As I’d noted, it was on the list (I have an Excel file of all the books, records, and movies I mean to get around to), but his recommendation pushed it to the top of the list.
Got it yesterday, started it today, and am about halfway through.
I want to leave you with one big thought, and a few choice morsels to consider.The book is told at a gnat’s eye view – tracking interdepartmental politics in the White House, personality clashes, clashes of ideas and policies, and it reminds me of how contingent history really is. By that I don’t mean to take a side in the ‘inevitable historical forces’ vs. ‘great human action’ vs. ‘random workings of chance’ debate on a philosophy of history, but to suggest that the unfolding of history is certainly more complex than the understandings of any of the actors participating in it – including us.
Something worth keeping in mind as we debate the grand sweep of strategy.
Two quotes that made me go “uh-huh!!” from the book:
“The success of this occupation can only be judged fifty years from now. If the Germans at that time have a stable, prosperous democracy, then we will have succeeded.”
– Dwight Eisenhower, October 1945. Frankfurt, Germany
After midnight in London, Morgenthau gave an address on CBS Radio to the American people, which Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood and the CBS London correspondent Edward R. Murrow helped to write. He told his audience that while touring the fallout [sic] shelters, the “principal thought that filled my mind and heart” had been “we must never forget!” It was not enough to hope that postwar Germans and Japanese would “behave themselves as decent people”: “Hoping is not good enough…Germany and Japan must be kept disarmed.”
Can you imagine Dan Rather helping John Snow write a policy speech given from Baghdad? Can you understand how the notion that he was an American first, and a journalist later might have figured in Murrow’s makeup? How would that have played with Eason Jordan, do you think?