The First Drink of Fall

When University Press of Kansas acquisitions editor Kim Hogeland contacted Pete Dulin with a book idea, he didn’t have to consider it for long.

“It was a pretty quick ‘yes’ from me,” Dulin says with his customary straight-forward fashion. “You want me to write a book examining all the breweries, wineries and distilleries across Kansas and Missouri? No problem.”

With Expedition of Thirst; Exploring Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries Across the Heart of Kansas and Missouri, experienced Kansas City journalist Pete Dulin guides readers through a dizzying array of beverages made in America’s heartland. Expedition of Thirst maps routes that crisscross eastern Kansas and western Missouri, with stops at some 150 breweries, wineries, and distilleries along the way. Dulin, explains how and why these businesses produce beer, wine, and spirits tied to regional terroir and represent the flavors of the Midwest from the Flint Hills to the Ozarks. More than a travel guide, his book is a cultural journal exploring the people, places, and craft that make each destination distinct and noteworthy.

“This book was so much fun to write,” Dulin explains. “When I started I had no idea how many breweries and wineries were in Kansas and Missouri. It mirrors the national trend of growing craft breweries and wineries. In fact, there are now as many breweries in America now as there were before Prohibition – which has never happened before.”

Dulin’s travels for the book took him down back roads and across interstates; into tasting rooms and walking through vineyards. However, the assignment wasn’t a stretch. Dulin is the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, and Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Flatland, Feast Magazine, The Kansas City Star, Visit KC, River Front Times, The Boston Globe, Thinking Bigger, Pitch, and Kansas City Business Journal. He knows what he’s doing when talking about food and alcohol.

“I love the process of meeting small business owners who are so passionate about what they do,” Dulin says. “People that brew beer or distill whiskey or create wine are some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met.”

Dulin shares the stories of many of these brewers, winemakers, and distillers in their own words. Expedition of Thirst captures the character of the small business owners and makers and offers insight about their craft. For good measure, Dulin delves into the history, culture, and geography that have shaped these producers and their practices, from the impact of Prohibition to the early influence of immigrant winemakers and brewers, regional agriculture, and politics. As informative as it is engaging—even intoxicating—his Expedition is sure to work up readers’ thirst to travel and discover firsthand the singular regional pleasures Dulin so richly describes.

Decisive and Indecisive Military Operations in World War II

by C.J. Dick, author of “From Defeat to Victory” & “From Victory to Stalemate”

The philosopher Georg Hegel wrote that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. He undoubtedly had a point, but mostly because people so often do not make the effort to use history as a vehicle for leaning lessons. Of course, history is not usually written with a didactic purpose in mind and it is generally read it selectively for the myths it propagates or refutes. Many use it to prove their prejudices about which future courses of action to pursue, and to demonstrate that their opponents or rivals are mistaken; false analogy is perhaps the most common form of argument. I believe, however, that history can be used as a vehicle for instruction if done with care. That is why I have written my book.[I]

The genesis, and raison d’etre, of the book is to be found in army intelligence work I started doing in 1975 and later experience, which came with accumulating knowledge, advising BAOR HQs on ‘the threat’ and playing the Soviet enemy during command post exercises (CPXs). It became clear to me that, in the late seventies and early eighties, NATO and the Soviet Army were preparing for very different wars. It was evident that British and other allied generals on the central front were accustomed to accept as givens certain dangerous preconceptions, even illusions. Like most stereotypes, there was an element of truth in some of them. Others were more akin to truthiness. The more egregious of these conceptual errors, on which planning was based, included the following.

The Soviets, it was believed, placed almost total reliance on numerical superiority for victory. For this reason, no Soviet offensive could or would be mounted before mobilization and forward concentration and deployment were very far advanced. Largely for this reason, our generals mostly discounted the possibility of being surprised. The voluminous Soviet literature on the importance of surprise and how to achieve it was left unread or regarded as of purely historical interest. This was especially true of its stress on achieving victory in ‘the initial period of a war’, that is, by Soviet definition, the period of mobilization, concentration and deployment. Of course, there were other factors. There was a dangerous reliance on the certainty of intelligence providing timely warning of both the nature and scale of enemy preparations and, still more dubiously, of their raison d’etre. This error was compounded by an assumption that such warnings would immediately be acted on by NATO governments which would unanimously initiate timely counter-measures. In every CPX, supposed warning time (something actually recognized only in retrospect by historians) would be translated into adequate preparation time. There would be no question of a failure of political understanding or will to deter such as that shown by the Israeli government in the run up to the Arab attack in 1973, or the US before the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait in 1990. Quite probably, different perceptions in one or two allied governments on the central front would have acted in somewhat laggardly fashion and this would have created gaps or lightly held sections.[ii]

When the blow fell, the Warsaw Pact was routinely portrayed as attacking relatively evenly across the front, like the legendary but somewhat mythic ‘Russian steamroller’ of the Second World War. This reflected the assumption that the Soviets had an essentially attritional approach. Every exploitable axis would be used in frontal attacks by forces deeply echeloned so that the exhaustion of leading formations would not lessen the weight of the offensive or even lead to an operational pause. More cynically, this might also reflect a perceived need, both in appreciations (estimates) and on exercise, to give each central region corps a ‘fair’ share of the enemy. Certainly such simplistic teaching ignored the exhaustive Soviet analysis of the issues of force ratios and densities appropriate in various situations.

Most NATO corps were responsible for frontages that they considered uncomfortably wide. There was thus a temptation towards considering axes and obstacles where the going was difficult as being too problematic for an enemy that was obsessed by the need for tempo. Such areas were usually merely screened. This inevitably created vulnerabilities, especially if the enemy achieved partial surprise. Again, Soviet historical studies repeatedly emphasized the exploitation of unexpected axes as a method of wrong-footing their opponents.

On exercise, the Soviets were routinely portrayed as attacking prepared positions using hasty attacks mounted from the line of march. Such tactics were appropriate only on a fluid battlefield, where the situation was frequently and rapidly changing — circumstances often resulting from the attacker achieving surprise. Because NATO wanted a relatively static FEBA battle its armies mostly understood only imperfectly and did not train for the essential concept of the tactical meeting battle let alone the operational level meeting engagement.[iii] This was what the Soviet Army, by definition holding the initiative at the outset, expected to be the typical form of combat, perhaps even at the operational level if surprise were achieved and one or more allied contingents had not completed their deployment and fully occupied their FEBA positions. It devoted much training time to the meeting battle and produced a steady flow on the subject of books and articles in military journals.

