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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.

Mostrando postagens com marcador The New York Times Book Reviews. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador The New York Times Book Reviews. Mostrar todas as postagens

sábado, 12 de maio de 2018


NONFICTION
Are We Traveling the ‘Road to Unfreedom’?
By Margaret MacMillan
The New York Times Book Reviews, May 9, 2018
THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM 
Russia, Europe, America
By Timothy Snyder
359 pp. Tim Duggan Books. $27.

Historians of the first half of the 20th century take little pleasure in today’s renewed interest in their subject. We don’t like the parallels between the West then and now: the rise of intolerant nationalist right-wing parties; the loss of faith in democratic institutions and the longing for a strong leader; the demonization of minorities like Jews or Muslims; or the unwillingness or inability of democracies to work together.
We are living in dangerous times, Timothy Snyder argues forcefully and eloquently in his new book, “The Road to Unfreedom.” Too many of us, leaders and followers, are irresponsible, rejecting ideas that don’t fit our preconceptions, refusing discussion and rejecting compromise. Worse, we are prepared to deny the humanity and rights of others. In his chilling “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” Snyder explored the ghastly consequences of tyranny and the breakdown of human values and norms in the center of Europe.
The road to unfreedom, as Snyder sees it, is one that runs right over the Enlightenment faith in reason and the reasonableness of others — the very underpinning, that is, of our institutions and values. Recent examples, found around the world, demonstrate both how important conventions and mutual respect are as a way of maintaining order and civility — and how easily and carelessly they can be smashed. Just think of President Trump’s regular impugning of the loyalty of those who work for the American government, in the F.B.I., for example.

So many of us no longer care, as we should, about understanding ourselves and our pasts as complex and ambiguous. Rather we look for comforting stories that claim to explain where we came from and where we are going. Such stories relieve us of the need to think and serve to create powerful identities. They also serve the authoritarian leader who rides them to power.
Snyder makes a valuable distinction between the narratives of inevitability and those of eternity. The former are like Marxism or faith in the triumph of the free market: They say that history is moving inexorably toward a clear end. The latter do not see progress but an endless cycle of humiliation, death and rebirth that repeats itself. Not surprisingly these often draw on powerful religious iconography. Both, as Snyder points out, produce intolerance of those who disagree. By questioning the narrative’s supposed truth, you are removing yourself from the community of true believers.
Liberal democracy is being undermined from within, but not only from within. In addition to the general malaise Snyder identifies, “The Road to Unfreedom” also points to human agency — in particular that of Vladimir Putin. At home and abroad Putin has willing collaborators and “useful idiots,” as Lenin supposedly called them, who think Putin means well or can be won over. Yet the evidence is that Putin is ruthless in his determination to hang on to power and destroy those he perceives as enemies of Russia, a large group. He has used covert and not so covert means (think of the “volunteers” in eastern Ukraine who drove Russian Army trucks) to destabilize neighboring governments and to stir up dissent in countries from France to the United States. Within Russia, as recent elections illustrate, he bends the Russian people to his will through a mixture of coercion and persuasion. As Snyder says in one of his incisive comments, Putin’s dominance is based on “lies so enormous that they could not be doubted, because doubting them would mean doubting everything.”
To understand Putin, Snyder argues persuasively, you must understand his ideas. On examination these are a strange and toxic mixture of fascism, religion and 19th-century notions about race and the struggle for survival. His pronounced use of sexual imagery would also interest Freud. There is a stress on power and virility and corresponding fears of sexual nonconformity. Putin and his obedient press regularly attack gays and gay rights as part of a Western conspiracy to destroy Russia. When Ukrainians turned out in massive protests in 2014 against their corrupt pro-Russian dictator Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian press claimed that behind the organization there was an L.G.B.T. lobby and warned of a “homodictatorship.”
One of the key thinkers venerated by Putin and his circle is a hitherto obscure Russian fascist, Ivan Ilyin, whose views are absurd but terrifying in their implications. God, Ilyin says, made a mess of the world but fortunately there was one pure and innocent being — the Russian nation. Whatever Russia did, and does, to defend itself is legitimate. One day it will find its redeemer — inevitably a strong and virile man — and triumph. (As Snyder points out, there is an insuperable dilemma: What happens when the redeemer dies?) Wearing the mantle of the redeemer, Putin will wage war on Russia’s enemies: namely, his own citizens who want democratic rights; Ukrainians and other neighbors who want independent states; or the European Union and the United States because they offer the temptations of another way of life. Fortunately (this theory goes) both the great rivals are decadent and worn out and doomed to vanish, with some help from Russia, into the dustbin of history.
In 2013 Russia’s foreign minister unveiled an official “foreign policy concept,” which foretold a bitter competition for resources and space across the world. Eurasia would emerge as a “unified humanitarian space” from the Atlantic to the Pacific and at its core would be the great power of Russia. In the words of another of Putin’s favorite thinkers, Lev Gumilev, Russia possesses a vital energy, “passionarity.” Here we get into L. Ron Hubbard territory. Each nation in the world, as defined in the discredited 19th-century racial sense, is the product of cosmic rays. Since the Russian ray came late in time, Russians are young and brimming with energy.
Knowing relatively little about Putin’s private views or about who really has influence over him, it is hard to tell if he actually believes such stuff or whether he uses it as compensation for Russia’s many and manifest weaknesses. What is clear is that he is prepared to inflict as much damage as he can get away with on Russia’s enemies and he has had considerable success.
Snyder set out to write a book about Russia and its relations with Ukraine and Europe, but he found the trail led to Western Europe and the United States as well. Russia spreads false information, like the story — that never took place — of a German schoolgirl’s gang-rape by Muslims, or Obama’s supposed birth in Africa. It gives financial and other support to right-wing parties or, in the case of Britain, to those supporting the Brexit campaign. Putin no doubt sees it as payback, since the West promoted dangerous ideas about democracy and human rights in his own country. Russia has honed its cyberwar skills, shutting down communications and financial networks in Ukraine and Estonia and, now, as recent reports say, penetrating the systems that control American power stations. Surely, though, the reader wants to say, Snyder must be exaggerating and jumping to conclusions when he calls Trump “Russia’s candidate”? Yet it is unsettling that so many people near the president or his campaign have links to Russia and that the president himself has been so reluctant to comment publicly on Russia’s more egregious moves.
So what can the concerned citizen do about the decay in our public life? We must, Snyder says, keep digging for the facts and exposing falsehoods. As Thucydides, the father of history, said, “Most people, in fact, will not take trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.” We should mistrust one-sided accounts of the past or the present. “The Road to Unfreedom” is a good wake-up call. You don’t have to agree with all of Snyder’s conclusions, but he is right that understanding is empowerment.

