A challenge for the general reader but a feast for students of law, foreign policy and international relations.

TERROR AND CONSENT

THE WARS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A distinguished scholar proposes an entirely new way of understanding and combating modern terrorism.

With the startling statement that “almost every widely held idea we currently entertain about twenty-first century terrorism and its relationship to the Wars against Terror is wrong and must be thoroughly rethought,” Bobbitt (Law/Columbia Univ.; The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, 2002, etc.) reframes the discussion, placing terrorism in a historical, strategic and legal context. Building on the premises of his previous work and drawing on a staggeringly wide array of authorities, he argues that with the emergence of the globalized market state, we can expect terror groups to become every bit as worldwide, networked and decentralized as the states themselves. In this sense, the market states have “caused” terrorism or, at least, forced it to assume its modern face. With access to lethal weapons and state-of-the-art communications, future terrorists will make al-Qaeda memorable only as a crude pioneer. To meet this security threat, writes the author, states that depend on the consent of the governed must radically recalibrate their strategies and laws. Bobbitt’s prescriptions for preventing terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, for intervening to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing, and for mitigating the human-rights consequences of natural catastrophes will likely prove controversial. There are many who will disagree with his arguments, including those unconverted to his belief in the waning of the nation-state, those who insist that the target is confined to radical Islam, and those who resist the idea that we are in a proper war and recoil at the prospect of any diminution of our civil rights to fight it. But this is a serious book, and, notwithstanding his impressive theoretical reach and philosophical scope, Bobbitt keeps his feet on the ground, boldly offering detailed real-world proposals to combat the problems he outlines. To learn, for example, that our safety may require the repeal of statutes passed in the wake of the Civil War—specifically, the Posse Comitatus Act—is to glimpse the shaky state of our preparedness for this new conflict.

A challenge for the general reader but a feast for students of law, foreign policy and international relations.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4243-2

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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