Smart and well-argued—and sure to anger at least some in the Pentagon.




A literate, adventure-filled history of “special warfare” fought by small bands of hunters of men whose services, it appears, will be ever more in demand.

That history, writes Leebaert (Government/Georgetown Univ.; The Fifty-Year Wound, 2002), is “to be found among the interstices of day-to-day friction and counterblows of tribes rising into city-states, into robust nations and then perhaps into empires and superpowers.” WWII buffs know all about the epic battles between Nazis and Russians on the eastern front and Nazis and the other Allies in the west, whereas even the best-informed student of modern military history may not know much about the activities of the Lurps in Vietnam or the Delta Force in Afghanistan—for special-operations soldiers from the Myrmidons to the Gray Ghosts to the modern SAS aim to keep their activities secret. Leebaert offers a sweeping, quite fascinating look at these soldiers through history, remarking on the astonishing abilities of a few well-trained fighters who put “a premium on knowledge” to disrupt whole nations. He braves controversy by including in the mix the 9/11 hijackers, the Viet Cong, the minions of Somali warlords and assorted other bad guys, but the point is well taken; it is because so many battles are now being fought on “unfixed terrain” against stateless and irregular forces that fighters such as the Green Berets and Russia’s Spetsnaz are becoming central, and invaluable, less an adjunct in need than “a systematic arm of war.” Leebaert courts more controversy with his harsh assessment of the conduct of the Iraq war and the larger war on terrorism and about the capabilities of the current (“inept”) Secretary of Defense. He seems to stand on incontestable ground, however, when he prophesies that more terrorist mayhem is to come.

Smart and well-argued—and sure to anger at least some in the Pentagon.

Pub Date: March 23, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-14384-7

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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