Friday, April 19, 2013

Heavy Reading

At Don’s behest, I want to write about the reading that my cohorts and I have to do before we go to Yale. We have to read over 850 pages by the 21st of April. We have been given a month to read these pages, but this is only the beginning of approximately 4,000 pages that we will have to read by the time we depart for Yale. We have to read such books as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and The History of the Peloponnesian War.

The Art of War was extremely interesting because of the military strategy that Sun Tzu proposes. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “One able to make the enemy come of his own accord does so by offering him some advantage.” This simple yet elegant statement says a lot about Sun Tzu’s military philosophy. He believed that the part before every battle was the most important. He has an entire chapter titled “Strengths and Weaknesses” where he does not only talk about the strength you must have in battle, but how to build and keep your strength before battle. If your army is weak before it goes into battle, then it will be weak during battle. Sun Tzu also mentions gaining strength by holding key vantage points at passes or at rivers. Another quote I like about holding key points is “When a cat is at the rat hole, ten thousand rats dare not come out.”

He warns that weakness comes if soldiers feel contempt and at ease in their camp. This will make them less prepared for battle, and preparation is vital. Sun Tzu also talks about when and where to strike. He says that in the heat of battle, finding a weak spot and pushing to attack it can make the enemy crumble. He also suggests that you strike the mind not with weapons, but with ideas. If you can convince the enemy that your force is superior even if they are not, then you have won the battle before the first man is killed.

Another drier book was The History of the Peloponnesian War. It drones on and on about how the Greeks are in a war with the Peloponnesians, then they make a peace treaty, then they are at war again. The writer describes the battles in the book using a lot of flowery language that draws away from the point he is trying to make. I read an entire page that could have been summed up in one sentence. Not to mention that the monologues that some of the characters give are so long that you forget what he is talking about. There is one obituary that a great Athenian philosopher has to give to praise the fallen soldiers and all their sacrifices for Athens. The man drones on for a whole page about why he has to give speech for the state, what will happen if he doesn’t, and who he was asked by to make the speech. Unnecessary details abound, it blows up simple sentences into mini speeches with the continual use of colons and semicolons.

Thankfully, though, I have finished The History of the Peloponnesian War. I have moved on to a 90 page report by the U.S. federal government made in 2002 about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and what it will do for the nation after it is made. It’s so interesting to read how the U.S. plans to protect our borders, our infrastructure, and our liberties from terrorists. It also describes a few counterterrorist methods, like more thoroughly searching through imports brought on ships and checking what’s inside semi-trucks that pass from Mexico to the U.S. everyday.

Well, that’s just an update on my reading that I have to do. Hopefully the Department of Homeland Security report stays interesting and hopefully they’ll include something on how to get other nations to participate in counterterrorist operations.


  1. Sorry for the reading, Liam. We weren’t the ones who selected the the reading list.

    If you had been one of our Yalies from a couple of years ago, you would have had to read Cyrus The Great. One of our Yalies--Connor Miller--writes that this is the best book ever written and he plans to read it to his children every night when they go to bed.

  2. Yes, the Greeks are a wordy people... ;) Seeing as how my ancestors are from the Peloponnesus, I'll have to read that account of the war.