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Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom)
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Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need To Know About British Elections
Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need To Know About British Elections
Price: £6.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How We Chose Our Goverment., 24 Nov 2014
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This wonderful book of 51 chapters illuminates politics in the same way as ' Freakonomics' did for economics. Written by a bevy of 51 academics who teach politics here and in the US, it deals with today's political uncertainties.

Chapters, none exceeding 1000 words, are written in plain English, and cover topics like, for example : opinion polls, the effect of the internet on politics, why we vote for a particular party, why we lie about voting, the failure of Welsh conservatism, religion and electoral choice, and the importance of local candidates. Plus many, many more.

This book is the latest, very welcomed, book by academics who are beginning to realise that they are partly to blame for a great deal of public ignorance about our political system. They are now helping the public to better understand what makes it tick. A book like this based on a great deal of research into elections and voting habits ought to be welcomed by all concerned about our political system, and the current disillusionment with it.

One of the many interesting chapters by Cowley and Ford discusses why elections are important, the reality of elections and what determines how we vote. They polnt out that we can be 'swayed by the most trivial or superficial matters'. Examples of this include how attractive candidates are, and the order in which they appear on the ballot paper-those whose names appear lower down lose out because 'reading all the way to the bottom takes effort'. Research amply corroborates this.

One of the most fascinating chapters by Rob Johns focuses on polls and how they are measured. He points out they are 'slippery'. Questions are sometimes deliberately misleading, but the more important difficulty is their inconsistency. Another interesting chapter by Rosie Campbell looks at what determines how women vote, and which issues concern them most.

The research on which the book is based indicates that elections offer an insight 'into who we are and how we behave'. The insight is by no means always flattering. The ideal voter who gets lots of evidence, puts a wet towel round the head and then delivers a sound, considered rational decision on voting day is, as this book shows, pure myth. Ignorance, past habits, emotion and prejudice play a far more important role.

However, when voters are wrong, they are not stupid. Even ignorance can be rational. The book argues that 'individual-level eccentricity tends to cancel out. In the aggregate, as a mass, voters are often rational and responsive. There is wisdom in crowds,something politicians ignore at their peril'.

A thought-provoking book that is required reading given an impendinng General Election. This is not a textbook. It is as the editor says a series of thumbnail sketches, each introducing an aspect of elections and electoral behaviour. The book nevertheless covers a very wide variety of topics. This reviewer particularly welcomed the chapter that covered why 35% of the popular vote can, and it has, in recent years, give you a nice 66-seat majority in the Commons, but 36% of the vote can also leave you 20 seats short of a majority. And yet we call this democracy.

Read it.


The Lie at the Heart of Waterloo: The Battle's Hidden Last Half Hour
The Lie at the Heart of Waterloo: The Battle's Hidden Last Half Hour
by Nigel Sale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.60

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Danger Of Firsthand Accounts., 20 Nov 2014
Yet another book on Waterloo. The author says he makes no apologies for adding to the mountain of books on this battle because his research has enabled him to resolve (to his satisfaction) the puzzle as to how the battle was won in the last hour or so. In particular, Nigel Sale claims he has found the answer to 'what did the 52nd Regiment do'. We are told that in the regiment it was 'common knowledge that the 52nd had struck the decisive blow at Waterloo'. Why then, he asks, is there no mention of this in accounts of the battle? The Grenadier Guards, on the other hand, have received widespread public recognition. At this point one detects the well-known desire to rank ones own regiment above all others. The author served with the 1st Green Jackets, 43rd and 52nd.

The major blame for the 52nd not being recognised is placed firmly on the shoulders of Wellington. He is accused of delberately doctoring accounts of the battle in order to highlight his own actions. This is hardly new. In letters to friends he admitted that his version was not wholly accurate. In 1920 he wrote to Lord Hatherton. In the letter he said, regarding battles: 'I have never told the whole truth'. Again, he was not the first nor the last commander to be guilty of exaggerating his performance. Montgomery is a good example in recent times.

The importance of the Prussian contribution has long been acknowledged by historians, for at least 60 years in fact. Wellington would not have won without their contribution. The Prussians could not have won without him and the other allied forces. Waterloo was above all a coalition victory.

This book reads easily, is the result of a great deal of research and is a useful contribution to an overflowing river of books anticipating 2015. What appears to be its greatest strength is in fact its biggest weakness, namely the great reliance on 'quotations from firsthand evidence'. In other words, on accounts by those who were there. Unfortunately, as any experienced historian knows,these can be, and often are, horribly biased and highly subjective. Memory failure, delberate or accidental exaggeration, the desire to extol your regiment's actions, and the sheer chaos of battle results in evidence that is of dubious value. Research by psychologisuhhts, and criminologists amply confirms this. I have read numerous diaries and letters about a battle. Many give very conflicting accounts of what happened. If you then read firsthand accounts of the same battle or incident written by the opposition you often wonder if it is the same battle that is being described.

We also need to remember that letters and diaries were written by the few that had the ability to write. They do not, therefore, represent a true sample of soldiers' views as to what happened. Additionally, many accounts (like many paintings) were written up to 30 years after the battle. The passing of time can play many tricks with our memory.

Most of the time you do not know what is going on so chaotic is the scene. Many an action is later attributed to brilliant decision-making when in fact it was down to sheer luck. The history of warfare is replete with examples of this. This is true today despite modern communications. Imagine what it must have been like in 1815! The smoke alone, plus adverse weather, made it at times impossible to know what was happening on the other side of the hill. Some 40 years later look what happened in the Crimea.

Films are very much to blame in this respect. They show warfare through a distorted and blurred lens. As a result we get a sanitised picture that bears little or no relation to the reality of a battlefield. Even documentaries are censored and doctored. For example, the famous film of the Somme battlefield is a fake. Actors were used to show the wounded being carried out of trenches. There are many other examples of the public being delberately fooled for propaganda purposes.

As Sale says, his conclusions 'may be unpalatable to some'. I do not find them at all unpalatable. I am most willing to consider his findings, and I have, However, I find them unconvincing. There is a little too much special pleading for my liking.


Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius
Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius
Price: £7.19

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enigma., 18 Nov 2014
The arrest of Oscar Pistorius and his subsequent trial sent shock waves throughout South Africa This troubled land still riven by racial tension after 40 years of apartheid found it hard to believe that this man who at the age of 17 had broken a world record at the Athens Paralympics could be accused of murdering Reeva Steenkamp by firing four shots from a 9mm pistol through a bathroom door-the bullets were dumdum, they expanded on impact. If they had not been, she would probably have lived. Wherever I went in SA the talk was about what was said to have happened around 3am on Valentines Day, 2013. For many Afrikaans and others Oscar was revered and admired as much as Nelson Mandela.
Inevitably, the books began to pour out as millions watched on tv the court proceedings. Reeva's mother had a book published, so did a former girl friend of Oscar's. Several journalists wrote books based on their articles. All of these were highly subjective, sensational, and speculative. It has to be added that some were rushed out for purely financial reasons. At least seven more are due out in the new year.

On 9 December this year the prosecution's appeal against the verdict-culpable homicide-and the sentence of 5 years will be heard. Undoubtedly, this will again produce a flurry of opinionated writing. It is doubtful if the appeal will be successful.

Most who object to the verdict and the apparent leniency of the sentence tend to overlook a vital fact. The Judge spelt out in her excellent summing up that almost all of the evidence produced in court was circumstantial. Few, courts, if any, will deliver a guilty of premeditated murder verdict given this kind of evidence, and rightly so. Time and time again in murder cases witnesses will be adamant that they saw or heard things only to have their beliefs shattered by hard evidence to the contrary, or for experts to demonstrate how we can so easily misinterpret, for example, sounds.

In addition, circumstances prevented Oscar from being interrogated by the police. So there is no evidence of this nature available. An experienced forensic psychiatrist who observed his mental state for over three hours shortly after the incident found his emotional state entirely consistent with that of someone whose life had been shattered. All medical tests drew blanks. No alcohol, no drugs, no evidence of a fight. There was nothing to suggest premeditation. There were no scratches or bruises to indicate a fight.

Given the highly subjective nature of previous books, it is, refreshing to welcome this superb book by John Carlin. It has an easy style, is balanced, gripping, based on extensive research that included trips to Texas, Iceland and Italy, and, above all, authoritative. It is an analysis of the ingredients that brought Oscar to court. It ought to make those who 'know' he is guilty or innocent pause for thought.

The author is a very highly respected former foreign correspondent in South Africa. He wrote the book that became the film, 'Invictus' about the Springboks and Mandela. It is hard to fault anything he writes about South Africa where he spent some six years. He clearly knows the country and understands its people.

One of the key attributes of this book is that, unlike other accounts, it puts the whole Pistorius business in context. Hence, Carlin discusses Apartheid, crime and Mandela. Unless these aspects are understood the charge and trial is largely meaningless. What, of course, makes this case so exceptional is Oscar Pistorius, a man who was born with a serious degeneration of his legs, which led to both legs being amputated below the knee when he was only 11 months old. He lacked a fibula in either leg. The circumstances of the actual crime were also unusual leading to a crime that is, as far as we know, unique in the annals of crime.

John Carlin rightly points out that the focus on guns during the trial should again be put in context. Anyone who knows the country is aware of the lawlessness that pervades it. Murders are all too frequent as is violence against women. Oscar's mother always had gun to hand when retiring for the day; her son adopted the habit. Sheila always impressed on her son the need to protect himself against the terror of crime in the country. Uncle Arnold, whose house he stayed during the trial, is also adorned with guns. Henke, his father, liked guns. He divorced Oscar's mother when Oscar was six. OThere is, sad to say, a culture of violence in South Africa. The crime statistics are shocking. Gun culture as a result is also widespread. We are told that every 8 hours in 1913 a South African female was killed by their male partner. Today, South Africa is a corrupt dysfunctional country where the gulf between rich and poor is visibly widening.

We learn from the book that Sheila, Oscar's single mother, who was an alcoholic and died of liver disease when he was 15, instilled in him that, despite his disability, there was 'nothing he couldn't achieve'. He revered her. From her he got the guts to succeed, and succeed he did. He became a walking, sprinting miracle, an example of what sheer determination can achieve. He was an accomplished water polo and tennis player as well as a sprinter. From an early age his wish was always for inclusion, for people not to treat him as if he was special.

Almost everyone to whom Carlin spoke said how they liked and admired Pistorius. However, the author points out that there was also evidence of people witnessing or experiencing his temper. On one occasion in front of a tv crew he berated Frankie Chisiweni, his male housekeeper and gardener, with a torrent of foul-mouthed language. The housekeeper was from Malawi. He also was known to have a disturbing habit of playing with a loaded pistol in, for example, restaurants.

Perhaps we will never know if Pistorius deliberately killed his model girlfriend on Valentine's Day. He still maintains it was an accident. Because his defence is rather bizarre there will always be speculation, particularly by those who know little of the context or the country. However, far more bizarre defences have been proved to be true. Given Oscar's appalling early life: no dad, an alcoholic mum and no lower legs in other cases, only the flint-hearted can lack sympathy for him. There but for the grace of God.........

A remarkable and insightful book that deserves to be read by all those who wish to acquire the facts and understand the context rather than the gossip and speculation that surrounds this complex and tragic case, a case that will be analysed and debated for years to come.

The second part of the book deals in the main with the trial. If you followed the trial on the media you will learn little that is new. There is very little about Reeva in the book because as the author explains the book is about Pistorius, a man of many masks, an enigma.

Very highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2014 12:36 PM GMT


41: A Portrait of My Father
41: A Portrait of My Father
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Love Story., 17 Nov 2014
George Herbert Walker Bush believes in hard work, is deeply religious and has an admiral sense of morality. He was born 12 June 1924. He is a thoroughly decent, loyal and courteous individual. His son gives examples of this in his personal portrait of 'the extraordinary man who I am blessed to call my dad'. Nothing wrong with this but don't expect this book to be an objective or particularly revealing account. It isn't.

The book gives several glimpses of the Bush family. There is occasional humour. The tragic death of Robin from leukaemia is moving. Bush mentions his father's war hero status, describing how he narrowly escaped capture after his Avenger plane was shot down by the Japanese. All of this is fine but there is a serious lack of politics.

