WAGING MODERN WAR
By Wesley K. Clark. PuLlic Affairs. 479 pp. $30
book is an accessible and absorbing primer explaining where oil comes from, how it was formed, and where and how it is found and extracted. Deffeyes’s long experience in the oil business allows him to explain these subjects with authority and verve, mixing passages on the structure of hydrocarbon molecules with tales of old-time oilmen.
In the second half, he advances his controversial argument with a blend of geology and mathematics. He thinks it most unlikely that additional major oilfields remain undiscovered. On its own terms, his argument convinces. Against it is the fact (which he acknowledges) that big oil companies, which presumably have access to the best information, aren’t behaving as they should if he’s right: They aren’t buying up every last oil well. Nor, as yet, has the stock market behaved as if it agreed with Deffeyes. It may be that he has extrapolated too blithely from the United States, where oil prospecting has been very thorough, to countries where it has been less methodical. At the moment, no one can know for sure.
If Deffeyes is right, the implications are enormous. Though he does not spell them out in detail—that would offer too many hostages to fortune—he anticipates that sharply higher oil prices will bring difficult economic, social, and political passages for those societies most dependent on oil, especially on imported oil. Exporters will charge top dollar: a gigantic windfall for the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and a handful of others. He implies that the tumult will be greater than that occasioned by the oil price hikes of 1973 and 1979.
To avoid this scenario, Deffeyes recommends that we begin preparing now. We must develop renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and tidal power. We must improve energy efficiency. Such steps will not be enough, however, so we also must shed our fear of nuclear energy. In short, Deffeyes envisions an energy future very different from the status quo. One implication is that current American policy, in promoting still heavier investment in fossil fuels, is misguided. If we don’t shift away from oil, we may as well gift-wrap the entire budget surplus and send it to the Saudi royal family.
There are few things as important nowadays as the energy system, and few books on the subject as thought provoking as this one.
—J. R. McNeill
WAGING MODERN WAR.
By Wesley K. Clark. PublicAffairs. 479 pp. $30
As Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, General Clark was the chief architect of the 1999 war for Kosovo, an odd conflict that produced victory of a sort but no heroes. Least of all Clark: When the war ended, he was effectively cashiered. Now the general aims to salvage something of his lost reputation by providing a detailed revisionist account of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s first real war. Operation Allied Force, he insists, was an unqualified triumph. Though Clark capably settles scores with those Pentagon officials who either let him down or actively conspired against him, his attempt to recast his own efforts in a more positive light fails. Yet his very failure raises important questions about the role of senior military leaders in an era of U.S. global primacy.
Clark depicts himself as a "strategic commander," situated at the nexus between politics and operations. His experience in Bosnia had convinced him that the United States could no longer base its security policy on the mere existence of military power; the nation needed to put its armed might to work. In formulating the strategy for doing so, though, Clark proved to be a naif—as his own narrative makes abundantly clear. Like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he believed at the outset that a bit of muscle flexing would spook Slobodan Milosevic. "I know him as well as anyone," Clark quotes himself instructing a White House official. "He doesn’t want to get bombed." Wrong on that count, Clark found himself in a shooting war.
But to what end? As hostilities began, Clark identified three priorities for his commanders: to avoid losing aircraft, "impact the Yugoslavian military and police activities on the ground," and "protect our ground forces." He did not tell his subordinates how this cautious approach would bring victory. Although he publicly vowed to "attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate, and ultimately destroy" the Yugoslavian army, the limited bombing at the outset only led to accelerated ethnic cleansing and the exodus of refugees from Kosovo. These
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results caught Clark flatfooted. His response was to escalate, with more aircraft and talk of a possible ground invasion. But the goal of "impacting" Serbian forces in Kosovo remained elusive—he kept urging his air commanders to try harder, with few apparent results (and perhaps less than all-out efforts on their part).
NATO’s eventual success, against an isolated Serbia weakened by a decade of perpetual crisis, was preordained. But when victory came after 11 weeks, it did so despite the leadership displayed at the top, not because of it. "Strategic commander" Clark was simply out of his depth. Schooled to fight a major war against the Soviets, and obsessed with avoiding another Vietnam, he possessed neither the intellectual framework nor the grammar to formulate strategy in circumstances where the canonical lessons of the Cold War didn’t apply. The supreme commander didn’t even know what he didn’t know.
For a nation that, like it or not, exercises global military power, a strategically illiterate officer corps represents a serious danger. By calling attention to that danger, albeit unwittingly, Waging Modern War deserves recognition as an important book.
—Andrew J. Bacevich
THE NEW AMERICANS:
How the Melting Pot Can Work Again.
By Michael Barone. Regnery. 338 pp. $27.95
Sometime in the past year or two, American politicians awoke en masse with a terrible hangover on the issue of immigration. Policy had been dominated by restrictionists, who warned that a brown or yellow or multicolored tide was about to change the character of the nation, if not destroy it entirely. Gradually, though, the shrill voices of Pat Buchanan and Pete Wilson faded, the role of immigrants in the economic boom became clear, and legislators began amending or repealing the anti-immigrant statutes put on the books just a few sessions earlier.
Now, with the Immigration and Naturalization Service under orders to clean up its act, and new amnesties and guest worker programs under serious consideration, the tone of the popular debate has come full circle. Instead of books denouncing the rise of "alien" influences and blaming immigrants for everything from Los Angeles traffic jams to Chesapeake Bay pollution, we have books extolling the contributions of immigration to American life and values.
A political commentator best known as the coauthor for the past three decades of The Almanac of American Politics, Barone sensibly debunks "the notion that we are at a totally new place in American history, that we are about to change from a white-bread nation to a collection of peoples of color." On the contrary, "the new Americans of today, like the new Americans of the past, can be interwoven into the fabric of American life. . . . It can happen even more rapidly if all of us realize that that interweaving is part of the basic character of the country."
Barone compares three groups of what he calls "new" Americans—blacks, Latinos, and Asians—with three ethnic groups that predominated among immigrants a century ago— the Irish, Italians, and Jews. Interesting, even compelling, Barone’s construct produces a number of useful insights about upward mobility and assimilation. Past and present have, in some respects, uncanny parallels. But there is also a major flaw in the approach. The African Americans of whom Barone writes have, for the most part, been in America far longer than almost anyone else he discusses, including most of the "white-bread" people. He acknowledges the problem early on, and then lamely dismisses it "for the purpose of this book."
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