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

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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