Ironic, bloody, full of foreshadowing: a solid work.

A WAR OF FRONTIER AND EMPIRE

THE PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN WAR, 1899-1902

A big-picture account of an unremembered war that has uncomfortable parallels with ugly little wars that followed.

Silbey (History/Alvernia Coll.) maintains academic distance, so let the reader insert the appropriate names. A ruler forges from a congeries of tribes a rudimentary nation. Another nation invades, ostensibly to free those tribespeople from oppression. The invader churns up resistance that truly unifies those hitherto scattered tribespeople. Silbey worries at the outset how to characterize the conflict: “If there was no Philippine nation to engage in war or be conquered . . . what happened in the archipelago from 1899 to 1902 was an insurgency, not a war.” Fine distinctions aside, the Americans certainly considered it a war, and so did the Filipinos, and so did subsequent Filipino historians whose work Silbey takes into account, unlike some earlier histories of what has thus been called the Philippine-American War. Silbey is good on the overall shape of the conflict, whose preamble is rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo’s innocent remark to American officers: “I have studied attentively the Constitution of the United States and in it I find no authority for colonies and I have no fear.” He had reasons to be afraid, as Filipino forces began to suffer casualties that outnumbered American losses. Massacres ensued on both sides—and Silbey says too little about the American counterinsurgency techniques, among them assassination and torture, that led Mark Twain to suggest that the stars on our flag be replaced with skulls. It was a war against “niggers,” “gooks,” “chinks” and “redskins,” and on this racist dimension Silbey is quite good. When one black detachment arrived to fight, he notes, a white man yelled, “What are you coons doing here?” The reply came from several black soldiers at once: “We have come to take up the White Man’s Burden.”

Ironic, bloody, full of foreshadowing: a solid work.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2007

ISBN: 0-8090-7187-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

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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