Berlin on the Brink -- The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War by Daniel F. Harrington, UKentucky Press '12, $40, 432 pages, ASIN #081313613X. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&W glossy images.
"History is lived forwards but it is written in retrospect," quoth the historian C. V. Wedgwood. "We know the end before we consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was to know the beginning only." According to author Daniel F. Harrington, "There are few better examples than the causes, course, and ending of the Berlin blockade.
Harrington draws on "previously untapped archival sources" as he deconstructs the "Berlin question," from its origin in wartime plans for the occupation of Germany through the Paris Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in 1949. Revisionist in tone, Harrington "challenges standard accounts of the postwar division of Germany, the origins of the blockade, the original purpose of the airlift, and the quality of President Harry S. Truman's leadership."
In his conclusion, Harrington writes that the most important lesson from the blockade for policy makers is "how unquestioned assumptions --- ideas that seem to be elementary common sense -- can inhibit analysis and decisions. The Soviets took for granted that Berlin could not withstand a blockade and that the Western powers would come to terms. The Western powers' most fundamental assumptions -- about Berliners' ability to resist, the airlift's ability to deliver, and Stalin's willingness to run risks -- were wrong. Stalin's errors resulted in humiliating defeat; the West's mistakes, by unduly narrowing perceived alternatives, might have led to war."
Daniel F. Harrington is deputy command historian at United States Strategic Command.
An American Son-- A Memoir by Marco Rubio -- U.S. Senator from Florida. Sentinel '12, $26.95, 307 pages, ASIN #1595230947. No index. Grouping of b&w glossy images.
"For years," writes Marco Rubio, "my dad would work banquets at hotels. At these events there are usually only two people standing -- the speaker on the podium and the bartender behind the bar. My dad was the one behind the bar. But he worked all his life so that his kids could make the symbolic journey from the bar to the podium. That journey is a testament to the greatness of America."
The advent of one more rags-to-riches political biography crossing our desk sometimes seems jaded. And yet, there's no question that such stories are the foundation stone on which America was built. Sometimes, as with President Obama, an autobiography can be the springboard to higher office. Other times, as with John Edwards, the book's subject crashes and burns within a few years -- because of a scandal or because the public just didn't take to him or her. In the case of Marco Rubio, the jury's still out.
His book is filled with inspiration, for example: "My mother turned eighty on the night I was elected to the U.S. Senate. My father had died two months before. And my grandfather, whose dignity and courage and wisdom had been an inspiration to me when I was a boy, was gone too. But I felt their presence, and I will always feel it as I live the privileged life they have made possible for me. Their stories, and the preface of my own, began on a small Caribbean island a little more than two hundred miles from where I stood that night."
Marco Rubio served for eight years in the Florida House of Representatives before being elected in 2010 to the U.S. Senate. He and his wife, Jeanette, have four young children and live in West Miami.
The Hunt for KSM -- Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed by Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer, Little Brown '12, $27.99, 349 pages, ASIN #0316186597. Index, selected bibliography, notes, appendix, grouping of b&w glossy images.
Few commentators on behind-the-scenes foreign policy are more insightful than The New Yorker's Seymour (Sy) Hersh. In a review of this book, he calls its most important underlying message "that the American intelligence community remains caught up in bureaucratic warfare and remains today incapable of working together....of sharing insights and information....even when all involved share the same goal. This, ultimately, is an account of an American tragedy."
From the book's cover:
"Only minutes after United 175 plowed into the World Trade Center's South Tower, people in positions of power correctly suspected who was responsible for the assault: Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But it would be 18 months after September 11 before investigators captured the actual mastermind of the attacks, the man behind bin Laden.
"That man is the one who got his hands dirty while bin Laden fled, who was responsible for setting up Al Qaeda's global networks, who identified and trained its terrorists, and who personally flew bomb parts on commercial airlines to test their invisibility. That man withstood waterboarding and years of other intense interrogations, not only concealing bin Laden's whereabouts but making a literal game of the proceedings by leading his pursuers across the globe and back. That man is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and he is still, to this day, the most significant terrorist in captivity."
Journalist Terry McDermott's work has appeared in America's leading magazines and journals. He is the author of two books. Journalist Josh Meyer has reported on international terrorism for more than a decade. He is also a screenwriter and TV producer and a faculty member of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
Pacific Time on Target -- Memoirs of a Marine Artillery Officer, 1943--1945 by Christopher S. Donner, Edited by Jack H. McCall, Jr., Kent State University Press '12, $29.95, 145 pages, ASIN #1606351206. Index, glossary, notes, no bibliography, grouping of b&w glossy images.
From the book jacket:
"As a married man and Stanford graduate student nearing thirty, Christopher Donner would likely have qualified for an exemption from the draft. Like most of his generation, however, he responded promptly to the call to arms after Pearl Harbor. His wartime experiences in the Pacific Theater were seared into his consciousness, and in early 1946, he set out to preserve those memories while they were still fresh. Sixty-five years later, Donner's memoir is now available to the public....
"Besides providing a candid moving contemporary record of the combat experiences of a Marine Corps officer, Pacific Time on Target is an invaluable account of the harrowing life of an artillery forward observer, as few of these men survived to tell their stories. It will appeal to military historians and general readers alike."
Christopher S. Donner, a Princeton graduate, served as a Marine officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II, later retiring as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve. Jack H. McCall, Jr. is an attorney in Knoxville, TN and a former officer of the Regular Army.