A clear, well-written, and richly documented discussion of an issue that deserves deep and careful study.




Former Army Ranger Scharre, the director of the Future of War Initiative at the Center for a New American Security, looks at the technical, strategic, and ethical questions raised by autonomous weapons, which are closer to reality than many civilians may realize.

Mechanical weapons go back at least as far as the Civil War–era Gatling gun, which was expected to save lives by allowing a small crew to replace many riflemen. It led instead to the mass slaughter of World War I, when machine guns mowed down thousands of attacking infantrymen. Today’s drones allow air strikes without exposing pilots to enemy fire. But in those cases, human beings make the decision whether to fire. What happens if human judgment isn’t part of the decision-making loop? The author lists several weapons that pose that question, including missiles that could be sent to a location where enemy ships are known to be in order to seek out targets to attack. While such weapons are currently feasible, most military establishments are reluctant to deploy them. There is the ethical issue about using lethal force without a human taking the responsibility of killing, and there is also the strategic dilemma about starting an arms race. The technical question of creating autonomous control systems is already being tackled by makers of everything from vacuum cleaners to self-driving cars. Can robot tanks or bombers be far behind? Scharre looks at all these issues, talking to experts from the Pentagon, international peace organizations, and the robotics scientists who are pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence. He also gives first-person reports on drone tests and other leading-edge technological developments. The author puts it all in the context of military history, including his own combat experience. While there are no firm conclusions, it is clear that autonomous weapons are on the horizon and that decisions about whether—and how—to use them will be critical factors in the future of warfare.

A clear, well-written, and richly documented discussion of an issue that deserves deep and careful study.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-60898-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet