29 May 2016

Wargame-Review: "Objective: Kiev" by Frank Chadwick

This review is an edited version of an earlier review I wrote for BoardGameGeek.

'Objective: Kiev' is a two player entry-level operational wargame originally published by Victory Point Games and re-released as an insert to C3i magazine #26.
This review is based on the C3i version.

The game depicts the Heeresgruppe Süd's advance on Kiev as part of the Barbarossa Campaign, with the opposing force of course being the Red Army.

Contents include a map of the area around Kiev (including outskirts of Poland and Romania), 40 counters, a rules fold-out, and a play aid with a turn track and terrain chart. Five of the overall six pages of the rules contain an extensive introduction, historical notes and of course the rules themselves, while the sixth page covers credits and an overview of the included counters. Other vital information, like the game's CRT and sequence of play, are printed on the map. The game comes with no die, you need to provide a six-sided one yourself.

Keep in mind that the C3i edition has a few but severe printing/editing errors, which you can (and should!) look up before play.

Thanks to the low number of chits, setup is rather quick and while partially restrictive for historical reasons (mandatory starting positions), still allows for some strategic placement of the remaining units.

Clear and concise language mediates the core concepts of what is essentially a beginner's cosim. The colour-coded rules pamphlet helps distinguish rules text from examples and clarifications and the all capital, coloured headlines help in further lightening up the dense three-column layout.

Key concepts of hex and counter wargames like CRT, ZOC/EZOC, MP, Stacking, Terrain, and NATO symbols are explained in a refreshingly easy-to-grasp yet concise fashion and does away with sententious minutiae. It is here, where one can see immediate value for the fledgling wargamer.

Historical chrome comes in the fashion of a Special Movement phase, which is basically a second Movement Phase with some restrictions and special rules applied. The Red Army Infantry may make a full move along rails in their Special Movement Phase, while German mechanised units (Panzerkorps) may make another full movement in theirs.

The CRT is odds based, pitting Combat Factors against each other. The Germans can call for air support twice in the game, which causes a column shift in their favour. This allows for some more adventurous maneuvres on the German side. I rather like this, it is easy to understand and by moving the airplane chits from their designated boxes on the map, also a breeze to track.

Another interesting component of 'Objective: Kiev' is the last phase of each player's turn: the Replacement Phase. The turn track indicates Replacement Points available to each player on each selective turn, with which one may "buy" new units or flip damaged ones. This is especially important for the Soviet player, who also has more of these points at hand over the course of the scenario.

An element of chaos comes in the form of the Soviet mechanised units beginning play on their "untried" side. These are shuffled before placement at setup, only to be revealed whilst firing or being fired upon.

A few units enter the game on later turns. They are placed on colored edges either in the west or the east, according to the power you command. If I remember correctly, this is one of the cases, where there was a misprint on the precise turn in which certain units enter the map. You will have to look it up though.

The Game
The Victory conditions for the Germans, which have some Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian troops on their side, are to capture all 15 cities by the end of the game (after seven rounds). The Red Army on the other hand needs to prevent that from happening. If only 14 cities are controlled by the Germans, the game is considered a draw. Nothing too funky here, these are goals which should be easy to grasp for everyone.

The Soviets command armies and a handful of untried mechanised units, while the Germans and their allies mainly consist of Panzer and infantry corps. Setup dictates a clash of massive Red Army infantry units against the rolling behemoth which are the German Panzerkorps at the Western part of the map. The Soviet player is clearly the weaker force here and has to prolong the German advance through skilful use of ZOC and terrain.

Sooner or later though it is quite likely that the Germans will break through the lines and their mechanised units can rush from city to city. The game dramatically changes pace at this point and delivers a satisfying battle with the Red Army as the desperate defender.

The numerous rails and diverse terrain really encourage strategic thinking and tactical placement of units, with swamps being particularily nasty for the mechanised attacker. Rivers come in two sizes, which canand will!be used a lot to the defending player's advantage.

