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Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost

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"A philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed." —Victor Davis Hanson Award-winning author Michael Walsh celebrates the masculine attributes of heroism that forged American civilization and Western cultu "A philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed." —Victor Davis Hanson Award-winning author Michael Walsh celebrates the masculine attributes of heroism that forged American civilization and Western culture by exploring historical battles in which soldiers chose death over dishonor in Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost. In our contemporary era, men are increasingly denied their heritage as warriors. A survival instinct that’s part of the human condition, the drive to wage war is natural. Without war, the United States would not exist. The technology that has eased manual labor, extended lifespans, and become an integral part of our lives and culture has often evolved from wartime scientific advancements. War is necessary to defend the social and political principles that define the virtues and freedoms of America and other Western nations. We should not be ashamed of the heroes who sacrificed their lives to build a better world. We should be honoring them. The son of a Korean War veteran of the Inchon landing and the battle of the Chosin Reservoir with the U.S. Marine Corps, Michael Walsh knows all about heroism, valor, and the call of duty that requires men to fight for something greater than themselves to protect their families, fellow countrymen, and most of all their fellow soldiers. In Last Stands, Walsh reveals the causes and outcomes of more than a dozen battles in which a small fighting force refused to surrender to a far larger force, often dying to the last man. From the Spartans’ defiance at Thermopylae and Roland’s epic defense of Charlemagne’s rear guard at Ronceveaux Pass, through Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo defended by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie to the skirmish at Little Big Horn between Crazy Horse’s Sioux nation and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Calvary, to the Soviets’ titanic struggle against the German Wehrmacht at Stalingrad, and more, Walsh reminds us all of the debt we owe to heroes willing to risk their lives against overwhelming odds—and how these sacrifices and battles are not only a part of military history but our common civilizational heritage.


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"A philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed." —Victor Davis Hanson Award-winning author Michael Walsh celebrates the masculine attributes of heroism that forged American civilization and Western cultu "A philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed." —Victor Davis Hanson Award-winning author Michael Walsh celebrates the masculine attributes of heroism that forged American civilization and Western culture by exploring historical battles in which soldiers chose death over dishonor in Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost. In our contemporary era, men are increasingly denied their heritage as warriors. A survival instinct that’s part of the human condition, the drive to wage war is natural. Without war, the United States would not exist. The technology that has eased manual labor, extended lifespans, and become an integral part of our lives and culture has often evolved from wartime scientific advancements. War is necessary to defend the social and political principles that define the virtues and freedoms of America and other Western nations. We should not be ashamed of the heroes who sacrificed their lives to build a better world. We should be honoring them. The son of a Korean War veteran of the Inchon landing and the battle of the Chosin Reservoir with the U.S. Marine Corps, Michael Walsh knows all about heroism, valor, and the call of duty that requires men to fight for something greater than themselves to protect their families, fellow countrymen, and most of all their fellow soldiers. In Last Stands, Walsh reveals the causes and outcomes of more than a dozen battles in which a small fighting force refused to surrender to a far larger force, often dying to the last man. From the Spartans’ defiance at Thermopylae and Roland’s epic defense of Charlemagne’s rear guard at Ronceveaux Pass, through Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo defended by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie to the skirmish at Little Big Horn between Crazy Horse’s Sioux nation and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Calvary, to the Soviets’ titanic struggle against the German Wehrmacht at Stalingrad, and more, Walsh reminds us all of the debt we owe to heroes willing to risk their lives against overwhelming odds—and how these sacrifices and battles are not only a part of military history but our common civilizational heritage.

30 review for Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dee Arr

    The author’s Introduction should neither be skipped nor skimmed, as it outlines the purpose of the book. I will warn you that the author does not hold back in presenting his ideas, and it is a certainty he will ruffle some feathers while others will nod their heads in fervent agreement. This book talks about the ancient values that men held dear, values that are caught in a push-pull situation in today’s world. To quote the author, “…the natural state of man is war. Our most fundamental myths an The author’s Introduction should neither be skipped nor skimmed, as it outlines the purpose of the book. I will warn you that the author does not hold back in presenting his ideas, and it is a certainty he will ruffle some feathers while others will nod their heads in fervent agreement. This book talks about the ancient values that men held dear, values that are caught in a push-pull situation in today’s world. To quote the author, “…the natural state of man is war. Our most fundamental myths and legends concern war, not peace.” No matter what one thinks, controversy is good and spurs growth. Or, at the very least, scintillating conversation. Author Michael Walsh has assembled a book of “Last Stands,” and goes into depth on each of the selected battles explaining why, even though there is no hope of winning, men continue to fight. True, this has been done before, and multiple times on some of these stories. Where Mr. Wash’s book stands apart is his attention to detail and doing everything he can to inject a humanism into each chapter. He does this through numerous footnotes, giving the reader additional information that, while it may not pertain to furthering the current point, it does provide side information about the combatants. In other words, rather than reduce the people to nothing more than pieces on a chessboard, the author allows us to see different facets of their personalities and traits and thus gain greater insight into their actions. Personally, I was happy to see some of the very early battles. While I knew the basic stories, it was interesting to flesh out my knowledge of these events in history, especially since each had (or missed out on having) an effect on the world going forward. Mr. Walsh takes the time to point out the possibilities. Some of them (Custer’s Last Stand, for instance) had much greater implications than I had ever considered before. The author also visits the much-repeated truism, that history repeats itself. For instance, when discussing the end of the Roman Empire, he states it “…illustrated the folly of a declining native birth rate and generous immigration from inimical lands and peoples.” Ruffling feathers, indeed. Overall, very interesting and chockful of knowledge and informative trivia. Five stars. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a complimentary electronic copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    This is a great concept for a book but it just wasn't for me. Reading it felt like a chore. Philosophically, I tend to agree with much of what the author was saying. The problem was that he would often lose me in his cumbersome, academic prose. The author writes of last stands from Thermopylae to the Chosin Reservoir to make his point as to why men fight. If there is nothing worth dying for than there is nothing worth living for. He actually makes a few very good points along the way. It just wa This is a great concept for a book but it just wasn't for me. Reading it felt like a chore. Philosophically, I tend to agree with much of what the author was saying. The problem was that he would often lose me in his cumbersome, academic prose. The author writes of last stands from Thermopylae to the Chosin Reservoir to make his point as to why men fight. If there is nothing worth dying for than there is nothing worth living for. He actually makes a few very good points along the way. It just wasn't a page turner and I'm glad to be done with it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    A 14 hour unabridged audiobook. There is a lot of food for thought here. The author covers, at least in brief, a myriad of topics. At times i wondered if he was too much all over the place. But its balanced by how well he covers them. Conviningly and fom a position of being knowledgeable on them all. It was enjoyable to listen to and left me pondering many thoughts. I especially appreciate that the author wasn't concerned about being politically correct. A 14 hour unabridged audiobook. There is a lot of food for thought here. The author covers, at least in brief, a myriad of topics. At times i wondered if he was too much all over the place. But its balanced by how well he covers them. Conviningly and fom a position of being knowledgeable on them all. It was enjoyable to listen to and left me pondering many thoughts. I especially appreciate that the author wasn't concerned about being politically correct.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric S

    This book is not a typical history book detailing events of various battles. The author implies that he will answer "why men fight when all is lost". He presents his thesis and gives some compelling facts, which provided limited support for it. The book has some really good parts, mostly at the beginning and the end. It describes some seventeen battles which the author attempts to use as confirming evidence for his thesis. However, he fails to answer the questions he raises in the introduction. This book is not a typical history book detailing events of various battles. The author implies that he will answer "why men fight when all is lost". He presents his thesis and gives some compelling facts, which provided limited support for it. The book has some really good parts, mostly at the beginning and the end. It describes some seventeen battles which the author attempts to use as confirming evidence for his thesis. However, he fails to answer the questions he raises in the introduction. That is my main complaint. Too many of the example battles have no evidence to support the idea that the men involved knew that "all was lost". There is very little information that would give a clear answer to the questions raised. It has been said, "All generalizations are ipso facto lies." The intro has quite a few of these and they are distracting. He frequently uses primary sources not to gain an accurate depiction of the events but to buttress his thesis. The result of this is that he makes factual errors. Most people would dismiss that as nit picking, but their accumulation becomes a detraction. The author lets his opinions of various historical figures color his description to a very poor effect. There is too much of the novelist and not much of the historian. The author spends time giving the historical context of the battle, the events leading up to it and what occurred after. The author also gives a fair amount of biographical detail of the main participants. That is exactly what a "typical history" book does. It does NOT do anything to support the thesis or answer the questions. Last major complaint is the author relies a little too much on movies to aid his descriptions. Lots of good movies mentioned but Hollywood isn't history. The directors, actors, and screenwriters usually know what message they're trying to convey. So you're not going to discover any "hidden truth" there. That said there were quite a few good observations and interesting insights. If you know nothing about the battles listed this would be a reasonable introduction to them. However, the descriptions are often slanted or biased. Too much "when men fight" and not enough "why men fight", which is ostensibly the entire purpose of the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Jones

    An very good book on that helps you understand masculinity through various battles that were lost. The history is interesting and fun. The introduction is so good I wish it was printed separately. I might write a longer review later, but here are my quick thoughts from it. The threat of physical violence or war is the rule in history not the exception. We are living in a time of relative peace, which makes the idea that women can fight seem plausible. Times of genuine war will destroy this idea. An very good book on that helps you understand masculinity through various battles that were lost. The history is interesting and fun. The introduction is so good I wish it was printed separately. I might write a longer review later, but here are my quick thoughts from it. The threat of physical violence or war is the rule in history not the exception. We are living in a time of relative peace, which makes the idea that women can fight seem plausible. Times of genuine war will destroy this idea. Men fight wars not women. We must love a people and place enough to kill for them and die for them. Dying with honor is to be preferred to living dishonorably. Men need to learn to physically protect their families and communities. This means being fit and able to shoot and fight. Physical adversity both self-imposed (lifting weights) and put on us from others/situations are necessary for masculinity to flourish and for men to be able defend their homes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This book is an interesting read. It takes a slightly different approach from what you would expect with a title of Last Stands. While there is some narrative in each chapter about the battle, the majority is about what motivated the individuals to proceed knowing that there was little to no hope for success in either the short or long run. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for more that just the detail on the battles described in the book. I received a free Kindle copy of this book This book is an interesting read. It takes a slightly different approach from what you would expect with a title of Last Stands. While there is some narrative in each chapter about the battle, the majority is about what motivated the individuals to proceed knowing that there was little to no hope for success in either the short or long run. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for more that just the detail on the battles described in the book. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my nonfiction book review blog.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christian Orr

