An insightful, though often impersonal, exploration of an ongoing conflict.


A dual memoir and military history of America’s war with the Islamic State group.

This book provides readers with what may be the most complete insider’s perspective on the United States’ struggle against the Islamic State group to date. Maj. Gen. Pittard is a graduate of West Point, a former senior fellow at Harvard University, and the former leader of a U.S. task force “to help Iraqi and Kurdish Forces protect the capitals of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish Region from the relentless advance of the terrorist ‘army’ of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).” His co-author, Master Sgt. Bryant, enlisted in the Air Force in 1998 after a directionless post–high school period that included a few failed community college classes. Their combined perspectives create a narrative that expertly explains the complexities of Middle Eastern politics and also offers the perspective of the war from the soldiers on the ground. Pittard’s chapters give readers key insights into the geopolitical and domestic factors that complicated American strategies, from competing ethnic and religious groups to contentious behind-the-scenes conversations with American politicians, such as U.S. Sen. John McCain. One section that particularly stands out is Pittard’s discussion of the difficulties locating “trained moderate Syrian rebels,” whom American politicians were eager to assist. Alternately, Bryant’s passages relate the intensity and terror of the battlefield in a flavorful vernacular (“the hours eked by”) that’s absent from Pittard’s lessons on Middle East politics. The book also tells the story of the rise of “strike cells” to hunt and killing Islamic State members, which combined ground forces with airstrikes, directed from remote operations centers—and represented a new phase in U.S. military history. The two men provide a shared skepticism of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, intermittently critiquing both of them throughout the book. Pittard, for instance, asserts that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “diplomatically outmaneuvered” Obama to become a central player in the region following the American president’s reluctance to intervene in Syria—even after it was proven that Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical weapons. Emphasizing the point of view of troops on the ground, Bryant critiques American politicians who seemed to have placed “not just the lives—but the perceptions of the Afghan people above the welfare of U.S. warfighters.” His accounts are also peppered with implicitly orientalist descriptions of the Middle East, however; at one point, for example, he describes Kandahar as “a Mad Max version of civilization—trying to copy the West, but not quite getting it right.” That said, in one of the book’s more introspective sections, Bryant reflects on his own biases after observing joyous Muslim families at a shopping mall in Bahrain. Similar contemplative passages are rare, though, leaving readers without valuable insights into the physical, mental, and spiritual tolls of war, which are common in military memoirs. Also, although both authors introduce readers to their families, the impact of the war on their loved ones’ lives is equally elusive.

An insightful, though often impersonal, exploration of an ongoing conflict.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64293-055-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2020

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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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