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Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line
Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line
by Michael Szonyi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.24
45 used & new from $5.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "Low Politics" of Jinmen-- Engrossing book, May 23, 2012
Mao Zedong's decision to shell Jinmen (Quemoy) in 1954 and again in 1958 has inspired a wealth of literature analyzing the Taiwan Strait Crises through the prism of high politics, leadership elites, and great power relations. In Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Frontline, Michael Szonyi, a Ming-Qing social historian , breaks with this tradition by writing a history instead focused on the social and cultural aspects of the crises that made Jinmen the frontline of the Cold War in Asia.

Drawing upon oral history interviews and Jinmen archival documents, Szonyi narrates in generous detail how the local people of Jinmen -villagers, farmers, militiamen, and their families-- were affected by artillery wars between the Communists and Nationalists, and more widely, by the Cold War tensions between China, the United States, and Moscow. By doing so, Szonyi moves away from an international history approach focused on Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, and Nikita Khrushchev and adopts a social history approach more focused on the everyday men, women, and children of Jinmen. In brief, Cold War Island strives to capture the "low politics" of Jinmen during the "Cold War", which Szonyi defines as beginning during the Battle of Guningtou in 1949 and ending during the demilitarization of Jinmen in the early 1990s.

Szonyi explores "four inter-related phenomena" in his stimulating study on Cold War Jinmen: militarization, geopoliticization, modernization, and memory . Employing Cynthia Enloe's loose definition of `militarization' -that is, "the step-by-step process by which something becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria"-- Szonyi chronicles how everything in Jinmen in short time became mobilized or subordinated to meet the needs and interests of the ROC military.

The militarization of Jinmen began in the years following the Japanese surrender and intensified especially in the days leading up to the Battle of Guningtou. KMT soldiers, for example, extorted civilians from their belongings-- things like chopsticks and bowls were commonly stolen items. KMT soldiers also forcibly put men, women, and children to work, building up Jinmen's military defenses along the beaches with materials from torn down houses (such use of civilian labor for military support would later become routinized) . The militarization of Jinmen also meant the local people had to respect curfews and blackouts, the killing of rats and collection of their tails, and the rules of household registration. Farmers were forced to learn new farming techniques to sell food to soldiers, and women constantly had to live under the threat of being raped by KMT troops. In part because of this militarization and militia-build-up of Jinmen, the Nationalists were able to defeat the Communists in the Battle of Guningtou in 1949. The surprise victory would only catalyze the ROC leadership to further mobilize civilians to support the KMT military and their goals, in the hopes of one day retaking the mainland from the Communists.

Though Jinmen would continue to function as "a military base for the imminent counter-attack to recover the mainland" , in the early 1950s, the island also became an important political and propaganda symbol. In an effort to score a propaganda coup against the Communist political and economic system, the ROC government set up a quasi-democratic War Zone Administration (WZA) system, which held democratic village elections up to the mid-1950s and enabled local residents to lead their village in the spirit of national economic development . This civilian government existed almost exclusively to "demonstrate the contrast between the ROC and the...system of the mainland" . The Nationalist government furthermore "justified the WZA by explaining that it formed part of the plan for China's political development envisioned by Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People".

But, as Szonyi documents, the WZA had only nominal and minimal powers over local decisions, with the first and last words resting on KMT military officials. "National development", Szonyi writes, "[was] taking place under the shadow of a military threat that was local" . Over time, the relationship between the army and civilians became blurred. The militarization of Jinmen had reached such great heights that during its peak in the 1980s, every civilian became a potential combatant and every enclave became a potential combat zone . Residents who refused to cooperate with Jinmen's policies of "militarized modernity" were subjected to intimidation and repression, sometimes by militiamen who were forcibly drawn from their own local communities . Some residents were kidnapped, beaten, or even killed for allegedly harboring ties with the Communists.

Szonyi generally concludes that Jinmen's military importance, in the narrow sense, declined after the 1958 Crisis. After 1958, Jinmen would not again suffer from massive artillery attacks from the mainland, except for a few small skirmishes. The leaders in Taiwan, China, Russia, and even the United States believed Jinmen was of no strategic or geopolitical importance. The PRC was not willing to risk US involvement by launching an invasion of Jinmen and the US had neutralized the Taiwan Strait, meaning Jinmen could not and would not launch a counter-attack on the mainland . Indeed, between October 1958 and December 1979, military conflict on the frontline was relatively subdued, save every odd numbered day when the Communists would fire several hundred rounds of "propaganda shells" into Jinmen. These shells would "explode in mid-air, scattering propaganda leaflets" . The military danger in Jinmen had largely eroded by the end of 1958.