There is, for example, very little about the influence of Ronald Reagan who was his father's political mentor. After all, he was Reagan's vice president for 8 years.
Granted the son discusses some of his father's achievements, for example, his awareness of the need to work with China, and his recognition that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant a sea-change in that part of the world. However, there is a disappointing lack of comment about Europe and, in particular, the Gulf War. His assertion that his war was a success is astonishing, it demonstrates the same myopical thinking as Tony Blair's. The reasons are the same, a refusal to admit that the war was based on a tissue of lies, and the unwillingness to face the fact that the aftermath of the war has led to a Middle East in flames. Of great interest would have been details of his father's objections to aspects of the Gulf War strategy adopted by is son.

The book's style and tone is typical Bush . No doubt this book is out now in order to aid Jeb's attempt to become another Bush president. If Jeb succeeds let us hope he mirrors himself like the 41st president, not the 43rd.

Of moderate interest only, far inferior to his own memoirs. The books by Smith and Nelson are more insightful, and that by Doro, his only daughter, much more illuminating. She is the only women ever in America's history to live to see both her brother and father become president.

In many ways HW was an anachronism in his party. Yet this is not mentioned here. Neither are we given an explanation how the prudent, cautious Bush carried out a number of very radical moves, for example the gamble on German unification before the Wall came down. Likewise, his arms control measures which were audacious. In short, you learn little that has not been covered by many others, and more expertly.


Germany: Memories of a Nation
Germany: Memories of a Nation
Price: £8.03

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 500 Years of Enriching Complexity., 14 Nov 2014
The author of this most interesting book is the Director of the British Museum, and a former Director of the National Gallery. His previous books included one on Shakespeare. This one is based on an acclaimed Radio 4 series. MacGregor examines over a period of 500 years buildings and other man-made objects and then draws illuminating insights from his research. The result is fascinating; many of his insights are novel and contribute greatly to our understanding of the past, in this case Germany's.

The author points out the difference between German monuments and those in other countries. In the latter, they commemorate victories or other national triumphs, for example the Wellington Memorial, the Arc de Triomphe that celebrates Napoleonic victories, and the Siegestor Gate in Munich. Many are in the grand Roman style. However, the Munich arch is different. It urges peace. Its purpose is to proclaim a moral message: 'that the past offers lessons which must be used to shape the future'. MacGregor argues that, like this arch, German history is different from that of other countries like Great Britain and France. They were shaped by hundreds of years of strong central power whereas Germany has a long history of political fragmation before unification in 1871. Hence, there is no one national story. He cites as an example Frederick the Great whose many military victories were achieved against other German states. He is a hero in Berlin, a villain in Dresden as a result. The Munich Gate is dedicated to the Bavarian Army despite the fact that the army sided with the French in the Napoleonic Wars. Germany's history is very unusual and very fragmented as a result.

The author reveals a host of fascinating things including many oddities about : the Oktoberfest, the VW Beetle, the telecoms tower in what was East Berlin, the numerous varities of German sausage, and many other things. He also discusses heroes like Goethe and Luther and Kollwitz, and asseses their contribution to German culture. He quotes Goethe who when writing to Schiller in 1796 wrote: 'Germany? Where is it? I do not know where to find such a country'.

MacGregor does not shirk from discussing the evils of the past, but he believes it is unhealthy for any country to wallow in permanent guilt. He believes Germany is beginning to get over the Nazi era. For example, parents are no longer afraid to read Grimm's Fairy Tales to their children, even though the Nazis liked them. He says Germany today wants to be seen as a good European state, and it this that drives the whole EU project.

His comments on the contrasting attitude of Germany, France and Britain to the EU are novel and, therefore, of great interest. His discussion of Germany's former territories, and the extent of them, helps one to understand her stance over the EU. As he points out until 1871 Germany had only a 'flickering sense of common purpose'.

This is a book that reeks of scholarship and deep knowiedge. Given the author's position it is not surprising that his love of monuments and their contribution to historical knowledge shins through every one of the 500 pages.
Unlike many other books of its kind, the maps and illustrations are both essential and superb.

The book is NOT a history of Germany. Its aim is to explore through objects and buildings, places and people, 'some formative strands in German's modern national identity'. The items selected range from Gutenberg's bible of the 1450's to the restored Reichstag. Another important theme is the four great traumas that live in the German national memory. He discusses each and assesses their impact on memory. MacGregor writes the following which is so thought-provoking: 'I know of no other country in the world that at the heart of its national capital erects monuments to its own shame'. He refers in part to the Holocaust Memorial.

A wonderful book that is inspirational. Do read it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2014 12:33 PM GMT


@War
@War
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Land, Air, Sea, Space-Now A New Warfare Domain., 12 Nov 2014
This review is from: @War (Kindle Edition)
There is much in this account of online warfare that is of great interest, particularly for those with little prior knowledge of what is known as the fifth domain of warfare; but it provides very few answers to the immensely important questions it poses.

Today it is impossible to comprehend the centrality of computers to our lives. These machines are not only omnipresent, they are connected. It is estimated that by 2020 40 billion devices will be connected to the internet. Already thousands of companys have been hacked, and scandals such as Wikileaks, and new cyber weapons like Stuxnet that was used in attacks on Iran have raised alarms. Cyberspace has been defined in many different way but essentially it is an information environment made up of digitized data that is shared. It defies measurement in any kind of physical dimension. A key feature is that its systems and technology are man-made. It is defined therefore as much by the cognitive realm as by the physical or digital. Cyberspace is always changing. The topography is in constant flux. It has been described as 'the dominant platform for life'. The US Department of Defense defines the new domain as : 'The art and science of fighting without fighting, of defeating an opponent without spilling their blood'.

President Obama has said: 'cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century'. The leaders of other major states agree. We live in a time of cyber anxiety. Most people however are unaware of this. One leading expert has said: 'a bloody, digital trench warfare' is in progress. It could be said that the mouse and the keyboard are the new weapons of warfare.

