An astute view of America’s enthusiastic but often-unrealistic attitude toward those who fight its wars.




Despite the title this is not a battle history but a thoughtful account of how America treats its soldiers.

From the time of the Revolution, Americans have eulogized our fallen warriors. Sadly, lauding those who die for their country is easier than supporting the survivors, and many still argue that defending America is every citizen’s duty to be carried out with no thought of reward. This opinion was never unanimous, but it was not until 1818 that Congress approved pensions for needy but nondisabled veterans. Pensions for Union veterans followed the Civil War, an expensive proposition. During the 1920s, with many Civil War survivors still collecting, veterans received nearly 20 percent of the federal budget. World War II marked the last gasp of the citizen-soldier myth. One result was the last New Deal entitlement program—the GI Bill of rights, which provided massive educational, medical, unemployment and loan benefits. By 1950 it was the largest entitlement program in history (Social Security eventually surpassed it). Since then Congress has expanded it, and no Republican dares call it socialism. Ironically, the other result is that, as our all-volunteer soldiers grew less representative of the average citizen with the draft’s end in 1973, Americans have come to revere them as the defenders of freedom. The downside is that Congress (20-percent veteran compared to 80 in 1975) tends to exert less authority over the military and acquiesce in our presidents’ increasingly aggressive use of force until long after it’s clear that matters are not going well.

An astute view of America’s enthusiastic but often-unrealistic attitude toward those who fight its wars.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61039-072-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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