Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The War That Ended Peace

Why do wars happen, despite desires to live in peace? The question is answered in THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan, an award-winning historian, PhD Fellow of the Royal Society, and professor of international studies at Oxford. Read by Richard Burnip, this 32 hour epic of audio non-fiction tells what led to WW1, as crowned heads of Europe failed to support general expectations for a prosperous future in the 20th Century, allowing events to swing instead toward the hell of trench warfare and mustard gas. MacMillan offers up a deep and compelling education on the whys of war, which are many. Rampant expansionist Capitalism, often cited by the liberal left as being a cause, did not play a direct role in WW1. It was instead militarism and patriotism that mostly did the deed, as the ethnic nationalism that Einstein decried exploded like a firestorm, and sent young men in droves to sign up and then die with their indoctrinations of fear and hatred of outsiders. For years before the war there had been (as there is today) a glorification of military virtues and war heroes, especially from the conservative right. Then, as now, says MacMillan, terrorists plagued societies with random violence, while sports and the Olympics were espoused to prepare young men to fight, to encourage nationalism, and for nation states to perceive each other as rivals in a "survivor takes all" game. This fomented ethnic racial tensions between German and French peoples or between Celtic and Slavic peoples, each side not only feeling superior, but also being told that the other side needed to be "brought down." All that it needed was one match to be dropped. And it was all supported by Social Darwinism, a widespread belief that only the strong deserved to survive, and that violent conflict was nature's inevitable way to cull the inferior. Such beliefs next led to the rise of Hitler, who glorified the idea of the Overman or √úbermensch, an ethnically pure Super Reich Man before whom the world must be forced to kneel. (And nearly everyone on the flag-waving German team said, "Play ball!") This devastatingly prescient cautionary history is intricately researched and relevant to politics as played today, the battle lines drawn between any and all possible groups or cliques of humans who don't see the fallacy of their jingoistic delusions (of grandeur.)  AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH


Also new is DAYS OF FIRE: Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker, the definitive 29.5 hour examination of their controversial presidential partnership for those eight years that changed America forever, and plunged us into off-the-charts deficit military spending at a time when American banks were in orgiastic profit making mode. Reader Mark Deakins narrates this chronological moment by moment public and private account of how Bush ended up with the lowest public confidence rating in history (worse than Nixon at his end) due to "shock and awe" strategies: shock due to sledge hammer tactics in the Middle East, and awe that no one in the administration foresaw the financial unraveling due to unregulated con artist banking CEOs. Bush was even flummoxed by Alan Greenspan's signing off on bailouts against his own six decade advice. (Greenspan has now written his memoirs recently in an attempt---as most politicians do---to paint himself as a victim of circumstance, lecturing readers on arcane financial modalities as a way to void his guilt, just as Clinton did with Monica in his autobiography. This magician's trick avoids the obvious truth that even this reviewer recognized, and was saying, as early as 2005, that "what goes up must come down." Of course I'm not a team player, but rather a sports atheist.) Is politics a game, with head butting concussions on both sides, rendering the players addle brained? This is also obvious, which may explain why McCain chose inexperienced airhead Sarah Palin as running mate, and then called a big meeting during the financial crisis only to mostly sit on his hands and effectively hand Obama the presidency. Bizarre listening by the chief White House correspondent for the NY Times, and author of The Breach and Kremlin Rising. Meanwhile, in THE RIGHT PATH author "Morning Joe" Scarborough retraces how the Republican party was once strong and homogeneous, before its path was diverted by major fumbles like Katrina, and various disenfranchising Tea Party radicals. The subtitle is "From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics---and Can Again." It's read by actor George Newbern. And in BECOMING MR. OCTOBER baseball star Reggie Jackson reads his own biography on audio, detailing his rise from outcast status within the internal politics of the New York Yankees. Jackson paints manager Billy Martin as a adrenalin and alcohol crazed anti-Semitic nut job, and gives listeners an inside look at how the sport can often resemble war (without the weapons.) Co-written with Kevin Baker. (All books from Random House/BOT.) 

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