This book discusses one of the consequences of this, namely the mushrooming of new government offices and bureaucracies to deal with cyber security. The same is true for armed forces around the world like the US Cyber Command with a budget of millions and headed by a four star general. Recent revelations from Edward Snowden and others have revealed how government agencies are gathering enormous amounts of information about their country's inhabitants. Harris delves into the frontlines of cyber war and explains why we are all vunerable to its dangers.

Harris works for 'Foreigh Policy' a magazine of the New America Foundation. He is also the author of several books on surveillance. In 2012 he was awarded a prize for distinguished writing. He has written about cyber security for over ten years. This book is based on one thousand interviews with civilian and military personnel, and documents in the public domain. He discusses the well known problems of writing about matters that deal with classified information.

The book examines among other things: cyber wars, the activities of Chinese hackers, the Snowden affair, and America's engagement in offensive cyber warfare. He argues that Snowden is a hero, not everyone would agree. Harris details the use of cyber warfare in Iraq, how al-Qaeda's networks were infiltrated, and how cyber warfare has become a very lucrative business. He claims that there is now in the US a military-internet complex that in recent years has grown unchecked. This echoes Eisenhower's warning about a military-industrial complex in the 1950's.

Harris reveals how the security company Mandiant exposed the activities of the Chinese who targeted US companies, and how Snowden, trained by the NSA, alerted the world to the extent of the American 'Surveillance State'. Snowden revealed that the US was engaged in cyber warfare. It hacked, for example, into over 60 servers at a Chinese university last year.

Although what Snowden did is now well known it is not appreciated how, as Harris says, the US is willing to use the new technology to jam, hack and even kill. He quotes what took place in the war in Iraq as a prime example of cyber war.

In 2010 Richard Clarke said in a book that a catastrophic breakdown could occur wihin 15 minutes after a cyberwar attack. He was a former employee in the White House in charge of cyber-security. Estonia has already experienced an attack on its banks and financial infrastructure by Russia, so has Georgia, the US, Palestine, Chechen, Brazil, Malaysia and South Korea. The Georgia war with Russia in 2008 was the first example of a cyber based attack that coincided with a land, sea and air invasion by one state against another. The internet was designed for convenience and reliability, not security. Yet it has developed by merging the garden with the wilderness. No passport is needed in cyberspace. Criminals and enemy states are no longer protected by geographical barriers such as oceans, they are just beyond a firewall. Impersonation and fake information is easy. Spying presents an immediate danger to the West. Indeed, cyber espionage and cyber crime (that results in losses in tens of millions a year) are prevalent today. The latter is the laboratory where cyber warfare is developed, tested and refined. Harris and others point out that cyber-weapons are also cheap; they, therefore, attract terrorists.

One key point that the author fails to mention is that so far cyberweapons lack coercive ability because a victim can always retaliate by using more traditional means of violence.

All of this raises the age old concern, namely how do you ensure the security of your citizens from external enemies without at the same time impairing their security and freedom. No one has yet found the answer to a question first raised by Pericles. The author is very concerned about the potential effects of cyber activities on our freedom, privacy and civil liberties.

Trying to disrupt enemy communications is as old as warfare. The Russian navy jammed radios during the Russo-Japanese war. Telegraph wires were regularly cut in the American Civil War. However, a digital Pearl Harbour would wreak havoc. Throughout history new technologies have revolutionised warfare: the chariot, gunpowder, aircraft, radar, and nuclear fission, to name a few. Information technology now poses a new, complex, multifaceted and very dangerous threat. As Will Rogers said 85 years ago 'in every war they kill you in a new way'.

Computerised weapon systems have helped to disperse some of the fog of war from a battlefield yet at the same time they have covered cyberspace in a thick, menacing blanket of uncertainty. Sun Tzu warned in the sixth century that 'all warfare is based on deception'. Cyber developments permit widespread deception, denial and propaganda to a degree never before thought possible.

Do not be put off by the fact that much of this book concentrates on America, its warnings are applicable globally. A very important book, that without exaggerating the threat, informs about a new form of warfare that will become more and more prominent in coming years. Cyber war may well be at the extreme end of the cyber security threat spectrum but we cannot afford to ignore it. Cyber crime is a more immediate threat but we cannot rule out the possibility of cyberwar in the future.
Unlike, nuclear war it will not be easy to deter. One reason is the problem of attribution; how to determine who is the attacker. What is needed urgently is an international security strategy that embraces both the national and international aspects of cybersecurity.
Recommended.


Snow and Steel: Battle of the Bulge 1944-45
Snow and Steel: Battle of the Bulge 1944-45
Price: £8.62

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Hitler It Was A Battle Too Far., 7 Nov 2014
During the Second World War the Americans received two major surprises that by definition caught them seriously off guard. The first was Pearl Harbour and the second was the ferocious German counter-attack in the Ardennes that has become known as the Battle of the Bulge because of the 50 mile configuration of the front after the German attack. The term was not new, Churchill having used it in 1940 during the Nazi blitzkrieg on France.

From 16 December 1944 for 40 days nearly a million men with 3000 tanks and assault guns fought each other with little mercy in a snowy, muddy triangle measuring 50 miles on each side. They fought numerous battles in little hamlets and along the river valley. Many accounts give the impression that the battle was one huge single battle. The film doesn't help in this respect.

This book of over 900 pages is about the battle that the Americans had to fight shortly after the hell of the Hurtgen Forest in which thousands of Americans and Germans died-this terrible battleground has never received the attention it deserves.

The author is a well-known historian who has written books on Montgomery, and the Battle for Cassino. He is a lecturer at the British Defence Academy, Shrivenham, a prestigious place that I know well. He is also an experienced guide for several hundred battlefields as well as being a reserve officer having served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The battle, that Churchill described as decisive and 'a very great American victory' was a classic example of the importance of geography in warfare, in particular weather and terrain. If only more books on warfare recognised this. The terrain consisted of high ridges, and deep ravines. It is very hilly and covered in pine woods. The whole area is criss-crossed by fast flowing rivers. There were very few main roads-this proved to be vital when battle commenced. In every respect it appeared completely unsuitable for open warfare (the French had believed this to be the case in 1940). It did however provided the defender with excellent 'choke' points, and this feature was used by the Americans to great effecr after the fourth day.