    MOLON LABE!! An eminently readable and stirring tribute to warrior heroism & ethos and martial history & tradition, as well as a firm rebuke of pacifistic Political Correctness. Just a few minor technical nitpicks here & there, which I elaborate upon in some of my Notes below. RANDOM STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS: —p. 3: “Every civilian, even the mama-sans, was a potential enemy combatant, and many was the Marine who died when a peasant woman deployed an AK-47 from beneath her skir MOLON LABE!! An eminently readable and stirring tribute to warrior heroism & ethos and martial history & tradition, as well as a firm rebuke of pacifistic Political Correctness. Just a few minor technical nitpicks here & there, which I elaborate upon in some of my Notes below. RANDOM STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS: —p. 3: “Every civilian, even the mama-sans, was a potential enemy combatant, and many was the Marine who died when a peasant woman deployed an AK-47 from beneath her skirts and shot him in the back.” Huh? The North Koreans had AK-47s in the early 1950s War? —p. 5: “That the measure of a real man is not how much money he makes (although that is one metric, to use current jargon) but what he has done in his life: how far he has sailed, how well he has loved, how he has raised his children, and how much, or little, they love him. What he has contributed to the historical record, what he has left in the way of posterity, and for posterity; his mark, whether it be empire or a simple X.” —p. 6: “It is fashionable today to regard war as the exception and peace the rule, but a simple glance at an unexpurgated and unbowdlerized history of the world—ancient or modern—quickly shows the essential nature of bellicosity and its importance to the survival of and, ofttimes, the advancement of the human species. War, or the specter thereof, is the principal means of scientific advancement, of territorial expansion, and of the defense of those personal, social, and political elements a society holds dear.” —p. 12: Lookup “Volscian Camilla in the Aeneid.” —p. 14: “To put it in modern terms, war has long been a binary choice: win or lose, live or die, conquer or give way. It is neither pretty **nor politically correct**.” [emphasis added] —p. 15: “Fighting battles in faraway lands for cultural protection and expansion is not necessarily predatory imperialism or malevolent colonialism but a hedge against future disaster.” “The only culture that doesn’t defend itself is one bent on suicide.” —p. 16: “The priapic thrust of young manhood must needs be given an outlet: f*cking or fighting are generally the choices, as China is now discovering—and confronting, with the abandonment of its actuarially ill-conceived ‘one child’ policy—even as it fields the world’s largest army. And, in the end, what are armies for but to direct the physical and sexual energies of young men, for whom combat and procreation are the most primordial instincts of manhood, into war?” —p. 17: “When civilizations collapse, as all must and do, they do not simply dissolve from enervation (although that is always a factor; today we might call it guilt), but by conquest: just ask Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman emperor.” —pp. 18-19: “one of the paradoxes of Western civilization: a culture based on the primacy of the individual serves the common good better via the mechanism of willing self-sacrifice than the regimented, collectivist societies of the East. Western soldiers do not have to be prodded into battle by political commissars.” —p. 21: “But here we are. Even heroism has now, it seems, become politically incorrect. We cannot afford it to become so.” Yet the PC Thought Police cowards are having their way. —p. 323 (Footnote 14): “In general, and despite what you see in the movies, Marine officers don’t use four-letter words.” Um, I beg to effing differ!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jon Trainer

    Why men (yes, men) fight and die when hope is lost, and why western civilization owes its existence to such virtuous men. Walsh is a brilliant author whose depth of knowledge and cultural literacy will have the reader googling latin phrases, expanding one's vocabulary, and running down many historical rabbit trails. The read is worth the effort. One prays there are still such men on the ramparts biding their time until duty beckons or the times demand. Why men (yes, men) fight and die when hope is lost, and why western civilization owes its existence to such virtuous men. Walsh is a brilliant author whose depth of knowledge and cultural literacy will have the reader googling latin phrases, expanding one's vocabulary, and running down many historical rabbit trails. The read is worth the effort. One prays there are still such men on the ramparts biding their time until duty beckons or the times demand.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    A very confused and unorganized narrative. I was excited about this book, looking for more insights into some of the major historic events. However, the author is so focused on conveying a political message, using a certain set of keywords, that the historic facts are easily distorted or ignored. I finished the book just because I had promised myself to finish it. I do not recommend this at all!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Simon Esmond

    The thesis of the book often overrides the details of the battles described. I did enjoy the historical context and consequences of the battles and wars in the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael C.

