Cold War Files: Truman and MacArthur

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Military Officers and Politics: The Fraught Relationship between MacArthur and Truman

(click on above link to be re-directed)

H.W. Brands is a decent and fair historian, the last book I read of his was Lone Star Nation about Texas Independence.

This book, The General Versus The President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War looks to be another good one for all you Cold War and Military/Political History buffs.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Literary Corner: Great Interview with Tom Ricks on Writing, Reading and Military Innovation

Tom Ricks is without a doubt one of my favorite Military writers and historians. If you don’t already I seriously recommend subscribing to his Best Defense Blog on Foreign Policy.com. I also recommend his book Fiasco for a “blinders-off”, no bull look at the War in Iraq. -SF

Ricks

So you’ve been covering the US military for over twenty years.  I’m curious about your readers.  You’ve been blogging over at Foreign Policy for some time. Yet you don’t talk about your readers much.  I’m curious about how many people stop by “Best Defense”?  What types of readers are reading ‘Best Defense’?

I don’t know on the numbers, partly because Foreign Policy’s editors keep the numbers close hold. When I ask them about the numbers I get gobbledygook about unique hits, and you know, “push only visitors” and “unique visitors,” and all that stuff.  It doesn’t tell me anything.

A few years ago, I believe I was told I was getting 30,000 to 40,000 readers a month. But that could be wildly wrong. I never really pushed the issue with my editors. Maybe they are afraid that if they tell me how many visitors I have, that I’ll ask for a raise.

Now, the types of readers I have, I’m better on. Start with a big military audience.  I’d have to say concentrated on middle NCO’s and junior and middle officers with a smattering of younger enlisted and a smattering of O6 and above. That’s in the military.

The second big group is academics. And military history is a pretty lonely field, so academics seem to like a place that welcomes military historians.

The third group is defense journalists, think tank people, guys at corporations in northern Virginia, things like that. It kind of amuses my wife—she says that within three miles of the Pentagon, I’m a minor celebrity. Beyond that I’m totally anonymous and very happy with that.

You’ve probably been to more than a few archives.  What is the most interesting thing you’ve read or discovered?

There are a lot of exciting things in the archives. It just amazes me that you can sit there and if you ask for the right files and explain what you are looking for, and the people in the archives that work there tend to be very helpful, you can sit and hold maps that guys held on the beaches on D-Day. The original maps that have their markings on them, the markings they are making in pencil as they figure out where a German machine gun nest is, or where the lines of communications are.

But I gotta say, the single most moving thing I ever found were some letters by a general, Terry de la Mesa Allen, who was commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Sicily in August, 1943; a very good division commander, a very tough fighter. Terry Allen was relived of division command by Omar Bradley. It was very public and he didn’t know why. He had just won the key battle of the campaign in central Sicily and then he got fired, along with his assistant division commander, who was Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the son of the President. He writes back to his wife a series of letters in pencil on blue lined school notebook paper.  And one day he writes to his wife, “Patton dropped by, Patton thinks I’m being promoted to something.” Which is totally BS.  And I think Patton knew it.  Eventually Allen gets sent back to America without a job. George Marshall, the Army chief, admired Allen even though Allen was a very heavy drinker. When Marshall found out that Allen had been fired by Bradley, I found in the archives a note Marshall wrote to an aide that said: “Give Allen another division that is going overseas. Give him the 82nd if that is next to go over.”  And when Marshall was told the 82nd was not the next, Marshall said: “Give him the next division that comes up.” So a year later Marshall has Terry Allen back in Europe commanding the 104th Infantry Division.

To hold that series of letters where Allen is trying to figure out what is going on, in the midst of just having played a central role in the first American campaign against the Germans on European soil, is just amazing to me. That really was a heart stopping thing for me when doing research.

