A perceptive but narrow analysis of the human side of the Afghan conflict.

Hearts for Sale!

A BUYER'S GUIDE TO WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN

“Soft power,” not firepower, can deliver an American victory in Afghanistan, according to this debut treatise on military-civilian relations.

Marie, the president of the nonprofit Civil Visions International, spent two years as a U.S. Air Force officer in Afghanistan, an experience that gave her pronounced opinions on the conduct of the war effort. Her first premise is that the real enemy is Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, which, she argues, sponsors the Taliban as a proxy to control Afghanistan. Second, she insists that calls for an American pullout are but “enemy talking points”; the U.S. must “move forward, never give up and achieve a resounding victory,” lest Afghanistan revert to “the world’s largest salt-lick for Islamic nut-jobs.” But that goal, she contends, requires a more subtle, psychological approach to the war—one that enlists the allegiance of Afghans by “wooing” them with “gentleness, respect and even…love.” The bulk of the book is a primer on social mores and manners; the author highlights the importance of learning at least a few phrases in the local languages, mastering the complex rituals of greeting “like an Afghan,” and understanding the centrality of modesty and honor in Afghan society. She recommends that American women get used to head scarves, and that American men get used to holding hands with Afghan men. Above all, she urges Americans to leave their armored SUVs and fortified compounds to mingle with Afghans face-to-face, and to win “hearts and minds” by forging close relationships and taking civilian concerns seriously. Marie illustrates these lessons with her own real-life stories of navigating Afghan streets with her unit and defusing tensions with deft translation, cultural sensitivity and personal contact. (In fact, her direst confrontations were with clueless American brass, who reprimanded and investigated her for breaking bread with Afghans.) Marie offers a lucid, cogent analysis of social psychology and group dynamics, aimed at a military that seems tone-deaf to such factors, but her focus on deportment and etiquette provides a rather limited perspective; she writes little about the poverty, corruption, warlord-ism and ethnic animosities that make nation-building so challenging. Readers may wonder whether even the most heartfelt personal bonds can surmount these systemic obstacles to American success in Afghanistan.

A perceptive but narrow analysis of the human side of the Afghan conflict.

Pub Date: March 29, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Civil Vision International

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2013

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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