Bush has made it well known that this will be a long war. And, as
we know, we’re not going to be watching the whole thing on CNN or
Fox. So, with the help of a distinguished group of experts, NRO has
put together a wartime reading list key selections that will
provide a respite from the punditry.
additional book suggestions should send recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org
for an upcoming NRO Weekend feature.
Director of the Center for International Relations
at Boston University
Modern War by General Wesley Clark.
The commander of NATO's war for Kosovo and reputedly one of the
brightest soldiers of his generation convicts himself of terminal
stupidity. We are at a moment when all citizens should unite to
support the nation and rally behind our men and women in uniform.
But that does not mean that we should surrender our critical faculties.
This is, as President Bush has said repeatedly, a new kind of
war. Americans should be on alert for generals who lack the wit
to understand what new conditions may require.
NRO columnist, NR contributing editor, and
author of Seeing
Calvin Coolidge in a Dream & Fire
from the Sun
account of modern war: Black
Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden.
novel ever: The
Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monsarrat.
survey of the battle experience: The
Face of Battle, by John Keegan.
scenes in non-war literature: Borodino in War
& Peace, Waterloo in The
Charterhouse of Parma (Stendhal).
poem: Tie between The
Iliad by Homer, Battle
of Malden (Anon.), and "Charge
of the Light Brigade," by Alfred Lord Tennyson
of the home front: Testament
of Youth, by Vera Brittain
Executive editor, The National Interest, and
senior fellow for foreign policy and constitutional affairs, Institute
on Religion and Public Policy.
Ethics of War and Peace, edited by Terry Nardin. Gives an
excellent perspective on how the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim
traditions view war and conflict resolution.
the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle
East, by William Dalrymple. If the coming conflict is indeed
a “clash of civilizations,” the uneasy state of the indigenous
Christians of the Middle East helps to illustrate the worldview
of the Islamist radicals who see native Christians as “Crusader
outposts” of Western civilization.
From the Battlefield. Not only is this a war correspondent's
book, his predictions about Afghanistan have proven to be quite
of the United States Commission on National Security in the 21st
World Coming: American Security in the 21st Century and
a National Strategy: A Concert for Preserving Security and Promoting
Freedom, in particular their recommendations for improving
homeland security, delivered half a year before the attacks in
New York and Washington.
NRO contributor & author most recently of Carnage
and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power
Palace of the Arabs, by Fouad Ajami. A brave analysis
of the contradictory and often mythical world of the Arab and
Muslim intelligentsia, among whom Western scapegoating so often
substitutes for real analysis of contemporary political and social
pathologies, many of them self-induced.
the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. What
causes wars? Not always what we are usually told poverty,
misunderstandings, diplomatic errors, and the like. Kagan, in
case histories from the Greeks to the 20th century, demonstrates
that weakness so often cloaked as humanity and maturity
and especially the perception of such weakness in the face
of threats and aggression, gets innocent people killed
and lots of them.
Soldier, Realist, American, by B. H. Lidell Hart. A controversial
look at America's most misunderstood warmaker. For Liddell Hart,
the slugfest of Grant against Lee, not Sherman's marches, was
the real tragedy of war, while the presence of overwhelming force,
brought to the very hearth of the enemy, in the end saves
not takes lives. There is obvious relevance to our current
crisis, both in the strategic sense and in the definition of what
constitutes real humanity in war.
Landmark Thucydides, edited by R. Strassler. A general
reader's guide to the greatest of all military and cultural thinkers,
who can reassure us that bin Laden really cares about his "fear,
honor, and self-interest" far more than any purported concern
with Israel, Western women in short-sleeves, or GIs in Saudi Arabia.
For Thucydides, bin Ladens are not new, but of the ages and to
be put down with reason, force, and humanity. War, as he says,
is "a violent teacher" of the real nature of man.
NR contributor & author
Helmets: The Strategy of U.N. Military Operations
for the Future, Ralph Peters. One of the few future-of-war
books that address the dirty business of fighting "wars in the
shadows." Peters is a keen-eyed military thinker with a Robert
Kaplanesque view of the future, who spells out in operational
detail what the advent of Kaplan's world (i.e., today) means for
the U.S. military.
vs. McWorld, by Benjamin Barber. More incisive than Tom
Lexus and the Olive Tree, Barber effectively describes
the clash between recidivist tribal or religious forces and free-market,
democratic societies. A slight lefty slant in the sense of implied
moral equivalence, but that argument has certainly been put to
rest by recent events.
Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden. The story of a semi-botched
special-operations raid in Mogadishu in 1993 that led to the deaths
of 18 U.S. Rangers. A heart-quickening book that reads like a
long newspaper feature, it helps explain what the U.S. is up against
in a war that features an opponent playing by entirely different
rules that negate inherent American advantages.