Margaret MacMillan is the author, most recently, of “History’s People: Personalities and the Past.”
Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.
A version of this article appears in print on May 13, 2018, on Page 11 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Gathering Storm

sábado, 21 de abril de 2018

Grand Strategy - John Lewis Gaddis

When to Wage War, and How to Win: A Guide

ON GRAND STRATEGY 
By John Lewis Gaddis 
368 pp. Penguin Press. $26.

What is “grand strategy” as opposed to simple strategy? The term is mostly an academic one. It denotes encompassing all the resources that a state can focus — military, economic, political and cultural — to further its own interests in a global landscape.
“On Grand Strategy,” by John Lewis Gaddis, a pre-eminent historian and biographer of the Cold War, does not offer a comprehensive analysis, much less a history, of strategy on a grand scale in the manner of the classic studies by Angelo Codevilla, Edward Mead Earle, Lawrence Freedman, B. H. Liddell Hart, Edward N. Luttwak or Williamson Murray. Gaddis does concede that “grand strategies have traditionally been associated, however, with the planning and fighting of wars.” And so wars — or rather how not to lose them — are the general theme of his often didactic book.
Ten lively essays proceed in chronological order from King Xerxes’ invasion of Greece to Isaiah Berlin’s thoughts on World War II and the Cold War. In all of them Gaddis keeps pounding — to the point of monotony — the seemingly self-evident: The grand strategist must prune away emotion, ego and conventional wisdom to accept that “if you seek ends beyond your means, then sooner or later you’ll have to scale back your ends to fit your means.” His repetitious observation about proportionality might have been banal — if so many leaders, many of them geniuses, had not forgotten it. The generals who led the Athenian expedition to Sicily, Julius Caesar poised at the Rubicon, Alexander the Great at the Indus, Napoleon and Hitler at the border of Russia and Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam all equated past tactical success with assured future strategic dominance, lied to themselves that the material or spiritual advantages were all theirs and so ended up dead, humiliated or defeated.
The case studies are variously drawn from some 16 years of co-teaching a well-regarded seminar on “Studies in Grand Strategy” at Yale. Gaddis’s present book is at least the fourth such volume by professors of the Yale class, along with Paul Kennedy’s edited “Grand Strategies in War and Peace,” Charles Hill’s “Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order” and more recently Linda Kulman’s “Teaching Common Sense: The Grand Strategy Program at Yale University.” While varied in tone and theme, all these efforts reflect the practical aims of the Yale seminar. Their implicit idea is to remind America’s future best and brightest how the mostly successful grand strategy of the past saw America become the pre-eminent world power of the 20th century by winning two world conflicts along with the Cold War. In contrast, the often arrogant neglect of grand strategic thinking has led to postwar quagmires, stalemates and the assorted misadventures that often drained American resources for either impossible or irrelevant aims, while tearing the country apart over the last 70 years.
Gaddis writes as he presumably teaches, informally mixing literary and historical analyses with the observations of his students, reminiscing in a personal voice about long-ago conversations or sharing conclusions that came to him over the years of the seminar. The book is as much personal remembrance as strategic reflection, and is chock-full of aphorisms and enigmatic adages.
Niccolò Machiavelli Palazzo Della Signoria, via Getty Images 
Gaddis believes the best way to hone strategic thinking is not just by mastering the advice of Machiavelli or Clausewitz (who both figure prominently in the class), much less contemporary high-tech wizardry, but also by understanding the interplay of history, literature and philosophy over 2,500 years of Western civilization — with occasional insights from Sun Tzu and other non-Western thinkers. In some sense “On Grand Strategy” is a traditional argument for the value of classical education in the broadest sense.
The student of strategy learns to balance a grasp of detail with proper humility: It is, of course, wise to have a plan and contingencies. But how will these prompt rival counter-responses? Do such agendas have the means adequate for their ends? Or are they more dreams, warped by ego and emotion (“And the heat of emotions requires only an instant to melt abstractions drawn from years of cool reflection. Decades devoid of reflection may follow”)? The better way is to be Isaiah Berlin’s versatile fox, not a single-minded obsessed hedgehog, or to embrace Machiavelli’s virtues of imitation, adaptation and approximation.
A recurrent theme is the danger of omnipresent hubris. Even a great power cannot master the unexpected and uncontrollable — from the great plague at Athens, to the harsh Russian winter, to I.E.D.s and tribal factionalism in Iraq. Why in the world, during a breathing spell in their war against Sparta, did democratic Athenians attack neutral and democratic Syracuse, 500 miles away? The answer is the same blinkered arrogance that sent Philip II’s huge but poorly led Spanish Armada into the British northern seas. Understanding the underappreciated role of irony is essential for a leader, and might have prevented the disasters of both 415 B.C. and 1588. Tolstoy and Clausewitz appreciated that bad things can come from good intentions and vice versa. The best generals live with and react to paradoxes, Gaddis argues. The worst ignore or seek to undo them.
Carl von Clausewitz
Gaddis sees these more successful global strategists as rope-a-dope pragmatists who remain elastic and patient enough to capitalize on events and opportunities as they unfold, rather than forcing them to fit preconceived schemes. Caesar tries to force a Roman republic into a global hegemony without full cognizance of the inevitable blowback from centuries of republican government, and so predictably is assassinated by a dying generation of dreamy senators. His savvier adopted son, Augustus, like the later Otto von Bismarck, builds coalitions, finds pre-existing seams to exploit at home and abroad, and waits to take advantage when enemies — or friends — stumble. Stalin’s prewar Bolshevik nightmare was responsible for 20 million dead, but apparently was not so loathsome that the Soviet Union could not prove temporarily useful for Churchill and Roosevelt in bleeding out the Nazi Wehrmacht.
Morality matters, if defined less as self-righteous ardor and more as self-awareness of a leader’s effect on those around him and an appreciation of paradox. A pragmatic St. Augustine has no problem with war — if it is a last resort to save civilization, without which there can be neither calm nor organized religion.
Still, courting calculated risk is essential. The gambler Winston Churchill took chances in 1940, albeit rational ones backed by educated guesses that, for all Hitler’s bluster, the Third Reich had neither the air nor sea power to destroy the Anglosphere. Risk is not always risk when it is the natural expression of national advantages and a mixture of caution and audacity.
Sun Tzu Alamy 
Gaddis’s American heroes are Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, who he thinks “rescued democracy and capitalism.” Roosevelt somehow was cognizant early on of how the singular military and economic potential of America might save Europe and Asia, but only if he first prepared reluctant Americans materially and psychologically for the inevitable war to come. Woodrow Wilson, among others, was not so successful in creating a postwar peace because he forced conditions to preconceived realities that bore little resemblance to emerging ironies at Versailles — and was without a sellable idea of an American role after World War I.
Gaddis concludes with an invaluable warning that true morality embraces neither messianic interventionism nor the quest for utopianism — indeed that is how millions become deluded, endangered or doomed. Instead, ethical leadership pursues the art of the possible for the greater (not the greatest) good. Augustine did not demand the city of God absolutely over the city of man. Augustus did not self-righteously return the Principate to the strife of the late republic. Lincoln did not start the Civil War as a crusade to eradicate slavery everywhere.
With regard to the American 21st century, Gaddis’s favorite novelists and philosophers perhaps argue against both optional intercessions abroad and moralistic lead-from-behind recessionals. The better course is to marshal American power to prepare for the often unavoidable existential crises on the horizon, with the full expectation that we do not have to be perfect to be good.
“On Grand Strategy” is many things — a thoughtful validation of the liberal arts, an argument for literature over social science, an engaging reflection on university education and some timely advice to Americans that lasting victory comes from winning what you can rather than all that you want.

