I purchased a first edition copy of the book The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick. I paid $10.45 ($3.46 plus $6.99 for (expedited) shipping). It was described as: “Condition: Used - Acceptable - ACCEPTABLE condition. NO dust jacket. Shows heavy shelf wear. Text is free of markings.” What it didn’t say and what it should have said was the book is unread. This book shows no signs of ever having been read and the only “wear” is the yellowing of the pages. Why am I not surprised? As I admitted in my blog post, “Alea Iacta Est”, in January 2018, even I hadn’t read the book after being directed to by my high school Latin teacher. If you remember my decision not to read the book garnered me a humbling if not humiliating classroom extraction, by my ear, followed by a stern talking to which nearly brought me to tears.
As I also mentioned, I have read the book several times since that hallway incident. My new career continues to introduce me to circumstances and characters similar to the ones in this book. I’ve spent most of my time over the last seven weeks, in my new career, sequestered in an academic setting with fellow students discussing, among other things, international relationships with our partners and allies. The emphasis is on attracting new international partners and sustaining current ones. Our discussions reminded me of this book so I thought I should re-read it. (I’ve given all my previous copies away.)
Today in my “industry” the topic of “great power competition” is tossed around daily. I chuckle because most people see this as a military calculus. It is not. Instead it is the “sum of tiny things”, all things, and unless we are willing to invest in each of these tiny things, these tiny battles, we will lose each and we will never prevail.
“What this means is that [our competitors] will win the world with their successes in a multitude of tiny battles. Many of these we will be fought around conference tables, in the rice fields of Asia, at village meetings, in schools; but mainly they will take place in the minds of men. Only occasionally will the battles be violent; but the sum of these tiny battles will decide whether our way of life is to perish or to persist.” (Lederer and Burdick)
Another thing omitted from the seller’s description of the book is the fact this book traveled on the SS Constitution, an ocean liner. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Constitution) By placing this book in the ship’s library there was the hope that world travelers would read this book and hopefully develop a better appreciation of the world they live in. Instead this book seems to have been ignored and hopefully the passengers, these would-be readers, were pulled out of their staterooms by their ear and giving a firm talking to.
"The way you do small things is the way you do all things." (Jens Wolff, 1736-ca. 1827, Scandinavian author and political analyst
"Do the little things right to reach the big goals." (Tom Izzo, b. 1955, American college basketball coach; winner of four national coach of the year awards; elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame; led the Michigan State Spartans to the 2000 NCAA Division I National Championship, the 2009 NCAA National Championship Game, seven Final Fours, nine Big Ten championships, and six Big Ten Tournament since 1995)
p.s. If you don’t want to read the whole book you can understand the main point of the book by reading Chapter 21 “The Sum of Tiny Things”. Don’t tell anyone you haven’t read the book otherwise you risk being extracted by your ear and given a stern talking to.