From: Dwayne Allen Day <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Can u recommend nuclear books?
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 20:14:13 GMT
Carey Sublette <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
:> Actually, you're right on the money here. He is more of a general writer
:> than a "trained" historian (we could get into a boring discussion as to
:> what that means. But basically, well-trained historians realize that
: My criterion for accepting someone as a historian is based on how he or
: she performs in researching and analyzing history, rather than any
: 'training'. Barabara Tuchman qualifies as a historian, without having
: any formal training, I think.
Okay, I'll accept that. However, someone with "training" in history is
explicitly taught the problems with source material. Someone who is not
has to figure that out for themselves and not all do.
I'll relay an anecdote:
A few years ago I went to a talk by historian William Leary (Project Cold
Feet, a history of the CIA, a number of histories on aviation). Leary was
researching a book on Air America, the CIA airline during Vietnam. He
talked about sources at length.
One of the big questions is whether or not Air America shipped drugs out
of Cambodia as a means to aid the war effort. This is the premise of the
lousy movie Air America and it comes from a throwaway line in a previous,
poorly-researched book on Air America.
Leary talked about this at length, noting that he had interviewed every
single living Air America pilot. Only one of them said that this
happened. He is generally referred to as "Weird Harold" by his
compatriots and is considered to be a screwball. By his own admission he
has had mental problems. Leary said that many of the other pilots told
him about lots of scummy things that went on, so why they would admit to,
say, pushing people out of helicopters, but not running drugs makes for an
interesting question. He came to the conclusion that the drug-running
story was simply false and that there was absolutely no reason to believe
it. But he walked the audience through it very carefully, talking about
the strength of each source.
Now contrast this to Rhodes in Dark Sun. He has an allegation that LeMay
tried to provoke World War III. But his footnotes are incredibly spotty
on some of this. He even missed several relevant articles on this
subject. And those of us (me included) who focus on aerial overflight of
the Soviet Union have never found any evidence of all the overflights that
he claims happened. Sloppy. No careful approach to his sources.
: * the development of mass violence as a tool of warfare from WWI on, and
: how it set the stage for atomic attacks to be planned and executed
: without significant debate;
A good point. This is something often lost in debates about why the US
dropped the bomb--mass violence and bombing of civilians was a pefectly
acceptable aspect of warfare at the time.
It has been over a decade since I read this book. I'll have to put it
back on my pile to read again.