Today is the anniversary of the Blitzkrieg. The tactic of using an armored division as an independent assault unit was first put into practice not by the British, Germans or French but by the Italians.

It makes me wonder - again - why so wonderful a writer as Rick Atkinson chose to do the long unrewarding slog of following the American Army's follies in North Africa. Some topics are better left buried - like the Seminole War.

If you spend much time there, you come away with a sense of how thoroughly incompetent the official American Army has been whenever it could not leave the bulk of the fighting to someone else. Thank God for the citizen army.

The reward, if any, is to realize how masterful Jackson and Eisenhower were as Presidents. They both knew that Americans' vaunted capacity to fight and win wars depended on having (1) effective allies - France in the Revolution and again in WW I, the Soviet Union in WW II and (2) outnumbered opponents. Yet, each man was able to convince the rest of the world and Americans themselves that the United States had exceptional military skill. Without that triumph of marketing the country's most profitable victories - against Mexico and the Soviet Union - would not have been possible.


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