sexta-feira, 18 de julho de 2014

The Woman: do que o Brasil escapou: a primeira embaixadora americana, que quase chegou...

Eu recebo tudo sobre o Brasil que é publicado no New Wirk Times. Por isso me surpreendi com uma chamada, com esse título, The Woman, e uma resenha de livro, relativa ao Brasil.
Curioso, fui ler agora, o que só vai ser publicado no NYTimes de domingo, uma longa resenha dessa extraordinária mulher, famosa por suas frases cortantes, a primeira embaixadora dos EUA, primeiro na Itália, e quase no Brasil, e que deixou um legado inesquecível, para o bem ou para o mal, para todos os que com ela conviveram.
Em todo caso, a resenha está muito bem feita, mas não pretendo comprar o livro, sequer folhear em livraria. A única coisa sobre o Brasil é a perspectiva de ter quase ido. Não sei do que escapamos, mas teria sido uma sensação.
O Brasil dos anos 1950 já tinha tantos problemas de instabilidade política e militar, que ela certamente seria mais uma fonte de instabilidade diplomática...
Enfim, leiam pelo menos a resenha que está muito boa. Vou tentar achar a resenha do primeiro volume. Essa mulher realmente fez história, mas apenas petite histoire...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida


The Woman
‘Price of Fame,’ by Sylvia Jukes Morris
By MAUREEN DOWDJULY 17, 2014

PRICE OF FAME
The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce
By Sylvia Jukes Morris
Illustrated. 735 pp. Random House. $35.

