Flight Of The Eagle by Conrad Black

Flight of the Eagle

Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership is a history of the United States From the French & Indian War to the Afghanistan War. The book doesn’t just dwell on wars, but looks at the leadership of the United States and the strategic vision each leader brought to his office. This leadership starts with the President, and so the book deals with each administration. Often it involves the Congress, the courts, and the military, but most often a President’s uses the Department of State. Mr. Black discusses the U.S. Secretaries of State in some detail. Mr. Black shows how a strong forceful vision of the future, that mirrors the values of this country, and when played well, has created a strong healthy Republic. When this isn’t true the country and its allies suffer. I appreciate that Mr. Black has strong opinions about various Presidents. He does a good job of support his opinions from the historical record.

I enjoyed reading this book and looked forward to reading it each time I picked it up. I only wish Black’s overuse of compound sentence structures could have been dialed back. He certainly has a broad and interesting vocabulary. I certainly wouldn’t start with this book if I was looking for my first history of the United States, but if you’re a fan of History it makes for an interesting read. His theme of strategic vision holds the book together and kept me interested. It is clear America suffers, is suffering now, from a lack of vision; a lack of leadership, someone who can play the game well.

824 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

[I found lots of interesting paragraphs that I marked in my book and looked up on my Kindle that I’d like to share. -Craig]

Thus the secret of crushing Britain, as was never realized by its greatest continental adversaries, was to be at peace with all continental powers, which would require a greater army than all continental rivals, and then to have a greater navy than Britain’s. This would effectively require the combined naval and military force of the three other greatest powers in Europe. The geography and history of Europe never yielded any country such an advantage, and the British talent for dividing Europe with well-purchased and supported coalitions prevented that, even against leaders who dominated most of Europe for a time. This is why Britain has not been seriously invaded since the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066. – location 770-74

The rebels would look to Washington to put together a fighting force from the previously rather unreliable militia (which Washington himself had despised), and successfully resist the battle-hardened British regulars, the Redcoats. Benjamin Franklin, the great diplomat and world-renowned intellectual, would be relied upon to recruit allies by exploiting the fissiparous European interplay of ever-changing balances of power, which always included a deep reservoir of resentment of whichever power had won the last European war, never mind that the suitor was the beneficiary of Britain’s great victory. And Thomas Jefferson would be the chief expositor, not to say propagandist, to make the case that this was not a grubby contest about taxes, colonial ingratitude, and the rights of the martial victor and mother country (all of which it largely was), and to repackage it as an epochal struggle for the rights of man, vital to the hopes and dreams of everyone in the world. – location 1197-1204

Washington, as president in Philadelphia, where the law was that after six months’ residence slaves were automatically free, cycled his slaves in from Mount Vernon for a little over 20 weeks and then platooned them with others, to avoid emancipation of them. To be arbitrary, the American claim to moral leadership was one-third pure virtue, one-third ambitious but plausible striving, and one-third humbug and hypocrisy. The virtue would be strained at times but not discarded or altogether sullied; the ambitions of the most ardent patriots to world leadership would be attained in prodigies of courage, imagination, and diligence; but the fraud and corruption would constantly nag and periodically haunt the nation through all the astounding times ahead. – location 1967-72

By the time Monroe arrived in France in April, Napoleon had abandoned his ideas of a revived American empire, shocked at the unsuccessful decade-long effort to suppress a slave revolt in Haiti and wary of revived war with Britain, which continued to be invincible at sea. He did not wish to be starved out of North America as Louis XVI had been. Just before Monroe’s arrival, Talleyrand asked Livingston what the U.S. would pay for the whole Louisiana Territory. Monroe took this up on his arrival a couple of days later and boldly seized the opportunity. Agreement was reached and signed on May 2, antedated to April 30, buying the whole territory for $15 million, including U.S. government assumption of $3.75 million of French debts to private American interests. Monroe and Livingston exceeded their authority but Jefferson was delighted, and the acquisition was easily approved by the Senate in October. It slightly tested the president’s strict constructionist ideas, but, as always, he was able to adjust legal dogmas to suit a rational discharge of his office. – location 2510-17

