped out others who may have originated elsewhere. A great deal of their art – as with European art – was linked to religious rituals, ancestor worship, etc. One amusing tidbit. In the Yap Islands, coins could be as large as nine feet in diameter. Imagine what a vending machine would look like. 1/11/14

Holocaust or Hemispheric Co-Op by William O. Douglas, Vintage, 1971   

Douglas tackles US policy in Latin America in a book far more reasonable and successful than the previous one I read by him. He deplores the interventionist policy that made us very unpopular with our neighbors, even when we masked it as self defense or under the cloak of the OAS. There are some interesting points about cultural differences that are not our fault but which we need to take into consideration, and a great deal of manipulation and subversion that definitely is attributable to US meddling. As is the case in other parts of the world, we were too willing to support tyrants as long as they opposed communism. One depressing figure is that when the Alliance for Progress program began, 180 million people in South America had civilian government. By 1970, all but 40 million of those people were living under military rule. The chapter about Bolivia was the high point for me. 1/6/14

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, Holt, 1989 

We tend to forget that the various nations of the Middle East were created artificially, primarily by the Europeans powers during and following World War I. Before that, it was a disorganized region incorporated uneasily into the failing Ottoman Empire. One of the first interesting points is that the British were opposed to the Young Turks, who rebelled against the Sultan, because they trusted one of their officials who was blatantly anti-semitic and somehow convinced himself and the government that they were a Jewish front and that Jews hated England because of its recent alignment with Russia. This would turn out to be the beginning of the miscalculations and misunderstandings that caused the British to later support a Jewish state in the Middle East. The double dealing of the various allied governments – who lied to the Arabs and to one another – reaches epic proportions as the British in particular were already planning for dividing the spoils in the aftermath of the war even as they began to think they might not win it. The author points out that the reasons for the war were quickly reduced to insignificance. It was the war itself which mattered.  Woodrow Wilson, for all his racism and other faults, was at least determined that there should be self determination, although in the end he proved unable to impose his will. An interesting note is that the US never declared war on the Ottomans at all and never fought them, and only reluctantly declared war on Austria-Hungary toward the end. Another oddity is that in Turkestan, British and Turkish forces were allies – although enemies elsewhere – against Germans and Bolsheviks who were allies – although enemies elsewhere. 1/2/14