A significant work of American history.



A useful review of the hard-right shift of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, delivered via a comparative study of two of the seminal players.

As Mann (George W. Bush, 2015, etc.) shows in this illuminating dual biography and history lesson, early on in their careers, Colin Powell and Dick Cheney both hitched their stars to top government insiders who helped propel them to the highest levels of power. Powell, the amiable, popular soldier, was an aide to both Frank Carlucci and Casper Weinberger at the Defense Department and National Security Council—before becoming national security adviser in 1987. Cheney, “the quiet conservative,” became Donald Rumsfeld’s aide during Gerald Ford’s brief administration before assuming the role of White House chief of staff. Both men, notes the author, achieved stellar appointments during George H.W. Bush’s administration and led a “good war” that expelled Iraq from Kuwait while agreeing, prudently, not to extend the war into Baghdad. Yet it was in George W. Bush’s administration that the two—Cheney as VP, Powell as secretary of state—began to diverge in thinking and action. Cheney’s “blueprint” was essentially to keep the U.S. as the world’s dominant military superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union and actively “block” any hostile rival. Powell maintained a centrist position and urged caution and restraint, especially regarding another war with Iraq. Cheney pushed for aggressive “antiterrorist measures,” including the controversial and ultimately self-defeating “black sites” and “enhanced interrogation” measures, while Powell emphasized working with U.S. allies. Both men would develop their own “tribes” of followers. Yet, tragically, it was Powell who became the poster child for the invasion of Iraq, duped by U.S. intelligence into making a false casus belli of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. The friendship was over, and the split caused deep rifts in the country at large. Still, as Mann demonstrates thoroughly in his insightful dissection of their relationship, Powell was as complicit and eager a participant in the nation’s disastrous ventures as Cheney.

A significant work of American history.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-755-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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