If Jefferson had taken a leaf from the book of his predecessors, and built up a large army and equipped it, he could have threatened Britain with the permanent seizure of Canada, and could have forced some variance in the maritime provocations of the British. The application of simple grade-three arithmetic would have told him, as it told his opponents and the countries he was aiming to influence, that the policies he did adopt could not succeed, and their failure squandered a good deal of the political capital and credibility that had been built up by his comrades in the establishment of the United States–Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, and Adams. – location 2696-2700

[Some of my favorite parts of the book are when Mr. Black writes a ‘Strategic Review’ although he doesn’t always call it that. They appear almost at random throughout the book. -Craig]

STRATEGIC REVIEW It was 77 years from the start of the Seven Years’ War to the reinauguration of Andrew Jackson, and in that time America had deftly moved through eight distinct strategic phases. Franklin had had the vision of the Great Power of the New World, and had fastened it admirably onto Pitt’s vision of the British Empire to encourage the permanent expulsion of France from North America. This was the sine qua non to the possibility of American independence, which would have been impractical if France had remained in contention for control of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys (1756-1763). For the fulfillment of Franklin’s vision, France and Britain would both have to go from America, but France would have to go first. When the king and the king’s men refused to govern equitably as between the British of the home islands and of America, Washington’s genius for guerrilla war (for it was genius and it was guerrilla war) was married to Franklin’s diplomatic genius in enticing France self-destructively to the aid of republicanism, and to Jefferson’s genius for presenting the quarrel in epochal, libertarian terms, and independence was won (1764-1783). Washington then displayed a political cunning and integrity and resistance to the temptations of force no triumphant general in an important country would show again until Charles de Gaulle patiently awaited the collapse of the French Fourth Republic 170 years later (1783-1787). Washington and Franklin sponsored the constitutional efforts of Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, and a stable and durable and adequately flexible system of government resulted (1787-1789). Washington, Hamilton, and Adams launched the government of the new republic with surpassing insight and distinction, establishing strong economic policies and fiscal institutions, asserting federal authority and retaining sufficient military strength to be able to exchange non-aggression against Canada and the British West Indies for British liberality toward American commerce on the high seas, and used the status quo with Britain to lever a firm line against revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1789-1801). The opposition came peacefully to power, often the litmus test of a new national regime. And Jefferson and Madison retained Hamilton’s financial institutions and industrial policy, while expanding the country into the interior of the continent, broadening the franchise, and shrinking and decentralizing government. Their economic reprisals against Britain failed and Madison lost the opportunity to seize Canada, but at least registered again, in the otherwise pointless War of 1812, America’s determined autonomy opposite Britain (1801-1817). Monroe and John Quincy Adams continued the wiser policies of all their predecessors and seized the coat-tails and the elbow of their late British adversary, preponderant in the post-Napoleonic world, as tightly as Britain would embrace America when the correlation of forces between them tipped three-quarters of a century later. For the United States, it was solidarity in apparent equality with the only potentially threatening adversary, all in the interest of American hemispheric preeminence (1818-1829). And Andrew Jackson would impose the acceptance of slavery where it existed and within its established latitude in implicit exchange for the inviolability of the Union, which the South, in its defensiveness about slavery, was already trying to redefine. Given demographic and economic trends, this would ensure the ability of the free states with skillful political leadership to prevail over the slave states, should the issue be forced, if the test of strength could be deferred by 20 or 30 years (1832-1860). If these trends of growth and development could be retained and the slavery threat resolved, the United States, barely 80 years after Yorktown, would be one of the greatest powers in the world, as Franklin had foreseen. Of the founders of the country, Madison was the only one still alive in 1833, and he saw the danger and the promise. It would all be down to the next great leader of the American project, a raw-boned young Illinoisan, teaching himself law and wondering about slavery. – location 3498-3529

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, purporting to emancipate all slaves in areas in revolt as “then and forever free,” came down on January 1, 1863. As it applied only to insurgent-occupied areas, it didn’t have much practical impact but, again, sharply distinguished the combatants in the sight of the Europeans, where slavery was already an unappealing concept. – location 4610-12