Seduced by a comforting stereotype of the enemy as subject to a rigid, top-down command and control system, the allies denigrated his flexibility and asserted that his officers were generally incapable of exercising meaningful initiative. All that could be expected, of tactical commanders especially, was the mindless application of rigid tactical drills in all circumstances, however inappropriate. Furthermore, it was believed that attacks would be persevered with long after their culmination. For a defender facing superior numbers, this was a cozy piece of received wisdom that suggested his superior skill would carry the day. It was confirmed by only a very selective use of history.

Since the 1930s, a critical facet of the Red Army’s concept of the offensive was deep battle at the tactical level and deep operations at the higher level. Convincing themselves that they could win the attritional struggle for the FEBA and constrained by an arbitrary ‘no withdrawal behind line’ a very few tens of kilometers to the west, NATO exercise scenarios did not allow for any but small scale, local, tactical penetrations that were always contained. The fact that shifting the focus of combat into the rear areas of the defense was the essence of Soviet operational art seemed merely to prove to western minds a lack of realism in Soviet thinking.

The ability of Allied airpower to provide close air support at will, to compensate for Soviet numerical superiority, was largely taken for granted. So too was its ability to penetrate into the enemy’s operational depth to interdict his ‘follow-on forces’.[iv] Enemy air interdiction, complemented by special forces actions, was generally seen to be containable. It may well be true, as NATO air commanders asserted, that the alliance would have overcome superior Soviet numbers and won air superiority, over the course of time. It would probably not have been achieved in the, to the Soviets, critical initial period of the war.

The origins of these misconceptions can be traced to misinterpretations of the Russo-German war 1941-1945. As the Cold War took shape, western armies sought guidance on how to defeat Red Army offensives. They sought the advice of the vanquished about how to defeat the victor. Studies were commissioned examining tactically successful Wehrmacht battles and its generals were consulted and their memoirs read. Their common refrain was accepted, that their army was greatly superior qualitatively and doctrinally but unable to cope with the consequences of overwhelming enemy numbers and Hitler’s mistakes. Too little attention was paid to the frequent, latterly routine way in which tactically successful German formations were consumed in vast operational-level catastrophes. To give but one illustration. In the early 1980s, the Army Staff College at Camberley held up as an example to follow the XLVIII Panzer Corps’ defense of the River Chir in November-December 1942. The Staff College instructors were apparently unaware that the attacking Red Fifth Tank Army’s mission had intentionally morphed into a pinning action while Operation Little Saturn was accomplishing the destruction of Eighth Italian Army in a surprise offensive and thereby sealing the doom of even more German forces than those already encircled in Stalingrad. It was in their concepts of operational art and its execution, not in tactics or solely in numbers, that Soviet superiority lay. If the assumptions which underlie a doctrine are suspect, the doctrine must be questionable. Only objective analysis of the material available for study can lead to better conclusions.

When NATO moved from the doctrine of massive, nuclear retaliation to the notion of flexible response, its ability to fight conventionally became a crucial issue — at least when the Soviets too (and rather later) moved away from the belief that war with the West would be nuclear from the outset. Having embraced the belief that there could be at least a conventional phase in a war with the USSR, western armies continued down a conceptual cul-de-sac in their preparations to fight it. A major reason for this was the failure of its armies adequately to study and understand contemporary Soviet doctrinal writings.

To focus in on the British case, there were several reasons for this lacuna. The end of empire saw an increasing hollowing-out of the Army resulting from inflation combined with ongoing fiscal restraint and rising costs. Although the Army’s principal focus was theoretically on BAOR, from the early 1970s Northern Ireland proved a constant drain on manpower, money and intellectual effort and there were other distractions such as the Falklands war. There was little enthusiasm to provide resources for the study of Soviet military writings. It is clear, however, given the trivial financial cost of such study, that the real issue was lack of interest. The Army was comfortable with its stereotype, not least because it knew no better.

Being unfamiliar with an often very un-British approach to the conduct of battle and operations, the Army tended to squeeze Soviet concepts into the familiar molds of British ones and then point up the resulting bad fits as weaknesses. One example will make the point. The Soviet attack from the line of march was intended for meeting battles in which the enemy too was on the move or had only just transitioned to hasty defense. In British teaching and on exercise, the enemy was made to use the tactic against well-prepared defenses and suffered accordingly. Where the Soviets manifestly did things completely differently, it seemed self-evident that they must be wrong — after all, we were the ultimate in professionalism and therefore, by definition correct. The proof of this contention was plain from the great superiority shown over the Red Army in combat by the Wehrmacht. Western ideas were better.

At the root of this problem of incomprehension and consequent arrogant dismissiveness was the great hole in British (and American) military doctrine. Neither had an understanding of the concept of operational art, the conduct of war at the levels of theatre, army group and army in order to achieve the goals set by strategy. This was the bedrock of the Soviet design for victory. It was superior operational design that enabled the Red Army to eviscerate a usually tactically superior Wehrmacht. Of course, an army’s success was a product of cumulative tactical successes, but the conditions which made these possible, including surprise, the generation of required force ratios, etc were created at army and higher levels. A reverse for a division, let alone a regiment, would be a minor matter recoverable through effective action by army. Defeat of an army, at least on an important axis, could seriously impact the campaign and failure by an army group would likely be fatal to it. This thinking stressed the synergies to be found in treating the campaign as    a whole and not merely as the sum of its parts, whereas AFCENT for a long time viewed the campaign to come as a series of largely separate corps battles with higher levels retaining only limited resources to influence the outcome.

The British and US militaries became conscious of operational art only in the 1980s, half a century after the Soviet establishment of the General Staff Academy to develop, refine and teach the subject.[v] That they did so was due primarily to the work of the Soviet Studies Research Centre in Camberley and its American counterpart, the Soviet Army Studies Office in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The former was created in 1973 and developed thanks to the vision of a handful of far-sighted generals, especially Anthony Farrar-Hockley, Michael Gow and Nigel Bagnall. Baqgnall was particularly important as he reached the highest positions and by the mid-eighties was driving through radical reform to make the Army both maneuver-minded and capable and thus ready to take on the Soviets at their own game. The US Army noted the British developments and accepted their rationale. It created SASO, about a decade after SSRC was founded, to replicate and build on the work being done at Camberley.[vi] It was not long before the American military was going faster and further down the road to transformation.

As I reflected on our flawed understanding of the Soviet way in war, I went back over military history that I had read and came to see it in a new light. I realized how consistently, throughout history, so many armies have theorized about and trained for the wrong war and consequently achieved at best expensive and often indecisive victories or suffered catastrophic defeat. This was not always the result of a lack of professionalism. It was often the result of cultivating the wrong sort of professionalism for the war with which an army ended up. This is arguably what the British (and the Americans) have seen most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan where false analogies contributed to sub-optimal approaches: the British saw their successes in Malaya and Northern Ireland as providing models for counter-insurgencies in the 2000s, though the historical background, contemporary conditions and socio-political make up of Iraq and Afghanistan bore little resemblance to those of Malaya or Ulster.

There was a lesson for the future lurking here, and it is that lesson that I have tried to bring out in my book. I concentrate on war at the operational level with enough on the strategic and the tactical to provide context. I have compared and contrasted British, American and Soviet understanding of and approach to operations in the summer of 1944, making it clear that, like all armies, they were prisoners of their own experience. I analyze the course of operations over a limited period only, roughly July-September, because this was a period when linear-attritional, indecisive battle was succeeded by operational maneuver to potentially decisive effect. Strategically decisive results were indeed achieved in the East. They were not achieved in the West. I explain the main military reasons why the Soviets scored a more complete victory than the Allies, in doing so highlighting several factors not often dwelt on by western historians (who in any case mostly prefer narrative to analytical studies and who have mostly shied clear of comparisons). Some of the more important of these are briefly addressed below.

Contrary to popular myth, Soviet-German force ratios were not overwhelming; indeed, they were not generally more advantageous than Allied-German and were not, therefore, an explanation of greater Soviet success. Compare two contemporaneous operations in the West and in the East: the US Cobra and the British Bluecoat, starting respectively on 25 and 30 July, and the Red Army’s Belorussian and L’vov-Sandomir which commenced on 22 June and 13 July. The following table compares the force ratios on the first day of each. The two Soviet offensives both yielded great dividends, especially the larger Belorussian, quickly translating tactical into operational and then strategic success. The Americans, having (temporarily) abandoned their linear-attritional approach and aided by German logistic failure as a result of air interdiction, achieved operational success with unexpectedly far-reaching consequences. The British, having by contrast made no provision for deep exploitation, made only a limited impact.

Operation Operational Level Force Ratio (a)
Personnel Armour (a) Artillery
Cobra 3.8:1 4.7:1 3.0:1
Bluecoat 4.4:1 10.5:1 3.6:1
Belorussian 2.5:1 2.9:1 3.0:1
L’vov-Sandomir 1.7:1 2.2:1 2.5:1

Notes (a) Armour excludes light tanks; artillery includes guns and mortars over 80mm

The Soviets recognized that operational surprise to wrong-foot the Germans was all but a prerequisite for decisive success, not least because it enabled the concentration of superior forces, and they consistently put great efforts into achieving it. By 1944, deception and concealment routinely caused the Germans to miss over 50% of the Red Army’s offensive concentration: consequently they underestimated the build-up by 25-40%. This in turn meant that Soviet superiority estimated at an acceptable 2-3:1 was in fact up to 5:1 operationally and 8-10:1 tactically.[vii] After their brilliant achievement at the very start of the Normandy campaign, the Anglo-Americans were more intermittent in their efforts to achieve surprise and very often did not enjoy the benefits of this force multiplier.

Surprise was to become even more important, indeed a sine qua non, in modern conditions where deep and rapid penetration of the defense in a conventional phase would be vital to neutralize NATO tactical nuclear weapons. This would be accomplished by driving deep and fast, disrupting alliance command and control and logistics and by reducing the number of targets offered by a combination of shock, speed and intermingling of forces.

The Red Army consistently pursued the destruction of the enemy as the principal aim and therefore focus of operations. The capture and holding of ground would be an important by-product of the ruination of key enemy formations but not the primary mission. From its early days the Red Army’s obsession was to generate operational maneuver to decisive effect in order to escape from the indecisive, attritional battles that had characterized the period 1915-17 (especially in the west): twenty years of rich doctrinal debate culminated in Field Regulations, 1936 which systematized revolutionary concepts for war-fighting. The enemy’s cohesion was to be disrupted on a large scale, depriving him of his ability to react effectively to a rapidly changing situation by breaking up his organization and control of large formations. Destruction of large groupings, the paramount aim of a strategic offensive operation, would follow from the disruption of his plans, timetables and ability to organize over wide areas and in depth, forcing him into a generally reactive posture. In other words, Soviet operational art was not seen as merely a matter of teeing up and fighting battles. The Soviets did not move in order to fight. They fought usually in order to move, in order to generate and then maintain operational maneuver to force the enemy into a hopeless situation where his annihilation could be rapidly accomplished.

By the end of the summer 1944 campaign, the Red Army had eviscerated three German army groups. When the Allies invaded France in June 1944, the mission given to the supreme commander was to focus on the destruction of the German armed forces. By the end of August, the principal army group in the West had been very severely mauled. Thereafter however, the aim was somewhat lost to sight in practice as various territorial objectives offered prizes attractive to British and American commanders.[viii] Forces and increasingly scarce logistic resources were dissipated in various directions until their offensives ran out of steam short of strategically decisive objectives and with the German defense reviving.

The Soviets recognized the critical importance to the destruction of key enemy groupings of tempo and deep battle and, even more, deep operations penetrating without pauses 250-500 kilometers beyond the tactical zone of defense. Of course, before this became possible they had to break through usually well-developed, skillfully and tenaciously defended positions. They focused their efforts and demanded heavy sacrifices to achieve these complementary goals. Once the conditions were created for converting tactical into operational success, exploitation echelons were committed to drive deep, to hollow out the defense from within by disrupting German command and control and logistic support and seizing depth defense lines before they could be defended. By way of compensation for losses to the first echelon during the penetration of the tactical zone, the Soviets found that exploitation forces had an easier ride: when the rate of advance rose from 4-10 to 20-50 km per day, daily personnel losses fell by 30% and tank losses by 65% (and ammunition and fuel consumption fell dramatically as well).[ix] For the Red Army, the breakthrough battle was the most difficult and expensive phase of an operation and the exploitation was the payoff.

By contrast, shifting the center of gravity of combat into the enemy’s depth had no place in either British or US doctrine. Neither army created formations for this purpose at the operational level or worked hard or consistently to achieve it. While both accepted the desirability of achieving momentum, both saw casualty limitation as more important than unbalancing the enemy. Gnawing through the defense with the aid of overwhelming firepower was usually considered preferable to trading lives for time and tempo. Caution was generally seen as a virtue to be prized in Allied generals and George S Patton’s boldness troubled his superiors.

At the critical theatre and army group levels, the Allies were hampered by the weaknesses endemic in coalition war. American and British doctrinal differences vitiated mutual understanding and cooperation. So too did competition for resources.

