Barbara Tuchman – The Guns of August
A history of the first month of World War I, and the events leading up to it. Tuchman writes well and tells a good story, but more than anything this book re-taught me why I’m not much on military history.
War is what happens when something goes seriously wrong; it is the breakdown of society. Soldiers and generals are a bit like doctors in that they are trying to fix what’s wrong. But they’re more the type of doctor that treats a tuberculosis patient’s cough while leaving the root disease untouched. There is value in having some people study symptomatic relief, but treating the root problem does more good.
This is why I am more interested in culture and institutions than in pincer movements, multiple fronts, and the quarreling opinions of various generals. Why is often a much more useful and interesting question than what.