With vigorous, no-nonsense prose and an impressive clarity of vision, this general does not mince blame in this chronicle of...




A former commander of advisory teams in Iraq and Afghanistan offers historical perspective and a forthright breakdown of the failure of those conflicts.

A retired lieutenant general with 35 years in the U.S. Army and various commands in the Middle East over the last decade, Bolger admits he was “low[er] down on the food chain” but present enough to observe how “key decisions were made, delayed or avoided.” In sharp, plainspoken prose, he sets out the scenarios, from the first victorious Gulf War against Saddam Hussein to the beleaguered U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan in June 2013. Bolger characterizes the generals involved—e.g., comparing each to a historical counterpart, such as David Petraeus to the “innovative yet overly ambitious” Douglas MacArthur and himself to “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, who “told it like it was” (and got sent home for it)—and gives a clear sense of what the American forces possessed to their advantage: namely, an excellent volunteer military, top-notch military intelligence and workable joint operations. Bolger also explores what hindered them, including an amorphous enemy and a sense of damning hubris. The generals might have congratulated themselves on beating the “Vietnam syndrome,” but some of the same issues haunted the current Middle East crises—e.g., who was the enemy? “Defining the enemy defined the war,” writes Bolger, and from the Sunni insurgents to the Taliban to al-Qaida to the “green-on-blue turncoats,” the guerilla enemy retreated, changed and regrouped. Bolger does a fine job of delineating the technical aspects of military workings (while making good fun of the euphemistic names of the various operations labeled by the “guys in the Pentagon basement”) and candidly describes America’s efforts after a decade of attrition as “global containment of Islamic threats.”

With vigorous, no-nonsense prose and an impressive clarity of vision, this general does not mince blame in this chronicle of failure.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0544370487

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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

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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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