I can't comment too much on it, as I have insufficient knowledge of the topic. I will make an educated guess though and say, that a lot of thought has been put into the historical underpinnings in this abstracted environment. The forces seem appropriately asymmetrical, the Special Movement is rather unique, and the replacements favour the Russian side, which makes sense on their soil.

While somewhat preaching to the choir, I can see why RBM has included this game as an insert to C3i: it is an excellent option for someone interested in our cherished hobby, but without any prior knowledge of it. Who knows, maybe there is someone out there who does pick up the magazine for this specific reason.
Now don't get me wrong, this is not a fantastic game. It probably isn't even a great one, but it surely is a viable stepping-stone for anyone who is interested in operational wargaming. With the benefit of hindsight, many wargaming veterans know the value of learning the established core concepts of the genre when making your first foray, since they are often repeated in other games.

Potential Grognardlings are often put off by the complexity of popular wargames and the unfamiliarity with the involved lingo – never to be seen again in our midst. This is why more games like this shouldnayneed to exist. After all, how many times can you refer to 'Napoleon at Waterloo' as a potential starting point?
Newcomers should know their ZOCs, EZOCs, CRTs, CFs, and MPs... and have fun getting introduced to them. A feat 'Objective: Kiev' pulls off brilliantly.

For the seasoned wargamer this can be a game to pull out if you want lighter fare, where you don't have to check rules often and can finish a game in about three hours. There is enough meaningful decision-making involved to warrant a place in your collection. The portability is another plus.

12 May 2016

Review: "The Greatest Salesman in the World" by Og Mandino

Repetition; it's the grand motif behind the 1968 self-help book 'The Greatest Salesman in the World'. Written by the late Og Mandino, the mass market paperback is a mere 111 pages long and the font size is beyond generous. It is aimed at people in the sales profession and promises to profoundly improve your skills in the trade. Not by disclosing a revolutionary new approach mind you, but through a narrative set behind the exotic backdrop of Ancient Damascus. Thus, 'The Greatest Salesman in the World' would serve as a quick read between flights, was it not for a giant trick the author pulls on the reader in the latter half of the book. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The story revolves around a man named Hafid, an old merchant who built the biggest trade empire in the Mediterranean, and his loyal bookmaker Erasmus. Seemingly out of nowhere, Hafid one day orders Erasmus to dispose of his entire treasury and the properties he lent to partners. Most of the money to be gifted to the poor of Damascus. Erasmus, who always puts the need of others before his own, is shocked by the old man's decision and worries for him, but ultimately yields to his master's wish. After the deed is done, Hafid invites his loyal servant into a locked chamber which for many years was the object of speculation among the townsfolk. Only Hafid's late wife and he himself knew of its secrets. Upon entry, Erasmus is surprised to find out that the chamber is completely empty, save for a chest filled with ten ancient, dusty scrolls. According to Hafid, these contain the secret on how to become the titular 'Greatest Salesman in the World'.

Over the course of the next few chapters we meet a young Hafid who in a cold winter night solicits his adoptive father Pathros, himself back then a merchant of great renown, to pursue in his trade. Reluctant at first, Pathros grants Hafid the chance at becoming his student after he learns that the young boy's true motivation is not to amass wealth, but the love of the beautiful Lisha, whose rich father Calneh would never approve of her marrying a camel boy. Entrusted by Pathros with a fine garment, Hafid's baptism of fire is in the poor town of Bethlehem, which all traders avoid—except for Pathros. If he was able to sell hundreds of these robes to the populace of poor Bethlehem, so too should Hafid be with a single one. Facing defeat after a few days, the almost resigned boy vows to try one last time next morning. As he wanders back to the cavern where his camel is tied, he finds it to be occupied by a poor couple and their new-born child. Instead of trying to sell the fine robe the next day, he gifts it to them out of compassion. Left with a thankful kiss on the cheek, Hafid witnesses the brightest star he has ever seen shining above the cavern. Upon his untimely return, Pathros assures the sobbing young boy that he did him no wrong. On the contrary, he seems downright enthused Hafid is followed by this bright and beautiful star. It's a sign Pathros has been waiting for many years. With passing health, he inaugurates Hafid in the secret of the ancient scrolls and tells him the story how he came to be their owner. And it is thus later the old Hafid who in turn is waiting for a sign to pass on the knowledge within the scrolls. It happens to be a certain rugged stranger by the name of Paul of Tarsus who visits the old man's estate. And with him he brings the sign that it is he who should be their next recipient—the blood-stained garment of the crucified Jesus. With tearful eyes Hafid recognises it from the night in the cavern. It is a heartfelt narrative and Mandino tells it fervently.

