In the celebrated PBS series by Ken Burns, The Civil War (1990), Southern historian Shelby Foote provides excellent anecdotes that embroider the documentary. In one of these vignettes, Foote mentions a dialogue between a Confederate and a Union soldier, in which the latter asks, "Why do you fight?" The Confederate soldier responds, "Because you are here." Foote adds, "Which is not a bad answer!"
If the errors committed in the building of the edifice of Western civilization are compared with Plato’s ideal Republic and the perfect State, protected by intelligent but disinterested Guardians and ruled by equally disinterested and totally just Philosopher-kings, then Western civilization loses hands down.(1) But as Aristotle pointed out in his Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, man is subject to errors and thus such ideal utopias created by real men are unworkable and nonexistent.(2) Despite over two millennia of history, no such state has ever been created, and the half-baked facsimiles
Recently we observed — or rather, failed to observe — two important anniversaries. The first was October 12, Columbus Day, which we largely ignore. The second was October 10 or 11, the approximate date of the Battle of Tours, which we ignore entirely.
Charles Martel won the Battle of Tours in 732, which saved Europe from the Muslim expansion beyond Spain. Martel's Frankish army defeated a Muslim army, which until then had crushed all resistance.
After a highly charged two-year campaign, the Scottish people have spoken, and the final vote and tally completed. On September 18, 2014, Scotland voted in a massive referendum on the issue of Scottish independence. The result being that Scotland would stay within the United Kingdom after all — rejecting, by a decisive vote, the call for independence: 2,001,926 citizens cast a No vote; 1,617,989, a Yes vote.
A Review of Washington — A Life by Ron Chernow (2010)
Excellent biographies of the Founding Fathers have been published in the last several decades. With these books, the nation seems to yearn for moral and political guidance from America's founders — i.e., through their words, lives, and actions, as recounted in the pages of history. It seems these tomes are needed to help steer the presently insecure nation through the prevailing rough political waters and treacherous economic shoals of the present global age.
A review of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (2004)
This list is admittedly a compilation of sundry and disparate political historic characters, ranging from do-gooder reformers with possibly good intentions to militant revolutionists who desired to overthrow the existing order of government, ostensibly to create a better world.
Sun Shuyan, author of The Long March — The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth, was born in the 1960s, reared and schooled in communist China, as well as at Oxford, England, where she won a scholarship. Sun Shuyun is now a documentary filmmaker who "for the last decade divided her time between London and Beijing." This short biographical vignette of the author is essential because it parallels her "divided," and seemingly ambivalent, views on Mao and his legacy — viz-a-viz, the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The author of The Long March: The Untold Story, Harrison E. Salisbury (1908-1993), was an American journalist and an eloquent writer, but he had a romantic, softspot for young, "idealistic" communist revolutionaries. This infatuation persisted even though these revolutionists ultimately showed their true colors when they attained supreme power, discarded their sense of justice, imposed communism and totalitarianism, and used terror to
Over the years, in both commentaries and letters to the editor in my local newspaper, I have noted the naïve expression of many letter writers and liberal pundits, who glossing over the Constitutional protections guaranteed by the 4th and 5th Amendments, opine, “If you don’t have anything to hide, then you don’t have anything to fear!” When the Soviet KGB needed culprits, their motto was “Show me the man and I will show you his crime.” In other words, charges can be brought against anyone, once the State has decided to trample on the rights of any targeted citizen.
Preliminary Note: The article that follows is a review of Mao — The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. However, I have chosen to include this Preliminary Note before the formal review for reasons that will soon become apparent to the reader. This authoritative biography and history comes in a hefty tome illustrated with many rare photographs as well as detailed Maps of specific areas discussed in the text, which actually ends on page 631.
A week or so ago we discussed Obama's Mid-term Report Card on foreign policy. It was the opinion of most readers of GOPUSA that the sitting President received a solid "F, " failing grade.
Inspired by the incredible adventures of various historical figures and finally spurred on by the book, Prince Rupert — The Last Cavalier (2007) by Charles Spencer, which I recently read and reviewed — I have compiled a brief list of arguably the ten most adventuresome characters of history.
Barack Obama swore as U.S. President to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Instead he has violated his oath of office repeatedly by expanding the powers of the federal government at the expense of individual citizens and attempting to yield the sovereignty of the U.S. to the U.N. The Obama administration, for example, has sided with the U.N. against state laws in his own country on several occasions.