It was another of Lincoln’s masterstrokes. The North was now bulletproof against both the charge of blase non-concern about slavery and the domestic charge of spilling disturbing quantities of the Union’s blood and treasure for a black population that most northerners did not consider to be entirely human, though most also considered the blacks to be victims of a system regarded as between distasteful and wicked. (It was both.) In thus aligning the two connected but not confluent Union war aims, Lincoln demonstrated again, as he had in his pursuit of the presidency, his unique mastery of the grand strategy of the war and of the causes that gave rise to it. – location 4616-21 [Black points out this Proclamation neutralized any possible interference in the war by England. -Craig]

Lincoln’s policy was hard-pressed at times, in the population, in the Congress, and in foreign capitals, but he always managed enough support to have the manpower to conduct the war, and enough success to prevent being shackled by radicals in his party and to deter direct foreign confrontations. His strategic management was masterly at every phase, as the secession crisis grew, as he split the Democrats in the debates with Douglas, took the Republican nomination from under the nose of Seward, arranged for the South to attack the Union, folded emancipation into the main war aim of preservation of the Union, and implemented Scott’s strategy by identifying and promoting gifted commanders from well down in the ranks when the war began, all the while out-maneuvering domestic opposition and foreign scheming, and speaking and writing publicly of the country’s war aims with unforgettable eloquence. So unassuming and free of egotism was he, that like a great circus performer, it was only obvious after he had left the stage how brilliant his strategic conceptions, command decisions, and tactical initiatives had been. That, coupled to the nobility of his cause, his infallible mastery of English, and his profoundly sympathetic personality, explains and justifies Lincoln’s immense and universal prestige. – location 4776-84

On election day, Roosevelt won 22.8 million votes, 57 percent of the total, and 472 electoral votes, to 15.8 million, 40 percent, and 59 electoral votes for Hoover. Thomas received 885,000 votes and Foster 103,000. These were very modest proportions of the vote for left-wing parties, compared with most other democracies, where radical parties were a serious threat. – location 6966-68 [Black goes on to compare the other leaders of other countries by comparison: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, And Stalin. Even our close allies: England and France where playing around with Socialism. -Craig]

