The Best Defense

Dueling historians: Lt. Col. Bob Bateman's takedown of Victor Davis Hanson

I could never quite figure out what irked me so much about Victor Davis "Carnage 'n' Culture'' Hanson's work until I read John A. Lynn. I liked what I read by Hanson about ancient Greece, but as Lynn shows, the further Hanson wandered from ancient Greece, the less he seemed like a historian and the more he came off like a polemicist with an agenda. Lt. Col. Bob Bateman, who is both an active-duty officer and an academic with terrific credentials in military history, delivered the coup de grace in a series of articles I hadn't seen until recently.

The Best Defense

What General Petraeus is reading

The Boston Globe's H.D.S. Greenway finally tells us, after a whole lot of throat clearing, what the U.S. commander in Afghanistan is reading these days:

Thomas Barfield's Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History; Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau's The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War; Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea; and Sir Winston Churchill's The Story of The Malakand Field Force, about frontier fighting in the late 19th century. In Churchill's time there was a similar tremendous debate about Britain's "Forward Policy,'' whether to really go in and build up civil institutions, pacifying the Pashtuns, or whether to maintain a lesser footprint, punishing the frontier tribes when necessary; the 19th century equivalent of drone attacks and special-ops, nicknamed "butcher and bolt.''