JFK AND VIETNAM

DECEPTION, INTRIGUE, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER

Bold and authoritative revisionist analysis of Kennedy's Vietnam policy, by a US Army major who teaches history at the Univ. of Maryland. What was JFK's real agenda regarding Vietnam? Newman claims that the young President planned to withdraw American forces from that war-torn country—and his case is strong. The author pictures an isolated Kennedy battling both cold war jingoism and a military- industrial lobby avid for a war that would make tens of billions of dollars. Conventional wisdom generally sees JFK's early attacks on Eisenhower's covert liaison with France regarding Vietnam as simple political expediency, and Kennedy as another adherent to the domino theory. JFK's speeches buttress that position, but Newman, working with newly declassified material, argues that these speeches were simply requisite political twistings and turnings—and that Kennedy planned to get the US out of Vietnam despite a hawkish palace clique (led by Lyndon Johnson) that fed him disinformation on this most crucial foreign-policy issue. Document by document, incident by incident, the author reveals Kennedy as stranded within his own Administration, alienated by his desire to avoid this ultimate wrong-time, wrong-place war. Newman's research culminates in two crucial National Security Action Memos. In one, authored several weeks before Kennedy's death, the President formally endorsed withdrawal from Vietnam of a thousand advisors by the end of 1963 (to be followed by complete withdrawal by the end of 1965). In the second, written six days after the assassination, LBJ reversed the withdrawal policy and planned in some detail the escalation to follow. Crucial to any reevaluation of JFK as President and statesman, this electrifying report portrays a wily, stubborn, conflicted leader who grasped realities that eluded virtually everyone else in the US establishment.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1992

ISBN: 0-446-51678-3

Page Count: 536

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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