Red Scare


Title:                      Red Scare

Author:                  Robert K. Murray

Murray, Robert K. (1955) Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

LOC:       55007034

E743.5 .M8

Date Posted:      February 27, 2013

This book is an excellent case study of a phenomenon which has passed from the memory of most elderly Americans despite its parallelism in certain respects with the present. As the author makes abundantly clear, the “Palmerism” of 1919 and 1920 ran only less rampant than our own “McCarthyism,” and had the sympathy of the ailing Woodrow Wilson. Palmerism showed the same disheartening ability to class together all shades of liberalism and radicalism and to paint them with the glowing red of revolutionism. Over half of the narrative is devoted to an examination of the psychological background and to the events which brought the red scare to full flower. It is the author’s contention that a budding reaction against progressivism and war promoted nativism and isolationism-movements which were aided by capital’s efforts to portray unionists and strikers as part of a widespread revolutionary conspiracy. The preliminary barrage of bombs and the May Day riots of 1919 had little if any connection with the ensuing Seattle general strike and the strikes by Boston policemen, steel workers, and coal miners, but a sensational press deliberately misrepresented the facts. Communists, anxious to promote chaos and willing to have the workers goaded to desperation, joyously sought to give the impression that these strikes were steps toward revolution. The public, never given to analyzing fine political distinctions on the left, reacted violently and cried for both vengeance and preventive measures. Indeed, these strikes were far from having political implications but were desperate attempts to remedy truly pathetic wages and conditions of labor. Nevertheless shrewd publicity convinced the American people that the real issue was radicalism and removed “the last remaining barrier to hysteria.”

The war-time desire for conformity now spread into schools and churches; negroes were mobbed, and Wobblies in Centralia, Washington, were lynched. Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer, under public pressure, organized a General Intelligence (or antiradical) Division under J. Edgar Hoover, and staged two massive raids which gathered in some eight thousand presumed radicals. Most of them had to be released, but over eight hundred were convicted at administration hearings and deported. The states joined the game, acting under their criminal syndicalist laws. New York had been stirred to early action by its Lusk Investigating Committee, and now the legislature refused to seat five socialists, some of whom had previously served. Their cause was championed by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and Governor Alfred E. Smith vetoed five anti-radical bills intended to outlaw the Socialist Party and impose a loyalty oath on teachers.

Curiously enough the struggle over the seating of the five New York assemblymen, so the author states, marked the beginning of the ebb in the red scare. More and more prominent public figures took their stand against the popular hysteria, and newspaper editors began to reverse their position and warn of the growing threat to representative government. Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis F. Post, director of deportation proceedings, cancelled warrants by the thousands and examined the remaining cases with more care. Palmer was now left holding the bag which he had seized at public request, and his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination bogged down. Even the bombing of the House of Morgan (September 16, 1920), failed to revive the popular hysteria.

And yet, says our author, the receding red scare left a number of pebbles on the beach. Among these were a reversion to isolation from international affairs, the long refusal to recognize the fact of the existence of Red Russia, the repression not only of radical parties but of socialism, the deterioration of organized labor, a backlog of criminal syndicalist legislation, a decline in liberal thought, an apathy toward reform, and the growth of the atmosphere which made possible the tragedy of Sacco and Vanzetti.

This is one of those rare books in which there is nothing to criticize unless one deliberately rejects the limits imposed by the author or denies his right to adopt the moral approach which he freely acknowledges as his bias. He disclaims the possibility of being completely detached and he is to be commended in this, for it makes his study the more valuable. It is well to break the mold set by too many historians when they identify their leanings with objectivity. In the opinion of this reviewer the author has handled his subject with all honesty, balance, and dignity.

In closing it should be noted that the book contains several amusing cartoons, a valuable “Note on Sources,” and a good index.

Cuban Bluff


Title:                      Cuban Bluff

Author:                  Nigel West

West, Nigel (1991). Cuban Bluff: A Documentary Novel of the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York: Crown

LOC:       91015577

PR6073.E765 C8 1991

Date Posted:      February 25, 2013

West, a historian, and former Member of Parliament, tells the story in a “documentary novel” of the Cuban missile crisis from the bottom up so that spies rather than Kennedys have the starring roles. Readers who have trouble remembering why we all used to worry so about the now seemingly harmless Russians may benefit from this fictional treatment of a very real event, the Kennedy-Khrushchev face-off over the installation of ballistic missiles in newly communist Cuba.