    4.5 Excellent overview of last stands and the centuries old war tendencies driven by masculinity

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jbussen

    As I read the reviews I found I was on the opposing side of the majority of reviewers. I agree with Eric S, and have copied his review. The author would be right at home on a conservative right wing red neck radio show. Why fight to the last man? Because were men dammit! IMO, this is pretty much the entire book. I still don't know the answer to the title except; because! I wasn't into it after a quarter and started skipping around before I gave up altogether. I may try to read this again but tot As I read the reviews I found I was on the opposing side of the majority of reviewers. I agree with Eric S, and have copied his review. The author would be right at home on a conservative right wing red neck radio show. Why fight to the last man? Because were men dammit! IMO, this is pretty much the entire book. I still don't know the answer to the title except; because! I wasn't into it after a quarter and started skipping around before I gave up altogether. I may try to read this again but totally meh for me. Interesting title, I'd have liked an answer. Aloha Joe B. This book is not a typical history book detailing events of various battles. The author implies that he will answer "why men fight when all is lost". He presents his thesis and gives some compelling facts, which provided limited support for it. The book has some really good parts, mostly at the beginning and the end. It describes some seventeen battles which the author attempts to use as confirming evidence for his thesis. However, he fails to answer the questions he raises in the introduction. That is my main complaint. Too many of the example battles have no evidence to support the idea that the men involved knew that "all was lost". There is very little information that would give a clear answer to the questions raised. It has been said, "All generalizations are ipso facto lies." The intro has quite a few of these and they are distracting. He frequently uses primary sources not to gain an accurate depiction of the events but to buttress his thesis. The result of this is that he makes factual errors. Most people would dismiss that as nit picking, but their accumulation becomes a detraction. The author lets his opinions of various historical figures color his description to a very poor effect. There is too much of the novelist and not much of the historian. The author spends time giving the historical context of the battle, the events leading up to it and what occurred after. The author also gives a fair amount of biographical detail of the main participants. That is exactly what a "typical history" book does. It does NOT do anything to support the thesis or answer the questions. Last major complaint is the author relies a little too much on movies to aid his descriptions. Lots of good movies mentioned but Hollywood isn't history. The directors, actors, and screenwriters usually know what message they're trying to convey. So you're not going to discover any "hidden truth" there. That said there were quite a few good observations and interesting insights. If you know nothing about the battles listed this would be a reasonable introduction to them. However, the descriptions are often slanted or biased. Too much "when men fight" and not enough "why men fight", which is ostensibly the entire purpose of the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    William Harris

    I recently finished reading an advance examination copy of Michael Walsh's "Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost," soon to be published by St. Martin's Press. It is an intriguing and unexpected approach to its subject matter. Anyone approaching the text should carefully examine the second part of the title, for this is no detailed attempt to reexamine the events of particular battles, and it is in no sense comprehensive. Instead, it examines several of the best known "last stands" (as wel I recently finished reading an advance examination copy of Michael Walsh's "Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost," soon to be published by St. Martin's Press. It is an intriguing and unexpected approach to its subject matter. Anyone approaching the text should carefully examine the second part of the title, for this is no detailed attempt to reexamine the events of particular battles, and it is in no sense comprehensive. Instead, it examines several of the best known "last stands" (as well as a couple of truly obscure ones) and carefully places them in their cultural contexts. This is accomplished by a basic description of the battle embedded in a contextual discussion of its short and long term consequences. The basic question that informs these cultural speculations is the second part of the title. In some sense the author is a sort of contextual translator, trying to explain how these events, profoundly rooted in our past, make little sense to us because of the cultural changes that have occurred in Western Civilization over the past few centuries. The author makes a compelling case for his thesis although it will not find favor with many of those who will find it profoundly politically incorrect. There is much discussion of masculinity as well honor, duty, patriotism and other virtues traditionally associated with military culture. Notably, the author relies heavily on literary artifacts to demonstrate how these kinds of military actions, which can seem so alien to modern consciousness, can be interpreted in a more sympathetic fashion leading to greater understanding by trying to get past our modern biases. In each case examined, and they have significant differences between them, It quickly becomes apparent that we must suspend some of our modern prejudices to truly understand how actions which are easily dismissed as suicidal or foolish can (and frequently do) lead to the creation of important myths and legends which shape our societies. What is more, the arguments made suggest that this is obvious to the soldiers or warriors involved even as they sacrifice their lives fully understanding that their sacrifice will have consequences that will reflect well on them. Read it and think about it. You may not agree with all of it, but you will surely find your interest piqued.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Walton

    A bit disappointing, though an interesting read that skims a number of “last stands” (in a very loose sense) in military history, with many interjections of commentary in relation to modern ideals. The main problems: tries too hard to sound academic at high cost to readability, and is very stylistic in applying the lessons from history to modern problems. I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiments, but they are often not presented coherently or logically. The main sis, that manliness/honor A bit disappointing, though an interesting read that skims a number of “last stands” (in a very loose sense) in military history, with many interjections of commentary in relation to modern ideals. The main problems: tries too hard to sound academic at high cost to readability, and is very stylistic in applying the lessons from history to modern problems. I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiments, but they are often not presented coherently or logically. The main sis, that manliness/honor drives men to fight to the end and is a necessary ingredient of society, is interesting and fairly counter-culture (at least in my rings), certainly echoes throughout the book, but I wish he had drawn more concrete conclusions and attempted fewer flowery descriptions. Conclusion: worth it if interested but be aware of the shortcomings.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    A good, if occasionally uneven, reading of the psychology and culture behind last stands. The emphasis, correctly, is on the male experience because these tend to be the ones that embrace the heroic in the act. Woke readers can safely give this book a pass. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    The introduction is gold. Don’t skim through it. What I didn’t like: how much the author seems to hate Luther- almost as much as Luther hated the Pope.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe W

