Saturday, January 19, 2013

This book is AWESOME: The Limits of Glory

As the title suggests, I am working my way through James McDonough's The Limits of Glory. I still have about 100 pages to go so this is not meant in any way as a review of the book. It's likened to Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels (you should go buy that book now if you weren't lucky enough to have been given a copy in 7th grade English): it tells true historical facts of a legendary and important battle but with imagined thoughts of the generals. McDonough is an Army colonel, a West Point graduate, and Director at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. So his ideas of what these generals were thinking is probably pretty accurate. Moreover, the structure enables him to engage in an interest dialogue about war without having to refer to his own personal experiences or in any way critique US military policy. Brilliant.
The following passage stood out:
"It was his duty but he did not feel noble about it. War was a form of murder after all--mass murder. These young men--boys, many of them--would go to their deaths on his orders. That he himself might die did not diminish the suffering they would endure, did not lessen the responsibility he felt for their lives. But his duty was to command and he would see his duty through" (McDonough 104).
I particularly enjoyed the third sentence (bolded) because it makes you think about the people who have the power to declare war. What gives someone else the power to tell you what is worth sacrificing your life toward? Does one's willingness to risk his or her own life entitle him/her to demand that of others?
Basically, I'm really enjoying The Limits of Glory because instead of just being a thriller-type book, the author really makes an effort to use this famous battle to examine the implications of a serious topic and highly relevant topic (war) with which the author has much familiarity. I'm really excited to see what he does with the rest of the book.
And on a much lighter note, here is a link to the Abba song "Waterloo".

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