Beginning with the defection of a Soviet intelligence officer and his family in Helsinki, West follows a number of apparently unrelated low-level intelligence discoveries that, when seen together, lead the British and American spy factories to the discovery of the Soviet missile installations 90 miles from Florida. Much of the discovery appears to be clue to the clever theorizing of Tom Waters, a British signals intelligence worker who spots telltale silences around Soviet freighters steaming from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. Waters moves with the story from Cyprus to Bermuda and continues to make important finds as a result of keen intelligence and dumb luck. Others spies are of course involved. A French diplomat working with the Americans is able to mix business with pleasure as he picks up information in the arms of a beautiful, high-ranking Fidelista. Russian Col. Oleg Penkovsky, in the pay of the Americans, spills important secrets as long as he can. And there are all those hard-working spy planes and primitive satellites whizzing over Havana. The journalistic style fails to capture the tension of the era, but the spywork fascinates.

The Bourne Ultimatum


Title:                      The Bourne Ultimatum

Author:                  Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (1990). The Bourne Ultimatum. New York: Random House

LCCN:    89043201

PS3562.U26 B685 1990

Date Updated:  January 6, 2017

This is another in Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. I’ve read them all, including the more recent ones written by Eric Van Lustbader. Ludlum’s are the best, with action perfectly described, along with great plots. This review lists most of them up to the more recent books.

This review is adapted from Deist Brawler. Brawler says: “I saw The Bourne Identity in theatres with my dad. He’d already read the original trilogy and was excited that they turned it into a movie. During the movie he turned to me and said, ‘This is nothing like the book, but I like it.’”

Being poor I was looking through my parents’ books to find something to read; lo and behold, I came across the original trilogy. I set those to the side and kept looking, when I came across The Bourne Legacy. Then Betrayal and The Borne Sanction popped up…then I got Deception. My intent was to read the entire series and then write a review not of just the individual books, but the series as a whole. Why? Basically all of the stories are the same, Jason Bourne gets caught up in some crazy government plot, beats the crap out of some dudes, kills some other dudes, and in turn gets the crap beat out of him. In the end though, he’s going to save the USA. However, Bourne is like Rambo on steroids. I think, if he got in a fight with Rambo, Rambo would be dead in a second. He would step up to Bourne, fists raised, ready to fight, and he wouldn’t even get to swing before he was dropped to the ground. And to think, they were both born in the jungles of Vietnam.

Robert Ludlum created the original trilogy. Without doubt, Ludlum is the master of action stories. Jason Bourne is really named David Webb. Once an intellectual, his Thai wife and two children are murdered by a strafing plane in Cambodia. Enraged and without hope he goes to Vietnam where he joins a group of misfits and outlaws known as Medusa. [Although, this is gradually revealed through the book. You don’t know it until you’re deep into the story.] Through them he learns most of his skills, quickly becoming the best with the code name DELTA ONE. With the war ending Bourne is recruited to join Treadstone (which you should know from the movies…if you’ve seen them). His job there is to become the world’s number one assassin (at least on paper and in minds) so he can hunt down and kill the real number one assassin, Carlos the Jackal. This is where he, essentially, becomes Jason Bourne.

The Bourne Identity is basically what you see in the movie…with a few minor details. Bourne has amnesia. He’s trying to find out who he is, while an assassin (Carlos) and the CIA are trying to kill him. Carlos, because he thinks Bourne is after him. The CIA, because they think Bourne has gone rogue. In the film, Marie is a poor German woman trying to make her way through life. In the book, Marie is an intelligent economist who works for the Canadian government. She helps Bourne; the CIA acknowledges they made a huge mistake; and she steals several million from them; they give them a home and Bourne returns to being David Webb…a college professor.

The Bourne Supremacy. Marie is kidnapped. The kidnappers tell Bourne that in order to get Marie back, he must go to China and kill an assassin who is claiming to be Jason Bourne. Along the way, we discover that it’s not just kidnappers, it’s the American government that took Marie. The assassin he’s after is/was actually trained by another former member of Medusa, and the conspiracy is a lot larger than anyone imagined. How so? One man is trying to take over China.

The Bourne Ultimatum. Bourne is now a father. Marie and he have had a boy and a girl (parallels to his original wife and children). Carlos the Jackal comes after Bourne. In response, Bourne sends Marie and the children to the Caribbean with her brother. There’s a side story of a new Medusa? You can probably get the idea of what happens from there.