The story itself: superb. Growing up in the Catholic faith, I still have some remaining fondness for the tales inside the Bible. But my main gripe is with the other half of the book. As we learn circa in its middle, each and every one of the ten scrolls needs to be repeatedly read over a period of thirty days—thrice daily no less!—before one may proceed to the next scroll. That's ten months of devotion to 51 pages. Why these mandates make a great salesman, we never find out. But they sound truthful and lofty enough and are painted with such poetic metaphors, that I guess we can only resort to taking them on faith. Quickly was I reminded of news broadcasts showing Islamic schools in the Middle-East, whose pupils' single textbook was the noble Qur'an. The goal of course being the absolute internalisation of the holy text.

In the end, it is nobody but the author himself who is 'The Greatest Salesman in the World'. Would one stick to reading his scrolls for the prescribed ten months, even the sceptic may turn a believer if this book became his daily companion. And judging from the almost universal praise 'The Greatest Salesman in the World' receives over the internet, Mandino obviously succeeded in this regard. I, on the other hand, was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Lured into the author's scheme through master wordsmithery, the second half of the book is just pages upon pages of opaque motivational speeches masquerading as high prose. Admittedly sharing some truths, but remaining devoid of almost any facts. Through this indoctrination Mandino makes you, the well-intentioned and inquisitive apprentice, a slave to his religious text—by means of mindless repetition.

24 April 2016

Review: "The Law" by Frédéric Bastiat

Arguing about Frédéric Bastiat's 'The Law' is synonymous with arguing about Classical Liberalism itself. In 1850, when 'The Law' was written, Bastiat already was gravely ill. For those who know of his writings and of the revolutionary era he lived in, it can thus be seen as a culmination of a life dedicated to liberty. Some might even know him from the so-called "Parable of the broken window", in which he argued that destruction, and money spent to recover from destruction, are not beneficial to society. 'The Law', as the title suggests, is his manifesto on the nature of law, what it ought and ought not to be, and stands as a bold defence against the ascending Socialist movement of his time. It really is a pamphlet more than a book and it is written as such with grand vigour.

According to Bastiat, man is Personality, Liberty, and Property. He argues these properties to be god-given. Infringe upon them and man ceases to be. So far so good, forgoing the double fallacy he commits at this point, in light of how this idea is laid out with reason further in the text.
It is in his definition of law, where we get to the meat of matter: "Law is the collective organisation of the individual right to lawful defence." Bingo! Contrary to the Socialist argument that law makes man, Bastiat argues, that in defence of Personhood, Liberty, and Property, man makes the law. And if every individual has the right to defend these properties, they also have a right to band together to provide for defence regularly (i.e. government). The elegant simplicity of his argument comes full circle, when you consider that this collective right, by its nature, cannot have any other end, than the defence of the individual. Its sole reason for existence lies within the individual right for defence. It may never 'destroy the person', as Bastiat puts it, just like the individual force may not.

"Within justice, law and force impose upon a man nothing more than a negation. Keeping him from harming others."

There are people who then argue, that nobody has a 'right' to anything. That rights are a man-made construct. These people are enemies of civilisation. I am a Darwinist through and through, but I don't want society to be darwinistic. Humans have a potential to go beyond their primal urges, and if we are to advance the human condition peacefully, everyone has to have the right to pursue in their own enterprise. And but how are we to do so, if government wills over us by means of coercion? Application of force can by definition never be peaceful. Liberty therefore is not a question of entitlement, it is the basis for human prosperity and aspiration. People have to be on their own agenda. And Bastiat saw the people of France giving away these inherent liberties willingly. Socialism ultimately became the law. And with it being the law, it was nigh impossible to combat it.

