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Commentaires écrits par
Jeffrey Swystun (Mont Tremblant)
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   

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The U.S. and Canadian Army Strategies: Failures in Understanding
The U.S. and Canadian Army Strategies: Failures in Understanding
Prix : CDN$ 5.21

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Bullets and Briefcases, Jan. 31 2016
Military phrases permeate the business world. That is because, according to the authors, "the business community has borrowed freely from and refined military thinking." The reverse of this adoption, it is argued, has hurt both the U.S. and Canadian militaries. That is, business doctrine has eroded the military's ability to effectively formulate strategy. In short, fighting wars is not all that akin to selling sodas or cellphones.

Yet, business thinking and practices permeate military doctrine and strategy. That was clear in Canada's Strategy 2020 document. It reads like a glossy annual report and was built using principles from Activity-Based Costing and Total Quality Management. The authors argue this does not work because the private sector operates as an open system and the military for obvious reasons is closed. Value is the primary driver in an open system while effectiveness dominates a closed system.

To be spouting "core competencies" and "organizational redesign" does not seem guns-ho but it has its place. This book is a very dry analysis and on its own is of little value. I recommend reading as a companion, Forced to Change, which argues that military leadership needs a diverse and varied education to innovate strategy and respond tactically.

Russia's Wars in Chechnya 1994-2009 (Essential Histories)
Russia's Wars in Chechnya 1994-2009 (Essential Histories)

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Always Fighting the Last War, Jan. 31 2016
The conflicts in Chechnya are fascinating. The fifteen years that encompassed two wars (1994-96 and 1999-2009 ) provide huge lessons in asymmetrical warfare and hinted at growing Muslim militancy. To say the Russians were tested and often bested is an understatement. Their military was at a historic low point. It lacked funding, training, and discipline. Units were undermanned and inter-service and unit cohesion was nonexistent. The book suggests the military was operating on a budget at least 60% deficient.

This allowed no modernization or progression in doctrine. That is why during the first war, they paid for a strict adherence to Cold War mass mechanized fighting. Meanwhile, the Chechens were innovative and determined. Chechens have historically been fierce mountaineers with a reputation as bandits and excellent guerrilla fighters. They harboured deep resentment towards Russia given Stalin had once deported their entire nation. That mass movement is known as The Exodus (Chechens now refer to Putin as Stalin). This did not stop many of them from serving in the Soviet and Russian forces and then using that expertise and knowledge in their favour.

Chechens adapted their tactics including "hugging" Russian units to avoid airstrikes and setting up resistance in basements as Russian tank guns could not depress low enough to hit them. All the while, the Russians had forgot much of what they learned the hard way fighting in Afghanistan.
Much of the Western powers enjoyed the fact that Russia experienced such difficulty. Unfortunately, they did not examine the conflict closely enough to get a sense of where the world was heading.

Russia went through five commanders in two years in the first war and six in the latter. This lack of leadership impacted morale and failed to reward initiative. The first war came to an uneasy close but did not solve anything. It did not help that Russian refused to reparations. Reconstruction costs were pegged at $300 million. Worse off was the economy as unemployment reached 80% sowing the seeds for the next war. In that conflict, Russia did not hold back and committed three times the number of troops to pacify the republic. Galeotti nails it when he calls the wars in Chechnya "an imperial conquest, a civil war and a terrorist campaign." The latter had several horrendous instances of large number civilian kidnappings and ham handed deadly attempts.

These wars were costly to civilians with estimates of the dead ranging from 20,000 to 200,000. Russian forces peg their losses at close to 11,000 for both wars which many experts consider low. Chechen combat deaths are extremely difficult to substantiate. Regardless, it was a bloody, confusing and ruthless 15 years. This is a fine introduction to this piece of history. For a highly personal narrative, I recommend One Soldier's War by Arkady Babchenko and Nick Allen.

The Short Drop
The Short Drop
Prix : CDN$ 8.72

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Impressive Debut, Jan. 30 2016
This review is from: The Short Drop (Kindle Edition)
Congratulations to Matthew Fitzsimmons on this entertaining first novel. Impressive is the plot, character development and flow of events. Pace suffered only slightly in the middle but otherwise this was just tremendous. I am partial to political thrillers so this one delivered in many ways. It worked well given the kidnapping backstory, the feints and twists, and the emotions and actions that the main character displayed. Having said, does every thriller writer have turn each book into a series?

Infinity War
Infinity War
by Jim Starlin
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 25.53
46 used & new from CDN$ 25.00

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Too Super, Jan. 28 2016
This review is from: Infinity War (Paperback)
Who doesn't like superheroes of this planet? If you want to see virtually every chief Marvel character in action this is the collection for you. Unfortunately, for me, I like my heroes more terrestrial and not so super (remember most early ones were human and were crime busters not universe changers). Comic books switched in the seventies towards stories that became convulted and incomprehensible. When villains could eradicate so many heroes with the flick of a pinkie (yet do not), things really changed. So this is an overwhelming outing as the characters come from other realms and space and is made more confusing given how the story is ordered. This is for aficionados only.