(vejam a foto aqui)
All Clare on the Western Front: With Fifth Army Group troops, 1945. Credit Courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris
Clare Boothe Luce has a lot to answer for.
As the grande dame of the Republican Party, she introduced Richard Nixon to Henry Kissinger at her 1967 Christmas cocktail party. As la belle dame sans merci of Manhattan’s smart set, she took whatever she wanted from life without regard to moral consequences, even after showily converting to Catholicism. As a glamorous World War II correspondent, she wrote a book so self-­regarding that Dorothy Parker titled her review “All Clare on the Western Front.”
Her colleague at Vanity Fair in the 1930s, Helen Lawrenson, wrote about the author of the venomous 1936 play “The Women”: “I can think of no one who aroused so much venom in members of her own sex.”
“Throughout her life she had aimed for the best of everything and usually gotten it,” Sylvia Jukes Morris writes in the second volume of her exhaustive biography of the relentless enchantress who had more hyphens in her résumé than Barbra Streisand. Clare Boothe Luce was an actress-editrix-playwright-screenwriter-­congresswoman-ambassador-presidential adviser. And as the wife of Henry Luce, father of the Time empire, she was the clever half of the predominant power couple of the mid-20th century, even giving Luce many ideas for Life magazine, though she was barred from its masthead.
She was “an accomplished seductress” who married once, if not twice, for money and position, Morris writes. Yet Luce always asserted that “in every marriage there are two marriages. His and hers. His is better. . . . What man now calls woman’s natural feminine mentality is the unnatural slave mentality he forced on her.”
In Morris’s first volume, “Rage for Fame,” Luce — the illegitimate daughter of a violet-eyed, conniving Upper West Side beauty who urged her daughter to use her blue eyes, blond hair and luminous skin to ensnare wealthy men — is on the ascent, driven by “her perpetual hunger for power in yet more spheres.”
She had few real friends, as Lawrenson wrote, because “she seemed to trust no one, love no one.” Yet, Lawrenson said, Luce “could enter a room where there were other women, more beautiful, ­better dressed with better figures, and they faded into the background, foils for her radiance.”
Luce flourished as a coquette and courtesan in bows and ruffles, but she once told male diplomats at a well-lubricated dinner: “Women are not interested in sex. All they want is babies and security from men. Men are just too stupid to know it.” Her sometime escort, the French artist Raymond Bret-Koch, appraised her this way: “It’s a beautiful, well-constructed facade but without central heating.”
As “Price of Fame” begins, it’s 1943 and the diaphanous, carnivorous 39-year-old Luce is still on the rise. The woman Morris calls “by far the smartest, most famous and most glamorous member of the House of Representatives” is eluding clamoring reporters as she arrives at Union Station to begin her term as a Connecticut Republican. She is also growing more pompous, becoming the target of contemporaries like Dawn Powell, who wrote “A Time to Be Born,” a piercing satire about the chilly blond climber Amanda Keeler, who was “too successful, too arrogantly on top, to even need good taste.”
Yet as the onetime Democrat became a Republican star — called “Blondilocks” by The Bridgeport Herald — Luce retained her talent to startle. Speaking to bejeweled Republican supporters at a dinner, in the low, melodious pitch she diligently rehearsed, Luce observed, “One of the troubles with the Republican Party is that it contains too many prehistoric millionaires who wear too many orchids.” Luce preferred to wear a rose in a small vial of water on the lapel of her custom-made suits.
When the Democratic representative J. William Fulbright lectured her on the House floor about her views on national security, she lectured him right back that he mixed up “infer” and “imply.” She attacked Senator Harry Truman’s wife as “Payroll Bess” for taking a salary of $4,500 a year to do her husband’s mail and edit committee reports. As president, Truman banned “that woman,” as he called her, from the White House. Luce accused Vice President Henry Wallace of “globaloney” and President Roosevelt of lying his way into World War II. Roosevelt riposted that Luce was a “sharp-tongued glamour girl of 40.”
After winning re-election, Luce went on a newfangled foreign junket with a delegation from the military affairs committee to visit the battlefields of Western Europe and collect some souvenirs: the hearts of romance-starved military men. Just before photographers snapped their shots, she would reverse her camouflage jacket to show the white lining, looking, as one Army public relations officer recalled, like “a gorgeous laughing snow bunny.”
She ensorcelled the married Lieut. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott Jr., in command of the Fifth Army in Italy. Soon she was in a black silk suit on the front, having dinner before a roaring fire with the handsome Truscott in his tent. As they sat on his regulation cot, he grabbed her and importuned, “The most beautiful thing in this world is an American division!”
As their romance blossomed, Truscott wrote poetry to her — “I’m troubled by the ghosts that haunt this place / They mock the skull beneath your lovely face” — and confessed, “I was drawn to you as iron is drawn by a magnet and was almost as helpless.” When she went off incommunicado with her general, the Pentagon dispatched a lieutenant to collect her from a villa in Rome and return her to the Z.I. (Zone of the Interior, i.e., the United States).
The ensuing decades, scarred by family tragedy; marital trauma; bouts with “the dismals,” as she called her bad mood swings; drug dependency; a hysterectomy at 44; arsenic poisoning; suicide attempts; a brain tumor and her horror at her fading beauty; a dwindling pool of male admirers and servant problems, make for fascinating but melancholy reading.
