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. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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