SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

  By Adam Hochschild, 438 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.   It was the cause of a generation, one that grows dimmer with each passing year now. “Spain,” as it was called, simply, was for years a moral touchstone, the foreign war for which more Americans volunteered than any other in our history, before or after. It’s impossible to think of anything that so engages us today. The Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, as Adam Hochschild makes clear in his outstanding new history, acted as a sort of funhouse mirror, reshaping everyone and everything it touched. Many individuals and institutions Read More


  President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab By Steve Inskeep Penguin Press 421 pages   BOOK REVIEW Of all the instances in which America cheated and robbed Indians of their lands, the expulsion of the Cherokee Nation has always seemed the most shameful. This is because the Cherokees were most like us, or at least, most like what we said we wanted Indians to be. One of the “Five Civilized Tribes” of the Southeast, Cherokees frequently intermarried with whites, allied themselves with the United States during the War of 1812, and readily adopted European manners of Read More

Emory Upton and the Shaping of the U.S. Army

    ‘It was a shift in tactics that seemed tailor-made for a free people, and it would lay the foundation for the modern American soldier, able to adjust and fight effectively on any terrain in the world’   Americans have always been suspicious of big government, particularly the federal government. Right up until World War II they also remained suspicious that a large, permanent and professional military might serve primarily as the enforcing arm of such a government. But as America grew, so did its interactions with the rest of the world. A United States that spanned a continent Read More


In 1890 Alfred Thayer Mahan Published a Book That Transformed Naval Theory— An Unleashed the World’s Great Fleets   Democracies are good at war for many of the reasons they are good at capitalism and at the enhancement of the human spirit.  They encourage innovation, self-reliance and free thought, while also allowing some leeway for error and defeat.  Dependent upon the popular will, they breed loyalty and devotion Add yet the idea of a large standing military raises the hackles of a democracy.  Its very nature—an absolute command structure, in which decisions are not put to a vote but ordered; Read More

America’s Finest General

    George C. Marshall’s Long Slog Through the Ranks Took Him to Power, Victory, and Greatness— Five Stars, International Acclaim and a Nobel Prize   There is a theory about the affairs of men that great leaders appear when we need them the most, that events seem to summon them in some mysterious way.  The United States has indeed been blessed to have had such great men—and women—emerge during most of its greatest trials.  But there was nothing mystical about it.  There is, for instance, no greater example of emergent American leadership than that which arose during World War Read More

Black Jack

  He has all but faded from our memory by now. A terse, uncharismatic figure in a drab, old-fashioned uniform. We have become much more infatuated with the war after the war in which he commanded, and few of us were ever sure of exactly what he did anyway. He accepted no unconditional surrenders, invented no famous strategies. He never defied a president, or harbored obvious presidential ambitions of his own. No enduring controversies limn his image. He even denied saying the one, famous line he was credited with saying. And yet, no other American general ever held significant command Read More