A year with General Marshall…

I’ve spent the last year living with the ghost of George C. Marshall in the form of Forrest Pogue’s 4 four-part biography. I’ve read a lot of dense history on a host of obscure topics over the years, but this was likely some of the hardest reading I’ve done since diving into the rich esoterica of imperial Russian history about 20 years ago when I thought history was going to be a legitimate way to make a living. There are a dozen respectable biographies of Marshall that would have been far more accessible, but Pogue’s was a master class that truly offered a “one over the world” view.

Weighing in at 1,882 pages taking up a third of a shelf, I don’t supposed you dive in to this biography unless you have more than a casual interest. I picked it up, set it down, let weeks pass between volumes, and faced names, places, and events that sent me down dozes of separate rabbit holes of additional research and reading. I should be happy that I managed to get through it in 1/24th the time it took Pogue to write and publish the set in the first place. The thing really is a monument to the historian’s art.

I walked away from my experience with the general a little sad that he’s been so constatly overshadowed in popular memory of the war years by more glamorous subordinates – Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur even now 70 years later are names recognized by the average household. Outside of those who study the Army, a few professional historians and soldiers, Marshall fades into the background. It’s a shame, though it strikes me as what the man himself would have probably wanted.

So what am I left with after spending a year with General Marshall? Aside from a really great looking bookshelf trophy, I’m left with the determined opinion that George C. Marshall was only the second truly indispensable man in the history of the republic.

The difficult right…

The obvious direction to take tonight’s post is towards a memorial for Baroness Thatcher. The trouble with having a job and not being able to update the blog in real time, of course, is that the major outlets are already doing a fine job of lionizing the only Prime Minister other than Churchill that Americans know by name. Lady ThatcherI’m not sure that I can add much in the way of new information or even original thought. Still, marking the passing of one of the 20th century’s great statesmen only seems fitting.

​For those of us of a certain age, the world we’ve inhabited all our lives was largely shaped by the Cold War trinity of Thatcher, Reagan, and John Paul II. ​Even though she’d been out of the public eye for more than a decade, with Lady Thatcher’s death this morning the one last living thread connecting us to our much younger selves is severed. Through the benefit of 30-years worth of hindsight, it seems she was on the leading edge of a political movement that got a lot more right than they got wrong. In a career that spanned some truly tumultuous times, that’s as much a mark as anyone could hope to leave.

Long after anyone reading this has made their own final exit from the world’s stage, it will be left to the historians to judge the merits, unencumbered by personal memories of their subjects. The historian in me has a lingering suspicion that our successors will be far kinder to them as a group than their contemporaries have been.

Godspeed, Lady Thatcher. The world is a safer and more free because you chose to stand on principle and do the difficult right rather than ​following the path of ​the easy wrong.