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On V's Christmas Gift Recommendations

Today is Black Friday, and that means the beginning of the holiday shopping bonanza. Since you probably need gift ideas for loved ones interested in military affairs, foreign policy, counter-insurgency and art, we present the On Violence Gift Recommendations:

Michael C: Recommendations for books on terrorism, Islamic thought and warfare.

The Accidental Guerrilla - This should come as no surprise if you have read my review on how much I love this book.

The Crisis of Islam - A little gem recommended by my last Battalion Commander, this book puts almost all of Islam into context. It also does a great job showing how takfiri jihadism developed in Islam; and how much of a heresy that philosophy is to their faith.

The Sling and the Stone - As I wrote when I defined contemporary warfare, the Fourth Generation of Warfare is upon us. This book defines that term superbly.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree - Thomas Friedman's first book reads a little dated, but it had more international relations and defined the forces of globalization better than his follow up, The World is Flat, in my opinion. Either book should be required reading in global affairs though.

The Art of Maneuver Warfare - The oldest and probably least familiar book on my list, I read this gem in college and found it amazingly applicable. Robert Leonhard's grasp of maneuver warfare and his ability to explain its concepts are unmatched. Not just applicable to our current fights, but to warfare in general.

The Economist - Not a book, but the best weekly reporting in news journalism.

Michael C's Christmas List (the books I haven't read but hope to get from Santa):

Where Men Win Glory, the new book by Jon Krakauer, took it on the chin from both Dexter Filkins and Andrew Exum, but I loved Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, so I am compelled to read it. Dexter Filkens does some of the best reporting on Afghanistan and The Forever War (not to be confused with the fantastic military sci-fi novel) is his take on the current conflict. Finally, One Nation Under Contract takes on a topic near and dear to the hearts of On Violence and it seems to be the most level-headed approach to wartime and government contracting to date.

Eric C: The Foreign Affairs Movies You Need to Own

Movies on foreign affairs are unfortunately few and far between--it's no ones fault, but portraying the interplay of nation-states is, well, tough. Fortunately after trolling through three lists of films on foreign affairs, I've come up with the five movies you must see about the world of international relations.

The Battle for Algiers - If our posts here, here, here and here didn't convince you, nothing will. The Battle for Algiers is the single greatest film on counter-insurgency--or political warfare.

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - One of my top three films of all time, a classic on nuclear arms, the cold war and foreign policy.

Casablanca - Seriously, one of the greatest films of all time.

Syriana - So good. So good. Please watch this film twice. If you think it is confusing, email me and I'll explain the subtext of each scene.

Lawrence of Arabia - Another classic film that has more to say on war, leadership, counter-insurgency, the Middle East and colonialism than perhaps any other work of art.

Eric C's Christmas list (the films I haven't seen but want to): The Quiet American (2002) (I also need to read the novel by Graham Greene), Charlie Wilson's War, and Waltz with Bashir (MC's seen it and loved it. Technically a war film, but I still included it.)

eleven comments

Feel free to throw in you own ideas on the comments below.

Cold Mountain for reading, Band of Brother Series for the viewing, and Modern Warfare 2 for gaming. Disclaimer: mature content in all of the above.

I haven’t seen Letters From Iwo Jima either, and I’ve been wanting to view that one for a while.

Hi guys!
Hope this comment will come through. Had great problems commenting more or less anywhere but now I’m using a different program, hope this will work after all…

Michael and Eric, you’re doing a really great job here with this blog and many a time I just wouldn’t know what to say, because I just simply see things the same way.

Re the Christmas shopping list: ordered a ton of books on combat trauma from amazan – just the right thing to get in the mood for the festive season, isn’t it?!
Anyway, “The war I always wanted” was also amongst them – just couldn’t believe the guys attitude… and bought it just to see if he really was this naive as it seemed in the beginning of the book.

See you around!

Hey Sarah Sofia,

I’m actually going to review The War I Always Wanted in a couple weeks. I think you’ll find his book definitely has some excellent scenes in it. His descriptions of battles and experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq are some of the best I’ve read.

As far as his attitude, I’m curious what you think. I didn’t think he was particularly polemical or jaded. Anyways, he ties it all in at the end I’m curious to see what you think about it after you read it. Shoot me a line.

I’m curious as well!
And especially also if and when the postal service will deliver the package…!
I drop you a line then, when I’ve read it.
meanwhile, here is something which could be suited as a guest post (just the poem at the end of the post, not the lines before that!):
Let me know what you think!
So and now we’ll gonna give it another try with the post office, in the hope that this time the books might be there! We’ve spent 300£ and so far only 2 of the items arrived… grrrr!

I just finished The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. I really enjoyed it, but Eric, I’m curious if you would consider this a memoir. I know we talked about this a little bit last night but I would like to know how you feel about it after reading it.

@ Sophia – If you’d like to drop us a guest post, we want to use material that hasn’t been published before. If you want to write some original material we’d love to check it out.

@ Will – I do need to check it out, especially since you’re the second, or third, person to recommend it.

Some differences are that Filkins is a reporter, so his dialogue may be more accurate, and he less biased. I need to check it out to get more.

@Matty P- So Modern Warfare 2 is better than the first? Oddly, we played that a lot downrange. Weird.

@Eric- I thought letters from Iwo Jima was fantastic.

@Sarah- My friend Jon recommended Achilles in Vietnam. I haven’t had time to read it but I want to.

@Will- My recommendation to Eric is that when we finish the memoirs of those involved, we move to journalist memoirs, but that won’t be til next year sometime.

Re Modern Warfare: there are of course graphical improvements and the scheme of the plot is far grander. Multiplayer is even better than it was. I will say, the story play has some great missions and one major annoyance as far as storytelling that I’ll leave you to realize. That said, the first level is… Interesting. There’s a future post there, I think.


Ghost Wars- Great writing and a superb history of the Soviet/Afghan conflict

The Bear Went Over the Mountain- Another great history of the Soviet/Afghan war focused on individual engagements at the tactical level.

Prodigal Soldiers- How do you rebuild a post-conflict military? This book shows how we did it after Vietnam.

The Places In Between- Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan three months after the Taliban fell. Shows how cultural understanding can be a force multiplier.


Fog of War- Eleven lessons of the Vietnam war, McNamara as a tragic Shakespearean figure and cool animation to boot.

In the Valley of Elah- The closing scene is uber cheesy but the rest of the film is a top notch fictionalization of a real life post-war tragedy.