A significant then-and-now reassessment.

LESSONS IN DISASTER

MCGEORGE BUNDY AND THE PATH TO WAR IN VIETNAM

Astute distillation of the essential lessons now-deceased national security adviser Bundy learned from Vietnam.

Prompted to revisit the war after the 1995 publication of former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara’s memoir, in which he admitted, “We were wrong, terribly wrong” about Vietnam, Bundy, then 76, began collaborating with international-affairs scholar Goldstein on a book about his experiences working under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. His reconstruction and retrospective analysis of the pivotal decisions about Vietnam strategy from 1961 to 1965, when Bundy resigned as Johnson’s national security adviser, remained incomplete upon his death in 1996. Goldstein’s present work, informed by interviews with Bundy and access to his manuscripts, provides an invaluable record of Bundy’s thoughts and actions during the war, as well as unusually candid commentary on his admitted failures in “perception, recommendation and execution.” Goldstein is especially driven to find out why Bundy, Harvard dean and member of the intellectual elite embodying the “best and brightest” of his generation, failed to question the validity of the domino theory or test the logic of potential American military escalation in Vietnam. The book begins with a systematic examination of Kennedy’s encounter with Vietnam during his first year in office, in particular his remarkable ability to resist the pressure of brilliant advisers such as Bundy to send in ground combat troops. Had Kennedy lived, Bundy suggested years later, America’s disastrous role in the war could have been averted. Johnson, by contrast, accepted the dire warnings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his civilian advisers, which led to the Americanization of the war. Goldstein goes step by step through this “strategy for disaster,” marveling at Bundy’s arrogant adherence to “the perception of credibility” as the most important consideration in American policy, trumping every other aspect of military strategy.

A significant then-and-now reassessment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7971-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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