INTELLIGENCE THOUGHTS

DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAN, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN

A blunt assessment of America’s recent military engagements and the looming confrontation with Iran.

In this pithy collection of essays, former CIA officer Hart pulls no punches in his criticism of President Obama’s 2009 decision to expand the war in Afghanistan. The author’s experiences helping to build a successful anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan in the 1980s leads him to conclude the war is both “unnecessary and unwinnable.” A better approach, he argues, is to stop fighting an endless battle with the Taliban, which is not our real enemy in the war on terror. Instead the U.S. should help restabilize Pakistan and from there conduct surgical operations against al-Qaeda as needed. Hart is equally pessimistic about the prospects for Iraq and Iran. After American troops withdraw, Iraq’s fragile democracy will be threatened by a meddlesome Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran’s nuclear ambitions continue to jeopardize U.S. interests. While the author is quick to find faults, he shouldn’t be dismissed as just a talking head. With the shrewd eye of an intelligence officer, Hart analyzes U.S. policies and proposes alternatives. Each piece was written as events were still unfolding, yet the author draws from his unique background to explore possible outcomes. Two essays in particular—“The Third Afghan War” and “President Obama and Iran”—distill firsthand knowledge into potent commentaries that shed light on the enigma of the Middle East. Hart utilizes the same unflinching, matter-of-fact style in his more controversial arguments, including the selective use of waterboarding against captured terrorists. The essays were first published on the author’s blog between 2009 and 2010, so regrettably there is no discussion about the death of Osama bin Laden or other recent developments. While some of the opinions are sure to find detractors, the book nevertheless presents an educated perspective as America exits one battlefield and continues to fight on another. A CIA veteran bravely asks a vital question about war: With thousands dead and billions spent, is there a better way?

 

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0557527465

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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