Ludlum’s Bourne is a rather complex character. Far from the young and energetic Matt Damon from the movies, he’s more Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 4. Bourne is old. In Ultimatum he is 51. As such, he doesn’t beat his enemies by being necessarily faster, or stronger, he beats them by being better. Another thing to note of Ludlum’s Bourne is that he, in essence, has a split personality,that alter ego being David Webb. Throughout the books, Bourne almost has waves of sympathy, of guilt, of remorse. These come from Webb, and Bourne is constantly having to shut Webb out. [This reminds me of Caliban in The Tempest. A character used, and two personalities in one.] Marie is also much stronger than she was portrayed in the films. She fights, she gets dirty, and she’s generally smarter than any of the other people around her…including Bourne. Ludlum also likes recurring characters such as Alex Conklin and Morris Panov. His books also take place in the 80s. Now, we get to Lustbader.

The Bourne Legacy. So how does Lustbader enter the Bourne world? He’s put Jason back to being David, working at the university again as a professor. He’s still got Marie there with the kids. Then…boom…he not only gets rid of Marie and the kids (figuratively), but he kills off Conklin and Panov. What Lustbader does in the first two books is kill off everyone that meant anything in the original trilogy. In essence, he wants to start from scratch. Legacy is about an assassin who wants Bourne dead. Through the course of the story, Bourne finds out about another terrorist plot that he has to stop and eventually gets the other assassin to help him do it. The key? The other assassin ends up being his son Joshua (the one who died). Joshua is good too…better than Bourne.

The Bourne Betrayal. Marie is dead. The only other remnant from the original trilogy, Martin Lindros, is kidnapped. Was Marie killed by some nefarious means? No, she got pneumonia.This book once again deals with terrorists. It’s also where Lustbader starts tossing around the word “chameleon.” Bourne before was always able to blend into situations. Ludlum would mention it using clothes, the way he walked, talked, and moved, etc. Lustbader goes beyond that by using prosthetics, makeup, etc. Now Bourne (and other characters) can mimic literal people. Change their appearance to look exactly like someone else, alter their voice so they sound like them too. This is what happens here. Two terrorists brothers want Bourne dead because he killed their sister (at least so they think) a long time ago. That’s their main driving motivation. The other is to take down the government from the inside. What better way to do that than to become someone important, thus, one brother becomes Martin Lindros. There’s also a little subplot wherein Bourne is brainwashed…it doesn’t last long…and I think Lustbader pulled it out of thin air. Along the way, we are introduced to several new characters, including Bourne’s new love interest, a woman named Moira who works in private security; Moore, a woman who is half Egyptian; and a protege of Lindros, Tyrone Elkins!. Although he’s a ghetto black guy that befriends Moore, technically he’s almost like a replacement for a character that was continued from Ludlum’s Bourne.

The Bourne Sanction. University professor, etc., going after terrorists, assassin hunting him down. So how is this assassin, Arkadin, different from all of the others? Well, he was Treadstone’s first attempt. That’s right. Treadstone’s real goal was to create the perfect killing machine. When Arkadin ran away from them, they grabbed Bourne. So how do they meet? While Arkadin is going one way, trying to track down some people, Bourne is going the other way, trying to track down some people. New people? Well, Moore is now head of Typhoon. Hart, a woman, former private security, who is now head of CI. Kendall, LaValle, Halliday are a bunch of government wonks with ties to NSA that want CI eliminated. Indeed, Tyrone is tortured by Kendall and LaValle, as Moore attempts to provide proof to have them taken out.

The Bourne Deception. Guess. No, really, guess. Terrorists.. Only this time, they’re Americans! There is so much going on in this book…I wouldn’t even really know where to begin. Arkadin almost kills Bourne, then Bourne goes after him. In the meantime, Arkadin has taken over a terrorist cell that he’s training for…something. The NSA is trying to swallow up all intelligence agencies, deriving much of their intel from a private company named Black River. Black River, in the meantime, is trying to start an international war, because an international war means more money. It’s just…confusing.

Lustbader’s Bourne is the movie Bourne. Not only does he eliminate everyone from Ludlum’s world (with the exception of Bourne himself), but he does so in two books. Never again is Bourne’s age mentioned, nor is it a factor. We’ve stepped out of the 80s and moved into modern times. After the death of Marie in Betrayal we don’t even really hear of his children anymore, as if they don’t even matter. David Webb? Other than initial introductions of him in the beginning of each book, he doesn’t really exist anymore either. That dual personality? Nope. Only Jason Bourne exists now. Lustbader kills characters off with reckless abandon, almost as if as soon as he gets bored with them, he just blows them up. I’m also getting the impression that he doesn’t even like Bourne. More and more, his novels are focusing on other characters, other aspects…more on political intrigue. Jason is almost an afterthought to keep the fist fighting and gunplay in the novels. I mean really, how many times can another assassin go after Bourne? Are there even that many high caliber assassins in the world? You would think that after a dude kills a gajillion of them people would quit sending them. Even his new love story between Bourne and Moira is…dull. He’s good at writing action [contra – I think he is lousy at writing action], but he’s not good at developing personalities [contra – I think he’s good at it.]