Managing editor, The New Criterion & author
Radicals & The
has often been described accurately, I think as
a struggle between civilization and barbarism. But what is civilization?
In the 19th century, the British knew better than anyone. One
book from that great age that has been overlooked is Walter Bagehot's
(pronounced "Badge-it," by the way: I am often asked)
and Politics: Or: Thoughts on the Application of the Principles
of "Natural Selection" and "Inheritance" to
Political Society (1877). It is brief, sparkling, and
deliciously commonsensical. About the only thing to be said against
the book is its title, which gives no clue at all about its contents.
Talk about "natural selection" and "inheritance"
naturally makes us think of Darwin. Bagehot had Darwin partly
in mind ( On
the Origin of Species was published in 1859). But in fact
the book is not about biological theory but the conditions that
civilization especially advanced civilization possible.
"History," Bagehot writes midway through the book, "is
strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness
at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared
themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world
gave a chance." After the events of September 11, what more
need be said?
A retired Air Force colonel
Hanoi and Back; The USAF and North Vietnam, 1966-1973,
by Dr. Wayne Thompson, Air Force historian. An accounting of the
air war over North Vietnam conducted by the USAF and USN, as influenced
by the commanders, the men who flew the missions, and most importantly
by the politicians, as they sought a means of winning the war
against Hanoi through airpower.
Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden. A recounting
of the intense battle American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers
fought after trying to “snatch” warlord Aideed in Mogadishu. Looks
at the failures and successes in this intense battle that led
to US withdrawal from Somalia.
NR national political reporter
& author of The
Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined the Assimilation
of Innocence, by David Ignatius. I once asked former CIA
director Jim Woolsey to name his favorite spy novel. He said John
le Carre's The
Spy Who Came in From the Cold is the finest from a literary
standpoint, but that Agents
of Innocence, by David Ignatius, provides the best glimpse
of how the CIA really works. It's set in the Middle East, where
Ignatius was once a reporter who covered terrorism and intelligence.
The pages provide insight after insight, and it's a treat to read.
Soldier's Duty, by Thomas E. Ricks. This thriller by the
Washington Post's excellent military correspondent is set
in the year 2005. The plot really gets going when U.S. ground
troops stationed in Afghanistan (no kidding!) stumble into disaster.
For a close-up look at Pentagon culture, A Soldier's Duty
is hard to beat.
Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden. A gripping nonfiction account
of an American military operation gone horribly wrong in Somalia.
1865, by Jay Winik. President Bush has been reading it in
recent weeks and it's the best book on the Civil War since
James M. McPherson's Battle
Cry of Freedom. Winik, a great writer, tells the story
of how and why the American South did not become our version of
Northern Ireland and why great moments call for great leaders.
Machines: Fire Trucks and Other Emergency Machines, by
Caroline Bingham. My four-year-old son was crazy about fire trucks
and firefighters long before they started showing up on the news
every day. This is his favorite title from an ever-growing library
on the subject.
Author of The
Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America.
Cave Brown, A
Bodyguard of Lies. This book is the definitive work on
the Allied deception operations that accompanied and facilitated
the military campaigns of World War II. Deception is a “force-multiplier,”
and the use of deception in war is as ancient as the Trojan horse.
Yet Americans, with their pragmatic, empirical temperament, do
not like to think in terms of deception, even as Saddam Hussein
is very much a conspirator, capable of strategic deception. A
Bodyguard of Lies provides a useful perspective from which
to consider the events of September 11, 2001.
Generals War, by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor. This
is the best account of the Gulf War. Among other things, it discusses
the flawed decision-making of the U.S. military leadership, including
then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff Colin Powell, and helps
explain our present situation.
Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years,
by Bernard Lewis. Bernard Lewis is the greatest living scholar
of the Middle East, and this volume reflects a lifetime of learning.
This elegantly written book is the most useful one-volume account
of the history of the region.
The George F. Jewett scholar at the American
Enterprise Institute, Mr. Novak is the author, most recently,
of the upcoming On
Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding
Laurie Mylroie's Study
of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America,
your sense of the background in which Bin Laden operates is impoverished.
The next step up the ladder of terror, after the Taliban, is Saddam
Hussein's regime. Get yourself ready.
best book on warfare ever written I have personally given
away ten copies is Steven Pressfield's Gates
of Fire, the story of the Spartans who died at Thermopylae
holding off hundreds of thousands of Persians. It also the story
of how the Spartans taught their young men to recognize all the
species of fear in themselves, to pursue them, and to conquer
each of them in every one of its remote habitations, until these
young men knew they had no equals in courage and endurance. A
man's book, a book to be given to sons, a warrior's book. The
best account of the Greek understanding of virtue, courage, and
character ever written.
