For a while now, I have been thinking about how to give this blog a little more juice. I am a historian and though I find foreign and security policy fascinating--after all that is my daily business--I oftentimes miss working as a historian. The dive into details, the constant search for continuities and fractures, catalysts and obstructions that differentiats historians from simple descriptors of the past. It is, I shall add, also because the analysis of security and foreign policy oftentimes could use some comparison with the past; a closer look at catalysts and continuities could contribute to a broader understanding of the present. So, from time to time I will use this blog to recommend some (modern) classics in war and warfare.
For a start I choose Richard Overy's "1939. Countdown to War", which certainly qualifies for a modern classic. Overy has been author of a number of authorative books on war and warfare and particularly World War II. His most famous book, "Why the Allies Won", is a masterpiece in history in its own right, but it is "1939" that is the best in terse and thrilling historical wiritng. A classic political history, the book re-examines the last days of August and the first three days of September 1939, before the war in Europe would result in an all out war with the United Kingdom and France. It follows Daladier and Chamberlain on their difficult course to accept that war was inevitable, their disenchantment over Hitler who refused to budge and whom they believed to back down in the end. It describes the back and forth after Germany invaded Poland and how the war that began as war for Poland's liberty resulted in an ultimate struggle for democracy and freedom. It shows that sometimes war is not only inevitable but the lesser of two evils. But more than that, the book concludes with an important observation:
"All aggravated international crises, from the Crimean War to the invasion of Iraq, have generated short-term periods of unstable political interaction and unpredictable circumstance before the onset of hostilities."
The book makes this case skilfully and aptly.