All is fair in war, as this straightforward history demonstrates, even when that war is undeclared and everyone denies...

CREATING CHAOS

COVERT POLITICAL WARFARE, FROM TRUMAN TO PUTIN

With investigations continuing regarding Russian interference in American elections, Hancock (Unidentified: The National Intelligence Problem of UFOs, 2017, etc.) provides context dating back to Machiavelli.

A veteran analyst of covert actions, the author doesn’t judge according to right or wrong, let alone good or evil. He works under the assumption that this is the way that power sustains, defends, and extends itself, and he generally sees the Russian intelligence initiatives in the wake of the Cold War and the Soviet breakup as the mirror image of America’s perspective after World War II. The United States feared that communism was destabilizing relations around the world, encroaching on America’s domain and establishing beachheads (such as Cuba) within striking distance of its adversary. And now? “Russia would become the champion of stability and the United States would be viewed as the existential threat, the covert sponsor of revolution and regime change,” he writes. In other words, role reversal but business as usual. Hancock shows how age-old tactics have moved into new forms of cybertechnology as governments on both sides have sown disinformation in order to create chaos, as the book’s title puts it. The author also puts suspicions about Russian collusion in the election of Donald Trump into context, showing how such Russian efforts long predated the 2016 election and that they have continued well after. “In short, what we are describing is not meddling in a single election nor positioning one candidate over another,” he writes. “It is a destabilization effort with the overall goal of fragmenting the American public and inserting chaos into the political system…the same sort of campaign that Russia had consistently accused Western democracies of conducting against the independent republics and Russia itself.” Though some might find some of the charges startling, the plodding prose and matter-of-fact tone never veer toward sensationalism.

All is fair in war, as this straightforward history demonstrates, even when that war is undeclared and everyone denies everything.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944869-87-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2018

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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