Book Reviews

The book is centered around the death of a first class female cadet who collapses at a full dress parade for the newly-arrived superintendent. Why? Was it heatstroke? In the course of the investigation, the author develops the principal characters. Some we like, some we don't. The dead cadet's company commander is Jacey Slaight, whose father is the superintendent. Her father was a rebel in his cadet days, but like the author, has matured and finds himself having to defend the Academy in a difficult situation, against a senator who would like to close the academies and use the funds saved more advantageously for his constituents. In the senate hearing General Slaight gives the best defense of the academies this reviewer has read, and completely discredits the motives of his adversary. And today when all the academies are under fire for apparently being outmoded and too expensive, this scenario is regrettably quite believable. The Commandant of Cadets represents a type of individual whom we hope does not exist in the military. His unlimited ambition is not hampered by scruples, and his loyalty is to himself. A distasteful facet of the book is that he has turned the Honor Committee into a goon squad and nearly succeeds in furthering his own interests. The author makes this sound plausible.

Truscott keeps his readers on the edge of their chairs and has not done a disservice to his alma mater. He is a talented writer and this is his best book to date. The services must ensure that what he describes cannot happen.

The Falklands Sting: Reagan, Thatcher and Argentina's Bomb

Richard C. Thornton. Washington: Brassey's, 1998. 291 pp. Notes. Bib. Index. $26.95 ($24.25).

Reviewed by Warwick Boulton

This is an excellent book on a fascinating subject: the diplomacy of the Falklands Conflict in 1982. Professor Thornton offers a lucid and accessible account, which examines the evolving foreign policy positions and diplomatic maneuvers of Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Part one looks analytically at the political and strategic interests of the major players in this drama, and part two presents an unfolding chronological narrative of the subsequent crisis. The book would be of great interest to the general reader and also to the student of history or international relations, offering well-referenced and detailed material for courses in contemporary history, crisis management, diplomacy, and foreign policy analysis.

The book's thesis, to which the title alludes, is that the war was the product of a U.S. "sting," a "subtle and indirect" policy of entrapment of the Argentine government, which lured Argentina into a war they would lose. This would strengthen the position of the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and hopefully displace the Argentine junta with a civilian government that would end Argentina's nuclear weapons program. The difficulty with this thesis is that the author offers no authoritative sources for his pivotal claims about U.S. policy. Furthermore, with the exception of the short sections dealing with the supposed "sting," much of the rest of the book is spent describing "the play of the contingent and unforeseen"—those intractable and unexpected aspects of international politics that are so difficult to manage, interpret, or predict. The notion of a "sting" hardly captures the tone and content of much of this discussion.

A final difficulty with the book's thesis is that it argues that U.S. policy accepted some rather questionable assumptions: that a war would strengthen Prime Minister Thatcher, lead to the fall of the junta, and bring an end to Argentina's nascent nuclear program. As to the first assumption, recent history has taught us that modern war is a great political gamble, rather like Russian roulette. Indeed, in other parts of the book the author acknowledges the factors of uncertainty. For the British, this was a war at the margin of capability: fought at a distance of 8,000 miles with winter fast approaching; by a task force weakened by defense cuts; and in a political context of several years of negotiations over the transfer of sovereignty of the islands—hardly promising conditions for a British victory! As for the assumed Argentine outcome—the replacement of the Galtieri regime with a civilian anti-nuclear regime—there was no a priori reason this outcome could be expected any more than several alternatives, such as a new junta or a civilian populist regime that would restore Argentine pride by means of its nuclear status.

One aspect of the Falklands affair that is explained particularly well is the relationship between the bizarre antics of Davidoff, the South Georgia scrap metal merchant, and the invasion of the Falkland Islands. It is revealed that this was a plot left in place by the previous junta leader, Viola, to discredit his successor, Galtieri, and prevent an invasion of the islands. Ironically, "Viola's time bomb" precipitated the war, as the Argentine military rushed to carry out landings on the Falklands before the expected arrival of a British nuclear submarine, which would have immediately rendered such operations unsafe.

The Davidoff affair is just one of several conflicts between factions and bureaucracies that the book examines in detail: Galtieri vs. Viola, Thatcher vs. Pym, and Reagan vs. Haig. We are allowed to observe the evolving policy debates in all three countries, and the author is careful to point out both the domestic and international implications of the conflicting policy positions.