The weather in December was the worst for 50 years, it was either freezing or very wet with fog and low cloud, conditions that severely hampered movement and the use of air power on a number of days. Snow there was but nothing like the extent shown in entertaing but historically inaccurate films. Hitler chose this place not only because it evoked memories of 1940 (when he had overridden his generals) but because many years before it was in a similar forest that German tribes had destroyed Roman legions and saved the fatherland.

The battle also demonstrated the vital importance of accurate intelligence or, in this case, the lack of. Poor intelligence by G2 led to the astonishment that greeted the German assault on 16 December. Among the main causes of intelligence faiure were: Ultra clues that were missed, and the Germans had maintained a signals blackout. However, the evidence also suggests the intelligence failure was to a large degree a classic case of 'mirror-imaging'.

Eisenhower's British chief of intelligence, General Kenneth Strong, was largely to blame for the intelligence failure. In addition, Bradley and other senior military believed that Hitler would not dare to attempt a major offensive in the middle of winter in an area manifestly unsuitable for a counter-offensive. Unfortunately for the Americans, Hitler was not one to play by normal rules. The fundamental error was that the allies by this time were convinced of their own mastery of the campaign to defeat the Germans. Hubris had set in.

The Germans had also built 3000 concrete bunkers and anti-tank obstacles with inter-locking fields of fire. This formidable barrier became known as the Siegfried Line. At the opening of the battle on 16 December 1944 some 250,000 German troops faced less than 90,000 American. The battle turned out to be the largest and most costly fought by the American army in WW 11.

The Germans coded their surprise assault 'Operation Watch on the Rhine'. It was later changed by Hitler to 'Operation Autumn Mist (or Fog)'. The author points out that the decision to launch the attack was not a last minute desparate gamble by Hitler. In fact he had planned just such an attack way back in November 1943 if the conditions warranted it. By December 1944 he knew Germany was losing the war, the rapid allied gains after Operation Cobra together with what was happening on the Eastern Front, and Allied air supremacy made defeat inevitable at some point. Alan Morehead, the war correspondent, wrote:'after the end of the German Seventh Army in the killing grounds of Argentan-Falaise pocket, the beaten Wehrmacht is a pitiable thing'. But it was not finished by any means. Hitler, was determined to fight to the end with V2 rockets and men. He was convinced that history was on his side. Also Roosevelt's surprise announcement (this angered Churchill) demanding Unconditional Surrender served to hardened his and his armed forces resolve.

Hitler's aim was to open with an artillery bombardment using 2,000guns, attack the weakest part of Hodges's First US Army front in the Ardennes it was manned by only four divisions, two of which had never seen action, drive a wedge between the allied armies, cross the Meuse and seize the port of Antwerp, thus disrupting their vital supply chain which now stretched some 300-400 miles, and then hope to negotiate a cease fire on the Western Front before turning his attention to the oncoming threat on the Eastern Front where after Operation Bagration the soviets were getting ready for a spring offensive. It bore resemblance in some respects only to the 1914 Schlieffen Plan in that Hitler was convinced he had to end the threat from the West first before facng the Soviet armies. He was also convinced that the allies lacked the resolve to fight on. Hitler always viewd the US as a decadent country. He was an avid reader of cowboy novels. His knowledge of the strength of the US economy was, however, sparse. He also believed that there were those in high places in Great Britain who would favour a negotiaed peace; there was some substance to this.

The author describes what happened in graphic detail, at times the detail is almost too much. He explains how the battle was in fact a series of interconnected battles. The audacious German plans, never favoured by Hitler's senior Generals such as Jodl and Manteuffel, failed. Runstedt wanted to stop once they reached the Meuse. He pointed out that in 1940 2,450 tanks had been used, it was now planned to use 1,400. Then they had enjoyed air superiority against inferior forces. They had had 2,400 fighter bombers, now only 950. Understandably, therefore he was also not in favour of the offensive. As usual, Hitler refused to listen. He agreed only to alter the date when the offensive would begin. By this time because of the July plot to kill him he distrusted every General. He was also ill and exhausted.

Hitler's plan failed for several reasons. Briefly, logistics yet again played an enormously key role. As the Germans advanced the positioning of oil tankers proved to be wrong, they were too far to the fear. It was this that led to tanks running out of fuel not oil shortages as such. Ammunition and spare parts soon became dangerously low, in part owing to problems that affected supply by rail. Thousands of horses (an estimated 55,000) had to be used because motorised transport was desperately short-there was no blitzkrieg in this battle. It is often forgotten that without horses the whole nature of warfare in Europe would, as in the Great War, have been radically different. For example, this operation would have been impossible. The horse was the unsung hero in both wars. I have long advocated they ought to feature in Armistice celebrations.

The Americans were able to reinforce and resupply far more easily than the Germans. By day four they had doubled their numbers to 180,000. In addition, the German army was increasingly manned by 16 and 60-year olds whose training was inadequate, German tanks failed to exert their technical superiority over the Sherman because their tank crews were of poor quality. The battle of St. Vith on the Northern sector was also of great importance because, although the Germans were victorious, it meant that vital troops were unavailable to support the central assault by the 5th Panzer Army. Hitler's refusal to agree Model's request to shift the weight of attack to the Northern flank making most progress was a very crass decision that also adversely affected the outcome. Hitler refused because he wanted the SS to reap all the glory. On 22 December the weather improved to permit air forces to attack the panzers. The results were devastating.

Of course, the heroic defence of Bastogne that controlled the German 5th Army supply route, must not be forgotten either. Here the famous 101st Airborne's Screaming Eagles under the command of General McAuliffe (a very fine officer)) made their courageous stand. The town was eventually relieved by Patton. Overall, after the opening days of fear, confusion and fleeing, the US troops performed superbly. They were more than a match for the Germans in close combat. The initial shock and humiliation produced sheer guts and outstanding military skill. No wonder Churchill's praise was so fulsome. The weather, as mentioned earlier, was not only a general hazard it also prevented the Germans using their superb new Me 262 jet fighter, although there is evidence that suggests Hitler would have delayed its introduction in order to change its role.

