R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.
As we shift from Autumn to Winter, conventional thinking might have led us to have a column about the seasonal change and the upcoming Holidays/New Year. Alternately we could have offered you an essay about the gravity of falling objects, and how with the upcoming inclement weather might lead to trips and slips, as well as falls. There are many tie-ins between accidents and war, peace, and politics—General Gavin hurt his back in a parachute drop during Operation Market Garden, General Patton died as a result of a traffic accident, etc. However, given what has been going on in the world, we are taking a different approach.
Cities fall, regimes change (aka fall), countries dissolve, and even civilizations crumble. This has been one of the constants in world history, from before the Fall of the Roman Empire to the fall from power of Saddam and Ghaddafi and Pol Pot. What has been less constant and predictable has been what happens after the fall. This has given rise to a broad and diverse set of writings by participants, partisans, politicians, and prognosticators—among others whose nomenclature does not lend itself to continued alliteration.
In the last century we have seen a spectrum of outcomes from a variety of “falls.” The fall of the House of Romanov was sharp, bloody initially, bloody during the ensuing civil war, bloody during Stalin’s consolidation of power, and yet after several generations of repression, depression, and political regression, the fall of the Soviet Union was somewhat more like slow motion, with economic dislocation and significant social stress but far less formal conflict and political bloodshed. The contrasts are interesting in and of themselves and also as the fodder for memoirs, analytical studies, cultural assessments, and a variety of predictive assessments and projections of future events within Russia, within Europe, and globally. Only time will enable us to determine which of these assessments and projections are more right than wrong, but the marketplace will vote on which ideas are more popular or believable at the time.
Another “after the fall” contrast is the post war period in Europe and Japan after the end of the Second World War and the post war period in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the defeat of the Taliban and disruption of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Clearly these outcomes were vastly different. There were periods of post war military occupation. The national political successors to the Nazi’s and the Imperial Japanese Court were significantly different and largely evolved in less than a decade after the surrenders—despite the complications of the start of the Cold War and intense geopolitical and economic rivalry between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. After the transitions, West Germany and Japan were demonstrably more democratic than before the war and these institutions “took root” and became more fully ingrained in each national culture. To the extent that this shift was one of the WWII war aims, this post war transition, not without time and pain, was successful. It may have created an expectation that subsequent conflicts could, and perhaps would, have similar culturally shifting outcomes. However, when we look at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the implementation of the new constitution and new government in Afghanistan (and the ending of its prior monarchy), we do not see a similar success in nation-building. In fact, many would argue that the process of political and military disengagement that was both manifest and manifestly successful in Europe and Japan has abjectly failed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are other modern examples that are more Near East than European, such as the fall of Mubarak, the fall of the entrenched leadership in Tunisia, and the fall of Ghaddafi. The Arab Spring sprang in different directions than many Western observers thought it might. The “after the fall” transitions are still on-going.
By now, you may be wondering where this column is going—so are we. Not every issue can be wrapped up neatly with a bow like the hoped for holiday presents. Historians may be better able to present the past in an understandable narrative than political and social scientists can predict what will happen in the near future. A century ago events at a distant part of the globe might be shrugged off with a “What does it matter,” while today we see events unfold in real time communicated images, and violence can reach our shores in hours. It behooves us all to seek to understand and also in turn to seek to be understood.
And this, at last, brings us back to Ground Zero Books, Ltd. We are not intended to be an agent of change but we are by intent purveyors of information. We have no specific perspective to promote, but we do seek to enable inquiry, analysis, and hopefully thoughtful consideration and communication. We have a large selection of works on war, peace, and politics that covers conflict essentially from when Cain slew Abel to the present. We have items on military occupation, military government, political institution building, negotiation, pacifism, pacification, leadership, and politics. Our items range from multi-volume works, memoirs, biographies, Congressional Hearings, government reports, technical assessments, propaganda, pamphlets, broadsides, monographs, and the occasional artifact.
As we move into the holiday season and into the New Year, we hope that we all can be optimistic for the future. We look forward to supplying you with items we hope you will prize or as gifts that others will prize for a long time. As always, we are happy to grant upon request a ten per cent discount for orders placed directly with us through our website, or with us by phone, letter, or e-mail. We also appreciate learning of your specifically wanted items and general interest areas. We also take to heart your comments and suggestions for future columns.
Happy holidays and Happy New Year.