An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians.

DEBRIEFING THE PRESIDENT

THE INTERROGATION OF SADDAM HUSSEIN

A report on the CIA’s interrogation of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (1937-2006).

Former senior CIA analyst Nixon—the first American to question Hussein at length after his 2003 capture following the fall of Baghdad—debuts with a fascinating glimpse of the “tough, shrewd, manipulative” leader and his views on the U.S. invasion, Iraqi history, and his own role in the Middle East. Tasked with identifying Hussein based on tribal markings (“Holy shit, it’s Saddam!” he remembers thinking), Nixon spent days in a dinghy guardhouse with the charismatic dictator, who proved sane but unlikable, variously cooperative and confrontational, and touted an inflated idea of his place in Iraqi history. Hussein scoffed at the idea that his country had weapons of mass destruction, denied any connection to al-Qaida, and said he had committed no war crimes. He said he was no longer governing at the time of the invasion but was instead spending his time writing fiction. He “loved” the Kurds, against whom his military, acting on their own authority, had used chemical weapons. Above all, he was “dumbfounded” at American ignorance of the Arab world. He thought the 9/11 attacks would bring the U.S. closer to his regime, which opposed radicalism in the Islamic world. Instead, the George W. Bush administration “vastly underestimated” Hussein, viewing him through a “tyrant caricature,” writes Nixon, noting, “no serious Middle East analyst believes that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.” The author is highly critical of both the Bush administration and the CIA. He recounts White House visits during which officials obsessively demanded to know the location of the WMDs and displayed their misunderstanding of Iraq and the region. CIA leaders seemed interested mainly in pleasing the president. Readers are left with the impression that both Hussein and Bush were clueless about the thinking and motives of one another. There are some redactions in the text.

An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-57581-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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