Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dense reading of late

Much of my recent reading hasn't been easy to blog. I am trying (and succeeding) to read more international relations books and they are fairly narrow interest. Good books, but not for everyone to be sure. They are part of the broad category of nonfiction where good writing isn't enough for someone to read it. Certain authors, like John McPhee or Ted Conover or anyone who regularly writes for the Atlantic or the New Yorker, write thoughtful pieces and books about subjects that most people would find interesting.

If you are interested in national security policy making, then you will probably find Ivo Daalder and IM Destler's In the Shadow of the Oval Office a good read. The book is a study of evolving role of the National Security Adviser. The first was McGeorge Bundy, a fascinating character in himself and the subject of Kai Bird's fantastic Color of Truth. The initial role was strictly that of adviser, but it came to be associated with the National Security Council, an initially partisan group, but one that became more professionalized in the Bush 41/Clinton years. Thanks to its extra-constitutional status the role has morphed over the years and sometimes caused more trouble than good. The book assumes you are conversant with Cold War and post-Cold War politics and international relations.

I am slowly working my way through the Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen. This one is only for people quite interested in a detailed study of how counter-insurgency campaigns are waged. Kilcullen is a soldier and an academic so he combines rigor with on the ground experience. That experience includes work for Central Command in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked for the Australian military throughout South East Asia. The man packs more information in a paragraph than most writers pack in a page.

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