According to him, Socialism really divides mankind into two categories: people and politicians. The all-knowing legislator stands above the plebs, whom he forms and moulds for a perceived greater good. But if people are so bad--Bastiat asks--that they need to be reigned-in by the power of the legislator, how can it be that his intentions are always good? Is he not himself just a man?

The last part of the book is filled with quotes from the 'classics' of his age. Quotes about Ancient Societies and how their prime movers saw their citizens as nothing more than kettle, who tend towards degradation and can only be saved by the hidden power of the legislator. I found these last pages, as he goes on and on quoting from older sources, to be rather dull.

I consider myself a Classical Liberal, so I am predisposed to liking this seminal piece of writing. However, I wasn't always and my Progressive younger self would probably be at awe with which reverence I speak of Bastiat's pamphlet. Now that I am older, I can see through the inherent pessimism in Socialist dogma, that people are not to be trusted and that they have to be engineered into conformity. In learning of the Enlightenment and its proponents, the marketplace of ideas, and the opposition to tyranny in its many forms, I came to reject this pessimistic world-view. And when I have the chance, I always choose peace through individual liberty, as far as I am still free to do so.

I highly recommend this book not only to Classical Liberals or Libertarians, but to all those who purport to live according to enlightenment era principles. It is a rough ride and not always logically consistent, but the core of the argument is powerful and Frédéric Bastiat communicates it with contagious passion.

29 March 2016

Review: "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover - Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine" by Robert Moore and Doug Gillette

This is the first book in my journey to decipher the masculine me. And with such lofty a title, I couldn't go wrong–or could I? Let me state right off the bat, that I have yet to be convinced that Psychology is a science. That, of course, takes its potential usefulness out of question. I see Psychology as a set of tools that categorises patterns in human behaviour and in doing so, may be beneficial. Thus, when recommended this book in an article of a trusted media outlet as a "spiritual guide to masculinity", I tried entering it with an open mind. But, as I had to discover, not only was the descriptor wrong, it really has nothing to do with spirituality as I understand it.

What this book actually is about, is the mature masculine as viewed through the eyes of Jungian Psychology, and how one sheds the infantility of a boyhood psyche. Since I am no scholar of Psychology and have had no great interest in pursuing it thus far, the school of Carl Jung only peripherally entered my perception over the years. I therefore may not be up on the jargon, but as far as I can tell, most of the metaphors used in this book are to be understood as such.

Moore and his co-author Gillette identify maturation rituals as necessary to form an adult psyche. These, they write, have been successfully used throughout human history and across all cultures, but which we are now seriously lacking. The book is not too short on history and mythology as prime example-givers and intends to serve its reader as a wholesome practical guide to the male psyche in this masculinity-deficient modern world.

The authors propose that within all men exists a duality of so-called boy psychology and man psychology--both with their own four archetypes. Each individual archetype can be seen as a triangular pyramid, at which top sits the archetype in its fullness, and its bipolar, dysfunctional shadow aspects at the bottom ends. A mature male has to outgrow the archetypes of boy psychology and give rise to the archetypes of man psychology. To then bring each into accordance, is what makes the mature male.

The four archetypes of man psychology are the eponymous King, who is an ordering and reorganising energy, the Warrior, who creates, defends, and extends, the Magician, who uncovers and shares hidden knowledge, and the Lover, who promotes aliveness and passion. To stray too far from any of them, or to let oneself be occupied too much by a single one, invokes their bipolar shadow aspects. A Shadow King, for example, may manifest himself either in the Tyrant, who seeks to cover his own shortcomings by abusing others, or the Weakling, who has lost touch to the archetype to such an extent, that he projects the king unto others, thus possibly giving in to a "Führer"-figure.
For lack of the aforementioned maturation rituals, the authors leave it up to the reader to acknowledge and identify potential deficiencies in their masculine psyche and treat to them. They propose four different exercises in the closing chapters of the book, which may help access them. It is then in their hope, that by giving each of these "board members" their fair say and thus throwing out the root cause of patriarchal oppression (infantile boy psychology), both the masculine and feminine world will be better for it.