Over the years, Morris pursued Luce, who finally gave in and provided access to 460,000 items in the Library of Congress, more than many presidents save. With her husband, the fellow biographer Edmund Morris, Morris spent time with Luce at her home in Honolulu, which the renowned hostess called her “fur-lined rut,” and once ingratiated herself by filling in when Luce was lacking a full-time maid. “I don’t see much hope for a country where you can’t get live-in servants,” Luce, who was very hard on the servants — even once slapping the wife of one — grumpily told Morris.
She had no small talk, just pontification and a jutting jaw if anyone interrupted her monologues. And, when Luce poured herself a big Scotch despite her ulcers, nicknamed Qaddafi and Begin, Morris writes, “it seldom occurred to her to offer drinks to others.”
Morris is not great at stepping back and analyzing. She just methodically piles up the facts. Two volumes would seem excessive, but Luce’s pathological need to invent and reinvent herself, her restless, acquisitive drive to conquer new worlds and her cascading calamities end up providing plenty of vivid material.
Luce was not enamored of Congress. Her combination of femininity and forcefulness — which Vogue called “analogous to being dynamited by angel cake” — unnerved some colleagues, who ostracized her. She complained to Pearl Buck about “myriad little snubs and discriminations” dished out to “the girls.” (Her husband’s top editors also belittled her, and curtailed coverage of her, despite his importunings. She had to settle for the cover of Newsweek.) When a colleague in Congress tried to flatter Luce by saying she had “a masculine mind,” she demurred: “Thought has no sex.” She was touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 1944, but said: “Politics is the refuge of second-class minds.”
Although called “The Woman Who Has Everything,” she was lonely, and her marriage was ragged. Morris chronicles the “heart trouble” of both Luces, to use the euphemism Time editors employed for their boss’s infatuations. While she was recovering from her hysterectomy, Luce got a visit from a lawyer sent by Harry, as her husband was known, telling her that she “owed it” to Roman Catholicism to divorce him. But she clung to the marriage, even though he had refused to have sex with her for eight years, citing two events early in their relationship that he said made him impotent: when she had not been impressed enough that he made $1 million a year, and when she had been dismissive of his cherished membership in Yale’s Skull and Bones.
Although Luce had not been the most nurturing mother (Harry said she had treated her daughter, Ann, “abysmally” when the girl was growing up) she was shattered when the 19-year-old Stanford student died in 1944 in a car accident in Palo Alto. She wandered into a Catholic church in a haze of bitterness. It was the beginning of an intense spiritual odyssey that would end with her conversion to Catholicism — her instructor was Fulton J. Sheen, the monsignor with the piercing eyes who became a television star in the 1950s. It was a move that alienated her from Harry’s anti-­Catholic Presbyterian missionary mother, who would have been appalled to know that Luce asked Pope Pius XII to help persuade Harry to convert. It didn’t work.
Collecting charismatic priests the way she had once collected charismatic generals, Luce wrote religious screenplays and pointed out that Hollywood “means Holy rood — the wood of the Cross.” But she blamed the conversion for her inability to write with bite.
She moved on to fighting Communism. She conjured the dangerous idea of “preventive war” long before Dick Cheney, urging America to go to war with Russia. After she helped him in his campaign, President Eisenhower made her the ambassador to Italy (the first woman to hold the post). Despite some initial misogyny among Italian politicians and in the newspapers — the leader of the Communist Party described her as “an aging witch” — and a blunder when she urged Italians to vote against Communist pols, she did well in the job, and Harry enjoyed being the “consort.” She became known as “Machiavelli in a Schiaparelli.” But she was descending further into the Valley of the Dolls, not realizing that some of her ailments might be traced to the lead paint fragments in rosettes above her bed in the American embassy residence in Rome that were dropping into her morning coffee and possibly poisoning her.
Back in America, Harry tried to leave her for Lady Jeanne Campbell, the granddaughter of the British press titan Lord Beaverbrook. But she attempted suicide and he stayed, even though he could not bear even to cuddle her anymore, and she called him “a moral leper.” In an unsent letter to the younger Campbell, whom she referred to as “Baby,” Luce summed it up this way: “Big Mama won’t let Big Poppa go.” (Campbell married Norman Mailer instead.) In her “anecdotage,” as she termed it, Luce had a six-year “flirtation” with LSD, and said one trip made her realize that God didn’t like to be flirted with.
She agreed to be Eisenhower’s ambassador to Brazil. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon fought the nomination, arguing that she was qualified to be only a “political hatchet man.” One Ohio senator even read into the record a poem by Sir William Watson entitled “The Woman With the Serpent’s Tongue.” Luce was confirmed but then proved Morse’s point when she made a crack, culled from Time researchers, about how her tormentor had once been kicked in the head by a horse. In the ensuing furor, Luce decided to drop out.
She proceeded to a new “enthusiasm,” Henry Kissinger, even though she was known to tell people that “there existed a relatively small group of wealthy Jews who met once a year in the greatest secrecy and planned the strategy of world Jewry for the future.” (The one time I met her, at a Time party in the ’80s, her opening gambit was: “Did you know all the mischief in the world was caused by five Jewish men?”)
Harry, a heavy smoker and drinker, died of a heart attack in 1967. Clare had once remarked that “widowhood is one of the fringe benefits of marriage,” but hers, she said, was “a sort of deluxe loneliness.”
Once, not long before she died in 1987 at age 84, felled by a brain tumor, Luce called Morris from her apartment at the Watergate, sad because it was Saturday night and she had no “beaus.” Morris asked her what kind of escort she would like. “A homosexual admiral would be good,” Luce replied, “because at the end of the evening I wouldn’t have to put out.”