Jinmen's militarization, in a broad sense, however, manifested itself up to the early 1990s as an aggressive political struggle between the PRC and ROC. The policies on Jinmen Island -economic, political, military, and otherwise-- were aimed at "demonstrating the superiority of the sovereign government of Jinmen over its sworn enemy and alternative [the Communist mainland]" . The ROC government engaged Jinmen's citizens in mass propaganda and cultural campaigns, some not unlike those on the Chinese mainland. The most notable campaigns were the Never Forget Our Time in Ju movement, which sought to "heighten the patriotism of the citizenry and strengthen their anti-Communist consciousness", and the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement, which sought to paint Chiang and the KMT as the defenders of the Chinese culture, and by extension, the Chinese nation (this movement occurred concomitantly with the Cultural Revolution in China).

Yet, even while the Communist threat of attack subsided in the strait and Jinmen lost its geopolitical import, Szonyi notes that the combat capabilities, discipline, and independence of the Jinmen militia began to grow appreciably . The militia shifted its role from simply providing support to the KMT army to carrying out its own operations against the Communist mainland. "Jinmen's villages were no longer civilian population centers to be protected", Szonyi writes, "but military installations in their own right" . Szonyi believes the militia by the late 1960s had become a sort of "national and international symbol of ROC anti-Communism" . Highly militarized propaganda campaigns -which spoke of the militiamen as heroic resisters of the Communist threat-- sought to further juxtapose the political differences between the PRC and ROC. These campaigns also shored up support for an increasingly unpopular and irrelevant KMT government, which had no interest in integrating Jinmen into the global capitalist markets.

The militia's importance had evolved to something largely political that the KMT could exploit for propaganda: by supporting an "indigenous" militia force that drew from Jinmen's own civilian population, the KMT could paint Jinmen as an island bravely resisting Communist aggression. This was not only of high propaganda value for the Nationalists (for domestic and international consumption), but it also prevented the island from being reduced to a military installation, wherein a Communist attack could more easily be legitimized as mere military action .

Michael Szonyi's book is primarily a study of the social and cultural influence of the Cold War on the local people and politics of Jinmen, and to a lesser degree, on the KMT soldiers deployed there. Szonyi's goal is not to divorce the international and the local, but to show that that local stories and histories are indeed embedded in international affairs . While Szonyi takes a micro view of Jinmen society, the author links his study to macro global frameworks, and shows how Jinmen can serve as a cautionary tale for societies around the world. Jinmen, according to Szonyi, demonstrates that militarization can occur for reasons that have "little to do with military threat or military ambition" . And oftentimes, emergency can be used to justify militarization, which can breed authoritarianism and repression. Szonyi concludes his book by writing:

"In genuine or claimed democracies emergency is always the justification for militarization, and the aporia of emergency, its self-representation as necessity, and its ambiguous position between law and absence of law, is what enables militarization to extend itself into so many domains of life and then to normalize its extension. "

Szonyi warns that militarization in different settings and times can produce similar policies and social outcomes, regardless of the rationale or ideologies underpinning that militarization. The book is not so much a book on Jinmen, and the author states this in the beginning, but more of a commentary on the dangers of militarization.


It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership
It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership
by Colin Powell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.91
304 used & new from $0.01

16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!, May 23, 2012
Colin Powell is one of America's most wise, capable, and decent statesmen! This book is a great addition to his already impressive inventory of writings!


Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security
Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security
by Thomas Fingar
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.53
38 used & new from $14.42

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, January 17, 2012
Dr. Fingar's book paints a broad but trenchant picture of how the Intelligence Community (IC) works and its roles and responsibilities in the American national security enterprise. The author's insights and stories -gained from years of experience as a senior analyst at the State Department, and most recently as DNIC- make this book a highly engrossing read.

This should be required reading for all seasoned intelligence analysts and senior policymakers in Washington, but I would also strongly recommend it to curious students interested in the intelligence field.


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