Clear-eyed, pertinent account from a leader who derives his experience from the trenches.




A former UN envoy to Afghanistan takes stock of his uneven, bracing two-year tour.

As the special representative to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010, veteran Norwegian ambassador Eide presided over a tumultuous time overseeing presidential elections, as well as a transitional era between American administrations. He calls his tour “the two most dramatic years since the fall of the Taliban in 2001,” largely as the result of tension between Afghan authorities (and insurgents) and the international community. Preferred by President Karzai for his “mild-mannered” ways, Eide agreed with the president that more authority should be transferred to Afghan institutions in the administering of humanitarian and development aid. The UN mandate for the Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) was to be a more aggressive leader in coordinating aid, while toeing a fine line between civilian and military organizations. Eide had to fill vacant positions and give the UN mission more political direction, while maintaining its independence (he reminds readers that the UN had been in Afghanistan since the late 1940s, not since 9/11). While the Bush administration was eager and ready to give the mission monetary support, there was little regulation of that bounty, resulting in highly paid middlemen and rampant corruption. With the arrival President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, a more rigorous accountability ensued, with something that looked like a real strategy—“in many ways similar to ours,” writes Eide. The author considers at length the international monitoring of the 2009 presidential elections (he depicts a remarkably close, frank relationship with Karzai), the rise of insurgency, often as the result of local resentment over the international presence, and a rapprochement with a (changed) Taliban. Eide writes persuasively from the Afghan point of view and urges the need for “Afghan ownership.”

Clear-eyed, pertinent account from a leader who derives his experience from the trenches.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61608-464-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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