A useful analysis of failed American military initiatives that could inform future debates about interventions in...

OVERREACH

DELUSIONS OF REGIME CHANGE IN IRAQ

An academic employs a variety of theories to explain the failure of American policymakers after the invasions of Iraq that began in 2003.

MacDonald (International Relations/Williams Coll.; Why Race Matters in South Africa, 2006, etc.) does not come across as neutral, despite employing sometimes-abstract theory to discuss on-the-ground warfare; in fact, he calls the war "destructive and irrational." While the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke provide material for MacDonald in substantial sections of the book, the author mostly integrates theories from a variety of modern academic disciplines to explain why the George W. Bush administration chose to mount a war that seemingly had no chance of achieving even most of the stated objectives. Although keenly critical of Republicans, MacDonald does not spare the Democratic supporters of the war, and he discusses the apparent calculations of then-Senator Hillary Clinton for voting, however reluctantly, to wage war. If the American war machine had simply settled for ousting Saddam Hussein, the war may have been considered at least a partial success. However, writes MacDonald, the regime change so desired by the war's supporters failed to result in anything resembling American-style democracy, thus rendering the costly (both in the financial sense and regarding the loss of life) war counterproductive. The author calls into question some of the popular theories about why Bush chose to invade, theories that revolve around Israeli influence, the quest for Iraqi oil reserves, and the Republican Party's electoral campaigns to win the White House as well as both chambers of Congress. While knocking down certain theories, MacDonald demonstrates vigorously and with intellectual clarity why the tenets of American exceptionalism do not usually translate to other areas of the world, with Iraq being just one example.

A useful analysis of failed American military initiatives that could inform future debates about interventions in traditionally despotic nations that are also split among historically hostile religious factions.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0674729100

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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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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