Powell uses up a lot of vitriol, supported by mere assertion, to get to that payoff. None of it is convincing.




If Woodrow Wilson hadn’t entangled the US in WWI, there wouldn’t have been a Hitler.

Hitler, of course, said that the humiliation at Versailles—mostly at the hands of France and England—made it necessary for him to come to power, but he didn’t stop to single out Wilson personally. Never mind: for Cato Institute denizen Powell (The Triumph of Liberty, 2000, etc.), Wilson was the architect of the 20th-century’s worst political disasters, and therefore “surely ranks as the worst president in American history.” By Powell’s account, this is not merely because Wilson dragged America into WWI (as, the right wing once sniffed, FDR dragged America into WWII) for his own selfish and misguided reasons, but also because—that most mortal of sins among libertarians—he turned away from laissez-faire policies, which means more government and more tax. And why? Because Wilson “had dreams of glory, telling other people what to do at the peace settlement.” And to get a place at the peace table, Wilson had to get us into the war: ergo Versailles, and thence Hitler, and Lenin, eased into power because Wilson “utterly misunderstood what was going on in Russia,” and Stalin, because without Lenin there could be no Stalin, and so on. Of course, Waterloo would have turned out differently if Napoleon had only had a few helicopters: this is a book in which post hoc is definitely propter hoc, and never mind the factual niceties, and in which history hinges on single men rather than—as most historians would suggest—a combination of social and economic forces and people in the right place. The upshot is up-to-the-minute: lest we create a few more Stalins down the line, Powell insists, the US must become isolationist rather than interventionist (“American blood and treasure should be reserved for safeguarding Americans”), and thus lessen the reach of that pesky thing, government.

Powell uses up a lot of vitriol, supported by mere assertion, to get to that payoff. None of it is convincing.

Pub Date: March 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-8236-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown Forum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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