Still, I have to mention that one of the hazards I didn’t know about when doing research, is that I’ll be sitting there in the Army archives, reading these things in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and frequently I’ll go back to my hotel room and at night I’d begin hacking, and I’d realize that I’d ingested a lot of dust looking at files that people that hadn’t looked at for years and years. If I go again I think I will wear a mask next time.

What books would you recommend to the next US President?  The next Secretary of Defense?  The next Joint Chiefs of Staff?

I would recommend to all of them Cohen’s Supreme Command. For my money it is the best book about how the civilian leadership should run his military, and how military leaders should deal with their civilian overseers.  It’s also about strategy. Strategy is not easy. If you are not crying than you are not making strategy. If you are not asking hard questions you are not making strategy. If you are not prioritizing between the important and the essential, you are not making strategy. Eliot Cohen’s book brings those points home and does it very well by examining a series of leaders and their decisions.

Read the Remainder at Real Clear Defense

What is an Existential Threat?

A short, concise 3 minute read that I think nails the MAIN issue regarding U.S. Foreign Policy currently.  Now I don’t play Politics, but ask yourself; out of all the Presidential hopefuls, which one would you want making a decision like the one described below? If you are like me, your answer is NONE OF THE ABOVE, but unfortunately that is not an option. We have all witnessed these last 8 years what WEAK, NON-COMMITTAL foreign policy leadership looks like. Can the U.S. really weather another 4 to 8 years of another President like that? One look at Russia, China, North Korea and Iran and the answer is a resounding NO! -SF

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In the United States the 2016 Presidential Election looms and candidates from all sides are taking to the stage at debates and other venues in an effort to establish their foreign policy credibility.  Whether discussing ideas to counter Russian aggression in Europe, how to engage China, or whether to destroy, defeat, or minimize the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a term often discussed is existential threat.  While an existential threat is generally defined as something that is a threat to existence, this is imprecise and deserves further explanation.  A more detailed definition could point to a threat being existential if it involves a group with the capability to permanently change another group’s values and the way it governs itself against the latter’s will.

Two examples where a group permanently changed another group’s values and the way they govern, against their will, occurred during World War 2.  In this case, the Allies destroyed the 25-year-old Nazi movement in Germany and the 76-year-old Imperialism movement in Japan.  To make this happen took tremendous military force.  Not counting the Allied Forces, the United States employed 16,112,566 military members and two nuclear weapons to achieve this end.  Today, a truly existential threat to the United States would entail another country being able to permanently take away its freedom and change its democratic form of government, regardless of the preference of the citizenry.

The groundwork for freedom and democratic government in the United States was laid on July 4th, 1776, when the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence believed it to be self-evident that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Later, the first amendment to the Constitution would establish freedoms of religion, speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government to address grievances.  When looking at the United States and thinking about the term existential threat the question naturally arises:  What countries have the capability, in this case an armed force, that could permanently take away the freedom and change the democratic form of government the United States has enjoyed for over 239 years?

The Russian military has 771,000 personnel, 22,000 tanks, 1,337 combat aircraft, and approximately 4,500 deployed and stockpiled nuclear weaponsChina has 2.3 million active military personnel, a further 500,000 estimated in the reserves, and approximately 250 stockpiled nuclear weapons.  In contrast to these large standing forces, ISIL has approximately 100,000 fighters located mostly within Iraq and Syria.  Based upon the framework presented here, Russia is the only existential threat to the United States, in large part due to their nuclear arsenal.  And while China can threaten United States interests worldwide, ISIL’s main capability to strike the United States is through inspiring someone already there to conduct an attack.

After the November, 2016 elections, the new President of the United States will have to deal with one existential threat and many lesser ones. While the President will need to ensure the United States maintains sufficient capability to address these threats, he or she will also need to take into account how this capability is viewed by other countries.  To the majority of the world, the United States is the existential threat.  This being the case, the next President will need to engage with other countries very carefully, always being aware of this potential undercurrent.  It could easily be said that one country’s underwriter of security is another’s existential threat.

Read the Original Article at Real Clear Defense