Pre-Reading for War in America


"You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."
-Cormac McCarthy


A few years ago in the USA:

We are seeing a similar phenomenon today in America, where the topic of decline stirs discomfort in national leaders. In September 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed a "new American Moment" that would "lay the foundations for lasting American leadership for decades to come." A year and a half later, President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech: "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline . . . doesn't know what they're talking about." A position paper from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated flatly that he "rejects the philosophy of decline in all of its variants." And former U.S. ambassador to China and one-time GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman pronounced decline to be simply "un-American."…

And today:

A new Pax Americana is emerging on the world stage, where an assertive, confident America is reshaping the nature of the international order.  President Trump has changed the power dynamic with every major global adversary around the world, vastly strengthening America’s position, and decimating the economies and future prospects of our most vociferous global opponents, from Russia, to China, to Iran, to Venezuela, to the eviscerated remnants of ISIS.…


I sure hope they are right!  Because if they are, and the USA is just beginning a Thousand Year Reich, then I have it made, because I have pretty much mastered life under the status quo of the American Empire.    

However, back in the late 1700s, a brilliant citizen living at the height of the British Empire, Edward Gibbon, was less confident.  Gibbon wrote his spectacular history of the Roman Empire with the hope that he and his countrymen might somehow discover how to avoid the decline and fall of their own empire.  In the end, however, they could not.

Honestly, I don't think we can either.  

To that end, I have been doing some reading, specifically about the backside of the curve for Pax Americana, and I thought I would share with you my list: Pre-Reading for War in America.  I have tried to order it from the easiest reading level to most difficult, for lack of a better order.  I am sure some will argue this sequence.  Not all of the titles are great works of literature, certainly, although I count some of them among the very greatest.  I have included a bit of commentary with each, to add interest and fuel debate in the comments section.


The Course of Empire is a series of five paintings created by Thomas Cole in the years 1833–1836. It is notable in part for reflecting popular American sentiments of the times, when many saw pastoralism as the ideal phase of human civilization, fearing that empire would lead to gluttony and inevitable decay.


The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara

This book was on a previous ZH reading list of mine.  As I wrote then, it is an unforgettable illustration of war, and the things we are capable of doing to one another.


Fireforce: One Man’s War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Chris Cocks

A recent illustration of how a well trained and equipped modern army of mostly white guys can lose a war for their homes to a bunch of black "communist terrorists" armed with AKs.


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

This true story of survival under the worst of conditions is also a great lesson in what happens when the state goes full communism.


Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, Antony Beevor 

A great illustration of why we do not want to fight the Russians.


Patriots, James Wesley Rawles

A how-to guide wrapped in a fictional narrative of financial collapse in America that has become the bible for many preppers.


War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

A beautiful work of art, and mrs_horseman would never let me hear the end of it, if I failed to include it on this list.  I have great memories of when she and I each read our own copy together in bed, over the course of a very cold winter.


Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947, Thomas Goodrich

In many ways this book is a great counterpoint to War and Peace.  No beauty.  Raw.  Frightening.  Scary.  Sad.  


Secret History of the IRA: Gerry Adams And The Thirty Year War, Ed Moloney

The author does a wonderful job of describing the workings of the IRA.  As intellectually entertaining as it is educational.  


On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman  

ZH readers should recognize this book from my Revolutionary Call to Arms.  It is required reading at West Point, and should be required at every American high school.  


The Art of War, Sun Tzu

This is my least favorite book on the list.  It is a hard read.  I know it needs to be here, because it is important in understanding the Chinese view of war.    Probably best digested in small parts as a book kept on the back of the toilet.  


Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival, Max Velocity

If you have not received extensive training in security and combat operations, and you want to augment your time on the range, this is a great book.  Contact! is much easier to read than his, Tactical Manual, because it has a bit more narrative.  Definitely read this, now, if you plan to attend the upcoming ZH Fight Club in Romney


The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon

Getting through all six volumes is a major undertaking.  Prepared to be blown away by what may very well be the finest writing and scholarship you will ever experience.  It is well worth the time.


Si vis pacem, para bellum!