Above all, differences over strategy, exacerbated by rivalries between commanders, meant that unity existed at only a superficial level. Not only were operations not always linked to produce synergies, they were frequently the product of rival British and US operational concepts. The result was dispersal of effort and a failure to keep the Germans under such sustained pressure on critical axes that their defeated army group collapsed completely under the strain. These problems were exacerbated by the fact that the British and American logistic systems were separate and both were designed to support linear-attritional rather than maneuver operations. While there was some cooperation between them, there was failure to ensure that clear alliance goals would determine priorities in meeting future logistic needs as the campaign progressed. There was dissipation of effort similar to that of combat forces which meant that ultimately, the Allies were unable to bring to bear their full combat power to complete the destruction of the enemy. The Soviets were not plagued by the need to accommodate allies and their totalitarian system kept rivalries between generals within tight bounds. In campaign design and in the setting up and conduct of each operation, best military judgment guided decisions and determined the need for switching of effort and logistic support between axes.


I hope I have said enough to demonstrate that my study of the theory and practice of war 70 years ago is not merely an academic, historical exercise. There are, as I bring out in the final chapter, enduring lessons to be learned about such issues as surprise and working within an alliance context. But the most important of these is the central importance of evolving correct doctrine for the war that an army will actually face rather than the one it would like. From doctrine flows equipment design and procurement, organization and training — how we propose to fight. Thus, for instance, the French went into battle in 1940 with utterly inappropriate doctrine and were speedily and comprehensively smashed. British and American doctrines were flawed and in 1944 this lengthened the struggle and raised the price of victory. Soviet doctrine at the start of their war was fundamentally sound but with lacunae. With modifications, it enabled them to survive horrendous initial defeats and then come back strongly to win convincing victories. Which armies today are producing doctrinal concepts that will provide the least wrong answers to the problems posed by the latest, greatest revolution in military affairs? Which have the mental and psychological flexibility best to adapt to the unanticipated mutations that war will undergo? The questioning study of history will not tell them what to think, but it will help them about to how to think. It might even help them to prove Hegel wrong.

C. J. Dick served in the British Army. After, he worked as a senior lecturer at the Soviet Studies Research Centre, which he directed from 1989–2004. From 2005–2006, he was a senior fellow at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

[i] CJ Dick, Decisive and Indecisive Military Operations, vol 1 From Victory to Stalemate, the Western Front Summer 1944 and vol 2 From Defeat to Victory, the Eastern Front Summer 1944 (University Press of Kansas, 2016)

[ii] There was much resistance to the idea that the Soviets could achieve surprise in the face of modern reconnaissance and surveillance means (despite the fact they did just that when invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979). The issue is dealt with, amongst other places, in C.J. Dick Catching NATO Unaware. International Defence Review 19, 1 (1986) and more recently in C.J.Dick, From Defeat to Victory, pp 270-272.

[iii]  When General Sir Rupert Smith took 1 (BR) Armoured Division to the Gulf in January 1991, he told me that he anticipated fighting meeting battles and urgently needed to teach and train the division for this unfamiliar form of combat. I sent him material on the Soviet concept and the following article: C.J. Dick, Soviet Battle Drills, International Defence Review 18, No.5 (1985)

[iv] There was a tendency to underestimate the effectiveness of Soviet air defence as a whole because of the relative lack of sophistication of many individual systems. This was to downplay the effect of sheer numbers. Although each weapon may have a low kill probability individually, quantity will tell; within a week, the RAF lost five of the 45 Tornados it took to the 1991 Gulf War to old weaponry manned by Iraqis.

[v] The relationship between the levels of war was succinctly described by AA Svechin as early as the 1920s: “Tactics makes the steps from which operational art leaps; strategy points out the path”.

[vi]  Israeli Brigadier Shimon Naveh traced the development of British and American operational thinking in his seminal study In Pursuit of Military Excellence — the Evolution of Operational Theory (Frank Cass, 1997), 273-274. In it he wrote: “Comprising talented scholars like C Donnelly, P Vigor, CJ Dick and John Erickson, the British research group, concentrated in the Centre for Soviet Studies [sic] exercised great impact on the perception of Soviet operational theory held by the American school of reformers. Being far ahead of their American colleagues in the study of Soviet deep operations, the British analysts managed to illuminate essential issues such as echeloning, operational breakthrough, simultaneous deep strike, momentum, deception and surprise. Moreover, aware of the conditions characterizing the Central European theatre, they managed to translate the abstract principles of Deep Operations theory into operational scenarios understood by the military planner. The organizational form and patterns of work that were developed by the British group later served their American counterparts as a model for both the establishment of the Soviet Army Study Office (SASO) in Fort Leavenworth, and the training of a talented generation of analysts who successfully researched Soviet operational theory.”

[vii] D.M. Glantz, Soviet Military Deception (Frank Cass, 1989), 565.

[viii] Interestingly, the most important geographical objective for the longer term viability of the whole campaign, the Scheldt estuary, was neglected by the high command until too late to achieve its timely capture. Consequently, this vital port was opened 85 days after its capture (facilities intact). The issue is thoroughly explored in my first volume.

[ix] A.I. Radzievskiy, Tankoviy Udar (Tank Shock) (Voyenizdat, 1977), 228.

A Book Revisited: Vietnam; The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975 by John Prados

In April of 2009, the University Press of Kansas released the most comprehensive single-volume book about the Vietnam war. Author John Prados is an established freelance writer who excels in writing political and military history that appeals to both scholars and general readers. The Henry Adams Prize winner made extensive use of documentary sources and interviews, as well as his own experiences in the early 1970s.

The Vietnam war continues to be the focus of intense controversy. While most people—liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, historians, pundits, and citizens alike—agree that the United States did not win the war, a vocal minority argue the opposite or debate why victory never came, attributing the quagmire to everything from domestic politics to the press. The military never lost a battle, how then did it not win the war?

“A remarkable achievement [and] one of the most significant books published on Vietnam in the last decade.” – Journal of Military History

Stepping back from this overheated fray, bestselling author Prados takes a fresh look at both the war and the debates about it to produce a much-needed and long-overdue reassessment of one of our nation’s most tragic episodes. Drawing upon several decades of research-including recently declassified documents, newly available presidential tapes, and a wide range of Vietnamese and other international sources—Prados’s magisterial account weaves together multiple perspectives across an epic-sized canvas where domestic politics, ideologies, nations, and militaries all collide.

