The occupation, Phillips urges, has been characterized by sheer incompetence. Though there’s little news in that...

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LOSING IRAQ

INSIDE THE POSTWAR RECONSTRUCTION FIASCO

Might does not always equal power, strength does not always yield influence, and “winning the peace requires cooperation from freedom’s beneficiaries.” So warns policy expert Phillips (Council on Foreign Relations) in this justly gloomy report.

Saddam was no friend of the Iraqi people, allows Phillips. In areas of Kurdish settlement, he introduced ethnic cleansing methods meant to “Arabize” the population and destroy political opposition; areas of Shia control were bloodily repressed. Despite ethnic divisions that lead some observers to wonder whether Iraq can really be a country at all, Phillips suggests that federalism may be the best hope for an independent nation. Complicating this are all the old scores to settle—not just Shia versus Sunni, Baathist versus Kurd, but also, back across the waters, neocon versus paleocon, nation-builder versus bomb-into-submission old Cold Warriors. In this respect, picture Paul Wolfowitz, who fancies himself an expert on Islam and is demonstrably a hawk, rumbling with Colin Powell, who characterized the weapons-of-mass-destruction ploy as “bullshit”; though Phillips reminds us that Powell eventually bowed to the will of President Bush, it is clear whose side he believes the angels and devils stand. Phillips, like so many others, wonders how it could be that the U.S. backed such a wrong horse as Ahmad Chalabi, who has stood trial for embezzlement elsewhere in the Arab world and seems now to be favored only by a small set of neocons. One answer, he suggests, is that State Department analysts who knew anything at all about Iraq, rather like the “China hands” of old, were systematically frozen out of agencies such as the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, a civilian and military clearinghouse for transitional management of Iraqi affairs. One result: good military campaign, bad postwar management, with neocons like Wolfowitz brushing aside the concerns and warnings of career soldiers who presumably know something about war.

The occupation, Phillips urges, has been characterized by sheer incompetence. Though there’s little news in that argument—and indeed, little news here—his narrative does a good job of recording a long series of missteps, naming names as it does.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8133-4304-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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