An immensely readable, nondidactic study of how “perpetuating the War for the Greater Middle East is not enhancing American...



A critical examination of the four decades–long failed U.S. policy of using military force to solve the ongoing crises in the Middle East.

From the disastrous attempt to rescue the U.S. embassy hostages in Tehran in 1980 to the present day, Army veteran and author Bacevich (Emeritus, International Relations and History/Boston Univ.; Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, 2014, etc.) finds few accomplishments in the U.S. military action in the Middle East. The irony that the most peaceable, guileless president, Jimmy Carter, was the one to implement the first direct military action in the region (“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States”) underscores what the author sees as a long-running lack of clarity and focus to American policy. Thus, the Persian Gulf—specifically, the access to its oil—assumed new importance to the United States, and the region became a significant “area of responsibility” to be governed by the newly christened U.S. Central Command. Following a truly eye-opening diagram at the book’s beginning, which delineates the many staggered “selected campaigns and operations, 1980-” in the region by the U.S., Bacevich moves chronologically through these unfortunate military engagements—e.g., Operation Cyclone, the covert arming of the Afghan resistance to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This particular campaign, writes the author, deserves mention for two reasons: it laid the foundation for the later overt actions, and it illustrates the persistent pattern of “intently focusing on solving one problem, to exacerbate a second and plant the seeds of a third.” Over and over, the U.S. military mentality of “we won, they lost” proved short-lived and misguided.

An immensely readable, nondidactic study of how “perpetuating the War for the Greater Middle East is not enhancing American freedom, abundance, and security. If anything, it is having the opposite effect.”

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-39393-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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