Reviews in The Federalist

15-Boundaries 9780226277783

My reviews in The Federalist:

Boundaries of the State in US History, eds, James T Sparrow, William J. Novak, and Stephen W. Sawyer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). In fall 2016 issue.

Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, eds. Justine Christianson and Christopher H. Marston (Wash., DC: 2015). In summer 2016 issue.

The Greene Papers: General Wallace M. Greene Jr. and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, January 1964–March 1965, ed. Nicholas J. Schlosser (Quantico, VA: U.S. Marine Corps History Division, 2015). In summer 2016 issue.

Sidney Tarrow, War, States, and Contention: A Comparative Historical Study (Ithaca, 2105). In spring 2016 issue.

John Darrell Sherwood, War in the Shallows: U.S. Navy Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam, 1965–1968. (Wash., DC: 2015). In spring 2016 issue.

James E. David, Spies and Shuttles: NASA’s Secret Relationships with the DoD and CIA (Gainesville: 2015). In winter 2015–16 issue.

Joseph P. Harahan, With Courage and Persistence: Eliminating and Securing Weapons of Mass Destruction with the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs (Wash., DC: 2014). In winter 2015–16 issue.

William B. McAllister et al., Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series (Wash., DC, 2015). In winter 2015–16 issue.

G. Wayne Clough, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age (Wash., DC: 2013). In winter 2013–14 issue.

Michael B. Petersen, The Vietnam Cauldron: Defense Intelligence in the War for Southeast Asia (Wash., DC: 2012). In summer 2013 issue.

Marc J. O’Reilly, UNEXCEPTIONAL: America’s Empire in the Persian Gulf, 1941–2007 (Lanham: 2008). In winter 2012–13 issue.

Oral Histories and Public Memories, by Paula Hamilton and Linda Shopes. (Temple University Press, 2008). In summer 2012 issue.


CIA Museum Website

Developed by CIA’s Office of Research and Development in the 1970s, this micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was the first flight of an insect-sized vehicle (insectothopter) intended to prove the concept of such miniaturized platforms for intelligence collection. It had a miniature engine to move the wings up and down. A small amount of gas was used to drive the engine, and the excess was vented out the rear for extra thrust. The flight tests were impressive. However, control in any kind of crosswind proved too difficult.

The CIA Museum Website

The CIA established its museum in 1972 under the direction of William E. Colby, then the Executive Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is located in the agency’s Headquarters campus in Langley, Virginia .and, for security restrictions, is not open to the public. The Agency’s website at, however, allows a relaxed view of this very revealing collection.

The online visitor can explore the collection through three interconnected portals: “Collections,” Stories,” and “Timeline.” These sections highlight selected artifacts and chapters of CIA history, so one should not expect a unified or narrative history of the agency. In that respect, the online museum mirrors the actual one in its deliberate effort to focus on and celebrate the CIA’s dangerous and vital service to the nation. We gain general insights (without revealing trade secrets, of course) into how the agency fulfills its mission, which is, to “Preempt threats and further U.S. national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe.” Integral to the site’s central message is the agency’s tribute to those who have fallen in service to that mission. The web museum, then, uses artifacts and stories of select episodes in CIA history to provide a general picture of the CIA’s challenges, adaptability, creativity, and successes from its founding to the present. The serious student of CIA history will have to seek additional information for a fuller and analytical view of the CIA’s role in international events and developments.

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Best of Both Worlds

Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, by Wayne Clough

Review of Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, by Wayne Clough (available at

Review by Benjamin Guterman, in The Federalist newsletter, Winter 2013-2014


This eBook by G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, provides a useful overview for understanding the current state of digital transformation occurring at museums, libraries, and archives. The digital revolution, based on an insatiable demand for information, has proceeded rapidly, changing core methodologies and responsibilities at these institutions. Clough believes that the digital experience enhances the physical experience, so that museums will not simply “show” but will “enable the visitor to draw out knowledge” and thus achieve a deeper, personalized understanding. In that way, museums “can take on a new and elevated role,” an interactive one as a facilitator. We are still in the early stages of this revolution so that “the opportunities that are going to be offered through developments in digital technology will go beyond any of our present expectations.”

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The Vietnam Cauldron: Defense Intelligence in the War for Southeast Asia


Review of The Vietnam Cauldron: Defense Intelligence in the War for Southeast Asia (2012), by Michael B. Petersen (available at

Review by Benjamin Guterman, in The Federalist newsletter, Summer 2013

The success of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam was vitally interwoven with military intelligence and how it was interpreted. Yet we learn from Michael Petersen’s study that the intelligence-gathering framework there was in dangerous flux during those years. Petersen’s task is to explore the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) performance so that the agency and its personnel can learn from its past. In so doing, he also provides a concise and incisive analysis of the conduct of the war at several key junctures. This essay is adapted from his original work published in Defense Intelligence Historical Perspectives, 1 (October 2011).

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UNEXCEPTIONAL: America’s Empire

Unexceptional cover-cropped

Review of UNEXCEPTIONAL: America’s Empire in the Persian Gulf, 1941–2007. by Marc J. O’Reilly. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008       

Review by Benjamin Guterman.  A shorter version was published in The Federalist newsletter, Winter 2012–13

Marc J. O’Reilly has undertaken the kind of systematic and objective analysis of our foreign policies that is essential for policymakers. He evaluates the changing U.S. policies in the Persian Gulf from 1941 to 2007 within the broad spectrum of historical imperial regimes, including the Roman and Ottoman Empires. He finds that the United States is not, in some vague and imprecise sense, an “exceptional,” benevolent world power fully guided by our democratic principles. We are a “neo-classical and/or liberal-classical” imperial power, not an occupying power, that has pursued its goals realistically and often ruthlessly.

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