    What a shame. I went into this book eager to learn about the famous "last stands" in history, battles where one side is brutally and completely slaughtered to the last man by the other side, and how they have impacted western culture through the ages. While these is some of this to be found, it is largely null and void when compared to the problems that this book suffers from. To start with, it is important to know who the author is, as it is crucial to understanding the direction that this book What a shame. I went into this book eager to learn about the famous "last stands" in history, battles where one side is brutally and completely slaughtered to the last man by the other side, and how they have impacted western culture through the ages. While these is some of this to be found, it is largely null and void when compared to the problems that this book suffers from. To start with, it is important to know who the author is, as it is crucial to understanding the direction that this book takes. Michael Walsh is a classical music critic and an outspoken conservative. Outspoken is the key word, for his political philosophies seep into his work. It leaves the reader having to be forced to read things like this paragraph found in the introduction: "In an age of victimhood and identity politics, heroism is increasingly regarded as an antiquated relic of the 'patriarchy' as if, historically at least, there had ever been an alternative. Is it 'racist' to sacrifice yourself for your own kind rather than submit to the sword of the alien enemy seeking to supplant you? By regarding all cultures as equal, or even superior, to one's own, has not treason therefore become the highest form of patriotism? The cultural-Marxist import of 'Critical Theory' would have us ask these questions, not to illuminate the moral issues, which have long since been decided, but to sow doubt about our most basic social concepts: a pacifist, post-Christian, feminized West seemingly can no longer take its own side in a quarrel. Accommodation, inclusivity, tolerance, and, above all, shame have become the new watchwords. In a politically correct culture, only a fool would sacrifice himself for something as fashionably objectionable as the traditional nuclear family or as base as personal honor." -Michael Walsh, Last Stand: Why Men Fight When All is Lost Allow me to say that, when reading this, I can't help but picture the stereotypical crotchety old man who is seen always complaining about liberal snowflakes, draft dodgers, and Obamacare. Regardless as to whether or not you agree with Mr. Walsh's viewpoints, I don't think the addition of his politics serves the book in any positive manner. Instead, it just sounds like Walsh is just venting about the deplorable state of the modern West instead of focusing on the actual battles themselves and their impact. Just to nail this point home, this little nugget can be found on page 117: "Faith... is is one of the things that made France great: it mobilized the Crusades, built the most magnificent cathedrals in Europe, and gave us some of the greatest sacred music, especially for organ, ever written. Today, however, the French have no spiritual resources within themselves to oppose their country's burgeoning Muslim population, which not only has no use for Catholicism but for the concept of laïcité itself. Will the French fight for their country, as Roland did? It seems, alas, improbable." -Michael Walsh, Last Stand: Why Men Fight When All is Lost As if there is need for fighting in the first place. I'm sorry to have to break it to Michael Walsh, but the Muslims who are currently residing in France are in no way acting in a manner that necessitates them being targets for the next Crusade. These politics are, at worst, absolutely deplorable. Another thing that should be hit on is the pitiful excuse that is the organization in this book. To put it concisely, it's all over the f***ing place. One can be reading about the brutal combat of the classical period and then be sucked into how men seek and embrace the Greek God of Death, Thanatos, "when it is the price to pay for sexual satisfaction," all in the matter of a couple of paragraphs. In these moments, there is little elaboration on his ideas, so one is left confused as to the ideas he is trying to raise or how they even connect. Lastly, I was hoping there would be more descriptions of the actual battles. I understand that this book had no intention in trying to give a detailed account of each battle, but what is present is lackluster at best. The section on the Battle of the Alamo, which is composed of only 13 pages, devotes just two paragraphs to the actual battle. In a book that looks at the fighting spirit of men in battle and why they have fought to the last man in an array of engagements throughout time, I would have at least hoped to have some insight as to what the battles were like for those men. To sum up my views, this book is many things: a political diatribe, a rebuke of modern Western culture, and a meandering and baseless walk through the history of masculinity (I say baseless because there is not a notes nor bibliography section to be found). One thing it is not is a serious work of military history nor a thoughtful and balanced overview of the West and its culture throughout time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    I was intrigued by the title and premises of this work, as last stands have their role to play in history. Yet, once I started reading this, it turned into a "WTF" read. The introduction that explains the why of this book went into a whole "men need to be men" and that traditional gender roles are critical for future national successes. No wonder quite a few conservative commentators loved this book. As for the accounts, there is good history and for the American reader, there is something to gl I was intrigued by the title and premises of this work, as last stands have their role to play in history. Yet, once I started reading this, it turned into a "WTF" read. The introduction that explains the why of this book went into a whole "men need to be men" and that traditional gender roles are critical for future national successes. No wonder quite a few conservative commentators loved this book. As for the accounts, there is good history and for the American reader, there is something to gleam for that. Yet, the thesis of this book is flawed. Walsh doesn't always apply the premise smoothly or correctly. Given that the author, who does an admirable job recounting the saga of his father in Korea, probably never lifted anything bigger than a keyboard and never actually served in any capacity, his views can be quite easily discounted. People will fight to the end, but it is not always about "men being men" and women being the object for fighting. His excessive praise of the slaughter of US forces at the Little Big Horn is off the mark in many ways. The US would have overrun/beaten the Native Tribes without the idiotic slaughter. His take on the Alamo is just as ill-thought, for he doesn't really acknowledge the real impact of the martyrdom. No Alamo, probably no Texan independence. Overall, you can take the history, but just read the Wikipedia articles. The premise of this book doesn't work. That people might actually waste money buying this work is unfortunate. Definitely not for the liberal minded, or for those women who serve in the military. A nice bit of xenophobia as well is in this work, so probably not for the non-Caucasian reader either (at least he will acknowledge, however begrudgingly) the fighting prowess of some (Zulus, some of the Native American Tribes).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Cook