The Last Panther - Slaughter of the Reich - The Halbe Kessel 1945
The Last Panther - Slaughter of the Reich - The Halbe Kessel 1945
Prix : CDN$ 3.59

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Historical Fiction, Jan. 28 2016
There is a great deal of speculation about this book and others including Tiger Tracks and D-Day Through German Eyes. I, too am sceptical of the authenticity of this book. Other reviewers have substantiated their case through tangible detail. For me, I find the lack of content around tank mates most disturbing. In close quarters, even for a few months, human character and behaviour will be more imprinted than the recollection of weaponry and firefight details. So I suggest readers view this as enjoyable historical fiction with more than a few inaccuracies. I intend to avoid other works from this publisher.

Operation Red Falcon (Kindle Single)
Operation Red Falcon (Kindle Single)
Prix : CDN$ 3.77

4.0 étoiles sur 5 What To Believe, Jan. 27 2016
This is a tremendously entertaining short story on Yehuda Gill, a decades serving Mossad operative. It begs a more in depth effort as this reads like a preface and does not give enough information to form an opinion. There is just too much to speculate on especially when it comes to intelligence services. So we are entertained while reading but left to wonder whether hubris or personal deception drove this man or whether there was more to the tensions with Syria two decades ago.

Russian Security and Paramilitary Forces since 1991 (Elite)
Russian Security and Paramilitary Forces since 1991 (Elite)

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Historic Precedent?, Jan. 27 2016
As you read through the myriad of Russian forces and their Byzantine structures, three things may come to mind. First, the proliferation of units since 1991 has come largely during Putin's reign. Second, the inter-agency rivalries must be enormous and so would be coordination and cost. Lastly, it was this type of structure that helped end The Third Reich. These forces number over 400,000 personnel...remember this does not include the military. That seems mind boggling but Russia covers 9 time zones, have 143 million citizens and is comprised of 83 republics and regions (it is a country of committees that get little done).

These forces protect the laws of the state not the rights of the individual. This feels palpable if you have ever visited the country. It also explains why there are dedicated forces set aside for crowd and riot control in larger urban centres. Author Galeotti does a fine job documenting purpose, equipment and uniform of each. Subtle in his tone is conflicting admiration for this might and a bewilderment for its existence.

Warday
Warday
Prix : CDN$ 4.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Cold War Hot, Jan. 22 2016
This review is from: Warday (Kindle Edition)
Kudos to the authors for an inventive premise especially since it was first published in 1984. The novel begins with Strieber's (fictional, of course) account of a nuclear attack on New York City in 1988. So it projects ahead though that has little bearing on readers now...I just found it interesting. Within the novel, it projects ahead further when the co-authors fictionally set out to explore the realities of America's shattered system, culture and landscape five years after the bombs hit. We travel with them through better lands and bad while being illuminated to the conflict and its aftermath through flashbacks, interviews with both important and everyday folks they happen upon, along with reports and statistics on the devastation.

I am sure if I read it in 1984, I would be amazed at the execution. However, parts of it now seem a bit laborious and forced. It must have influenced World War Z as the format is similar. Standout aspects were the fate of the USSR, the British Navy still hunting rogue Soviet subs, California's enviable situation, visiting a ghostly Manhattan (think, I Am Legend, the movie), follow-on flu epidemics, repainting of world borders, and the Japanese extracting uranium in the U.S. In fact, America is getting picked over after being kicked under by Brits, Japanese and Canucks. A chance encounter with a Canadian banker has the financier summing up the country's fate succinctly. Warday is definitely entertaining and will conjure up the Cold War. It reminded me of Resurrection Day which I found superior because of the mystery behind the bombs flying.

The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
Prix : CDN$ 9.59

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Already Dated, Jan. 22 2016
Written in 2010, The Case for Books, already seems a bit dated. That is for two reasons. The content is comprised of essays that go back much further and the big bugaboo of Google ruining books and reading has largely passed. I remember that Google debate vividly as it was in the press with frequency and it appears to have been the catalyst for this book. Many studies report that we are reading more and that books have grown 80 pages longer on average between 1997 and 2014. It appears the digital medium that begat e-readers has made works more available and democratized much of reading (while having mixed influence and impact on book publishing). I recommend this book for book lovers only or students seeking research on the topic.

Story of Philosophy
Story of Philosophy
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 8.99

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Cranium Expander, Jan. 14 2016
Be prepared for a cranium expansion if you choose to tackle Durant's tome on philosophy and philosophers. The lives and thinking of Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer and Nietzsche form the contents with two chapters devoted to European and American philosophers. Kant's supreme principal of morality suggests our happiness be put on the back burner and that we do our duty remains the most interesting to me. Kant argues that a person is good or bad depending on the motivation of their actions and not on the goodness of the consequences of those actions. It is fascinating stuff and more tangible than many other theories or examinations.

Durant writes with clarity and in rich detail so the contents of this book is to be savoured, discussed and debated. He links various movements and shows how our thinking has progressed by great minds who ponder the big ideas. Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What are our responsibilities to the world and humankind? Far from being high-level, the book had me thinking how I could apply certain tenets to my daily life. I am still working on that!

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