Two Zero is the account by Andy McNab (at his retirement,
the most highly decorated soldier in the British military) of
the hardships and exploits of the team he commanded. They were
dropped behind enemy lines in Iraq and obliged to fight their
way to freedom. The astonishing rigors and hardships they endured
helps one to imagine what hundreds of our own men will shortly
be going through in small reconnaissance and commando units as
Hawk Down has been recommended by so many NR contributors
that I hardly need to describe it. Its account of the teeming
hatred of the Muslim streets, led into action by a few trained
terrorist soldiers, and closing in on a small band of incredibly
brave, highly trained, and technologically advantaged American
forces, is a necessary lesson about contemporary warfare. Especially
when you remember that the Americans first went to Somalia in
order to save Muslims from famine.
Director of the Middle East Forum and author of The
Long Shadow: Culture and Politics in the Middle East and
Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, among others.
Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization,
by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (3 vols.). Hodgson provides a deep history
of Islam and of its role in the public sphere.
Cantwell Smith, Islam
in Modern History. Smith interprets the travails Muslims
have experienced over the past two centuries in a masterful fashion.
of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews, by Khalid
Durán with Abdelwahab Hechiche. Despite its name, a survey of
Islam appropriate for readers of all faiths, by a committed and
NR senior editor & author
Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.
an introduction as any to the mindset to be found in the Middle
East is Fouad Ajami's The
Dream Palace of the Arabs. By means of telling anecdotes,
with lots of supporting detail as in a novel, he shows how people
are actually thinking.
of self-pity and revenge which leads to extremism is also described
beautifully in Kanan Makiya's Cruelty
and Silence. Lots more illustrative stories. Makiya is
a originally a Shia from Iraq, and in an earlier book of his,
of Fear (to protect his identity at the time he used the
pseudonym Samir al-Khalil), he depicted Saddam's tyranny in particular;
but what he has to say about one-man rule is valid for the rest
of the Arab and Muslim world.
Mantle of the Prophet again full of detail
is a wonderful insight into today's Iran.
the single best book is Bernard Lewis's The
Middle East. Other informative books by him include Islam
and the West and the illuminating Semites
fascinating insight, read Daniel Pipes's The
Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. In the absence
of freedom of information and expression of any kind, many Muslims
interpret events with amazing and sometimes grotesque
fantasy as one plot after another, for instance currently accusing
Mossad of organizing the World Trade Center outrage.
Author, most recently, of Commies:
A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left.
I can think
of no better book to read during this time than James M. McPherson’s
Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. In a short
and very readable series of essays, McPherson gives us major insights
on how President Lincoln handled our nation’s greatest emergency
at a moment of national crisis. In particular, McPherson explains
how Lincoln sought to balance security and liberty, and acted
carefully to take necessary and unpopular domestic measures to
prevent our collapse, even if it meant introducing emergency measures
that he argued were justified on constitutional grounds. Just
as the terrorists take advantage of our internal freedom and our
hospitality, the North’s opponents during the Civil War, as Lincoln
put it, acted under “cover of ‘liberty of speech,’” while their
“spies… remain at large to help on their cause.”
If one wants
to review our foreign policy and evaluate where it is going and
from whence it came, I recommend Robert J. Lieber’s Eagle
Rules? Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the Twenty-First
Century. Lieber and a group of prominent authors
academics, political scientists, and journalists assess
America’s role in the new century and give readers the background
to judge the issues surrounding humanitarian intervention, congressional-executive
relations in the making of foreign policy, as well as the major
regional challenges throughout the world, including the Middle
East, Europe, Russia, and Asia. Major attention is paid to “rogue
states,” defense policy, and international economics issues
that with the current crisis, are even more important to gain
needed perspective on.
At a time
when those on the Left are seeking to resurrect the old “anti-war”
movement and to impugn the administration’s necessary and tough
response to the terrorist attack, it is good to remember how those
who sought to tell the truth before World War II were subject
to opprobrium and disdain from the chattering classes. Let us
never forget the honorable role played by George Orwell as he
sought to tell the truth about the Spanish Civil War and the nefarious
role played by Joseph Stalin. Orwell
in Spain gives readers not only the full text of Orwell’s
to Catalonia, but all of Orwell’s other and less accessible
writings on the war. It includes his letters, essays, and book
reviews, as well as the text of some of his radio broadcasts for
the BBC. The excellent introductory essay by Christopher Hitchens
puts his writing in context, and shows us how Orwell, as Hitchens
writes, “did not share the febrile enthusiasm of the clenched-fist
cheerleaders and propagandists.”
A professor of international relations at the National
Peace to End All Peace is a very accessible narrative
describing the formation of the current states of the Middle East
in the years 1914-1922. Peter Hopkirk's Setting
the East Ablaze is another very readable history, covering
the postwar disposition of the Turkish lands of Central Asia.