Maureen Dowd is an Op-Ed columnist for The Times.
A version of this review appears in print on July 20, 2014, on page BR16 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: The Woman


segunda-feira, 19 de maio de 2014

Primeira Guerra Mundial: audio books - book reviews NYTimes

The Long, Long Road Ahead

Audiobooks About World War I


n my home state, California, we listen to audiobooks mostly while driving. When stuck in freeway traffic, I sometimes wonder whether the guy in my rearview mirror is secretly absorbed in “Harry Potter,” or if the smiling woman in the next lane is hearing Mr. Darcy woo Elizabeth Bennet. When it comes to immersing yourself in the First World War by audio, however, you’ll need more than a short commute. The war was very long, the books about it tend to be very long, and about this cataclysm that so thoroughly changed our world for the worse, surely you don’t want to listen to merely one book? So I suggest you reserve this listening for some road trip of epic length, like that drive you’ve always wanted to take from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, or from Rotterdam to Vladivostok. Here are some suggestions for the journey:
Prelude to Catastrophe
Start with one or two of the very good books about how this war began. After all, part of the tragedy is that it didn’t have to happen. In the early summer of 1914, Europe was happily at peace. No country openly claimed another’s territory. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Czar Nicholas II of Russia had been on yachting holidays together. Ties between Germany and Britain were particularly close: Wilhelm had been at the deathbed of his grandmother Queen Victoria; more than 50,000 Germans were working in London or other British cities; and Germany was Britain’s largest trading partner. In late June, British cruisers and battleships visited Germany’s annual Elbe Regatta, where the Kaiser donned his uniform as an honorary British admiral. When the Royal Navy warships sailed for home, their commander sent a signal to his German counterpart: friends in past and friends forever.
And yet weeks later the Continent was in flames, and the slaughter on such a scale that 27,000 French soldiers were killed in a single day. The veteran journalist and military historian Max Hastings describes the day, Aug. 22, in his vivid “Catastrophe 1914”: A great mass of French troops were disoriented in a heavy fog, then suddenly found themselves in the sights of German howitzers on a hilltop as the fog cleared. Gallant French charges, spurred on by drums and bugles, were useless in the face of machine-­gun fire, and the cavalrymen’s horses only made their riders more conspicuous. “The dead lay stacked like folding chairs,” Hastings writes, “overlapping each other where they fell.” Similar disaster struck colonial troops from Senegal and North Africa, one regiment led by a French officer who had advocated the use of “these primitives, for whom life counts so little and whose young blood flows so ardently, as if eager to be shed.” It is hard to imagine a more engrossing panorama of this momentous year, although the audio rendition by the actor and former BBC news reader Simon Vance is slightly too tense and breathless for my taste.
In his introduction, Hastings pays generous tribute to someone who covered much the same ground more than 50 years ago, Barbara Tuchman in “The Guns of August.” Documents found since then have made Tuchman’s diplomatic history slightly dated, but her portrait of foolhardiness and delusion as Europe slipped into war is unsurpassed. What were the Russians thinking, for example, when Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, who had never commanded men in battle, was appointed commander in chief? Considered in the grand duke’s favor, however, was his magisterial height of 6 feet 6 inches, with “boots as tall as a horse’s belly.” The railway cars that housed his headquarters were built for ordinary mortals, and pieces of white paper were pasted over all doors to remind Nikolai to duck. In a later essay about the writing of history, Tuchman named this as her favorite visual detail in the book: “I was so charmed by the white paper fringe that I constructed a whole paragraph describing Russian headquarters at Baranovici in order to slip it in.” (The grand duke, incidentally, let it be known that after-dinner conversation among members of the headquarters staff should be on topics not concerned with the war.)
Anywhere you look, in these early months of fighting, there was madness in abundance. What were French generals thinking when they sent millions of infantrymen wearing bright red pantaloons, bright blue jackets and bright red caps off to face German snipers? What were the Germans thinking when they outfitted their soldiers with spiked helmets made not of metal but of leather?
At a mere 15 CDs, the audio version of Tuchman makes a smaller pile than the 20 discs for Hastings. But it will still get you 19 hours and quite a few hundred miles along that drive. The narrator, Wanda McCaddon — who records under the name Nadia May — is spirited but not melodramatic. Still, as a longtime admirer of Tuchman, who was a native New Yorker, I confess that I wanted her reader to have an American accent rather than McCaddon’s British one, elegant though it is.
