A book that does much to explain quirks of foreign policy, providing a military context for them—and one that makes one...



Why have we been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets? Why did Saddam Hussein reign for a dozen more years after defeat in the Persian Gulf War? This study of the clash of military and civilian cultures goes a long way toward answering such questions.

By many reckonings, the United States has not been at peace since the atomic bombs fell on Japan in 1945. There is good reason for that: politicians like war, and they have been able to co-opt plenty of military people to press their cases, even as professional soldiers recognize war as a last resort. By freelance military affairs journalist Perry’s (The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur, 2014, etc.) account, in the last three decades especially, “the brilliance of our battlefield leaders has not been matched by those in Washington who are responsible for making certain that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen (and women) not only have what they need to win, but are backed by strong leaders who speak their minds.” It is this last matter that occupies much of the book, for the military is made up of two classes of officers: politicians who often migrate into the enemy (read: administrative or legislative) camp and actual combat leaders who have little use for politicians but still follow their orders. The author observes that the politicians among the soldiers, usually at the very apex of leadership, rarely say no to their civilian bosses: only Colin Powell did, and then only over the matter of gays in the military, which was less problematic of itself than as a symptom of Bill Clinton’s “rookie mistake” tendency to tell the Pentagon what to do. The overarching result is that field officers often actively conspire to frustrate political ambitions, particularly to resist directives at nation-building, which is not the military’s mission.

A book that does much to explain quirks of foreign policy, providing a military context for them—and one that makes one wonder who’s really in charge.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-07971-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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