“An awe-inspiring achievement in epic form.” – Lloyd Gardner, author of Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam

Prados patiently pieces back together the events and moments, from the end of World War II until our dispiriting departure from Vietnam in 1975, that reveal a war that now appears to have been truly unwinnable—due to opportunities lost, missed, ignored, or refused. He shows how—from the Truman through the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations—American leaders consistently ignored or misunderstood the realities in Southeast Asia and passed up every opportunity to avoid war in the first place or avoid becoming ever more mired in it after it began. Highlighting especially Ike’s seminal and long-lasting influence on our Vietnam policy, Prados demonstrates how and why our range of choices narrowed with each passing year, while our decision-making continued to be distorted by Cold War politics and fundamental misperceptions about the culture, psychology, goals, and abilities of both our enemies and our allies in Vietnam.

By turns engaging narrative history, compelling analytic treatise, and moving personal account, Prados’s magnum opus challenges previous authors and should rightfully take its place as the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate one-volume account of a war that—judging by the frequent analogies to the current war in Iraq—has not yet really ended for any of us.

“If you only had to have one book on the Vietnam War, this is the one.”  – The Veteran

A Book Revisited: When The Nazis Came to Skokie

In 1999 we published When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for the Speech We Hate, the third of six books written for UPK by Philippa Strum. The book was an immediate success and a standout in our Landmark Law Cases & American Society series. Recent events have thrust the book back into the spotlight and onto our list of best sellers.

When the Nazis Came to Skokie dramatically tells the story of a neo-Nazi group’s attempt in 1977 to hold a parade in Skokie, Illinois and analyzes its implications for the First Amendment.

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor—or was directly related to a survivor—of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977. Philippa Strum’s dramatic retelling of the events in Skokie (and in the courts) shows why the case ignited such enormous controversy and challenged our understanding of and commitment to First Amendment values.

The debate was clear-cut: American Nazis claimed the right of free speech while their Jewish “targets” claimed the right to live without intimidation. The town, arguing that the march would assault the sensibilities of its citizens and spark violence, managed to win a court injunction against the marchers. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union took the case and successfully defended the Nazis’ right to free speech.

Skokie had all the elements of a difficult case: a clash of absolutes, prior restraint of speech, and heated public sentiment. In recreating it, Strum presents a detailed account and analysis of the legal proceedings as well as finely delineated portraits of the protagonists: Frank Collin, National Socialist Party of America leader and the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor; Skokie community leader Sol Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor who planned a counterdemonstration against the Nazis; Skokie mayor Albert Smith, who wanted only to protect his townspeople; and ACLU attorney David Goldberger, caught in the ironic position of being a Jew defending the rights of Nazis against fellow Jews. While the ACLU did win the case, it was a costly victory-30,000 of its members left the organization. And in the end, ironically, the Nazis never did march in Skokie.

Forcefully argued, Strum’s book shows that freedom of speech must be defended even when the beneficiaries of that defense are far from admirable individuals. It raises both constitutional and moral issues critical to our understanding of free speech and carries important lessons for current controversies over hate speech on college campuses, inviting readers to think more carefully about what the First Amendment really means.

When an academic reviewer offered his evaluation of the manuscript he didn’t hold back.

“I started reading, and it is so well done that I just kept reading,” the reviewer wrote. “In sum, it is a gem of a book, and ought to be a best-seller as well as a prize-winner for the Press and the series.”

Why Vietnam was Unwinnable; An Essay

By Kevin Boylan, author of Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971. This piece was originally published in the New York Times.

While I was working for the Pentagon in the early 2000s, wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were routinely bused down from Walter Reed Hospital, in Northwest Washington, D.C., to receive their medals. It was a heart-rending experience to see these young men and women, many of them missing eyes, arms, legs or even multiple limbs, being wheeled through the building.

As a trained military historian who had specialized in the Vietnam War, I couldn’t help thinking about that earlier conflict as I watched them slowly making their way down the Pentagon’s corridors. And I wasn’t the only one. Many prominent figures in the government, military and media were drawing parallels with the Vietnam War, and a surprising number of them suggested that its lessons offered hope for victory in Iraq.

Those who made this argument contended that the United States had been on the verge of winning in Vietnam, but threw its chance for victory away because of negative press and a resulting failure of political will at home. This “lost victory” thesis originated with the Nixon administration and its supporters back in the 1970s, but gained considerable traction in the 1980s and ’90s after it was taken up by a group of influential revisionist historians, including Mark Moyar and Lewis S. Sorley III.

Taking their cue from the Vietnam revisionists, Iraq war optimists argued that just as Americans thought we were losing in Vietnam when in fact we were winning, so too were we winning in Iraq despite apparent evidence to the contrary. The problem, the optimists argued, was that — just as during the Vietnam War — naysaying pundits and politicians were not merely undermining popular support for the war, but giving our enemies hope that they could win by waiting for the American people to lose their will to continue the fight.

This kind of talk alarmed me because it discouraged a frank reassessment of our failing strategy in Iraq, which was producing that weekly procession of maimed veterans. And I also knew that the historical premises on which it was based were deeply flawed. America did not experience a “lost victory” in Vietnam; in fact, victory was likely out of reach from the beginning.

There is a broad consensus among professional historians that the Vietnam War was effectively unwinnable. Even the revisionists admit their minority status, though some claim that it’s because of a deep-seated liberal bias within the academic history profession. But doubts about the war’s winnability are hardly limited to the halls of academe. One can readily find them in the published works of official Army historians like Dr. Jeffrey J. Clarke, whose book “Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965-1973” highlights the irrevocable problems that frustrated American policy and strategy in South Vietnam. Pessimism also pervades “Vietnam Declassified: The C.I.A. and Counterinsurgency,” a declassified volume of the agency’s secret official history penned by Thomas L. Ahern Jr., a career C.I.A. operations officer who served extensively in Indochina during the war.

In contrast, the revisionist case rests largely on the assertion that our defeat in Vietnam was essentially psychological, and that victory would therefore have been possible if only our political leadership had sustained popular support for the war. But although psychological factors and popular support were crucial, it was Vietnamese, rather than American, attitudes that were decisive. In the United States, popular support for fighting Communism in South Vietnam started strong and then declined as the war dragged on. In South Vietnam itself, however, popular support for the war was always halfhearted, and a large segment (and in some regions, a majority) of the population favored the Communists.

The corrupt, undemocratic and faction-riven South Vietnamese government — both under President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was assassinated in a 1963 coup, and under the military cliques that followed him — proved incapable of providing its people and armed forces a cause worth fighting for. Unfortunately for the United States and the future happiness of the South Vietnamese people, the Communists were more successful: By whipping up anti-foreign nationalist sentiment against the “American imperialists” and promising to reform the corrupt socio-economic system that kept most of the country’s citizens trapped in perpetual poverty, they persuaded millions to fight and die for them.

