This year featured a number of worthwhile books produced by non-governmental publishers. Continuing my past year end tradition of recommending books I found illuminating and inspirational, I now present a list of works I found helpful during this past presidential election year. Numerous works of varying perspectives and quality document contemporary and historical presidential elections. I particularly enjoyed Donald Ratcliffe’s account of the 1824 election whose aftermath has some unique similarities to this year’s election and Karl Rove’s account of William McKinley’s 1896 election victory.
Gaining enhanced understanding of intelligence operations from U.S. and Australian perspectives also enriched this past year’s reading. The third volume of the authorized history of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO) The Secret Cold War covering this agency’s operations from 1975-1989 by John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley shows how Canberra’s internal security agency had to confront a variety of challenges and opportunities. David Priess’ The President’s Book of Secrets : The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents from Kennedy to Obama documents how these Presidents used the CIA’s President’s Daily Brief and the interactions they had with various CIA Directors and analysts preparing this document. It will be interesting to see how incoming President-elect Trump uses this resource and interacts with intelligence community personnel. Former CIA and NSA Director Mike Hayden’s Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror describes the often complex and tense relationship between policymakers and intelligence community professionals over how far to go in interrogating terrorist suspects.
Besides the aforementioned work on ASIO, my interest in Australian history and politics was stimulated by reading various volumes of Oxford University Press’ The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War including The War at Home by John Connor, Peter Stanley, and Peter Yule and the second volume of eminent Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey’s The Story of Australia’s People: The Rise and Rise of a New Australia.
Insights were derived from Sebastian Gorka’s Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War which contains excellent analysis of fighting Islamist terror and should be readily consulted by the Trump Administration, Robert G. Kaufman’s Dangerous Doctrine: How Obama’s Grand Strategy Weakened America, (take a look at John Kerry’s pathetic speech today on the U.S. abstention from a horrendously anti-Israeli UN Security Council resolution for further documentation), John Bew’s Castlereagh: A Life which is an exhaustive biography of the tragic early 19th century British Foreign Secretary, this same writer’s Realpolitik: A History, and the titanic Empire & Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke detailing the immense political career and intellectual accomplishments of a great 18th century British parliamentarian.
We can be grateful that the long dark night of Barack Obama’s presidency is coming to an end and that America has been given a chance to restore its values, fiscal prosperity and solvency, and international credibility and security in the unlikely personage of Donald Trump. It is said that God works in mysterious ways and this year’s election is an example of that. It behooves us as conservatives to work diligently to impart our vision of society and the world to all we interact with. May our reading help positively influence our roles in society as exemplars of salt and light in a world still besotted with multiple forms of darkness.