[Another Strategic Review -Craig]
THE STRATEGIC HERITAGE AND PROSPECTS OF AMERICA IN 1933 The world was gasping and the great power of the New World was in danger of the complete collapse of its economic, and possibly even its political, system. Of Roosevelt’s 30 predecessors as president, only Abraham Lincoln had taken office in such daunting circumstances. This narrative has proceeded fairly densely through 175 years since the start of the Seven Years’ War, in which Benjamin Franklin had felt the need to urge Britain to ensure that the metropolitan French did not return to Canada. As the entire American project teetered, and the country brought in a new leader to try to resuscitate what had been 65 years of vertiginous expansion in every field and by any measurement since the Civil War, it is an opportune moment for a brief pause to assess the strategies of the rise and stall and prospects of America. In the mid-eighteenth century, America was a haven for seekers of a freer and more prosperous life than was commonly available in Europe. As it had almost 30 percent of Britain’s population toward the end of that period, and a higher standard of living, it was an important geopolitical entity, but Britain got little from it, and protecting it was onerous. A few Americans of international stature, most conspicuously Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, had an idea of what a powerhouse America could, relatively quickly, become. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, had the geopolitical vision to add to the British manipulation of the balance of power on the continent, traditional since the time of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, 225 years before, the concentration on the navy and amphibious operations necessary to gain control of the world’s oceans and most desirable places of empire. He led Britain to victory in Canada and India, the Caribbean, West Africa, and everywhere on the high seas. Chatham’s successors completely bungled the comprehensible need to get America to pay a representative share of the cost of clearing France out of North America. And Franklin, Washington, and other talented men, especially Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Adams, John Jay, John Marshall, James Monroe, and even the revolutionary drummer boy Andrew Jackson, determined that America would do better without being a British dependency. In an astonishing sequence of individual accomplishments, Washington held an improvised, scarcely paid army together for seven years, identified some talented subalterns, and moved with genius at the beginning and end of the conflict and with agility and tenacity as required in between, while Franklin, incredibly, persuaded the absolute French monarchy to join a war for republican democracy and imperial secession. Jefferson packaged up a tax and jurisdictional dispute as the dawn of human liberty and individual rights, and Madison and Hamilton and Jay wrote the new nation a brilliant and novel Constitution whose adoption was secured by the persuasive eminence of Washington and Franklin. Washington, by his character and sagacity, created a distinguished presidency, in which most of the above-mentioned followed him; Jay and Marshall built a strong federal state from the bench; and Hamilton foresaw and designed the economic destiny of a country that in barely a century would operate on an economic scale that the world had not imagined possible The strategy was to achieve and glorify independence and secure it with functional political institutions, and it was an entirely successful strategy, brilliantly executed. The new republic was splendidly launched; Jefferson and Polk each added as much territory as the Thirteen Colonies had had at the nation’s outset, at minimal cost. The nation’s Achilles’ heel, even as it grew to be one of the world’s major powers, alongside centuries-old kingdoms, was slavery, symbol of the civilization of the southern half of the country. Jackson decreed the compromise of slavery’s legitimacy and the indissolubility of the Union, and his great rival, Henry Clay, helped produce compromises in 1820, before Jackson entered public life, and in 1850, after Jackson had died, that enabled the Union to survive until the slave-holding part of the country was reduced by natural growth to a quarter of the free population. The strategy was to preserve the Union, to exalt growth over internecine differences until the strength of the Union was insuperable within the country. It was a clever strategy, executed well up to the death of Clay, and was ultimately successful, though only by a hand’s breadth. When the Union was strong enough to suppress an insurgency, a new leader, at the head of a new party, was elected on the promise that the rights of slaveholders would be protected but that slavery could not expand into areas where it was uneconomic and foreign, and when this was confirmed as unacceptable to the South, proceeded with judicious cunning until the South initiated hostilities. In a prolonged masterpiece of sage and benign execution, Lincoln kept foreigners at bay, built a mighty army, promoted outstanding generals, emancipated the slaves (prospectively, as 95 percent of them were in rebel states), so that the abolitionists and those who cared only for the Union were both satisfied, as the proclaimed emancipation incited slave resistance in the South. Lincoln won, slavery was abolished, the Union was saved and automatically became one of the most powerful nations in the world, just 82 years after its independence was achieved. A providential leader appeared with an unassailable intellectual and moral position and applied adequate pressure for long enough to crush the forces of disunion and start to “bind up the nation’s wounds.” The tactics of founding the new party, taking it over, and leading it to victory, and the strategy of formulating the issue and the execution of the conduct of the war, were all masterpieces of surpassing brilliance and nobility. There followed a third of a century in which the national leadership was almost irrelevant; there was no need for a providential Washington, Jackson, or Lincoln. Immigration was open, the economy was unfettered, and millions of people poured from the bowels of European famine and oppression and pogroms into this astoundingly fecund country. They pledged allegiance to Madison and Hamilton’s Constitution, and they or their children made their way in the English language, and the organic growth of America, in its sustained swiftness and scale, surpassed anything in human history. The strategy was to let America be itself, and it was a brilliant strategy, the more so because it required almost no execution at all. Just 50 years after the United States had crushed Mexico, it even more easily routed Mexico’s former colonial master, Spain, albeit only in overseas outposts. Theodore Roosevelt seized Panama and built the inter-ocean canal, arbitrated between the Russians and Japanese, pacified the Philippines, built up the United States Navy to be the third in the world after only the British and German Empires, and painted that navy white and sent it round the world. And Woodrow Wilson, the desiccated but erudite and eloquent intellectual, intervened to assure the victory of the democracies in history’s bloodiest war, and created a vision of international cooperation, collective security, and the evangelization of democracy and national self-determination that briefly inspirited the war-ravaged world. More durably, he inserted a requirement in U.S. foreign policy of reasonable virtue as well as clear national interest. Without both those ingredients, ambitious foreign undertakings by American administrations are not really possible. Both Roosevelt and Wilson emphasized that the United States would now be an influence in the whole world, by its power and its moral authority. Roosevelt carried a big stick; Wilson at least had a big stick to hand, and both, in different ways, fired the imagination of the world. The strategy was the tentative assertion of American influence in the whole world, notice that the American era was imminent. Neither strategy had been thought out and Wilson’s execution was faulty, but they were both on to something, and the unnatural abstention of America from the world had to end. Wilson lost his health and his judgment and was repudiated, and there followed a false era of hedonism and foreign policy posturing, and economic insouciance. By 1933, the economy had crashed, and the American idea was more violently afflicted than ever in its history The Civil War had threatened the nation’s integrality, but not the future of its constitutional democracy in 70 percent of the country. Now, the whole laissez-faire economic system that had fueled the meteoric rise of the nation and the individualistic philosophy that had idealized it were at risk. There came now Franklin Delano Roosevelt to revive American optimism, reassert the nation’s exceptionalism, reform the system sufficiently to renew it and revive its inexorable rise, to restore America’s exalted destiny, and to lead it to its rightful place, as Benjamin Franklin had foreseen 175 years before, at the head of all the nations and peoples of the world. Up to now, there had been incremental strategies to create and conserve the nation, to preserve it against insurrection and the evils of slavery, and to bring it to the attention of the world and show the world some of the power of American industry and idealism. Now there was a grave challenge, and meeting the challenge would take America to the summit of the world, as a Manichaean struggle was approaching between the conservators and evocators of Western democracy and Judeo-Christian values, and the totalitarian apostles of racism, paganism, and Marxist materialism. American strategic thinking up to this point had been designed to build and promote America. Now, all that had been achieved had to be redeemed from the depths of economic and psychological depression and swiftly deployed to hold the battlements of the West in a world approaching a mortal crisis. America’s rendezvous with what no longer seemed a manifest destiny was almost at hand. – location 7001-74