In the end, "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover" is too vague an offering for my tastes. The metaphoric nature of its content leaves me longing for more scientific inquiries on the behavioural issues presented. That is not to say, that it wasn't a good read and I got no value out of it. I often found patterns of myself in some of the shadow aspects, which also happened to excite me the most as a reader.

So strictly speaking, as a tool for introspection, it does a formidable job, even though I am doubtful if what comes out of the self-treatment excercises conforms to an "archetype in its fullness". Nevertheless, it did kindle my interest in Jungian psychology, which certainly is of value. And even though I am still more inclined towards the neuroscientific approach to human behaviour, it is a book I might need to get back to with a more wholesome understanding of the subject matter.

19 March 2016

Review: "The One Thing" by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan

"If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time."
This is just one of many enlightening proverbs in this eminently quotable self-help book by Garry Keller. To me, it captures the essence of what the author tries to convey best.

A quick side-note on the book's layout: There is underlining made by the author, numerous illustrations, and various historical quotes sprinkled throughout. While I appreciate the effort, I could've done without Keller marking up the points he thinks are most important. The quote at the beginning of this review for example wasn't.

In a brief backstory, Keller describes how, by just focussing on one thing, he was able to move his company out of economic stagnation. He resigned as CEO and spent the better part of a year seeking and appointing fourteen new people at key positions in his company. Success followed. In their weekly meetings he would go through the tasks each of them would have to accomplish come next week. When some got done and others fell to the wayside, out of frustration, he started to continually subtract tasks from the list until he just asked them to focus exclusively on the single task that mattered most. And Success went through the roof.
With regard to the last book I read—Gary Paulsen's 'Hatchet'—that protagonist's One Thing was the acquisition of food, for it was the most important thing upon which all other aspects of his life rested. And as he improved in it, surviving the wilderness got easier and life comparatively more comfortable.
Throughout the book, Keller uses a domino motif to visualise this concept. One domino has the energy potential to knock over another domino piece up to 50% bigger in size. Success, he writes, comes by focussing on The One Thing by breaking down your goal in manageable chunks and taking action sequentially, one thing at a time. Thus, knocking over a single domino, one after another, we can progressively go beyond what we deem achievable. If we leave ourselves open to new models and approaches, we will get better at the One Thing we are doing in repetition. As the author puts it: think big, go small.
Reality proves him right. I consider myself a decent artist. Objectively speaking, I am more proficient at the craft than most people I meet in real-life. People are constantly asking me how I have achieved this skill, because I make it seem so effortless. Of course nothing could be further from the truth! From kindergarten-age on, I spent most of my free-time drawing. Observing, drawing, learning, improving. Crashing through plateaus by always thinking about the next step I could take. This passion burnt so feverishly, that I missed out on many formative teenage experiences, simply because it was The One Thing that was most important to me. For my age back then, I got good. Real good. Then I stopped. Why? With my career slowly steering into graphic design, this became the focal point of my attention for the decade to follow. Drawing became just another thing I was interested in. As a result, I stagnated and didn't improve nearly at the pace I used to. Had I stuck to it, I am confident that I would have reached mastery. But the point is, I didn't. I stretched myself thin and let other interests distract me. By saying yes to everything, in conclusion I said yes to nothing.

Typical for books in this genre, the author doesn't even get to the meat of The One Thing before slaying his share of dragons in the opening chapters. He takes popular myths, such as multitasking, equality, and the balanced life, to task and through history, research, and personal experience exposes them for the lies that they are. All throughout these first chapters, I couldn't help but nod in agreement. After going through the lies, he shares with us the truth, which is the One Thing and how it inevitably leads to success. By asking the so-called "focussing question", your seemingly unattainable goal will come increasingly closer. And to make all of it work, your One Thing needs to have a purpose, which is carried by priority and productivity. The book of course goes into greater detail, never waxing the philosophical for too long. Before rounding the book out with examples of how to apply The One Thing in all areas of life, be it personal or professional, Keller proposes a daily minimum of 4 hours to be spent exclusively working on The One Thing and how to avoid the biggest pitfalls in doing so. Seems exorbitant? So will be the reward.

