The Candy Bombers (pp. 1-8, 225-548) -Andrei Cherny
About the Author: From Wikipedia…
Cherny is a Harvard gaduate with a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley School of Law, former Arizona Assistant Attorney General, White House aide, economic policy advisor, and the founder and President of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
He was the youngest White House speechwriter in American history and then went on to be a prominent policy advisor to elected officials and corporate leaders. In 2000, Cherny was the lead negotiator and chief drafter of the national Democratic Party platform. He was the author of The Next Deal: The Future of Public Life in the Information Age, one of the top-selling political books of 2001. The Next Deal examined how the economy has been transformed over the course of American history and laid out a vision for government and businesses in the twenty-first century, high-tech economy. From February 2003 to April 2004, Cherny served as a senior aide to John Kerry's Presidential campaign. In 2004, Cherny was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government.
As an Arizona criminal prosecutor, he focused on cases involving financial fraud, corporate crime, public corruption, illegal immigrant smuggling rings, and home mortgage fraud.
He is also an officer in the United States Navy Reserve.
This book tells the story of the Berlin Airlift while tying in the story of domestic US politics and Lt. Gail “Hal” Halverson’s story of dropping candy with handkerchief parachutes on the children in Berlin at the same time. The unassigned portion of the book is background information setting the stage for the assigned portion by offering biographical information about the main characters. Some of the main themes of the book include Cherny’s conclusion that Truman would not have defeated Dewey in the 1948 election if it hadn’t been for the airlift, the “transformation” of the German people to liberal democratization based on the Soviet blockade and the suffering it produced in Berlin, and the power of psychological impact of state restraint and resolve that can avoid open conflict.
This book is not really set up to argue anything, but the prevailing theme seems to be the idea that a nation resolving to use force in a positive way against a nation who uses it in a negative/punitive way can make a big difference in the world and potentially result in a victory for the “good guys.”
Cherny uses numerous primary sources, including interviews and historical records, to build the story and inter-relate the time-tables of multiple different events.
This book’s biggest strength is its entertainment value. Although he included a lot of great historical information, it is often buried in a bazillion words and therefore a story that could have been told in 50-80 pages takes 550. There also appears to be a slant toward liberal political leanings. However, it was interesting to see the author’s ability to piece together multiple separate historical events into one timeline that paints a broader picture.
This book is a good compare and contrast book for the way we conduct operations in the Middle East, suggesting that our use of force versus using the threat of force wasn’t the best idea. Further, the dimension of time is instructive since time was on our side here where we continually think time is working against us in our current day conflicts. Like the last two lessons, this book considers a great deal of domestic politics in how it interprets the events.
While I think it is a well-written book, it is popular history. Therefore, we are left to our own devices to interpret a number of things Cherny says without the context normally provided by a trained historian. However, there are a number of important themes within the book and I think it is instructive insofar as its ability to demonstrate how a strategy to avoid war can be as (or more) effective than a strategy to go to war.
This book highlights a lot of history about the post-WWII era that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Understanding the plight of the German people in Berlin, understanding the nature of politics and the military establishment in the US, understanding the way the Soviets operated…all contribute greatly to an understanding of this time in world history and add perspective to how we got where we are today.
The Berlin Airlift is significant because it shows that the US and USSR can confront each other without actual conflict.
This is a good example of how time's passing strengthened our position (not a natural concept for military thinkers/planners).