Ludlum took 10 years to write the Bourne Trilogy. Lustbader put out his first Jason Bourne book in 2004. Some 14 years after Ultimatum. His next one came out in 2007 and since then, he has popped out a Bourne book every year. Lustbader is much better with action and pacing than Ludlum was [contra: I disagree on both counts], but Ludlum has the story. I think the main problem is that Lustbader is trying to do too much in each novel. Rather than focus on one storyline, or even two, he seems to be trying to fit in as many different plots as he can. In many ways it just becomes confusing, in others it’s boring. My advice to him would be to keep a core group of characters. Quit killing people off in every book and introducing more. Stop with the endless roundabout of lies. He mentions that Bourne has a son, Joshua, an assassin, and three books later he hasn’t even mentioned him again. I honestly wish the two of them could have worked on a book together, let Lustbader handle the action and Ludlum stick to the story.

—————

 

Containment


Title:                      Containment

Author:                  Ian Shapiro

Shapiro, Ian (2007). Containment : Rebuilding A Strategy Against Global Terror. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

LOC:       2006031331

HV6432 .S49 2007

Date Posted:      February 19, 2013

The following is the publisher’s description of the book.

In this powerfully argued book, Ian Shapiro shows that the idea of containment offers the best hope for protecting Americans and their democracy into the future. His bold vision for American security in the post-September 11 world is reminiscent of George Kennan’s historic Long Telegram, in which the containment strategy that won the Cold War was first developed.

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and unilateral action was been marked by incompetence—missed opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden, failures of postwar planning for Iraq, and lack of an exit strategy. But Shapiro contends that the problems run deeper. He explains how the Bush Doctrine departs from the best traditions of American national-security policy and accepted international norms, and renders Americans and democratic values less safe. He debunks the belief that containment is obsolete. Terror networks might be elusive, but the enabling states that make them dangerous can be contained. Shapiro defends containment against charges of appeasement, arguing that force against a direct threat will be needed. He outlines new approaches to intelligence, finance, allies, diplomacy, and international institutions. He explains why containment is the best alternative to a misguided agenda that naively assumes democratic regime change is possible from the barrel of an American gun.

President Bush defined the War on Terror as the decisive ideological struggle of our time. Shapiro shows what a self-defeating mistake that was. He sets out a viable alternative that offers real security to Americans, reclaims America’s international stature, and promotes democracy around the world.

The Bourne Identity


Title:                      The Bourne Identity

Author:                   Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (1980). The Bourne Identity . New York: R. Marek Publishers

LCCN:    79023638

PZ4.L9455 Bo

Subjects

Date Updated:  November 10, 2015

KIRKUS REVIEW[1]

Another dizzily preposterous Ludlum comic-strip full of hyperventilating characters, pell-mell intrigue, and barbarous prose. Amid a storm at sea, a man is shot in the head and washes overboard—but he grabs onto a piece of wood, eventually is picked up by Greek fishermen, and is nursed back to health by a dipsomaniac doctor. The head wound has left amnesia, but the doctor points out that subtle surgical scars show a completely revamped face: the patient had been on the run. What’s more, embedded on the patient’s thigh is a microfiche of a numbered account at a Swiss bank. The patient eventually makes his way to Zurich, gets a look into his strange account, and finds that his name is Jason Bourne—and that he is associated with a phantom American corporation, Treadstone Seventy-One. Bourne is also a marked man—he’s shot at before he even gets out of the bank—so once more he’s on the lam. Hiding out in a hotel he kidnaps a lady doctor from Canada, then saves her from rape-death by his enemies; she falls for him hard. Meanwhile, flashes of deja-vu keep Bourne in relative darkness. . . until it at last becomes clear that he is being pursued by the infamous Carlos, the world’s most notorious wanted assassin. Why? Because he is the only living man who knows Carlo’s face: Bourne was once part of MEDUSA in the Mekong Delta, was programmed by a top-secret U.S. intelligence group into becoming a paper rival to Carlos to suck Carlos out of hiding through jealousy. Bourne’s code name is Cain, but his real name is Webb, and his Thai wife and kids were once strafed to death. . . . Showdowns, chases, and more exclamation points and italics than most writers use in a lifetime—shamelessly dumb entertainment in the pre-sold, proven Ludlum mold.

