An intriguing argument for negotiations with the Taliban presented as the necessary precondition for a political settlement and withdrawal.

Journalist Fergusson (A Million Bullets—The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan, 2008, etc.), who has reported on Afghanistan for 14 years, draws on his wide-ranging experience and extensive personal network. The author is convinced that the Taliban is not just unknown, but misrepresented in Western thinking and coverage. He concedes that elements of the Taliban’s program and activities are abhorrent to Westerners, especially their treatment of women, but he insists that there is another side to the story. The misrepresentation leaves out what was going on in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power in 1996, and what they tried to put an end to, and ignores the fact that there are different views within the movement. Thus, when the Taliban said they were protecting women, it was partially true, at least relative to the murder, violence and rape that accompanied the rule of mujahideen commanders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Taliban, writes the author, are primarily Pashto, a tribal people with traditions of great antiquity, among other tribes, ethnicities and religions. Those who follow such ways, and their leaders, must be treated with respect while they work out their differences. Stopping night-time assassinations of civilians and ending the continued employment of Soviet-era prison facilities and political police would contribute as well. The misrepresentation is part of the persistent refusal of the United States and its allies in the International Security Assistance Force to open negotiations with those who might move things forward. “The Taliban has made some terrible mistakes,” writes the author, “and I do not condone them. But I am also certain that we need a better understanding of how and why they made those mistakes before we condemn them.” If wars are ended through negotiation between enemies, then the Taliban will need to be among those at the table who will help bring this one to an end.


Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-306-82033-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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