Editor's Shelf

Article excerpt

The reprinting of Stephen Ambrose's Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) reminds us once again of our nation's history and the contribution of the United States Military Academy at West Point. In his foreword, President Dwight D. Eisenhower alluded to "how little some things change," but in fact there have been unprecedented changes in the decades since Ambrose penned the original manuscript. That is precisely why this reprint of the classic is worth the modest investment. General Andrew J. Goodpaster (51st Superintendent) has provided a wonderfully complete and moving afterword to bring the manuscript up to date. His detailed account of the Academy's tranquil and turbulent times since the mid- 1960s serves not only to provide a historical context, but to remind the reader of the many underlying principles that have accounted for the institution's and its graduates' success. Throughout history every great nation has kept in its treasure-chest an academy for adva nced learning and military training. Steven Ambrose's history leaves the reader with a greater understanding of the relationship between our treasure, West Point, and the society it supports.

When I reintroduced the "Editor's Shelf," I mentioned one of its functions was to provide our readers with a broader range and greater number of book reviews. I also alluded to the fact that often a book is initially overlooked or simply not provided by the publisher, or that in some rare cases a reviewer is not able to complete the review. The latter applies to Robert S. McNamara, James Blight, Robert Bringham, Thomas Biersteker, and Colonel (Ret.) Herbert Schandler's collaborative work Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (Public Affairs, 1999). When our staff received the paperback reprint of the book, we immediately recognized it as a work that had been commissioned to Colonel (Ret.) Harry Summers for review. Those who are friends of the Army War College and the military are aware of Harry's untimely death on 14 November 1999. Argument Without End is a product of Robert McNamara and his colleagues finally having the opportunity to meet with their Vietnamese counterparts in seven unprecedented conferences in Italy and Vietnam to discuss many of the issues surrounding the war. The result is an introspective analysis of the decisions on both sides that placed North Vietnam and the United States on a collision course. Unfortunately, the style of the manuscript, with the former Secretary writing introductions and conclusions for many of the chapters, encourages rationalizing hindsight. Most readers would appreciate an unbiased analysis of the "missed opportunities" and the reasons for the lack of communication; however, Mr. McNamara's willingness to share the blame with the North Vietnamese and other third parties comes across as just that-an attempt to share blame. In fairness to Mr. McNamara, one must acknowledge that he knowingly sets himself up for criticism and in a number of cases it is self-inflicted. Serious students of the military art and history will find the book revealing and a work that should be kept on the shelf for referencing "how not to conduct a war." I hope Harry would agree.

The George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, has initiated a series of "Marshall Center Papers" focused on comparative and interdisciplinary topics, including international security and democratic defense management, civil military relations, strategy formulation, defense planning, arms control, peacekeeping, crisis management, and cooperative security. …


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