A solid argument for the repurposing, reforming, and upgrading of the alliance system.

SHIELDS OF THE REPUBLIC

THE TRIUMPH AND PERIL OF AMERICA'S ALLIANCES

A fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations makes a convincing argument for the importance of maintaining America's alliance system despite the targeted criticism by the current administration.

In this brief academic study, Rapp-Hooper argues persuasively that the complex alliance system instituted after the devastation of World War II has proven remarkably successful. “After two global catastrophes in just twenty-five years,” writes the author, “[survivors] were seared with reminders of why Washington should want to craft and fund security alliances,” which “were necessary to deter and defend against the Soviet Union, to reassure war-torn partners in Europe and Asia, and to prevent further conflict.” Yet the memory of this conflict is growing weak. Rapp-Hooper moves chronologically, from the Founding Fathers' arguments against "entangling alliances" (after shedding French help and influence) to the necessity of aiding France and Britain against the German blockade of the Atlantic coast in 1916. Originally, thanks to America's fortuitous geography and the caution of the founders, the U.S. had avoided alliances—until the "extraordinary emergencies" of World War II. The global spread of technology had finally rendered the American homeland vulnerable, and the Korean War demonstrated that the U.S. and its partners needed to "assemble a durable military infrastructure"—hence the birth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The author offers astute "counterfactual" scenarios—e.g., what if America had not ringed the Soviet Union with allied bases, which allowed it to maintain the pressure of defense and deterrence during the Cold War? (Probably more wars.) Rapp-Hooper also delves into the political costs and perils of alliances, such as entrapment and free-riding, and the pros and cons of Bill Clinton's expansion of NATO. With Donald Trump's active animosity toward our traditional allies, the author cautions about a glaring blind spot: rising nonmilitary coercion from China and Russia.

A solid argument for the repurposing, reforming, and upgrading of the alliance system. (5 illustrations, 2 tables, 1 map)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98295-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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