A conventional but thoughtful illustration of the stupidity of war.



After more than 50 years of writing about military matters, veteran historian Horne (Kissinger: 1973, The Crucial Year, 2009, etc.) reflects on “the common features of warfare that stood out over the ages.”

Concluding that the main common feature is hubris (which the Greeks defined as “the worst sin a leader, or a nation, could commit”), the author makes a convincing, if not original, case by recounting several campaigns from the first half of the 20th century. More than half the book concerns Japan, whose dazzling victory in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War began with a sneak attack and ended with the annihilation of the Russian fleet. Horne emphasizes the characteristics of the land campaign, a brutal, Pyrrhic victory by poorly equipped but extremely aggressive Japanese forces. No one—the United States included—learned from this. Unhinged by hubris, Japan continued to nibble at Russia until 1939, when Stalin sent large forces that inflicted a crushing defeat in the undeservedly obscure battle of Nomonhan, persuading Japan to turn its attention to Hawaii, the Pacific, and South Asia—an unwise decision. More hubris (“victory disease”) following Pearl Harbor drove it to send a fleet to disaster at Midway. Using Hitler as an example of hubris is a no-brainer, but Horne delivers an admirable account of the 1941 defense of Moscow, the largest battle in history and the true turning point in the war. He concludes with the Korean War, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who nearly epitomizes hubris, delivered a masterful performance, and the 1954 French debacle at Dien Bien Phu. The bibliography is invaluable because Horne seems to have read every popular book on these wars. There is little original research, and he rocks no historical boats, but he has lived long and writes well.

A conventional but thoughtful illustration of the stupidity of war.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-239780-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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