    I’ve always loved history; especially military history, so I really enjoyed this book. The narratives about each “last stand” are very interesting, but also instructional and scary. I never really understood the fall of the Roman empire, but anyone who doesn’t see the similarity between that situation and the mess that our country has wandered into today is a moron or just willfully stupid. The similarity between the leadership of Rome back then and our government, big business, and other “elite I’ve always loved history; especially military history, so I really enjoyed this book. The narratives about each “last stand” are very interesting, but also instructional and scary. I never really understood the fall of the Roman empire, but anyone who doesn’t see the similarity between that situation and the mess that our country has wandered into today is a moron or just willfully stupid. The similarity between the leadership of Rome back then and our government, big business, and other “elites” now is striking. Hard to believe we aren’t headed for the same fate. As some groups constantly criticize the concepts of honor and duty and of masculinity in general, we’ll eventually weaken the country to the point that someone is going to show up and knock us off.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost tells some interesting parts of history. I give it five stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    George Dobson

    This book was terrible. The question 'why do men fight when all is lost' is never adequately or coherently addressed. The other stated thesis, about re-discovering masculinity was also not really well explained, but what there was seemed to describe a dogmatic and pig-headed view of masculinity, in which the only way men and be men is by engaging in violence. Not to mention it was clearly xenophobic throughout, implying that all Muslims are out to conquer the west and that Christians are heroic This book was terrible. The question 'why do men fight when all is lost' is never adequately or coherently addressed. The other stated thesis, about re-discovering masculinity was also not really well explained, but what there was seemed to describe a dogmatic and pig-headed view of masculinity, in which the only way men and be men is by engaging in violence. Not to mention it was clearly xenophobic throughout, implying that all Muslims are out to conquer the west and that Christians are heroic crusaders lock in a holy war between civilizations. Please. Don't waste your time with this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cris Mcmann

    This book is terrible. It pretends to be a history book with no real scholarship behind it. Some goofy old white guy complaining that, for some reason, many people no longer think war mongering white guys are really who we should look up to. Don’t read it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill D Smithhart

    Last stand of brevity Too little of the stands themselves and way too much about events leading to and occurring after. Some were questionably not last stands. Disappointed and a waste of time and money.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    I tried, and failed, to get past the author's sexism and misogyny. Maybe his accounts of the battles were good. I certainly don't know as I tired quickly of a sexist pseudo-historian. Utter trash. I tried, and failed, to get past the author's sexism and misogyny. Maybe his accounts of the battles were good. I certainly don't know as I tired quickly of a sexist pseudo-historian. Utter trash.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Student Of

    Picture your crazy uncle: he has a great memory for dates and names of battles, encyclopedic knowledge of weapon types and names of leaders—but sees the entire world through some Quixotic delusions about blood and honor. Not because men had to fight hopeless battles; because that’s what “men” (trumpeted adoringly) are supposed to seek out and live for. I fell for it. Given the brave resolution of Ukrainians fighting right now against an overwhelming and cynical invasion, I thought this text migh Picture your crazy uncle: he has a great memory for dates and names of battles, encyclopedic knowledge of weapon types and names of leaders—but sees the entire world through some Quixotic delusions about blood and honor. Not because men had to fight hopeless battles; because that’s what “men” (trumpeted adoringly) are supposed to seek out and live for. I fell for it. Given the brave resolution of Ukrainians fighting right now against an overwhelming and cynical invasion, I thought this text might speak to the stores of courage that men and women can call upon, when cornered. Instead, this is the most troglodyte excuse for historical analysis it’s ever been my displeasure to read. This author describes violence with video-game teenage enthrall, and breathlessly gory detail, while opining endlessly how men are supposed to be men, and women should stop acting like men. So completely has Walsh drank the Kool-aid that he attributes war to man’s (collective) desire for combat, brawling, and machismo. Men are a monolith to him, all driven in the direction of initiating violence. He doesn’t separate the bravery of men thrown into war from the decision to go to war in the first place. The proof that men are wishful warriors? That wars keep happening, of course! That specious logic would have you believe that the Russian boys in Ukraine right now marched into battle singing “Onward Christian soldiers,” flanked by their heroic and manly leader. Women, meanwhile, are weak because they seek stability, and use diplomacy. What women are good for, Walsh states with unabashed misogyny, is birthing more warriors so that the other side can’t win. In the midst of this relentless barnstorming, Walsh spits out angry asides constantly, and with contorted reasons for bringing them up in the first place-- today’s Westerners are soft; men are flaccid pansies; women are shamefully more masculine than the men; Islam is the forever enemy; and don’t forget that Communism, gay people, and the Green Party are all lurking to install their Fifth Column tyranny. Yes, he actually brings these all up. And it all starts with—no surprise here—the wish to please Daddy. Not able to be there as his father was to storm the beaches of battle, Walsh fawns over how his father is still teaching him how to be a man. I read history books all the time that offer views different than my own. Every one of them still teaches me something worthwhile. They don’t plow an agenda by tossing out sanctimonious pablum every tenth page. Give this biased curmudgeon a wide berth, and pick out a book that can introduce historical fact without the Red Scare chest beating.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Sullivan

