Useful overview of a bloody, confusing war, emphasizing the sophistication of the specialized units.




Brawny subtitle aside, BBC Newsnight diplomatic and defense editor Urban (Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution, 2007, etc.) takes a cerebral approach to establishing the unique challenges faced by both British SAS and American Special Forces (SF) as the Iraq occupation developed, unraveled and was ultimately stabilized by the “surge.”

The prickly relationship between the two countries helps the author focus his narrative on the British forces—he explains that they had to grapple with the controversial strategies of American Joint Special Operations Command head General Stanley McChrystal, a “soldier-monk” who favored “industrial counter-terrorism,” a constant cycle of missions to counter the evolving threat. Although the British contingent was small, they “managed to play a key role in the battle for Baghdad and the suppression of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Yet this positive assessment is possible only in retrospect. Much of the narrative suggests that the British played a costly game of catch-up, as their initially cautious rules of engagement provided the initiative to both the evolving insurgency and their aggressive American SF counterparts. Urban documents several missions in which British units lost soldiers due to their plans becoming overwhelmed in the heat of battle. As chaos expanded in 2004 and ’05, the specialized units increased their reliance on the new surveillance capabilities of the NSA and other agencies to make up for a lack of intelligence through normal military channels: “The SAS summarised their operational process during the early days in Baghdad as find-fix-finish.” However, keeping their American counterparts at a distance and suffering significant losses, the SAS ultimately engaged “McChrystal’s central idea—that the insurgency could only be overwhelmed by a relentless tempo of operations.” Urban thus suggests that the units of both nations both prefaced and benefited from the much-debated “surge” of troops in Iraq. The author’s approach is painstaking and sometimes dry, capturing the complicated brutalities of the insurgency and the difficulties troops encountered in responding to it.

Useful overview of a bloody, confusing war, emphasizing the sophistication of the specialized units.

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-54127-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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