Margaret MacMillan’s “The War That Ended Peace,” with a sonorous but rather slow 32-hour narration by Richard Burnip, covers a longer time period than do Hastings and Tuchman, the entire decade and a half before the conflict began. MacMillan is an old-fashioned historian in the way she puts great stress on personal responsibility — but this is an appropriate perspective, I think, for a time when Europe’s three remaining emperors wielded such enormous power. “Any explanation of how the Great War came must balance the great currents of the past with the human beings who bobbed along in them but who sometimes changed the direction of the flow.” MacMillan’s thumbnail portraits of some of those bobbing in the currents are a delight, and she happens to be the great-granddaughter of one of them, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
Whose fault was the war? There is enough blame for all to share: When leaders confidently ordered their armies to mobilize, neither side foresaw just how catastrophic the carnage would be. After it was over, the victorious Allies of course blamed Germany, exacting big reparations in the Versailles peace settlement. Then from the 1930s onward, revulsion at the war’s vast toll led both historians and popular culture to pin responsibility on the Allies as well. Archival finds by the German scholar Fritz Fischer in the 1960s, however, led him to fault German expansionism. In recent years, the pendulum has swung in some new directions. David Fromkin’s “Europe’s Last Summer” focuses on Austria-­Hungary’s role (its artillery and Danube gunboats did, after all, fire the war’s first shots); Christopher Clark’s widely praised “The Sleepwalkers” puts considerable onus on Serbia as a rogue state with irredentist dreams; and Niall Ferguson’s “The Pity of War” provocatively blames Britain for entering the conflict, even though it had not been attacked, and thereby turning a Continental war into a worldwide one. (Audio is not a good way to take in Ferguson’s book, however, because of its many charts and graphs.)
Now Sean McMeekin’s “July 1914” points a finger at Russia and its waffling czar, its ambition to control the Bosporus, and its generals who wanted to avenge their humiliating defeat by Japan in 1905. Concentrating on the period before the actual fighting, McMeekin lacks some of the color — and horror — of Hastings and Tuchman. The audio narration by Steve Coulter is matter-of-fact and bereft of theatrics, but perhaps that is suitable for a book primarily about diplomatic maneuvering.
Armageddon in Full
By now, at the midpoint of your drive — Panama? The Urals? — it’s time to move beyond 1914 and into the nearly four years of fighting that followed. John Keegan’s authoritative “The First World War” is a solid, balanced and reliable account by a man who spent his life writing military history (Keegan died in 2012) and teaching it to officer cadets at Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point. The book is enriched by his deep knowledge of wars past. For example, he compares the “novelty” of telephone lines allowing a World War I general to have his headquarters behind the front to Wellington’s having to ride in sight of the enemy at Waterloo in order to know what was going on, as well as to the way technology in the Persian Gulf war of 1991 (which Keegan covered for The Daily Telegraph) allowed commanders to orchestrate land, sea and airstrikes from a great distance.
Simon Prebble gives “The First World War” a brisk, fast-paced reading. However, the Keegan book I would recommend you listen to first is “The Face of Battle,” his study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme. These three crucial battles in British history were centuries apart but took place remarkably close to one another, in what today is northern France and Belgium. His evocation of the Somme, in 1916 — a vast bloodletting that was a victory for neither side — is particularly powerful. Surprisingly for someone on the political right who was a hawk about wars in his own time, Keegan is extremely sensitive to class privileges, pointing out that even today we know more about how some British regiments fared at the Somme than others, because those with less wealthy officers could not afford to commission detailed regimental histories.
Compared with some of these behemoths, Norman Stone’s compact, almost aphoristic “World War One: A Short History” is as a skiff to a battleship; you can almost listen to its some 150 pages of text — Prebble reading again — on a drive to pick up the groceries. But do you really want such a short account of such a long war? A more interesting book of Stone’s is “The Eastern Front 1914-1917.” No aspect of the war is more haunting than the meeting on these battlefields between the two regimes with double-headed eagles on their coats of arms, Imperial Russia and Austria-­Hungary. Russian officers were promoted largely by seniority and connections at court; in Austria-­Hungary, three-quarters of the officers were German speakers, but only one in four of the enlisted men, from a bewildering array of ethnic groups, even understood the language. Russia’s illiterate peasant soldiers frequently chopped down roadside telegraph poles for cooking fuel. Exasperated signalers then had to send orders by radio, but had few code books, and so broadcast “in the clear” — to the delight of their enemies. Men died by the millions, and in the Carpathian Mountains, wolves gnawed on the bodies of the wounded.
This clash of rickety empires epitomizes the senselessness of the war that left behind what Winston Churchill called a “crippled, broken world.” That folly should underline a lesson we have painfully learned anew in recent years: Wars are seldom won as quickly as everyone expects, and almost always create far more problems than they solve.

