The Best Defense

Anthony Shadid, rest in peace

This is a sad day for me. I've lost friends in the post-9/11 wars, but the death of Anthony Shadid in Syria yesterday hits particularly hard. He was a terrific reporter. He also was one of the kindest people I've ever met. He was one of my heroes.

Back in 2003, even into early 2004, Anthony used to take taxis all over Baghdad. For fun he would drive down for lunch in Karbala, a town he enjoyed. When I was embedding with American troops, he would kind of embed with Sadr's people, going over to the eastern part of the city on Fridays to listen to the sermons. We'd sit at night and compare notes over Turkish beers. My favorite article that I ever did in Iraq was co-written with him, on June 2, 2003. It was the simplest of concepts: I walked with an American foot patrol in west Baghdad, and he (with the knowledge of the patrol) trailed us, talking to Iraqis about the American presence. 

Unlike many reporters, Anthony also had humility. In 2004 I asked him a question about Iraqi politics. Anthony spoke Arabic fluently, and had knocked around Iraq before the invasion as well as after it. (His book Night Draws Near is for my money the best study of what the American occupation felt like to Iraqis.) He looked at me and said, "Actually, the more I know about Iraq, the less I understand it." Wise words. Wise man. A big loss for us all.

Julia Ewan / The Washington Post

The Best Defense

Revolutionary reading lists (II): And now a few strategic words from the opposition

By Zygmunt F. Dembek and Dean Cheng

Best Defense department of revolutionary affairs


This list is an attempt to compile the readings that provide insight into the philosophies and tactics of our enemies, past, present, and perhaps future. It is surprising that few of these books are required reading for those who aspire to be our nation's military and political leaders.

In no uncertain order:

My War with the CIA by Norodom Sihanouk and Wilfred Burchett:

Cambodian crown Prince Sihanouk describes his years of struggle in fighting U.S. government covert and not-so-covert operations, with assistance from neighboring countries, including China.

Ho Chi Minh: A Life by William Duiker:

The definitive biography of the son of a civil servant, and founder of the Vietnamese Communist party, who became president of North Vietnam.  His 30 years in exile, and 50 year struggle to liberate Vietnam, are described. [Not sure I'd include biographies (as opposed to autobiographies), for this list. Which isn't to say that this isn't worth reading!]

Guerilla Warfare by Ernesto "Che" Guevara:

This 1960 treatise provides tremendous insight into a Latin American revolutionary's methods for overthrowing dictatorships (and democracies) by a small determined groups of guerilla fighters.

How We Won the War by General Vo Nguyen Giap:

North Vietnam's top military strategist describes how victory from occupying forces was won, from the founding of the Army in 1944 to the departure of the U.S. in 1975.

On Guerilla Warfare by Mao Tse Tung:

Mao's textbook on guerilla warfare is the result of his fighting the Japanese in China, and is a timeless reference to the organization and conduct of a successful guerilla campaign.

The Triple Agent: The Al Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick:

A well-researched description of how the Jordanian double-agent Humam Khalil al-Balawi, while promising to help the CIA assassinate Osama bin Laden's top deputy, became a suicide bomber, killing seven CIA operatives, the agency's worst loss of life in decades.

Balik Terrorism: The Return of the Abu Sayyaf  by Zachary Abuza:

A technical treatise that provides great insight into the origins, organization, and operations of a primary terrorist group opposing the Philippine government. This writing can be obtained as a free download from the Army's Strategic Studies Institute.

Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall:

The 1961 classic about the hubris and blunders of French forces in Vietnam, leading to the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. An epic book in many dimensions, the most important of which may be its omission from the readings of American military leaders during the 1960's and 1970's, facilitating a repeat of history.

Surrender to Kindness: One Man's Epic Journey for Love and Peace by Joseph David Osman:

Wisdom acquired by first-hand experience and shared by an Afghan-American on how to actually win "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan.  Personally recommended by those who know Osman and of his work.

Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Time of Emir Abd el-Kader by John W. Kiser:

A thoroughly researched book on the life and tactics of a Muslim military leader who fought the French occupying forces in Algeria during the 19th century, and won their respect.

The Science of Military Strategy, edited by Peng Guangqian and Ya Youzhi of the Chinese Academy of Military Science:

Translation (in 2005) of a Chinese military textbook published in 2001. It provides a distinctly Chinese view of concepts such as deterrence and military strategy.

The Quranic Concept of War by S.K. Malik:

One Muslim perspective on war in the context of Quranic teachings.

Col. Zygmunt F. Dembek, Ph.D. (US Army Reserve,  Ret.)  is a senior scientist at the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). Dean Cheng is the research fellow for Chinese Political and Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government, nor of the Heritage Foundation, nor even, perhaps, those of  Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd. Any reproduction of this broadcast without the express written consent of the Major League Best Defense is forbidden.

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