Maddening, but helpful in pointing the way toward meaningful reforms in the conduct of American policy in the region.

The U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, with more to come. Journalist and military analyst Grindle shows why that loss of treasure has amounted to so little.

It seems hard to believe, but a couple of centuries ago, British rule in the tribal areas beyond the pale of colonial dominance was effective enough that the names of two towns embody those of the foreign administrators. That has not occurred in the instances of the Russians and Americans who followed. “In Afghanistan,” writes the author, “the central truism of counterinsurgency is that you cannot kill your way to victory.” Absent killing, nation-building is in order, yet American efforts have been thwarted by political opposition at home and corruption in the field. The sole path to success, Grindle argues, is to build an Afghan government that is capable of shouldering its own burdens, one that can overcome a predatory and corrupt constabulary, broken infrastructure, and a dead economy, all of which make the prospect of Taliban rule attractive to a broad segment of Afghani society. It’s not for want of trying: as the author notes, American commanders on the ground have ventured programs such as direct aid to women’s development NGOs only to be so often frustrated by inefficiency and worse. “Budget funds seldom trickled down to the province,” he notes in the case of one development program, “let alone from the province to the district in the form of projects.” In the place of the projected troop surge, then—and Grindle notes that it costs more than $500,000 to keep a single American soldier in the field for a year—he argues that greater attention be given to what American policy has studiously avoided: “finally trying to empower the people at the lowest levels.”

Maddening, but helpful in pointing the way toward meaningful reforms in the conduct of American policy in the region.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61234-954-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017


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


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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