[1] Kirkus review, downloaded November 10, 2015

 

One Day in History 9/11


Title:                      One Day in History

Author:                  Rodney P. Carlisle

Carlisle, Rodney P. (2007). One Day in History—September 11, 2001. New York: Collins

LOC:       2007028243

HV6432.7 .S44 2007

Date Posted:      February 18, 2013

The following is a publisher’s description for this book.

Carlisle has compiled first person accounts from that infamous day.

Offering a unique approach to history, this series of individual, popular encyclopedias will delineate and explain the people, places, events, chronology, and ramifications of pivotal days in history. One Day in History: September 11, 2001 will provide a comprehensive and engaging overview of this date in history as well as an examination of the themes related to the date-the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the war on terror, and subsequent increase in patriotism. This volume covers all aspects of September 11, 2001, including background information explaining what led to the date’s events and post-date analysis discussing the effects and consequences of the day’s events. More than 100 articles cover such topics as the timeline of events, biographies of the terrorists involved, films of 9/11, international reactions, the NYPD and FDNY, and the 9/11 commission.

The Red Decade


Title:                      The Red Decade

Author:                   Eugene Lyons

Lyons, Eugene (1970). The Red Decade: The Classic Work on Communism in America During The Thirties. Arlington House

LOC:       72139886

HX86 .L97 1970

Date Posted:      February 16, 2013

Over eighty years ago, Eugene Lyons—Russian born, American bred—sought to explain just what happened among America’s left-wing intellectuals in the previous decade. The thirties were unkind to them, as they started the decade damning such “social fascists” as FDR, voted for Foster and Ford, then, on orders from Moscow, hailed the liberals as allies in the fight against fascism. Ah, but then Stalin signed a pact with fascism—so back went Franklin to the vituperation pile. (Eleanor was OK.) The war brought about some changes: it was “imperialist,” and so resistance to Hitler was out of fashion (a word Hellman would disengenuously use later). The Hollywood Anti-Nazi Committee changed its name to something less provocative; those who had whooped for the purge trials moved onto calling for strikes in defense industries. The yanks weren’t coming, they said. Then Hitler broke the treaty. The change was immediate. Suddenly the yanks WERE coming, if the intellectualoids of the left had anything to say. Supporting all this, driving this, in fact, were those Hollywood Ten types the left love to tell us were just “activists,” persecuted innocents. These innocents sided with Stalin and, for a time, Hitler. (Think about that the next time you laud such people.) This book is a true classic. It’s erudite and witty style makes the subject anything but dry. This book is a must for conservatives—and liberals who wish to be truly iconoclastic.

Freedom From Fear


Title:                      Freedom From Fear

Author:                 David M. Kennedy

Kennedy, David M. (1999). Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. New York: Oxford University Press

LOC:       98049580

E173 .O94

Date Posted:      February 15, 2013

Book review (H-Net), reviewed by Thomas E. Blantz (Department of History, University of Notre Dame), Published on H-Pol (June, 1999)

“The Era of FDR”

In Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David Kennedy has produced a book for all readers. The general reader will find it an interesting and even absorbing story of one of the most fascinating eras in American history, the professional historian will find it a balanced review of this watershed period based on current research and scholarly evaluations, and the expert in twentieth-century America will find here not only the same excellent review, but also less familiar vignettes and pieces of evidence and historical judgments that will challenge his or her own.

Kennedy acknowledges that the United States faced serious economic and social problems throughout the 1920s. Too many industrial workers were unemployed and too few had financial security for the future, farmers received too little from the sale of their produce, interest on the national debt absorbed one-third of the federal budget, and speculative fever and easy money were hastening the Wall Street Crash. Immigrants were adjusting to American life only with difficulty, Black Americans confronted segregation and discrimination throughout the south, and both faced open hatred from a revived Ku Klux Klan.

Kennedy’s Herbert Hoover is well intentioned, innovative, but ultimately unsuccessful. To address the farm problem, the president called congress into special session in early 1929 to pass the Agricultural Marketing Act. When the Crash occurred, he pleaded with business leaders to hold the line on wages and employment, and he undertook a $140,000,000 public works program. He signed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff only reluctantly, favoring its high duties on farm products but not on industrial goods. He was willing to experiment with new agenciesthe National Credit Association, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—but these came too late. He early on underestimated the severity of the collapse, remained orthodox on the gold standard and balanced budget too long, and, in the author’s judgment, “remained a manager, not a politician” (p. 65), unable to lead congress or the country.

