Douglas MacArthur

As the paperless future approaches, certain sorts of publications have inevitably moved into the all-digital realm faster than others. Most of us still prefer paper when it comes to beach novels, for instance, or the cherished volumes of our personal libraries. At the other extreme, scientific journals effectively went all-digital years ago, and thanks to GPS, maps and road atlases are quickly following.

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Those showers in Washington last week? That wasn’t rain. That was Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, and the other architects of post-war American foreign policy looking down and weeping on us. Or worse. The heirs and custodians of their tradition never sounded so thick. In place of George Kennan’s 8000-word Long Telegram about the Soviet Union, the Obama administration’s consultant and its former State Department policy planning chief, Anne-Marie Slaughter, issued a forceful tweet about Libya.

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According to the tenets of current American military thought and practice—that is, “wars amongst the people” fought to win the hearts and minds of local populations—the capacity to have three cups of tea with a local sheik equals the ability to counter and coordinate artillery fires.

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Our culture lives virtually without its history, which makes it a very weird culture, indeed. In France, on sabbatical a few years back, I listened to a dinner conversation about Marshal Foch. Who? Marshal Foch. How did we come around to him? Someone at the table said she'd been born in Tarbes, a small town known primarily for its proximity to Lourdes. Another guest noted that Foch had been born there. And then followed a long, discursive conversation about Foch.

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Liberal pundits, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and National Security Advisor James Jones are in agreement: General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was wrong to give public voice to his views about the best way forward in that beleaguered country.

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Honest Harry

I've been thinking about my last Spine taking on Tony Judt's silly comparison of David Petraeus with Douglas MacArthur. I've just started reading David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter whose dramatis personae includes -- even centers around- - MacArthur. MacArthur was a fantasist. He had ideas about the Asian mind, set opinions about what the Chinese would and would not do, illusions about American destiny and his role in it. He did not respect the commander-in-chief, Harry Truman, but HST took no guff from anyone.

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Joe Sobran, a syndicated columnist who was himself accused of anti-Semitism a few years ago, offers this perspective on the Pat Buchanan flap: "Jewish claims are being cut down to size in various ways. It's coded by a lot of Jews as anti-Semitism. I don't think it is. It's more like counter-Semitism.'' Sobran says that "counter-Semitism," unlike anti-Semitism, does not seek a "negative outcome" for Jews.

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Wilcomb E. Washburn: Why football reflects the true nature of the American character.

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He Was a Man of Principle

Headline, New York Times, September 10, 1962:  GENERAL WALKER SEIZES CAPITAL;    TANKS CIRCLE THE WHITE HOUSE;       NEW JUNTA PROMISES ELECTIONS From a “Letter from Washington, The New Yorker, September 22, 1962. Even in this blasé capital, there were some eyebrows raised by the whirligig of events that have made Major General Edwin A. Walker the provisional President of the United States until—or so his aides inform us—new elections are held in 18 months. That the army had become increasingly involved in the perturbations of politics had been known.

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