The Best Defense

Best Defense bookshelf: Meet the 'Beetle'

Over the Christmas break I read most of D.K.R. Crosswell's Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith. It is a striking book. Crosswell makes a good case that Smith not only was Eisenhower's chief of staff during World War II, but also Ike's deputy commander and foreign minister. Cranky Smith also was the perfect foil for Ike, who liked to smile, lead ambiguously, and avoid personal confrontation, which 'Beetle' appeared to relish.

The book also is notable for its sober views of senior American and British commanders and his willingness to embrace their complexities. Croswell clearly admires George Marshall, but also finds him a humorless prig. He portrays Montgomery as a great commander but an insufferable human being.

It also probably is the best book ever written on the inner workings of Eisenhower's headquarters. That said, it is massive, crossing the finish line at some 924 pages.

A Best Defense salute to the University Press of Kentucky: Before reading Beetle, I spent half a day going back over another book they published, Henry Gole's fine biography of Gen. William DePuy. And one of the books coming up on my reading list is Ira Hunt's The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, which they also published. Pretty impressive performance by a small outfit in Lexington, Kentucky.

University Press of Kentucky

The Best Defense

A merry Christmas from Best Defense

See you next week. I aim to get some writing done on my book, and also to take the dogs for some long walks in the snowy woods. My little pups do not think it queer to hike without a farmhouse near.

Until then, here's something to watch: I don't know quite what to make of this video, apparently from the friendly folks at the Swedish air force. As I watched I kept on wondering why the jet blast didn't hit the sledders. Also, here is a good video on how Joe Biden rolls.

A special holiday greeting to former Home Depot chief Bernie Marcus, for funding a special rehabilitation project for brain-injured soldiers.

And a salute to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust for swift action in letting ROTC back on campus. Here is commentary from that rarest of creatures, a Harvard ROTC grad. (Soldiers would wonder at his presence in Iraq, he recalls, because they thought "Harvard grads were the people who sent them half-way around the world to some forgotten hell-hole, not the ones who went there with them." He also says the real test will come the next time the United States gets into an unpopular war.) The White House says President Obama will sign the law repealing the ban on being honestly gay in the military tomorrow. But Virginia may kick Ashley Wilkes out of its National Guard.

A big lump of coal to the government of Iran, which just sentenced Jafar Panahi, maker of the lovely film Offside, to six years in prison, and also banned him from making films for 20 years.

And please feel free to use this post to talk amongst yourselves. One issue: A reader wants to know some good books about Yemen to read over the holiday break. Any suggestions?

And with that, this blog is closed for the week.

(HT to BH & AM)