His successor, Franklin Roosevelt, was able to do both. Assuming office in March, 1933, he surrounded himself with a team of academic brain-trusters who agreed on three points: that the causes of the Depression were domestic, that the Brandeisian philosophy of trust-busting was misguided, and that big government was needed to balance big industry. Despite such agreement, Kennedy suggests that it was only in 1934-1935 that the president was able to etch “the outlines of a structured and durable social philosophy that constituted the ideological heart of the New Deal” (p. 244).

The discussion of Roosevelt’s New Deal program is sprinkled with interesting insights and asides. Federal relief programs served to wean the loyalties of needy families away from local political machines and towards the federal government, Harry Hopkins’ Civil Works Administration spent $200,000,000 on relief each month while Harold Ickes’ much larger Public Works Administration spent a total of only $110,000,000 in its first six months, 95 percent of Americans were required to pay no income taxes in 1935 and John D. Rockefeller was the only person in the highest 79 percent bracket stipulated in the Wealth Tax Act that year, and, for all the violent strikes of 1934-1937, labor did not attempt to overthrow the capitalistic system but managed to keep the attraction of Socialism and Communism weak and ineffective.

The author organizes the social history of the 1930s in part around the investigations of local conditions made by Lorena Hickok, a former Associated Press reporter, at the behest of Harry Hopkins. Her investigations were thorough and her language blunt and picturesque. Thirteen million workers were unemployed in 1933 and millions more were on drastically reduced hours. The position of women in the work force was ambiguous. Married women were often the first released since their husbands were presumed to be the primary providers, but the traditionally women’s jobs of teaching, telephone assistance, and secretarial service were less affected by unemployment than was heavy industry. Coal mining was hazardous and disease-ridden in the best of times, and the miners’ lot became truly desperate when the price of coal plummeted. Rural America was particularly hard hit. Farm prices were too low to cover the cost of shipping goods to market, and drought and dust storms added to the tragedy. Black Americans suffered most, often evicted from the land they cultivated as tenants or sharecroppers, and faced with indifference at best and hostility at worst from society at large. Hickok expressed surprise that Communism and revolution were not more popular.

Kennedy’s evaluation of the New Deal is moderate. Although it did not bring about recovery nor redistribute wealth, it did bring economic security to manyto depositors through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to stock traders through the Securities and Exchange Commission, to home owners through the Home Owners Loan Corporation, to farmers through Agricultural Adjustment Act payments, to the elderly and unemployed through Social Security, and to laborers through the National Labor Relations and Fair Labor Standards Acts. The New Deal brought important social reforms also: immigrants were brought into public life (and into the Democratic Party), labor unions increased in influence, rural America received electricity and modern conveniences, Black Americans were appointed to federal positions, and all Americans gained a renewed sense of confidence and pride. Complete recovery would not come until World War II, but progress had been made.

Foreign affairs dominate the second half of the book. Kennedy describes the complex background of World War II in rich detail. None of the contending nationsthe United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Unionhad a clear and consistent foreign policy throughout the 1930s, as policy advisers argued among themselves within each capital. When the Axis powers finally decided on war, the United States was, step by step, suctioned into the conflict. Despite the Neutrality Acts of 1935-1937, the United States began escorting (technically different from convoying) British shipping further and further into the Atlantic. Opportunities were certainly lost and unwise decisions taken in the weeks and days before Pearl Harbor but Kennedy sees no evidence of conspiracy. Hitler’s increasingly brutal treatment of the Jews is described in detail, but it is still not clear when other nations should have intervened. Even in 1943, Justice Felix Frankfurter was not sure he could believe accounts of the Holocaust (p. 797).

The narrative of World War II includes brilliant strategies and tragic miscalculations, international teamwork and petty sniping, heroic stands and daily boredom. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin disagreed heatedly over the timing of the western front and, within the American military, the navy strongly favored the war in the Pacific and the army the conflict in Europe. “One thing that might help win this war,” a usually diplomatic General Dwight Eisenhower once remarked, “is to get someone to shoot (Admiral Ernest) King” (p. 570). In contrast to the British, Americans hoped to reduce civilian casualties through precision-bombing but eventually adopted area-bombing against Tokyo, Dresden, and Berlin to shatter enemy morale. With formation flying still in its infancy, 49,000 Allied airmen died in combat over Europe but another 36,000 from air accidents. Many in the West hoped that Russia would not advance too rapidly in World War II and be in a position to dominate more of Europe in the postwar world. Americans have long been familiar with the atrocities committed by the enemy (Auschwitz, Bataan, etc.) but Kennedy describes Allied atrocities also.