In like manner, we are given almost a whole chapter on the sinking of the Belgrano . The book spells out at length the effect of the sinking on the Peruvian peace plan and Mrs. Thatcher's political position, but only mentions in passing that this military engagement sent the Argentine fleet—including their aircraft carrier—back to port for the rest of the war. This was a great achievement for Admiral Woodward, whose "plan was, through attrition, to gradually reduce, if not eliminate, Argentine air superiority to facilitate a landing on the islands." The sinking of the Belgrano certainly contributed to this strategic objective, although it still provokes questions in a conflict in which diplomacy seemed often to be the extension of war by other means.

Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927-1961

James T. Fisher. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 1998. 349 pp. Photos. Notes. Bib. Index. $16.95 ($15.25).

Reviewed by Captain Arthur Smith, Medical Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve

The central figure of this interesting biography may best be described as a tragic hero. Tom Dooley represented the curious nexus between CIA political and psychological warfare operations in southeast Asia during the 1950s and early 1960s, and the aspirations of American Catholicism for a secular hero to replace the "fallen star" of the militant anti-Communist, Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Tom Dooley was a Navy hospital corpsman in World War II. He was commissioned as a Navy physician after repeating his final year in medical school. Effective self-promotion, gross exaggeration, and fabrication of details of his exploits characterized his Navy assignment to implement the CIA-conceived evacuation of Catholic refugees from Haiphong to a new state—South Vietnam. These acts earned him the highest possible Vietnamese award to a foreigner granted by President Ngo Dinh Diem. Strangely, the award was selected for Dooley and the citation surreptitiously articulated by Edward Lansdale, the CIA's mysterious master of political intrigue in southeast Asia.

But Dooley was forced out of the Navy following a probe into his promiscuous homosexuality. No doubt because of his charisma, his unique abilities in self-promotion, and his obsession with publicity, Dooley subsequently surfaced as the head of a civilian humanitarian effort dubbed Operation Laos, rendering primary medical care in the northern Laotian jungles. Clearly riding the crest of the CIA's propaganda activities, Dooley's patently open access to publishers willing to disseminate his writing on "selfless" messianic non-governmental humanitarianism made him the sweetheart of the Vietnam lobby in the United States, with its unique assemblage of mixed-ethnic liberals and more militant Catholic anti-Communists.

In 1957 his patrons at CIA, together with their Madison Avenue minions and the complicity of the Laotian Junior Chamber of Commerce, created a more geographically diverse organization dedicated to medical assistance (MEDICO), using Dooley's gift for attracting goods, services, and cash. Within Laos, Dooley's humanitarian activities existed side by side with political intrigue: a CIA operated airline carried MEDICO medical supplies into northern Laos, returning with opium from Kuomintang war lords, facilitating CIA financial support for Hmong tribes people employed to counter Pathet Lao insurgents.

Dooley subsequently developed a malignant melanoma, ascribing it to a fall in the jungle (medically doubtful) and implied that he had "offered up his own body to the contagions that plagued his adopted land, which threatened to spread to the free world." Never a stranger to publicity, Dooley's disfiguring cancer surgery was allowed to be televised and broadcast nationally. At the age of 34, however, he succumbed to the ravages of his widespread malignancy.

Dooley's image as a non-sectarian, non-missionary, but nevertheless Catholic humanitarian, generated early adulation by such prominent Americans as Joseph Kennedy and Francis Cardinal Spellman. His rise to international prominence as a humanitarian, preaching spiritual renewal through service to the poor, also appealed to Catholic youth at a time when the Church seemed to be losing its battle for the souls of young people to a consumerist mass culture. Although the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, refused to occupy the same speakers' platform with Dooley because of Dooley's homosexuality, and despite a denial of canonization by the church, a large segment of American Catholics sympathized with his "modern humanitarianism" and viewed him as an icon of devotional Catholicism.

Dooley ultimately was lauded by the liberal Protestant establishment, the avowed enemy of the sectarian cultural politics that it ascribed to McCarthyism and American Catholicism. He thus offered aspiring Catholic politicians, such as John F. Kennedy, as opportunity to redirect the visceral isolationism of their religious subculture beyond crude anticommunism into the light of enlightened mainstream thought.

While Dooley's celebrity status was manufactured and designed by CIA stalwarts to serve a distinctly secular vision of American internationalism, he provided—in the end—a bridge between Joseph McCarthy and John Kennedy, to the great benefit of the latter. Dooley made it possible for Kennedy to be viewed by non-Catholics as worthy of succeeding Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Prophetically, as Dooley's body was being flown to St. Louis for funeral rites, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as 35th President of the United States.

 

 
 

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