A scholarly education in the elements of effective government, although readers may conclude that no amount of insight can...



Innumerable authors describe why American efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq failed disastrously; fewer explain how we could have done it right. That’s the purpose of this closely reasoned political science lesson.

In her latest book, Gregg (Defense Analysis/Naval Postgraduate School; The Path to Salvation: Religious Violence from the Crusades to Jihad, 2014, etc.) argues that U.S. leaders focused on the “state” at the expense of the “nation,” and their first mistake was to conflate the two. A “state” is a legally recognized territory that provides services for its population in exchange for its loyalty. A “nation” is a group that shares a common past and traditions and perhaps a language. In its obsession with state-building, the U.S. spent perhaps as much as $1 trillion to provide an army, police, public utilities, courts, education, health care, and (an obsession) elections. American officials failed to understand that people “need to identify with their country on a personal level, share its norms, and believe in their common destiny.” Gregg’s advice will remind readers of the “winning hearts and minds” campaign from the Vietnam War. In fact, winning hearts and minds worked whenever America tried it in Vietnam as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. The disadvantage is that it’s expensive and takes a long time, so leaders soon discard it in favor of tactics that seem cheaper and quicker: currently, drones and Special Forces. The author admits that nation-building is not a program that can be completed “in five, ten, or fifty years. Rather, building the state and nation is an ever-continuing process that requires constant adjustments to meet the demands of the people, their sense of national unity, and the role of the state.”

A scholarly education in the elements of effective government, although readers may conclude that no amount of insight can provide a happy outcome to wars that should not have been fought in the first place.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64012-087-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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