The home front is also well portrayed: Roosevelt’s early and often clumsy efforts to reorganize the federal bureaucracy to cope with wartime demands; the Manhattan Project’s formation to develop an atomic bomb; military construction under brilliant industrialists Henry Kaiser and Henry Ford; the tragic internment of Japanese-Americans and the almost equally tragic discrimination against Black Americans; wartime labor unrest and race riots in Detroit and California; the entrance of millions of women into the work force and the impact of this on social customs; the threatened March on Washington by A. Philip Randolph and the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee; the GI Bill of Rights and its influence on American education.

The title of this work, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, may deserve comment. The central theme throughout is the search for security, amid economic collapse in the 1930s and in face of totalitarian aggression in World War II. Despite the subtitle, the book is not primarily social history. The political and military history of the period is the narrative’s basic chronological core, but the impact of Depression and war in the daily lives of Americansfarmers, soldiers, women, industrial workers, Nisei, Black Americans, the unemployedis thoroughly portrayed. It is political and social history at their best.

This review was commissioned for H-Pol by Lex Renda <renlex@uwm.edu>

Copyright (c) 1999 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact H-Net@h-net.msu.edu

Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War


Title:                      Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War

Author:                  Ted Honderich

Honderich, Ted (2006). Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9-11, Iraq, 7-7. London: Continuum.

LOC:       2006286023

HV6431.7 .H67 2006

Date Posted:      February 15, 2013

The following is a publisher’s description for this book.

“With large questions of right and wrong, there is a division of labor. So, with the attack on three subway trains and a bus in London on July 7, 2005. Of what moral relevance, if any, was the fact that the British army had been engaged in the killing of greatly more of a people with whom the terrorists identified? Of what relevance, as a newspaper article asked a week later, was the fact that the British prime minister put his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power?”

So begins Ted Honderich’s intelligent and thoughtful analysis in Terrorism and Humanity. Looking in detail at the situation in Palestine, 9/11, the war in Iraq and the events of 7/7, Terrorism and Humanity provides a thoughtful and perceptive exploration of the “biggest” issue facing the Western World today.

The Guardian has the following to say.

Hope for a Better World,” by Steven Poole, The Guardian (25 August 2006)

Means, rather than ends, must come under scrutiny, says Steven Poole after reading Ted Honderich’s Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War

Suppose I intend to assassinate a man whose death, everyone agrees, would make the world a better place. Unfortunately, the only means I have to do so is a nuclear bomb. Knowing a little about nuclear bombs, I predict that its detonation will kill a million other people. Still, the villain needs to die. So I set off the bomb. Is it reasonable for me to claim afterwards that I didn’t intend to kill the million other people, that they were regrettable “collateral damage” in my noble undertaking? Or should I say that, yes, I killed a million, but 20 million previously oppressed people will now live in liberty and comfort? Can I even say that I had a “moral right” to go nuclear?

To prod the reader into thinking through such arguments properly is the aim of philosopher Ted Honderich’s deeply provocative and forceful new book. It expresses a bracingly airy contempt for our “conventions of idiocy”, for our leaders, and for numerous other thinkers. Sometimes the tone is peremptory: “The general principle against violence can hardly be serious,” Honderich writes, though it was apparently seriously meant by Jesus, whatever you think of him. The author can also be enjoyably catty—the Blair government is described as “inanely resolute”—but he always treats the reader with high intellectual civility.

What is to be our guide in deciding moral questions? International law, “just war theory”, international relations, conservatism or liberalism, talk of democracy or freedom—our author considers them all, and chucks them all in the bin. What we need is his own Principle of Humanity. A “bad life” lacks one or more of the following goods: a decent length of life; the means to bodily quality of life; freedom and power. The Principle exhorts: “We must actually take rational steps to the end of getting and keeping people out of bad lives.”

The Principle’s first result is the most resistible. If you grant the Palestinians’ moral right to national self-determination, and if terrorism is the only means for them to pursue that right, then you must grant that they have a moral right to their terrorism. Honderich emphasises that such a conclusion is “terrible”, because terrorism is “prima facie wrong”. But the conclusion depends also on a question of fact. Is terrorism really “the only possible means” available to the Palestinian people to alleviate their suffering?

The question is really three. First, how exactly is it to count as a “means”? In what reasonable way can a suicide bomber targeting teenagers at an Israeli nightclub hope that his or her actions will lead to nationhood? (The hope must be reasonable, on Honderich’s own argument.) Second, has Palestinian terrorism in fact been such a means? Third, why are the efforts of Palestinian writers, lawyers, protesters or even politicians not allowed to count as means?

