Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Reading

The White House announced Bush’s summer reading list … apparently he wants to learn how to win a civil war by reading "Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power," by Richard Carwardine, and "Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural," by Ronald C. White Jr. His third choice, "Polio: An American Story," by University of Texas historian David M. Oshinsky" might be his attempt to learn how to cope with a bird flu pandemic.

Well, if Mr. Bush would have asked, I would propose a few different choices from some of my recent reading.

The first book is written by a true patriot – by definition someone who loves his country and zealously supports it.
The book is Chasing ghosts : a soldier's fight for America from Baghdad to Washington by Paul Rieckhoff. Some of you may be familiar with Rieckhoff as he has been on many TV news/discussion programs. The book is his account and opinions from someone who has been involved at the ground level. After graduating from Amherst College in 1998, Rieckhoff volunteered to join the Army because he “had been afforded tremendous opportunities and wanted to give something back.” After the Army, he went to J.P. Morgan and was an investment banking analyst, but quit just days before 9/11. But before the second plane hit, he was at the WTC trying to save people (the description on pages 88-92 are emotional and some may consider graphic). As a First Lieutenant and Infantry Platoon Leader, Rieckhoff spent a year in Baghdad arriving just after the fall of Saddam’s statue. There are stories of the good they tried to accomplish and relations with Iraqi children but also the emotional toll and battles his platoon faced. He joins the chorus that has complained about how Rumsfeld has waged the war with insufficient and under-equipped troops. If you are not familiar with the distinction between Sunni and Shia, please read Chapter Eight – Keeping the Peace. He also comments on Muqtada al-Sadr.
Since his return from Iraq, Rieckhoff has been addressing veteran’s needs. Rieckhoff has pledge a portion of the book proceeds to Common Ground's Hope for New Veterans Project, a program working to prevent homelessness among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Bruce Bartlett’s Impostor : how George W. Bush bankrupted America and betrayed the Reagan legacy . I know that sometimes people have a tendency to only read and listen to people that reinforce your views, but in this case Bartlett exceeded my thoughts. His analysis should be a call to arms for everyone concerned about the direction of the country. Thumbs up from me.

For those interested, here is the published commentary on Impostor :
Liberal commentators gripe so frequently about the current administration that it's become easy to tune them out, but when Bartlett, a former member of the Reagan White House, says George W. Bush has betrayed the conservative movement, his conservative credentials command attention. Bartlett's attack boils down to one key premise: Bush is a shallow opportunist who has cast aside the principles of the "Reagan Revolution" for short-term political gains that may wind up hurting the American economy as badly as, if not worse than, Nixon's did. As part of a simple, point-by-point critique of Bush's "finger-in-the-wind" approach to economic leadership, Bartlett singles out the Medicare prescription drug bill of 2003 "the worst piece of legislation ever enacted" as a particularly egregious example of the increases in government spending that will, he says, make tax hikes inevitable.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I just finished The ONE Percent Doctrine : deep inside America's pursuit of its enemies since 9/11 by Ron Suskind.
This is the second of his books concerning the Bush Administration and although it is good, his The Price of Loyalty : George W. Bush, The White House and the Education of Paul O’Neil is better.

This is a review of the Bush Administration’s efforts in the War on Terror through 2004. Using sources from inside the CIA and FBI, it does not offer balance since the White House sources aren’t talking. The book does offer some successes that have not been widely reported … but also tell the story of some of the early advertised successes that later proved to be overblown. There are a couple of interesting segments – for example, concerning Libya’s decision to abandon its nuclear ambitions … turns out the negotiation started during the Clinton Administration in 1998 and the seizure of a ship containing carrying centrifuge equipment that was a key event that supposedly prompted Libya to change heart was actually a sham as both the US and Libya were using this shipment as a excuse to announce the deal. Another interesting storyline was the financial undercover work to monitor Al Qaeda money movements … after reading this, the WSJ, NYT and LAT news articles concerning the impact of their reporting of the NSA monitoring bank records were greatly overblown. Lastly, the use of selectively declassifying of information that helped the Administration case was presented … including one story that Cheney wanted one aspect of a CIA report declassified but not the whole report … the CIA realized that just releasing that section would present an entirely different conclusion then what the report concluded.
Overall a 7 on a 10 scale (Price of Loyalty would be a 10).
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Cobra 2 : the inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.

It’s another good read – very detailed – that the will not doubt be one of the source books that historians will use.
Most compelling are the in-depth accounts of the misfortunes on the march to Baghdad -- poor communications, terrain, and friendly fire. Once again, Rumsfeld does not generate accolades but that should not be surprising considering that Trainor was one of the generals who have voiced disapproval of his decisions. Bush, on the other hand, comes across as more involved in the approval of the invasion plan than some other books.
I would be interested to hear a “book discussion group” consisting of candidates for November’s elections. The viewpoint of veterans Kline and Walz may be entirely different from the non-military background candidates – Gutknecht, Kennedy, Rowley, and Klubuchar.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

And lastly, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.
Big Thumbs Up from me … I read it in two days … and I am a slow reader. It’s not economics, but instead how complex phenomena can be understood if we find the right perspective and that that self-styled experts have a vested interest in promoting conventional wisdom even when it's wrong. Reading his discussion on the origins of the KKK, their goal was a rejection of a forced government and the occupation of a conquering army, and the use of fear tactics to control citizens … he doesn't mention it, but it made me think of the warring factions in Iraq.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Ah, well, somehow I have a hunch that old George wouldn’t like my choices.

No comments: