A compelling story combined with thoughtful analysis of the development, application and limitations of a new model of...




How a group of farsighted Army officers gradually forced competence in fighting insurgents upon a hostile military establishment.

When David Petraeus graduated from West Point in 1974, there were no courses on counterinsurgency. The generals were only interested in training for the next real war, by which they meant tank battles on the plains of Europe. The collapse of the world's third-largest tank army in Desert Storm persuaded some young officers that such a war would never happen. American forces would instead fight small wars against insurgencies—a word that was taboo in the Pentagon for years—and it would be necessary to study and train for these wars if the Army was to conduct them successfully. Pulitzer Prize winner Kaplan (1959: The Year Everything Changed, 2010, etc.) describes how a cadre of officers, of whom Petraeus was only the most prominent, risked reputations and careers to struggle to overturn the Army's institutional aversion to counterinsurgency. These "insurgents," as they thought of themselves, assembled doctrines and procedures for fighting such wars from long-ignored, nearly forgotten texts, white papers and dissertations, then field-tested them with considerable success when they were urgently needed in Iraq. Kaplan describes the networking and bureaucratic maneuvering involved as the participants read each other's papers, met at conferences and began appointing each other to influential positions until they succeeded in establishing counterinsurgency as a centerpiece of American military strategy. Along the way, the author incisively examines some of the inherent shortcomings of counterinsurgency doctrine, explaining why it is difficult for Americans to support this approach and why it was more likely to succeed in Iraq than in Afghanistan, where the Obama administration is moving to a more conventional counterterrorism approach.

A compelling story combined with thoughtful analysis of the development, application and limitations of a new model of applying American military power. EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was completed prior to the news of the Petraeus scandal.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4263-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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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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