A narrow but useful look at terror.

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THE LESSONS OF TERROR

A HISTORY OF WARFARE AGAINST CIVILIANS: WHY IT HAS ALWAYS FAILED AND WHY IT WILL FAIL AGAIN

Novelist (Killing Time, 2000, etc.) and military historian (The Devil Soldier, 1991, etc.) Carr evaluates terror as a tactic, with an eye toward the US response to Osama bin Laden.

The lesson of terror, the author posits, is straightforward: it doesn’t work. Although terrorism seemed shockingly new on September 11, Carr argues that it’s but a variation on an old theme. Americans were quick to proclaim the attacks “acts of war,” and it is through this lens that Carr views terrorism. It is, he suggests, simply another way that warring parties have targeted noncombatants—a practice as old as war itself. More important, terrorism is a practice based on a misconception. Rather than intimidating an enemy into submission, it builds resentment that can last for generations. Carr offers many examples: Roman massacres of Germanic tribes under Augustus led to the raids by those same tribes nearly 500 later; William Tecumseh Sherman’s willingness to let northern troops plunder southern houses made reconciliation more difficult; and Israeli paramilitary groups inspired Palestinian terrorist organizations. The analysis is focused and evenhanded—each example demonstrates that terror leads to more of the same. Nor does Carr exempt the US from his critique. American policy, he claims, has often advocated civilian death in pursuit of its goals, and he cites the use of atomic weapons on Japan, napalm in Vietnam, and airstrikes in Kosovo. Carr, of course, is not the first to critique such methods of war, and he is as concerned with intellectual responses to what the Romans termed “destructive war” as he is with examples of its use. The problem is that he fails to consider the essence of what it was that troubled thinkers like Augustine and Hobbes. To both, wartime atrocities pointed to something more than a flaw in military strategy; terror was and remains a tactic that pushes the boundaries of reason: it is the point at which military objectives blend with bloodlust.

A narrow but useful look at terror.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50843-0

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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