CATASTROPHE 1914

Europe Goes to War
By Max Hastings
Read by Simon Vance
Blackstone Audio

THE GUNS OF AUGUST

By Barbara W. Tuchman
Read by Nadia May
Blackstone Audio

THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE

The Road to 1914
By Margaret MacMillan
Read by Richard Burnip
Random House Audio

THE PITY OF WAR

Explaining World War I
By Niall Ferguson
Read by Graeme Malcolm
Audible Studios

JULY 1914

Countdown to War
By Sean McMeekin
Read by Steve Coulter
Audible Studios

THE FIRST WORLD WAR

By John Keegan
Read by Simon Prebble
Random House Audio

THE FACE OF BATTLE

By John Keegan
Read by Simon Vance
Blackstone Audio

WORLD WAR ONE

A Short History
By Norman Stone
Read by Simon Prebble
Audible Studios

Segunda Guerra Mundial: como os EUA e o Japao foram a guerra - Book review NYT

The March to War

‘No End Save Victory’ and ‘Japan 1941’


In February 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was nearly murdered in Miami by a gunman whose errant fatal shot struck Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago. Cermak gallantly told Roosevelt, “I’m glad it was me instead of you.” Today’s Americans should not disagree. Had Roosevelt been killed, the 32nd president of the United States would have been his running mate, Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas, a neophyte in foreign and military affairs, isolationist by instinct and deeply rooted in a Congress determined, notwithstanding the growing threats from Hitler and the imperial Japanese, to keep another president from repeating what a majority of its members considered to be Woodrow Wilson’s catastrophic mistake of needlessly dragging the nation into a distant “foreign war.”
Photoshopping Roosevelt out of the history of that epoch shows how lucky we are that he indeed survived to be our president, preparing America to fight and help win World War II. So does “No End Save Victory,” David Kaiser’s judicious, detailed and soundly researched history of Roosevelt’s tortuous process of first preparing America psychologically, politically and militarily, and then nudging the country into that apocalyptic struggle. This story has, of course, been told many times before, but what Kaiser especially brings to the table is his mastery not only of the documents and other primary sources that directly reveal Roosevelt’s behind-the-scenes leadership but also of other archives that are sometimes too little mined by political historians, like Army and Navy war plans (the author taught history at the Naval War College).
Americans are not immune to the temptation to see historical events as inevitable, which, by logic, reduces the credit we grant to individual leaders like Roose­velt. But Kaiser crisply reminds us how dangerous and unpredictable the period really was, noting Roosevelt’s not inconsiderable private dread that Hitler might well put himself in a position to dominate the world. Cogently deciphering the twists and turns of the president’s thinking, Kaiser argues that his famous 1940 deal to trade United States destroyers for British bases was “a logical step based on current U.S. war plans and the ever-present possibility that Britain might fall and force the United States immediately to defend the Western Hemisphere.” Kaiser considers the first half of 1941 to be the most difficult time for those in Washington to figure out how World War II might unfold, making Roosevelt’s “sensitive and discriminating judgment” more valuable than ever. United States Army intelligence was warning him that unless the still-unprepared America entered the war fast, Britain would enjoy at best a one-in-three chance to survive. As Kaiser writes, Roosevelt behind closed doors seemed less worried about “getting the United States into the war” than “about war coming to the United States before it was ready.” In Kaiser’s judgment, it was June 1941, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, that Roosevelt “evidently decided not only that the United States had to enter the war at a relatively early date, but that it should seek the complete defeat of all its enemies.”
With his respect for the documentary evidence, the author’s literary inclination is to be self-effacing, but while reading this book you might occasionally wish to hear a little more comment from Kaiser. For instance, the author almost offhandedly quotes Roosevelt in November 1941, privately recalling his involvement years before in Harvard’s decision to reduce its share of Jewish students to 15 percent; Kaiser adds no reaction of his own. His book has the effect of refuting the charge that Roosevelt connived for the tragic destruction of American ships at Pearl Harbor in order to shove the nation into a war it would otherwise oppose, but not frontally. If this volume were your only source on the disaster of Dec. 7, 1941, you would not know how many of our fellow citizens (probably a growing number in these times when many people — agitated, in some cases, by talk radio hosts — seek to explain complicated events through malign conspiracies) insist that a warmongering Roosevelt was its eager architect. Nevertheless Kaiser has brought us a careful, nuanced, credible account of the events and complex issues surrounding America’s entry into World War II, which, however historical fashions change, is likely to wear well over the years.
Examining the same period as it looked from the other side of the Pacific, Eri Hotta’s “Japan 1941” seeks to reveal and explain the secret internal mechanics of the Tokyo regime that planned and executed the Pearl Harbor assault. Suffice it to say that Japan’s people were not lucky enough to be led by a Franklin Roosevelt. Instead the Japanese leadership was a sequestered gaggle of blinkered, hallucinatory, buck-passing incompetents, who finally pushed the vacillating Emperor Hirohito into gambling on war against the United States. Hotta, an Oxford-trained Asia specialist, does an effective job of portraying the almost Keystone Kops-style decision-making in Tokyo; the cumulative effect of her narrative is chilling as we watch it march toward global tragedy despite warning after warning.
Hirohito’s navy chief of staff tells him in July 1941 that there might be “no choice but to strike,” although he is “uncertain as to any victory.” The emperor replies, “What a reckless war that would be!” Hirohito complains to his prime minister, Prince Konoe Fumimaro, that he has been “kept in the dark” about advanced military preparations, and ineffectually recites a pacifist poem written by his grandfather: “In all four seas all are brothers and sisters. / Then why, oh why, these rough winds and waves?” Gen. Tojo Hideki, then the Japanese defense minister, is told a potential war is unwinnable, but brazenly scoffs: “This is, after all, a desktop exercise. Actual wars do not go as you fellows imagine.” Hotta acidly remarks: “Was Tojo hoping for the sudden discovery of oil fields in Japan so that his country could forget that the United States had until recently been providing more than 90 percent of its petroleum? . . . Was he anticipating a series of natural disasters to work in the empire’s favor, like the typhoons that had prevented the Moguls from invading Japan in the 13th century?” In September 1941, three months before Pearl Harbor, Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku presents his now well-known caution that “a war with so little chance of success should not be fought.” As Hotta writes, in the end “all the leaders asserted their right to decide Japan’s fate by initiating a war, while paradoxically insinuating that they had no ultimate control over the fate of the country they led.”
Hotta’s argumentation is sound and her message important, but “Japan 1941” falls short of its publisher’s assertion that it is “groundbreaking history, . . . certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific.” The volume will no doubt move students of Japan’s machinations before Pearl Harbor to consider modest adjustments in their estimates of certain historical characters and moments. But truly groundbreaking revisionist history requires the kind of major new interpretations and archival discoveries that are scarce in this volume. Furthermore, a book so clearly ambitious to revamp our understanding of a subject so heavily written about as the run-up to the Pacific war would be more persuasive if it had more adequate documentation; this volume offers merely 14 pages of endnotes. However, with those caveats in mind, Hotta’s book remains a useful addition to the vast pre-Pearl Harbor literature. Read at this time of our own dysfunction in Washington, it also constitutes a warning of the literally earth-shattering dangers that can emerge when the political system of a powerful nation fails to work.

NO END SAVE VICTORY

How FDR Led the Nation Into War

By David Kaiser
Illustrated. 408 pp. Basic Books. $27.99.

JAPAN 1941

Countdown to Infamy

By Eri Hotta
Illustrated. 320 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.95.