    "Last Stands" is a fitting continuation of the themes the author elaborates in his previous two books, "The Devil's Pleasure Palace" and "The Fiery Angel". The Heroic Ideal and the Warrior Mythos are examined at depth from a historical perspective of battles, some memorialized in films, others little known outside the local region or ethnic lore. The thesis is the continuation of the title, “Why Men Fight When All Is Lost”. While the previous works focused on classical music and literature, eac "Last Stands" is a fitting continuation of the themes the author elaborates in his previous two books, "The Devil's Pleasure Palace" and "The Fiery Angel". The Heroic Ideal and the Warrior Mythos are examined at depth from a historical perspective of battles, some memorialized in films, others little known outside the local region or ethnic lore. The thesis is the continuation of the title, “Why Men Fight When All Is Lost”. While the previous works focused on classical music and literature, each chapter investigates one or two battles in their historical context, examines the backgrounds and motivations of the leaders, as well as their flaws. The whole notion of why men fight is under scrutiny in our push-button, high-tech society where victimhood is lionized and masculinity is considered politically incorrect. But why is it so common to see people cheering the underdog? Is it innate in our human nature? These battles are not described as they would in a traditional history text, but more as a storyteller would. Indeed, one of my few criticisms is that there were not more battle maps depicting the terrain, the troop movements, as a traditional history would. The tactics of the situation are thoroughly examined, as well as potential options that were not taken, and the possible consequences. But this is not as much a study of tactics as it is of mindsets and warrior mentality as fighters find themselves in unwinnable situations. “Fight or Flight” responses, as well as “survive to fight another day” are all well known in the soldier’s parlance, however, that is why these particular battles are notable. The decision to fight to the death under overwhelming odds is never taken easily, when alternatives exist. Yet in each case, for various reasons, be it honor, overconfidence, underestimation of their adversary, greed, or hubris, the leaders in these chapters undertake their clashes with destiny. Some of the battles led to a demoralization of the defeated forces. Yet in several cases, an epic defeat in a particular battle served to inspire others to ultimately arrive victorious in the aftermath, as in the case of the Alamo, where the Mexican forces of Santa Ana were not able to translate their victory there to a capitulation of the Texans. In other cases, the victorious forces were able to deter their adversaries for generations, as in the case of Arminius in the Teutoberger Forest victory over the Romans. In other instances, the sacrifices made in their valiant fight served as inspiration for later generation, as in the case of the Maccabees at Masada. The Warrior Psyche is complex and is little understood in contemporary Western Culture, where causes are adopted and dropped at the whims of the popular media, and video gamers hit reset to fight another game. Our prevailing cancel culture is questioning whether our flawed experiment in self-governance is worth saving, much less fighting for, and instant gratification outweighs any thoughts of self-sacrifice or deferred actualization. This examination brings back a valuable discussion that has recently been ignored or trivialized. Ironic, perhaps, to see in recent years that diverse groups such as Antifa and BLM are increasingly militarized while the popular culture that embraces them deplores our professional military fighting forces. The concept of fighting for what one believes has been a part of human nature since the Ancient Greeks and Hebrews, and will continue to be despite the trendy campus notions to the contrary. Well worth reading for the level of understanding that it provides and a reassurance that despite insurmountable obstacles, some battles are worth fighting and some causes are still worth fighting for.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    Walsh has chosen thirteen 'last stands' and devotes a chapter to each in an interesting, and provocative commentary on war, culture, and concepts of honor, duty, family and courage. In each chapter, he briefly narrates the facts of the specific battle itself, putting it into a broader context of the greater conflict in which it occurred, and in the process deflating some myths and conventional wisdoms along the way (for example, The Song of Roland so foundational to the concept of French nationh Walsh has chosen thirteen 'last stands' and devotes a chapter to each in an interesting, and provocative commentary on war, culture, and concepts of honor, duty, family and courage. In each chapter, he briefly narrates the facts of the specific battle itself, putting it into a broader context of the greater conflict in which it occurred, and in the process deflating some myths and conventional wisdoms along the way (for example, The Song of Roland so foundational to the concept of French nationhood was written a couple of hundred years after Roland fell - and Roland himself was a minor knight who likely stood and fell fighting Basque forces, not Muslim conquerors - but history prints the legend, not the truth). The bulk of each chapter is spent explaining the significance of the last stand in question, its effects on history, its aspect within the panoply of cultural, societal and even civilizational trends stemming from the conflict and from the last stand itself. Many of the last stands chosen by Walsh are relatively unknown, and they make for fascinating reading (Roncevaux Pass, Masada, the Vatican Swiss Guard, Siege of Szigetvar, and others). Others are very well known (the Spartan 300, the Alamo, the Battle of Hastings, et al.). Yet Walsh manages to include fresh insights and fascinating bits of data and surprising facts about them all. Some of them do not mesh as well as others within his main thesis of the motivational concepts of duty, honor, courage, family and country but then his text would not be provocative, speaking in the good sense of fomenting thought and reflection. The book is compelling, highly informative and engaging. There is a lot to be learned here, and much to consider. Walsh has a slightly sardonic outlook on things that comes through nicely, especially as he occasionally reflects on the modern day in light of the revelations he is discussing from the past.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Kaminar

