The holiday season provided some time to finish a couple of books I had been putting off, and I can recommend both very highly:
Our First Revolution, by Michael Barone. This is great narrative history covering the period leading to the English Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, complete with a detailed description of the events and intrigues of those years and the settlements that reverberate to this day in the law and structures of the Anglo-American system–“the intellectual pedigree of America’s political order”, as George Will has called it. When we think of revolutions, we think of the violence of the French, Russian, and even our American brand of upheaval, but this one was at least as transformational as any of those and was conducted with scarcely a shot being fired. To say that it was a primary inspiration for the American founders is an understatement; in fact, it is no overstatement to say that were it not for 1688 there would have been no 1776.
World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, by Norman Podhoretz. If you remain in denial about the threat represented by the forces with whom we are currently at war or find yourself drifting back to a September 10 mindset, this book is the perfect antidote. Podhoretz, the long time editor of Commentary magazine, writes in late 2006 and provides a reminder of how we got there over the past 25 years in addition to a detailed analysis of the points of view of the major players on all sides of the national debate that dominates our time. He provides broad historical context, explains why this war is as vital to America’s survival as the first three world wars, why winning it will require far more patience than required by “the greatest generation” of WWII, and why there is currently no serious alternative to the strategies prescribed by the Bush Doctrine. He could have been more edifying on a few points and I have read a couple of critical reviews that seem to have some merit, but he lays out the truth for all to see, and makes a very compelling case.