Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter 2010, List & Book III

I. James Madison by Jack N. Rakove

II. The Law by Frederic Bastiat

III. Present at the Creation by Dean Acheson

I was attracted to this particular text for my winter reading list after noting in a newspaper article that Present at the Creation is the best written autobiography by a high ranking U.S. Government servant since the publication of President Grant’s.

Every C-133 crewmember remembers the name Dean Acheson from his years in the State Department during the Truman administration, which was the time of young adulthood for most of us. Acheson was involved for the better part of twelve years with the U.S. Government at the highest levels beginning before WWII and was present at “ ….the creation of the U.S. as a superpower and leader of the free world”.

Acheson had foresworn ever writing his memoirs but changed his mind as he wanted to “… tell a tale of large conceptions, great achievements, and some failures….’ He quickly gives credit to the heroism of the American people as they confronted the post global remains of the conflagration of WWII, led by two men of rare quality, President Truman and General Marshall.

His theme throughout is how the U.S. created a world out of chaos; but as he wrote he was also quick to note they only knew the beginning, not the end. We now know much of the end and that is what makes this a fascinating read. Those larger than life individual American citizens stepped forth upon the international stage and made preparations for an unknown world that we have now lived, served, and raised our families. It, once again, is the story of our citizens and our country; it is American Exceptionalism.

Present at the Creation is a look into the machinations of government that has had a major and controlling influence upon the characteristics of our existence to this very day. The personal lives of C-133 crewmembers were constantly affected by those early decisions and they will be familiar with almost all of the events and places; and, many will have participated from the beginning.

Acheson writes with great clarity, wit, and self-deprecation. I have almost finished my reading and have found it to be, as suggested, an autobiography of honesty, without character assassination or nastiness of tone. Acheson is forthright with his telling of this important and historic story about the national policies that the United States had taken, while facing the defeated as the victors, during the global and chaotic post-WWII conditions that prevailed among the differing and far-flung world societies. All, and especially the U.S., were largely unprepared to enter into a problematic set of circumstances heretofore unknown.

Suddenly, we were saddled, willing but not ungrateful, to have become the world’s superpower without attempting to be so; and, that was unknown territory for a country that had had generally chosen a policy of isolation throughout its entire history. I would also surmise that the world now knows it was fortunate to have us assume this great burden of ‘world leadership’ without nationalistic visions of dominance.

It is a story without past events or prior knowledge to draw upon; and, we will continue to be burdened for generations with the decisions, wise or unwise, made in those early days of the aftermath of the world’s most destructive phase ever.

While reading you will find that Maynard Keynes, British statesman and founder of Keynesian economics, had a prominent role in many world-wide decisions that ultimately turned almost all of free Europe toward democratic Socialism. Much of the chaos surrounding the financial and social ills of today that both Europe and America suffer is a result of the unintended consequences of his economic theories. They were largely predicated upon ‘the myth of permanent plenty’ and embraced by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations; but are now being repudiated by a significant number of the electorate.

At this point in our lives, C-133 crewmembers and their families have sometimes suffered, gladly served, and actually lived most of it. Enjoy!

Richard Spencer

39th ATS, DAFB, 1962-1965

Book Reviews to Come:

IV. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

V. The Math Book by Clifford A. Pickover

VI. Before the Dawn by Shimazaki Toson and translated by W.E. Naff

VII. Leviathan by Hobbes

VIII. The Berlin Airlift

IX. Sacred Fire

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