Tightly argued and both elevating and profoundly depressing.



A New America Foundation senior fellow traces the numerous instances of hubris that have often swollen American pride to the bursting point.

Daily Beast senior political writer Beinart (Journalism and Political Science/City Univ. of New York; The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, 2006) identifies three types of hubris, “Reason,” “Toughness” and “Dominance.” Each led America to great heights of international power and prestige, then shoved the country from its lofty ledge. The author begins with Woodrow Wilson and his contemporaries—Walter Lippmann, Randolph Bourne, John Dewey and others—who believed they could craft “a scientific peace” in a world governed by rationality. It didn’t work out. Franklin Roosevelt modified the theory, keeping the optimism but realizing, as well, the importance of power. Then came George F. Kennan and the theory of containment, which, argues Beinart, many followers both misunderstood and misapplied in Vietnam and elsewhere. This “hubris of toughness” led first to success, then to debacle under Lyndon Johnson. Richard Nixon “considered fear a more powerful force than love,” and thus crafted a political strategy that still has enormous power in America. Jimmy Carter, the national “scold,” gave way to Ronald Reagan (“America’s Mr. Magoo”), whose devotees still believe he destroyed the Soviet Union. Beinart says otherwise, crediting instead the struggle between China and the Soviet Union. Following the first President Bush’s defeat of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, Bill Clinton, after some wheel-spinning and grotesque failure (Rwanda), found success in 1995 with the Dayton Accords. Then came the neocons, Bush II, Cheney and the missed opportunities and miscalculations of the past decade. Beinart persuasively argues that it is time to accept that America’s power and resources are limited.

Tightly argued and both elevating and profoundly depressing.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-145646-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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

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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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