I admit, I am predisposed to like this book. It hammers a point home I was already willing to accept as mantra. Luckily, the author goes beyond that. The core concept of the book is a simple one, but Keller takes great measures to show you why it is the best one. And with the help of this book, I can now veer back into drawing, to become the master illustrator of my childhood dreams. One step at a time.

10 March 2016

Review: "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen

Seemingly unknown outside the US, 'Hatchet' by Gary Paulsen never appeared on my radar until recently. Beloved by millions, this youth novel tells the story of 13-year old Brian Ropeson, who is left on his own in the Canadian wilderness and has to rise to the occasion in hope of being rescued.

Without giving too much away, the story starts with his mother driving him to a small airport in Hampton, New York, where he boards a Cessna 406 as its sole passenger on his way to visit his father, who works for a drilling company in the Canadian oil fields of the far north. His parents have recently divorced on his mother's behalf and Brian is still in the process of coping with this fact. Throughout the book, Paulsen regularly invokes this aspect of the character's background, going further into detail each time, implying infidelity of the mother as the reason. While his parents' separation is a plausible reason for him to be on such a delicate plane flying this exotic route, Paulsen never manages to weave a character-expanding purpose for it into the rest of the survival tale. Brian neither gains insight from it, nor do the unfolding events affect his perspective in being a divorce-child. Without this subplot, the main arc would literally remain unchanged–a chance unfortunately missed.
The book kicks into full gear when the pilot suffers a heart-attack above the lush forest wilder lands of the big white north. Unable to successfully establish communication and with fuel running low, Brian aims for an L-shaped lake on the horizon, revealed in the light of the afternoon sun. The plane relentlessly dives into the concrete-like water of the lake, tearing all of the windows out, throwing him about, and finally sinking into the green-blue depths. Brian escapes to the shore, mostly unharmed, but severely bruised and overall physically weakened. Almost two days of regeneration follow, in which he slowly familiarises himself with the lake, the forest, and their inhabitants.
This is when the title-giving hatchet takes centre stage in the story. Gifted to him by his mother before his departure, it becomes the life-saving foundation for all of his endeavours around the lake. A realisation the character also comes to closer to the books' ending, when he almost loses it on his quest to retrieve a survival kit from the re-emerged plane wrack. Without the hatchet, he couldn't have achieved anything; the hatchet is him. With this tool, he not only builds a shelter, crafts spears, bow and arrows for hunting, but also manages to make fire by catching sparks from hacking away at a rock.
Drama comes in the form of wildlife encounters and environmental hazards. Since they are crucial to the narrative, I am hesitant to spoil them, but let me state that Paulsen deserves credit for some well-placed twists on the survival formula. There are some unexpected adversaries, but also obvious ones, who turn out to be as curious of the main character, as he is of them. In these passages, the author muses on nature itself. And as the weeks pass by, Brian draws more and more conclusions from his experiences. He becomes driven by hunger, just like all the animals of the forest are, for nature is not allowed to be lazy. Food is life. And even though this hostile environment repeatedly lashes out against him, he becomes part of its ecosystem, and rises through failure with new-found maturity. But Brian can't help but to marvel at the poetic beauty of the scenery. This is wilderness romanticism at its best, but Paulsen avoids meandering on it and manages to make these points by way of narrative.

In the end, the book's shortness works to its advantage. A story this linear could've easily overstayed its welcome, but by keeping the chapters short and the word-count economic, the narrative breezily moves from checkpoint to checkpoint.
Make no mistake, this is a coming of age novel set against the backdrop of the Canadian wilderness, constantly contrasting civilisation with nature. But I found the main character's arc much easier to digest this way; and with the usual schmaltz of other youth novels avoided, Paulsen delivers a swiftly-paced, captivating read for all ages.

