Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins by Andrew Cockburn

Author Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine, built his reputation as an expert on governmental and military affairs covering the U.S. and Soviet arms race and occasional clashes of the Cold War.  Although his latest book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, focuses on the current “drone war” in the Middle East and Africa, Cockburn shows how the current state of affairs in the U.S. military has its roots in both the decades-long conflict with the U.S.S.R. and in some cases, lessons learned (or not learned) during WWII.

Kill Chain opens in 2010 with a case of mistaken identity during a U.S. drone strike that resulted in numerous civilian deaths.   From this tragic but compelling episode, Cockburn takes the reader back to the 1940’s when U.S. bombers were striking daily against Nazi Germany in an effort to “bring the Reich to its knees.”  He shows how much of the conventional wisdom about air power at the time was gradually disproven, and then summarily ignored as the United States government became entangled by the “Military-Industrial Complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower so famously warned of in his farewell address.   (Fun fact I learned while reading this book:  In the original draft of his speech, Eisenhower had labeled the thing to be feared as the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex” but decided to remove the word “Congressional”, stating later that he was already “…taking on the military and private industry.  I couldn’t take on Congress as well.”)

As the Cold War escalated, ended, and then was replaced, (first by the War on Drugs, and then later the War on Terror) Cockburn demonstrates how the U.S. government has continuously invested more and more money on high-tech weapons (such as drones) that are often not only unwanted, but in some cases dangerously flawed.

Kill Chain is available on the New Arrivals shelf in the Library’s main lobby, or by requesting it through the Library catalog hereClick on the "Availability" link on the catalog record, then click on the yellow "Request" button. Log in using your 14-digit Library barcode number (located on your University ID), and your last name. You will then be able to select your pick-up location. The Library will notify you via email when your book has arrived for pick-up. If you need assistance with this process, please contact the Circulation Desk at 301-687-4395.

**Post written by Charles Courtney

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