These books give a good overview of the complex ethnic and political
issues of the region.
interested in ground combat in Afghanistan, you can't do better
Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan
War, edited by Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau. This
book is comprised of a series of vignettes on a variety of topics
(e.g., "Fighting Heliborne Insertions," "Counterambushes," etc.),
written by the Mujahedin who fought the battles. The book was
published in 1995 by Marine Corps Combat Development Command for
public distribution. One caveat this is somewhat technical
small-unit combat material and may not be for the casual reader,
but should definitely be in the hands of every person in the Afghan
theater of operations.
I strongly suggest H. R. McMaster's Dereliction
of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. This book is
required reading for anyone interested in the use of force in
international relations, and should be kept in the Oval Office
as a cautionary reminder of the consequences of repeating "McNamara's
Author of Kosovo: Background to a War and
the forthcoming Two Faces of Islam.
Koran, translated by N. J. Dawood. The clearest and best
translation. Take it slow don't expect to skim or finish
it in one night. Read and think about each line.
of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews, by Khalid
Duran. A simple and useful survey by a firm opponent of fundamentalism.
Sabres of Paradise, by Lesley Blanch. Vivid account of
a legitimate jihad the 19th-century struggle of Muslims
in the Caucasus against Russian imperialism.
Book of the Lover and the Beloved, by Raimon Llull. Difficult
to find, but an extraordinary work. One of the greatest classics
of Spanish Catholic mysticism, it shows the explicit influence
of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.
Tarjuman Al-Ashwaq (Interpreter of Desires): A Collection of Mystical
Odes, by Muhyiddin Ibn Al-Arabi. One of the greatest classics
of Sufism. Easier for people with a background in poetry to understand,
but rewarding in any event. Once again, don't expect to finish
it in one sitting. And don't discard it as incomprehensible because
the style is unfamiliar or seems exotic. Arabic and Islamic literature
represents a different tradition from our own, but a great one.
Director, Chemical & Biological Weapons Nonproliferation
Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies.
interested in learning more about the history and current threat
of biological weapons, I would recommend the following books.
by Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman. A chilling memoir by a former
Soviet bioweaponeer who defected to the United States in 1992
and warned the U.S. intelligence community about the astonishing
scale and scope of Moscow's germ-warfare effort.
Biology of Doom: America's Secret Germ Warfare Project,
by Ed Regis. An eye-opening history of the U.S. offensive biological
warfare program, which President Richard Nixon terminated in 1969.
Since then, all U.S. efforts in this area have been defensively
Weapons: Limiting the Threat, by Joshua S. Lederberg.
A compendium of essays, many first published in a special issue
of the Journal of the American Medical Association, examining
the medical, scientific, and political dimensions of the biological
Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare, by
Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg. An alarming survey of germ warfare
programs in Russia, Iraq, and South Africa, with some ominous
predictions for the future.
B. Tucker, Scourge:
The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox. A soup-to-nuts
history of this once-devastating disease, which was eradicated
in 1977 by a global vaccination campaign under the auspices of
the World Health Organization. The triumph of eradication was
betrayed by the Soviet military, which secretly mass-produced
smallpox virus as a doomsday weapon. Today, circumstantial evidence
for undeclared stocks of smallpox virus in countries such as Iraq
and North Korea has made smallpox a much-feared terrorist threat,
warranting the emergency U.S. production of new vaccine.
Author of the recent New York Times bestseller,
1865: The Month That Saved America.
Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai. A classic. I read it last
when I was in graduate school in England, but it remains a brilliant
and one of the very best expositions on the Arab
world and Islam. See sections on "the Psychology of Westernization,"
"Wajh" (face), "Self-Respect," and "Under
the spell of language."
Politics, by Martin Wight. Another classic. A little gem
of a book, rich with historical examples, and reminding us why
we can ultimately never get too far away from national security
and national self-interest.
Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Another primer on remembering
Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, by Ulysses S. Grant. This
is a time of great testing. We have much to learn from how U.
S. Grant led the victorious Union armies in the Civil War, the
last time we were attacked on our mainland.
1865: The Month That Saved America. This is my recent
book. Since this crisis began, I have felt rather often that President
Bush is walking in Lincoln's footsteps. Accordingly, I have been
drawn a number of times to the chapter on Abraham Lincoln and
the burdens of wartime leadership (pp. 203-258) including
when I was asked to dinner at the Vice President's last Saturday,
the eve of the bombing. Also see chapters 2, 3, and 6 for other
potential parallels and lessons.
Athena's Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age,
by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt. This a RAND book. As the
U.S. vigorously prosecutes this war, we can ill-afford to be sleepwalking
for the next. The good news: This administration is well aware