Marshall urged Roosevelt to mobilize opinion for an increased defense budget and he assured the general that Hitler would take care of that. This was what happened, as Roosevelt ordered eight battleships, 24 aircraft carriers (there were only 24 afloat in the world, almost all in the British, Japanese, and U.S. navies), and an annual aircraft production of 50,000 (five times German production). The remaining workfare programs were entirely given over to defense production. It was the strategic coup of completing victory in one arena (elimination of unemployment) by focusing on the next target (arming America until it was an incomparable military superpower). Unemployment declined by 500,000 per month for the balance of the year and into 1941; that battle was over and won at last. Among the workfare projects were the two soon-to-be historic aircraft carriers, Enterprise and Yorktown. Unemployment had vanished completely, even in the relief programs, by the autumn of 1941. – location 7494-7501 [I have been hoping for years to find a book on Naval Construction, Design Decisions, and shipbuilders on the home-front during World War II. Let me know if you know of one. -Craig]

Roosevelt defended it with his customary panache. He explained to the press that it was like lending “your neighbor your garden hose if his house is on fire.” This was nonsense, of course, but when questioned further, Roosevelt asked the reporter if he knew the difference between a horse and a cow, and claimed that the distinction between a loan and a gift was just as obvious. – location 7614-17

Lend-Lease assistance over the next four years would total over $50 billion. It was a brilliant scheme, and was proclaimed to be so even by Stalin, and the British Parliament voted a resolution of unreserved gratitude to the United States for what Churchill described as “the most unsordid act in the history of any nation.” It made it clear that what Hitler had already described (accurately) as the “moral aggression” of American assistance to Britain, on the Atlantic and in its supply role, meant that Germany and the United States were already, in all respects except a general exchange of fire, at war. Hitler had to face that he had no chance of suppressing Britain by invasion, any more than Philip II in 1588, Choiseul in 1760, or Napoleon in 1804 (Introduction and Chapters 1 and 3). The Royal Navy was insuperable without air superiority, which was unattainable with the strength of the Royal Air Force backed by a blank check from America’s immense aircraft production industry. British determination and courage, and American industrial might, would keep Britain durably in the war. – location 7623-30

