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Power Cuts

Edward Luttwak: Brownouts, 7 June 2001

... The United States could produce energy far in excess of its needs, yet President Bush promotes his energy policy with dramatic urgency. The Bush White House opposes any government interventions in the economy, yet a ‘national energy policy’ – by definition – flatly contradicts all its free market principles. This paradox is easily explained: the United States is now unable to exploit its vast potential for energy production because of an entanglement of legal obstacles, some created and defended by private recourse to the courts, some legislated by Congress, some imposed by the regulations of past Administrations ...

The Road to Paraguay

Edward Luttwak, 31 July 1997

... Our highly unreliable map of Bolivia puts the distance from Trinidad to Santa Cruz de la Sierra at roughly 500 km, none of it paved. But after driving through floods and deep mud all the way from the mountains through the Beni lowlands to Trinidad, the hard-packed earth of the road to Santa Cruz was an easy ride. My son, Joseph, his college friend, Benjamin, and I had become used to mere tracks, the accumulated residue of all previous transits modified by the effects of tropical downpours, but now we were driving on what was literally a highway, built up over the swampy plain with upcast from drainage channels dug on either side ...

Limitless Empire

Edward Luttwak: Very Un-Mongol, 19 March 2020

Great State: China and the World 
by Timothy Brook.
Profile, 464 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 1 78125 828 6
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... Now​ that the long-term confrontation between China and an assortment of countries – Australia, Japan, the US, Vietnam and other less committed fellow travellers (including the UK) – is well underway, interest in Chinese doings and undoings in the past as well as the present has further increased. Demand evokes supply, and Timothy Brook has supplied his Great State, in which his solid Sinological scholarship is complemented by a very effective use of maps (as well as the world’s first globe, from 1492, which shows China as Cathaja and Japan as Cipangu, with Spain and Africa on the far side of the oceanic blue because America was still absent), to illustrate his uncontroversial depiction of China as entangled in world affairs since early antiquity, but also his unconventional view of the true origins of today’s Chinese state ...

Desolation Studies

Edward Luttwak, 12 September 1991

The Lessons of History 
by Michael Howard.
Oxford, 217 pp., £17.50, March 1991, 0 19 821581 9
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... I still recall my acute disappointment with Michael Howard’s The Franco-Prussian War, published some thirty years ago. The subject was exciting – what with the desperate German infantry assaults at Gravelotte and the dramatic unveiling of the ultra-secret mitrailleuse – and the book was thick enough to promise much good fun to any schoolboy eager to read of battles with a threepenny bag of crisps at his side ...

Who won the Falklands War?

Edward Luttwak, 23 April 1992

One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander 
by Admiral Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson.
HarperCollins, 359 pp., £18, January 1992, 0 00 215723 3
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... If Galtieri’s junta had prepared for war in 1982, even to the minimal extent of equipping Argentinian fighter-bombers properly, Mrs Thatcher’s Enterprise of the Falklands would almost certainly have failed, thereby ensuring that Argentina would still today be ruled by a triumphalist military élite, inept mismanagers of a decaying economy, impotent spectators of the country’s social disintegration, and of course both cruel and corrupt ...

Not Uniquely Incompetent

Edward Luttwak: Mussolini’s Unrealism, 21 May 2020

Mussolini’s War: Fascist Italy from Triumph to Collapse, 1935-43 
by John Gooch.
Allen Lane, 576 pp., £30, May, 978 0 241 18570 4
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... Scuba diving​ was pioneered in Italy and so was the combat frogman and all his equipment, including hand-placed limpet mines and the explosive motor boats and manned torpedoes that the Japanese would copy as suicide weapons – the originals allowed the operators to save themselves, if they were lucky. With a tiny fraction of the Italian navy’s resources, between 1941 and 1943 Italy’s sea commandos destroyed two British battleships, wrecked a heavy cruiser and two destroyers as well as 18 supply ships and tankers ...

Cold War Postscript

Edward Luttwak, 28 November 1996

... The Liberal Democratic Party’s unexpected victory in last month’s general elections in Japan, after a soporific campaign conducted in the face of complete electoral indifference, gives Europe something to think about – the Italians in particular, for whom the Japanese analogy points up the grim possibility of a Christian Democrat (DC) revival, with its fake piety (and authentic bossism ...

