The Greater America


Reviewers of Hitler: Ascent complained that it offered little that we didn't already know about the man who led Germany and the world into the most horrific event it has ever experienced, the Second World War. I don't agree. What academics know, and what the rest of us know, are very different things. I was continually fascinated by Mr Ullrich's account, though I own and have twice read Ian Kershaw's excellent biography, likewise in two volumes and likewise titled Hitler. Here, the biographer is German, which is both good (easy and unrivaled access to sources) and bad, at least for me, since I have to read it in translation. Two examples will suffice. Throughout the book, we are told that Hitler was a private in the First World War, when he was promoted to corporal very early on. There is a difference! I'll wager that Mr Ullrich didn't make that mistake, but that it crept into the English translation. Again, the translator renders Volksgemeinschaft as "ethnic-popular community," which is absurd. If one can't do better than that, why not just leave it in the German, which has an appropriately ominous sound? But these blunders didn't spoil the book for me, and I look forward to Volume Two, whatever its subtitle (Descent?)

Ever since 9/11, I have done my best to understand Islam -- to understand all is to forgive all, right? It has never worked out that way. Mostly I just get irritated at their blinkered worldview, and the more it's explained the dumber it seems. But The Islamic Enlightenment is a revelation. Mr de Bellaigue can actually write! He's perceptive and witty, and his sentences are a pleasure to read. Be aware that by "enlightenment," he really means modernization, as it developed in Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, as these nations met the sharp edge of the European sword and did their various best to catch up. Mostly this involved an "enlightened" despot willing to tolerate European thinking among the cultured and elite while harshly repressing democracy for the masses. The great mysery is why, in our lifetime, we are seeing these same nations shifting back to darkest Islamism, first Iran with its ayatollahs and now Turkey under Recep Erdogan.

The War Machine is a Netflix production and only available on that subscription service. I enjoyed the heck out of it, despite the fact that it's a cheap shot at the US military and especially the long-running war in Afghanistan. It's based on the career-ending experience of General Stanley McChrystal, who unwisely allowed a Rolling Stone reporter to "embed" with the headquarters staff. (The magazine's standard of journalism most recently gave us a gang-rape story that proved to be a fraud: "thinly sourced, full of erroneous assumptions, and plagued by gaping holes.") In the Hollywood tradition, the US military is represented by a half-dozen lunatic officers and a Dirty Dozen platoon of losers. What redeems the flick is the performance, at once hilarious and noble, of Brad Pitt as the hapless commanding general. The man can act! (Or maybe, like John Wayne in True Grit, he isn't acting but just being himself.) There's also a nice cameo by Ben Kingsley as the president of Afghanistan. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

A Kindle for $79.99, a tablet for $49.99!

For ten years I've been adapting my books and articles for digital reading, most notably for Amazon's Kindle, a kludgy device that cost $399 when it first revolutionized publishing. And now the price has fallen to $79.99 for a much superior product. Even more astonishing is the new Kindle Fire, a basic but full-fledged, 7-inch tablet computer for $49.99.

Daniel Ford's books:

The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers (revised 2016)
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
Michael's War: A story of the Irish Republican Army
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw)
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot
A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror
The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal

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Flying Tigers
available again for Kindle

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Posted June 2017. Websites © 1997-2017 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.