[Another Strategic Review -Craig]
Roosevelt’s economic recovery program deserves a 67 percent grade as economics, an 80 percent for showmanship and morale-boosting, and 95 percent for castastrophe-avoidance. His war-preparation strategy was almost flawless genius. He subtly transferred one leg of his political support from western and midwestern liberal isolationists to southern, conservative, military preparedness advocates and quasi-Atlanticists. At the same time, he steadily strengthened hemispheric solidarity by reassuring the Canadians and outbidding Germany for the adherence of the Latin American dictators. He held the support of the one-quarter of Americans who were Roman Catholics in part by declining to support the anti-clerical Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and by other deferences, and the Roman Catholic episcopate delivered all it had for him at the end of the 1940 election campaign. Roosevelt’s draft for a third term had been based on the promise of peace through strength and all aid short of war for the democracies, as the surest way to stay out of war, while telling the British and Canadian leaders that he would make war without declaring it. With Lend-Lease, the designation of two-thirds of the North Atlantic as a “Neutrality Zone” where the U.S. Navy attacked German ships on detection, and the arming of American merchantmen, he was effectively conducting undeclared war. Roosevelt completed the elimination of the Depression with the greatest arms build-up in world history, assisted Russia to resist Germany when it was attacked by that country, promised to do whatever was needed to keep Britain in the war, pushed the Japanese imperialists to the wall with his oil and scrap metal embargoes, and when it seemed that Russia might buckle without a sign of armed relief from the West, invited a treacherous attack by Japan. Every element of an intricate plan for worldwide victory over Nazism and Japanese imperialism, and the emergence of the United States as the preeminent power in the world after comparatively affordable investment and sacrifice in war, had been hatched and implemented by Roosevelt without real consultation with anyone, and with consummate skill. He had already established with the British that in the event of war, priority must go to the defeat of Germany by the invasion of Europe in France. All was now in readiness for a brilliantly executed war. In 190 years of American history, only Benjamin Franklin’s manipulation of the British and then the French while Washington conducted a successful guerrilla war and Jefferson won an epochal propaganda victory, and Lincoln’s masterly mobilization of northern opinion and arms to preserve the Union, to which he appended the emancipation of the African Americans (and in a sense the whole country) from the bondage of slavery, bore comparison with Roosevelt’s strategic triumph from 1937 to 1945. This triumph was about to be consummated by his conduct of the war. And no other power in the world in the same period had remotely approached the accomplishment of such immense strategic victories as America’s in the Seven Years’ and Revolutionary Wars, the Civil War, and what was about to occur in the World War II, each vastly enhancing the standing of the country in the world. – location 7822-45

If Stalin had sided with Churchill on a Balkan campaign, he would have ended up with most of Germany and would have had a crack at a communist France. Tehran was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of Western diplomacy; Roosevelt’s was on a par with Franklin’s in Paris in 1778 (Chapter 3). Having a man of Stalin’s cunning and cynicism advocate something detrimental to his territorial ambitions in Central and Western Europe because he underestimated Western military capabilities was a colossal achievement. – location 8403-7

[President Eisenhower spends much of his time trying to stop the Joint Chiefs of Staff from starting an Nuclear War. -Craig]
..implications of the fact that the Chiefs, the successors of MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower, Nimitz, and Bradley, would be so relaxed about precipitating millions of people into eternity for such nonsensical strategic assets are disquieting. Roosevelt would have had the self-confidence, and Truman the gritty independent-mindedness and Missouri skepticism, to refuse them; but even better was Eisenhower’s dismissal of Radford’s requests as military, moral, strategic, and constitutional foolishness. – location 10028-31

Hard as it is in retrospect to believe that these trivial islands could have created such a war agitation, it was a period of intense strain. Finally, on April 23, Chou gave in Bandung (Indonesia) a very conciliatory speech, Eisenhower responded somewhat in the same spirit, and the shelling of the islands was reduced, and stopped altogether in May 1955. The whole episode is generally reckoned a great Eisenhower victory, as the bombardment stopped and Chiang retained Quemoy and Matsu. It was not a triumph in preventing an invasion of Formosa, as there was no chance China could have achieved that successfully with the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Formosa Strait (which Eisenhower had beefed up with three additional aircraft carriers). – location 10116-21