    If you are an earnest student of war, leave this book on the shelf. In fairness, author Michael Walsh warns us in the introduction that this will not be a typical work of military history. However, he fails to warn us that his real thesis is not to help us understand what drives soldiers to fight to the death, but rather to propagate his personal social and political philosophies. Make no mistake, I am not faulting the author for having his opinions – we all have them. But the historical example If you are an earnest student of war, leave this book on the shelf. In fairness, author Michael Walsh warns us in the introduction that this will not be a typical work of military history. However, he fails to warn us that his real thesis is not to help us understand what drives soldiers to fight to the death, but rather to propagate his personal social and political philosophies. Make no mistake, I am not faulting the author for having his opinions – we all have them. But the historical examples the author compellingly but briefly retells do not constitute the “meat and potatoes” of this book. Rather, they are merely the springboard into what is little more than a celebration of war as exclusively the rightful province of militant masculinity and a paean to the superiority of Western culture. Along the way, Walsh treats us to outlandish assertions, such as fallaciously comparing Jewish merchants who engaged in legitimate commerce with the occupying Roman army to the Kapos used by the Nazis to help run the extermination camps, or the confident assertion that France has been so emasculated that contemporary Frenchmen would no longer fight to preserve their country. The author makes it a point to include a number of foreign terms (sometimes without explanation or definition), generously sprinkled throughout the text, as though to convince us of his education and expertise. I do not question that Mr. Walsh is well versed in the history of warfare – but I believe he owes us all an apology for foisting this sort of propaganda on us in the guise of serious military history. If I missed your point, Mr. Walsh, then I regret that - but it was your responsibility as the author to make your point clear. You did not.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cole Sorensen

    I read this book mainly in the hope of gaining thought provoking insight into the question that the subtitle presupposes: why do men fight when all is lost? Walsh certainly addresses that question, but not nearly as focused or thoroughly as I would have liked. This may have been my own fault of misunderstanding the nature of the book. My favorite portion was the introduction, where Walsh gives insightful commentary on our modern western world and the way in which the ideal of the honorable mascu I read this book mainly in the hope of gaining thought provoking insight into the question that the subtitle presupposes: why do men fight when all is lost? Walsh certainly addresses that question, but not nearly as focused or thoroughly as I would have liked. This may have been my own fault of misunderstanding the nature of the book. My favorite portion was the introduction, where Walsh gives insightful commentary on our modern western world and the way in which the ideal of the honorable masculine warrior has been devalued, even villianized, in his opinion to our grave detriment. The rest of the book consists of retellings of famous last stands, from Thermopylae to the Korean War. These chapters are almost wholly narrative retellings, with very little commentary linking it to the question of why men fight. I think this book would be most interesting to someone wanting to read about famous heroic battles for their historical interest, rather than to someone wanting to read a book delving into the nature, role, purpose, etc. of warfare and masculinity, and the implications for modern society. What I did appreciate was the way in which the author continually reminds us of the absolute brutality and grotesque violence of warfare, which was a reality most people were acutely familiar with throughout history. In our 21st century world, warfare can often seem distant and sterile. In his retellings, Walsh makes clear that this was not so for the ancients, describing the personal nature of warfare, particularly when melee weaponry is involved, and explaining that for them, the threat of war was practically a guarantee in life.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Dowd

    This book is listed as a military history book. It is not. I won’t get into the politics of this book, and let’s be clear, this is a book about our current politics. I hate discussing politics because it inevitably leads to arguments which have no end. I am not naïve enough to think books don’t inherently require a political tilt, but that is why there is a VERY important thing to have in any history book: a bibliography. Guess what this book does not have? A bibliography is the way an author pres This book is listed as a military history book. It is not. I won’t get into the politics of this book, and let’s be clear, this is a book about our current politics. I hate discussing politics because it inevitably leads to arguments which have no end. I am not naïve enough to think books don’t inherently require a political tilt, but that is why there is a VERY important thing to have in any history book: a bibliography. Guess what this book does not have? A bibliography is the way an author presents the real work of a book by documenting their research. If they say something you heartily disagree with, you can go back to primary or secondary sources to check where it came from. Maybe it changes your mind, maybe it doesn’t. Many historians think George Custer was a dashing figure undone by outside forces. I think his arrogance lead to the death of him and his soldiers. Both can be right, and both can be supported by primary sources. Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This is historical fact. Why it happened is up to an interpretation by the presenter and it is their job to prove their viewpoint as much as is possible. Walsh does none of that. Also, the actual “last stands” in this book take up shockingly little page count. Walsh actually expects you to know more about them than he presents.

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