A powerful account of the relationship between fighting war and preserving peace, viewed through the lens of the stories...

UNDERDOGS

THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MARINE CORPS

How the Marine Corps became the country's preferred globe-spanning intervention force during the early years of the Cold War.

Unlike the other branches of the armed forces, writes O'Connell (History/U.S. Naval Academy), the Marines did not rush into nuclear technology after World War II. Instead, he argues, the Corps built on its combat record, especially in the Pacific island-hopping campaign, to re-orient itself as an elite, naval or helicopter-borne, quick-reaction force, able to provide various combinations of unit strength on very short notice. Using an equipment and technology budget line from the Navy, the Marines expanded in size and technical capability to meet this adopted objective. The real eye-opener here is O'Connell's account of the behind-the-scenes lobbying and PR work conducted by the Chowder Society, “an unofficial organization of…well-connected officers” dedicated to protecting the Corps from postwar defense reorganizations. According to the author, this went beyond lobbying and included spying, leaking classified documents and smearing opponents. The group made full use of the Marine’s press networks, building especially on the wartime centralization of news distribution. Headquarters had developed tactics for dealing with the press, such as preparing “Joe Blow” stories of hometown combat troops. O'Connell shows how Hollywood transformed the image of the Marines, who sustained a casualty rate double that of the Army, by crafting stories that depicted them as military heroes. Then, to support peacetime political combat, those stories were tweaked to portray them as gentle protectors of families and motherhood. The author contrasts the stories with the reality.

A powerful account of the relationship between fighting war and preserving peace, viewed through the lens of the stories that built support for both.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-674-05827-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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