A few years before, Eisenhower had described the Democrats as “Extremes of the left, extremes of the right, with corruption and political chicanery shot through the whole business.”167 (He was speaking of Roosevelt, Truman, Rayburn, and Johnson; what he might have thought of Jesse Jackson, George Wallace, and George McGovern intimidates the imagination.) – location 10177-80

[A Strategic Review of the Vietnam War -Craig]
Almost two million Americans had served in Vietnam and 58,000 had died there, and about two million Vietnamese also died on both sides combined, military and civilian, a blurred distinction in such a war. Probably Eisenhower should either have helped the French and led the resistance in 1954, though it would have been difficult just a year after Korea, or not guaranteed an independent South Vietnam in 1955. Kennedy was still trying to figure out what to do when he was assassinated. Johnson’s intervention can be justified and probably helped defeat the communists in Indonesia, but the inadequate congressional authorization and the inept strategic plan of the general staff of the army, not seriously interdicting the flow of men and supplies from the North, cannot be justified. Lyndon Johnson, in his reluctance, could never decide if he was really at war. Nixon was much the most effective of all of the American presidents in Vietnam, but he should have moved to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and resumed heavy bombing of the North and imported Nationalist Chinese in noncombat roles to compensate for the Chinese Red Army personnel in the North, as he announced Vietnamization in 1969. He submitted the peace agreement to the Senate, which ratified it without significant opposition. The president hoped that this would commit the country to respond to the next North Vietnamese offensive, as it had at Tet in 1968 and in April of 1972, with massive air power. He abolished conscription a few months later. Richard Nixon had averted the disaster that loomed in 1968, and withdrew from Vietnam with honor. Tragically and unimaginably, Watergate replaced Vietnam as the national crisis, and snatched defeat back, after Nixon had come close to retrieving victory. The Republican Nixon had resurrected the Democrat Johnson after they had fought one of the shabbiest electoral contests in history; and the Democrats betrayed Johnson, destroyed Nixon, and emasculated themselves. Not even Greek dramatists, tragic or comic, had imagined this plot. – location 12011-26

The second was that [Nixon] he was one of America’s most effective presidents, who calmed a terribly divided and riot-torn country at war when he took the headship of it in 1969. He was rivaled only by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, and, in a sense, Woodrow Wilson, as the most strategically astute and imaginative president in the country’s history. – location 12218-20

while the national media patted itself endlessly on the head and back for exposing (i.e., exacerbating) two of the greatest disasters in American strategic and political history, Vietnam and Watergate. – location 12330-31

[A Strategic Review of the post Cold War World. -Craig]
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a sharply reduced need for strategic innovation or even vigilance in the U.S. government. Richard Nixon, when he startled the world with his overture to China in 1972, had told his principal European allies (Chapter 14) that there were five areas capable of influencing the world, militarily and economically–the United States, Western Europe, Russia, Japan, and China. He said that Western Europe and Japan were solid allies of the United States and that he wished to reinforce the detachment of China from Russia and then deal with Russia from strength. – location 12988-93

William Jefferson Clinton left office a popular and certainly not an unsuccessful president, but not an especially consequential president either. He probably accomplished less than any preceding president who served two full terms, except possibly Grant, and that is not certain, and of course Grant’s status as a great figure of American history is based on his military career, which was at least as brilliant and about as important as those of Washington and Eisenhower. Clinton was highly intelligent, assiduous in policy terms, moderate, and popular in America and the world. He was well-served by the strategic triumphs of his predecessors and the economic head of steam stoked up by Ronald Reagan. If George H. W. Bush had been more politically agile and astute, he would have avoided the farce of Ross Perot’s intrusion and would have reaped the full benefit of his strong leadership in the Gulf War and of Reagan’s great accomplishments. But Clinton took the economic bonus and cannot be blamed for the good fortune of serving in less difficult times. He was, other than in his personal conduct, which is irrelevant for these purposes, a prudent leader who made few short-term mistakes. But he faced few strategic decisions and had little aptitude to think in those terms, did not reply adequately to the incipient terrorist threat, and began the economic erosion caused by the imbalance of payments and the overbuilding of housing whose financing was even flimsier than its construction standards. These chickens would feast on steroids and come home to roost with a terrible vengeance after Clinton had gone but before his wife could reclaim the White House as a Clinton family home. – location 13322-33