That terrorism is the only means is “evidently … a factual proposition in need of support”, Honderich notes. But the support is not here forthcoming. It is, Honderich says, “something about which myself I have no doubt”. The reader may doubt that, in the absence of factual support in the text, the “terrible conclusion” amounts to much more than a defiant way of expressing one’s sympathy for Palestinians. (The Principle also tells us, by the way, that the founding of the state of Israel and the “terrorism for it” were justified.)

Honderich goes on to describe 9/11 and 7/7 with appalling vividness. That they were wrong was “written on them”, he says, a potent image that is almost out of a holy book. The Principle does not condone them; also, to pretend that they had nothing to do with what else has gone on in the world is fatuous. Yet his account of the context is askew: 9/11 is said “first of all” to have as its necessary cause the post-1967 actions of Israel in the occupied territories, even though the writings of founding militant Islamist Sayyid Qutb predate 1967, and even though Osama bin Laden was inspired first of all by Afghanistan in the 80s and Saudi Arabia and Bosnia in the 90s.

Of course, civilians are bombed by people other than suicide-bombers. Many more of them, for instance, are bombed by the US and UK governments, recently in Iraq. It is said that our killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq is not comparable to killing by Palestinian or Saudi Arabian or British suicide bombers. The moral difference is that we somehow didn’t intend to kill those civilians: their deaths were unfortunate accidents in our noble undertaking.

But the disavowal of intent is incoherent, and masterfully demolished by Honderich. If people in early 2003 were not stupid or amnesiac or drunk on fantasies of “smart weapons”, they knew that invading a large country would result in a substantial civilian death toll. History, after all, is not ambiguous on this matter. If one thought war was a good idea anyway, then one cannot later claim not to have intended those deaths. To intend to do something that has the foreseeable consequence of many deaths is to intend that consequence. “It is nonsense to suppose,” Honderich writes, “that something is to be judged right as a result of ignoring some of what you know or believe it will do.”

Certain conclusions, not shyly expressed, follow. Iraq was a “terrorist war”. The so-called “war on terror” has not addressed the “causes” of terrorism as it should have done. Our leaders “have been deficient in moral intelligence”. Perhaps we should even refuse to pay our taxes. Maybe the reader will think Honderich is “an ideologue”, but, he advises in conciliatory mood: “Such argy-bargy between us doesn’t matter much. You were here for a kind of inquiry, here to look into things, here to hear what can be said for some propositions, here to follow some arguments.”

Looking into things and following arguments might be our only hope. At times, indeed, Honderich expresses a wistfulness about impossible worlds: “The world isn’t a university or a book or a half-decent discussion. If it could be, there are people who make sure it isn’t.” Well, this is a book, and readers who enjoy being goaded into thinking for themselves will enjoy a better than half-decent discussion with it.

The Eye of The Lion


Title:                      The Eye of The Lion

Author:                  Lael Tucker Wertenbaker

Wertenbaker, Lael Tucker (1964).The Eye of The Lion. Boston, Little, Brown

LOC:       64010956

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Date Posted:      February 13, 2013

Yahoo Voices! says the following about this novel.

Of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle McLeod—Mata Hari—three facts are known and not disputed: she was born, she danced, she died. Otherwise truth is obscured by fancy to make her heroine of a twentieth-century legend, her name accepted as a synonym for the glamorous spy and femme fetale.

Today it takes a skilled novelist with a deep knowledge of the times to recreate Mata Hari and justify her elusive immortality. Lael Tucker Wertenbaker gives back her reality and human meaning. To weave the threads of passion, betrayal, obloquy, and terror into a full-bodied, sweeping story, compassionately told and tragic, she uses three narrators.

The first, Gerschy Zelle, was born in Leeuwarden, Holland, and grows up there. She might have been as prosy as her neighbors, but fate involves the artless girl in drama, high doom, and, often, savage farce.

The second narrator is Louis Lasbogue, Parisian dilettante, fascinated by Gerschy, whose radiance has survived all that life as done to her. Together they create Mata Hari, who dances to the Hindu god of war, delighting audiences in Paris, Monte Carlo, Vienna, and Berlin.

Franz van Weel, the third narrator, is a Dutch officer and diplomat who entangles Mata Hari in a web of intrigue. The insouciant years end in the inferno of the great war and she is its victim. Louis and Franz must stand by as witnesses on October 15, 1917, when Mata Hari, their “creation,” is shot at dawn.