Tightly argued and both elevating and profoundly depressing.

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THE ICARUS SYNDROME

A HISTORY OF AMERICAN HUBRIS

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...

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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