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

HOW WE WON AND LOST THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

TWO YEARS IN THE PASHTUN HOMELAND

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. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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