A thoughtful introduction to a complex, often baffling subject.

WAR LAW

UNDERSTANDING INTERNATIONAL LAW AND ARMED CONFLICT

If Britain suspected that a Boston bar harbored IRA terrorists, would it be justified in lobbing cruise missiles into the city? Canadian legal scholar Byers doesn’t raise the question, but he achieves plenty of similar provocations in this lucid primer.

International law is, of course, what keeps the nations of the world from mauling one another worse than they do already; as Harry Truman remarked at the conference that established the United Nations, “We all have to recognize—no matter how great our strength—that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.” Yet, as Byers demonstrates, laws have a way of stirring up special pleading in the hope of granting exceptions; laws are constantly redefined; and rogue nations are forever testing the limits of the law, sometimes branching off on their own to pursue unilateral courses of action in places like, say, Iraq. A strict adherence to the letter of the law can yield disaster, of course, as Byers notes in the instance of Rwanda; while the “paradigm shift” that redefined genocide and led to the creation of the International Criminal Court came too late to save 800,000 Tutsis, it doubtless spared the lives of innocents in Kosovo. Yet, Byers notes, it is important to follow procedure, as Australia did in East Timor and the U.S. did in the first (but not the second) Gulf War, in order to secure international legitimacy. He goes on to examine several instances in which real events—the hijacking of an Air France jet to Uganda in 1976, the Pakistani invasion of Bengal in 1971, Saddam Hussein’s attempt to crush the Kurds in 1994—led to important reevaluations of the law, some with perhaps unintended consequences. For instance, Slobodan Milosevic now sits before an international tribunal—but could not Ariel Sharon (and, for that matter, Henry Kissinger) be tried for the same category of crime?

A thoughtful introduction to a complex, often baffling subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-1809-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more