This asymmetry was the insurmountable stumbling block on the road to victory in Vietnam. Defeating the Communist guerrillas would have been an easy matter if the South Vietnamese people had refused to hide them in their midst. Instead, American and South Vietnamese could only grope after the elusive enemy and were rarely able to fight him except on his own terms.

And even as American soldiers began pouring into the country in 1965, there were already enough South Vietnamese troops on hand that they should have been able to defend it on their own. After all, the South Vietnamese forces outnumbered the Communists, were far better supplied, had vastly superior firepower and enjoyed a considerable advantage in mobility thanks to transport planes and helicopters. But their Achilles’ heel was their weak will to fight — and this shortcoming was never overcome.

Some years after the war ended, Lt. Gen. Arthur S. Collins, who had commanded all American troops in the central region of South Vietnam from February 1970 to January 1971, told an Army historian: “I didn’t think there was any way that South Vietnam could survive, no matter what we did for them. What put the final nail in the coffin, from my point of view, was when I learned from questioning [South Vietnamese] general officers that almost without exception their sons were in school in France, Switzerland, or the U.S. If they weren’t going to fight for South Vietnam, who was?”

Despite its ally’s fundamental weakness, the United States might possibly still have won, of course, had it been willing to fully mobilize its own national power. But that would have required raising taxes, calling up the Reserves and other sacrifices that President Lyndon Johnson shrank from asking the American people to make.

In a recent New York Times article, Mr. Moyar, the revisionist historian, decried “the absence of presidential cheerleading” and took Johnson to task for failing to create a “war psychology” that would have made Vietnam into a patriotic crusade (and presumably silenced the war’s critics). Mr. Moyar argued, “The public’s turn against the war was not inevitable; it was, rather, the result of a failure by policy makers to explain and persuade Americans to support it.”

But Johnson was the most astute politician to sit in the White House during the 20th century, and he knew that he faced a paradox. As long as the war in Vietnam didn’t demand too much of them and they believed that victory was just around the corner, most Americans would support it. But if Johnson admitted publicly that South Vietnam could not survive without a full commitment by the United States, he knew that support would crumble.

Such a move would reveal the war’s unpleasant truths: that South Vietnam’s government was an autocratic kleptocracy, that its military was reluctant to fight, that much of its population willingly supported the Communists, that North Vietnam was matching our escalation step by step, that Johnson had committed the country to war without having a plan to win it and that the Pentagon had no real idea when it would be won. And Johnson knew full well that if the public turned against the war, it would reject his leadership and cherished Great Society domestic agenda as well.

So like other presidents before and after him, Johnson tried to conceal the bleak realities of Vietnam from the American people and deliberately misled them about the war’s likely duration and cost. Just about the last thing he wanted was to engender a wartime psychology — much less call for full mobilization. The Communists didn’t need American journalists and antiwar protesters to reveal that public enthusiasm for the war was fragile. Johnson’s refusal to raise taxes or call up the Reserves had made that obvious from the outset — just as our failure to impose new taxes or enact a military draft since 9/11 signals our enemies that America’s will to fight is weak.

Although the United States undoubtedly had the means to prevail in Vietnam, the war was unwinnable at the level of commitment and sacrifice that our nation was willing to sustain. As the renowned historian George Herring put it, the war could not “have been ‘won’ in any meaningful sense at a moral or material cost most Americans deemed acceptable.”

Perhaps the key lesson of Vietnam is that if the reasons for going to war are not compelling enough for our leaders to demand that all Americans make sacrifices in pursuit of victory, then perhaps we should not go to war at all. Sacrifice should not be demanded solely of those who risk life and limb for their country in combat theaters overseas.

Kevin Boylan is a military historian at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the author of “Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971.” He worked for the Department of Defense and Army staff’s War Plans Division from 1995 to 2005.

Charlottesville Curriculum, via the University Press of Kansas

Acquisitions editors Kim Hogeland and Joyce Harrison have created a preliminary reading list of UPK titles related to the past week’s events in Charlottesville, race relations and civil rights.

Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 by Kelly J. Baker

This engrossing exposé looks closely at the Klan’s definition of Protestantism, its belief in a strong relationship between church and state, its notions of masculinity and femininity, and its views on Jews and African Americans. The book also examines in detail the Klan’s infamous 1924 anti-Catholic riot at Notre Dame University and draws alarming parallels between the Klan’s message of the 1920s and current posturing by some Tea Party members and their sympathizers.


Republicans and Race: The GOP’s Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945-1974 by  Timothy N. Thurber

But since 1964, no Republican presidential candidate has attracted more than 15 percent of the black electorate, and few GOP candidates for other offices have fared much better. No segment of the American electorate is more reliably Democratic than African Americans. The GOP, meanwhile, remains nearly an all-white party. In this path-breaking book, historian Timothy Thurber illuminates the deep roots of this gulf by exploring the contentious, and sometimes surprising, relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party from the end of World War II through Richard Nixons presidency. The GOP, he shows, shaped the modern civil rights movement, but the struggle for racial equality also transformed the GOP.


Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation by John R. Neff

Neff contends that the significance of the Civil War dead has been largely overlooked and that the literature on the war has so far failed to note how commemorations of the dead provide a means for both expressing lingering animosities and discouraging reconciliation. Commemoration—from private mourning to the often extravagant public remembrances exemplified in cemeteries, monuments, and Memorial Day observances—provided Americans the quintessential forum for engaging the wars meaning.


The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy by William C. Davis

Davis also illustrates why the cause of the war—a subject of long-standing controversy—boils down to the single issue of slavery; why Southerners, ninety percent of whom didn’t own slaves, were willing to join in the battle to defend their homeland; how the personalities, tactics, and styles of the armies in the turbulent West differed greatly from those in the East; what real or perceived turning points influenced Southern decision making; and how mythology and misinterpretations have been perpetuated through biography, history, literature, and film. Revealing the Confederacy’s myths for what they really are, Davis nevertheless illustrates how much those myths inform our understanding of the Civil War and its place in Southern and American culture.


Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery by Earl M. Maltz

The slave Dred Scott claimed that his residence in a free state transformed him into a free man. His lawsuit took many twists and turns before making its way to the Supreme Court in 1856. But when the Court ruled against him, the ruling sent shock waves through the nation and helped lead to civil war.


Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America by Williamjames Hull Hoffer

Hoffer’s compelling reconstruction illuminates the controversies and impact of Plessy v. Ferguson for a new generation of students and other interested readers. It also pays tribute to a group of little known heroes from the Deep South who failed to hold back the tide of racial segregation but nevertheless laid the groundwork for a less divided America.


Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia by Peter Wallenstein

In 1958 Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, two young lovers from Caroline County, Virginia, got married. Soon they were hauled out of their bedroom in the middle of the night and taken to jail. Their crime? Loving was white, Jeter was not, and in Virginia—as in twenty-three other states then—interracial marriage was illegal. Their experience reflected that of countless couples across America since colonial times. And in challenging the laws against their marriage, the Lovings closed the book on that very long chapter in the nation’s history. Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry tells the story of this couple and the case that forever changed the law of race and marriage in America.


Murder in Mississippi: United States v. Price and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Howard Ball

Howard Ball reminds us just how problematic the prosecution of the murderers—all members of the KKK—actually was. When the State of Mississippi failed to indict them, the U.S. tried to prosecute the case in federal district court. The judge there, however, ruled that the federal government had no jurisdiction and so dismissed the case. When the U.S. appealed, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court decision, claiming that federal authorities did indeed have the power to police civil rights violations in any state. United States v. Price (1967) thus produced a landmark decision that signaled a seismic shift in American legal history and race relations, for it meant that local authorities could no longer shield racist lawbreakers.

President Trump, Consider the Risks of Pardoning Yourself

The Trump administration’s unorthodox governing and use of social media has created a wealth of interest in many of our backlist titles. Jeffery Crouch’s 2009 release The Presidential Pardon Power has become one of our most popular books. Crouch was asked to write for The Hill. This is what he wrote:


The media is abuzz with speculation about President Trump’s clemency powers after the story broke that his lawyers are mulling options for himself and his family.

The president himself on Saturday seemed to confirm the report, asserting that he has “complete power” to pardon relatives, aides and possibly himself.

How does the clemency power work? Who could he pardon? Can he pardon himself? Should he?

The fact is, Trump can pardon any federal crime, ranging from moon-shining to treason. He may grant clemency as soon as an offense is committed: no need to wait for the offender to be sentenced, tried, or even charged with a crime. Overall, the courts have protected a broad, wide-ranging clemency power for the chief executive. Still, he may not pardon a future federal crime, excuse a state offense, or exercise clemency “in cases of impeachment,” as noted in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

The remedy for an unpopular clemency decision comes from Congress. Members can hold hearings, subpoena documents, call witnesses, and otherwise raise the profile of the clemency decision.

They can also delay funding for presidential priorities, drag their feet on his policy priorities, and refuse to confirm presidential nominees. In more extreme cases, they can pursue impeaching the president, or even try to amend the Constitution.

How likely it is Congress will take these actions, with Republicans in control, is another matter completely.

Who could he pardon?

It’s clear that President Trump could pardon anyone caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation – today, if he wanted to do so. He could grant as many or as few pardons as he wished, would not have to specify the crimes they are being pardoned for, and could make the language of the pardon as broad or as narrow as he wanted. Whether the political context would support any of these moves is unclear, but there’s little question that Trump has the legal power to act.

Can he pardon himself?

Most tantalizing, could Trump pardon himself? Few presidents have actually considered a self-pardon, and none has actually tried. If Trump is the first to go through with it, he should know that legal scholars are divided on the question.

On one hand, it is clear that the sparse constitutional language on clemency says nothing about a self-pardon, and the courts have never directly confronted the question. To legal scholars Robert Nida and Rebecca L. Spiro, writing in 1999, the president should be able to self-pardon, largely because the Constitution does not say he is forbidden from doing so.

On the other hand, law professor Brian C. Kalt argued in 1996 that a self-pardon is not allowed by the Constitution. He writes, “a presidential self-pardon … would only be plunder to take home after a career-ending disgrace …” and that the president’s self-pardon would continue to benefit him even after leaving office, and even if he is impeached. Moreover, a self-pardon would be inconsistent with our separation of powers system.

Both sides offer compelling arguments. However, I lean in the direction of Nida and Spiro. The courts have usually given the president a lot of leeway on clemency questions. It’s likely that a self-pardon would end up in front of the Supreme Court. From there, they could find a self-pardon appropriate or not. In fact, it’s entirely possible that they could rule that a self-pardon is permissible, and point out that the remedy for abuse of clemency is what the framers of the Constitution intended for any abuse of power: impeachment.

Should he?

Whether or not Trump could pardon himself is a different question from whether he should, of course. Considerations related to impeachment play a role here, too, even if it may seem a remote possibility while the House of Representatives and the Senate remain under Republican control.

In 1915, the Supreme Court decided in Burdick v. United States that a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt and acceptance of a confession of it.” If President Trump indeed granted himself a self-pardon, it could be seen as a confession that he needed one. Though the pardon would wipe away his legal problems, he would be creating new political complications. The standard for impeachment, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” is not criminal, it’s political, so an acknowledgment of guilt made via a self-pardon could actually become a starting point for impeachment.

Thus, while legally speaking, President Trump has a green light to pardon others, he should carefully consider whether a self-pardon, for all of its obvious benefits, is really worth the risk.

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Jeffrey Crouch, faculty, washington semester


Jeffrey Crouch is assistant professor of American government at American University and author of the book The Presidential Pardon Power. He is the reviews and book editor for AU’s Congress & the Presidency journal.

Why I Hate “The Wizard of Oz”

by Robert Rebein

Dodge City, Kansas native Robert Rebein recently released Headlights on the Prairie; Essays on Home. Below is the opening essay, Why I Hate The Wizard of Oz…

Imagine having the land of your birth, a place about which you have complex and wildly ambivalent feelings, reduced to a black-and-white cartoon. Someone asks you where you’re from, and when you reply “Kansas,” this well-meaning stranger grins and blurts out, “Where’s Toto? Oh, that’s right. We’re not in Kansas anymore!”

You get this in New York, Indiana, California. Even as far afield as Paris, you get it. “Kansoz! Ah, oui. Les munchkins!”

How to say you hail from a place uninhabited by tinmen and sweet little girls in pinafores, a demanding, starkly beautiful place with twenty-mile views, sunflowers as big as your head, and night skies so clear that you might believe yourself to have been born among stars? Where the wind blows without cease and flies bite like vampires and the stink of the slaughterhouse overhangs everything like a toxic cloud. Where it’s not unusual for a kid like you to receive his first shotgun at ten, drive a wheat truck at twelve, and solo in a Beechcraft

Debonair at fourteen or fifteen.

“Does that sound like Oz?” you want to ask.

But you don’t. Why bother?

When the tornado came and swept you away, as you knew all along it would, it was not to drop you into some Technicolor fantasy, but rather into the same world of Applebee’s and Best Buy the jokesters inhabit. That’s the context here; that’s the reason you refuse to join Dorothy’s fan club.