Prince Rupert — The Last Cavalier (2007) by British author Charles Spencer — journalist and former correspondent for NBC News, writer, broadcaster, and British peer 9th Earl Spencer and brother of the late Princess Diana, the former Princess of Wales — should be congratulated for writing this magnificent and comprehensive biography of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682), a prince who packed more adventure into a single lifetime than seemed humanly possible by the standards of any age.
Just as I was beginning to warm up to Vladimir Putin and the new emerging "democracy" in the Russian Federation (which like a phoenix rose out of the ashes of the communist Soviet Union), the Russian President and his minions in the Ukraine invade the Crimean peninsula and threaten to foment a second cold war! Who is Putin trying to imitate?
Suleiman the Magnificent — Scourge of Heaven by Antony Bridge is an engaging, but not exhaustive, narrative of the major events in the life and times of the great Ottoman Sultan Suleiman (r. 1520-1566). I was not disappointed in this book, which reads like a charming storybook. The tome is at times suspenseful, always informative, and frequently suitably illustrated, including excellent illustrative maps.
Soldiers of Fortune — The Story of the Mamlukes (1973) is another undiscovered gem of a book by a scholar, historian, author, and soldier, a British Lieutenant General, Sir John B. Glubb (1897-1986), better known as Glubb Pasha by the Arabs he commanded in the Middle East in his many years of service while in the British army. The tome is a masterpiece of research on a topic little known to students of history — arcane, indeed, to most Western scholars and historians!
There is a Cuban proverb: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”
There is a Cuban proverb that reads: Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres, which roughly translates: "Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are." For those who have not studied the issues and ramifications of convening a Constitutional Convention, now referred to as "Convention of States" to make it more palatable to state rights conservatives, the Cuban refrain should ring bells of concern. The Left has brought forth this issue numerous times.
The Galleys at Lepanto by Jack Beeching (1982) is a marvelous book, so well researched and mellifluously narrated as to read almost as a fairy tale or an epic romance of yore, elegantly scribed in poetic prose. Foremost among the knights-errant in this tale of chivalry is Don John of Austria, illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and half-brother of the stern King Philip II of Spain. The characters come to life as they are vividly described in the enthralling narrative, thus once begun, the tome is very difficult to put down.
Stalin's Secret Agents — The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government was written by two experienced authors and recognized authorities on the Cold War, M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein. Evans is a veteran journalist and former broadcaster, as well as the author of Blacklisted by History (2009), a biography of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and other momentous books. Romerstein was the former head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the U.S. Information Agency and a congressional staffer of the House Intelligence Committee.
John Quincy Adams (2012) by Harlow Giles Unger is a well written and well-researched book that brings to light the sixth president of the United States, and the only son of a Founding Father to become president — John Quincy Adams.
The Last Founding Father — James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger (2009) is a well written and eloquently narrated book that goes a long way to accomplish what it set out to do — to make James Monroe, not only the last Founding Father, but also the greatest of the founders, second only to George Washington.
Moghul by Alan Savage, a pseudonym for a prolific British novelist, is a historic novel of adventure, sex, and brutality of epic proportions.
Case Closed — Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner is the definitive book on the JFK assassination. Case Closed is duly named as an authoritative and definitive treatise on the subject. The book is well investigated, well written, and thoroughly convincing because of the meticulous research and persuasive, logical narrative of the accomplished author Gerald Posner, a former Wall Street lawyer.
In the noted biography, Flawed Patriot (2006) by former CIA agent and author Bayard Stockton, CIA legend Bill Harvey, was introduced to President John F. Kennedy as "America's James Bond."(1) Harvey was indeed a charismatic legend in the CIA, but two other, almost equally unknown American heroes, could also vie for the title. One of them is Feliz Rodríguez Mendigutía, the indomitable subject of the book, Shadow Warrior, who, among his many other accomplishments, helped track and capture Che Guevara in the jungles of Bolivia in 1967.(2)
The Widow Spy is a real-life thriller that begins with a seemingly typical American housewife, Martha ("Marti") D. Peterson, who in an unusual gesture invites her two teenage children out to lunch. This is twenty years after the main events subsequently depicted in the book. She had remarried and was living what appeared to be the ordinary life of an American wife and mother. But what she flat out confesses to her astonished teenagers is that she worked for the CIA, had been previously married to an unknown American hero, and had a long story to tell them.
A Time to Betray — The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Reza Kahlili is one of the most heartrending and enthralling accounts I have ever read of courage, dissimulation, and personal suffering in the genre of espionage memoirs.
Antony and Cleopatra is the seventh and final book in the Masters of Rome series of historic novels by Australian author Colleen McCullough. This tome covers the years 41-27 B.C. of the late Roman Republic. At 567 pages, it is shorter than the previous books in the series.