The main consequences of the battle were:it prolonged the war by several months, it sealed Germany's ultimate fate, and it resulted in an estimated 19,000 US dead plus 47,000 wounded, Casualty figures are very hard to pin down accurately for a number of reasons. In addition, some 24,000 were captured or missing. The prisoners were taken by the Germans in the initial two days, the largest number since Bataan, and 790 tanks were destroyed. The German losses were around 105,000 casualties, 600 tanks and assault guns, 1,600 planes and 6,000 vehicles. These together with their horrendous losses over the previous years (approximately 1,200,000 in June to August 1944 alone) could not be made good except by using poorly trained recruits. Manteuffel said 'It spelt bankruptcy'. There were also 1,400 British casualties. Belgian civilian casualties, usually forgotten, were estimated at 3,200. They suffered terribly at the hands of both sides. Failure also meant that Soviet forces ended the war much further to the West than they would have done if the German plan had succeeded. The Red Army now led the way to Berlin. As a result the German people of all ages suffered appalling savagery at its hands. Hitler also lost vital reserves in the battle, reserves needed to combat the expected Soviet Spring offensive. The battle left a legacy of caution. There was a tendency now for the allies to place prudence above daring, Patton of course being a notable exception. From this polnt our advance was sluggish, influenced by a morbid anxiety to avoid exposing our flanks. Nevertheless, within weeks Allied troops were crossing the Rhine.

Caddick-Adams discusses the well-known infamous outrages commited by Peiper's SS Panzers at Malmedy. It is right that this massacre is mentioned but we should remember the unpalatable fact that allied forces also shot prisoners during he war, for example, in Normandy, Italy and Sicily.

Could the Germans have won this offensive? Almost certainly the answer is no for the reasons given. Hitler had promised to 'drag a world with us-a world in flames'. This battle was a bloody example of his unwillingness to face reality.

This impressive account is so far easily the best of hundreds available. The author's research is admirable, his detail massive.-although some 60-70 pages could have been culled without detriment. This means it is not an easy read. But as an insight into a battle that foreshadowed the end of a monstrous regime it is a delight. It is that rare book that places the battle in context. This ferocious battle turned out to be the Indian Summer of German military might. It served to underline the need in war to expect the unexpected. It was yet another example of what Clausewitz warned against in his magisterial 'On War'.

Anyone wishing to visit the battlefield area is strongly advised to take an excellent map/maps. The terrain is not easy to explore without.

Very highy recommended.


Eichmann before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer
Eichmann before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer
Price: £9.51

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Murderous Banality.., 31 Oct 2014
Some three years after the publication of Hannah Arendt's 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' the civil war it had caused among intellectuals was still boiling. There was a great deal of comtroversy; it bitterly divided people. To this day it has never really been settled. The book based on a series of articles in The New Yorker was a best seller. In Israel a Hebrew version was published some years later to considerable acclaim. Arendt said she 'wrote this book in a curious state of euphoria'. It was a very personal book written by a Jew, a former Zionist, and a former Germam'.

It was claimed that she had 'exonerated' Eichmann and condemned the Jews. In fact, she had done no such thing. She supported the death sentence. She never questioned the legitimacy of a trial that took place in Israel by Israeli judges.
One after another accusations about her views have long been shown to be false. Some of the attacks on her book were full of unbridled vehemence. A number of her critics have since apologised, unfortunately after her death.

What upset many readers was her portrait of Eichmann as a hard working yet 'banal' bureaucratic criminal. The term 'banality' so often quoted by those who have never read her book occurs only on the last page. She realised durng the trial that Eichmann was shallow, that he personified the faceless nature of Nazi evil within a system run by pathological gangsters. It was, she realised, Eichmann's very 'banality' that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of his time. It was his alleged banality that caused such a storm when the book was published for it seemed to imply that ordinary people, not monsters, could commit murder. It was the idea that normality and unspeakable cruelty could coexist. We now know this is very common. In brief, Arendt was attacked less for what she said than how she said it.

This latest book on Eichmann was motivated by a desire to know more about an 'unknown' man. The author wanted to find out if he was an ordinary man who became a mass murderer, a radical anti Semite, or a mentally ill person whose aim was the extinction of Jews. Hence, whereas Arendt entitled her book 'In Jerusalem', Stangneth's is entitled 'Before Jerusalem'. The difference is important.

The author focuses on the impact Eichmann had on others, what people thought of him, and how he reacted to what they said and thought. To aid her task she had available a mountain of sources ranging from reports and documents to testimonials and eyewitness reports. Eichmann had a passion for speaking and writing. As she says, he 'acted out a new role for every stage of his life'. Her book explains how during the trial he claimed, in order to stay alive, he was at heart a harmless rabbit breeder. It was the regime that was evil. He even avoided using his forename Adolf insisting on Otto. Even his wife had been instructed to call him this.

The story the author tells covers Eichmann's time in Argentina, the many missed opportunities to apprehend him, the refusal of the German authorities to this day to release 3,400 key files on him, and a discussion about Arendt's book.
I believe her criticism of Arendt's courageous book is a little unfair, claiming she 'fell into his trap'. In brief, she was taken in. Stangneth argues that Arendt failed to penetrate 'the mask' that Eichmann put on to fool people. She admits that she has had the enormous advantage of having access to the important Sassen interviews, and other primary sources, something denied Arendt. Comparisons of these two books are in any case misguided. Arendt's is based on observing the trial of Eichmann, and trawling through thousands of trial documents. Stangneth's is a research tome focused on his life from 1945. The two approaches are poles apart. Also, Stangneth, who was not at the trial, never faces the question what would she have made of a man with thinning hair, thick glasses, and a pedantic manner who said he was a clerk who simply followed orders? Would she, would we, have penetrated the mask?

Lke so many Nazis, Eichmann beleved history would exonerate him. The author reveals how in 1957 he drafted a letter to Adenauer proposing that he return home to stand trial. He did so in anticipation of a light sentence. He hoped then to return to a normal life. It is worth noting that German officials knew where Eichmann was hiding back in 1952, but refused to act for fear of exposing many other former Nazis who occupied important posts in Germany, some in the government, some in the intelligence services.