Goethe in China

Edward Luttwak, 3 June 2021

... Goethe’s​ best-known books are quite portable: both parts of Faust, Italian Journey (which points travellers in the right direction, Sicily), The Sorrows of Young Werther (with which the most disparate readers identify all too easily) and, for those of us who can declaim it in German, the sinister, compelling Erlkönig. But Goethe complete is immense: the ‘collected works’ in twelve volumes contain the prose and poetry, but the scientific, autobiographical, historical and other non-fiction, poetical, prose and dramatic writings (with Faust listed separately as schrank or closet drama, to be read rather than performed) fill 143 volumes in a current German edition ...


Edward Luttwak, 19 November 1992

The Culture of Contentment 
by J.K. Galbraith.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 195 pp., £14.95, April 1992, 1 85619 147 8
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... The extrovert author of numerous books, including the highly enjoyable Affluent Society and Great Crash of 1929, longtime Harvard professor (now emeritus), once New Delhi’s greatest celebrity (since Edwina) as Kennedy’s Ambassador to India, witty excoriator of the scholarly pretences of his fellow economists and of all manner of other balderdash, John Kenneth Galbraith’s only reticence hides a skilfully disguised but intense puritanism ...


Edward Luttwak: Darpa, 1 December 2016

The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of Darpa, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency 
by Annie Jacobsen.
Little, Brown, 560 pp., £12.99, September 2015, 978 0 316 34947 5
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... from the viewpoint of York’s erstwhile mentors in the nuclear weapons business, among them Edward Teller, because they indicated the nefarious purpose of negotiating the prohibition of nuclear tests with Khrushchev – which was exactly Eisenhower’s aim. By the summer of 1958, Johnson and York were ready to take a much broader look at possible ...

A Damned Nice Thing

Edward Luttwak: Britain v. Napoleon, 18 December 2014

Britain against Napoleon: The Organisation of Victory, 1793-1815 
by Roger Knight.
Penguin, 720 pp., £10.99, June 2014, 978 1 84614 177 5
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... and did not need Napoleon, but Europe did, and Britain took him away. In other words, for Jozef Luttwak of Milano, formerly of Arad, Transylvania, as for many others on the Continent (and not only the French), all the wars of Napoleon, all his victories, counted for little in evaluating the man and his deeds. What counted was the progressive moderniser, the ...
... It is now conventional wisdom that mafyia extortion and official corruption of every sort are inflicting much damage on the Russian economy. In a widely cited estimate, crooked officials and plain gangsters are said to have sent as much as $100 billion into their foreign bank accounts since 1990, depriving the Russian economy of much more hard currency than the sum total of post-1990 Western aid ...

Odysseus’ Bow

Edward Luttwak: Ancient combat, 17 November 2005

Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity 
by J.E. Lendon.
Yale, 468 pp., £18.95, June 2005, 0 300 10663 7
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... The extraordinarily long, extraordinarily bloody world wars of the 20th century were fought very largely by unwilling conscripts, and that too was extraordinary, as was the consequence that many came home as worn-out veterans less attractive to women than slick, stay-at-home spivs. The two wars that still loom so large in Euro-American collective memory therefore obscure the twin verities that, in the words of the military historian Martin van Creveld, ‘men love war and women love warriors ...


Edward Luttwak: Just across the Water, 24 April 1997

... My son Joseph, his college room-mate Benjamin and I had come to the lowlands of the Beni in Bolivia to see the animal life. But the rains had caused plenty of problems for our 4x4 on the journey from the edge of the Andes towards Trinidad, the capital of the Beni. We had been marooned in flood water and beeen forced to negotiate a tow from a pair of surly cocaine-handlers at a remote estancia, but we had also acquired a local travelling companion and saviour, Oscar, who was with us now, as we took to the road again in our jeep ...

The Honoured Society

Edward Luttwak, 10 October 2013

Mafia Republic: Italy’s Criminal Curse: Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ’Ndrangheta from 1946 to the Present 
by John Dickie.
Sceptre, 524 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 1 4447 2640 4
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... I was infuriated by the title before I started the book. The problem is not with ‘republic’, though ‘oligarchies’ would be more accurate, but with ‘mafia’: an ugly word used only by ignorant continentali. As a child in Palermo, living in the via Villareale, a few steps from the stylish Piazza Politeama, twenty minutes by car from the splendid beach of Mondello (my father had a car, few did), I knew exactly who the continentali were: the non-Sicilians of the mainland whose inability to understand our ways was incurable, as exemplified by their belief that the members of the honoured society, l’onorata società, were mere gangsters and protection racketeers, as if the lawyer N ...

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