8 March 2016

Review: "The Death of the West" by Patrick J. Buchanan

'The Death of the West' is without a doubt Pat Buchanan's magnum opus. Though now more than a decade old, it re-emerges with great relevancy in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis and rising tensions in the Middle-East.
The title is to be understood literally: declining birth rates and mass immigration in the US and Europe threaten to overwhelm native populations and extinguish their cultural identity. Different to earlier waves of immigration, the author argues, these people often don't share our Western values and their allegiances lie with countries we could be at war with. And as societies in Europe grow older, the European welfare-state can only be sustained through mass immigration, for many Europeans not only stopped reproducing, but revel in their demise, by celebrating being childless and having double income.

Buchanan identifies Socialism as the root cause of the Western decline. As he astutely observes how, come 1989, world-wide Communism has failed and why, he further branches out into the tenets of its successor and how it managed to prevail where the progenitor didn't – by changing the culture from within. He goes into great detail how Globalism, Secularism, Feminism, and Gay Rights Activism often hide behind reason and just cause, but show ill-intent towards their dissenters; dehumanising them by calling them bigots, sexists, racists, or homophobes and thus avoiding the debate. What follows is a well-argued, harsh critique of the Mexican government's economic reliance on illegal immigration and a bold defence of the nation-state concept as a necessity in preserving the cultural identity of the United States. In his refusal of amnesty for illegal immigrants for example, he relentlessly makes the case for deportation, by arguing that if rule of law is ignored and pardon given, the weight of immigration laws – however strict they may be – is nullified.
The division and sense of separatism the author sees infecting the United States is evident throughout the political discourse. There is a deep understanding and acknowledgment in Buchanan's writing for the violent history of the West, but as he keenly retorts, this is true for all nations, revealing the gut-wrenching truth, that the West didn't start slavery, it was the West that ended it. And while he is a big proponent of the Civil Rights Act, he sees no obligation for the US to make any further payments to minority interest groups, because he sees them as the great dividers, who out of self-interest will never be satisfied with any form of reparation. And when the state keeps on giving, why should they be?
He then goes on to dismantle the cultural Marxist myth of equality, by arguing that there are no equals, only equal opportunity. But then taints the relevant Thomas Jefferson quote, which would have perfectly stood on its own, by needlessly pointing out the Founding Father's rejection of homosexuality.
With grand vigour he argues for the socially conservative case; even going so far as putting blame on conservatives who surrendered the culture war and retreated solely to economics (read: Neocons), only for the libertarian element of the right to grow stronger. Whatever you may think about the man, it takes guts to slaughter the holy cow of free market capitalism as a right-winger.

As is to be expected by Buchanan, Christianity repeatedly sneaks its way into his argumentation and it is here where the book is at its weakest. While it may be true that a traditionalist, faith-based society produces higher birth rates, a return to faith cannot be a goal unto itself, but must come from conviction. Pure pragmatism does not suffice, when it comes to people's acceptance of a divine creator. However, I also understand that it is not in the author's purview to make the case for Christ. As a stout unbeliever and Cultural Catholic, I therefore have to reject his battle-cry for a return to Christian predominance in Western society. From my European Classical Liberal perspective though, I at least have to commend the author for being open about some of his statist views, which befits someone who accepts God as an ultimate authority; something I always found to be contradictive to the libertarian-leaning wing of the right – and a pitfall Buchanan wisely avoids.

With 'The Death of the West', Patrick J. Buchanan delivers an excellent read, that may make your blood boil, but is so well-researched and written with such finesse and historical prowess, that you will be hard-pressed not to find something to agree with. While I do disagree with many of his assertions, I also found a lot of respectable opinions, the least of which made me understand his brand of conservatism better. And lest those of us, whose parents fled communist regimes to find a better life in the West, forget, why they did so in the first place, this book makes a strong case for why we ought to preserve the West from those who seek to destroy it.