This excellent account explores in great depth what made this evil man tick. Sangneth shows the depth of his monstrous intentions. He said that 'had we killed 10.3 million Jews, I would be quite satisfied'. Stangneth demolishes the myth of Eichmann's banality to reveal an individual of great evil who played a pivotal role in the Final Solution. As the author shows, he was never a small cog in Hitler's extermination machine. The functionalist interpretation of the Holocaust stemmed largely from Arendt's book. It tended to lessen Eichmann's responsibility for his actions. Given the time and the available evidence, her book was, nevertheless, compelling. However, Stangneth has shown it to be wrong. As all historians know this is not a novel happening. Historical research never stands still. Who knows, if ever the Germans release those files Stangneth may have to revise her tour de force

One small caveat. The sub title of this book is misleading. It is not true to say that Eichmann's life has been 'Unexamined'. In fact many books have been written about him. Important ones, apart from Arendt's are: the study by the lead prosecutor at the trial, Gideon Hausner; the psychiatric evaluation of the accused by Professor Shlomo Kulczar and Dr Leopold Szondi (the examination concluded that Eichmann was an 'ambitious sadomasochist, devoid of any moral values....'. , and in 1999 Eichmann's own memoirs entitled 'Goedzen' were made public by the Israeli State Archives during the trial for libel in the action brought by Holocaust denier David Irving against Professor Deborah Lipstadt-an action that Irving lost. Lipstadt's book is also revealing.

I only wish Arendt was alive to engage in live debate with the author of this important addition to our knowledge of those who willingly slaughtered Jews and others. What a treat that would be.

Some reviewers have wrongly stated that much of the evidence used by the author has long been known but ignored. NO! The evidence has to this day been deliberately covered up by the German authorities for fear it would expose ex nazis still employed by the state. Regarding his escape to Argentina, we now know this was engineered by nazi sympathisers in the Vatican; we know the names of those senior clergy involved. It is shameful, but only one of many such incidents involving these people.

Very highly recommended.


Waterloo: Myth and Reality
Waterloo: Myth and Reality
by Gareth Glover
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Coalition Won This Battle., 30 Oct 2014
The author has spent many years studying one of the most famous battles: Waterloo. He has published several books on the subject or on the period in which the battle took place. He is the editor of the impressive and invaluable six volume 'Waterloo Archive Series'.

Next year is the bicentenary of Waterloo an anniversary that already has led to dozens of books about the battle, many are re-publications. More are due out by Xmas. This book is a welcome addition because its main aim is to demolish the numerous myths that persist about this battle.

Glover's research leads him to criticise the way in which we, the Germans (Prussians) and others have claimed it was they who defeated Bonaparte. He also highlights a number of outright errors in many published accounts, for example, that Napoleon surrendered. He rightly emphasises the role that 'friction' played in the outcome, something that is so often overlooked when battles are analysed. In brief, his book is to a degree a new interpretation of the available evidence. He reminds us that, as in all battles, confusion reigned at Waterloo, and much of what took place is mere conjecture. Authors please take note.

All nations played an important part in the defeat of Napoleon. Primary sources indicate, for example, that it is very doubtful if Wellington would have engaged the French at all if Blucher had not told him he would join him in opposing Bonaparte. It was this assurance that persuaded Wellington to fight. Even then it was a very narrow victory.

The author's critical comments about Napoleon are at odds with Andrew Roberts's recent superb biography of Napoleon. Glover describes Napoleon as a warmonger and a despot. He goes so far as saying he was the 'Saddam Hussein' of his day', a somewhat bizarre statement. In so doing, Glover, ignores the massive domestic achievements of Napoleon, for example, the Civil Code and numerous examples of art and architecture styles that grace France to this day.

This apart, the book is easy to read and full of interesting information. Not everyone will agree the author's views but they are thought-provoking.

Recommended.


The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History
Price: £8.96

12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BLonde Ambition, 29 Oct 2014
Shelves are laden with books on Winston plus books written by him. He was in many ways a very remarkable and complex man and politician. He switched his political allegiance more than once. He was in the political wilderness for many years, and was intensely disliked by many in his own party in the inter war years. The disaster of the Gallipoli operation in the Great War was in large part his doing because of very poor political direction (this event is dealt with very badly indeed in the book). During the Second World War he drove his senior military advisers to distraction, as the Allan Brooke diaries show all too clearly, by proposing a number of madcap schemes plus discussing with them intricate military matters at 3am from his bed while smoking a cigar and drinking a great deal of whisky. Unlike Winston, they had to be at their desks at 7am.
When the war ended he was rejected by the electorate only to bounce back in 1951. He died in 1965 leaving Clementine, a remarkablee wife, with whom he had five children.

On the credit side he was a magnificent orator and writer, not always accurate but his syntax and style are superlative. I tell every undergraduate to read Churchill if they want to improve their English. He had served in the army and seen action in several wars, including the Great War, as well as being a war correspondent. Winston is also frequently and wrongly hailed as the man who won the war. He didn't and in fact in 1954 admitted as much. The Americans and the Russians won the Second World War with admiral help from ourselves and the Dominions. Churchill's contribution to victory was essentially in the psychological realm. It was he who bolstered public morale and gave the nation hope when all seemed lost. However, it should be noted that Richard Toye polnts out in his recent book 'The Roar of the Lion' that Winston's speeches failed to resonate with many people during the war.
As Toye says, many wounded soldiers lying in hospital wards swore at radio broadcasts of Churchill's speeches.
And remember he only became PM because, as we now know, Halifax, the favourite refused the position. Also if the war had not broken out Churchill would have almost certainly gone down in history as an untrustworthy maverick and political failure.

Churchill felt deeply about the Empire, he was adamant that India should not be granted independence. This, unfortunately, led him astray to the extent of describing Gandhi in what today would be regarded as outrageous racist terms. Recent papers have come to light to show that this incident was not an isolated one. He wanted British rule in India to be sacrosanct, come what may. He was not a racist.

