Monday, August 07, 2006

Too early for history to be written

Have read a number of good reviews of The Assassin's Gate on liberal blogs, so decided to overcome my reservations & read it. First instincts were right - it's better than Rise of the Vulcans (an extremely superficial book that offered little more than facts facts facts, which I gave up reading after way too much detail about Rumsfeld & Cheney in the 70's) - but provides little more than what any daily reader of newspapers & magazines & blogs already knows. There are a few good sentences in it including the one that received the most attention

I came to believe that those in positions of highest responsibility for Iraq showed a carelessness about human life that amounted to criminal negligence. Swaddled in abstract ideas, convinced of their own righteousness, incapable of self-criticism, indifferent to accountability they turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one. When things went wrong, they found other people to blame. The Iraq War was always winnable; it still is. For this very reason, the recklessness of
its authours is all the harder to forgive.
and which the authour of course has since recanted "By now, I'm quite grim, and I would not have written that line in the present tense. The armed militias are running the show. The young and the dispossessed and the angry and the religious have become the wave of the future."

But the major flaw of the Assassin's Gate is the same as so many other war books - journalists rarely write good history books. The skill sets are too different. Journalists write short article for immediate & disposable consumption. Good history books need a permanence, a broader vision than journalists possess. There's also the matter of time - for a good book on the current war, we'll have to wait until 2037 for sufficient perspective, so I'll plan skip any tomes written in the interim on the current Iraq War.

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