[George W Bush and the War In Iraq]
It was on seizing Baghdad that the United States committed one of the greatest military blunders of its history, almost on a scale with the failure to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Chapter 14) and the failure of military intelligence to detect the infiltration of 140,000 or more Chinese guerrillas into Korea in 1950 (Chapter 11). The entire armed forces and police forces of Iraq, 400,000 men, were discharged, declared to be unemployed and without income, but not discouraged from taking their weapons and ordnance with them. It should have been obvious to the U.S. commander, General Tommy Franks; to the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld; to the head of the new occupation authority, Paul Bremer; and to the president himself that this would turn Iraq into a civil war zone for years to come. Most of the disemployed soldiers and policemen, however limited their capacity to do battle with the premier units of the U.S. Army and Marines and their allies, were capable of lending themselves out quite capably to the factions that now emerged throughout the country apart from Kurdistan, and escalating and maintaining a state of extreme violence for years. This is exactly what happened. – location 13428-36

What the United States should have done in Iraq, apart from allowing junior ministers and officers, under supervision, to bring their country forward in civic and governance terms, was offer to rebuild it in exchange for preagreed quantities of oil at a prefixed, mutually defensible price per barrel. They were castigated in the world for seeking oil, and did not gain a drop of it. In strategic terms, though there was perfectly adequate justification for disposing of Saddam, it was a disaster. It cost over $1 trillion, perhaps 40,000 American casualties, mired almost the entire U.S. conventional ground forces military capability in a morass for seven years, strained the Western Alliance, achieved little in the War on Terror, and inflated the price of oil without increasing supply. – location 13455-61

Outwardly undismayed by the failure of his nation-building effort, George W. Bush vastly exceeded the humdrum confines of his normal limited grasp of grand strategy and its domestic political execution with the most brilliant foreign policy stroke of any president since Ronald Reagan came up with SDI as a means of fragmenting the self-confidence of the Soviet leadership. He sacked Rumsfeld right after the congressional midterm defeat and brought in one of the ISG members, former CIA chief Robert Gates, a chum of the president’s father, to carry out a policy that was a 180-degree reversal of the inter-leg-tail retreat the ISG was proposing. The ISG report was revealed on December 12, 2006, and on January 12, 2007, the president announced a “surge,” the reinforcement of the U.S. forces in Iraq with an additional 30,000 soldiers–as well as, though it was not publicly announced, a change in campaign tactics, based on greater cooperation with and reward for the tribal and regional chieftains of Iraq. By rejecting his father’s friends’ confession of failure and plucking one of its advocates to conduct a diametrically opposite policy, George W. Bush showed not only a Machiavellian sense of irony but the highest political courage and, since the policy actually worked, a blinding and unsuspected gift of statesmanship. – location 13494-503

George W Bush left office quite unpopular and rather disdained for his bungled syntax, Texas mannerisms (as LBJ had been), and acoustically jarring diction (“the war in Eye-rack”). He had avoided a recession and led the nation effectively after the 9/11 attacks. He undoubtedly did terrible damage to the terrorist organizations, especially al-Qaeda, and the terrorist recurrences were much less serious and frequent than bin Laden and others had promised and many had feared. His next most important strategic initiative, and a very good one, was the July 2005 nuclear agreement with India, which broke the ice in that relationship and was topped up by a very successful presidential visit to India in March 2006. He was much disparaged in Europe, though so are most American presidents if there is any opportunity to do so (all the presidents since Roosevelt except Kennedy and, for a time, Nixon were frequently mocked in Europe). He had no idea of economic matters and completely abdicated when they suddenly boiled over. He did act generously to combat AIDS in Africa, but was often a somewhat dysfunctional president. He was far from great, but there have been many with fewer qualities and successes. And if Iraq finally emerges with any sort of reasonable power-sharing, his strategic influence, with democracy finally advanced by a major Arab country, could be quite positive and significant (though at time of writing, such an outcome did not appear the most likely). – location 13572-82 [I think it is too soon to make these predictions.]


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information: www.effectiveconcepts.net
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