This book by Boris Johnson is another example of a politician writing a political biography. He joins Hague, Brown, Kennedy and many others. Why has he written it? It is said to mark the 50th anniversary of Winston's death which falls in January 2015. Of course, another explanation could be it is a statement of intent, for Boris is an ambitious man. Is it in fact a battle cry? Is it a clarion call for national leadership? Many think so. It is certainly not a biography; it is openly a eulogy presented as a series of lectures.

The author makes no claim that his book is based on original research. He freely admits he has culled all the major secondary sources about his hero. To his credit he tells us to whom credit is due, and that is not always done.

Written in typical Boris style the book admits that Churchill was regarded by many in the Commons as a: turncoat, an egotist, a rotter, a bounder, a cad, and at times a drunk. Some Tories, he says, viewed him as, 'a Goering, an adventurer, a half breed, a fat baby, and a disaster for the country'. It is 400 pages of funny, clever, at times, judgements. It is also very, very biased. On completion you feel exhausted. Some typical Johnson silliness doesn't help. One wishes he would abandon the foppish behaviour. As a former Secretary of his has written it is an act. To deliberately ruffle his hair before facing the public is rather childish but he does this and people fall for it. Boris still exudes the image of a schoolboy who hasn't grown up, hence the silly japes.

Boris rightly points out: Winston's soperhuman energy, the lack of affection he received as a child, his desire to prove his physical bravery, the fact that he was not a dunce, the constant worry over money, and his ruthlessness about switching political parties. He admits that Winston was spoilt as a child (1000 toy soldiers, that he could be a bully and inconsiderate. With regards to the charge that he was a warmonger, Johnson believes that he did love warfare and military glory (see his book on Marlborough) but he viewed war with horror. He never forgot the slaughter of the Great War. He never incited war. He was in favour of poison gas and the tank because he argued they would hopefully shorten the war and therefore reduce the slaughter.

It is interesting to compare the author's chequered career with Winston's. The former was sacked by The Times for 'sand-papering', a serious offence. Winston, on the other hand, was MP for Oldham in 1900, by the age of 24 had been shot at by Dervishes, killed people, and published a book. He subsequently held the office of Home Secretary, Minister of Munitions, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Churchill also had a rather more stable married life. Regarding the latter, Boris says that Churchill eschewed affairs because he was 'too darned busy'. No doubt Johnson's wife would have wished he had been. He clearly sees no moral issues in adultery. A sad reflection on him.

Whether Boris likes it or not he is in a much lower league to Winston; to be fair he admits this. One cannot, for example, imagine Churchill getting into trouble on a zipwire, vaving two union jacks which he just happened to be carrying, deliberately or otherwise! Neither can one envisage Johnson delivering rousing speeches like those about fighting on the beaches or the Iron Curtain speech. I doubt he has the foresight to say what Winston said in 1897 about military action in Afghanistan: 'Financially it is ruinous, Morally it is wicked. Politically it is a blunder'. I for one am glad Winston not Boris was in No 10 during the war. Compared to Churchill, Boris's political know how is very, very limited.

Nevertheless, you never know some of the star dust may land on Boris. He obviously hopes it will, hence the book and appearances on US chat shows to promote it. One of which went wrong. Unfortunately, he suffers in comparison with Winston in two major respects at least. Firstly, his writng is much inferior. Secondly, as an orator he is way below his hero's standard. He has a rich vocabulary and a witty turn of phrase but he speaks in convoluted sentences riddled with subordinate clauses. The result is disjointed and muddled. He was recently voted as one of our poorest political speakers by the EL society.

There is a somewhat surprising lack in this book of Churchill's actions in the war period 1940-45. One suspects this is because Johnson is not at all knowledgeable or comfortable with military matters, hence the very, very weak chapter on Gallipoli. Nevertheless, as this period was the pinnacle of Churchill's career it is a strange ommission. On the other hand, there is much in the book on him being the co-founder with L.George of the welfare state, and establishing labour exchanges, and creating unemployment insurance. Winston was also instrumental in reducing prison sentences.

Whereas many regard Churchill as one who advocated a united states of Europe, Boris disagrees. He believes Winston wanted only to be 'a sponsor' not an active participant. This is not new. The evidence supports Boris in this instance. Churchill wanted Britain to be with Europe, but not of it. He once told General de Gaulle that if he had to make a choice he would always choose the open sea rather than Europe. Nevertheless, Winston's views on Europe did change again and again. He was always keen not to offend the USA, something Boris omits to point out.

Boris raises the old question what would have happened in 1940 if Churchill had not been around as PM. His answer that a deal would have been done with Hitler, and the country enslaved, has long been kicked into the long grass. FO papers show this would never have happened, there was in the cabinet very little support for supping with the devil in 1940.

Boris describes Winston as 'a buccaneering Victorian Whig'. On another occasion, he says Churchill is ' the Imelda Marcos of hats'. Make of this what you will. It is pure Boris. The book is written with verve and such gusto that at times you fear the pages will catch fire. Boris's style tends to be a crime against typical English, but this will no doubt endear him to his fan club of under 30's who know little about Churchill.

Although there is literally nothing new in the book, all the information and the jokes are very familiar, it is an entertaining account that may perhaps help Boris on his journey to Parliament.

I wish him well. The dreary inhabitants of our Parliament, most of whom come from the legal or accountancy profession, certainly need someone to liven up the place. A flamboyant maverick is perhaps just what the Commons needs to shake it up. Whether he has the abilty to rise above backbencher is debatable. However, the old boy network will no doubt help him. The case for Boris rests on his personality. On policy matters he is on shaky ground. The EU is a very tricky area for him. His claim to be a Eurosceptive is so far unconvincing. More like Lloyd George than Winston is Boris.

One of the saddest things about the current disenchantment with politics, in fact is is not politics it is those we elect to run the country we dislike, is how people are increasingly judging the merits of contenders for political leadership on the basis of their flamboyancy rather than their ability to do the job, particularly when the going gets rough and tough. Should Boris ever occupy No 10 he will find governing the country rather harder than running London. Bonn, Paris, Washington, and Moscow will not be impressed by a Bertie Wooster character. This aspiring politician needs far more gravitas if he is to be a political leader.

An interesting account but not one to read if you wish to understand what made Churchill tick.
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