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

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THE PENTAGON'S WARS

THE MILITARY'S UNDECLARED WAR AGAINST AMERICA'S PRESIDENTS

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...

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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