Highly useful to scholars, and certain to excite discussion and even controversy, Kaiser's book is a valuable contribution.

AMERICAN TRAGEDY

KENNEDY, JOHNSON, AND THE ORIGINS OF THE VIETNAM WAR

An important addition to the sad—and growing—library devoted to the Vietnam war.

Kaiser is a longtime professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College—an important qualification, given the provocative news he brings in this heavily documented tome. Kaiser's argument runs counter to what in some quarters is now received wisdom: that Eisenhower was reluctant to involve Americans in Vietnam; that his successor, Kennedy, was a hawk in liberal's clothing. Kaiser modifies that view, writing that military commitment in Vietnam was a natural result of the Eisenhower administration's policy of global anticommunist containment—and that Kennedy, himself a former officer, was a cautious critic of the Pentagon, which had gladly taken on the opportunity to flex its military muscle and test out new ordnance in a faraway place. After Kennedy's assassination, Kaiser continues, Lyndon Johnson followed Eisenhower's lead to give the military essentially free rein, trusting Kennedy administration alumnus Robert McNamara to guide him truthfully—something, Kaiser and many other historians tell us, that McNamara willfully failed to do. As a result, Kaiser writes, ``Johnson undertook the war without giving much consideration to the damage it would do to other aspects of American foreign policy'' and indeed allowed it to dominate his presidency, despite frequent warnings from confidants such as Hubert Humphrey that the time had come to cut and run. Critical of the Pentagon, and convinced that Eisenhower's policy was doomed to fail, Kaiser warns that until North Vietnamese archives are available to scholars we can have no way of knowing how closely Ho Chi Minh's policy was bound to dictates from Moscow or Beijing—the fear of which provided the argument for containment in the first place.

Highly useful to scholars, and certain to excite discussion and even controversy, Kaiser's book is a valuable contribution.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00225-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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