August 1, 2003
This is a serious, scholarly analysis of geopolitics and foreign policy, complete with over 500 footnotes.
The subtitle of this book is “Small Wars and the Rise of American Power”. Actually, the subtitle should have been “A History of the United States Marine Corps”. Boot is a senior editorial writer for the Wall St. Journal and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and reviewers of his book include the pillars of the American foreign policy establishment – Brzezinski, Holbrooke, Brinkley, etc. This is a serious, scholarly analysis of geopolitics and foreign policy, complete with over 500 footnotes.
Do not be deceived. This is a lively and provocative read. Boot begins by quoting the US Marine Corps Small Wars Manual of 1940; near the end of the book, after tracing two hundred years of history, Boot returns to the Small Wars Manual. Over the intervening two centuries and dozens of small wars, among presidents and pashas, we meet many of the Corps’ colorful personalities – O’Bannon, Walker, Butler, LeJeune, Beadle, Puller, Krulak (the Elder), Walt, etc.
What is fresh and different is the context in which they are introduced. Boot is tracing a history of America’s use of power and along the way he, almost accidentally, is writing a history of the Corps from a different perspective. One comes to realize that much of the uniqueness of the Marines, and especially of their independence and willingness to take action, sprang from the logistics of movement. For most of our history, ships were the only means of reaching distant shores and, once there, the officer in charge was on his own, reporting to and hearing from Washington months after he took action.