Timely and provocative reading in a era of drum-beating.



Strategy analyst Cohen challenges the view that wars are best fought by military technicians without civilian interference.

Those who maintain that Vietnam would have been an American victory if only US generals had not had their hands tied by desk jockeys back home will doubtless take issue with Cohen’s thesis, which argues that inflexible military professionalism was one factor in America’s defeat. Reinforcing (but also qualifying) the adage “War is too important to be left to the generals,” Cohen (Strategy/Johns Hopkins Univ. and US Naval War College) examines the history of military campaigns in which democratic governments managed their generals in the field. Among the most successful was Abraham Lincoln’s constant intervention in Union military strategy; rather than concentrate on capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, as his generals wished, Lincoln insisted that the war be fought on the periphery of the South, steadily weakening the enemy by attrition. Taking issue with the “Lincoln finds a general” school of historiography, Cohen effectively demonstrates that the president “exercised a constant oversight of the war effort from beginning to end.” So did French leader Georges Clemenceau, who secured victory in WWI by balancing the competing demands of two very different generals, Pétain and Foch, and of independent-minded allies. So too did Israeli premier David Ben-Gurion, a gifted student of history who introduced civilian control (and guerrilla tactics) into the new nation’s army, making it something of an “organizational anomaly,” but a remarkably effective one. Although he appreciates professionalism and warns of the dangers of civilians without military experience being given too much managerial authority over affairs in the field, Cohen clearly endorses the idea of civilian control over those whose mission is to kill people and break things.

Timely and provocative reading in a era of drum-beating.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-3049-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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