An anthropologist audits the US Army's Special Forces with the analytic rigor and vigor she would apply to any intriguing, albeit alien, culture in her sights. UCLA professor Simons (who married a Special Forces soldier she met while doing fieldwork in Somalia during the late 1980s) offers a cool, corrective briefing on an elite branch of America's military, which (owing mainly to Hollywood hype and sensation- seeking journalists) has an at best ambiguous image. Drawing on the apparently open access she was afforded to an SF battalion stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., the author provides a quick and dirty history of America's modern involvement in unconventional warfare. She stresses that behind-the-lines operations are but one aspect of the SF's largely clandestine missions; in addition to direct action (ambushes, hit-and-run raids, sabotage), they encompass assisting foreign governments in establishing defenses against subversion or insurgency, the tutoring of indigenous irregulars or their state-supported counterparts, and reconnaissance. Employing unit designations and names of her own devising, Simons delivers a detailed picture of how SF soldiers train for low-intensity conflicts, intelligence-gathering, and instruction assignments in offshore venues. Noting that all SF endeavors place a premium on cooperation, she puts paid to any notion that such outfits welcome rugged individualists, let alone Rambo types. Covered as well are the divisions of labor within a 12-man A-team (the basic SF unit), the motivations of NCOs who make a career of the Special Forces, the constant competition for good duty, and the role of shock troops (Rangers or paratroopers) compared with the use of an ultraflexible, ``impressively low- tech'' detachment with the capacity to hold remote territories for long periods. An offbeat but consistently absorbing assessment of an unorthodox military organization that has experienced periodic difficulties in living down (or up to) its press clippings.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82816-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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