Rebein is a professor of English and chair of the Department of English at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis. His books include Dragging Wyatt Earp: A Personal History of Dodge City and Hicks, Tribes, and Dirty Realists: American Fiction after Postmodernism. Rebein, along with various UPK staff members, will be at the Dodge City Days next Friday-Sunday.

Protecting Pesticides & Profits: What are the EPA’s priorities?

by Robin O’Sullivan, author of American Organic

What is the raison d’être of the Environmental Protection Agency? It’s not a trick question… at least, it shouldn’t be. The EPA’s mission is to “protect human health and the environment.” One of the agency’s primary purposes is ensuring that “national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.”[1] Those words ought to be unequivocal. Like America’s rivers, however, they’ve become murky.

Richard Nixon entered the White House when ecological awareness—like the Cuyahoga River—was aflame. Nixon acknowledged that “restoring nature to its natural state” was “a common cause of all the people of this country,” so he signed the enabling act that consolidated several federal agencies into the EPA.[2] Formally established on December 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was largely nonpartisan. Nobody wanted to assail clean air or clean water. The rationale for creating the EPA wasn’t radical. A bevy of pesticides were unregulated. Pollution was unchecked. Lead poisoning was a national scourge. The Santa Barbara oil spill galvanized eco-activists, and Earth Day—a festival born from fretfulness—was first celebrated. Evidence was incontrovertible: humans, plants, animals, soil, waterways, and the sky were imperiled. Former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus, in an interview with the Public Integrity Project, said that environmental protection had enormous bipartisan support in the US during the 1970s.[3] Ahh, the halcyon days when science was scientific, facts were factual, and the Lorax wasn’t alone in speaking for the trees.

Here’s the predicament now. Under the Obama administration in 2016, the EPA decided to ban chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide found in dangerously high levels in drinking water. Organophosphates are banned in households but permitted for agricultural use. Researchers from universities, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service have revealed a litany of detrimental effects from chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides.[4] After extensive research directed by EPA chief Gina McCarthy, the EPA itself deemed chlorpyrifos to be unsafe to farmworkers, children, and any person coming into contact with the contaminated water. Then—rejecting its own decision—the EPA, under the Trump administration, did an about-face. New EPA chief Scott Pruitt claimed that the studies by his own agency were flawed and said that chlorpyrifos would not be banned. This reversal took place after Pruitt met privately with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris.[5] Dow Chemical manufactures chlorpyrifos. American farms use 6 to 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos on edible crops each year; meanwhile, studies have linked the chemical to autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental problems in children.[6] Dow Chemical has extensive power in Washington. The mega-corporation spent over $13 million on lobbying efforts in 2016 and also wrote a $1 million-dollar check for Trump’s inaugural party.

Sure, science is not immutable. It changes when new evidence arises. However, it does not flip upside down immediately after ethically questionable cloistered meetings. Is the EPA confused about its own priorities? This could be a coincidence; but, if you were on the agency’s website in July 2017, reading its mission statement, you were invited to view the EPA’s priorities. However, when you clicked that hyperlink, you were directed to a page that said: “Page Not Found.”[7] Perplexing, yes…and vexing.

What’s worse than an EPA that’s not protecting human or environmental health? Well, no EPA at all…and that’s a sobering possibility. A recent report from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, an international network of academics and non-profit employees, concluded—based on confidential interviews with present and former EPA employees—that Pruitt’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the EPA entirely.[8] The Sierra Club has reported on the current president’s hostility to the EPA, asserting that “the Trump administration’s decision to not renew the appointments of 38 out of 49 advisers on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) is a clear attempt to break up the independence and institutional memory of the agency.”[9]

What will change Scott Pruitt’s mind next? A burning river? Doubtful. A silent spring? Not likely. The American people? Perhaps. To get involved with EPA regulations, you can visit: You might want to remind the EPA what its priorities are.

Dothan Campus head shots

Robin O’Sullivan, Ph.D., teaches U.S. history, environmental history, and cultural history at Troy University in Alabama. She is the author of American Organic: A Cultural History of Farming, Gardening, Shopping, and Eating (2015).

[1] United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Our Mission.” Accessed July 1, 2017
[2] Kovarik, Bill. “A green Nixon doesn’t wash.”  Accessed July 1, 2017
[3] Kovarik, Bill. “Environment used to be bipartisan.”  Accessed July 1, 2017
[4] Nosowitz, Dan. “Dow Chemical Asks Trump’s EPA To Disregard Government Studies That Indicate Its Pesticide is Dangerous.” Accessed July 5, 2017
[5]  Nosowitz, Dan. “EPA Chief Met With Dow’s CEO Before Deciding Not to Ban Dow’s Dangerous Pesticide.” Accessed July 1, 2017.
[6] Lerner, Sharon. “Poison Fruit: Dow Chemical Wants Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD.”  Accessed July 5, 2017
[7] Accessed July 1, 2017
[8]  Environmental Data & Governance Initiative. “The EPA Under Siege,”  Accessed July 5, 2017.
[9] Smith, Heather. “Trump Administration is the Greatest Threat the EPA Has Ever Faced.” Accessed July 5, 2017.

Introducing New Acquisition Editor David Congdon

UPK’s David Congdon has one major goal when acquiring books for the press.

“I want to help further the intellectual conversation,” he says. “I’m excited to start working with authors and helping them through the process of publishing their work.”

Congdon is the new acquisition editor at the press, focusing on political science and law titles. He comes to Kansas after 5 years at InterVarsity Press.

“I’m excited to be here,” Congdon says. “I have a lot of respect for the work that the press has done and look forward to adding to the legacy while working to increase works by minorities and women.”

Joyce Harrison, UPK Editor-in-Chief, says Congdon stood out among candidates.

“David impressed the search committee with the level of his acquisitions experience, and with his energy and enthusiasm,” Harrison says. “It was clear to us that he was someone who would hit the ground running, and that’s what we needed. David has a passion for scholarly publishing, and he’s articulate, intelligent, and confident. Most of our authors and prospective authors in political science and law are academics, and we know that they’ll appreciate David’s appreciation for what they do. We were especially pleased with David’s eagerness to bring new ideas and voices to our publishing program.”

Congdon was raised in Portland, Oregon and earned his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois. He jokes that his choice of college was a bit predetermined.

“I’m a 6th generation Wheaton alum,” he laughs. “My family traces back to the founding of the school.”

After Wheaton, Congdon earned his Masters and Ph. D from Princeton Theological Seminary before entering the publishing world.

In addition to being an experienced editor, Congdon is an accomplished author. He has published three books, co-edited another and has four works under contract.

David and his wife, Amy, have a son and daughter.