A mixture of passion, dismay and cynicism, with streaks of perhaps hopeless hope.

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BREACH OF TRUST

HOW AMERICANS FAILED THEIR SOLDIERS AND THEIR COUNTRY

A former military officer and current professor assails the concept of the current all-volunteer Army and the general disconnect between the military and civilians.

Bacevich (History and International Relations/Boston Univ.; Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, 2010, etc.) offers a subtitle that is more than a little misleading, suggesting as it does that his complaint is a general failure to “support our troops.” Instead, the author sees the widespread support-the-troops sentiments only as periodic feel-good moments for citizens who otherwise have nothing to do with the fighting and dying—and as crass opportunities for merchandisers. He takes us back to the anti-war sentiments fomented by the draft during the Vietnam War, noting that in our earlier wars, our practice had been to have an Army comprised of citizen-soldiers: everyone’s involved; everyone’s affected. No more. After 9/11, writes Bacevich, came the “great decoupling”—it was then that President George W. Bush told us to go on shopping and living as if we were not at war. The author notes the current widespread apathy about our armed conflicts. After some sections dealing with the Cold War and its aftermath, Bacevich blasts our moves in the Middle East and our outsourcing of military functions to private contractors (who, he notes, have made vast fortunes). He writes with deep skepticism about our declarations of “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a World War II–type conclusion is impossible. He goes after some individuals, too; among them is Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose understanding of the challenges in Afghanistan, Bacevich claims, were “spectacularly arrogant or stunningly obtuse.” The author argues that the current system benefits only those in power and that the national security state does little but enrich some people and keep them in power. He deals with topics ranging from Israel to drone strikes, and he ends by advocating public service for all.

A mixture of passion, dismay and cynicism, with streaks of perhaps hopeless hope.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8296-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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

NIGHT

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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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